CHAT WITH ERIK THERME

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

What is your latest book?

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

roam

What else have you written?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

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

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you define your style of writing?

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

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

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

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

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

Care to brag about your family?

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

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

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

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

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

CONNECT WITH ERIK

Amazon Author Page

ROAM (Pre-order)

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

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CHAT WITH LINDA ABBOTT

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Linda Abbott’s love for Sanibel Island shines through her debut novel, Ten Days in Paradise. Though she worked for many years as a professional writer—first as an award-winning journalist and then in public relations—Linda is a late bloomer to fiction. She found the muse while vacationing on Sanibel, where she wrote the opening chapters of her novel. Linda’s writing career took another turn when she founded Never Forget Legacies & Tributes to write life story books for individuals and families. She feels blessed to have two new careers and can’t wait to get started on her next novel. A Chicago native, she lives in Middleton, Wisconsin with her husband.

Time to chat with Linda!

Tell me about your book.

Ten Days In Paradise is a compelling and heartfelt family drama set on beautiful Sanibel Island.

The book opens with the Blakemore family arriving on Sanibel to celebrate their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. The mom, Judy, is worried about her husband’s strange behavior and inexplicable memory lapses. Her daughters Julia and Maggie haven’t spoken for months. Her son David, married with three young children, is ambushed by a powerful attraction to another woman.

And that’s just the beginning …

10_Days_ParadiseYou call yourself a late bloomer to fiction, can you explain?

I never even thought about writing a novel until well after my fortieth birthday. I grew up wanting to be Lois Lane (for those of you who remember Superman), not an author.

Looking back, about fifteen years ago someone asked me a fairly innocuous question that literally changed the direction of my life: “Have you read any good books lately?” At the time, all I read were newspapers and magazines like Time, Newsweek and Vanity Fair. Somehow I’d fallen out of the habit of reading fiction even though I’d spent my childhood devouring Nancy Drew. So I went to the library and checked out a great mystery by Elizabeth George.

I fell in love with books again. And at some point I started thinking about the process of writing the terrific books I was reading and was in awe. Though I had spent my career working as a writer – first in journalism and then in public relations – I was convinced that I could never write fiction. The idea of creating characters, dialogue and describing the sunset with colors that no one has ever heard was just too daunting. Plus my last creative writing class was more than thirty years ago, case closed.

But the challenge intrigued me. I bought a “how-to” book, it ended up in the closet for about a year because my job was very demanding. But the book did get tossed into my suitcase one year when I took a vacation to Sanibel Island.

I love the island, and it wasn’t until Day Four when I dragged myself in from the beach. I opened the book and did a simple writing exercise to create a scene. Much to my amazement, three hours later I had written fiction! I had characters, dialogue and a beautiful island setting. Little did I know that I had written what was to become the first chapter of my novel … and that I would spend the next ten years finishing it.

What are some of the lessons from your writing and publishing journey?

So many … here are a few of the most important ones.

Follow the dream in your heart even when you don’t know where it is taking you. If I had invested the time I put into writing and publishing my debut novel, I could have 1. started a small business; 2. finished a doctorate; 3. raised another child. But for some unknown reason, once I started my novel, I just kept going, as if some unseen hand were moving me forward. Unlike many authors, I never thought I had this amazing story to share with the world, I just wanted to finish what I’d started. There were periods of time I didn’t work on it for months, but then I got back to it again and again and again.

Challenges keep us vibrant and alive. I learned about writing, how to pitch agents, how a cover can make or break a book. I took classes in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop (which to me seems as complicated as flying a small airplane). I learned when things in my life weren’t going well I could get lost in my writing, plotting chapter after chapter, editing and revising, trying to get it right. I learned about the thrill of doing research and finding some detail that enlivened a character or scene or gave my words greater authority and credibility. I learned that your first bad review can be brutal and when you find a champion for your book – someone who encourages you well beyond what you’d ever expect – you thank the good Lord for sending them.

Fear is a dream killer. A year ago I was still on the fence about publishing because of fear – fear of failure, fear that that my novel wasn’t good enough, fear of rejection. I had the market cornered on fear : ) But I’m not alone. On my computer is a post-it with this quote: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is my mantra. When I do signings and presentations, my goal is to inspire people, we are all so much more capable than we imagine.

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

Giving voice to the characters was the most enjoyable. I wrote Ten Days In Paradise using multiple viewpoints, which I’m sure I learned through osmosis reading Elizabeth George, my favorite author. She writes mysteries that read like literature, and has a gift for creating the most compelling and intriguing characters.

What was really surprising is that this seemed like the most natural thing in the world. So I became Liz, a feisty 76-year-old widow; David, who can’t stop thinking about Ellen;

Ellen, who falls for David just as hard; and Maggie, a hard-partying gay prodigal daughter.

The hardest part was plotting and deciding what was going to happen next. There was a pivotal moment in the book about David and Ellen’s relationship that took me months to decide which way it would go.

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

While writing I had only a vague idea of my ending … so I’d have to say no. I didn’t even use an outline and that will never happen again! And although I think it’s important to have a general idea of where you’re heading, it’s also good to leave the door open because the writing process can take you places you never intended.

Early on, I gave my book the working title Ten Days In Paradise. Wasn’t convinced it was the one. One agent loved it, and over time it grew on me. Today I think it is the perfect title.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Perseverance is the key. You have to write on good days and bad days and stay focused on the finish line no matter how long it takes! I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have a novel in the drawer they’ve been working on for years.

Really important: Build your social media platform long before publishing and if you’re an indie author, hire a professional editor. No matter what you think you cannot edit your own book. Make sure your book and cover is exceptional. Join a local writer’s group and get feedback from potential readers before publishing.

I saw a great quote on Twitter the other day. Professional writers are amateurs who didn’t quit.

If you are considering going the indie route, understand two things: There’s never been a better time to be an indie author and it takes a tremendous amount of work.

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

Not a huge amount but I did online research on Indigo children and was delighted to find this New Age concept because it fit perfectly with my character Marianne and how she views her four-year-old daughter Emma. I also researched Alzheimer’s to make sure I was on the right track with the symptoms George was experiencing. On the topic of Sanibel Island, I have been doing that “research” for more than ten years of vacations. I also did research on the names of shells, shorebirds and shrubbery found on the island.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I am blessed with two writing careers I love. My ‘day job’ is helping families capture and preserve their memories and family stories in heirloom-quality legacy books. I started Never Forget Legacies & Tributes two years ago after running my own PR firm for fifteen years. I love this work, it is my passion. I used to write news releases that ‘lived’ for a day or two, the books I do for families will hopefully be read thirty to fifty years from now.

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

Most effective: I started my Twitter account four months after I published, and have found it a fantastic platform for book promotion. I have a link that I exclusively use on Twitter, it has gotten more than 2,000 hits in six months and sales increased especially over summer.

I’ve used several paid book promotion sites such as kboards, EReaderNews, Digital Book Today, the New Kindle Book Review, Ignite Your Book and others. They’ve all been effective to varying degrees, with the winner being EReader News for the demographic of my novel, which is women ages 35 and older.

Least effective: A few of the paid promotion sites have been a little disappointing, you really need to find the best fit for your book and be careful where you spend your money. I’ve spend a lot of time vetting these sites and this is an ongoing process.

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

I did in the beginning. I ran Kindle Giveaways in my first two 90-day periods with KDP Select. I didn’t realize until later that it was a Giveaway or Kindle Countdown Deal, not both! I think I gave away about 2,500 books and it did really help to build sales.

With the exception of Goodreads, which is really a different approach, I’m not doing anymore giveaways. For one thing, I want to be paid. I can understand giving a book away if you have others for a reader to buy, but I don’t. For another, I’m in the camp of authors who think giveaways can result in not connecting with your target reader (and potentially bad reviews). Right now, I’m still in KDP Select and I’d rather opt for the Kindle Countdown Deal which allows me to retain a 70% royalty for my book when it is priced at or below $2.99.

Have you found the Kindle Direct Program to be worthwhile?

I think KDP Select is a terrific program.   I initially went in thinking I’d opt out after the first or second period, I’m in my third renewal with no plan to opt out yet. The Kindle Unlimited program accounts for roughly 30% of my royalties, and the expansion of the fund from $3 million to $11 million resulted in a substantial increase in my royalties for July and August.

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 can be a game-changer, it’s so important.

I designed my own cover. But as I mentioned I did take classes in Adobe Photoshop and InDesign so I could create a professional-looking cover. I spent two weekends looking at hundreds of images to find the perfect photo. But the time was well spent. The booksellers on Sanibel Island tell me my cover sells my book. (Which after spending so many years writing is quite the irony.)

My first cover, prior to publishing on Amazon, screamed “self-published” but I didn’t realize it right away. Thank goodness I came to my senses.

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 think authors need to educate readers on the importance of reviews. I explain this whenever I get the opportunity. (Before I wrote my novel, I never even thought about writing a review for a book.)

We also need to let people know it’s easy, it doesn’t have to be long and we’re not looking for the kind of review you’d read in a magazine. Getting reviews is really hard, I spent the entire month of February pitching dozens of bloggers and Amazon reviewers. I am really proud of the fact I have 90 reviews but never in a million years did I think it would require so much effort.

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 still read them with one hand over my eyes, does that answer your question : )

Getting a bad review is tough, but when it happens you can’t just focus on that one and forget about all of the good ones. I recently read a terrific blog post by an author who wrote about his favorite bad reviews. One was “Too many words.” I couldn’t stop laughing, and yes, if you’re an author it helps to have a sense of humor.

And when that less-than-stellar reviews rolls in, remember, no two people read the same book.

On the other hand, a few weeks ago I received one of, if not the best, review I’ve ever gotten from Julia Grantham, author of Smitten. Everything I tried to convey in my novel was understood and appreciated. I’m still on Cloud 9. Being an author means you’re getting on a roller coaster, know it and try to enjoy the ride!

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

I live in Middleton, Wisconsin with my husband Paul. I love where we live, but my dream is to find a way to spend the winters on Sanibel Island, which is located off the Gulf Coast of Florida.

I fell in love with Sanibel about fifteen years ago, it is such a special place for me. Walking on the beach, listening to the surf, watching shorebirds dance at the water’s edge, never fails to renew my spirits and belief in all that is possible, and this novel is proof of that.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Not planes I am a terrible flyer and a world-class claustrophobic. I am the woman in the airport swallowing pills 45 minutes before departure time.

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

People who are warm, kind, caring and loyal.

Care to brag about your family?

I am blessed with a husband I love, we’ve been married for 34 years this month. (Oh that makes me feel so old!) Our son Charlie is a talented singer/songwriter and musician in Nashville. We’re a ten-hour drive away so we miss him, but want more than anything to see him achieve his dream to perform on a big stage some day.

What kind of movies do you like to watch?

I am a huge fan of classic cinema and film noir. I adore Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and so many others. My favorite movies not in order from that era are All About Eve, Double Indemnity, Laura, The Philadelphia Story and Casablanca. And any movie with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers!

I hate to sound like my grandmother but they just don’t make movies like that anymore. The acting, dialogue, stories – the extraordinary talent of these actors and actresses who could often sing, dance and act – is a joy to behold. Love the history you can glean from a movie made in 1932. And the most amazing thing is how brazen some of those characters and story lines were. Conniving tarts, unfaithful husbands, boozing, brawling young people – what has changed?

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

Love one another. Be grateful. Support the causes you care about.

CONNECT WITH LINDA

Amazon (Ten Days In Paradise)

Website

Twitter

Blog

Goodreads

CHAT WITH PAUL HOLLIS

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Paul Hollis grew up during a time when the notion of a shrinking world was still in its infancy. People lived in rural communities or in city neighborhoods, rarely venturing far beyond the bordered rim of their lives. But as a kid, Paul tumbled off the edge of the yard reaching for greener grass. Having lived in twelve states and eventually working in all fifty, he fell in love with seeing the world on someone else’s money. Since then, he has lived abroad nine years while working in forty-eight countries, spanning five continents. These experiences helped inspire the novels in The Hollow Man series. From traveling throughout Europe as a young man, to flying three million miles which took him nowhere near home, to teaching companies worldwide about coming global implications, as a world tourist Paul Hollis brings his own unique viewpoint to his mesmerizing thrillers.

 Time to chat with Paul!

What is your latest book?

The Hollow Man is based on true events during the early 1970s, and traces some of my experiences as a young man traveling in Europe. At the time, terrorism was on the rise and I had been assigned to learn as much as I could about it. Most early acts of terrorism were specific to political and social leaders who represented offending ideologies. But terrorism was beginning to change its strategy to the familiar, senseless chaos we recognize today. The death of political figures no longer seemed to bother us as much as these new, random attacks against our children. Targets of innocence became preferable because they hit closer to our hearts and the fear inside us grew larger with each incident.

The Hollow Man is the first in a three-part series dealing with the growth of terrorism. The second in the series, London Bridge is Falling Down, centers around IRA and UVF activities during ‘The Troubles’ and is due out by year end. Surviving Prague is the third installment.

Hollow_Man

You have seen far more of the U.S. and the world than most people. How has your vast experience influenced your work?

Early on, traveling awakened a massive awareness in me when I realized how much more lay beyond the limits of my own existence. And, my first life lesson was the simple understanding that a certain maturity and wisdom inevitably comes with the basic need to accommodate and accept lifestyles different from the northern Midwest where I grew up. Seeing new sights and exploring new places increased my knowledge and enriched a global perspective for me – one that’s more intertwined with each day. As a result, opposing political views, cultural differences, regional geographies, and the people themselves all find their way into my writing.

Are there places you haven’t visited that you would still love to see?

I’ve lived in some exotic places: Paris, London, Brussels, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, and more. I’ve even made two complete circuits around the world before returning home but somehow I’ve never found myself in New Zealand. It’s top of my list right now.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

There are three important challenges I encounter in writing a series.

First, sustaining a character arc can create difficulties. A character begins a series with certain viewpoints that change through events in the initial narrative. As the second narrative begins, the character should reflect the impact of the first novel and the third installment needs to show continued growth.

It’s also not easy to maintain the story arc across multiple books while ending each with a resolution that leaves the reader satisfied. Try to plan a high level view of your series then plot convenient ending points.

Lastly, the tone of each book should reflect the series but not serve as a rerun. There should be something that surprises but at the same time, the reader is reentering the same world left at the end of the last book. If it is too different, the reader may feel betrayed and stop reading.

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

I love writing dialogue. This is where characters come to life. We can describe their idiosyncrasies and characteristics. We can position them with thoughts and feelings. We can thrust them into circumstances to watch them squirm. But what comes out of their mouths immediately adds a third dimension to the script and the character jumps off the page.

I enjoy most aspects of writing a novel except possibly the inescapable frustration of procrastination and distraction that comes with a daily routine. But I’ve found ways to minimize these disturbances. A regular regimen and daily goals help me stay on pace. Sometimes.

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

Both are important to define the bounds of the book for me. I want to know the ending in general terms and the title specifically. The title sets the tone, mood and theme of the book and the ending sets the direction.

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 seem to do both types of editing, while I write and at the end when I can see the novel as a whole. When I come to a natural breaking point, in thought or content, I usually go back over the last few chapters and spend some time editing. It helps me to make sure the storyline and characters remain consistent. After the first draft has been completed, I go through the manuscript as many as 10-20 times editing for specific things each time, such as overuse of particular words, complex sentence structures, and tensing. Editing and improving each draft is fun and relaxing for me. Yup, I’m weird.

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?

A character’s name should fit the personality, the story, the genre, the events, the setting, and the era. I want the names to reflect the intricacies of the characters and the realities of the characters’ worlds. Many names carry preconceptions, images, and connotations with them. Several times, I’ve had to change a name that created the wrong expectation for the reader.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

I haven’t written a character that I despise. A writer should step back from a story, see a character for what he/she is, and tell the story as an impartial observer. Otherwise the story will demonstrate an obvious bias against the hated character which might cause unexpected consequences – like, a sympathetic bad guy.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

First-time authors may be overwhelmed by the amount of conflicting information that’s going to be flying at them. Try to tune the noise out and write. Write the story you need to write with your own style and voice, not the one you think agents, publishers, and readers want. Find the time to write on a schedule, every day and write until your story is drafted.

Proof it, edit it, stylize it, or whatever until you’re satisfied with the result. Then hire a professional editor. An editor will raise your work to the next level. You will hate her, disagree with her, and argue with her but listen to your editor and make the suggested changes. In the end your book will be much better for it.

During the writing process, join social media and make friends, not followers. Ask questions on your social networks and I guarantee we will answer from personal viewpoints of experience, knowledge, and strength. Avoid most of the Googled ‘how to’ articles which ask your same questions but never seen to get to the ‘how to’ part.

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

The Hollow Man series is based on facts and other incidents that occurred forty years ago. As a result, my research is extensive. I want to be as historically correct as possible so I explore everything from actions prior to documented events to reactions in the aftermath to local cuisine and currencies, and so on.

I use the internet for most of my research. Over the past twenty years, the web has grown from an enigma of secrets and codes to a modern oracle of answers. Ask a question and I’m immediately presented with pages of explanations, observations, interpretations, comments, and justifications. And honestly, if you’re writing fiction, it generally doesn’t even matter if the information is true or not. It’s all about the spark of curiosity that ignites the wildfire of your imagination.

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

I do allow others to read my work in progress because I’m looking for honest reader perspectives and understandings as early in the process as possible. I want to know what’s working and what isn’t. The exercise is very helpful when I remember to disregard most of the accolades unless they are very specific to, for example, a particular passage or character. I’m looking for disconnects in time and thought, character weaknesses or inconsistencies, and plotting errors. I believe each of these discoveries increases the quality of my writing.

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?

Being a practical guy and more than a little impatient, my suggestion for new writers is to self-publish your first book. The odds of landing an agent in a reasonable timeframe are incredibly daunting. A study a few years back cited the following statistics. Each year, about 275,000 new titles are published by representative publishers in the U.S. alone and within this sea of new books, fewer than 50,000 are new fiction titles.

Or look at it another way. A literary agent may get 5,000 query letters a year. Only a fraction of these will lead to the agent requesting the manuscript. If you think about it, an agent reading one out of a hundred submissions must read 50 books every year!

My advice is to save yourself a bucket full of frustration, and anger, and self-defense. Unless you truly believe you have just created Son of Harry Potter or 100 Shades of Red, start by self-publishing your book. Here are the positives behind this. First, your book gets published quickly and you are free to market it with all the passion it deserves or go about writing the next book. Second, you will get feedback on your book’s market value through reviews and sales. Lastly, you can begin to grow a reader fan base. None of this happens while you are waiting for your cannon blast of queries to come back to you.

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?

My first reaction is always denial, followed closely by the urge to throat-punch the reviewer for not understanding the book. Eventually though I have to go to plan “C” because the first two options do no one any good. It’s very difficult to separate oneself from the situation because someone just called your baby ugly. But the review isn’t personal, usually.

Honestly ask yourself three questions. Do I want to make my novel the best it can be? Is what the reviewer saying legitimate? What can I learn from this? I’ve learned that both bad and good reviews can be helpful, and I learn something every day.

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 cover is extremely important to your book’s success. As a reader, I look at the cover first, then the title, possibly a glance at the author’s name and finally turn it over to read the back cover blurb. The cover has about three seconds to capture my attention. If it does, I pick it up. If I’m not convinced I look at the title for another three seconds if I’m a slow reader to determine how the title fits with the cover imagery. If I don’t pick it up now, it stays on the shelf.

How would you define your style of writing?

My writing style is very visual. It’s important for me to completely immerse the reader, drawing him/her totally into each scene. I want the reader to see what’s going on around them, feel the excitement, and hear the voices. When readers say The Hollow Man should be on the big screen, I feel like I’ve made the story completely real.

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?

Most indie writers don’t have much luck getting decent book reviews, but I’ve found it’s one of the best ways to generate sales. Reader reviews are the electronic version of word-of-mouth. Nothing says ‘buy this book’ better than a personal recommendation. Reviews control rankings, impact the buying decision, and ultimately sales on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.

And, if you’re worried about giving a less-than-stellar review, an author should be able to learn something from every review no matter which star count is attached to it. So either way, a reader’s review is critical to a book’s success.

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

As you know, I have traveled extensively over the years and I’ve had an opportunity to see many of the most wonderful places on earth. If I had to move now, two immediate choices come to mind. I’ve always felt comfortable in the English countryside with its rolling hills, friendly small towns, and of course its history.

My other option is the southern coast of France. With the growing Alps behind, the Côte d’Azur offers a shoreline to suit all wants. Everyone finds what he needs on the Riviera, whether it’s strolling on a stony beach or soaking up gentle sunrays, dining with locals or simply people-watching from the comfort of an outdoor café, shopping with supermodels or partying with rock stars.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats.

Lisette, I believe you’ve found my passion with this question. I love any kind of vehicle that doesn’t back up very well, and all of these keep me moving forward toward some new adventure. I grew up around trains. My father worked with the Chessie System for 30 years and I played in the train yards as a child. I’ve flown over three million miles on every sort of airplane imaginable, cars were made for the open road, and I’m an accomplished seaman on 36’ sailboats.

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

I’ve been taking guitar lessons for ten years and I’m still the “world’s okayest player”, as the saying goes. I would love to be able to play really well and I would also love to blame my lack of skill on the fact I’m left-handed playing in a right-handed world. But the truth is, playing the guitar well requires a huge level of practice. Strangely, that’s very similar to writing.

What music soothes your soul?

I have eclectic tastes in music. Though the rock and roll explosion of the sixties still owns my heart, I also enjoy pop, jazz, blues, reggae, and even the occasional cowboy song.

 CONNECT WITH PAUL

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CHAT WITH ROBERT BIDINOTTO

Robert_B

Robert Bidinotto is the author of HUNTER, a #1 Kindle bestseller in “Mysteries & Thrillers” and “Romantic Suspense.” The recent sequel in his Dylan Hunter thriller series, BAD DEEDS, is garnering scores of five-star reviews from enthusiastic Amazon readers. As a former Staff Writer for Reader’s Digest, Robert earned a national reputation as an authority on criminal justice with his investigative crime articles. His nonfiction books, articles, essays, and magazine editing have won top national awards. He lives on the Chesapeake Bay with his musician wife, Cynthia, and their stridently individualistic cat, Luna—who plays a supporting role in the Dylan Hunter thrillers.

Welcome, Robert.

Hi, Lisette. Thanks for inviting me to chat.

You call yourself “the vigilante author.” Can you tell us why you adopted this label for yourself?

Well, all my life — since I watched The Lone Ranger and Zorro on TV, and read Batman comics as a kid during the Fifties and Sixties — justice has been a central motivating interest. In fact, that was the dominant theme of my prior career work as an investigative journalist, commentator, reviewer, blogger, editor, and nonfiction author. So I suppose it’s no surprise that it would become the central theme of my fiction-writing, too.

Like me, the hero of my Dylan Hunter thrillers is motivated by a fierce passion for justice. He can’t walk away when injustices are committed against those he cares about. And you can’t always get justice from “The System”; in fact, quite the contrary. So that’s why Dylan Hunter became a vigilante — why I refer to him as “the new face of justice” — and why I refer to myself as “The Vigilante Author.”

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

I have been writing since I was a little kid and first fell in love with language.

What is your latest book?

It’s titled BAD DEEDS. It’s the second in the Dylan Hunter thriller series. It picks up where the first book, HUNTER, leaves off.

BadDeeds

In HUNTER, the two main characters, Dylan Hunter and Annie Woods, meet and fall deeply in love. However, both are hiding things from each other — and it turns out that those secrets inadvertently propel them into a wrenching personal conflict. He is a crusading newspaper reporter, but on a deadly, private mission. She is a CIA officer, on the trail of an unknown assassin. Neither knows these things about the other . . . or that a sadistic predator is hunting them both.

Hunter

In BAD DEEDS, the two lovers are recovering, physically and emotionally, from their previous ordeal. Dylan now wants desperately to live a normal life with Annie. But he’s the kind of man who simply can’t walk away when his friends become victims of injustice. This puts a huge strain on their relationship — and it also puts both their lives in grave danger.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

We’ve all read series that go stale, where the author seems out of fresh ideas, starts to repeat tired old tropes, and is just “mailing it in.” The biggest challenge is to prevent that from happening.

In my case, Lisette, I hope to avoid that in three ways. First, to come up with a startlingly fresh “high concept” for each book’s plot. Second, to reveal more and more about the key characters, and to have them evolve and grow to meet the new challenges. Third, to spice things up by introducing interesting new characters.

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

For BAD DEEDS, I’ve actually advertised it on a business card. It says: What price would a hero pay in his quest for justice?

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

All the time. Because as they take form on the page, they reveal more and more of themselves. One of my favorite characters in the novels is a morbidly obese research genius nicknamed “Wonk.” I had only a vague impression of him when I introduced him in HUNTER. But in the debut scene, everything he said and did was so damned funny that I nearly fell off my chair laughing. He continues to surprise and amuse me—and readers—in BAD DEEDS.

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

Much to my surprise, Lisette, I find that I really love writing dialogue. Before I began, I thought that would be my biggest challenge; but instead I find that it flows easily and authentically. Again to my surprise — because I have a very organized, logical, methodical mind — I find that plotting is a huge challenge, at times grueling. My plots are devious and complex, so I can’t write them “seat of the pants”: I have to plan them out meticulously in advance. That early planning stage is an ordeal. But once I get started actually writing, the process becomes thoroughly enjoyable.

I organize my projects using a novel-writing software program called “Write It Now.” (www.ravensheadservices.com)

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

As I just indicated, I’m completely methodical — almost OCD about it. I plan and write linearly and sequentially, chapter by chapter.

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

Yes. Both. I know at least in general terms what the ending will be; I work out the details of actions and dialogue on the fly. And for me, the title either symbolizes or is somehow integral to the theme or plot of the book, so I like to choose it ahead of 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?

There’s no “one right way” to write a book. But again, because I’m an obsessive planner, I edit a lot as I go. That means I write only a single draft, and I have only polishing and proofreading to do when it’s done.

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 had no expectations with HUNTER, since it was my first novel. It felt good, but I wasn’t totally certain. The reader response and reviews were sensational, though, to my surprise and delight.

But that put enormous pressure on me as I wrote BAD DEEDS. At first, I wondered if I had only one story in me. I had great trouble being objective about the book as I wrote; I was second-guessing many of my choices.

Finally, I had to order myself to forget all expectations, my own or my fans’, and just finish the thing. I did, not knowing whether it was any damned good. Well, to my huge relief, reader response to BAD DEEDS has been even better than it was to HUNTER. It’s sustaining a cumulative Amazon customer rating of 4.9 out of a possible 5.0. At the moment, 96 out of 101 reader reviews are “5-star” raves. Which still stuns me.

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

Very important. Somehow, names evoke certain images and emotions. Sometimes a character’s name can subtly suggest things about his or her personality and nature. You also want them to be distinctive and memorable. That’s why I had the hardest time naming my hero character. I knew that I had to get that right, above all. I went through scores of possible name combinations before I settled on Dylan Lee Hunter.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Write for yourself: Don’t compare yourself to, or try to imitate, anyone else.

Follow your passions: Write the story you have to tell.

And, finally, honor your craft: Don’t settle for the second-rate in anything connected with your book’s content or its production values.

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

Tons of research, for both novels. For HUNTER, I had to learn a lot about the spy business, tactics, and gadgets. I already knew a lot about the news business and the legal system, but not everything I needed to know. I had to learn about sniper weapons, handguns, ammunition, and “silencers” (suppressors); about a variety of vehicles and their capabilities; about a host of locations in and around Washington, D.C.

For BAD DEEDS, I had to add to all the preceding store of knowledge, but add arcane research about explosives, all kinds of aircraft and flight procedures, electronic surveillance and jamming devices, computer hacking techniques, cold-water snorkel diving, landmark buildings and sites in Washington, locales around the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, and a lot more.

For all of this, I read a lot of books and articles; I did detailed online research; and I vetted specific scenes past various experts. I also used Google Maps and its “street view” to “visit” many locations that I couldn’t visit in person.

The real art of fiction writing is to drop this accumulated knowledge into a story judiciously, without getting pedantic and overly detailed, just to show off. The goal is only to add authenticity to the story, making it credible for readers.

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 keep it entirely to myself. Finishing a book is very difficult. I think an author can fritter away his motivation to continue if he prematurely shares with others the tale as it emerges.

You’re a big advocate of self-publishing over traditional publishing. This is a topic of endless fascination for many people. Can you elaborate?

Up until the past few years, if a writer wanted to find and reach readers, there was only one route: traditional publishing. And traditional publishing, built on paper-and-ink books, existed in a world of limits. Limited shelf space in bookstores meant only a limited number of authors and print titles could be accommodated. So publishers and agents came to function as “gatekeepers,” vetting what could and couldn’t be published and sold. And success was fleeting: The minute a book’s sales began to decline, it would be remaindered, pulped, and usually placed “out of print,” to be replaced on those jammed shelves by something new. Traditional publishing was and remains a zero-sum world, where the success of one book or author comes at the expense of others.

This arrangement left countless writers out in the cold. Regardless of their talent or their works’ merits, they were at the mercy of publishing’s gatekeepers, who stood between them and their readers. It was a buyer’s market, where contracts were skewed heavily in the publishers’ favor, and most writers could only earn a pittance.

But with the emergence of online retailing, suddenly we had unlimited “virtual” shelf space to display and sell books. Next, the emergence of inexpensive ebooks provided another way of transcending the inherent limitations of the paper-and-ink book world. Online retailing, ebooks, and “print on demand” technology have, in turn, sparked the Self-Publishing Revolution. Now any writer can reach his readers directly, with no gatekeepers standing in the way. And she can keep all her rights and the lion’s share of royalties, too. Self-publishing is rocking the foundations of the print-book publishing model, to the long-term benefit of both authors and readers.

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?

For all the reasons I’ve mentioned, you lose nothing if you choose the self-publishing route, at least first. If you later want to pursue a publisher, you’ll have an easier time of it if you can show some self-publishing success.

Your website is a fantastic resource for authors planning to self-publish. What are some of the most common mistakes that self-published authors (especially new ones) make?

Thanks. Many of the fatal mistakes that indie authors make arise from impatience. Because it’s so quick and easy to publish now, too many rush their work into the world without proper preparation. They don’t take enough time to first learn the ropes of self-publishing. They release books with amateurish covers, or without getting adequate editorial or “beta-reader” feedback and proofreading. They don’t take time to carefully craft the “product description” for their book’s online sales pages, to make it a sizzling sales pitch. All these things blare “AMATEUR!” to prospective online buyers. Then these writers wonder why their books don’t sell.

Above all, many don’t take time to learn their craft. Writing a book, especially fiction, is challenging. If a writer wishes to succeed, he or she must devote the time to study the art of storytelling and to practice. Many now-bestselling authors who wrote a lot of manuscripts before they ever sought to publish anything.

What advice can you give to the author who has self-published and made these dreaded mistakes and wants to start anew?

Great question! One cool thing about self-publishing is that no mistake is ever permanent. In traditional publishing, if you somehow blew it or your books stopped selling, you might never again get a publishing contract. But as an indie author, you can “unpublish” a flawed novel, totally rework it, give it a new cover and title, then reissue it to give it a second chance. Or a third. You can change your product description, experiment with pricing, try new marketing concepts — even publish new work under a pen name. My advice is to treat mistakes as a learning experience rather than a disaster, and just move on.

It must be very gratifying to help set so many authors on the right road. What motivated you to become such an advocate for your fellow authors? How has doing so impacted your life?

Lisette, before I ever wrote or published my first novel, HUNTER, I sought out advice from highly successful self-published authors. The indie community is extraordinarily generous in sharing information. Among those who were hugely, personally helpful to me were bestselling fantasy author Michael J. Sullivan and his wife Robin, who gave local seminars on self-publishing to writers, and who spent time with me answering questions and giving advice. I also voraciously read the blogs of indie superstars like Joe Konrath, Bob Mayer, and Dean Wesley Smith.

As I compiled for myself all the wisdom and tips they shared, it felt only right to “pay it forward” to other struggling and aspiring authors. I put together an informal 20-page document I call “New Paths to Publishing,” which I send as an email attachment to any writer who asks for my help. I have also posted a great deal of self-publishing and marketing information on my blog, “The Vigilante Author.”

The rewards? Writing is a very tough gig. Success is rare and the path to it can be heartbreaking. Though I’ve been lucky enough to win a measure of success, I’ve struggled for years and been exactly where most writers are. So, I empathize with them, and I take great personal satisfaction whenever they tell me that something I’ve shared has really helped them.

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?

Even though some hot-selling authors may not be as talented, or as careful craftsmen, they almost always share one quality: They are great storytellers. Readers will forgive a lot of flaws and deficiencies if an author can keep them spellbound and turning pages.

Promotion is a thorn in the side of most authors. How does an author figure out how to promote and where to promote—especially authors with limited budgets?

Promotion is important. Books don’t just sell themselves. But authors who think that a publisher will take all the marketing off their shoulders are in for a rude awakening. If you want your books to sell, you will have to devote some time to marketing.

As to “how”: The book marketplace is evolving so quickly that anything I say here is going to be dated in six months. I offer a lot of advice on “The Vigilante Author,” and as I learn new things, I try to share them there.

One of the key things I believe an author should focus on is to develop her own unique “brand,” something that distinguishes them and attracts their target readers. Their brand ought to be based on their personal “why” — their motive for writing. Your why will determine your how, the means you employ to implement it — and also your what: the specific works that embody your how.

For example, my “why” is justice. My “how” is writing. My “what” is the Dylan Hunter vigilante thriller series. It sounds simple, almost banal. But understanding this has allowed me to focus my marketing and develop a clear brand. I know that all my marketing has to center on the “justice” theme. And when I do that, it attracts readers who share that interest.

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

I use Facebook a lot. I make friends there, writing about a variety things that interest me. People who share my interests and views show up and comment, and we all seem to enjoy it. On my blog, I try to be helpful to fellow writers, with a lot of specific topical advice posts, and to thriller readers, with items of topical interest.

Generally, if people like you and appreciate your assistance, they’ll become invested emotionally in your own work and success, as well. To me, it’s all about making friends and being a good friend.

I do think you have to be selective. Don’t try to promote on a lot of platforms; it’ll drive you crazy and rob you of writing time. Focus on just a few — maybe a blog, plus one social media site (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.), plus one genre discussion board. Try to put something new up regularly, so people keep coming back to visit.

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?

No book can or will appeal to everyone. Think of your favorite three books. Now, go on Amazon and look at the reviews. I guarantee that they will have at least some very negative reviews. If the great books you love get negative reviews, you’ll realize just how silly and unimportant they are. Ignore them.

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?

It is hugely important. The cover signals to your prospective reader the genre and style of the book. A bad cover can deter that reader from exploring any further. A good one can attract thousands of the right kind of readers.

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

That I should have started writing fiction thirty years ago, instead of five years ago.

Care to brag about your family?

Absolutely! I have some adorable ladies in my life. First, my dear, patient wife, Cynthia. She is an extraordinarily talented musician with a heart bigger than the planet. I don’t know how she puts up with me, but she does, and she makes me a better human being. Without her, I’d become a misanthropic recluse. Second, my daughter, Katrina — a dazzling young woman of remarkable beauty, intelligence, sensitivity, and grace. Third and fourth, her daughters: my teenaged granddaughter Doria, and little two-plus-year-old Enid. Both are brilliant, talented, spirited, and clever. I am a lucky, lucky man.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I love singing, and my voice isn’t half-bad. I sang Sinatra to my wife at our wedding reception, with a jazz quintet backup, and I’ve done that on other public occasions since. If I weren’t a writer, who knows? I might be a club singer in the Poconos.

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

A junior high history class — and not for its content, but because it was taught by a teacher whose gentle encouragement and direction changed my life. His name, for the record, was Bob Gardner. He died years ago, but I’ll never forget him.

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

I love “Person of Interest” and “The Americans,” as you might expect of a thriller writer. I also love the inspiration of young talent, so I really enjoy “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent.” I enjoy other shows, but those are my top tier.

What’s your favorite film of all times?

A Man for All Seasons. A flawless film with consummate production values. The writing, direction, and acting by an incredible cast simply couldn’t be improved upon. It’s deeply inspiring, with a profound and timeless message about personal integrity.

Favorite book?

Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. The inspiring, iconic novel of individualism and integrity, filled with penetrating psychological insight. You never look at the world quite the same way after reading that book.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Shhhhh! Anyone listening? Okay . . . the movie Twister. Lisette, I’ve seen the stupid thing many times, but still can’t stop tuning in whenever I spot it on TV — even though it is filled with every lame cliché imaginable. It’s just an addictive roller coaster ride, ingeniously paced. No redeeming social value whatsoever.

Just don’t you dare tell anyone I said so.

Your secret is safe with me, Robert. Thanks for a wonderful and informative interview.

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First book: HUNTER

Second book: BAD DEEDS

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Email: RobertTheWriter@gmail.com

CHAT WITH DEANNA SLETTEN

DeannaSlettenDeanna Lynn Sletten is a bestselling and award-winning author. She writes women’s fiction and romance novels and has also written one middle-grade novel that takes you on the adventure of a lifetime.

Deanna’s women’s fiction novel, Widow, Virgin, Whore,made the top 100 bestselling books on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble in March 2014. Her romance novels Memories and Sara’s Promise both won semi-finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Books of 2012 and 2013 respectively. Sara’s Promise was also a finalist in the 2013 National Indie Excellence Book Awards.

Deanna is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her northern Minnesota home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd or relaxing in the boat on the lake in the summer.

Time to chat with Deanna!

What is your latest book?

I have just published a romance novel titled Destination Wedding. It is a fun, heartwarming story that women of all ages will enjoy.

DestinationWedding

Do you write under a pen name?

No, I use my real name.

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

Imagine going to paradise—with your ex!

What else have you written?

I currently have seven novels published, some in the women’s fiction genre and others that are romances, plus one middle-grade novel. Some of my novels deal with difficult subjects. The main male character in Memories is a veteran of the Vietnam War and the story includes his struggle with his past memories of the war. Widow, Virgin, Whore is the story of three women who are friends/sisters and how they cope when one of them is infected with HIV/AIDS. Maggie’s Turn is a lighter story but deals with a disintegrating marriage. My women’s fiction/family drama novel, Summer of the Loon, is a heartwarming story of a young teen girl whose mother dies and she has to go live with the grandfather she has never met. While there is a lot of drama, there are also a lot of feel-good scenes. My other novels include Sara’s Promise (romance), Outlaw Heroes (Action/Adventure Middle-grade), and my latest romance, Destination Wedding.

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

From what I’ve seen over the past three years is that indie authors are becoming more widely accepted by readers than from just a few years ago. Readers love to read, and if an indie author is professional and writes a good story, readers don’t care if they aren’t traditionally published. When I first started self-publishing, there was still some hesitation about buying an indie book due to poor editing and formatting. But now you see more indies hiring editors and proofreaders, as well as professional formatters and book cover designers. This has helped to improve the image of indie authors.

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

Very often! It sounds crazy to a non-writer when you say that your character decided to go in a different direction than you intended them to go, but it does happen. There have been many times I’ve written a scene where I thought the character was going to do one thing, and then he does another, and no matter how I try, he just does what he wants. Usually, it helps to make the story more interesting. Obviously, I’m the one controlling the character, but it just doesn’t feel that way sometimes. I no longer act like I have any control over my characters when I write. I start writing and see where they want to go.

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

I’m one of those oddball writers who love the entire process from the research to the final draft. I don’t understand writers who say how hard writing is or how much they hate writing, yet they choose to write. If you don’t love it, don’t do it. I love learning new things, so the research part of the process is interesting to me. Then, the writing phase is so much fun—I love getting lost in the story. I enjoy editing as well. It gives me a chance to re-read the novel and change where necessary to help make the story fuller and richer. Then, after the editor has had a turn at it, I enjoy going through the story and once again making changes to create a better story. I love it all—no complaints from me.

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

I almost always write my scenes in order, but once in a great while I get an idea for a scene and I want to write it down before I forget it. I’ve written the ending down before too, even though I might make a few changes. When I begin a project, I usually know exactly how I want to start it and how I want to end it and maybe have a few scenes in mind for the middle. The rest comes to me as I write, so that is why I generally write in order.

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

For me, it’s important to know how I’m going to end it before I even start it, otherwise I don’t know where I’m going. It helps. As for the title, I’ve used working titles before and then changed the title in the end. Titles are the hardest thing for me, so I like it better if I have a title before I start, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I had at least five different titles for Memories before I decided on which one to use. I also had a different title for Sara’s Promise. On the other hand, Maggie’s Turn, Summer of the Loon, and Destination Wedding all came to me before I even started the project.

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

I like to edit as I go, not drastically, but I do re-read and edit. Each day when I sit down to write, I usually read what I wrote the day before and that’s when I’ll make some edits. It gets me back into the story and helps me stay on track. And I also hate seeing a misspelled word or a sloppy phrase as I write, so I usually stop to fix it before going on. It’s like sitting in a messy room and not picking anything up. It drives me crazy.

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 think the character names are very important. They help to set the tone of the character’s personality. Before I begin writing, I go through names for each character to choose the perfect name. That is, unless I have already thought of a name that fits perfectly. If you want the reader to believe the story, then you can’t just grab names out of the air. The character’s name should fit the time period of when they were born, not of when you write the story. It should also fit their personality. Is the character silly? Flirty? Serious? A nerd? Are you going to name your nerdy character who is a computer genius Tiffany? You can, but is it realistic? The right name helps the reader identify with the characters, and hopefully want to get to know them. If you do your job right, the reader will think about the characters even when they are finished with the book, as if they were real people that the reader knew.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Not yet, but it sounds like fun.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Over the past three years, I’ve met first-time authors who are still trying to go the traditional route but can’t seem to find a publisher. They are still hesitant to self-publish. While I think it’s wonderful to continue to try to find an agent/publisher, I also believe that you shouldn’t spend years waiting for something to happen. If you are a first time author, take the plunge and get your book out there. You may have the next best seller just sitting, unread, in a computer file. Always use an editor, or at the very least, a proofreader, and have your book professionally formatted and add a professional cover. But get it out there for people to read and enjoy. And don’t stop there. Continue to publish. You have a much better chance of finding a traditional publisher if you have a steady track record of interest and sales for your novel.

Can you tell us about your road to 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?

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

My latest novel, Destination Wedding, took very little research since our family had actually visited a similar island in the Bahamas the year before. It was while we were there that the book idea came to me, and I loved the island location so much I knew it would be the perfect backdrop for a romance novel. As for many of my other novels, I have done extensive research, depending upon the background of the characters. Widow, Virgin, Whore, and Memories both involved a heavy amount of research. Some of my other novels included only research on where they were set. I try to use settings that I have actually been to and know about from personal experience. I don’t think you can get a feel for a place by just reading about it, you have to experience it.

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?

No, no one reads my work until after it’s been to the editor and is ready for publication. I wouldn’t feel comfortable having someone telling me what I was doing right/wrong with my novel before I’m even finished with it. That is what my editor is for, and I trust her advice. I know many writers depend upon critique groups and I’m sure that works well for them. It just isn’t something I’d be comfortable doing. Each story I write is personally mine, and all I can do is hope that others can relate to it and will enjoy it.

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

Both Widow, Virgin, Whore and Memories have received strong, emotional feedback from readers, which is rewarding considering the emotional topics of each book. What surprised me most, though, was some of the feedback I’ve received for Maggie’s Turn. I originally thought of Maggie’s Turn as just a fun, heartfelt story, so I was surprised when many women told me how it hit home with them. I’ve even had a few women tell me how it gave them hope for their own marriage. I love entertaining people with my novels, but it is even more gratifying to hear that they were actually touched by a story.

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

It seems like each book is my favorite right after I’ve written it. Currently, Summer of the Loon and Destination Wedding are my favorites. Before that, Maggie’s Turn was my favorite. I guess I just love them all or else I’d have never written them. Each story is special to me in one way or another.

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 think it’s always difficult handling negative reviews of anything you do in life. After spending so much time creating something like a novel, it’s difficult to read criticism of it. Unfortunately, that is just part of the process. A writer has to remember that not all people are going to love what you do—that’s just a fact. When I read a negative review, I decide if it’s helpful or not. Did the reviewer just say it was the worst thing they’ve ever read or did they give reasons why they didn’t like it? Were the reasons valid? If the majority of your reviews are positive and you only get a few negative/hate reviews, then I wouldn’t think too much of them. If the majority of your reviews are not positive, then it’s time to review what people are complaining about and see if it can help to improve your writing.

I know there are many writers out there who say they never read their reviews, good or bad, because it won’t change the way they write. While that may work for someone selling millions of books a year, I think as an indie author, you should be aware of what your readers think. Don’t change your writing or story because of a few negative comments, but be aware of the good and the bad. It might just help you improve as a writer.

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’m more of a night owl writer. Some afternoons I will sit down and write for an hour or two, but the majority of my writing is done between 10 pm and 2 am. I love writing when it’s quiet and no one is going to disturb me. As for must haves, I really don’t have any of those when I write except for complete silence. Once I start writing, I’m so absorbed in the story that I rarely even think to eat, drink, or do anything else. It’s my time to give the story its full attention.

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

I place a high value on book covers. Everyone judges a book by its cover, especially today when people are glancing through books on a site like Amazon and you only have one or two seconds to make them stop and look at yours. It’s your cover they stop to look at. Maybe even your title, but most likely the cover. After that, they might read the book description. Then they might read the sample. All of those aspects must be top-notch to get the sale, but the cover comes first.

I also believe that the book cover has to give the reader an essence of what the book is about and of its genre. I’ve seen people put erotica-style covers on basic romances to try to capture the fast-growing erotica market. That’s not a good idea. It makes people mad. If they want a sexy book, and yours isn’t, then you will get a bad review. Likewise, you don’t want to put a playful cover on your book and then have nothing but hot sex in it. People don’t like that either, but I’ve seen it done. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced cover designer who can help you create the perfect cover for your particular book. Deborah Bradseth at Tugboat Design (www.tugboatdesign.net) creates all my book covers, and she does an amazing job. We work together on what concept I want and then she gives me different ideas that she thinks will work. She usually knows more about what I want than I do. Your cover is your first chance to snag a reader, so don’t lose that chance by settling for a subpar cover.

What genre have you never written in that you’d like to try?

I do love paranormal/ghost stories, but I have yet to come up with a good one that I’d actually like to write. Hopefully, a good idea will come to me someday, but I’m not going to force it.

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

I currently live in a small, northern Minnesota town. If I had the chance to move, it would definitely be to an island in the Bahamas. I have a particular one I love, but I’m going to be greedy and not reveal its name because I don’t want anyone else to move there. I love it exactly as it is right now.

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

Chocolate – especially when it’s cold from the fridge. Least favorite? Most green foods – I’m just not a veggie person.

Care to brag about your family?

Who doesn’t enjoy bragging about their family? I have two amazing grown children, Michael and Deborah, who are both out in the world doing what they love best. My husband and I have been married for forever, and he not only works full-time but enjoys playing music professionally on the weekends. He and my son have a band together and they play often. My daughter works as a designer for our local newspaper and also runs her own home business. Michael’s girlfriend is beautiful and hardworking and we all adore her, and Deborah and her husband were just married last year in the Bahamas. And of course, I have to brag about my beautiful Aussie who is my walking companion every day of the summer. She’s amazing! We all have very full lives.

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

I’d love to be a painter. Sometimes, I see a sky or landscape and wish I could paint it. I have to settle for taking a nice picture instead.

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

One single favorite film is difficult, but I will say Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid is on the top of the list. One of my novels is a middle-grade adventure in which twelve-year-old Will Long is swept back in time to join in on the escapades of these two outlaws. It’s a fun story and probably the most fun I’ve ever had writing. Other films on top of that list include Beaches, The Way We Were, and Somewhere In Time.

Favorite book? Again, it’s hard to choose only one. The Great Gatsby and everything ever written by F. Scott Fitzgerald top my list. Jane Eyre is right up there too.

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

Listen to each other, have more compassion, and be more patient.

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CHAT WITH DONNA CUMMINGS

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Donna Cummings has worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but she admits nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances. She resides in New England, although she fantasizes about spending the rest of her days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton. She can usually be found on Twitter talking about writing and coffee, and on Facebook talking about coffee and writing.

Time to chat with Donna!

What is your latest book?

My latest is a Regency romance titled Lord Rakehell’s Love. It’s a humorous novella which commences The Curse of True Love series, where Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, decides to relieve her boredom by playing matchmaker in Regency London. Unfortunately, she manages to curse the lovers she’s trying to bring together, with the hero showing up late to his own wedding, causing heartbreak and scandal for the heroine since he’s also accompanied by ladies of the evening.

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What else have you written?

I’ve become a hybrid author this past year. I originally self-published a romantic comedy novella, and a full-length Regency historical in 2011. And then last December I published a full-length romantic comedy with Crimson Romance, and last April a humorous contemporary novella with Samhain. So my latest is the first self-pub I’ve done for a little while, and I’m excited I’m able to do both things.

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

Every. Single. Day. LOL I recently had a character come back from the dead, and she’s not a zombie. The good thing is she was right, and I like where the story headed as a result.

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

I love the dialogue. Since I write humorously-ever-after romance, the dialogue is usually witty banter, and it makes me laugh while I’m watching the characters flirt and fall in love with each other. I find description a little more challenging, because I have to fit it in without stopping the flow of conversation!

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 most of the editing once I’ve finished the first draft, because I can’t really see the story until I’m done writing it. However, I think I kind of edit along the way too, because often a scene will pop into my head and I’ll think, “Aha! That’s why this section wasn’t working the way I wanted it to.” So I add that in, and rework something else. And as soon as I think I’ve figured out my “process”, it changes radically with the next book. LOL

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’ve done this a couple of times! It’s like the character knows they’ve been put in the wrong story, so they won’t talk to the other characters, or interact with them. As soon as I find the name that works, they perk up and start showing their personality. It’s funny how having the wrong name is like miscasting a character.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

I haven’t. Although there are a couple that I think *other* characters despise. LOL But since that’s their role, to be despised, it all works out. I have a villain in Lord Midnight, another one of my Regency historicals, and he fascinates me because he truly believes he’s doing what’s right–for him, of course. And he’s frustrated at being thwarted by everyone around him. So he’s despicable, and does awful things to reach his goals, but I’m intrigued by his skewed world view.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Write what makes you happy. There’s nothing more exhilarating than diving into your story, and playing with the characters, and seeing this creation come to life. So do that. Enjoy it without worrying about whether people will like it, or whether it’s publishable, or anything else. Doubt is always hanging around the corner, trying to get you to stop what you’re working on, but just keep having fun. You’ll also discover your writing style, and your voice, and that’s the most valuable tool you’ll have as a writer.

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

I am a Twitter fiend! I’m thrilled it was invented, and I wish they’d quit tinkering with it, because the latest update seems to impede conversation rather than aid it. Still, I have found a lot of fun writer friends there, and it’s always a thrill when readers come looking for me on Twitter after reading one of my books. I love chatting with them, probably too much because sometimes they kick me off so I’ll go write!

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

I’ve actually compiled my blog posts from the past few years, which are filled with what I hope is inspiration and motivation for other writers, and I’ll be self-publishing the book in the near future. It’s called An Encouraging Word.

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

I’m in New England right now, and I love it most of the time. There’s nothing more spectacular than autumn in this part of the country. But winter is getting tougher each year. In fact, I think it’s trying to start in September this year! Which wouldn’t be so bad except it never can be considered “gone” until Memorial Day. I’d love to live in a tropical locale. I’m sure I lived in one in a previous life.

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

Does coffee count as food? I count it as a necessity, since it’s the foundation of my personality. LOL I guess my fave comfort food is mashed potatoes. My least favorite food is liver. Or Brussels sprouts. Ack. I don’t even like typing the words!

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

Laugh. Laugh at ourselves. And help others find something to laugh about each day.

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CHAT WITH RACHEL HANNA

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What is your latest book?

My latest book is called Unbreakable. This is a new adult romance featuring a heroine named Sophie Morgan. After having a tumultuous time in her teenage years, her parents decide to send her off to stay on a farm with her aunt and uncle in another state. That’s where she meets our hero, Miller Rhodes. And, of course, sparks fly!

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What else have you written?

A lot of the books I’ve written up until now have been in the contemporary romance genre. Recently, I’ve also started to write in the new adult romance genre because I find it interesting to take characters from youth until they become adults. Often, these books are filled with more emotion and angst than a typical contemporary romance. For me, that’s fun to write. But it’s also fun for the reader because they get to go on a journey with the characters.

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

I think the greatest misconception about indie authors is that we are inexperienced. Personally, I have a degree in journalism and a long history of working in that field, so writing is nothing new for me. However, a lot of people think that indie authors are somehow lesser than a traditionally published author, but that is simply not true. There are creative people in all walks of life, and some people just haven’t had the chance to get traditionally published.

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

The part of writing that I like the least would be just the beginning sections of the book where all of the introduction has to be done. I love to write the action parts of the book, so it’s hard for me to go through the early process of letting the readers get to know the characters before jumping into the action.

The part of writing that I like the most is creating characters and situations out of thin air. I especially enjoy writing dialogue as I think it lets readers really get to know and identify with the characters.

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

I write all of my scenes in order. It’s just easier for me to do it that way. If I try to jump ahead and write scenes out of order, I risk losing some of the continuity of the story or missing out on important facts that I’ve included elsewhere. Also, if I write the action first, it becomes even more difficult for me to go back and write the less exciting scenes.

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

When I start writing, I have at least some idea of how the book will end. However, I am more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. Plotting and outlining is something I’ve tried, but it seems to stifle the creative process for me. However, before I start a book, I know who my characters are, at least somewhat, and I know what the overall idea for the story is. The title usually comes to me about halfway through 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 don’t do a lot of heavy editing or revisions of my work, so the final draft is very much like the original draft. However, I do edit for spelling and grammar, and I do that as I go along. So I write for a period of time and then go back and edit that work before I start my next section of writing. I also run my book through a professional editor for spelling and grammar checks before it’s published.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

My advice for first-time authors is to just keep writing. You will improve your writing skills the more you write. You have to keep your butt in the chair and consistently put words on the screen in order to be successful in this business. If you allow people to knock you down or make you feel like you aren’t a good writer, you’ll quit too soon. Take the criticism constructively and use it to better your writing.

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

My favorite thing about social media is that I get to interact personally with my readers. I spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter chatting with my readers, doing polls and doing giveaways of Amazon gift cards and other things. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my readers personally, and I know that they are a loyal fan base. I really don’t have a least favorite part of dealing with social media as I think it’s one of the most fun parts of being authors in this day and age.

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?

Cover design is probably the second most important part of publishing a book. In fact, it might be the most important because no one is going to read your content if your cover doesn’t look good. I place a lot of importance on covers, and I hire mine out to a designer for that very reason. When I used to try to design my own covers, it was very obvious that they were homemade even though I used expensive software to do them. I think that most people should hire out for professional covers instead of creating their own even if they know how to.

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

I live in Atlanta, Georgia, and I was raised here. While I love the South and a lot of my books are set here, I would love to live closer to the beach. Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that! My big dream is to get a motorhome and be able to travel all around the United States anywhere I want to go at any time.

Care to brag about your family?

I have an amazing family. I’ve been married for almost 16 years to my husband, together for 18 years. We have three children ages 13, 12 and 10. They are turning into super people and are involved in lots of different activities including martial arts, music and ballet.

What music soothes your soul?

I love all kinds of different music, but I’m especially fond of piano music, blues and some jazz music. I listen to all kinds of music with the exception of very hard rock and alternative music, but when I write I like to listen to things that don’t have words so that I don’t get distracted.

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

Being that I’m a writer, I would have to say that English class was the most valuable class I ever took in school. It was also the class that I always had the best grades in!

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

I do watch TV, and I get lots of ideas for my books from doing so. Some of my favorite TV shows… I really like reality shows like Survivor, Big Brother, The Voice and others. I’ve also been watching Days Of Our Lives since I was in the eighth grade, and we know soap operas can give you some great plot points for books!

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

Being from the South, it’s probably no surprise that my favorite film and book are Gone With The Wind. I’ve always loved that movie and have seen it dozens of times since they shared it to us in our classroom in the eighth grade.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

My biggest pet peeve is when people are late. I’m always early or right on time, and I can’t stand it when people are late. I feel that it shows a lack of respect.

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

The first thing is to dream big. I think that a lot of people put themselves in a box and don’t dream big enough to make real changes in the world. The second thing is to be kind to other people even if you don’t understand who they are. A lot of times we are unkind to people simply because they’re different from us. The third thing is to step out of your own problems and help other people. When you do that, your problems will seem small in comparison and you will be focused on helping them rather than what’s going wrong in your own life.

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CHAT WITH DELIA COLVIN

 Delia

Delia Colvin is the bestselling author of The Sibylline Trilogy: The Sibylline Oracle, The Symbolon and soon to be released The Last Oracle. She resides in Prescott, AZ with her husband and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

What is your latest book?

The Last Oracle – Book Three of The Sibylline Trilogy is scheduled to be released in July 2013.

The trilogy is about Alex Morgan, an immortal oracle, whose visions guide him in his attempts to save his mortal beloved.

Those that are interested in Greek mythology will be pleased to know that Book Three delves far more into the Greek underworld while maintaining an anchor in present day Italy.

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Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Treat book writing as a business. Successful authors spend the majority of their time writing and a smaller percentage of time managing and marketing.

Also outsource to professionals for a professional product. Hire pros with a great reputation for editing and cover design. Other recommended outsourcing: formatting, web-design, SEO (search engine optimizer) management.

In your spare time read every author blog, like Lisette’s (this blog has the advantage that she is a successful author and interviews other authors).

Lastly find a trustworthy mentoring/educational site like Fostering Success.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I finished Book One of my trilogy and set out to have it published in the traditional manner. My husband was upset to think that the publisher and the agent would take such a huge cut.

A few weeks out my husband came home with some information about indie publishing on Kindle. I was completely against it and believed that only non-fiction worked in self-publishing.

Then one of the top five publishers went out of business and that caused me to take a fresh look at the new world of publishing. I found that independent publishing was going the same route as independent film-makers in terms of acceptance and respect.

In fact, I was stunned to discover that several indie-published novels were New York Times bestsellers.

About that time I received an offer from a “top ten” publisher. I was so tied up with writing and editing that I didn’t have a chance to respond right away. A few days later I received another offer from a very small publishing house. My husband and I decided to sit down and compare offers on a spreadsheet when we could find the time.

A few weeks later the “top ten” publisher contacted me again, this time by phone.

Evidently one of their staff had read my entire manuscript and they more than tripled the original offer—as well as offering me advances on the other two books of the trilogy. I had a VERY difficult time turning that one down. But for some reason I never took it to the next step.

In the end I decided that I wanted to maintain control of my books and the majority of the time I’m very pleased with that decision.  It’s been a lot of work but it’s also been very rewarding.

In December with the highest level of competition on the market both Book One and Two of my trilogy hit Amazon’s bestsellers lists and have been on those lists almost every month since.

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

I like books that draw a full range of emotions out of me and leave me hopeful or joyful. Reading is such a pleasure because I can totally get lost in another world and often in the delicious language of the writer.

The thing I like least is that I have so little time to read!

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

All of this has been pretty surprising to me.  Not long after Book One was out it was voted Goodreads Best Book of June and nominated Best Love Story. That was pretty thrilling!

Then, less than a week after the book was released I was walking my dogs on a path I frequented.  As I rounded a corner a woman was standing there with a notepad and pen and asked, “Are you Delia Colvin?”

I nodded, wondering how she recognized me, as I was incognito with my baseball cap and sunglasses. Then I realized that my pups are fairly well-known in the area.

She said, “Well, I’ve been waiting for you here every day to get your autograph.”

Now I was absolutely certain that my husband or stepson had set her up to do this.  I couldn’t grasp the idea that in less than a week someone that I didn’t know had read my book and wanted my autograph.

The woman continued, “Me and the ladies down at the FBI are all enjoying The Sibylline Oracle.”

I’m not certain but I think my jaw rebounded off the path at that point. Then she added, “Of course, I usually like more sex in my books but it is a great book just the same!”

I didn’t know what to sign on her pad. My hands were shaking with excitement when I scribbled something illegibly and then tried to walk, rather than skip, all the way home.

My stepson said, “Yay! You got your first stalker!”

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

Yes to both. Before I could write I was creating stories in my head. That is how I have entertained myself nearly all my life. Later I wrote them but never had the nerve to share them.

A few years ago I nearly died from massive blood clots to the lungs. I realized that I hadn’t been following my passion in life which was writing novels. I decided that was going to change.

I had always kept a list of stories in-progress that I would work on someday. But one day, not long after the blood clot, a new story popped into my head nearly complete.

It was a present time story about an immortal from Ancient Greece who had been trying for 3000 years to save his mortal beloved.  I had never been interested in writing Fantasy or Paranormal novels and I had never been interested in Greek mythology.

My days were filled and there was no time to write. Still, I was so compelled that I pulled out my iPhone and started typing away on the notepad while I was walking to work. Three weeks later I had the first draft of my first completed novel. Then I realized it was a trilogy and six weeks after that I had the drafts for the next two novels. That was January 2012.

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

The Sibylline Oracle, Book One and The Last Oracle, Book Three (to a lesser degree) required a tremendous amount of research in Greek mythology. While it was fascinating research I spent a lot of my time double-checking facts.

Writing The Symbolon (which is the original word for soul mates) was just a lovely experience because while there was a lot of mythology in it, most of the ground work had been laid in Book One. The Symbolon is about the pure affinity that these main characters share and the price they are willing to pay for the other’s survival. It was a lot of fun to write although it required about a case of facial tissue.

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?

Authors know that when we run discounts on our books that a small percentage of 1-2 star reviews will show up. Further, almost all of those low reviews will clearly state that the reviewer has never read the book.

I read all of my reviews and if there is a valid complaint on marketing or content I correct it, if not I move on and write. I never engage review bullies. I discovered early on that anything you say, even in kindness, may be taken out of context and used against you in the public eye.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

Does coffee count?  Hazlenut coffee with half and half and a hint of cinnamon.

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

Without a doubt the very best gift I’ve ever received was when my husband, Randy read the first chapters of my first novel and said, “Forget Air Traffic Control, you were born to write!”

Since then I’ve been a full-time novelist and it has been a most extraordinary life!

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I was completely ambidextrous when I was young. To teach us right from left the teacher told us, “You write with your right hand.”

So I would write out the word with both hands to try to determine which looked better. When they both looked about the same I decided that I must not be very smart and I zoned out of school.

Still to this day I do some things with my right hand and some things with my left.

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

Be kind and accepting of others.

Encourage others.

Eat more vegetables. That leads to better health, which leads to greater happiness, which     leads to more kindness and leads to increased ability to study, which leads to increased knowledge and intelligence which leads to more understanding.

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Email: DeliaJColvin@gmail.com

CHAT WITH BRENDA SORRELS

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

Time to chat with Brenda!

What is your latest book?

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

Is your recent book a part of a series?

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

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

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, what is my new book about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you write anything besides novels?  Care to share?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve never been involved with Kindle Direct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you define your style of writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CHAT WITH DEAN MAYES

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

Time to chat with Dean!

What is your latest book?

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

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

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Is your recent book part of a series?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I always have a basic idea of what the ending to a story will be but I allow myself the flexibility to change the ending. So yes it is important to me but not essential. The title of a story is not as important to me because I tend to discover the title of a work in the process of writing it.

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

I’m getting better at writing without editing as I go along but I have been known to edit incessantly as I go along. That habit grew out of my tendency to procrastinate incessantly and I used the micro editing as I went along as a way of avoiding writers block. I have, with subsequent projects, becoming better at planning so I’ve been able to resist the temptation to edit until I have produced a draft.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

I suck at poems.

What makes you angry?

Unshakable belief in the morally indefensible.

What music soothes your soul?

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

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

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

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

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

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