Literature & Fiction Interviews By Shelagh Watkins
MP Mandinam Press
All rights reserved; no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. First printing Copyright ÂŠ Mandinam Press 2009
Literature & Fiction Interviews Volume I
Published by Mandinam Press www.mandinampress.co.uk
CONTENTS Editorial Foreword
Malcolm R. Campbell
D. K. Christi
Caryn Gottlieb FitzGerald
Abe F. March
Donald James Parker
D. T. Pollard
Dianne G. Sagan
FIRST PARAGRAPHS Daughter Am I by Pat Bertram
Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire by Malcolm R. Campbell
The Last Stage by Jim Cherry
Ghost Orchid by D. K. Christi
Tulips in the Sand - A Riley Matthews Mystery by Caryn Gottlieb FitzGerald
Ghosts of Northwest Arizona by Jim Hinckley
Black Jack by Jean Holloway
The Skinny by Rayni Joan
Just My Luck by Gail Koger
Journey into the Past by Abe F. March
Stunt Road by Gregory Mose
Wave of Terror by Erma Odrach
Homeless Like Me by Donald James Parker
Kids on a Case by Tony Peters
Obama Guilty of Being President while Black by D. T. Pollard
A Gift from Brittany by Marjorie Price
Saints of Molokai by Maryanne Raphael
Shelter from the Storm by Dianne G. Sagan
EDITORIAL FOREWORD Throughout 2009, I interviewed an eclectic mix of authors who had recently released a new book. The variety of genres includes mystery, romance, satire, crime thriller, humour, autobiography and childrenâ€™s fiction. The varied backgrounds of the authors show a tremendous wealth of experience. All the featured authors have drawn on this knowledge to write novels and works of non-fiction to entertain, help and inform readers. This volume of interviews provides an insight into a group of authors from the United States, Canada and Europe, and gives a glimpse of their past and present books. The unique collection of interviews will entertain and inspire readers to find out more about the authors and their books. Shelagh Watkins
Hi Pat, where are you from and how does your background influence your writing? Pat: I was born in Colorado, and Iâ€™ve always lived there except for a very brief stay in Wisconsin. Because the Rocky Mountains form the backdrop of my life, they figure prominently in all of my books.
Pat Bertram Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
I would like to introduce my guest, Pat Bertram, author of Daughter Am I, A Spark of Heavenly Fire and More Deaths than One. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book – character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre – she decided to write her own. When did you begin writing and in what genre? Pat: I used to write many years ago. I always had words in my head, and then one day they just disappeared. I have no idea why, really. Perhaps the shock of discovering I had no innate talent zapped them out of my head. I started writing again about eight years ago – by then I was used to the idea that I had no particular talent for writing, and since I wanted to write anyway, I decided to learn the craft. I wrote almost everyday, and I read hundreds of books about writing, editing, publishing, and promotion. I don’t write in any set genre – I write the books they way they need to be written, and then I struggle to find a genre afterward. They all have a mystery and a romance at the core, though none of them are mysteries as such, and none are romances since there is no real romantic conflict. When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Pat: I had no goals when I started writing. Well, that’s not strictly true. I wanted to make a fortune, but I discovered early on that very few writers were ever able to quit their day jobs. Still, I enjoyed writing, mostly because it took me away from the worries of my every day life. You know the old joke about everywhere I went, there I was? Writing is the one thing you can do that gives you a vacation from yourself. Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone? 7
Literature & Fiction Interviews Pat: Daughter Am I is a stand-alone book, though I like the characters so much that if the novel were ever to sell well enough to merit a sequel, I might write one. What’s the hook for Daughter Am I? Pat: When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents – grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born – she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Poor Mary – she starts out so young and innocent and ends up driving through the Midwest with a carload of aged gangsters and conmen. Add in a secret room, buried treasure and a boyfriend who is anything but romantic, and you’ve got plenty of hooks! Who is the most unusual/likeable character? Pat: That is a hard question! All the octogenarian gangsters in Daughter Am I are unusual and likeable in their own way. There’s Teach, who sells bullets he claims came from the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. There’s Kid Rags, who still works as a forger. There’s Happy, a trigger-happy exwheelman for the mob, whose hands shake so much he can barely aim let alone shoot. That’s only three of the octogenarians – there are seven feisty old gangsters all together. Well, six gangsters and one ex-showgirl. Share with us the best review that you’ve ever had. Pat: I’ve had great reviews for all of my books, but since this interview is mostly about Daughter Am I, I’ll share the best portion of a review I got from Publisher’s Weekly. They said Daughter Am I is “a delightful treasurehunting tale of finding one’s self in a most unlikely way.” Have you written any other books besides Daughter Am I? Pat: Two others are published. A Spark of Heavenly Fire is my favorite, perhaps because it’s the book where I first learned I could write.
The story takes place during an epidemic when people are dying in vast numbers from an unstoppable disease. Some characters try to escape quarantined Colorado, others try to figure out who created the bio-engineered disease, but my hero Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live, to love, and to help those in need of food and shelter. She is truly a spark of heavenly fire during the state’s dark hour of adversity. In More Deaths than One, Bob Stark returns home to Denver after living for eighteen years in Southeast Asia. While reading the current newspaper one sleepless night, he discovers an obituary for his mother. This comes as rather a shock, because she died and he buried her before he left the country. My favorite line that I’ve ever written is from that book: And Lydia Loretta Stark was dead. Again. What are your current projects? Pat: My work-in-progress, which I call my work-in-pause because I haven’t worked on it much at all this year, is a tongue-in-cheek apocalyptic allegory. Talk about a book with no genre! Mostly what I’ve been doing is learning how to promote. I’d like to introduce my novels to readers, but that is hard to do if no one has ever heard of the books. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Pat: I have a website – www. patbertram.com – where I post important information, including the first chapters of each of my books, but the best way to keep up with me, my books, and my events on a daily basis is by way of Bertram’s Blog. www.ptbertram.wordpress.com All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, and Smashwords. Smashwords is great – the books are available in all ebook formats, including Kindle, and you can download the first 30% free. See excerpt of Daughter Am I on page 19. 9
Please tell us a little about yourself, Malcolm. Malcolm: Shelagh, I’ve spent the bulk of my career as a technical writer for computer companies, most of which fell on hard times, though I don’t think it was my fault. I’ve also worked as a college journalism instructor, grant writer, and corporate communications director. Currently, I’m a contributing writer for a north Georgia magazine called Living Jackson. My first novel, The Sun Singer, was published in 2004, followed by a book of satire in 2006 called Worst of Jock Stewart.
Malcolm R. Campbell Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today’s guest, Malcolm Campbell, is the author of Worst of Jock Stewart, a book of satirical news stories, and two novels The Sun Singer and Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire. When did you first begin writing and what did you write? Malcolm: When I was in high school, I was quite certain I’d end up traveling the world writing exciting articles about exotic places for National Geographic. While I have written a few articles about exotic places, they were published in the shipboard magazine of the aircraft carrier I served aboard while in the Navy. My Indiana Jones career didn’t quite pan out. So now, I visualize exotic places in my fiction. Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand alone? Malcolm: My latest novel is a mystery/thriller, published by Vanilla Heart in August, with a large dash of comedy in it called Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire. Stewart lives in the exotic states of inebriation and Texas where he works as a gruff, old-style investigative reporter for a small-town newspaper. He’s hot on the trail of the thieves who appear to have stolen the mayor’s race horse Sea of Fire and who might just be the same people who killed his publisher’s girl friend Bambi Hill. The police chief has warned Stewart that he (Stewart) has a target on his back. Stewart believes that as long as your number’s not up, you’re going to be okay. 11
Literature & Fiction Interviews What is the hook for the book? Jock Stewart goes out of his way to mock those in authority by pretending to kowtow to them. He admits he does his best work by “being an asshole” and a mix of Don Rickles and Don Quixote. He’s the man for the job when the skirts are up and the chips are down. How do you develop characters and setting in your books? Malcolm: Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire arose out of the characters and settings I created several years ago for a blog called Morning Satirical News. I used the blog to satirize everything via fake news stories for a newspaper called the Star-Gazer at the fictional everyman’s town of Junction City. When I decided to put Stewart into a novel, he dragged the whole crazy mess of people and places right along with him. I had no choice but to just let it happen. I typed the first draft straight through to the end without planning or worrying about anything. Needless to say, I faced a fair amount of editing after that! Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Malcolm: I put myself in the shoes of every character in the book and “see” the world through their eyes when they are in a scene. It’s almost a free association technique while within each character’s mindset. Words and actions for each character simply pop into my mind when I’m thinking about them. Sometimes I wonder who’s actually writing the novel. Is it me or am I channeling a bunch of people who are competing for the best lines and the best scenes? Some day this is my muse, while others claim it’s my subconscious mind. Whatever it is, I’m not going to mess with it. Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV? Malcolm: I write in third person restricted, staying within the protagonist’s point of view throughout a book or story. In The Sun Singer, my style was magical realism with a fair amount of interior monologue and description. In Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire, the scenes and dialogue were much shorter and faster with the voice-over flavor of an old noir film out of the 1940s or 1950s. 12
MALCOLM R. CAMPBELL
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing? Malcolm: My father was a journalist and journalism educator. The house was filled with books, magazines, and writing professors. It would have been difficult to escape this kind of influence even if I’d wanted to. The Jock Stewart character has a lot in common with many of the older journalists who were on my father’s staff, men who came out to the house and told stories about moonshiner raids, tough editors and weird reporters hanging out in the newsroom, and afterhours trips to a favorite watering hole. I was a journalist for the Navy, but the low salaries wouldn’t put Scotch and/or food on the table, so I ended up in corporate America rather than the newsroom. I probably would have had fewer ulcers in the newsroom. Share with us the best review that you’ve ever had. Malcolm: Author Nancy Whitney-Reiter wrote that the novel features “small town hi-jinks delivered with healthy doses of sarcasm and wit. Jock Stewart is like Guy Noir freed from the confines of public radio. A mustread for anyone who likes their sleuths hard-boiled, their women salty, and their plots with as many twists and turns as a plate of the Purple Platter Diner’s spaghetti.” Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Malcolm: My books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Vanilla Heart. Readers can learn more about my books on my website at www.malcolmrcampbell.com and blog at http://sunsinger.blogspot.com/ See excerpt of Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire on page 19.
Hi Jim, please tell everyone about yourself. Jim: I grew up in Chicago in the sixties; I remember and absorbed it all. I remember being born and the kaleidoscope images of childhood. My mother read to me, acting out the characters and put the pictures in my head. I danced on a corner and made it rain, I discovered magic or power, it was childâ€™s play. Art was another early discovery when I saw a bunch of girls crowded around a fellow classmate I looked over to see what was going on, he was drawing Peanuts characters. I read just about everything that came my way; a writer has to live both in his imagination and the world of experience and I think Iâ€™ve done both. I lived the first twenty-three years of my life in my imagination. From the earliest years reading about pirates, baseball players, racecar drivers, mythology and after I put the books down the adventures continued in my head and backyard. If you want to know more about me you can find me in the pages of my books, in between the lines.
Jim Cherry Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Jim Cherry has written three books: the semi-autobiographical novel Becoming Angel, a collection of short stories, Stranger Souls and the Doors inspired novel, The Last Stage. When did you first begin writing and what did you write? Jim: I started writing when I was thirteen. I read about Ernest Hemingway and how a writer can be an artist and I wanted to be an artist but can’t draw. The first thing I ever wrote was a Mad Magazine style satire, complete with traced out drawings from Mad. My mother laughed and I took it wrong; I had intended it to be serious fiction. When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp? Jim: The goals I started with in writing don’t seem to be the ones I’m accomplishing. The writing process seems to have taken on a life of its own and the books seem to create themselves as I go along. Yes, there is a message I want readers to grasp but I don’t want to say what that is because I don’t want to impose my bias on the reader. I want readers to be free to find whatever message they do find. I’ve written things where I thought the message was pretty clear but other readers saw other things in the piece and I couldn’t discount it, because I saw that they could be right. I don’t want to bias the reader with my interpretation which may or may not be right. Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it the first in a series or standalone? Jim: The Last Stage. I think too many writers take on too much with 15
Literature & Fiction Interviews writing a series of books. In the past I’ve read some series by some to the best writers and they don’t always stand up. While I admire the imagination and dedication writers take in creating a series, I like all my novels to stand on their own; I don’t want to commit my readers to too much. Or maybe I don’t want to commit myself to too much! How do you develop characters and setting? Jim: The characters develop organically. When I start a story I have an idea of who the people are and what motivates them. But during the writing I usually discover something about the characters I hadn’t known. Most of the stories I write are set in the environment I’m familiar with, suburbs Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Jim: No. When I start writing I know the beginning and the end of the story, but as I write the middle tends to write itself and I’m usually surprised at how things work out. Do you have a specific writing style and preferred POV? Jim: I usually write in the first person. I really don’t set out with the POV in mind, I just find that first person is the best for giving the reader the sense of immediacy and participation in the story that I’m looking for. How does your environment/upbringing color your writing? Jim: I was raised in middle to upper class suburbs and still live in them, so that’s where most of my settings occur, it really isn’t anything conscious it’s just as the characters develop that’s their background. And my characters aren’t the type that the more status conscious residents of the suburbs want to see. My characters usually are struggling with the world they find themselves in, they either don’t fit in or are having trouble trying to attain the goals associated with those suburbs and its residents. Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had. Jim: I always find the latest review of my books is the best! I try my best 16
to write the best I can and I think I’ve been lucky the books are what I’ve envisioned and get good reviews. True to form here’s the latest: This book has long intrigued me as a Doors fan, and now that I have read it, I am completely wowed by it. What would it be like to be Jim Morrison performing up on stage? Read this book and find out. It’s very well written, and includes details about all the little things that Doors fans appreciate. That gives the book a very real, almost non-fiction feeling. I kept saying “yes! yes!” as I read it, because the book totally nails a lot of the emotion that Doors fans have for the band. The characters are vivid, and their dialog snappy. But most of all, the descriptions of the various locations made the book come alive. Like the various bars where the band plays their gigs. And the road trip they go on throughout the midwest. From Chicago to New Orleans, I felt like I was right there as I read it. I got a kick reading about the various girlfriends and “Doors groupies” that they met on the road trip. Some of them were laugh out loud funny, others were sad. But all were fascinating to read about. The main character has a very complex character, and I was immediately drawn in to trying to figure out what made him tick. Was he just a devoted Morrison fan? Or did he have a self identity problem? Every scene that unfolded had me even more engrossed in trying to figure out what he was trying to accomplish. By the end of the story, this guy was in Los Angeles, getting ready to perform at Whisky a Go Go, carousing with aging rock stars and actors, interviewing agents and screenplay writers, reliving Jim Morrison’s lifestyle, and exploring all his old haunts. I won’t give away the ending, but it is very, very poignant and real. By Katherine Reinhart What are your current projects? Jim: I actually have quite a few projects in mind. I currently write articles as The Doors Examiner which are about the rock group The Doors. As far as creative writing, I’m working on a novel, Ghosts, which is about the death of a friend of mine, and the ghosts we carry around with us throughout our lives. I also have another Rock ‘n’ Roll novel up my sleeve 17
Literature & Fiction Interviews titled Ghost Dance (yes, I may be in a ghost period, like Picasso’s blue period!) it’s about an American Indian rock band that hits the big time. It’s a bit of a thriller. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Jim: My website: www.jymsbooks.com www.examiner.com/x-21763-the-doors-examiner Facebook, Myspace: www.myspace.com/jymsbooks Writing Under the Influence of Rock ‘n’ Roll! www.jymsbooks.com See excerpt of The Last Stage on page 25.
Snippets from Daughter Am I and Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire: “Who were James Angus Stuart and Regina DeBrizzi Stuart?” Mary asked, trying to ignore the mounted heads of murdered animals staring down at her from the lawyer’s wood-paneled walls. Conrad Browning took off the silver-framed eyeglasses that matched his full head of hair and peered at her. “You don’t know who they were?” “No. Until I got your letter, I’d never heard of them. Since they’re Stuarts and so am I, I thought they might be distant relatives, but why would they leave me everything they own?” Mr. Browning cleared his throat. “It’s simple. They were your grandparents.” Mary shook her head. “I don’t have any grandparents. My father’s parents died before my birth, and my mother’s parents died shortly after.” “Be that as it may, James Angus Stuart and Regina DeBrizzi Stuart were your grandparents. They had one son, Peter Thackery Stuart, who married Gwendolyn Jane Smith. They, in turn, had one daughter. Mary Louise Stuart. You.” “I don’t understand. My father told me they were dead.” Copyright © 2008-2009. Pat Bertram. County Road 3724 closely followed the lay of the land like the arm of a lover or a python crushing its next meal. While his ancient Kaiser Jeep CJ-5 followed the road well enough through the scrub forests and pastureland, it lacked the feline grace of the midnight blue Porsche that sped by on a blind curve with the top down and a woman’s hair free of restraint. Ten minutes later, he reached a place with a black mail box marked “G. Starnes” perched on top of a leaning 4x4 post next to a mixed pea gravel and mud farm road. About 100 feet off the right of way, Grayson had built a small white-washed ranch style house with no landscaping or other embellishments flanked by three-horse gabled barn. Two of the house’s front windows were covered by sheets of cardboard and the barn’s Dutch paddock doors had been left open to the elements. Two things in the resulting pastoral were as out of place as bullshit on a Minton Bone plate, the lady and the car. Both were parked next to the paddock at a rakish angle. He pulled up close enough to the Porsche to see the world reflected in more than one of its mirrors, but Lucinda didn’t flinch. Copyright © 2009 Malcolm R. Campbell. 19
Please tell everyone a little about yourself, D. K. D. K.: My roots are in Michigan where my family lives and I visit each year, preferring to drive so I can stop in the Georgia Mountains and hike a little. I also spent significant youthful years in California, the dream land for a mid-western girl trying to get out of the snow and become a “surfer girl.” Once I started traveling, I didn’t stop, living an average of 3 years wherever I landed, job or home. These travels included international work in Europe and Asia and blue water sailing in the Caribbean. Experiences in foreign cultures and living “on the economy” provide insights that I try to share with readers. I have had a profession as an editor and writer for state departments of education and even a stint as a political intern in Washington, D. C. Right now, I live in Florida where I enjoy the Gulf and the Everglades for contrast, but miss hills.
D. K. Christi Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today’s guest is D. K. Christi, author of her latest work of fiction, Ghost Orchid. When did you first start writing? D. K.: I started writing in my youth, keeping under lock and key meticulous diaries that were as much fantasy thought as reality. I basically write essays, commenting on life. Recently, I have turned those comments into fiction. How does your upbringing affect your writing? D. K.: I have a very eclectic personal history with many twists and turns, traumas and joyful events. Therefore, I give my characters a strong dose of emotional appeal; readers have expressed great dislike for a character or been stunned by a stupid decision. One reader said she actually shouted out loud while reading Arirang: The Bamboo Connection, “no, don’t be so stupid!”– Another reader complained that a short story could not possibly be a romance because, “He walked away at the end. How could he do that to her? How could he just walk away?” As though I was supposed to give her some release for her pain at his behavior. What goals did you set yourself? Is there a message you want readers to grasp? D. K.: “Life is what happens when you plan for something else.” Amazon.com actually said it best when their editor described my stories as characters rising above adversity, overcoming life’s traumas and eking out a new beginning. That’s the thought I wish to convey. Every challenge has a gift; we just need the capacity to recognize when it comes. I want readers 21
Literature & Fiction Interviews to recognize their own selves in the characters, their agonies and their ecstasies, and perhaps find comfort in the resolution of their challenges. Is your latest book part of a series or stand alone? D. K.: At the moment, Ghost Orchid seems to stand alone; however, the ending begs for a sequel. Neev is the main character whose life is examined and changed through the magic of the ghost orchid; yet, the ending leaves the reader with the desire to know more about the characters who shaped her destiny, one in particular. She begins that story as hers ends. One family’s loves, lies and redemption are woven through the fabric of the Everglades as photographers search for the perfect subject in the perfect light and find themselves. Neev’s search unfolds as a mystery, one coincidence at a time, under the mystical magic of the ethereal ghost orchid. Recently, I also have short stories published in several anthologies: “Rose’s Question” in The World Outside My Window; “The Ice Storm” in Romance of My Dreams, and “The View From the Balcony” in Romance of My Dreams II. What’s the hook for the book? D. K.: Death is the end. Or is it? A tragic accident opens Ghost Orchid and sets the stage to search for an answer to that age old question: Is love eternal? A mystical and exotic ghost orchid watches from its perch high in the cypress canopy as a mystery unfolds, one coincidence at a time. How do you develop characters and create the settings? D. K.: Their traits fit the circumstances in which they dwell. They are borrowed and reworked from all the people I have know, about whom I have read, and those I’ve imagined. Neev is the daughter I never had, molded from the clay of men and women whose personalities left an impression. Settings come from the places where I have lived and traveled. They 22
D. K. CHRISTI
are real to me in every respect though they sometimes require adjusting with research to make up for imperfect memories or documentation. Who is the most unusual or most likeable character? D. K.: Since I have already given away my secret that I always wanted a daughter, I vote for Neev. However, Roger has his charm and Mel has depth worth examining and loving. Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? D. K.: I’ll use the word processing outline features to give me skeletons of the manuscript and check for anomalies. Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV? D. K.: My preferred POV is first person and in the present tense. Publishers do not like either, especially in new authors. Therefore, I have switched to third person, past tense. When I am famous, I will return to first person, present tense. Please share the best review that you’ve ever had. D. K.: I think I hold onto the Amazon.com review because it says so much in such a few words: “D. K. Christi’s debut novel Arirang, a romantic adventure that spans seven continents, conveys an underlying theme that “life happens when you are planning something else.” In Christi’s shorter works such as Chalk, The Magic Box, and The Valentine , exclusive to Amazon Shorts, themes of friendship surviving tragedy, love conquering adversity, and the triumph of the human spirit over the hardships of life serve to uplift and inspire. Discover a new voice in fiction and through her stories, perhaps discover something new about yourself.” What are your current projects? D. K.: I am working on a short story anthology, a major work, The Virgin 23
Literature & Fiction Interviews Odyssey, about blue water sailors with stories in each craft that are shared in ports along their journey, a sequel to Ghost Orchid, and a special story about the Civil War inspired by my great grandfatherâ€™s escape from a prison camp. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? D. K.: website: www.dkchristi.com twitter: www.twitter.com/dkchristi Publisher: www.lldreamspell.com I blog at www.redroom.com and www.amazon.com Booktour.com includes events and thereâ€™s always Google. ebook versions of Ghost Orchid are found at Mobipocket, Fictionwise and Kindle; print coming soon. Arirang: The Bamboo Connection is in print and Kindle at Amazon.com where several short stories are also found in Amazon Shorts. The anthologies are also at Amazon.com in print and Kindle. All online bookstores carry my books, and anthologies containing my short stories. See excerpt of Ghost Orchid on page 25.
Snippets from The Last Stage and Ghost Orchid: Is Everybody In? I’m dead. Not the cold corporeal type of death, but a warm, living death, a ghost trying to regain what he has lost. A death where everything is a faded, pale facsimile of the life I had. I went into my study and sat at the desk, it’s an old theatrical make-up table with a gilded mirror surrounded by those old fashioned bulbous lights, naked, astringent, that push light into every crevice and nook, no where to hide. Every night I sit surrounded in this room, a shrine to my “career.” The desk is stuffed with my newspaper reviews, photographs, journals, scrapbooks and notes. The mirror was cleaned up and glimmered, a relic of an age gone by, salvage from my past. I lit a candle and popped a tape into the player on the desk, I watched the candle flicker and dance, casting shadows against the wall, hoping it would set the mood. A voice from the speakers said, “ladies and gentlemen, from Madison, Wisconsin, The Unknown Soldiers!” I cleared my mind and let the music transport me back, opening the flood of memories. It was a ceremony I’ve been practicing, a little ritual to help induce selfhypnosis. I closed my eyes, and I could see the audience cheering, an impressionistic flash of colorful clothes, and faces looking up at me. Copyright © 2009 Jim Cherry. The high-pitched, grating sound of twisting metal chased screaming birds into the sky. A sickening rumble erupted as the car dove into the earth, upside down, crushing the roof. The screeching tires etched black marks on the highway for several yards, carving trenches in the shoulder as the vehicles left the road. The bright, red sports car glanced off the white sedan, but slid safely along the edge of the blacktop and stopped just short of the ditch. A plume of smoke and dust almost concealed the careening vehicles. The shocked dump truck driver, pulling a heavy load of gravel, lost control and the truck slammed into the ditch on the other side of the narrow two-lane highway, the impact jamming the doors shut. For a moment in time, a deafening silence filled the air as though the crash sucked the life out of the universe in exchange for the life of the driver who attempted the left turn from the sanctuary road. Her car was upside down across the ditch, her bleeding torso visible half out the window, suspended by the hanging seat belt and the deflating airbags. Copyright © 2009 D. K. Christi. 25
Please tell us about yourself, Caryn,. Caryn: I reside in a small town south of Fort Worth, Texas with my family. I enjoy spending time outdoors and I’m actively involved with my daughter’s school and in the local community. I hold a B.A. in Criminal Justice and a certificate in Women’s Studies from Florida Atlantic University in addition to a Masters degree in Professional Studies in Human Relations from NY Institute of Technology. I am a former LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) and I’ve worked within the criminal justice system with medium security inmates as well as in the community sector and with survivors of domestic violence. Today, as a life coach and motivational speaker, I share my story of surviving and thriving after living with eating disorders, abusive relationships and being trapped within the corporate world.
Caryn Gottlieb FitzGerald Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Caryn Gottlieb FitzGerald has a passion for writing and sharing her heart with others. After watching the manuscript from her first fiction novel, Tulips in the Sand - A Riley Matthews Mystery sit on a shelf at home for sixteen years, she set the goal of seeing her book published and on store shelves, reaching people around the world. Her intention became reality when Tulips in the Sand - A Riley Matthews Mystery was published in July 2008 and has been intriguing fiction and mystery lovers ever since its release. When did you first begin writing, and in what genre? Caryn: I have been writing since childhood and have always been primarily drawn to writing mysteries, thrillers and fiction. My writing style varies; I am comfortable in writing both fiction and non-fiction genres. Iâ€™ve been published in several arenas, including psychological journals, newspapers, blogs, compilations, fiction and self-help books. Over the past few years, I have been focusing on writing my memoir and sharing my personal story of triumph over tragedy, which is allowing me to step out of the fiction genre When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp? Caryn: I started writing as an outlet for expressing my creative side. My goal was to be published. I first achieved that goal in 1995 and have received the honor again several times since then. Iâ€™d like my readers to grasp the message that life is something that we create for ourselves. Enjoying what we surround ourselves with is key. I use writing as a method of expression, consider myself a writer and an artist and surround myself with others who feel the same about their creations. 27
Literature & Fiction Interviews Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series? Caryn: My latest release is entitled Tulips in the Sand: A Riley Matthews Mystery and it is the first in a series centering about a young woman named Riley Matthews who, as a result of lifeâ€™s challenges finds herself wrapped up in the center of crime and mystery and of course romance and passion. This particular novel was written in the early 90s and having it published was a dream come true. How do you develop characters and setting? Caryn: My writing style has changed over the years, but mainly I enjoy creating characters that are easy to relate to and that I can sink myself into, becoming the character for the time period required to advance development. My writing is usual set in places I have personally spent time in and enjoy reliving within my writings. Who is the most unusual or likeable character? Caryn: I hope each reader will have a different feeling about this. I personally had a lot of fun creating the character of Taylor as he was modeled after a friend who, upon reading the book said â€œhey, I know this guy!â€? Riley was also a lot of fun to develop for the first book. Currently, I am working on another book in the series in which Riley has matured a bit and is going through some things that more adults will relate to and her changes are fun for me to develop as well. Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Caryn: I have several techniques and am always open to trying new things. For example, my habit is to write each scene longhand and then type it up afterwards which leaves me with hundreds of these little seventy page count notebooks full of highlight marks and corner folds marking important information such as character descriptions. I do create an outline before I start a book and will talk it out as I go along. I have found over the years that my initial story is never what the end result is, 28
CARYN GOTTLIEB FITZGERALD
because as I fall into the story I see things that the characters would be doing that I may have missed in the original outline. Being open to change and the creative process is key. I also make sure to write something every day as that keeps me in the thick of things as the work progresses. Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV? Caryn: My favorite writing style is to write whatever comes to mind as I create the scene. I like to pretend I am in the scene and imagine what the characters are feeling and seeing as they interact. As for POV, I am grateful to have an editor who keeps me in line because if I had my way, my readers would be able to enter the minds of all of the characters simultaneously and experience the scene from all vantage points. Mainly I focus on the POV of the main character, in this case Riley, and will usually add a second POV from another key character. How does your environment and upbringing color your writing? Caryn: I don’t know that my childhood upbringing colors my writing, but my personal experiences as an adult certainly have. I was a therapist for many years working within a men’s prison and from working with inmates who have committed all types of unspeakable crimes, I have learned that the human mind is capable of anything and if written well, the reader can be lead to believe they are part of the experience, evoking all types of emotions, including new ones they may have never experienced before. Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had. Caryn: This is my favorite as it is part of the feedback I received from my real-life friend who I modeled the character of Taylor: “Cool book … cool ending! That Taylor WAS a madman!!!” What are your current projects? Caryn: I am always writing. Currently I am working on another book in the Riley Matthews Mystery series, my memoir (2010) and two self-help/ non-fiction compilations. 29
Literature & Fiction Interviews I blog almost daily at: www.EmbracingMyJourney.com and also contribute to The Washington Times Communities - Life Online Section, where my column, â€œChanging Your Life, Living Your Passionâ€? can be read daily. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Caryn: The best place to start is at: www.CarynFitzgerald.com as that will provide folks with information on my current projects and events. I love connecting with my readers and encourage people to drop me a note and introduce themselves. See excerpt of Tulips in the Sand: A Riley Matthews Mystery on page 31.
Snippet of Tulips in the Sand: A Riley Matthews Mystery: “Ok, here you go, Mrs. Murphy, just sign on the bottom and you’ll be all set.” She smiled without thinking. A big grin that must have taken the sales girl by surprise because she asked, “Mrs. Murphy, is everything okay?” “Oh, yes,” realizing her actions seemed odd, she added, “everything is just perfect.” With that, she signed the charge receipt, took her package, mumbled a thank you and left the store. Once outside, the sun warmed her face, and her smile returned. She remembered the simple comment the sales girl had made which caused her to smile so happily. The simple action of calling her “Mrs. Murphy”, that was it, just hearing those words referring to her, was enough to cause her to be overcome with happiness and smile beyond control. As she continued down the tree lined street, she thought back to a time many years ago when becoming “Mrs. Murphy” seemed like a dream that would never come true. Copyright © 2009 Caryn Gottlieb FitzGerald
Hi Jim, please tell us about yourself and your background. Jim: When I first moved to the deserts of Arizona in the summer of 1966 my initial impression was a deeper understanding for the place warned about in Sunday school. To say the very least, it was a far cry from the meadows and forests of Michigan or the hills of Tennessee with which I was familiar. As the years passed, a deep love for the empty places, the raw landscapes, the history, and the people that called the desert southwest home grew. Fueled by the writings of Zane Grey and other western writers this passion soon developed into a near complete immersion in the romanticism of the west that I now jokingly refer to as my “John Wayne” period. I found employment on ranches in Arizona and New Mexico and became enamored with the rodeo life though I never mastered the craft of either. Then I discovered mining which in turn led to adventures among the ghost towns of the southwest. Books about history have been an integral part of my life since childhood. However, histories relevance to the present and future never really manifested until I walked the streets of Tombstone, rode the rutted tracks of the Butterfield Stage Line across the desert plains of New Mexico, or experienced Route 66 behind the wheel of a 1950 De Soto. Tying all of these things together were the tangible links to the past with which I began to fill my life. The most notable of these were the vehicles I chose, and still choose, for daily transportation – 1942 Chevrolet pick up, 1926 Ford, 1946 GMC, 1955 Ford, 1968 Dodge – to name but a few.
Jim Hinckley Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Todayâ€™s guest, Jim Hinckley, has shared his love of old trucks and lost highways through the publication of five books and as a contributor to Old Cars Weekly, Classic Auto Restorer, Hemmings Classic Car, The Kingman Daily Miner and American Road. When did you first begin writing, and how did it hook you, Jim? Jim: From my earliest memory writing was something I wanted do, but oddly enough did nothing to develop that interest and passion. Then, in 1990, with gentle encouragement from my loving wife, I decided to take the plunge and give it a try. As I know now my first success was truly a fluke. I felt the discovery of an extremely interesting wrecking yard in southern Arizona near the Mexican border would serve as an excellent introductory tool. So, I picked up my favorite automotive magazine, obtained the name of the editor from the title page, and called their office. After a brief discussion the story was approved. No query letter! No formal introduction! No name dropping! The photos were taken with a $25.00 Kmart camera. The story was written on a 1948 model Underwood typewriter. Eight weeks later I had a check for $250.00 and publication in a major publication. I was hooked! What goals did you want to accomplish after that, and is there a message you want readers to grasp? Jim: Well, with receipt of that first check my childhood dreams were instantly renewed. Visions of acclaim and riches danced in my head. However, most of all was the unshakeable conviction that soon I would be quitting the day job. 33
Literature & Fiction Interviews Since that time I have written five books, have had more than one thousand feature articles published, and have penned two weekly columns for newspapers. I also still have a day job that pays the lionâ€™s share of the bills. For aspiring writers the lessons in all of this are rather simple concepts. Rejection and disappointment are merely dues to be paid. Thinking outside of the box will generate reward as well as set back. Donâ€™t give up; if writing is something you have a passion for then do it. Let the writing be its own reward. If you happen to make a million in the process, great! Briefly tell us about your latest book, Jim. Jim: Ghost Towns of the Southwest is a book that was more than twenty years in the making. Between the covers are more than snapshots and time capsules from the western frontier, this book is a tapestry of my adventures hung against a backdrop of Technicolor western landscapes and centuries of history. The towns, communities, and mining camps profiled in this book include famous locales such as Tombstone and Chloride. However, to add depth and context to their story I also included lesser known places such as Columbus and Ruby as well as Spanish colonial outposts like Cabezon and Native American cities like Gran Quivira. This book is the third in a loose series that profiles the overlooked and forgotten destinations. My first travel related title was Backroads of Arizona. Next came Route 66 Backroads, a travel guide to that iconic highway with a twist. The current project in the works, Ghost Towns of Route 66, continues these themes. What is the hook for this book? Jim: There are really several. First, there is the twist of presenting the ghost towns as the vehicle for providing continuity to the history of the southwest that spans centuries as well as cultures. 34
Next would be the unique and colorful characters introduced to readers. As an example consider Jefferson Davis Milton, a lawman whose career included a stint with the Texas Rangers, being the only law in lawless frontier towns and even escorting arrested Russian anarchists back to Russia during the teens. The latter job was done after a shootout left him with the use of only one arm! However, the primary hook has to be the stunning western landscapes framed by the imposing and forlorn ruins of these bygone communities as captured by award winning photographer Kerrick James. How do you decide what locations to include in your travel guides? Jim: I draw from experience and my travels as well as conversations with a wide array of individuals from Native Americans to European tourists. If you were limited to one region or location for recommendation where would it be and why? Jim: That would be the area around Silver City in New Mexico. The diversity of the landscapes in this area is enhanced by vast tracts of wilderness that make it possible to experience the west as it was before the advent of the modern era. Adding flavor to this would be the truly amazing depth of history found here as represented by sites as diverse as Billy the Kid’s mother’s gravesite, ghost towns, cliff dwellings and the longest continuously operated mine in the United States. Then you have the people. There is something very invigorating in having breakfast in a quaint café, family owned for more than a half century, where representatives of four generations of a ranching family, outfitted with worn jeans, equally worn boots, and spurs, share the counter with liberal college students and professors while grandma teaches her granddaughter how to make tortillas in the open kitchen. How does your environment and upbringing color your writing? Jim: My mother often quipped that it seemed I was born ninety and never aged. Perhaps that is why I have always felt most comfortable in the company of those who are my peers by a half century or more. These relationships allow me the unique opportunity to add a first person feel to events that took place long before I was born. In a similar manner 35
Literature & Fiction Interviews my transportation choices and wide array of adventures enhance the ability to flavor my automotive and travel writings with a hand on authority. Please share one of your favorite reviews of your work. Jim: “I have a copy of Jim Hinckley’s new book and want to share with all of you some facts and my thoughts on the book. Route 66 BACKROADS has over 200 photos, some new and a few old, all are worth the price of the book alone. Then add in some maps to show folks how easy it is to get to and from these sites from Route 66. Now the instructions, information and data that Jim has added in the text shows the reader just how thoroughly he has done his research. I plan on taking this book with me when traveling the road, just in case I find time to take some detours. For you retailers, like Rich, that offer this book for sale, I feel it is going to make a GREAT addition to your inventory. For you fellow roadies this is just the kind of book you need to make you want to get back out on the road. I will be recommending this book to everyone that travels the road or just wants to add a wonderful book to their collection. I have one question for Jim Hinckley, who by the way I know and he is a good friend. WHEN IS YOUR NEXT BOOK COMING OUT?” What are your current projects? Jim: I am under contract for another book, Ghost Towns of Route 66, and am deep into research. Then there is the monthly column, The Independent Thinker that I write for Cars & Parts magazine. On a number of levels my monthly column for Cars & Parts is one of my most satisfying jobs. Through it I am able to share my fascination with automotive history, give some obscure individuals that made large contributions to the industry some overdue kudos, and delve deeper into mysteries pertaining to the conflicted origins of inventions as well as manufacturers. 36
Where can folks learn more about your books and forthcoming projects? Jim: I have a public profile on Google and also maintain a daily blog, Route 66 Chronicles : www.route66chronicles.blogspot.com. In addition, I maintain a website, Route 66 Info Center, where travel tips are shared with commentary and links, and enticing photographs from our collection are presented: www.routeinfocenter.com. I also have an authorâ€™s blog on Amazon.com. See excerpt of Ghosts of Northwest Arizona on page 41.
Jean Holloway Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
I would like to welcome Jean Holloway, who has stopped in on her blog tour, Banned from Vegas. Jean’s books from her Deck of Cardz series are fictional detective stories following the career of a female lead homicide detective, Shevaughn Robinson. Ace of Hearts and Black Jack are currently available online and by request at your local bookstores. Please tell us about Black Jack, Jean. Jean: Black Jack is the sequel to my debut novel, Ace of Hearts. Black Jack picks up four years after Shevaughn Robinson, lead homicide detective in Portsborough, NY, solves her first major case. She is anxiously living in the shadow of her high rate of arrests and closed cases. But it has all come at a price? In Black Jack, Shevaughn tries to regain balance in her personal life just as the past comes back to haunt her. She will quickly find herself the center of yet another unique murder that feels a little too close for comfort. What genre is Black Jack ? Jean: I like to make sure I’m juggling a few genres. I’d say Black Jack is an adult romantic, psychological crime thriller. That’s an interesting combination, Jean. I think you’ll have to explain how you married these genres in your book. Jean: First, I classify it as adult, because my books are for the grown and sexy. It’s erotic, not erotica, yet definitely not for the kids. The romantic elements involve you as you watch the growth of a loving relationship between the couples in this book, one being and 39
Literature & Fiction Interviews Shevaughn Marcus, a local bookstore owner in Portsborough. The psychological segments were a push for me. Out of nowhere, a past character, Terri Becker, emerged and I hate to say it but she’s a few a cans short of a six pack (if you know what I mean). The crime is murder with the plot revolving around Shevaughn’s career and life depending on her solving this case. She has to get him or her before her life is tragically affected. Lastly, it’s a thriller because you, the reader, have an opportunity to take in the story for the viewpoint of the lead detective attempting to balance her family obligations and her career and that of a depressed and confused psychopath looking for love in all the wrong places. The two very different women are brought together by an opportunist that preys on weakness in others. What should readers expect from Black Jack? Jean: Expect the unexpected. Things are not what they appear to be, even I was surprise by the direction this story took. Readers should turn the first page with an open mind and end the last page knowing that there is much more in store for Shevaughn Robinson. About Black Jack Black Jack is the sequel to Jean Holloway’s acclaimed debut novel, Ace of Hearts. Buckle up and follow Shevaughn as she moves closer to solving the murder of a lonely widow, unknowingly rekindling old grudges and awakening a sinister spirit. Get ready, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Visit Deck of Cardz to learn more about Jean Holloway and her work. There you can download Black Jack ebook; watch the book video: Black Jack … Wanna Play, read the book synopsis; and more. How can readers contact you? Visit Jean Holloway online at www.deckofcardz.com See excerpt of Black Jack on page 41.
Snippet from Ghosts of Northwest Arizona Your base camp for the exploration of ghost towns in northwest Arizona is Kingman, a historic community with a long and colorful history. Access to all towns and town sites in this portion of the state are easy day trips from Kingman, although a few trips will require the use of a high-profile or four wheel-drive vehicle. These towns include a frontier-era mining community preserved in a circa 1930 state of arrested decay, a mining town saved from abandonment with the resurgent interest in Route 66, and another mining community almost erased from the map with the modern bane of many old towns – open pit mining. Other gems include two former county seats and a railroad town that also has ties to legendary Route 66. Copyright © 2009 Jim Hinckley. Snippet from Black Jack: Helene put the menu down, took off her glasses and pinched the top of her nose, massaging the corners of her eyes. Concentrating on the menu’s small print made them so tired. She looked up, blinked hard and, in doing so, brought his handsome face back into focus. Maybe I should have left that second glass of champagne alone. However, it’s not every day a lady got to share a bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée’77 in Napier’s, the most exclusive French restaurant in the Portsborough area. Tonight’s definitely a cause for celebration. She still couldn’t believe she’d been dating this young man for the past three months. Young man, humph, never thought I’d be referring to a man in his fifties as young, although it’s all quite relative, isn’t it? Although proud of her sixty-eight years on earth, right now she wished she could turn back the hands of time. The last few months were like a romantic dream. What about the money? The thought flickered like the restaurant sconces’ candlelight against the wall. Damn, why did her mind always go back to that? It spoiled one of life’s best moments by nagging at her. About a month ago, he’d asked her for a considerable loan, one hundred and ten thousand dollars to be exact. Although it took over half of the remainder of her fortune and her mind told her it really wasn’t the smart thing to do, her body quickly overruled the objection. She knew, in time, it would be well worth it. Copyright © 2009 Jean Holloway 41
Tell us about yourself, Rayni, and your “confession.” Rayni: I grew up as Roberta Joan Weintraub in Newburgh, New York, during the 1940s and 50s. During a critical period in the early 1970s, I was part of the Liberation News Service collective, where, for $35 and ten free meals per week, I researched and wrote news and feature articles. It was during this period that my feature article, Women, Fat of the Land, appeared widely throughout the U.S. It was June, 1970, and I became the first public confessor to the then unheard of habit of binging and purging, later diagnosed in the 1980s as bulimia. Although the word and the fact of “bulimia” were largely unknown at the time, my story containing my confession was published on the front pages of dozens of alternative weekly newspapers, where it struck a chord with more than a million women readers – a chord that resonates to this day.
Rayni Joan Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
I would like to welcome Rayni Joan, author of The Skinny: Adventures of America’s First Bulimic. For twenty-five years – from pre-adolescence way into her mid-to-late thirties – Rayni walked around hiding what she thought was a shameful secret: she made herself throw up. For almost the whole time, she thought she was the only one in the whole world! When did you begin writing? Rayni: I wrote my first story, about a lonely elephant baby, when I was five. Not a slender gazelle. Not a purring kitten or a dog with a wagging tail. A lonely elephant baby! A smart prognosticator probably could have predicted my whole life based on that! Please describe some of your journey that ended with the writing of The Skinny. Rayni: As someone who “tumbled up” with little real guidance, and consequently struggled with low self-esteem and an eating disorder, when I had kids, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes my parents made. (I didn’t. I made different mistakes!) At the age of sixteen, one of my sons handed me several thousand dollars and informed me he’d been playing blackjack at a casino. (He lied about his age.) Despite my pleading, he continued to play. I joined Gam-Anon, a 12-Step Program for family members of gamblers and had no luck getting him to attend Gamblers Anonymous. I spoke openly to my group about my history of bulimia, and when someone asked me whether I’d be willing to tell my own story to a large group assembly, I agreed – and my son agreed to attend. In my presentation, I talked about my childhood, about the way noone in my family had paid attention to my throwing up, and how I wished they had stopped me. I talked about the way my therapist, whom 43
Literature & Fiction Interviews I had trusted, had abused me. I told the group of about two hundred that the saddest thing in my life was my inability to communicate to my son the long-term harm and pain an addiction can cause. By the time I finished, after long applause, and after acknowledging those crowding around me to express their gratitude, finally, I returned to my seat. My then seventeen-year-old was in tears. He hugged me and thanked me. He said he’d had no idea what I’d been trying to tell him. The following week he wrote an article for his high school paper about his gambling addiction and his intention to end it immediately. By then, he was the school bookie, and he formally quit. He was already in therapy and continued for many years – and is now a wonderful, loving, thoughtful and supportive young husband and father. Because sharing my truth helped a few people I touched, including my son, I had the incentive to write my slightly fictionalized story in the hope of reaching and inspiring large numbers of people to have the courage to heal. Why did you fictionalize your story instead of just writing a memoir? Rayni: Two reasons: First, I’m not a celebrity so I didn’t think anyone would care about Rayni Joan’s story. Second, James Frey’s hoax memoir made me super sensitive to inaccuracies in my story caused by my own imagination. So I decided to write a story parallel to mine but with some changes I wouldn’t have to explain to anyone. Have the reactions from readers of The Skinny been what you anticipated? If not, how are they different? Rayni: There seems to be no middle ground to the reactions to The Skinny, and that surprises me. People seem either to hate it or adore it. A (former) close friend of mine told me she would never read a book that had child abuse in it, and that surprised and also hurt me even though I have to respect her truth. Wouldn’t most people want to read their friend’s secret story? I would! Some readers think it’s weird the way Rowie talks to angels and “guides.” Others tell me the same thing is cool. I thought more people would object to the liberal use of cursing, particularly the f44
word. I haven’t heard that criticism. But I’m pleased that just about all readers agree that the book is well-written. I hadn’t anticipated that. Also, I’m surprised that some men like the book a lot. I thought it would be only a “woman’s book.” It seems to contain some universal truth that strikes a chord with anyone who struggled to figure out what the hell their life was all about because they sure didn’t learn it from their parents. What’s your favorite moment in The Skinny? Rayni: I enjoy the special connection between Rowie and her piano teacher, the first real teacher in her life. Jimmy Wilson teaches Rowie far more about life than anyone else ever did. Insecure and fearful of failure, Rowie learns from Jimmy to welcome mistakes as guides that help us to learn. He truly inspires her. It’s a warm, healthy relationship. Are you now finished with Rowena, or do you have plans for writing another story about her? What can you tell us about her next story? Rayni: I’m definitely not through with her. There’s a whole new trajectory I see for her – some of my personal “paths not taken” which she’s eager to embark on. Also, like me – and characteristic of people who were abused kids – she has the tough job of dissolving the false self she created as a childhood defense and reinventing herself from scratch – without the eating disorder. That will include her development as an artist and spiritual being – and, of course, falling in love.
What do you say when people call The Skinny another example of chick lit? Rayni: I say: “If, by chick-lit, you mean a story with no designer clothing, shoes, or accessories, but with a strong, smart woman protagonist both women and men can relate to, then, OK, enjoy!” Where can people find out more about you, Rayni? Rayni: www.raynijoan.com www.facebook.com/rayni www.myspace.com/raynij Follow me on Twitter: @Raynwoman See excerpt of The Skinny on page 51. 45
Gail, please tell us a little about yourself. Gail: I was a 9-1-1 dispatcher for thirtyone years and to keep insanity at bay, I took up writing. Not to worry. The insanity isn’t catching – much. Other than the addiction to chocolate and the twitch in my left eye, I’m good. I’ve had my weird but true stories published in newspapers and magazines. My first book was The Ghost Wore Polyester, a murder mystery/comedy set in Sedona, Arizona. Just My Luck, my second book is #1 on the Goodreads’ list for best rated new Sci-Fi Futuristic Romance novels. I’m currently working on The Warlord’s Comeuppance a prequel to Just My Luck. I’m also working with producer, Bonnie Forbes of Fortress Features on several TV series. I recently did an hour long unscripted radio interview with Cat Johnson on What’s Hot in Romance.
Gail Koger Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today’s guest, romance author Gail Koger, has a quirky sense of humor, which she uses in her fast-paced novels that are full of adventure. When did the writing bug bite and in what genre? Gail: It bit in 1985. I was recuperating from surgery and started jotting down story ideas from several bizarre dreams I kept having. Weird creatures, hunky alien beings that came to life in my head, and ta-da my first science fiction novel was born. Unfortunately, it will never see the light of day. Yeah, it was that bad. But I discovered I love to write and have a talent for writing humor, hot sex scenes and balls-to-the-wall action. Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone? Gail: Kaylee Jones is a trouble magnet. Chaos and disaster are her faithful companions. A powerful psychic, it’s her job to protect Earth from alien predators who consider our world an all-you-can-eat banquet. Unfortunately, her success at killing these alien freaks puts her on their most wanted list and lands her in a prison cell. Her roommate? A very hungry vampire. Okay, he’s really a Coletti Warlord who decides to make her his mate. Doesn’t matter that she’s not willing and this mate thing means he owns her mind, body and soul. She’ll admit the sex is hot and the bossy jerk has agreed to save our world from annihilation. But, the bad news is, Warlords aren’t benevolent do-gooder types and there is a price for his help. Our women. And the 47
Literature & Fiction Interviews really bad news is, her Warlord’s low-down conniving brother has joined forces with our alien freaks and now we have to stop them from destroying both our worlds! Just My Luck is the first book in the series about the Coletti Warlords. The Warlord’s Comeuppance is the prequel. What’s the hook for the book? Gail: What would you do to save the Earth from annihilation? How do you develop characters and setting in your books? Gail: People ask me this all the time. Okay, here’s the thing. I’m slightly nuts and have a really bizarre imagination. Try working 9-1-1 for thirtyone years and see how sane you are. The stories and critters come to me in dreams. Yeah, you heard me. Dreams. Once I start writing my characters kind of take over and off we go. Who is your favorite character? Gail: Tihar is one of my favorites. He’s an Askole warrior and Rambo has nothing on this guy. Tihar’s a cross between Lord Voldemort and a Gorgon with black armored plated skin and rather awesome fangs and claws. In combat mode he resembles the Tasmanian Devil, a twirling tornado of death. Once you win his loyalty, you have a friend for life and an extremely deadly one at that. Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV? Gail: I write my stories in first person. I think it brings my characters to life and puts you in the driver’s seat. Share with us the best review that you’ve ever had. Gail: Chris from Night Owl Romance gave Just My Luck four out of five stars. Here’s his review: Kaylee is a walking shit magnet; her words, not mine. If there is trouble or danger, she’s usually sitting in the front row. But Kaylee is a warrior, a powerful psychic, and a “siren” for her world. Call her an advance warning 48
system if you will. And her alarms are going off like crazy. Earth has come to the attention of off-planet predators who think we are mighty tasty, and they are ringing the dinner bell. Earth is fighting with all its’ might and it’s about to have company in that fight, whether they want it or not. Trapped and chained by his enemy, Talree is a Coletti Warlord who is on the verge of going feral. Think vampire on steroids with an insatiable appetite for whatever is in front of him. His race is also bent on destroying the predators currently chowing down on Earth. When his mind connects with Kaylee’s and he sees his salvation, he vows he will connect with her and she will be his mate in all ways. Whether she wants to or not. And his kind will join in the fight with earth, but for a price. This was a freaky fantastic read. Tons of detail about what threatens Earth, in gory detail, and how seeing things can alter a persons perceptions. Kaylee and Talree got along like a chalkboard and fingernails at first, but with a lot of sex, arguing and humor, managed to find their way to one another. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire story and sincerely hope there is more to come since all things weren’t resolved. What are your current projects? Gail: I’m working on The Warlord’s Comeuppance. A fast, fun science/fiction romance of how the ultimate big, bad scary Warlord pursues Detja, the best thief in the galaxy. Here’s a little preview: Stealing from a warlord and giving him the one finger salute as I made my getaway was not the brightest thing I’d ever done. Okay, it was an incredibly stupid stunt. Did I mention that this particular Coletti warlord is the most feared in the entire galaxy? That Zarek’s the ultimate predator and even the other warlords are scared spit less of him? That he never ever stops until he either captures or kills his quarry? Yeah, I have the big, bad after me and all because of one little finger. Okay and a Ditrim crystal the size of my fist. Am I worried? Of course, only an idiot doesn’t fear a really angry Coletti warlord. But, I am very good at what I do. Bad news is, so is Zarek. My name is Detja. The Enforcers call me the Ghost. As a master thief I must be a combination of magician and chameleon. The illusion of magic deflects attention away from the act and when things go to hell, like they sometimes do; the ability to blend into any situation or culture is a must. My looks are my biggest illusion. I’m a Farin, the fragile flowers of the universe. No one in a million years would ever expect me to be an 49
Literature & Fiction Interviews extraordinary thief or powerful psychic. Everyone takes one look at my delicate frame and exotic features and dismisses me as harmless. Really big mistake on their part. I’ll admit that most Farin females are timid creatures devoted to domestic duties and incapable of doing harm to anyone. Me? I’m an anomaly, a genetic throwback to a time long, long ago when Farin females were warriors. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Gail: I have an author’s page on www.goodreads.com or my website www.gailkoger.com. See excerpt of Just My Luck on page 51.
Snippet from The Skinny: Grandma and Grandpa had been married for fifty years and they still hugged regularly like sweethearts. We’d had a big party at a restaurant in the Bronx, and I didn’t dare complain about the uncomfortable green taffeta dress that rustled weirdly when I moved and made me look like I weighed about a thousand pounds. Daddy asked me to dance and pulled and pushed me around as he crushed me to his body. I knew my face was bright red. My body stiffened like stale bread. I didn’t mean to but kept stepping on his toes, and I even slipped a small fart out and pretended it wasn’t mine. He told me to relax and poked me a little in the small of my back but that only made me stiffer. Relief flooded me when the music ended. I raced to find Ralphie, whose white shirt was half hanging out of his navy blue pants. We danced a box step, counting as we trod, leaving proper space between us, not like Daddy. Afterwards, we ran around the restaurant threatening other cousins with ice cubes. Our cousin Mitchell wanted us to try bootleg cigarettes and Scotch in the alley but we turned him down. I didn’t want Daddy to murder me. Copyright © 2009 Rayni Joan. Snippet from Just My Luck: I’m what you’d call a trouble magnet. Which can be a good thing or a bad thing in my line of work. I opted for being a cop. So, finding bad guys is good, but they never want to go to jail, which is bad. Since I’m kinda pint-sized, the only thing keeping me from being shot, stabbed or otherwise mangled on a daily basis is my spidey sense. It’s like an internal radar that warns me of approaching danger. I’m also telepathic. Relax. I can’t read your thoughts. The only minds I can read are other psychics. Basically my family. And believe me, with my family, that can be a real pain-in-the-butt. They’re always ragging on me about something. When I was a teenager, it made dating hell. Dad would pop in with a “Kaylee Lynn Jones what the hell is that punk’s hand doing on your breast?” Or Mom would break into a make out session with, “Kaylee, sweetie, a lady doesn’t allow a guy to stick his tongue down her throat on the first date.” You get the picture. Add my brothers into the mix and I had 24/7 surveillance. And they wonder why I’m twenty-five and still a virgin. Go figure. Copyright © 2009 Gail Koger 51
Welcome, Abe, please tell everyone about yourself. Abe: Iâ€™m a retired international business consultant, entrepreneur and author living near Landau, Germany with my wife Gisela. For relaxation, I enjoy hiking in the nearby mountains exploring ancient castle ruins, walking through the local vineyards and singing in regional choirs. My career has taken me from my birthplace in the USA to Canada, Europe and the Middle East. I grew up in York County, Pennsylvania and served in the USAF from 1957-61. My business career got underway with the computing sciences division of IBMâ€™s service bureau. I later joined an international cosmetic company, which took me throughout the USA and into Canada, Greece and Germany. With international experience and an entrepreneurial spirit, I started my own importing business headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, for the distribution of cosmetics and toiletries to the Middle East markets. I also functioned as a locator of goods and services sought by Mid-Eastern clients before the civil war in Lebanon destroyed my successful business enterprise. I returned to the United States to start over, and was soon working on an international level again. My subsequent work involved Swan Technologies, Inc., a personal computer manufacturer. I established a subsidiary for Swan in West Germany serving as Managing Director. I returned to the US to work in procurement with Stork NV, a Dutch company, supporting a fleet of 1200 Fokker Aircraft, until my retirement.
Abe F. March Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today’s guest, Abe March, has an interesting and varied background that led to the writing of his first book, To Beirut and Back. When did you first begin to write, and in what genre? Abe: It started after I left Beirut in 1976 and began to type up my experiences (yes, we used typewriters back then) from notes into a manuscript, which would become To Beirut and Back about 30 years later. Although an autobiography, I’ve been told it reads like a novel. Is there a message in your writing? Abe: Yes, there was a message, especially with my first novel. I wanted to share my personal experience in dealing with various cultures and sensitive political issues. The events that caused my change in attitude toward the participants in the Middle East struggle was not unique; however, intimidation and threats of retaliation cause many to remain quiet. Telling the truth is not always easy or popular, but often necessary to effect change. The same is true with my second novel. As we have learned, for every action there is a reaction. Events that one may justify as necessary will have a reaction. That reaction can be in some form of retaliation – acts of revenge – and when it happens, oddly enough, many are surprised. 53
Literature & Fiction Interviews Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is this also based on real life? Abe: My latest book, Journey Into the Past, with contributing author, Lynn Jett, is in part a time-travel romance story with the setting among the ancient castles in the Pfalz (Palatinate) region of Germany. Synopsis: Heather Wilson, a successful architect, needed time off from work and a chance to recover from a relationship gone sour. The poster of a twelfth century castle helped her decide to make a trip to Germany and visit this castle. On the drawbridge to the castle, she meets Hans Hess, a retired American businessman who lives nearby. As they discuss the castle, their hands touch an ancient stone and they are briefly catapulted back in time. As Heather explores the castle, she finds a note but can’t translate it and asks Hans for assistance. The translation provides a clue that leads them to other nearby castles in search of additional clues to solve a mystery. Heather is not aware that Hans is married and that his wife is in a comatose state and therefore cannot understand his resistance to falling in love. As they discover more about the characters in the twelfth century romance, they learn more about their own feelings and they succumb to its passion. When Hans’s wife recovers from her illness, it creates a heartrending dilemma. Heather returns to her world without informing Hans that she is pregnant. Years later, an aged Hans learns about his daughter when she leads a group of students to explore the castle and Hans is requested to act as tour guide. What’s the hook for the book? Abe: There’s nothing that would constitute a clever hook, but simply: “When the paths of a vacationing American architect and a retired German businessman cross, the soul-mates embark on a journey through time; a journey triggered by a series of mysterious, hidden love notes written centuries before.” 54
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How do you develop characters and setting? Abe: The setting is always based on places I’ve been. In the case of nonfiction, the characters are real; however, in some instances, names are altered. For fiction, I try to use a facsimile and/or current events with a scenario of probability. With romance, it is a combination of true life and fantasy. Who is the most unusual character? Abe: In the book, They Plotted Revenge Against America, the most unusual character would be David Levy. David is an American-born Jew who emigrates to Israel and becomes a member of the Mossad (secret service). For personal reasons, he turns into a double agent and works against his adopted country in training a team of young men and women who desire revenge against America. Do you adopt any techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Abe: The course of the plot is natural progression. Trying to keep the reader wondering what happens next often requires some change in sequence, as with flashbacks. Do you have your own way of writing or has anyone influenced your style of writing? Abe: I do not try to copy anyone’s style. I write the way I talk. In dialogue, I use colloquial expressions and the manner of speaking that fits each character. Reading books of various genres has an influence. I don’t think it is something conscious; however, the manner of writing that catches my attention and keeps me reading is something that comes through naturally in my own writing. How does your environment or upbringing affect your writing? Abe: My upbringing and environment has an enormous influence on my writing. I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. The perpetual struggle to succeed, dealing with people of varied cultures, provided me with a broad range of experience. Understanding the needs and feeling of the poor, furnished me with useful insights. By contrast, the lifestyle and outlook of 55
Literature & Fiction Interviews the rich, or people of nobility, enables me to understand a mentality that is often in conflict with the poorer class. To win and then lose everything is another experience that affects how one deals with problems. It certainly can alter one’s outlook on life. Please share with us the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had. Abe: The best review was from Malcolm Campbell, author of The Sun Singer and reviewer for PODRAM. The review was unsolicited. He bought my book and wrote the following review: “Terrorism, by definition, operates outside the traditional rules of war. It’s hard to combat because attacks are no longer limited to people wearing military uniforms at well-formed battle lines: they can happen anywhere, at any time, and they may well target people who don’t have any direct knowledge of the peoples and issues involved. This is the arena of Abe F. March’s chilling novel They Plotted Revenge Against America. The novel is chilling, not because it’s filled with larger than life James Bond daring-do in faraway trouble spots. Quite the contrary: this novel takes place on American soil as survivors of the American attack on Baghdad blend in to mainstream America to personally extract revenge against everyday citizens. They Plotted Revenge Against America is a plausible, sobering, intricate and effectively plotted story about a group of well-trained, well-coordinated teams who slip into the U.S. with forged papers and then painstakingly work through a plan that will infect food and water supplies with a deadly virus. These team members are not the gun-wielding, grenade-throwing stereo-typical terrorists we see in most TV shows and movies. They are everyday people who have suffered personal loss and who want to fight back. Once their mission is complete, they plan--if possible--to go back to their normal lives. As the mission unfolds, they alternate between excitement and doubt while trying to avoid detection, and in the process, 56
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they discover while blending into community life, that Americans are not the monsters they expected. Since the overall mission leader is a double agent working for Israel’s Mossad, group members must not only avoid Homeland Security and other U.S. law enforcement agencies, but the highly effective Israel intelligence agency as well. This subplot is a nice touch in a book that suggests we’re more vulnerable than we suspect.” What are your current projects? Abe: I have two projects: (1) the first one is to revise and expand my first novel, To Beirut and Back, since there was no editing by the publisher. I also want to add some pictures and maps of the region described in the book. (2) The second project is writing about my childhood. I may decide to fictionalize it so as to avoid potential problems with some of the characters or their relatives. As we age, much of our early life is now history to the younger generation. The advances in technology within the past 50 years are dramatic. Riding in a horse-drawn carriage, walking long distances to a one-room school, writing with a typewriter, strict and often harsh discipline, etc., much that seems antiquated today. Life was simpler but not without problems. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Abe: The best source to learn about my books are on my website: www.abemarch.com and on Amazon. See excerpt of Journey into the Past on page 67.
Please tell us a little about yourself, Gregory. Gregory: I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles wanting two things from life: to write books, and to explore. For a while the latter seemed to preclude the former. I went off to Harvard to study literature – to study it, mind you, not to actually produce any. Upon graduation I was offered the chance to work as a teacher’s assistant at a high school in Athens, so I spent a year of my life learning Modern Greek, appreciating ouzo and of course starting and abandoning a novel. I returned to the US to study law and then moved on to work for the United Nations in Guinea, a beautiful country in West Africa that, like most African countries, only makes the news when something bad happens there. From there I joined my then fiancée in London, where I found work as a corporate lawyer. In London I managed to finish my first novel, which promptly went into a drawer, and to produce a draft of Stunt Road. In 2005 we left London for very rural France with our three-year-old son, determined to escape the rat race. We’re still here, and with a little life experience behind me I have come to see writing and exploring as pretty much the same thing.
Gregory Mose Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today’s guest, Gregory Mose, is a much traveled author. His first novel, Stunt Road, is a satire on corporate greed; a book that will make you think and ponder life’s deeper issues. When did you begin writing and in what genre? Gregory: My first completed work was a gripping yet emotionally satisfying tale of Flipper the Flying Squirrel, when I was seven. Shunned by big corporate publishing, I moved on as an adult to strive to produce literary fiction, although I still don’t quite know what that means. When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp? Gregory: I aim for writing that is thought-provoking, morally and emotionally challenging, and funny. I like to explore ideas, but to do so in an entertaining way. If I can provoke people to question the world around them without being pedantic, then I feel I’ve done my job. Message? If there’s a message in my writing, it’s simple to question your own motivations, to stop being complacent. Do you have a specific writing style and preferred POV? Gregory: My signature style, if I have one, is the use of humor to highlight moral ambiguity. And generally to avoid trying to puff out my writing with arcane vocabulary that sends even my most educated readers scrambling for their dictionaries. If we need literature to “save” words like “noetic” or “crescive,” Mr. Roth, then quite frankly they are already lost. And good riddance. As for point of view, I’m drawn to first person narratives, but 59
Literature & Fiction Interviews after my experience of writing Stunt Road I’ve sworn off them. Conveying everything through one point of view felt like using a VW Bug as a moving van. How does your environment/upbringing color your writing? Gregory: We all write from a certain point of view. I suppose all my writing is ultimately colored by my upbringing as an upper middle class white Los Angelino whose main ambition was to escape from uppermiddle-class-white-Los-Angelinohood. The themes of privilege, escape and exile are always there in what I write, even when I don’t particularly intend them to be. Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone? Gregory: Stunt Road evolved from a very cynical conversation about astrology at a New Age restaurant in Los Angeles. I had suggested rather glibly that anyone could produce a system of divination and personality typing just as convincing as astrology as long as they had a spiritualsounding pretext and a basic under-standing of how to tell people what they want to hear. Stunt Road takes a step back and asks how society would react to such an endeavor. In the end, it became a satire on corporate greed, gullibility and the quest for meaning. It’s Frankenstein for the Age of Aquarius. There will be no “Stunt Road 2: Revenge of the nerds” or anything like that. Although it could be fun. What’s the hook for the book? Gregory: Pete McFadden refuses to question his success when his online spoof of astrology unintentionally turns him into a trendy self-help guru. But when his creation becomes the plaything of a manipulative cult leader and a ruthless multinational corporation, Pete learns that the pleasures of wishful thinking come at a high price. How do you develop characters? 60
Gregory: I talk to them in my head a lot. I try to see through their eyes. For me, it’s the hardest part to writing, really being sure that characters stay true to themselves and not trying to make excuses for them. Who’s the most unusual or likeable character? Gregory: Jake Simms, the philosophy PhD program dropout. Although I don’t explore his character in full detail, his charm lies essentially in his ambiguity. Even I am not quite sure whether he represents the attractive side of evil or the destructive potential of good. Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Gregory: I outline carefully, and then write, delete, deviate, rewrite and finally re-outline so that my outline corresponds to what has evolved in the narrative. It’s clunky, but I don’t know any other way. Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had. Gregory: I grinned ear to ear when one Amazon reviewer wrote: “Strong writing, heady moralistic battles laced with sharp wit, and a cinematic feel make this a very enjoyable read.” That felt good. What are your current projects? Gregory: I’m currently working on novel set in Guinea in the late 90s during the Sierra Leonean civil war, based on events I witnessed while working with refugees there. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Gregory: My website www.gregorymose.com should have everything anyone would want to know about Stunt Road. It’s also where I blog about life in the French countryside. See excerpt of Stunt Road on page 67.
Erma, please give us a little information about yourself and your work. Erma: I am a writer/ translator living in Toronto, Canada. At present I am focusing my attention on translating the works of my father, Theodore Odrach (1912-1964). My father wrote novels and short stories in the Ukrainian language, and his works were published in Buenos Aires, New York and Toronto. Wave of Terror, recently published by Academy Chicago Publishers, is his first novel to appear in English.
Erma Odrach Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today’s guest, Erma Odrach, is focusing her attention on translating the works of her father, Theodore Odrach. Wave of Terror is his first novel to appear in English. What is Wave of Terror about? Erma: Well, I think one has to take a brief look at my father’s life to really understand what Wave of Terror is about. My father was born in Belarus (then a part of Czarist Russia), and in 1939 he became caught up in Stalin’s world. Studying at the university in Vilnius and watching the Soviet tanks roll in, he decided to head south, back to his native Belarus (by then a part of eastern Poland). Securing a teaching position just outside the town of Pinsk, it is really during this time that Wave of Terror began to take root. There he witnessed first-hand unspeakable atrocities committed by the Soviet regime, where innocent men, women and children were routinely persecuted, tortured and slain. Deemed an “enemy of the people” himself, my father became a man on the run, changing his name from Sholomitsky to Odrach in the hopes of protecting the family he left behind. Eventually, my father managed to escape into Slovakia by way of the Carpathian Mountains. After roaming around Europe, marrying, and living in Manchester, England for 5 years, in 1953, together with my mother, he settled in Toronto Canada. Wave of Terror is about the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939, as seen through the eyes of Ivan Kulik, a young schoolteacher. People are randomly deported to the gulags, tortured in Zovty Prison, or murdered. It loosely follows the life of my father, and many of the events are eye63
Literature & Fiction Interviews witness accounts. But the novel is not all doom and gloom. There’s a fair amount of humor (though dark), and at some level it’s also a love story, as Ivan has eyes for Marusia, a green-eyed, whimsical young woman. When Wave of Terror was started, what goals did your father want to accomplish? Is there a message he wanted readers to grasp? Erma: When my father wrote Wave of Terror, he meant it as an exposé on Soviet oppression. He wanted to make known the horrors in his part of the world during that awful time. But he ended up an expatriate writer living in Canada, and, unfortunately, his readership was limited to a very small number of Ukrainian-speaking immigrants. In addition, his books were banned in the Soviet Union. So, as you can understand, as a writer, he became literally trapped within his own language. Completely cut off from the English reading public around him, he lived his life in relative obscurity and his work remained forever in limbo. My father knew his only way to be heard was through translation. But during his lifetime that was a very remote possibility. Wave of Terror was written in the early sixties. It’s now 2009. Where has the book been for almost fifty years? Erma: Actually, it was published posthumously in Ukrainian in Toronto in 1972. My father barely finished it before his death and he left numerous loose ends. Since 1972 it’s been floating around a few places here and there, however, mostly its been sitting on the bookshelf in my living room, but not forgotten, at least not by me. When I started translating it a number of years ago, I sent excerpts to literary magazines as a trial, and reception was great. A chapter appeared in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change in Madison, WI and another in Flipside (California Univ. of Penn). In 2008 the novel got picked up by Academy Chicago Publishers. How did your father develop his characters and setting? Erma: As far as setting is concerned, history provided that for him; he found himself thrust in the heart of WWII, and there was drama at every 64
turn. He was a keen observer of people and events. Most of his characters are actual, though fictionalized to some extent. For example, Dounia, who is an oversized, oversexed fishmonger, in reality sold trinkets in the marketplace and was later promoted by the regime to schoolteacher, even though she was illiterate. My father loved people, he loved studying them and interpreting them. His prose style is spare but quite controlled with touches of irony and humor thrown in for good measure. Wave of Terror could easily be read as a document to his turbulent heritage. Who is the most unusual or most likeable character? Erma: The book is really filled with ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Ivan Kulik, Headmaster of School Number 7, is the eyes, ears and heart of the novel, and it is through him that the reader experiences and witnesses much of everything that is happening. Ivan Kulik in many ways could be seen as the author himself, as both are caught in a world turned upside down and both have to learn the politics of survival. Fishmonger Dounia, however, remains my favorite character because she proves the most resourceful and most equipped to deal with all that comes her way: she is the ultimate “new Soviet woman”. But her character is also functional in that it provides much-needed comic relief. My father loved to observe women as much as men. In the introduction to Wave of Terror T.F. Rigelhof writes: “Odrach has much to tell us that hasn’t been reported in this way by anyone else about how the coming of the Soviets affected the sexual identities of women along the outer edges of the USSR …” Share the best review (or portion) that Theodore Odrach had. Erma: The best one came from the Times Literary Supplement: “Theodore Odrach is that rare thing, a political novelist who is also an artist of the first rank.” For my father, politics and writing always went hand in hand. He needed to write about politics but he also wanted his words to endure. Had he read all the wonderful reviews written about Wave of Terror thus far, and after so many years, he would have been truly overwhelmed. 65
Literature & Fiction Interviews Did your father live to see you translate at least some of his works? Erma: No, because he died in 1964 when I was a child. I never really knew him. And Ukrainian was and still is a difficult language for me. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started tackling his books. Using a Ukrainian-English dictionary, I literally had to look up every second word, and still it sometimes didn’t make sense. Luckily, my mother knew his work inside out because he had read her all his manuscripts. In short, it was a very laborious process. And somehow slowly but surely his pages started to come to life -- there were people living inside them, there were great panoramas, history was in the making. What are your current projects? Erma: I’m working on more of my father’s books - short stories and novels. I’m just finishing up a novel that takes place right after the Yalta Conference, when Eastern Europe is being handed over to Stalin. There are feelings of betrayal and abandonment among the characters. Another moment in history is captured. Also, on another note, I’m happy to say with the fall of communism, my father’s books are finding their way into Ukraine and Belarus, and there is growing interest in his life and works. I have also secured a publisher in Ukraine, and they are set on reissuing all his works there. Where can folks learn more about Theodore Odrach and Wave of Terror? Erma: You can learn more about my father at: www.goodreads.com/author/show/2930513.Erma_Odrach www.goodreads.com/author/show/1072930.Theodore_Odrach Wikipedia: www.theodoreodrach.com See excerpt of Wave of Terror on page 73.
Snippet from Journey into the Past: The orange tinge of scattered clouds seemed to encircle the castle like a halo. Built in the 1200’s, the castle was now mostly ruins but the silhouette of this once majestic structure had an eerie sense of foreboding. The deep crevices and shadows surrounding this structure held mysteries longing to be told. A lone hawk circled overhead in the quiet of dusk and suddenly dove after its prey. A loud shriek was heard by the victim of this attack before succumbing to a quick death. Survival was the instinct that propelled this force of nature. Ivan awoke with a start. The recurring dream of the castle lying in ruins was something he could not discuss with anyone. He brushed it aside and prepared for the day. He knew he could never lay claim to the title of nobility even though his father was a nobleman. He was simply a bastard. It made him angry that his mother had to suffer the humiliation of bearing a son by her lord. When the time was right, he would have to try to force his father to acknowledge him if he could ever hope to marry the girl he loved. Copyright © 2009 Abe F. March Snippet from Stunt Road: I should have trusted my instincts. Earthsong. It sounded like a progressive music camp where hippie parents send their kids to learn to meditate and play the bongos. The way I was feeling, I had no business coming anywhere near a restaurant called Earthsong. But it was Diego’s party. He was my best friend. “Come on, you can put up with vegan finger foods and movie industry people talking about karma for a couple of hours, can’t you? Emily’s coming. And it’s open bar.” Diego can be very persuasive. Just ten minutes from Malibu, tucked away in a quiet fold of Topanga Canyon, Earthsong billed itself as a spiritually-minded retreat from the crass commercialism of LA. As if to keep the material world at bay, a large statue of Kali guarded the entrance, waving swords and severed heads at me as I parked at the end of a row of Mercedes and BMWs. Edging past the god of death I descended a set of stairs and joined a well-dressed crowd scattered in groups on the restaurant’s creekside patio among gnarled oak trees, fountains and oversized pottery. A faint smell of incense drifted through the warm June air. It was like arriving at the country estate of a wealthy Hobbit. A Hindu Hobbit. It could only mean trouble. Copyright ©2009 Gregory Mose 67
Hi Don, please tell us a little about yourself. Don: There is nothing exciting in my life to spice up a bio. I went straight from high school to college. I obtained my degree in four years and then my life became less predictable. I taught school for a few years before giving up the classroom to program computers. I discovered the computers listened to directions much better than teenagers. My heart is still with the young adults though. It was hard finding my way when I was a kid. Our world has become much darker and more dangerous since then, making the coming of age process a very precarious one. My goal is to help teens find their way to lead a productive, healthy, and joyful life.
Donald James Parker Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today’s guest is Donald James Parker, author of Reforming the Potter’s Clay, Love Waits, Homeless Like Me, Angels of Interstate 29, and the Masterson Family Series including The Bulldog Compact, More Than Dust in the Wind, All the Voices of the Wind, All the Stillness of the Wind, and All the Fury of the Wind. When did you begin writing and in what genre? Don: I dabbled with writing back in 1980. The real journey to publish began in 2006. I’m not sure the bug has bitten yet, because I’m not compelled to write out of love for the publishing jungle. I hate having to classify something as a certain genre. I think I cross genre lines with my work. My books are about life and man’s relationship with God. Life doesn’t stay within genre lines. If you have to pigeonhole my work, Christian fiction will perhaps be the most meaningful classification. When you began writing, what did you write? Don: I started out wanting to write about sports, coping with life, and love in order to challenge people to live life to its fullest. Demonstrating morality and good life choices was a big-time goal for my first novel. Now after maturing, I find my message is similar but incorporates God into the equation as a main ingredient rather than just a catalyst. Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone? Don: My latest book, a stand alone titled Homeless Like Me, came out in September of 2009. Members of the writing community should enjoy it because the protagonist is a wannabe novelist. He decides to write a story about the homeless and disguises himself as a transient. His disguise doesn’t fool one of the regulars, a three hundred pound, angry, black man. 69
Literature & Fiction Interviews The two become an odd couple and work together to produce the book. A twist of fate occurs when the hero falls in love with one of the volunteers at the rescue shelter. Due to her influence, the hero has to entertain the notion that God might really exist, bringing about agony of the soul in deciding what to do about his book. Who is the most unusual character? Don: Zeke is a huge black man who hangs out at the shelter. He is unemployed as a result of a former drinking and anger problem (mostly directed at his father) that earned him some jail time. He takes the wannabe novelist under his protective wing to help him with his project. His journey to learn to forgive his father is one of the main themes in the book, even though he is only a sidekick and not the hero. How do you develop characters and setting in your books? Don: To be perfectly honest, I don’t develop anything. I just sit at the computer and type. When I get done, people ask me how I did that. I can only say it is a God thing. I don’t analyze what I’ve written and contrive to add a dash more romance or make a character a tad meaner or more loveable. I sometimes wonder what kind of monster I could create by applying my computer analysis skills to my writing. I don’t plan on finding out anytime soon. Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Don: See the answer to question above. Mark Twain said that anyone attempting to find a plot in Huckleberry Finn would be shot. I might suggest that trying to find a plot in my work is a daunting challenge. I like to duck out of this one and say that my novels are character driven instead of plot driven. I usually don’t know what’s going to happen myself until I write it. Some people call that writing by the seat of your pants. Others might call it creative genius. 70
DONALD JAMES PARKER
Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV? Don: I have a distinct (I think) writing style. I don’t follow rules very much. I’m trying to tell an engaging but edifying tale, not conform to someone’s arbitrary regulations for writing a good novel. I couldn’t care less about setting and description. The interaction of my characters, their conversations, and their thoughts are the things I focus on. My characters carry on intense and humorous (I hope) conversations that I refuse to interrupt with meaningless literary fluff. My POV is usually third person omniscient. I like to get into my POV’s head and reveal his or her thoughts. How does your environment and upbringing color your writing? Don: I was raised in a rural area. My hometown, in which I am living again, had fifty-four hundred residents when I grew up. I spent a lot of time on my uncle’s farm where I learned the facts of life and death. The importance of character and reliability were hammered home in that crucible (or maybe it was only an incubator). My heroes are usually people grounded in such character with emphasis on honesty, hard work, and the golden rule. They might have their moments of wavering, but they always find their way back to the straight and narrow. Share with us the best review that you’ve ever had. Don: Hard to choose. I’ll use this one from Apex Reviews: All the Voices of the Wind offers a deeper, more probing look into the inner workings of a family in constant flux. The bond between Jeremy and his father remains strong, but as its strength is tested by Jeremy’s budding relationship with Maria, the reader is presented with a realistic portrayal of just how difficult it can be for family members, no matter how close, to preserve the integrity of their respective unions. In addition, Donald James Parker - in his typical intrepid style tackles the topic of evolution head-on, offering insightful, well-thought-out analysis of the issue from all sides. 71
Literature & Fiction Interviews His attention to detail ensures that the reader comes away with a comprehensive, in-depth perspective on the matter, and he does ultimate justice to a spirited debate that only continues to grow in intensity. Moving, engaging, and entertaining, All the Voices of the Wind is a heartrending literary treat. What are your current projects? Don: I am working on perhaps my most ambitious novel yet â€“ a story of an American Indian reservation and a clash of traditional native religious practices and Christianity. In addition I'm just putting the finishing touches on an anti-vampire novel and have started a novel dealing with demons, which will be somewhat similar to C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Don: My website is www.DonaldJamesParker.com. Details about all of my books are found there, and my ebooks can be downloaded for free. See excerpt of Homeless Like Me on page 73.
Snippet from Wave of Terror: Kulik sank into bed completely exhausted. Tired as he was, he couldn’t sleep. The room was cold and drafty; he lay shivering, staring into the darkness. The constant ticking of the clock on his nightstand grated on his nerves. The night was still, almost too still, and all at once he thought he heard something, a kind of shuffling noise outside in the hallway, then footsteps. He was certain someone was about to knock on his door and within seconds it would fly open: it was the NKVD men coming to get him. They would drag him out of bed, throw him into the back seat of some big black car and whisk him off to an unmarked prison somewhere. With no trial and no judge, like thousands upon hundreds of thousands of others, he would perish, unknown to family and friends. Copyright © 2009 Theodore Odrach (Translated by Erma Odrach) Snippet from Homeless Like Me: Brian felt a pair of strong hands seize him from behind just before he suffered the heat of being slammed into a brick wall, followed by the coldness of steel pressed against his throat. He could feel the vibration of each word from a menacing voice bounce off his trembling body. “I don’t know what your game is, mister, but I know you’re not one of us.” “Don’t shoot!” Brian screeched. The coldness eased off and Brian’s assailant started to laugh. “Don’t shoot? This knife isn’t loaded.” “That is a knife, huh?” “Brilliant deduction, Sherlock.” The laughing ceased. “Now, dude, talk fast and talk straight. What are you doing down here pretending to be a bum like me?” Brian’s face contorted into a grimace. “I didn’t say you’re a bum.” “No, you didn’t. I’m confessing to the crime. Now spill your guts, before I have to do it for you – if you get my drift. Are you the fuzz?” “The what?” “Are you for real? Don’t you know nuthin’?” “I know that if you don’t move that knife further away from my carotid artery, I’m gonna wet my pants.” Copyright © 2009 Donald James Parker
Hi Tony, please tell us a little about yourself. Tony: I guess I can start at the beginning. I was born in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, and I was raised in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. I have my Youth Care Worker Certificate, and my General Biblical Studies Certificate. I love working with kids, so having written a young reader book kind of suits as it gives me a chance to interact with kids. I have been married for two years as of May 12 (I know I am only 21, but I am proud to be happily married to my high school sweetheart). I love reading, and have been reading novels since as far back as I can remember. Being a published writer is a dream come true and I hope to make a full time career out of it.
Tony Peters Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today, we have a new, young, children’s author, Tony Peters, visiting Literature & Fiction. When did you begin writing and in what genre? Tony: I think I started writing when I was eight or nine, I am not sure which. When I learned how to write stories I was hooked, I couldn’t stop writing. Looking back they seem really lame, almost funny, but hey we all have to start somewhere right? I started taking writing as a serious career path when I took Creative Writing in high school, and I haven’t stopped pushing onward since. I love to encourage kids to write if that’s what they are passionate about. Pursue the dream, and don’t let any failures get in the way. Persevere through the trials and you can’t go wrong, the only thing you can do is learn from your mistakes/experiences and carry on. When I first started writing it was in a whole bunch of genres. My first two books though are kid’s mystery, one is published and the other I am in the process of seeking out a publisher. What was your inspiration for Kids on a Case? Tony: My inspiration… good question, I guess that I remembered reading a lot of mystery books growing up that dealt with really childish mysteries and I always wanted to find a mystery writer who wrote more adult situation mysteries for kids. When I couldn’t find any (with exception to the Hardy Boy Series) I decided to create one myself, and so began the creation of characters, setting, and plot (all before I thought of writing as a career choice). The characters in my book come from a combination of my school friends. None of the characters are created from one person. They are all little pieces of people’s characters. 75
Literature & Fiction Interviews Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone? Tony: When Kimberly Mockton is kidnapped by a gang of hardened criminals, it shakes her school down to its foundations. Her family is terribly distraught and their cry for help goes out to the community. Tyler Bowen, Kimberly’s good friend, fellow classmate and local trouble maker, gets caught up in the fray when he overhears a conversation at an abandoned house that leads him to believe he has discovered Kimberly’s kidnappers. Knowing no one would believe such a story coming from a child, he pleads to his classmates for help. The few who believe him form their own group of private investigators. It’s Tyler Bowen and the “Kids on a Case” to the rescue! The group of friends find themselves searching for the kidnappers and with the help of Police Chief Goodall they are hot on their trail. They must use quick and strategic thinking in order to keep up with the moves of the criminals. It will lead them to use methods someone of their young age shouldn’t have to result to. With their lives at risk, they will use both determination and perseverance to follow the investigation where it leads them. Their investigation will challenge them to search within themselves for the strength to go beyond their age. It will stretch their minds and physical strength to limits they never imagined they had. Their young lives will never be the same again... This is a short series (there may only be two; I have not decided yet). What’s the hook for the book? Tony: The hook for Kids on a Case is that it is adult style mysteries taken on by children. This draws in the attention of children as they really are miniature adults who want very much to be like us in every way. Also my characters are all very different bringing many aspects to the table making it easy for the readers to find someone they can connect with. How do you develop characters and setting in your books? Tony: I will deal with setting first. Since my books all take place on a 76
planet very similar and yet very different than ours, I have created detailed maps of the planet. When I bring up a city I must create a map for it so that it will match up in every book. These maps help me develop settings and keep them congruent with the previous work. Characters are a lot of fun for me to create, I especially like coming up with fun names. I will have to keep in mind the characters role in the book and try to come up with characteristics/personality traits that will suit their role. I come up with as many little details as I possibly can, although many of these details never come onto the paper, they are still kept in mind when molding them. Itâ€™s kind of fun to picture the character in your mind, the hard part is getting that picture into the minds of your readers. Who is your favorite character? Tony: My favorite character so far is Tyler Bowen, my main character. Maybe it is because he reminds so much of myself when I was younger (with a few major changes of course). I have molded him into a brilliant young boy with a heart of gold, who cannot keep himself out of trouble. He goes where his curiosity leads him with no regard of the consequences. Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Tony: When I write I make sure that I have a clear picture of the plot before hand, writing down as many details as I can. Of course things do change as I write, but then I still have my outline to fall back on. I am a compulsive organizer so everything must be done just so. Keeping an outline and detailed plot in mind focuses my attention when writing so that I will always be able to keep the end goal in sight. Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV? Tony: I actually do not have any particular Point-of-View that I stick to. I like to write a variety. I guess first person makes it easier to relate with your characters, but it does limit what you can do with secondary and tertiary characters. I think that my style also changes with each book, it kind of depends on what I hope to accomplish with each book. I do prefer fun and easy going, but I can be serious. I enjoy reading sarcasm in books, so that may have affected the style of Hunting Black Dragon. As Tyler ages he is 77
Literature & Fiction Interviews becoming more bright and sarcastic. He does not like stupidity and the reader sees it in his thoughts, which I hope will bring some chuckles from my young readers. Sarcasm also slips into my next YA drama through Liam Kerrigan and his dealings with two inconsiderate detectives. Share with us the best review that you’ve ever had. Tony: This review was done by Ariel at bookatopia.blogspot.com/: Tyler is well known for having a knack for getting in trouble, and when his friend Kim goes missing he gets together a group of friends to try and find her. The police are on the case, however they always seem to be one step behind the kidnappers and the kids’ help proves to be indispensable to track them down. When I was reading this book I couldn’t put it down until I reached the end, the plot is well thought out and the author is great at using imagery in his descriptions. I would have liked to get to know the characters better and for Donuro to be explored more, it sounds like it has the potential of being an interesting place but it isn’t mentioned much, it left me curious about it. This is the main reason I have given this book a rating of 3.5 and not 4 as I personally like some level of detail where relevant. I only wish that this book was longer and I am looking forward to the release of the sequel. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in young adult mystery novels. Visit the author’s website for more information http://tonypeters.webs.com. What are your current projects? Tony: My current projects are my sequel, Hunting Black Dragon, where Tyler and his friends are hunting down a gang of ruthless criminals. He must free a friend’s father, while working with the police and government agents. It ends up being much more difficult and dangerous than he could have ever imagined. I am also working on an adult war novel called The Swenoran Rebellion. This one is about Admiral Juan Alvarez. He must free his country from the hands of a ruthless tyrant. All because of a promise he made to the previous Emperor. Although it may very well cost the lives of everyone he holds dear, he will honor his oath. 78
Another project is a young adult drama about a pair of young boys. Six year old Jordan Connor, whose parents are divorcing, while he suffers from leukemia; and Liam Kerrigan who has been abused by his drunk father for many years, whose parents are also divorcing. The pair develops an odd friendship and must help each other through these hard times that no child should have to deal with. The question is who is helping who? Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Tony: To find out about my books and events they can go to my website, http://tonypeters.webs.com. I am also on www.facebook.com www.shelfari.com www.gather.com www.myspace.com and www.goodreads.com See excerpt of Kids on a Case on page 85.
Please tell us a little about yourself, D.T. D.T.: I was born and raised in a small rural town in northeast Texas. I am the youngest of nine children. After High School, I attended college in Florida on a scholarship to business school. I now live near Dallas, Texas with my wife and we have one adult son.
D.T. Pollard Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today’s guest, ESSENCE magazine bestselling author, D.T. Pollard, has authored several books and is a member of the Authors Guild. His first novel The Trophy Wife Network was published in April 2006 followed by Rooftop Diva: a novel of triumph after Katrina in September 2006. Fool’s Heaven is his third novel. Rooftop Diva made the ESSENCE bestselling hardcover extended list in October 2007. When did you first begin writing and what did you write? D.T.: I started writing fiction stories in junior high school. I used to get a series called the weekly reader during summer break and also read the Reader’s Digest. We had an old copy of Aesop’s Fables and I real enjoyed reading those stories. When you started writing, what did you set out to accomplish? Is there a message in your books? D.T.: I stopped writing in college and started back after almost thirty years. I really wanted to finally complete a book and found myself playing off actual events as a basis to my fiction writing. I wanted to understand the book and publishing business. After understanding some of the quirks of the business, I wanted to publish my books under a publishing company that I owned. I wanted readers to feel what I wrote and have it connect to their real life experiences. My books tend to have a theme of perseverance of the main characters in my fiction work. My nonfiction work deals with political and social issues in the world. Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone? 81
Literature & Fiction Interviews D.T.: OBAMA GUILTY OF BEING PRESIDENT WHILE BLACK is an examination of the roots of racial hatred towards President Barack Obama in his own country after winning a decisive electoral victory. This book has elicited sharp reactions by the very title and I feel it will meet my expectations to generate conversations on an issue few like to bring up in America. Shelagh: Whatâ€™s the hook for the book? D.T.: There is not much of a hook beyond the title and reality of what has taken place with protests and disrespectful behavior towards the President. Some of the language has been close to incitement to carry out violence. How do you develop characters and setting in your books? D.T.: I develop characters through event driven revelation of appearance, mannerisms, speech patterns and morals. I often use settings that I am very familiar with and get into details that I can describe to a level that allows the reader to feel that they may know where they are. Who is your favorite character? D.T.: After four fiction books my favorite character is Monique Devareaux. Monique is the main character that survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana and I want to do something else with her in the future. My most unusual character is in my next work to come out as an epic poem and he is a supernatural being. Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? D.T.: My main technique is making sure events make sense in the time line. Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV? 82
D. T. POLLARD
D.T.: My main style is to create a strong hook on the first page of the book. I like third person omniscient as a point of view. How does this style influence your writing? D.T.: I tend to write in a gritty, real-world style without a lot of curbing of what would happen in reality in order to soften it for political correctness. Share with us the best review that you’ve ever had. D.T.: March 29, 2008, by the RAWSISTAZ Reviewers: Mike Robertson amused his parents when at the age of twelve he inquired about the Bible and told them he wanted to preach. They indulged his request thinking it was just a passing fancy. When at fifteen he started preaching at the church of his minister friend, they were astounded at his abilities and equally shocked when approached for permission to allow Mike to travel and preach at tent revivals. It was on this circuit Mike met Janice and their romance ensued. He was fifteen; she was nineteen. He was white; she was black. Despite the racial climate of 1970s Texas, their parents gave permission for them to marry. Mike’s true calling was the ministry and he had accepted positions at several churches as he grew as a minister. Some churches were accepting of the young energetic preacher with a black wife; others were not. His pastor suggests he move to Dallas where the people will be more receptive of his interracial marriage. The move to Dallas was good for them as their ministry, family and love grew. With that growth, it did not take long for Mike to become the pastor of a mega-church. With this increased responsibility, the presence of lust, greed and threats from haters arose. FOOL’S HEAVEN is a true and gritty depiction of the reality of life behind the pulpit. Pollard does an excellent job developing Mike and Janice’s characters. They are likeable, yet real individuals trying to live and love right. Despite the opposition of being an interracial couple in the 83
Literature & Fiction Interviews south, their industrious attitude, love for each other and for God carries them through. A great read. Reviewed by Paula Henderson (RAW Rating: 4.5) What are your current projects? D.T.: My next release is an epic poem unless something else grabs my interest. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? D.T.: My website: www.DTPollard.com. See excerpt of Obama Guilty of Being President while Black on page 85.
Snippets from Kids on a Case and Obama Guilty of Being President while Black Kimberly Mockton was hiding underneath her desk in the library of her home, the rough brown carpet digging into her pale skin. She hoped she wouldn’t be found by the man and woman looking for her. Shaking like a leaf, she was scared to death, and the completely dark room only added to her fear. She was breathing heavily, and it seemed so loud in the confined space under the desk. Her only hope was that they would not hear it, but she didn’t know how they couldn’t. There was a clicking sound, and a thin beam of light broke through the darkness. The man had a flashlight! He waved it back and forth across the room. The light shone on her foot once, but she didn’t think he had seen it, as he was still searching. “Little girl? I want to play a game. Do you want to play, too?” he asked, and gave her a second to answer. When she didn’t, he continued. “I didn’t think you would answer. Your silence to me means yes. So let me explain the game. It’s really quite simple. The game is called Hide and Seek. I say hide and then you reply seek until I manage to find you. You got that?” He started to walk forward slowly, shining the flashlight under each of the tables, saying hide every couple of seconds. She reached to her right, slowly, until she felt the slivery wooden chair in her hand. Copyright © 2009 Tony Peters How did the United States of America end up with an illegal-alien Kenyan socialist who palled around with a terrorist and wanted to euthanize your grandmother to save money as President? Hold on a minute. None of that was true! Oh, now I understand. Barack Obama was simply found guilty of Being President While Black. One thing that I know like the back of my hand is what it is like to be a black man in America. I have been in that position all of my life due to the circumstances of my birth. I also had the added experience of growing up in a small town in the south and living my entire life in the southern United States. Given that backdrop, imagine how I felt when Barack Hussein Obama became the forty-fourth President of the United States on November 5, 2008. My initial emotions were pride, elation and disbelief that the United States finally crossed a line I thought I would not live to see. My second thoughts were, “Now we will bear witness to what it is like to be Guilty of Being President While Black.” Copyright © 2009 D. T. Pollard 85
Hello Marjorie, please tell everyone a little about yourself. Marjorie: Hello Shelagh. Iâ€™m happy to tell you a bit about myself. I grew up in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, and attended Stanford University. After graduation, I worked in television in San Francisco and went to art school at night. Then, in 1953, I made my first trip to Europe and stayed for six glorious months, painting wherever I went. When my money ran out, I returned to the states. But six year later, I left for Europe again and this time, I stayed for nearly twenty years. Soon after returning to Paris, I fell in love and married a French artist. It was very romantic! After the birth of our daughter, Danielle, we bought half of a small, ancient hamlet in Brittany to spend summers in the countryside. The village was called La Salle. When my seemingly idyllic marriage began to unravel, I left my husband in Paris and moved with my daughter to live at La Salle year round. It was there I began a friendship with Jeanne Montrelay, an elderly peasant woman who lived in a farmhouse across the road. This remarkable woman changed the way I saw the world and was the inspiration for my memoir, A Gift from Brittany. In 1970, when the hardships and isolation of living in a remote farm in Brittany became too difficult, I moved to Rome, Italy with my daughter. For the next eight years, I devoted myself to painting and exhibiting my work in galleries. I also began to work in printmaking, and my graphics are in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Copper Etching in Rome. In 1978, I returned to America, settled in New York City where I continue to work as a writer and painter.
Marjorie Price Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
I would like to welcome author and artist, Marjorie Price. Although born in Illinois, she has spent a great deal of time in Europe. When did you first start writing and in what genre(s)? Marjorie: Looking back, Shelagh, although I have always been a painter, I also wrote short stories, essays, and poetry. For years, I was particularly interested in children’s books. In 1980, my art and education book for children, AlphaDabbles, was published, and a second book for children, 123 What Do You See? was published in 1995. My memoir, A Gift from Brittany, was my first full-length book. It was published in 2008 by Gotham Books and came out this year in paperback. In writing it, I grew to love the process of writing as much as I love to paint. When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp? Marjorie: When I started writing my book, I don’t think I had a goal or a message in mind. I had just had serious back surgery. I couldn’t walk or paint! I started writing about that unforgettable time in my life when I lived in a remote village in Brittany in the 1960’s. Mainly, I started writing about Jeanne Montrelay, the elderly peasant woman who meant so much to me. I had often thought of writing about her – but until then, never had the time. Beginning the book, I had no idea where it was going to lead me. All I knew was that my pain stopped as long as I kept writing. It was well along the way that I began to understand why I was writing the book, what I had to say, and how the experience of knowing Jeanne and living in the village was a story I felt I had to tell. Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone? 87
Literature & Fiction Interviews Marjorie: A Gift from Brittany is not a part of a series, although I have begun a book about my years in Rome during the seventies. Both are stories about a young, adventurous and aspiring artist – the girl I once was – who finds herself in different cultures, who finds love in unexpected places, and who, in the process, finds herself. What’s the hook for the book? Marjorie: There have been many books about Americans living in Europe where the protagonist remains an observer or outsider. In A Gift from Brittany, I was not a tourist. I had the unique opportunity of living in a remote village in Brittany where the way of life had changed little since the Middle Ages. Far from remaining an observer, I became a part of a world of centuries past and was enriched by an ancient culture that no longer exists. The experience changed my life. How do you develop characters and setting? Marjorie: Since A Gift from Brittany is a memoir, I tried to remain as true to the characters as possible. I developed character and place by remembering as faithfully as I could the village, the events and the people – even the memory of conversations and facial expressions came back to me. The pull was so strong to remember that I felt I was reliving that time of my life. Who is the most unusual character? Marjorie: Without a doubt, it was Jeanne Montrelay. She was the reason for writing the book. Knowing her was pivotal in my life. Yet, even now, when I look back, coming from the suburbs of Chicago, it’s a mystery how we became so close. She was 68 when I met her; I was in my late twenties. She had three cows to her name. She was illiterate, dressed in black, called herself a peasant, and had never left the village. Outwardly, we had nothing in common; yet we forged a deep and lasting friendship in spite of barriers of age, language, culture and life experience. 88
Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Marjorie: I think it was trying to remember the sequence of what happened during those years, and balancing my memory with trying to tell a good story. Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV? Marjorie: As a painter, I’m very visual and I love the capacity of words to create a picture. In my memoir, I tried to paint a portrait of the village, the villagers, and especially of Jeanne Montrelay with words, much as I would paint a painting. I wanted each character and each scene to come alive, visually, for the reader. Preferred POV? I enjoy writing fiction, but I seem more comfortable writing in first person. At one point, when I began writing my book, memoirs were looked upon as poison by literary agents. Friends suggested I write the book in third person. I revised a few chapters, changing my point of view to third person. But it didn’t work. It was my story. How does your environment and upbringing color your writing? Marjorie: Having grown up in a homogenous and privileged society where everyone took modern comforts for granted, it came as a shock to me at first to be among people who lived with only the barest necessities of life. Where I grew up, people were often judged on how much education they had and their material achievements. But living among people who had never been to school, who didn’t know how to read or write, who had never seen a movie or watched TV, and who lived off the land taught me that when people have no degrees attached to their names and no bank accounts, what’s left is simply who we are. What matters are basic human qualities. Perhaps because I grew up in a place so different from La Salle and met people who were so different than anyone I had ever known or imagined, the experience was all the more powerful, unforgettable and life-changing. I’m sure it influenced what I had to say and the way I portrayed the village and their way of life. Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had. 89
Literature & Fiction Interviews Marjorie: The comment by Malachy McCourt is the one that pleases me the most, because in his unique voice, it seems to me to capture the flavor of the book. “This book is indeed a gift … A child, a house, a dog, a new country, another language, a snake, a man: all tumble about in glorious chaos in this soulfelt memoir so beautifully written. It’s lively and lovely and funny, too.” — Malachy McCourt, author of Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland What are your current projects? Marjorie: In addition to working on a book about my years in Rome in the seventies, I’m preparing an exhibition of my Bathers Series paintings, which will open on April 3, 2010 at the Delaplaine Visual Art and Education Center in Frederick, MD. While it sounds like a long way off, I still have to produce a lot of big paintings between now and then. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Marjorie: An introduction to A Gift from Brittany, photos of La Salle, the villagers and excerpts from the book, as well as an overview of my career as a painter, are on my website: www.marjorieprice.com. See excerpt of A Gift from Brittany on page 91.
Snippet from A Gift from Brittany: The village doesn’t exist anymore. Outwardly it appears the same until you notice the gleaming, pre-fabricated buildings sprinkled among age-old farmhouses. The villagers aren’t there, either. No longer do you see them trudging off to fields long before daylight has broken through the mist. The sight of old peasant women in long, black skirts, bent over cabbages in their vegetable gardens has vanished, along with that of peasants clustered around a fence, chattering among themselves in patois, indivisible from their ancient surroundings. Except on postcards for tourists, the sight of women pinning on their stiff, lace coifs, their black skirts billowing in the wind, scurrying across a meadow to attend Sunday Mass in a nearby village is long forgotten. The custom of huddling around a fireplace at one of the farmhouses on dark, wintry nights to keep warm, drink cider, and tell ghost stories to pass the time is no more. A way of life that endured for centuries is gone. But years ago, when I was young, I found myself there, among them. At first, the village and the people who lived there were unfamiliar and forbidding to me. Then, in time, I grew close to one of them – to Jeanne – and the village became my world, too. Copyright © 2009 Marjorie Price
Hi Maryanne, please tell us a little about yourself. Maryanne: I was born in Waverly, Ohio, the oldest of ten children. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Ohio University, then went to the Sorbonne in Paris. I was an editor at Prentice Hall and an editorial assistant at Woman's Day Magazine. I taught at the New School in New York, at Ohio University, at Parker School and the University of Hawaii. I met Mother Teresa and became a co-worker and with her permission wrote two books about her work. Now have ten books for sale on Amazon.com: Runways, The Man Who Loved Funerals, Anais Nin: The Voyage Within, Along Came A Spider: A Personal look at Madness, Alexandria, Mother Teresa: Called to Love, What Mother Teresa Taught Me, Garden of Hope, Dancing On Water, Saints of Molokai.
Maryanne Raphael Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
I would like to welcome the prolific writer and award-winning author, Maryanne Raphael. When did you begin writing and in what genre? Maryanne: I got my first rejection slip from St. Anthony Messenger when I was five years old. My grandfather typed up a story I dictated to him and we sent it out. I wrote short stories for several years and collected rejection slips. Grandfather says a rejection slip shows you are a professional writer. We write and send it out. What goals do you want to accomplish? Is there a message in your books? Maryanne: My goal is to write about things I feel passionately about and share that passion with my readers.. My message is “life is precious” and I hold up various parts of life to myself and my readers. Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone? Maryanne: Saints of Molokai is a nonfiction narrative about the people with Hansen’s disease who were arrested, sent into exile with no prepared shelter, food, water or medicine. It tells of the Kokuas, healthy men and women who accompanied their diseased loved one into a life of isolation. It described Father Damien who cared for the exiles until he caught the disease and Mother Marianne and the Franciscan Sisters who lived in the colony until they died. 93
Literature & Fiction Interviews What is the hook for the book? Maryanne: Father Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009.and President Obama praised him and the Congress made a resolution to celebrate him as an American Saint. Also there is an interest in National Parks and the Congress declared Kalaupapa, Molokai A National Memorial Park. How do you develop characters? Maryanne: I made a mixture of all the interesting people I know who remind me of the character in my head. It may be a movie star, a friend, a character from a book or play. As I write the characters take on their own personality and characteristics. Who is your favorite character? Maryanne: My favorite fiction character from my own books is Charlie: the man who loved funerals. How do you keep the plot moving? Maryanne: Almost all of the action comes from the nature of the characters: the conflicts, the relationships, the happiness and sorrows. Do you have a specific writing style or preferred point of view? Maryanne: My style is to use the shortest strongest words. I want my work to be easily read by young adults and be interesting enough that everyone will want to read it. I like to write third person limited. How does your upbringing influence your work? Maryanne: I was raised Roman Catholic and growing up with 9 brothers and sisters I learned early to love and forgive, to have compassion and passion; that helps me understand all kinds of people. Share with us the best review that you've ever had. 94
Maryanne: Runaways Reviewed by Anais Nin: â€œThis is an important book. No where else have I seen the theme of the runaways treated as thoroughly, honestly, unflinchingly. It is important because it not only describes the various stories fully, but because it offers suggestions for improving a tragic situation.â€? Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Maryanne: My web site is: www.authorsden.com/maryanneraphael All my books are for sale on Amazon.com. See excerpt of Saints of Molokai on page 108.
Please tell us a bit more about yourself, Dianne. Dianne: I have been a story teller in my family since childhood. I’ve always loved reading and books. My background includes degrees in History and Communications. I’ve been writing professionally since 2002, beginning with a regular editorial in the regional newspaper where I live. I’m an internationally successful ghostwriter with one of my books hitting the Best Seller list on Amazon.com.ca (Canada). 2009 has been a busy year with three books released – Rebekah Redeemed, Shelter from the Storm, and an anthology Flash Tales. I am also a consultant, group facilitator, and inspirational speaker.
Dianne G. Sagan Interviewed by Shelagh Watkins
Today's guest, Dianne G. Sagan, was raised in Texas and is now a full-time ghostwriter and author. When did the writing bug bite? Dianne: I got the bug for writing in high school. The English program included a regimen that taught us how to write essays. I fell in love with it. Years later when I had children I wrote stories for them and used their names and antics. I really think that I always wanted to be a writer. When you started writing, did you have a particular career or goal in mind? Dianne: When I first started writing, I felt the need to write down what was spinning in my head. At first, I just enjoyed the process and began working on the craft of writing. Even though I put off really focusing on becoming a writer until my kids grew up, I knew that someday I wanted to be a full-time writer. When I write a book or a short story, I try to entertain the reader but usually have an underlying theme. To date, my books have a theme of hope, strength, and overcoming your conditions for a better life. It is a reflection of some of my own experiences. Do you have a specific writing style and preferred POV? Dianne: My style has been described as lean, sensitive, honest, and emotionally compelling. My preferred POV is third person. However, even though it is not as popular as it once was, I also like to use the omniscient point of view so that you can have different chapters that focus on different characters view points. You just have to be careful when using it so that you donâ€™t confuse your reader. 97
Literature & Fiction Interviews Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone? Dianne: Shelter from the Storm is a con-temporary novel that focuses on the turning point and personal growth through violent circumstances of the main character, Brittany Camp. It is set in Seattle during the worst snow storm in fifty years. It can be a stand alone, but I am working on the beginnings of a sequel with ideas for a couple more books with the same main characters sharing different circumstances. Here’s what is already being said about the book as it is released: In Shelter from the Storm, award winning author Dianne G. Sagan tells a story that is all too real and all too prevalent in our society, but Sagan will have you on the edge of your seat, in tears, as you open your heart to Brittany and her children. “Poignant and positively captivating, Sagan's latest, Shelter From the Storm, will have you reading far into the night. A must read!” —Deborah LeBlanc, Best-Selling Author of Water Witch What’s the hook for the book? Dianne: Chapter One Brittany peered out the window. Abel could return home at any moment. She knew that if he caught her and the children they might never escape. With trembling hands, Brittany dialed the number. How do you develop characters and settings? Dianne: I develop my characters using several sources. I’m a people watcher and see interesting faces or over hear conversations in restaurants that spark my imagination. The Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan developed a model for understanding the interaction between situational response and influence. I use these styles as part of the process. I also like to find pictures in magazines that look like my character. I then put the picture on an index card and write down basic 98
DIANNE G. SAGAN
information about them. I usually do this for all the major characters. As I begin writing, I also allow my characters to develop along with the story. As far as settings, I use places that I’m familiar with in most cases. If I’m writing about an area I haven’t been before, then I research in depth everything from maps, pictures, and talk to people who have been there. I also read other books about the area or that are set in that area. I do use internet sources, but spend hours at the library. Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Dianne: In many ways, I am an organic writer. A lot is developed in my head before I ever start writing. If I think of some ideas, then I will jot them down and keep them in a folder. When writing fiction, an outline forms as I write as I see where the story is going, that way I don’t get too far off track. However, when I am writing I give myself permission to change directions if it is better than where I thought I was going with the plot in the first place. Most of the time I know where I want things to end so I work on making the elements of the story and the situations end up in the same place even if they come from different directions. What are your current projects? Dianne: I actually have a second book coming out December 2009 as well, it is an anthology Flash Tales: An Adventure in Words. I am one of five contributors. The stories are flash fiction, each no more than 100 words using a series of required words. It’s quick and fun. We even give the reader space at the end of each series of stories to try their hand at a 100 word story using the same words. I am currently working on the second book in the series, Touched by the Savior. Its working title is The Fisherman’s Wife. The first book came out earlier this year, Rebekah Redeemed. In addition, I have notes started for a sequel to Shelter from the Storm. Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Dianne: People can learn about my books at: http://dgsagan.tripod.com, or on my blog, http://diannesagan.wordpress.com, where I have guest bloggers, discuss writing, ghost-writing, and life as a writer. See excerpt of Shelter from the Storm on page 108. 99
Shelagh Watkins is writer, editor and publisher at Mandinam Press, and author of two books: Mr. Planemakerâ€™s Flying Machine and The Power of Persuasion. She set up the Childrenâ€™s Fiction group on LibraryThing, the Published Authors group on Goodreads, and the Published Authors Network group on LinkedIn. Shelagh also created the Published Authors Network on Ning and is administrator of the Published Authors forum. There are over four thousand members in the combined groups and networks. When she is not networking, administrating, publishing or editing, she miraculously finds time to write!
Shelagh Watkins Interviewed by Susan Whitfield
Susan Whitfield, author of three published novels, Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck and Hell Swamp, interviewed Shelagh Watkins on Susan Whitfield's Blog: www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com. This is the interview: Susan: When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)? Shelagh: I began writing in 1998 and wrote my first novel, The Power of Persuasion. The book, a work of literary fiction set in Scotland, takes the reader around the world from Europe to the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore, and then back to Scotland. I wrote my second novel, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, in 2002. Although a work of children’s fiction, the book is aimed at a wide audience: from nine-yearolds to ninety-year-olds! Susan: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp? Shelagh: The Power of Persuasion, which I submitted to all the major London publishing houses, was well received but failed to attract a single publisher. Along with the rejection slips, the advice from all the publishers was the same: I needed to find an agent. However, finding an agent proved to be as difficult as finding a publisher so I stopped writing. I did not write again until 2002 when my brother died and left two young children, then aged five and eight years old. I began writing again and, this time, I found a publisher. The second book, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, was published in 2005. Two years later, the publisher, PublishAmerica, gave me joint print rights and exclusive electronic rights to my novel and I self-published the book through Lulu.com and as an ebook on: Amazon’s Kindle, Mobipocket and Smashwords 101
Literature & Fiction Interviews In 2007, I rewrote The Power of Persuasion, which took twelve months to complete. In January 2008, I set up Mandinam Press to publish the novel. Having learned how to self-publish, I used the experience to publish Forever Friends, an anthology of short stories and poems written by members of the Published Authors forum and network. The book was published in September 2008 and, this month, appeared in Todayâ€™s Chicago Woman magazine. The only message I would pass on to anyone setting out with the idea of becoming a published author is to be realistic about expectations and do not have a preconceived notion about the number of sales a first time author should make. For some new authors, the number of books may be in the thousands but, for the majority of newcomers, the number of books sold is more likely to be in the hundreds. This means that royalties will be small âˆ’ small enough to be disregarded as an increase in yearly income. It is far more likely that the expenses incurred in selling a few hundred copies of a book will far exceed the amount earned in royalties. This situation is no different to those facing most talented individuals who pay traveling expenses and teaching/coaching expenses when pursuing their chosen career. It is the same with writers. Everyone has to learn and, as such, new writers should accept that the learning process will involve some costs. Susan: Briefly tell us about your book(s). Shelagh: Mr. Planemakerâ€™s Flying Machine is a story of flight, fantasy, adventure and courage. Although Emmelisa Planemaker is a strong-willed little girl, she misses her dad, who died when she was only five years old. Emmelisa and her brother Dell have a happy and carefree life until their father becomes ill and is forced to retire at the age of forty-three. After retirement, Mr. Planemaker decides to build a scaled, model airplane because he wants to build something 102
lasting for his children but he dies before completing the task. Three years later, Emmelisa is being seriously bullied at school by a group led by the notorious school bully, Mayja Troublemaker. When Emmelisa becomes increasingly withdrawn and unhappy, she seeks help and advice through the computer her father had used to locate specialist model aircraft companies in his quest to build a model airplane. The computer is more than just a computer and full of surprises: Mr. A. Leon Spaceman being one of them! He guides the two children to Hardwareland, where they train to become astronauts and take on an extraordinary mission into space: to follow their father’s Trail of Light. Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine was a top ten finisher in the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll 2005. The Power of Persuasion is a tongue-in-cheek work of literary fiction set in Scotland. The title is taken from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The satirical fictional story is about a journalist who stalks a reader (as opposed to a reader who obsessively reads everything written by a particular journalist). The reader, Beth Durban, is aware that she is being followed around and is totally bemused by the unwanted attention: Beth Durban is persuaded to write a letter to the editor’s page of a national Sunday newspaper in response to a film critic’s prejudice against adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. When she receives an unexpected visit from the newspaper’s critic, F. William D’Arcy, she is bemused but, after several sightings of the inquisitive journalist, she’s neither pleased nor amused. Beth is so distracted by the unwelcome interest from such an arrogant man she fails to see that a close work colleague is falling in love with her. As a scientific researcher in a Scottish University, she has led a varied life traveling the world, spending time in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, America, Singapore and Israel. With such a full life, she has had little time to form any serious, romantic attachments that might lead to a permanent relationship. When she decides to take driving lessons, Beth opens up new opportunities for herself and realizes that perhaps she isn’t too old to find love after all. 103
Literature & Fiction Interviews The Power of Persuasion was a top ten finisher in the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll 2008. Susan: What’s the hook for the books? Shelagh: There is an underlying philosophy to Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine that is left for readers to figure out for themselves. The opening chapters lay the foundation for the philosophical underpinnings of the book. Mr. Planemaker is dying. He knows this as do his family, friends and work colleagues. They are all trying to help in this last stage of his life. In his dreams, the Dream House is his final resting place. In his first dream, when the children approach the door, the house disappears because the time is not right for them. They will not be stepping inside the house for quite some time. Bill Dare, who built the house, tells Mr. Planemaker that no one lives inside the house and no one has ever lived inside the house – this is the house of the dead, not the living. The door to the house is missing and cannot be closed or reopened: a one-way passage. Mr. Planemaker asks about the missing door and Mr. Dare explains that the door is actually there and those who can see it won’t be able to walk into the house. In other words, the door is always closed to the living and only open for the dying. In all his dreams, Mr. Planemaker asks about the children because every waking minute is spent thinking about his son and daughter and what will happen to them when he has gone. At first, Mr. Planemaker is afraid and he doesn’t want to step inside the house. It is grey and gloomy and unwelcoming. To allay his fears, the people who built the house – the architect, the builder and the workmen – are always cheerful and reassuring. They know the house is bleak and uninviting but the love and care they put into it overshadows the dull, plain appearance of the grey house. When Mr. Planemaker meets Joy Nair, he is given his first glimpse of light inside the house. The light is warm and soft, and makes the prospect of stepping inside the hallway more attractive. However, he doesn’t step forward because his thoughts are interrupted as he remembers the children. He still wants more time with them. At the end of chapter five, he finally gives in and his last dream takes him through the door, not into darkness but into light. Before he finally slips away, he asks about the children and is told that they are going to be okay. With that last thought, Mr. Planemaker lets go of his grasp on life 104
and steps into life after death. Now you must read the story to find out what happens to the children. The hook for The Power of Persuasion is on the first page: “Do you wake on Sunday mornings feeling bright and cheerful before you step out to buy your favorite Sunday newspapers, and spend the next four hours reading the print off the page? Does this weekly ritual result in a change of temperament – signs of irritability, aggressiveness and a distinctly argumentative frame of mind? I do. To be more accurate, I did. Everyone around me suffered from my inability to avoid the very thing that caused the Jekyll and Hyde mood swings. The news items didn’t affect me much, but the journalists with a point to make were my Achilles’ heel. To a man and a woman, I disagreed with all of them. We were as black and white to each other as the printed page before me. There was no grey area, no common ground and no compromise. How could there be compromise in a situation where they wrote and I read? In order to see one another’s point of view, I would need to explain mine. To inflict regularly my own half-baked ideas on my family would have been unfair, and yet they probably suffered more from my silent fuming than they did if I succumbed to soap box outbursts. The more thoughts I kept to myself, the greater the irritation, but at least I did eventually begin to recognize all the symptoms of Sunday paperitis.” If you like the style of writing, you will want to read on … Susan: How do you develop characters? Setting? Shelagh: My characters are composites of people I know. I take characteristics of someone I know well and put those characteristics into a completely different character. A teenage girl with a bad attitude might be transfigured into a difficult young boy with a surly disposition. The appearance of the character will be very different to the real person. Where possible, most settings are taken from real life. Otherwise, I do extensive research to make the setting as real as possible. This was extremely important in the Power of Persuasion where every location had to be accurate whether I had visited the region or not. The reader must not be able to detect the difference. Susan: Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character? 105
Literature & Fiction Interviews Shelagh: Cosmos, by a mile. He is so bright and all-knowing. He is always there if he is needed but he is never under anyone’s feet. He is the perfect companion. By the way, Cosmos is a cat, but an extremely bright one! Susan: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot? Shelagh: No. The plot drives itself. All my brilliant ideas away from the word processor soon lose their brilliance when I begin to type. Writing seems to release a creativity that cannot be evoked any other way. Susan: Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV? Shelagh: Yes. My style of writing for children is very different to my style of writing for adults. There is a sharpness to my adult writing that is absent in my children’s novels. Susan: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had. Shelagh: My best reviews are all for Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, which appeals to just about anyone. The Power of Persuasion is really aimed at Jane Austen fans and not everyone is a fan! Consequently, I found these few words encouraging: “I read your book some weeks ago and hope you do not mind, put some thoughts on paper: I was intrigued the way you set out your book with the link of the mysterious appearances of D’Arcy. My very early and mistaken assumption was that Beth’s letter was equivalent to Elizabeth’s refusal of Darcy’s proposal of marriage by Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. If you saw the production with Colin Firth, he became frustrated at this and was obviously haunted by her. I was particularly interested in the ‘snapshots’ – I could see where the university scenarios came from and those concerned with human interaction showed your perception of how we mortals behave. You must have done a lot of research on some of the geographical visits – I have been to most places so recognize the authenticity. Many of these could be expanded into short stories and then you could have your own anthology. Well done!” —Eileen McLeish 106
Susan: What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you as a writer? Shelagh: I was amazed when a presenter from Preston FM community radio asked if I would be interested in a serialization of Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine. The book was aired over ten weeks from May-July this year. Daily excerpts and a Sunday Omnibus edition totaled over thirteen hours of air time. It was quite brilliant. The narrator, Mike Gardner, did a superb job. Susan: What are your current projects? Shelagh: I am compiling an anthology of Christmas stories that should be out in 2010. Susan: Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Shelagh: On my website: www.shelaghwatkins.co.uk Susan: Shelagh, I wish you the best with all of your many endeavors! Shelagh: Thank you Susan for allowing me this opportunity to talk to your readers. It has been a real pleasure, and thank you to all the readers who dropped by to read this.
Snippet from Saints of Molokai: The exiles who were strong enough prepared soil for planting, removed stones and planted seeds. They tended the animals, gathered seaweed and fished. Still there was not enough food. At one time the only food they had was two cases of biscuits. Some patients were so hungry they broke into other patient’s huts looking for something to eat. Someone asked Leparat, “Why doesn’t the government feed us until we go home? We should be going home soon.” “You are never going home.” Leparat said. There was a heavy silence. Then everyone began screaming and shouting. Some men rushed towards Leparat. He pulled his gun and the exiles stood staring at him, then turned and walked away. Copyright © 2009 Maryanne Raphael Snippet from Shelter from the Storm: Just before they sat down to dinner, the phone rang. Brittany didn’t think anything about it until she saw Carla’s face blanch. “Oh, well we’re just getting ready to eat dinner. Why?” Jeff walked over to his wife and stood next to her, concern written all over his face. Brittany stopped and stared. “Well, we have plans… Oh, you’ll get here in a few minutes? But…” Carla hung up the phone. “Brittany, hide! Now! Abel’s coming! I couldn’t stop him! He wouldn’t let me talk.” Brittany’s knees buckled and she reached for support. Jeff rushed to steady her. He held on to Brittany and spoke urgently to Carla. “Send the boys next door to my sister’s house. I don’t want them here. Brit, come with me.” Carla raced out the back door with the boys. Jeff pushed Brittany down the hall and into the master bedroom. In moments, he’d put her into a security space for valuables hidden behind a partition in the back of the closet. He said, “We call it ‘the vault.’ You’ll stay safe in here as long as you’re quiet, so don’t make a sound, no matter what. The vent connects to the ducting.” Brittany shrank into the hiding place and could hardly breathe. She sat on the floor, drew her knees to her chest and hugged herself. She looked up at Jeff as he closed her inside. Copyright © 2009 Dianne G. Sagan 108
This volume of interviews provides an insight into a group of authors from the United States, Canada and Europe, and gives a glimpse of thei...