Q: For the guest post: what lead you to a career in writing?
I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always liked to write stories. For as long as I can remember I’ve had stories and unfinished manuscripts on my computer and in notebooks that I started but never took the time to complete. Then four years ago, I set a goal for myself to sit down and finish a manuscript. I told myself I only had to complete it and it didn’t matter how good or bad it was. It took me about a year, but I finally finished a manuscript. Honestly, it wasn’t very good, but it showed me I could finish a complete story. So the next year I started another one. This one only took about five months and I felt it had a good chance of being published so I changed my goal from writing a book to getting one published. Little did I know the difficulty of getting published, but two years later that manuscript was the one that became The Nephilim Virus.
Q: How did you come up with writing Nephilim Virus?
I had an idea for a virus that infects two-thirds of the world but I never knew quite what story to tell with the idea. I kept it in the back of my mind and waited for a plot to emerge. Then one day the idea to use the Nephilim popped into my head. I’ve always thought the Nephilim were fascinating creatures. The two verses in Genesis six about them leave so much information to be desired, and there is so much we don’t know. I thought it would be fun to imagine what the world would look like if they were alive today. I enjoyed tracing them through history and using my imagination to bring them back from the dead, so to speak.
Q: How would you describe your writing style using only three words?
Adventurous. Exciting. Fast.
Q: What was your toughest moment when writing Nephilim Virus?
I don’t want to give away too much, but there is a moment towards the end of the book where the main female character has a moment that really brings the whole story together. I wrote the story in first person so that moment would feel very personal to the reader. I wanted the reader to feel like they were in her skin as she experienced the moment. I really tried to create an opportunity for the reader to feel as connected to the character as I was. That was very fun for me to write but also very difficult.
Q: Did you have any moment where you felt like quitting, when you were writing your novel?
The story really flowed for me so I never felt like quitting while writing my book, but I often felt like quitting when I was trying to get it published. There came a point after months of submissions and folders full of rejection letters that I started to doubt my own work. I know that not every story is for everyone but it really seemed like no one thought my manuscript was even worth looking at. Thankfully God gave me a persistent spirit so I kept trying. It was a matter of years, not months, but I found a publisher. Fortunately, I never quit.
Q: Did you a,ways want to write a book?
Writing a book has been one of my life goals for as long as I can remember. I was always one of those people that told everyone I was going to write a book one day. Eventually I decided I had to stop saying I was going to write it and just write it.
Q: What writing strategies did you use to help you write that you can share with readers?
For me it came down to the decision to finish writing a book. Every writer will have periods where being creative is difficult and the words don’t seem to come, but the writers who are going to be authors will keep trying anyway. The only thing really required to be a writer is for you to write.
Writers also get better with practice. Writing is the best way to become a better writer. So write a lot. And read a lot. Reading is the second best way to become a better writer. Read every novel you can get your hands on, especially ones by authors who inspire you. Reading good storytellers is a great way to become a storyteller yourself.
Q: What is/was your favorite school subject?
I’ve always enjoyed history. I still love to read historical books about men and women whose stories inspire me. There is so much wisdom to be gleaned from the past and much of it lies untouched by the current generation. It’s a shame.
Q: Did you meet your own expectations for your novel?
My first goal was to finish a book and I was able to do that. My second goal was to get that book published and I was able to do that. Now I’m just excited to see where it goes from here.
Q: Which characters did you like creating the most?
I wrote The Nephilim Virus in first person but I did it from two different characters perspectives. One of them is male and the other is female. Being a guy, I had a lot of fun writing from the female protagonist’s point of view.
I also loved writing the part of Blue, the dog. I love animals and I enjoyed creating a character that had a history and personality like any human character would. I really had a lot of fun writing the relationship between Blue and Nick.
Q: Where can readers find you and your work online?
You can find my blog and my latest work on my website, which is http://www.Johntprather.com. You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram where my user name is @johntprather.
Author Interview with Sweta Vikram
ULM: What inspired you to write Louisiana Catch?
It wasn’t one thing that inspired me to write Louisiana Catch. Between the time spent on social media, the increase in reportage of cases of rape and sexual assault on women, colleagues and friends talking about their bad online experiences, the shame I sensed in so many of these conversations, it all came together over 5-6 years. There were ideas. Those ideas developed into short stories or chunks of work. And, over the years, it all came together and turned into Louisiana Catch.
ULM: What was the emotional journey Like in creating this debut novel?
The thought of writing 70,000 plus words and creating these characters out of your imagination, was both exciting and nerve-wracking. On one hand, I didn’t want force myself to finish a book in X no. of days—have a day job as the owner of a wellness company, NimmiLife, and a nurturing but demanding personal life; on the other hand, being a part-time writer made the process seem more daunting and endless in the beginning. So, I set I realistic expectations. I believe in trusting my instincts and the organic development of the story. And I know that I am a disciplined writer. My strategy was to have a vague outline and meaty chunks of micro stories ready within a certain time. Let them stew as I worked on other creative projects. Slowly, the book evolved and a lot of those stories made it to Louisiana Catch while others got the boot.
Another thing: Because my writing focuses on women, wellness, identity, and multiculturalism, I knew at least one women’s issue would be in the book. Sensitively approaching topics like marital rape or cyber stalking and cyber bullying were high on my agenda. I tell you, writing about the darkness in the world can take a toll on your own emotional health. That’s why I make it a point to meditate, practice yoga, and surround myself with nurturing people. You can’t help others from an empty place.
ULM: How much different was it writing fiction than your usual poetry?
Poetry—to me, anyway—is simple. A theme haunts me; I start work on it. The first draft, almost always, is completed within a month. Poetry is so much more about the emotion and language. Fiction is more nuanced in terms of the process and time commitment. The several drafts of writing and editing can change the way your final book “looks” from when you initially started to write it. Also, the scales are so different. Poetry heals and has a niche audience. Fiction can reach in spaces you never thought your work could. I have noticed that fiction can be more easily personalized so evokes a stronger reaction.
ULM: Which characters did you enjoy creating the most within Louisiana Catch?
I enjoyed creating each and every character, honestly. Some more than the other—like Ahana—because she is the underdog. You get mad at her for her vulnerabilities but you also root for her as she unravels the mystery of the two men and finds her own power. Creating and sharing her story was very empowering. Rohan and Naina have this element of southern charm in them, which I loved writing about. But I have to say, writing Jay’s character was most emotionally and psychologically demanding. He is such a complex character and we don’t see his truth for a very long time. I interviewed psychotherapists to ensure I was doing justice by Jay Dubois.
ULM: Using three words only, how would you describe main protagonist?
Ahana is flawed, strong, and beautiful.
ULM: What themes can readers find in your book?
Louisiana Catch touches upon themes of marital rape, which is both sexual assault as well as domestic violence. It also brings to light the power of social media in bringing social change and the dark side of the Internet: cyberstalking and cyber bullying. There is multicultural romance as well as grief and healing. You can expect to read about human relationships and friendships that make you believe in yourself and the human spirit.
ULM: Tell us, a little bit more about the grieving daughter.
Ahana loses her mother—her strength and core of the support system—very suddenly. Her mother is the one who helps Ahana walk out of a dangerous, personal situation. With her gone, Ahana thinks she is powerless and all alone. But as Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” After her mother’s death and over a period of time, Ahana develops a realistic perspective about her own strengths and the shortcomings in the relationship she shared with her mother. For an adult to not have healthy separation from their parent or for the parents to be over-involved in their adult child’s life, can lead to an unhealthy emotional dependence, which can prove to be crippling.
ULM: What was it like writing about an abuse survivor?
I have written books of poetry about female survivors of violence (for which I interviewed survivors or their families), and I also teach yoga to female survivors of trauma and sexual assault. Trust me, even after all these years, writing about one human being hurting another, isn’t easy. Just when you think you have seen it all and heard the worst, you are unpleasantly surprised. I personally know women who are sexual abuse survivors. In Louisiana Catch, Ahana, the female protagonist is a survivor of marital rape. Being violated by the person who vowed to love and protect you in sickness and in health, can take a toll on an indescribable level. I had to address Ahana’s PTSD, triggers, courage, and flaws. She grows as a person, and we want to root for her and see her come out victorious at the other end. But writing about these elements means you are thinking in stages: five steps forward and then the one trigger … and five steps backwards.
ULM: What other projects do you plan to create next, if any?
I have spent six years bringing Louisiana Catch into the world. I want to enjoy this moment and share the book as well as its journey with my readers. Once the book tour is completed by May end, I am going to take some time and focus on my family, friends, and my wellness company, NimmiLife where I have launched a wellness stories section where real women share their inspiration for wellness. Ideas for a new novel are planted, but I don’t want to jump into it right away. But then who knows with a writer what happens when creativity strikes.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?
Thank you for this lovely, interview. I enjoyed it. My website, www.swetavikram.com, has a list of all of my works, events, and latest news.
ULM: What other books have you written beside Betrayed?
Apart from Betrayed, I have written three other books: On the Edge of Heat (African-American/Urban Fiction – 2011). Jamal (African-American/Erotica – 2012). My Husband’s Wife (African-American/Urban Fiction – 2013).
ULM: When did you first start to write as an author? Why?
I started writing as an author in 2008. I worked at a call center where, at the time, calls were very, very slow. In-between calls I started reading Soulmates Dissipate by Mary B. Morrison. Halfway through, I got a major dose of inspiration and started writing again after stopping for close to ten years.
ULM: What themes can readers find in your novel, Betrayed?
Unconditional family devotion. Love. Lies. Deceit, and of course, betrayal.
ULM: What was it like creating a love triangle between a father and son?
In some of the more dramatic parts, it was tough crating such a taboo love triangle involving father and son. One of the more difficult chapters to write—and still tough to read—is when Billy and William are in the garage together at the end.
ULM: How would you describe your female character, Jennifer Payne?
When Jennifer came to me before I started writing Betrayed, I continually envisioned Jennifer Williams from Basketball Wives. Jennifer Payne is beautiful, sophisticated, strong, and loyal to the man she married until she starts to take notice in his twenty-one-year-old son. She loves William, and their life together, but she can’t resist temptation.
ULM: What boundaries are pushed and tested inside of Betrayed?
Love, family, and loyalty are the top three boundaries that are pushed to the limit in Betrayed.
ULM: What was it like emotionally to create the story you did in Betrayed?
It was always very creatively dark for me working on Betrayed. I didn’t feel depressed or negative; I felt more like I had a sad, cold—but entertaining—story that would hopefully make some of my readers cry from emotion or at least want to. I can remember visualizing the all black cover to put emphasis on how dark I wanted the book to be.
ULM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! If writing is your true passion, stick with it even through all the low points you’re going to experience as a writer. If you give up, no one will ever hear what you have to say. Trust and follow your creativity—let it lead; you follow and write, write, write as much as you can.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?
Readers can visit my website: http://www.nickhaskinsbooks.com
Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat – @iamnickhaskins
Author Interview with Kevin Cady
ULM: What lead you to writing the Warren File series?
I loved movies when I was younger, the addition of books after college, but it was after I moved to Colorado that I thought about creating my own stories. Two ideas I wanted to explore struck me back in 2011, and I came up with the trilogy to communicate those ideas. I wanted to show how even the most twisted individual can be understood, and I wanted to show how a backroom decision can have very real, personal consequences, far separate from the decision’s incipience.
ULM: Were you always interested in being a writer?
In school, it was the thing in which I was most amenable, though I wasn’t always interested in being a writer. I squeaked by on an assignment one time with a five-page journal entry of, “I don’t know what to write…I don’t know what to write…” with the promise of “I won’t do it again.”
So it wasn’t exactly what you’d call an interest.
ULM: I noticed there will be a third novel. When will that be released?
I can’t wait to share the conclusion! The third novel, Truth’s Illusion, will be available this summer from Lulu Publishing.
ULM: What future books are you planning to write, if any?
A couple years ago, I decided I needed to be a novelist, and I needed to make a mental shift and commit myself to it more fully, as I felt—with the right circumstances, enough hard work, and I’m sure lots of luck—I could make it work. So in between writing The Warren Files books, I started some different projects I’m excited to pick back up!
These new stories are a bit different, but if you like my style of writing, you’ll really like these other books as well. And timeframe wise, they won’t be far behind!
ULM: How would you describe Crooked Principles (book 2) using only three words?
Chilling. Claustrophobic. Crooked.
ULM: What was it like creating the plot for Crooked Principles?
I was excited to get into a story much smaller in scope—compared to book one, and what I knew book three was going to be—so it was interesting thinking about how to make the story’s secrets unravel without the luxury of different locations. In A Solitary Awakening, the Poetic Murderer was all over the map with his brand of sick novelty, but this new killer is in a remote Alaskan town of less than a hundred people, and the whole town is snowed in for the winter. So I had to approach it completely differently. I really love the result!
ULM: What started you to write within this genre?
I’ve always loved mysteries because of how they can deceive. A great mystery writer is a magician. The secrets are unseen until the end, but, once revealed, can seem even obvious in reflection. I love the, “It was right in front of my eyes!” moment!
Murder/mystery was natural for The Warren Files, and I’ll certainly return to the exact genre (as I have all the characters’ histories I can write about!), but I have some other projects that, I think, completely fit into my writing universe; they’re just different. Two novels are a bit more in the horror genre. One is my ode to haunted house novels—and it’s likely next for completion, though, with the other being a twist on the western, no promises. I’m excited about both!
I’m really just excited to continue writing quality material, consistently, and hopefully in my own unique style for my growing readership.
ULM: How would you describe your main characters in Crooked Principles?
If you read A Solitary Awakening, you know Elijah and Aurelia are precocious and complicated, yet simple. You know they’re damaged and motivated, yet compassionate. But Crooked Principles finds them in an awkward, stagnant place, stranded in the mountains of Alaska.
Riff is back for some laughs and head-shakes.
The new killer is sick, and the residents of Grizzly are strangely removed, geographically and socially.
ULM: Do you read a lot of mysteries?
I read an odd assortment of books, generally found on obscure lists in the depths of Reddit or Goodreads, but I like things that have an edge. Peter Straub’s novels always have interesting mysteries driving the narrative forward, but they’re dark, edgy, non-traditional mysteries, I’d say, and I love that!
What I really seek out are books which push the envelope of what a mystery can be, like House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski, or The Raw Shark Texts, by Steven Hall. Books that make you think differently, or sometimes even do things differently. That is so cool!
ULM: Where can readers find you and your books online?
My novels and I are online at http://www.lulu.com , http://www.amazon.com (though Amazon takes almost 80% from authors!), and http://www.kevincadyauthor.com, as well as local bookstores along the Front Range of Colorado.
ULM: What lead you into the path of writing?
I write to remind people of their value and to show these guys that no matter where you are, we can be successful. I speak from my soul. 😊
ULM: Using only three words, how would describe your book, Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul?
“A selfless deed”
ULM: Is this book your first one?
No. Reclaimed: Everlasting Wisdom was my first book.
ULM: What are some life lessons that you would like readers to take with them?
Be authentic and treat people the same way you would like to be treated. There’s no harm in being kind.
ULM: What makes your book unique?
I genuinely care about people. I wrote my book as if I was personally talking to those who needed that extra push; I never want anyone to slip up on a move and wind up locked up like an animal. We have to think before we move.
ULM: Do you plan to write another book? If so, can you share with us readers what it might be about?
Right now I have half of volume II completed. I’m excited about it. I’m also working on “SILENCED BY A PREDATORS THREAT,” It’s about 5 teenagers from ghettos around the world who meet in a foster home. They are really talented kids who end up telling the secret of having been sexually violated by someone close to their family. I want to be the voice for everyone who experienced something extraordinarily sensitive, but never had the power to speak of it.
ULM: What are 2 things you learned that others could learn from?
Um, always tell your truth. Forget what others might think and always be willing to help the next person.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your book online?
My home is at Inkwaterbooks.com/traits/
If I’ve helped one person become better, my prayer has been answered. You’re all my brothers and sisters. An old timer once told me-“Sometimes you have to go where you don’t wanna be, in order to learn the things you need to learn.” Stay smooth people!
ULM: You mentioned that Miseries, Illusions and Hope is your second book. What was your first book?
My first book was A very Resilient Amreeki Dream...a short story.
ULM: What led you to writing short stories?
I like reading and writing about real life characters. I have a huge collection of autobiographies. I believe everyone is unique everyone has a story.
Write about social issues and about an immigrant’s perspective.
ULM: How many blogs do you have and where can readers find them?
My blogs are on Facebook by the name Tuesday Talk, Tuesday talk by Almas A.
I have written in Express Tribune, Oakland Press, and Muslim Observer Newspapers.
ULM: Since, you mentioned blogs, how long have you been blogging? Any advice for those just starting?
Put your message out.
Write your story.
ULM: Your four grandparents were immigrants. What were they like? Where did the migrate from?
They migrated to Pakistan from India.
Started their lives from scratch in their new homes.
Worked extremely hard.
Raised well-educated, honest and hardworking children and grandchildren.
ULM: Did your grandparents and your own journey as an immigrant inspire Miseries, Illusions and Hope?
I migrated to USA from Karachi, Pakistan.
ULM: Using only three words, how would you describe your writing style?
ULM: Do you have any other books coming out soon?
Yes, in spring 2018.
16000 words Novella
“A bestest story”
Fiction set in the 1970s of Karachi
True love defies the odds.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your books?
ULM: What led you both into doing this book together?
Ravin: The first time I met Hassan it was obvious he possessed a writer’s craft. He spoke in parables and was always attentive to the possibilities for extrapolation of the tales spinning in his head. Although it took many months to conceive of a project that made sense from an individual and joint standpoint, we technically began tiptoeing around the idea of a collaborative project over “instructional sessions” on the eighteenth-century Punjabi tragic romance Heer Ranjha, by Waris Shah. More accurately, Hassan would sit me down like a pupil and read aloud portions of the extensive work for my cultural and literary edification. At some point we branched outward and inward, from legend to our own realities and to discussions about how to find natural points of connection between our separate lives and our writings. The project matured into an imperative of the inevitable.
Miraj: Imagine meeting a foreigner in an activity that you consider central to your own culture and the foreigner surprises you with her visiting card printed in your native language. Such was the strength of Judith’s cultural self. Our first meetings were more of myself talking and herself listening. Before she departed Pakistan, we made a checklist of where our interests intersected (and this was without the idea of publication). As we moved to our respective different worlds, we wrote to each other about incidents, happenings…. These were more like telephonic conversations in print. This is how the book began to emerge.
ULM: Judith, how would you describe the effect that your work had in writing Beyond Our Degrees of Separation?
Ravin: My work in Pakistan was on a separate track from writing, yet through writing I was able to process the dizziness of a fully charged public engagement schedule. Whereas public diplomacy focuses my attention outward, writing provides time for intimate assimilation of the newness of circumstances. Fortunately, the vastness of cultural diversity in Pakistan made for a satisfactory playmate to my innate curiosity.
ULM: Muhammad Hassan Miraj, how would you describe your talent as an author and how your experience in the Pakistan Army effected your writing for this book?
Miraj: I must admit that I am not an author. I shall, however, lay claim on the craft of story-telling, and it is very deep-seated. While telling stories is almost unanimously popular in all cultures, it had a special significance while I was growing up. I grew up in a joint family system and in a mobile-TV-Internet free age. So you could either tell stories or listen. Day-to-day life revolved around stories and even parables, instructions, injunctions, and implications…. All of it either originated in or was communicated through stories.
The military, on the other hand, was a larger world, yet very intimate. My postings and assignments took me all over the country (and abroad as well) and afforded me the opportunity to connect to some very fascinating sub-cultures, so my writings or stories are also deeply influenced by my years in the military.
ULM: Is this the first book project that both of you have done together? Will there be more projects in the future as co-authors?
Ravin: Yes, this is our first project of collaboration. I am sure Hassan has mapped out the next ten projects we could work on as co-authors, but I move more methodically in the space of creative endeavors until I have an undeniable whole of an idea laid out before me. Hassan and I admire each other’s strengths in writing, and we manage to bring out the best in our respective styles.
Miraj: Judith is around seventy percent correct. Yes, this is our first project together, and no, it’s not just ten. I intend to write more stories together. Judith’s attention to detail and commitment to the whole procedure is definitely worth the deliberation.
ULM: Judith, what was it like being a co-author for this book?
Ravin: I had to be more patient than I would if I were working on a book by myself. I also had to be more deliberative in seeking the connectors between us. As a co-author of a joint work, you must sacrifice independence in favor of the richness of interdependence.
ULM: Muhammad Hassan Miraj, how would you describe working as a co-author?
Miraj: I had been writing in English, but with Judith it was very illustrative. There were things that I wanted to say, but my diction was largely styled for different readership. Judith was very helpful in preserving the impression while working on expression.
ULM: Muhammad Hassan Miraj, you mentioned having spent almost a year in the U.S. Why not a year? What did you do while there?
Miraj: It was an International Military Exchange and Training Program, lasting for almost nine months. The training was about military procedures. Growing up in Pakistan, there is an awful lot that you hear about America and the Americans, so alongside military training (which was not much), I wanted to have an understanding of American culture. I travelled and interacted, and learned my basic lessons on “otherness.”
ULM: Judith, what was it like working as an editor, translator, and as a journalist?
Ravin: I worked non-stop. There was no freelance job I would refuse because I knew my current projects always had a finite end point. The world of words in which I lived for many years continues to serve me well. Once, at the midpoint of a book translation I felt as if adrift at sea. I had lost sight of the horizon: the book’s final pages. I could neither slip back to the safety of a shoreline I could no longer see, nor move forward with certainty toward an end that was equally invisible. So I continued paddling with faith through a sea of words, toward an endpoint I only imagined. That is what juggling those jobs was like for me.
ULM: Muhammad Hassan Miraj, using only three words, how would you describe Beyond Our Degrees of Separation?
Miraj: “stories we lived”
ULM: Whose decision was it to become co-authors? How did you two come to start this project?
Ravin: It may have been Hassan who first articulated the idea aloud, but there had been an undercurrent of inevitability from the outset. I wanted the merge of narratives to feel natural to the reader. It took many months until we reached a mutually acceptable approach.
Miraj: Judith is a very different kind of person (well, all of us are). There is a rather rare sense of localized globalization that enriches her expression. You can talk about Africa for hours with her and know that she knows a great deal about the place, but when you are done talking the “global talk” she transforms into an elder sitting under one of the few trees in a Burkinabe village, talking about life. I think, for a person like me – who cannot, in his limited knowledge and sense of the world, travel much – the ideal arrangement to learn was to work together. So here is the book.
ULM: What did you both want readers to take from reading your nonfiction book?
Ravin: The beauty of discovery, the expansive effect travel has on the soul, an immediacy of communion with the inglorious.
Miraj:I would say, the urge to understand human emotions and to value the significant insignificances.
ULM: Was it hard to put this book together?
Ravin: I invested four years in the making of this book. Keeping a pace with myself was the hardest.
Miraj: It was definitely. We had to struggle with minimum of three time-zones at best and, at worst, four.
ULM: What advice would you both give to writers everywhere?
Ravin: I am not a writer by default. I write to process the excess of life and ideas that populate my head. I encourage writers to accept the uniqueness of their voice and to find someone who is both supportive and critical of their work to help them develop in the genre/s of their choice.
Miraj: Write, for the world is fast running out on dreamers.
ULM: Where can readers find you both online? Where can readers purchase Beyond Our Degrees of Separation?
For more information on authors Judith Ravin and Muhammad Hassan Miraj, visit:
Beyond Our Degrees of Separation is available in paperback, Kindle, and ePub versions in the United States through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Inkwater Press, and other online distributors. Lahore-based Sang-e-Meel Publications will release in fall 2017 a Pakistani edition for distribution to bookstores in Pakistan.
ULM: What inspired you to write your book, Dark Skinned?
I was inspired to write Dark Skinned after listening to some people share on Youtube who had went through similar situations growing up that I did. Hearing their stories helped me heal and deal with some issues I had been holding onto. I was eager to share to so could be that motivation for someone else. I started out writing the stories for blog entries but I soon realized the content was more in depth and needed to be housed in a book. Being Dark Skinned was specifically what I had to deal with but that issues are interchangeable- one could be over weight, too short, too tall, not athletic etc. I believe talking about your issues can help others deal with theirs.
ULM: Did you always want a career as an author?
That desire came later. I always wanted to motivate and inspire people around me so I have always been in the light. Becoming an author was a natural progression to building greater influence.
ULM: How would you describe your writing style using only three words?
Open. Honest. Transparent.
ULM: What is the message you would like readers to take from reading your novel?
You can control everything that happens to you but you can control your response to it. Don’t let dark moments make you dark. Use those moments to create light in dark places.
ULM: Why is it challenging to get African American men to share their experiences caused by their darker skin tone?
From youth, African American boys are told to stop crying and to man up. Showing emotions not equated to masculinity. Little boys are often forced to grow up to fast becoming man too soon. It’s easier to suppress the hurt then risk being viewed as weak.
ULM: Do you think the racism in America will ever end?
Honestly, I do not. I think it will become harder to openly display it. Racism is a legacy. Racist pass those ideas down to their children.
ULM: You mentioned holding a B.A. in Ethno-Musicology. Can you explain what it was like studying for that?
Half of my academic career was spent in the music department and the other was spent in the history department learning about the African Diaspora. Not only were Africans shipped off like cattle but the oppressors tried to erase their history. There is evidence in the music of African American Music that supports Deculturization was not successful.
ULM: You mentioned that African American men are supposed to be big and strong all the time. That they are not supposed to cry. I’ve also noticed that this stigma sticks to all men despite color of skin tone. Why do you think society view men in this way?
We are what we see. Men have traditionally been the head of the house hold, the primary provider, and the stronger sex. That image is everywhere in history and media. Anything that doesn’t fit that norm is not accepted.
ULM: How did your masters in entertainment, help prepare you as a newspaper executive, singer, songwriter and being an author?
It helped me pay more attention to presentation and packaging. A good idea will stay that if you do not connect the right people and get others to buy. We can limit our growth because of our inability to reach out. We do not have to be masters of everything.
ULM: What songs have you written?
My most recent song is one called “Flawed” that sums up many of the emotions I dealt with growing up dark skinned. I went through a phase where I questioned God’s intentions in creating me flawed. I want my music to articulate feelings people are sometimes reluctant to express.
ULM: Do you have more books planned, if so, can you share that with us, readers?
I want to do another book of “Dark Skinned” stories. I want to change the approach by interviewing others who have stories to tell. I also want to do a children’s book describing how great the world would be if we follow the rules we had on the playground. Be nice and wait your turn.
ULM: What lead you to the media and entertainment industry?
I love to create content for others to enjoy and/or scrutinize. I like tough conservations this career path welcomes those types of conversations.
Sound of David LLC
ULM: What was your inspiration for creating the Shaugnessy Brothers?
I had been reading Bella Andre’s Sullivan’s series and loved it. When my agent asked me to come up with a series after the Montgomerys, I knew I wanted something similar to what Bella had created.
ULM: How many books have you written so far?
I have written 55 books total J But I have written all 6 of the Shaughnessy books and there is a possibility of a 7th, but that will be it for that series.
ULM: If you’re single and could date any one of the brothers, which one would you choose?
I am a happily married woman. However…let’s just say – hypothetically – that I am single. It would still be a hard choice because there are characteristics of each brother that I find appealing personally. It would be a draw between Quinn and Riley!
ULM: Do you have any other works planned after A Sky Full of Stars, if so can you share with us, readers?
How long is this article? Lol! Okay, I pretty much have my releases scheduled all the way through the end of 2019! Here’s what the next nine months looks like:
– A Sky Full of Stars (Shaughnessy 5)- June 2017
– Complicating (Preston’s Mill 3)- July 2017
– Holiday Spice (Shaughnessy 6)- October 2017
– Christmas Novella (Silver Bell Falls/untitled) - November 2017
– Ford (7 Brides for 7 Soldiers)- December 2017
– One More Promise (Band on the Run 2)- February 2018
ULM: Out of the many novels you have written in the past, which one is your most favorite?
Oh, that’s hard to say! The Christmas Cottage is one of them because it’s been optioned by the Hallmark Channel to become a movie and that was my dream for it almost since it was published. But I don’t have just one favorite. I can probably say the top three (lol!): Stay with Me (Montgomery #3), A Sky Full of Stars (Shaughessy #5) and One More Promise (Band on the Run #2).
ULM: Using only three words, how would you describe your writing style?
Chatty, informal, fluent.
I think. Lol!
ULM: What was it like writing your latest book, A Sky Full of Stars?
I had a lot of fun writing this book because I was looking forward to it for so long. Owen Shaughnessy was an interesting character to create and I knew that once he had his own story, I could do so much more to flesh him out. You’ve seen him in the four previous books and he was the kind of character that piqued reader’s curiosity and I wanted to do him justice. So I had intended for this book to really have the potential for some humor and lightness – for Owen to learn to laugh at himself a bit – but what came out was a very emotional and deep book that I just love. It took me by surprise and I love when that happens – when I start out in one direction and then the characters take me someplace else.
ULM: When did you publish your very first novel? Which novel was that?
I self-published my first book in November of 2011. I had spent years writing it and I had submitted it to about two dozen publishers and agents and after about sixteen rejections, I realized that I was not someone who handled rejection well. Jordan’s Return was the book of my heart and I knew that I wanted to see it in print so I decided to self-publish. I knew nothing about the process or about marketing and promoting, so that book only sold about 30 copies in the first year – and most of that was to family and friends!
ULM: You mentioned teaching creative writing to elementary students. Describe that experience.
I always loved to write. I homeschooled my older son from fourth grade through twelfth. I was involved in several co-ops and always volunteered to teach creative writing. I’ve taught students from fifth grade through high school and it was the greatest experience! It was the high school students who really encouraged me to take the leap and self-publish! They were all doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and had paperback copies of their books that they showed me and I thought “I can do that!”. I loved encouraging my students to get their thoughts down on paper. And the ones who started the class saying that they hated to write or they weren’t good at it, ended up being some of my favorite students and the best writers! The key? Write about something that you love. Once they had that choice, the rest was easy.
ULM: How did you come with Dr. Owen Shaughnessy’s career as an astrophysicist?
I’m a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory and thought that having Owen be some sort of scientist would be a great distinction in a family like the Shaughnessys.
ULM: When does the sixth novel in The Shaughnessy Brothers series come out? Can you briefly tell us what that will be about?
Holiday Spice is Darcy Shaughnessys story and it comes out this October! She has been another interesting character and we’ve essentially watched her grow up a bit throughout the series. She’s sassy and independent and as much as she complains about her over-protective brothers, she simply adores her family. In the book, she gets snowed in with a very talented artist (he does wood sculpting) and he is a complete loner. He lives up in the mountains in Washington and loves his solitude. Obviously things get romantic while they’re snowed in and once Darcy leaves to go back to North Carolina and her family, they have to figure out if this is a relationship that can continue.
ULM: When did you start writing? Did you always have a love for creative writing?
I wrote my first short story in the third grade. It was for an assignment and that was the thing that told me that writing was a passion. I hand-wrote my first romance in the ninth grade. Then I didn’t write again until I was in my thirties! It was a hobby for me, an outlet, and I started writing because I couldn’t find anything to read that I wanted! So you know the saying “Write the book you want to read!” And I did. I probably still have the binder with maybe fifteen different stories in various stages of completion hiding around here somewhere. I may pull it out eventually and see if any of those stories can be finished.
ULM: What is your advice to those pursuing a career an a writer?
Write what you LOVE. Don’t write to the trends!
ULM: How would you describe each of the Shaughnessy brothers using only one word?
ULM: Where can readers find both you and your work online?
ULM: What was it in the ancient scriptures that inspired you to write The Transmigrant?
The idea of Jesus as a holy man rather than the Messiah had been brewing in my mind for a long time. For me, the New Testament story didn’t quite add up. If Jesus were of God, then certainly he would be loving, inclusive and kind, right? Yet, in the stories we hear and the movies we see, Jesus pretty much says, “believe in me, or go to hell,” which sounds like something a bully would say.
So, when I happened upon a book about Jesus in India, it all started to make sense, the pieces fell into place. I’m not saying this is the truth, or the only truth, but for me it was the logical explanation for who the man Jesus had been, and what he had done during those eighteen years not mentioned in the bible.
I started researching old scriptures and found the Nag Hammadi Library, a collection of scrolls unearthed in Egypt in 1945. These manuscripts date from the third and fourth centuries, and are believed to be based on scriptures from around 80 AD or earlier, which would make them earlier than most of the Gospels of the New Testament. In the Nag Hammadi texts, Jesus is a kind and holy man, but he is not the Messiah.
The more ancient sources I studied, the more I found scriptures that supported my theory. I did also read the bible, several times, and underlined sections that aligned with my thoughts. There are plenty of jewels to pick from the New Testament if you really look.
ULM: How long have you had a fascination for historical things?
I grew up in Sweden and went to school in the Old Town of Stockholm, a city that dates from the 13th century, and I guess that has something to do with it. Whenever I travel, I like to visit ancient locations and meditate in the presence of old buildings and ruins and absorb the energy of the past.
I don’t believe people who lived thousands of years ago differed so much from us. They still loved and laughed, were vain and greedy, girls were attracted to boys, etc. I feel like we sometimes forget and believe that everyone was prude and correct, like in the Middle Ages. But before then, the people were perhaps even more promiscuous than we are today. Maybe.
ULM: You mentioned that the Russian traveler, Nicolas Notovitch’s 1894 book, “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ”, also inspired you. What really stuck out to you from this book?
This was the book about Jesus in India that started my thought process and made me want to write The Transmigrant. This was the seed that, many years later, has blossomed into a novel. In the “Unknown Life,” which is based on scrolls found in a Tibetan monastery, Jesus travels across the Middle East and ends up first in Sindh (Pakistan), where he studies Buddhism, and later in Jagannath (Puri, India).
He makes his way back home via Kapilavatthu (Nepal), the Himalayas, Kashmir, Persia, and Syria. Along the way, he studies Hinduism and Buddhism, among other local religions. The fascinating this is that when you start looking closer, all these religions have common threads. Most of the core beliefs are the same, or every similar. And also, when I looked at the distances and the time it would have taken Jesus to travel from one place to another, the calculations in the book were correct. Remember, there was no Google Earth in 1894. How could Notovitch have made up the story and have gotten it so right? To me, the book is very believable.
ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?
Sly, spiritual, and sexy.
ULM: What was the research like for writing The Transmigrant?
At times, it was overwhelming. I started with The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, the New Testament, and the Nag Hammadi Library. I watched Robert Beckford’s Channel 4 documentaries on YouTube. But the more I read, the more books I found that I just had to read. My apartment in Harlem is packed with books about Jesus. I also tried to read different point of views, different opinions.
I didn’t want to follow anyone’s lead, I wanted to form my own theory. Finding information about the common man in Galilee, Syria, India, etc. in the first century, was difficult. What did they really eat? What kind of sandals did they wear? There are almost no drawings of poor people from that era. And of course the majority of people couldn’t read or write, and those who could wrote for hire or wrote from a political perspective. I did travel to Israel, Syria, India, and Nepal to see the places with my own eyes. It made a huge difference.
ULM: What process did you use to help you outline your book?
To be honest, I just started writing. I didn’t know almost anything about Jesus when I started. For example, did you know that none of the gospels, perhaps not a single word in the New Testament were written by Jesus’ disciples? It was a steep learning curve.
Once I had written my first draft, I went back and forced in a plot line. At one point, the book was 125,000 words long. Now it’s 95,000. I cut out more than a quarter that just didn’t fit. Still, I couldn’t have done it a different way. I think Historical Fiction is like that, you learn as you write, and you don’t know what the story is until you have written the last page.
ULM: What other projects do you have in mind after releasing, The Transmigrant?
I have written the first draft of the follow up, which starts six months after Jesus’s death. His disciples, who have been in hiding, get together and decide they need to keep spreading his message to the world.
They don’t want him to have died for nothing. I’m at the point now that I need to clarify the plot line, but the bare bones are there. After that, I might write about Jesus’s brother Thomas, who brought Christianity to India. I wouldn’t mind going to India again for research.
ULM: For readers, who haven’t yet read, The Transmigrant, can you share with them briefly about it?
The story follows Yeshua, a somewhat presumptuous young man who thinks himself wiser than everyone else, on his journey to adulthood. It’s focused on the eighteen years not mentioned in the bible.
Yeshua can’t be a priest in his home country because he’s not born in a priestly family, so he travels via camel caravan along the Silk Road to India, in search for a guru. In the novel, Yeshua is an ordinary man who struggles with his ego, falls in love, yearns to be wise, and ultimately dedicates his life to becoming wise.
The book shows the similarities between Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, and how Christianity can very well be a product of them all combined. It’s not a heavy novel with a hammered-in message, it’s more of a travelogue with some steamy scenes, too. It’s not really a religious book, even though it’s about Jesus, as strange as it may sound.
ULM: What are some books, movies, and or other articles that you enjoy that pushed you into writing this book?
Apart from the research, I mentioned earlier, I don’t think any specific books or movies influenced me. But I did like The Last Temptation of Christ, and I think The Transmigrant might have some parallels with the movie.
ULM: What are your other hobbies besides writing an entertaining yet stunning book?
I read a lot, of course. But I guess my passion is travelling. I’ve visited a third of the world’s countries, and although I can’t reach them all in my lifetime, I can still dream about it. The more difficult the place seems to be, the more I want to go there. Tibet and Ethiopia are my favorite countries thus far.
But I don’t mind a weekend on the beach with a good book, either. I also enjoy live music shows. I’m lucky I live in New York City, because there’s free music everywhere. We often go to a jazz dive bar in my neighborhood, Paris Blues. And in the summer, concerts at Central Park Summer Stage and Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect park.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?
The Transmigrant is on pre-sale on Amazon.com until July 13 when it will be published more broadly. My web site is: www.KristiSaareDuarte.com. I also have a blog with funny travel stories at www.AmongBuddhasAndBabas.wordpress.com. And if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to email me at: KristiDNYC@gmail.com or contact me on twitter: @kristisaare.
Author Interview with Vicki Righettini
ULM: What inspired you to write your debut novel, The Blue Hour?
As a kid I was fascinated by stories of the pioneers. In fact, there’s a history of pioneering in my family: my mother’s side came to Pennsylvania from Germany in the 1700s, then moved to Kentucky and Illinois, then finally to California by train in the 1940s. Growing up I always imagined myself as one of those hardy pioneers. But after researching The Blue Hour, I’m not so sure! But the idea for The Blue Hour started with a trip my husband and I made to Eastern Oregon in the late 1990s, where we visited the newly-opened Oregon Trail Interpretive Center outside Baker City at Flagstaff Hill. Nothing brought the Oregon Trail to life for me like that exhibit. I didn’t just learn about the Trail, I were there. During that same trip, we drove around the spectacular Blue Mountain area, seeingthe wagon ruts that still exist, and exploring old homesteads and settlements.
That got my mental wheels turning: why did people settle here? Why not go the rest of the way to the Willamette Valley, where farming is easier and the weather is much milder? They’d already traveled nearly 2,000 miles; the worst of the trip was over. So why did they stop at the Blue Mountains, instead of going all the way to the endof the Trail at Oregon City?I wanted to know the answers, so I wrote – and researched – the book to find out.
ULM: What lead you to use Oregon as your book’s setting?
In 2002, after twenty-odd years living in Oregon, my husband was offered a job in the Boston area. He’d been out of work for a while, a casualty of the dot-bomb, andmy acting career had stalled, so we said “Why not?” and moved lock, stock, and barrel to New England. I was prepared for it to be different, but I couldn’t have predicted the culture shock: the unfamiliar food in the stores; the thick North Shoreaccent which I could barely make sense of; the crazy weather; and the even crazier,hard-to-navigate roads, all of which made me feel as if we’d made a wrong turn and landed in a foreign country. I was so confused by the winding streets in our neighborhood, I didn’t leave our driveway for the first two months!
Once the unpacking was done, I found myself terribly homesick for Oregon. I’d started the novel before we left, and since I had no job yet, and no prospects of one, I went back to the manuscript, and spent a good portion of every day with the state I loved and deeply missed. It was a wonderful year of writing and research, and a great feeling when it was done.
ULM: You mentioned that you love the land of Oregon. What is there to love?
First and foremost, it’s a beautiful state. Oregon is sparsely populated with spectacular natural scenery; there are mountains, desert, and coastline all within driving distance of the major cities. And Oregonians seem to have an almost innaterespect for the land. Practically every person I knew had a serious vegetable garden, and for years I was an avid gardener myself (which came in handy the yearmy husband was out of work). The great outdoors is simply a part of life, whether you’re a hiker, bicyclist, or walker.
Not every Oregonian is an eco-warrior, but pretty much everyone loves the state they live in. Of course, there’s the rain, but the gorgeous summers more than make up for the nine months of drizzly, gray weather (which is why Oregonians drink so much coffee). Add to that a dedication to fresh, local food, and a growing number of local breweries, and you have a winning combination. If the winter weather weren’ta migraine trigger for me, we would have happily gone back when we left New England. Though I know for certain we’re not the only former Oregonians to have headed for sun-drenched San Diego!
ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?
Vivid, visual, and heart-centered.
ULM: The Blue Hour is a historical romance tale. Why choose the historical route for writing it?
The historical part was easy. As I said above, I’ve always been interested in the Oregon Trail and the pioneers who traversed it. What wasn’t clear was the romancepart, which I never set out to write. But once I started asking myself the story questions of who, what, when, where, and why, I immediately saw two characters (who turned out to be Emily and Cole), in two different scenes. Which sparked the final question: how did they get there? Answering that question brought the romance aspect into play.
I could probably have told the story of Emily and Cole in any era, but by choosing the 1860s and the Oregon Trail, I was able to introduce conflicts and hardships thatwouldn’t have been available to me had I set it in modern times. Setting the story in the Victorian era allowed me to explore current issues (women’s rights and gender roles, for example), from a friendly distance. Historical perspective filters current issues and events in a way that makes them accessible to modern readers. I’m interested in how we’ve progressed as a society – where we began, and where we’ve come to. By following the journey of an individual from the past, we can seethose issues more clearly than if we viewed them through the muddied lens of our own time.
ULM: Which of your characters was the hardest to create?
It’s a tie between Samuel and Emily. They were both challenges, but in different ways. Samuel is based largely on my father, which made his behavior familiar to me, painfully so, but it also made him fairly easy to write. After all, I’d had years ofdirect experience and observation to draw from. But I’d never tried to understand his actions; to me, like it or not, that’s just the way he was. Not until my editor told me she had a tough time understanding his actions, did I go back and look at his motivations. She pushed me to show the reader why Samuel did what he did; not tomake him more likeable, but to make him more believable. Justifying and understanding my father’s behavior wasn’t a place I necessarily wanted to go, but itwas good that she made me do it. As a result I understood my father better, and it improved the book enormously.
My problem with Emily was that she was too internal. I knew what she wanted andwhat she was thinking, but it didn’t come across on the page. She was absent in her own story. I realized if I didn’t communicate her thoughts and desires to the reader, the story would be dead in the water. In the process of bringing Emily’s inner self to light, she evolved into a stronger, more sympathetic character than the one I’d originally imagined, someone with toughness and heart. She was still a reluctant heroine, but much more relatable. And those qualities have resonated with readers.
ULM: What would you like readers to take from reading The Blue Hour?
Having been a teacher, I rejoice when readers say they learned something they didn’t know before, especially if it’s some tiny detail I geeked-out over! But I didn’tset out to educate anyone other than myself. I like sharing stories, and in this case Iwanted to tell a readable tale about one woman and the obstacles she had to overcome, both imposed from the outside, and coming from within. Of course, I hoped that readers would be inspired by Emily’s story, just as I was by the pioneer accounts I read, but I also know you can’t inspire someone who isn’t engaged. I did my best to tell a gripping story that keeps the reader turning pages, wondering whathappens next to the characters they’ve come to care about. In other words, I wrote the kind of book I like to read.
ULM: Do you have any other writing projects that you can share with us, readers?
Readers have been clamoring for a sequel to The Blue Hour, and it thrills me that they care enough about the characters to want more. I made a stab at it, and have about forty manuscript pages, but the story wasn’t grabbing me. If I’m going to spend five or more years on a book, it has to be something I’m obsessed and in lovewith.
Also, in writing The Blue Hour, I set many family and personal issues to rest.Now that I’ve battled those ghosts, I feel the need to move on. Perhaps with the passing of time, I’ll miss Griffin Gulch and its denizens enough to revisit it.So…I’m doing the unthinkable and switching genres. I’ve always loved mysteries, and I’m working on a cozy mystery series that takes place in Portland, Oregon, a quirky, beautiful city, and a great place to set a story.
My amateur sleuth is Camilla Reed, a free-lance singer and voice teacher. Camilla is a transplanted Texan: funny,earthy, and smart, with a heart as big as her home state. But she can’t get her love life together, and she repeatedly falls for the wrong men.
Her next-door neighbor, Ted Sullivan, a retired Boston cop and fellow transplant, would like to be more than a friend, but he mainly ends up helping her with espionage and house repairs.
An added detail is that Camilla is prone to migraine headaches. This puts her at a disadvantage, but it also grants her unusual powers of perception. Her heightened sense of smell, hearing, and other sensitivities, especially right before an attack, turn out to be remarkable sleuthing tools. This fits into the category of “write what you know.” As a chronic migraineur myself, I have years of personal experience at my disposal. It’s a pleasure turning this affliction around and showing it in a positive light.
In all, I’m planning a series of three books. The first manuscript is finished, and thesecond is underway. I’m having a blast writing these stories, so stay tuned…
ULM: What else besides writing do you enjoy doing?
I love reading! I read approximately a book a week, plus I subscribe to a number ofwriting and arts journals. I also love to cook: I’m the weeknight chef at our house, and I find it relaxing and creative. Then, I’ve also started my first vegetable garden in a good long while; my seedlings must be tired of seeing my face peering at them. I still love theatre and music, even though I’m no longer performing, and my husband and I are avid theatre-goers, taking in about three shows a month. I’m also a rabid Red Sox fan. Following the team was the best thing about living in New England; in a word, the Red Sox are habit-forming!
ULM: You have mentioned being an actress. What was that like?
Also, did that career influence your writing?As a performing artist and teacher, I was lucky to work in a field I’m deeply passionate about. I’ve traveled to places and met people I would never have been incontact with any other way, and who deeply influenced my work and my career. I was beyond fortunate to be able to make a career doing something I loved. But after forty years, with the onset of early menopause, I developed devastating, chronic migraines.
Because they could strike at any time without warning, I was suddenly no longer reliable. I tried gutting it out, and I did everything I could thinkof to continue to work. But the performing life is chaotic and unpredictable at the best of times; it’s a recipe for constant pain. Eventually it was clear: I had to let thatlife go. I’d had a forty year run, and a good one. I did pretty much everything I’d wanted to do – played coveted roles, traveled, made some great friends, and grew tremendously as an artist. I left without regrets. Acting influenced my writing without question.
One of my favorite exercises for character development was to write a biography or a journal as the character I was playing. It was my favorite part of the process, and it wasn’t unusual to find me stillwriting on closing night! That process taught me how to step into the shoes of any character, no matter how evil or unsympathetic, and see the world through their eyes, an invaluable tool for any writer. But beyond that, I learned about scene structure, language, and story line. I developed the ability to create huge desires for my characters, devising ways to getthose desires met, and to deal with the success or failure of the pursuit. I learned to look beneath the text for secret desires, to fill in the blanks in the script. And I learned invaluable lessons about dialog, rhythm, and pacing. Without a doubt, my writing would not be what it is today had I not learned those lessons in the theatre.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your debut novel online?
Excellent question! I love hearing from readers, and I personally respond to every message I receive. I can be reached through my website and blog http://vickirighettini.com/
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There is also an order page for the book on my website: http://vickirighettini.com/buy-the-book/; or you can purchase the book online at Amazon http://amzn.to/2i7Gn6M; Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/2mKgX2j; or order it from any bookseller of your choice.
I look forward to hearing from your readers soon!
ULM: What was like writing this memoir?
It was fun but extremely painful and at the same time very therapeutic.
ULM: How would you describe My Sister, My Daighter, and Me using only three words?
Crazy, fun, ridiculous.
ULM: Which scene from your memoir would say was the best time shared among the three of you, ladies?
Our cruise to Ensenada, Mexico, It was crazy fun from the beginning to the end. We all laughed and laughed until we could laugh no more.
ULM: How did finishing the memoir feel?
It was a comforting feeling of letting go, leaving some anger and pain behind as well as finding some closure after five years of suffering.
ULM: What advice would you give to others who went through similar situations?
Seek the assistance of a professional therapist to help you take one step at a time. Keep a sense of humor, a positive attitude with friends and family and, most of all, laugh all you can!
ULM: Did you ever think your memoir would be published by a publisher?
I always knew I had a great story to tell.
ULM: Are their any other future writing projects that you can share with us, readers?
A future writing project will be about a troubled teenager living with the HIV virus.
ULM: What would you say to someone who is struggling?
Don’t give up. Stay strong and positive and follow your dreams.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your memoir online?
ULM: What led you to creating the main character, Eddy Trout?
During the summer of 2005 I experienced a harmonic convergence of life-changing events. I’d just retired from teaching high school English and, after a long hiatus, I wanted to resume writing fiction. So I journeyed to Canon Beach, Oregon, and attended a week-long Dangerous Writing workshop, taught by Tom Spanbauer, a well-known writer who lives in Portland. Tom’s teaching and my introduction to Dangerous Writing reignited my writing passions. A year later I found myself divorced, and I’d met the love of my life, Debra, a beautiful person and artist. These events changed me, opened my eyes to see the world a bit differently, and they inspired a story idea about a man’s mid-life renewal. Eddy is the character I chose to tell that story. He’s fallen out of love and he’s down on his luck, but soon enough events conspire to make his simple life very difficult, and over the course of three novels those events forge a brand new Eddy.
ULM: Did you always want to write a book?
Heck no! I grew up very poor, and we didn’t have access to many books. I remember reading a cheap set of Encyclopedia Britannica and the occasional National Geographic magazine that my grandparents had lying about their home. And I certainly was not a stellar English student in grade or high school. Straight out of high school I majored in Forestry, and my Comp I prof took notice of a story I’d written about tracking down a wounded deer. That I could string a bunch of mostly fragments and run-ons into a somewhat coherent story, and that warm feeling I got when my prof uttered a bit of praise—those revelations planted a fruitful seed in my little, non-literary brain. Wanting to see some of the world, I quit school and joined the Army. One dark, rainy night while on guard duty in Vietnam I decided I wanted to teach social studies, so after I got out of the Army I got a teaching degree in Social Science/Language Arts. I ended up teaching high school English, and teaching writing and literature began to nourish the feeling that, maybe, someday I could write a story myself. Largely self-taught, I began writing short stories in the basement of my home. A few were published. It wasn’t long before I set to work on my first novel, Perimeters, a story about an American soldier who falls in love with a Vietnamese woman. It’s unpublished, but I hope to change that someday. That seed my Comp I prof planted has, so far, grown into four novels.
ULM: How would you describe your writing?
I aim for the gritty and existential, with spare use of adjectives and adverbs. I like well-paced, noirish plots and characters with flaws. I’m a student of Dangerous Writing and a disciple of Tom Spanbauer’s. DW basically means going to a painful place in your past, dredging those images and feelings up from the past and casting them into stories, often in a first-person voice. For me, it’s therapeutic, cathartic. In the Eddy Trout Novels, Eddy is my first-person voice, and there’s a hell of a lot of his past to dredge up and deal with before he can find the new heart he seeks.
ULM: Was it difficult or easy to write Trout Run?
Easy, in the sense it’s a continuation of the Trout Kill story line, the first novel of the Eddy Trout Series. From the beginning, I had a narrative arc in mind that covered three novels: #1, Eddy kills his old heart; #2, Eddy runs after a new heart; and, #3, Eddy finds love and a new heart. The arc narrates Eddy’s transformation from ashes to resurrection. I don’t write from a pre-conceived outline, but rather by feeling my way along from scene to scene, taking notes and editing as I go, and trusting that this rather messy process will keep the story immediate and fresh.
And difficult, too, in the sense that TR took 4 years to complete. But the main difficulty for me was figuring out how to build a bridge between novels #1 and #3. I was challenged to find the right balance between keeping the plot moving forward in a hopefully interesting way, and with bringing in just the right amount of backstory from novel #1 to provide the reader with the necessary context. And then there’s the “meta-fiction” aspect, a novel within a novel, using a book Eddy’s father wrote to help Eddy understand and come to grips with his unknown past.
ULM: How many novels do you have planned for the Eddy Trout Series?
Three. Trout Kill was published in 2013, and I was very pleased with the reviews. Trout Run is just out, and so far the reviews are very positive, too. I’m currently working on the third, and last, novel, Trout Love.
ULM: What other books have you written, if any?
I’ve written a couple unpublished Vietnam novellas and, as I mentioned, the full-length novel Perimeters. After completing the Eddy Trout Series I’ll probably get to work on another Vietnam novel.
ULM: Besides writing an entertaining series, what other hobbies can you share with us, readers?
I build stuff. Right now I’m converting an above-garage storage area into a guest room. I’ve been playing poker with the same guys for over 35 years; they’re very slow learners and keep giving me their hard-earned quarters. My wife and I love attending music festivals, and our favorite thus far is The Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. What a hoot! I fish. I walk. I read. I cook. I’m teaching a memoir-writing class this summer.
ULM: What advice would you give to other writers?
Swill good coffee. Find a mentor. Read books and join or start a book group. Build your passion however you can and nourish it. Write every day, all the while knowing you can’t. Attend workshops. Keep your day job. I’m basically a self-taught writer, and that’s worked for me mostly because I’m a fierce, ruthless self-editor and not afraid to hit the delete key a million times.
ULM: When will the third novel to the Eddy Trout Series be released?
I hope to complete Trout Love in about two years … but my wife might think this a bit optimistic.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?
Printed and Kindle versions of Trout Kill and Trout Run are available at my author’s website at pauldage.com and through Amazon. Trout Kill is also available through the online bookstore at Outskirts Press, and Trout Run through the online bookstore at Inkwater Press.
COPING WITH ASH by Michael Scott Curnes
Inkwater Press, January 26, 2017
(Reviewed and given 5 stars by Danielle Urban)
ULM: What would you like readers to take from reading your book, Coping with Ash?
MSC: Loss and grief are universal human elements but how we cope with these is uniquely individualized. There isn’t a handbook for this. This story is meant to be a gift from the narrator (the deceased) to the survivors he leaves behind and a guide to helping them cope with the loss of their lover, brother, son and friend, who was a gay man they loved, named Ashton Taylor. This story is a reminder to not take a day, a person, or moment for granted. Our breathing days are finite and our chances to love and be loved are brief.
ULM: The emotional journey of your book was powerful. What did it feel like as your wrote it?
MSC: This story is personal for me and so I wrote it to be personal for the reader. There were many moments when I would write a passage through tears as I put myself in that vulnerable place of someone suffering from loss and abandonment and unspeakable loneliness. Every other page asks the question: how would I cope with this if I were the one left behind?
ULM: Coping with Ash is written through the dead character’s point of view. Why did you choose Ashton’s point of view versus his lover’s?
MSC: The overly detailed plan to distribute the cremated remains (cremains) of the deceased is a plot the deceased put into motion. In other words, he started it. It just made sense to me that he should be the one to tell the story he started, posthumously. The deceased was a novelist—a storyteller, in fact had his third novel set to be published and then he died in the middle of his morning shave, unexpectedly. He believed he understood how the news of his death would be received and his cremains managed by those around him so I made him the narrator so that he could witness the execution of his instructions.
ULM: I noticed your book held a racial and LGBT theme. What was your purpose for inserting these into your novel?
MSC: For me, the novel’s main characters just happen to be Native American and gay. I didn’t construct this to be thematic or to make any particular statement. I suppose I could say I made a point of using these characteristics as a reminder that Native Americans and gay men have life experiences and stories to tell and that they love, they mourn and they figure out how to overcome unfathomable loss—just like everyone else. My previous novels, Val and For the Love of Mother also both featured central characters that were gay. Is this because I am a gay writer or that I have a duty to increase the number of gay characters in modern, published literature? Sure.
ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?
MSC: Intentional. Personal. Exploratory.
ULM: What other books have you written besides Coping with Ash?
MSC: Val, 1996 Brownell and Carroll Publishers
For the Love of Mother, 2011 Inkwater Press
My writing also appears in two published anthologies:
Writing the West Coast: In Love with Place, 2008
Living Artfully: Reflections from the Far West Coast, 2011
ULM: Any future works that you can share with us, readers?
MSC: I always have a novel or two percolating. Stay tuned.
ULM: Where can readers find You and your work online?
ULM: What lead you to writing your first novel, Irony of Time?
Three years ago I found myself at a point in my life where I was trying to figure out more about myself. I had just come off of participating in the Avon Breast Cancer 2-day Walk where I had been training, with my two best friends, for 6 months prior to the walk. It was a wonderful experience to do something that was more than my own world. But when the walk ended my one friend got busy with her new house. My other friend had a new job. I was now off for the summer since I teach and my two children were old enough to have their own lives, interest and summer activities all lined up. I found myself wondering what more there was to me than a teacher, mother and wife. What else could I do? I wallowed in that for two weeks until one morning I awoke from a very vivid dream. The kind of dream that makes you sit up quickly and think Wow! That was interesting! I wanted to know more about these two characters that were in my dream. I wanted to know what happened to them after the one made such a dramatic decision. I sat there for awhile thinking of this dream then Stephenie Myers came to mind and how she wrote the whole Twilight Series stemming off her dream. I thought if she could do it, I certainly could give it a try. I thought I might get maybe 50 pages, but the moment I sat down at my computer to type, that first scene from my dream poured out of me and these characters came to life. That became chapter one of Irony. It was then that I remembered I use to have a passion for writing. I wrote all the time when I was younger up until college. It was then my passion turned to teaching young children. By the end of that summer I had finished the first round of the book which was almost 300 pages.
ULM: Inside of Irony of Time, your character, Miriam, goes through a journey of redemption. What was it like creating her?
Miriam was exciting to bring to life. I knew her name right away. The arc of her character was fun to write because I got to show at different ages. First at the age of 26 she was an amnesiac, but living so blissfully with only the current year memories to sustain her. She had found happiness away from something tragic that had happened in her past that still haunted her dreams. She was feisty and ready to discover everything and anything about herself. She wasn’t afraid to take charge even with her lover, the mysterious physicist, Dr. Ian Stone, who was shrouded in a lot of secrets himself.
Then I got to write her as a 16 year old when she traveled back in time. Not only was she a 16 year old, but this teenager with all her memories back intact, having the mind and experiences of a 26 year old, but a body of a young girl. Could you image? It was challenging to bring that to life, but fun. Now she was in a race against time trying to prevent that one tragic event that had spiraled her whole life out of control. She was on the cusp of the one event that destroyed her family-this family she now remembers and treasures.
The range of her emotions through this journey hit every possible level as she had to rediscover her inner self over and over again, working through the weaknesses that broke her down when utter heartbreak occurred to discovering and using her strengths to overcome the pain, betrayal and despair. She used all this to really find her true self.
ULM: What were your thoughts when bringing to life, Dr. Ian Stone?
Now, this character was a little different. He wasn’t as clear to me in the dream. I knew he was there. I saw what he did, but he was a mystery to me. One I wanted to figure out. I did not have a name for him until many chapters into the book. I left blank lines or used a pronoun. I researched and made a list of mysterious male names. Ironically, his name actually did not come off that list, but all of the males (except William) from Book two, Hope With Stickers, did. I really loved the name Damian for him, but Vampire Dairies had that name for their seductive, mysterious, sometimes evil, character. I love the actor who portrays Damian, Ian Somerhalder, so finally I just decided to use his first name. To be brutally honest, I visualized Ian Somerhalder whenever I was writing a chapter with Dr. Stone in it.
Dr. Ian Stone is a character I wanted readers to be confused about at first, uneasy, not sure what to think kind of feelings. Maybe then a sort of liking occurs. Next all of a sudden hate his guts. Then for the rest of the story find yourself in a hate-love relationship with him. My goal by the end is for readers to land solidly on one of those feelings, but if they’re still on the fence then when they read the first chapter of Book Two and gain some clarity with what he did and what would happened if he didn’t, that seals the deal for them.
ULM: Inside book 2 (Hope with Stickers), readers really get to meet Hope. A mother who lost her child. What lead you to this specific plot?
Hope showed up towards the end of Book one. She is only there for one and half pages, but she makes a dramatic impact as she actually detours the time traveling Miriam from a path where abuse would have entered her life again. I instantly knew there was more to this woman’s story. I thought that it would be so interesting to find out what would have happened to Hope and her run away daughter if she never met Miriam during her time traveling journey and then the complete altered path her life took because she did cross paths with a time traveler. I purposely left out 14 missing days in Irony because I knew what was going on with Miriam during that time and how Hope played a bigger part than just one and half pages, but that would not be discovered until book two.
ULM: Hope with Stickers is an interesting read. Can you share with us, readers, who the Novaks are? Especially, Rylas Novak.
Ah, Rylas. He is a character you love to hate and then hate that you love him.
Not to give too much away concerning the paranormal aspects of this series, but the Novaks are a mysterious family of private investigators. Quade and Declan are brothers and Rylas is their cousin. They run their operation in secret out of their nightclub, Taboo, in North Carolina. They have a connection to Ian because they once enlisted Ian’s help with a case they were working on many years back. Declan is the strong leader of the group who manages everything the way he see fit for the good of their kind. Quade is the misunderstood, humorous misfit of the group. That leaves Rylas— the tortured, bruiting, cocky but handsome detective that takes an odd interest in Hope for there is something about her that begins to shatter his whole world.
ULM: What are you other hobbies besides writing?
I have a passion for teaching. I teach first grade and have taught for over 15+ years now. My other passions are reading and cooking.
ULM: How would you describe Hope with Stickers using only three words?
Textured, memorable, heartfelt
ULM: What themes can readers find in your work?
I think in the Irony of Time series there is a theme for almost anyone. There is the bond of family love with a focus on sibling love that sometimes only seems to occur either later in life or after a tragedy. That leads to the theme of making each moment count now by appreciating and loving one another. Other themes include overcoming tragedy, finding self-worth, redemption and forgiveness. Romance and passion wind itself through all the themes.
All my stories have a curve ball somewhere that comes out of left field when you least expect it because that is what I love to read.
ULM: If your novels were to become movies, who do you see playing Miriam, Hope, Dr. Ian Stone, Rylas, Declan, Quade, Carly, Lisa, and Miranda?
To be honest, I only ever had Ian Somerhalder in mind for Ian.
Rylas, I feel needs to be someone new and hot, but if I had to pick then maybe a cross between Josh Holloway and Charlie Hunnam, but with black hair.
In the book Miriam describes Hope as a Cheryl Tiegs almost 40-years-old looking waitress. So, someone similar to her since she is a model and not an actress.
The rest, I simply cannot think of a current actor that would fit my visual of what he/she looks like.
ULM: You have a third novel coming out soon. Can you share with us, readers, what Heart of Mine is about?
Heart of Mine is the third and final book in this series. It is divided into several parts. The beginning and the end parts comes from the point of view of a surprising character that is really the heart of this whole series. The middle is how all the stories and central characters from each book come back together in a very unique way. All three books tightly intertwine each other in so many ways that readers will encounter those aha! Moments throughout each book as scenes and events unfold which trigger a new understanding and realization concerning something from one of the previous books. Even from the biggest of moments to the smallest of minute details, there are hidden secrets being slowly revealed.
Book three wraps it all up in one big, I-didn’t-see-that-coming bow.
ULM: Any other projects to come out after your third novel?
Yes, over my Christmas break I began writing my fourth book. It is about a young, first year teacher….go figure. Well, I wanted to write about something I know a lot about. There is romance, possibly a love triangle…hint, hint. It is humorous, but there is a central tragedy that has occurred. This form of tragedy is a worry that plagues the mind of all teachers everywhere and one in which some have endured.
ULM: What is it like teaching? Did this influence your stories?
Teaching is like having a job you can never leave. I mean that in every sense of the phrase. I mean I can’t see myself ever leaving teaching until they push me out the door. Because it brings me joy and satisfaction through interacting with children as I help them grow, learn and achieve, but also there is never a punch-out clock. Even as I type these answers I’m watching the time and thinking of my lesson plans I have to finish for next week, systematically filing through the five days and the subjects of math, social studies, science, reading and writing. Then there is the pile of journals I need to assess tonight (while I am mentally preparing for a week of two different formal individual assessments in reading, I need to give each of my 24 students). A coworker said she even teaches in her sleep, which her husband can verify because of what she says out loud.
My favorite subject to teach has always been writing. I love being a part of their growth as a writer from September through May. The magic that would happen there in their writing would be one of my joys.
Now, I don’t think the first three books where influenced by my teaching, but more of an escape. I needed to demand a punch out clock for short periods of time. Even in the summertime between online courses I had to find a way of escaping into another world with imaginary adults and events I could control. It was a way to get lost.
Now my fourth book is heavily influenced by teaching as I previously mentioned.
ULM: What is your advice to other writers?
Writing, editing, formatting and publishing (self-publishing) are the easy parts. It is the marketing that is the biggest challenge. Get out there now, before your book is going to be published, before the formatting, before the editing and writing. Get out there and get seen, be heard, while you are thinking about becoming a published writer. Build your writer’s platform NOW.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your books online?
Book one and two, The Irony of Time series, are both found on Amazon.com, my website and Goodreads
You can also learn more about me and what’s going on by following me at:
Author Interview with Brandon Knightley
Me: What inspired you to write your novel, June Rain?
On the one hand, I simply woke up one morning with a fragment of a story in my head and started writing. On the other, the book was the emerging expression of questions that I wished I had asked myself when I was Dante’s age.
Me: Using three words, how would you describe your writing style?
Thoughtful but spontaneous.
Me: You mentioned that you’re a teacher; what subject do you teach and does this subject get woven into your books?
I teach a humanities seminar that asks—but does not answer—many questions that are driven by the inevitable conflicts we face as self-motivated individuals who are necessarily melded into both a community and culture. Many of the questions Dante asks are ones I have asked of countless students.
Me: What other books have you written or will you be writing?
I have something in mind about a mostly mute and invisible woman who is transformed by her own writing into someone with an authentic voice and presence.
Me: What was it like creating both Dante and Helen?
Dante was simply the embodiment of some of my own doubts and perceptions. Helen came out of nowhere, and I fell for her quite as hard as Dante did. I missed them both dearly when the book was finished.
Me: What is one thing from philosophy that you would like to share with your readers?
Some conventionality—meeting the expectations of others—is important in life so that we can talk to and love each other. Authentic self-expression is important so that we have something worthwhile to say.
Me: When did you begin writing?
I have been writing nonfiction for decades. June Rain is my first attempt at fiction. Another is the short story Breakfast with Plato, which was included in the anthology Inkwater Ink, also published by Inkwater Press.
Me: What other hobbies do you enjoy besides writing that you can share with us readers?
Music, painting, and foreign languages.
Me: What tips would you share with other aspiring writers?
First, let the content define the form: Debussy would not have been Debussy had he confined himself to the forms used by Mozart. Second, do not submit to the frequent opposition of vividness and depth. This is why we still read Antigone after two millennia and King Lear after four centuries—but forget soap operas at the conclusion of the last episode.
Me: Where can readers find you and your book online?
Brandon Knightley practices invisibility, but the book at least can be found on Amazon or at Inkwater’s website.
Author Interview with Brian Gallagher
ULM: What lead you to becoming a writer?
I’m not sure I know. Years ago, I started a novel, but never finished it. Sometime in 2011, I grabbed my computer and started writing. The Vatican Protocol, more or less, wrote itself. When I’d come to a new thought or direction, I’d halt the writing and do extensive research. Whenever I came to a crossroads, I’d stop and do more research and my writing had new stimulation. It never felt forced or stagnated. I do take pride in the detail and accuracy throughout the novel. I even went to the granularity of checking the menus of the restaurants described, so items ordered by the characters were on the menu of that establishment.
The creative process is what draws me to writing new stories. I almost feel like a spectator, wondering what will happen next. It’s like a movie unfolding and I’m a participant. That makes it fun.
ULM: You’re first novel, The Vatican Protocol, had many interesting themes. Can you with us, readers, share why you choose to write about government conspiracy theories?
I was a huge fan of Ian Fleming in high school and later, Robert Ludlum. Ludlum has been the biggest influence to my writing and everything he wrote seemed to revolve around conspiracy, governments, and religions. The Vatican is such an interesting entity that I was drawn to it. The institution portrays itself as infallible, all knowing and dictates how its’ followers should live their life. I find this so interesting because any student of history knows how corrupt the organization has been. Multiple Popes have been assassinated, the Church conducted genocide during the Inquisition, and they were in bed with the Nazis. Yet, their true believers will not accept that any of these historical facts could be true. There is so much documentation about Church deceptions, but they have remained Teflon to their followers.
When I discovered the amount of detail written about the Black Pope, I had a Ludlum-like moment.
ULM: I noticed that you have a new novel coming out soon, called Serial K. This one has a completely different direction than your previous novel. What are your plans for this series?
Serial K has been fun to create. I’m a fan of recurring characters and as I continue forward I’ll have many of the same characters show up. I’m a fan of Michael Connelly’s Lucas Davenport/Virgil Flowers novels and John Sanford’s Harry Bosch series. They are both in the crime genre and it felt natural to go in that direction. There is more to come in this series.
ULM: Out of all your characters which one is your favorite?
In Vatican Protocol, it was Father Battalini. I liked that he was in the inner circle of the Vatican’s clandestine operations, but battled his inner conscience of right and wrong and became the hero. I particularly liked the ending.
For those that think this novel was about Church bashing they should recognize the hero was a priest who ultimately adjusted his moral compass and represented what people of great moral character should do.
In Serial K, it is Lea Pucci. I wanted to create a female lead who could compete and outperform her male counterparts. I wanted her to be strong, a bit of a smartass, unafraid of anything. I wanted her to think, have a swagger and act more as a guy would.
ULM: In Serial K, the serial killer, is unique. What was it like creating him?
It was interesting to create Craig Breedlove. As the novel and its sequel progressed, the character evolved and grew. Much of his evolution came from the research I had to do into real-life serial killers. He started as a meek, demented individual and gradually became stronger and smarter.
When I started Serial K I didn’t plan a sequel. As the character grew, I started to think about him becoming a recurring killer, sort of like Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes.
The creation of the novel’s serial killer, along with the research into real serial killer’s, takes one into some dark places. Since Breedlove was emulating his hero’s, I had to research what the emulation would look like. That meant I had to learn what these sickos did and how they did it, to be historically accurate. Just like in Vatican Protocol, I was true to documented facts. Where I deviated from that, I had the character state what the real serial killer did and why they didn’t want to follow an exact replication.
ULM: Will the FBI couple, in Serial K, be featured in your next novel?
Yes. Serial K will be out in both Kindle and print in January 2017. Its’ sequel, Serial K-Returns, is done and ready to go to the publisher. I’ve held off submitting it so I don’t create confusion between the two. I’m guessing it will be in print in March 2017.
The FBI couple and the serial killer are back. In another twist, Sean O’Shea, from Vatican Protocol, becomes a prominent character. That was fun. I also think the serial killer’s vulnerable side at the end of the story will surprise readers. Again, I liked the ending. I think it’s critical to have an interesting start and a strong ending, to make sure the reader isn’t left disappointed.
My fourth novel is underway. It’s called Shapeshifter, and will bring the supernatural/horror genre into this one. It will also return to Europe. The regular characters will be back and I might bring back Battalini, but I have to watch it unfold.
ULM: What was it like connecting the Vatican, the Nazis, and the UFO’s into one novel (The Vatican Protocol)?
It was actually seamless. When I started the book, I hadn’t figured out the whole plot. As I learned more details about the UFO crash in the Black Forest and that the remnants of the craft were taken to Wewelsburg Castle it all came together. My research, also uncovered the relationship between the Nazis and Vatican, which I hadn’t known about, and will likely show up in future novels.
I like exposing readers to hidden facts and relationships they’ve never heard about. That’s an element I try to have in every novel and will continue in the future. I like to leave the reader with this question in their mind: could this really be true.
ULM: You mentioned having a radio show. What was that like?
It was great fun. I had the wake up show from 7:00 to 9:00 during the week and a once a week political show. I did that for two years, while in college. I’ve been fortunate to do many “Walter Mitty” type things in my life.
ULM: Traveling to Europe inspired you to write The Vatican Protocol. What specifically in Europe would you say triggered the idea?
I write about things I know and places I’ve visited. It’s far easier to describe actual experiences instead of making everything up. I think visiting the castles, driving throughout the European countryside, all contributed to a desire to write about it. I had a lot of detail about Strasburg, France that I had the cut out to get my word count down to 100,000.
ULM: What advice would you give to others writers?
Keep writing. Go to write’s conferences. Meet people and network. Everything I’ve done has been without a literary agent. I was fortunate to meet a publisher at such a conference and was able to shortcut the process. I don’t think vanity or self-publishing is the best answer. I also don’t think paying someone to publish one’s book is a good choice. If an author has a quality book, small Indie publishers are great options. They do most of what the big guys do, they don’t charge the author to publish and are easy to work with.
ULM: If your novels became big motion pictures, who do you see playing the leading roles?
Interesting question. Two producers asked to write a treatment and pilot for Serial K. I’ve finished both and submitted each. We’re having continued discussions on the characterization of the FBI agents.
The treatment included suggesting characters for the different roles. Here’s what I submitted:
Ryan O’Callahan -Lea Pucci -Craig Breedlove -Butch Johnson
Timothy Olyphant- Mila Kunis- Walton Goggins -Nick Searcy
John Cusak -Mia Kirshner- Edward Norton
Bradley Cooper -Alexandra Daddario- Michael Pitt
Ryan Reynolds -Kate Beckinsale-Elijah Wood
Rachel Bison-Ryan Phillipe
I’ve also had contact with Nick Searcy and sent him the manuscript so we’ll see if it goes anywhere.
The Vatican Protocol would have many interesting options for characters.
ULM: What are your other hobbies besides writing amazing thrillers?
All sports. I’ve always been an avid golfer. Love fishing and the north woods. I mentioned I write about what I know about and the Lac Du Flambeau homes in Serial K and Serial-K Returns have been my homes. I’ve written much of my novels at the lake.
Huge Cubs and Blackhawk fans and I hate to admit Bear fan.
ULM: What are your future projects that you can share with us, readers, if any? When will Serial K be coming out?
Serial K: In print January 2017
Serial K-Return: March 2017
Shapeshifter: In process
Night Sweats: Horror genre (will follow Shapeshifter)
ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?
Amazon, Barnes& Noble, Book World, etc.
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Me: What are some messages that you hope readers will take with after reading your book?
I hope that they may come to believe that maybe there is a better place, a better existence out there, waiting for us when we die.
That it is inhabited by a being most wonderful in every way.
If we lead a good life here on earth (because that is his will), that we may in so doing make ourselves better people and the earth a better place.
Me: Do you think that there will ever be a time when Americans will truly forget/abandon God?
I pray that that will not happen and my book is an effort to try to stem and reverse that trend.
A lot of my book contains thoughts that are not really my own, that is, they just came to me, in the middle of the night, on the train, or at work (and I believe that these are inspired by God).
And I also think that things may be better than we think.
Unfortunately, the main stream news media only think that bad things are news and that there is an awful lot of good stuff going on to, whether it be with Religion or just things in general.
Me: If Americans continue at the rate that they are going now, what are your predictions for the future?
While we are a very long way from it, if we continue down the road of selfishness, division and partisanship, we could be heading for an implosion, perhaps a violent one.
And no matter what your position or beliefs, no one but crazy people can want that to happen.
And again I see signs of change and good things happening, good people happening (of all types) and that keeps my hopes alive.
Me: You mention that many religions have a lot in common. What are some common grounds that they seem to share.
That there is just one supreme being, one God and for many of us that is the God of Abraham.
That there is a heaven or paradise awaiting us.
That we all require purification and need to work on that while we are here in this world.
And as part of that, that we need to help others, especially the less fortunate.
Me: Would you say that your degree in Economics has greatly affected your thoughts when writing this book?
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, which means that while Economics was my major, I really have a Liberal Arts degree.
And that means that I had classes in Philosophy, History and Literature and those were more instrumental than Economics in writing my book.
Me: If you can give others advice what would it be?
We are physical beings, be more into doing than showing and/or sharing.
Try to enjoy your life as best you can (it goes by so very quickly).
You need to work but try and find something that you can take some enjoyment and pride out of and develop more proficiency and expertise (those last will help you to stay employed).
Find activities that you enjoy.
And find out what your talents are and pursue and develop them.
Me: After reading your book, I am curious. Where do you see the millennials leading our country?
It is a very difficult question to answer on different levels.
First of all, I do not look at Millennials as a homogeneous group of people.
They define a generation as roughly twenty years but the truth is, that there are generational differences between people born even several years a part.
So I look at Millennials as being split into a least two groups, those being born at the being of what is considered Millennial and those born later (I am at the head of the baby boomers and my brother born five years later has some different values).
I know many of the early Millennials and probably very few of the later ones.
Those early ones seem to have values similar to mine but I have concerns about the later ones, whom seem to be to be too immersed in technology but that perception is likely more based upon their portrayal in the general Media, than personal interactions on my part.
Those I do know, whether early or later, again seem to have good values, so I do not have any concerns and feel that they will lead our country in the proper direction.
Me: What other hobbies besides writing do you enjoy that you can share with us readers?
You know I am an older guy and played and participated in pretty much every sport and activity you can think of when I was younger.
When I was Fifty-five, I bought a large motorcycle and was privileged to take some cross country trips, which were great adventures (unfortunately I just very recently had to sell my motorcycle – just getting to old and felt that I was maybe pushing my luck, as a very dangerous activity to partake of).
So now that leaves me with singing.
I sign (karaoke) two to three times a weeks and have sung with bands and professional performers and have actually made two CD’s and have plans to do another.
Me: Do you have any future writing projects at the moment that you can tells us about?
I am working on another book and it is about America.
The concept of America and what exactly it means to be an American.
It will include historical details on our founding fathers (I don’t think people understand what a brilliant group of people they were (most of them were geniuses) and what they personally risked in leading the revolution).
And it will also delve into what the Constitution really means.
Me: Where can readers find you and your work on line?
My work is available on Amazon, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, I-Tunes and I believe also Kindle.
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Interview with Scott Burn
Me: How did it feel when you finished your debut novel, The Enemy Within?
The idea of finished is something that’s hard to get my head around. I remember about a year into the process I thought it was done. I showed it to my literary agent who thought it was great – and now it was time to roll up our sleeves and really get to work. I think it was another year before I was finally ready to put the pen down. But months later, I still sometimes find myself thinking about the story, about a character I might have added, about a moment that the lead character might experience. So I think it’s one of those things like a great relationship in the past that always keeps a tiny hold in your head even long after you’ve moved on to other things. That said, when I finally did stop working on it, it felt amazing and the story was what I had always wanted it to be.
Me: What led you to writing comics?
I’m a screenwriter first and foremost, and while I had always enjoyed the comic world, I had never looked to break into it. But the opportunity to do so pretty much fell in my lap. Film producers that had sold a project of mine came to me because they were working with a comic book company developing a new sci-fi project called AGON. They were looking for a screenwriter to shape the idea and frame it in a way that it could be reverse engineered into a feature film. The comic book company let me run with my approach and we did a 5 book mini-series. Hopefully one day the movie gods smile on it and the story finds its way to the screen.
Me: Can you share with us, readers, what your science fiction comic series Agon, is about?
AGON is story about what happens when an alien herald comes down to earth and tells us that we’ve reached a stage of enlightenment that has impressed their hierarchy of advanced civilizations. We’re invited to participate in their next series of games. But what they’re impressed by is not our technological or spiritual enlightenment, but our propensity for mass violence. The competition requires each emerging civilization to send 10 of their greatest warriors. The winning planet is gifted incredible rewards. The losers’ are wiped out. Our lead in the story isn’t a warrior, but is among them trying to discover a way to prevent the imminent destruction about to take place.
Me: What is it like going from comic book writing to writing screenplays?
I really enjoyed my experience in the comic book world. It’s a different way of thinking, where you literally have to map out frame by frame what your story is going to be. And it’s also a remarkably efficient form of writing where you have to find ways to express the story as minimally as possible while still maintaining the greatest impact. It’s a challenging adjustment and the writers who do it well are really gifted at that. Once I got my head around thinking that way, the stories came together well. Screenplay writing has certain similarities in that you want to enter each scene as late as possible and leave as early as you can so the story has a brisk pace. And while I don’t picture the way every single scene will look, I do like to have the way the basic frame will work and imagine it playing out in my head. So the comic book way of thinking helps to string those series of images together.
Me: Can you share with us, readers, some of the screenplay titles that you have done?
The interesting thing about Hollywood is you can make a living as a writer even if your projects haven’t yet been made. I have several projects in development at different studios. Hopefully one day one or all of them will wind their way through the maze into production. One of them is called COUNTDOWN – it’s about a group of astronauts who land on a distant planet and find their own dead bodies. The script is based on an old Richard Matheson short story called DEATH SHIP. Another is called Arena, about a group of Navy Seals about to die in a battle who suddenly find themselves transported to an arena where there are warriors from all different time periods. They have to figure out who brought them there and why while trying to escape. Another is called ORIGIN. It’s about what happens when a primordial black hole begins disrupting the time/space continuum around earth and the team that has to go up and find a way to destroy it.
Me: Which would you say is more difficult to do, comic books, screenplays or writing a novel?
I don’t think any of them are easy. And on different days each of them would win when I’m hitting my head against the wall on a given story. But I do tend to find that novel writing takes a certain kind of endurance I wasn’t expecting when I first set off on the journey. It’s exhausting, and if you think you can sprint through it, you find yourself spent long before you reach the finish line. It really is much more like marathon running and I had to train myself to think that way. In each of them you want there to be little treasure gems on every page that continue to pull the reader in, but never distract from the story. I found creating that balance most challenging in the novel world, but it’s also one of the reasons I’m such a proponent of rewriting. You work at a scene or chapter in a story over and over and keep finding new elements to make it better. I tend to have a greater sense of clarity about how to do that in the screenwriting world a little quicker than in the novel arena – which I found was much more about exploration and wandering down the wrong corridors until I found the right one.
Me: Do you enjoy writing comics or screenplays more?
The best thing about the comic book world was that within weeks of writing the final draft I was seeing art work connected to it. It was a pretty awesome feeling to see the words brought to life. But I tend to enjoy screenwriting more just because movies have been woven into my DNA since I was little. I don’t think there’s any better feeling than sitting in a theater and being blown away by a movie. It’s why I became a writer to begin with.
Me: Science fiction fantasy is a tough genre to write. What led you to writing a novel for the young adult category?
I had been wanting to do a story about teenage alienation for some time, and to stretch my wings on novel. One day I came across an interesting story about how NASA knows precisely how many satellites are orbiting earth at every moment of the day. I thought what would happen if we found one more than there should be. The outline for the story THE ENEMY WITHIN came together pretty quickly from there. I was familiar with some of the YA sci-fi novels out there and didn’t want mine to feel like a soap opera or a love triangle, but much more about what it’s really like to be teenagers who have always been on the outside looking in for different reasons. And I think that’s what’s led to people responding to it so well.
Me: What are your future works, if any, that you can share with us?
I’ve been working on the feature side about a story of convergence between the world of science and faith – how to the two are woven together in ways most people wouldn’t imagine. And I’ve been working on another novel whenever there’s time about a town that makes a Faustian deal, and the price they pay when they break it. Creepy fun.
Me: Using three words, how would you describe your writing style?
Pensive, playful, unexpected.
Me: Out of curiosity, how did you go from being a lawyer to a full-time writing career?
I had always wanted to write when I was young. I loved movies and novels and pretty much consumed my life with both. I started writing short stories. Most were awful, but some were just mediocre – I didn’t know about rewriting in those days. In college I started a literary journal and in law school had a secret underground newspaper. But being a lawyer seemed like a safer bet. And it was. While I never loved it, the work was perfectly fine. But I knew that I never would wake up and love it – eventually that feeling became too strong. I wrote a indie feature that got optioned for a few bucks. When that happened, I decided to take up writing full time. And fortunately I’m able to make a living at it.
Me: Inside the, The Enemy Within, which characters did you enjoy creating the most?
He’s a satellite character, but I really enjoyed a character named Kitamura, an attache to a Colonel. Although the spotlight isn’t on him, he has a wry sophistication and rare moments of humor that really came together in my head very quickly. His voice continually wanted to be heard and I found myself trying to find other ways to explore his character because he was so interesting (to me).
Me: As a professional writer, would advice would you give to aspiring writers?
The most important thing is make sure you have something to keep you going financially through the long journey. I knew more than a few writers who wanted to do it full time in Hollywood, went into debt and paid a really steep price. As much as time is important, I’ve found when you’re focused you don’t need many hours a day in a coffee shop.You can accomplish an incredible amount of work in 2 hours a day. But it’s really important you find a way to set those 2 hours aside, ideally at the same time each day. You need to train yourself that that’s writing time. Not writing and email time, not web surf and writing time, just writing. And whether the pages are good or bad, keep going. Don’t get caught up in the rewriting process until you’ve finished the draft, otherwise, you may never finish.
Me: When you write, what are your first thoughts when engaging a new project?
I don’t necessarily think this is the best way to do it, but for most of the projects I write, it all begins with a What if question. What if X happened or what if Y happened. From there I start to build out characters that might be the ones dealing with it. The first draft choices are usually obvious and terrible, but the more I chisel away at it, the world slowly comes together.
Me: Where can readers find you and your work online?
My website is: scottburn.xyz
THE ENEMY WITHIN is my first novel. They can also find my comic book AGON at some comic book shops. Unless they work in development, they probably won’t get to know my screenwriting until something gets made. I’m thinking about writing a single for Amazon at some point, but I’m not quite sure when that will be. Hopefully sooner than later. I have a What if percolating…
P.K.: A lot like this: https://media.giphy.com/media/DpB9NBjny7jF1pd0yt2/giphy.gif
How do you find balance between working life, your family and everything else?
P.K.: Have a forgiving spouse? I don’t do everything, I can’t. It’s just not possible. Thank god for a man who loves to cook and clean! My kids are getting older now so they need less of my focus and more of my driving skills, so I do a lot of reading in the car waiting for them. I don’t know how to organize it, I kind of just do it. I’m really walking talking chaos so I’m the wrong person to give advice on this.
Have any tips for those of us that work from home?
P.K.: I’d say the most important thing is to accept that you can’t do it all and not only is that okay, it’s normal and good.
IT STARTED TO RAIN AS they walked, but Norwood kept an impossible pace. Julip slipped and fell more than once, but he just kept going. She guessed he was right to hurry; they had to get back before nightfall so they didn’t get caught. Ma would be furious as it was, what with them gone missing for so much of the day.
The sky darkened despite it still being midday, and clouds rolled in behind them. Back home it would be a mess. Rain put everyone in a sour mood. The sea was too volatile to risk going out when it stormed, and while the rainwater was clean and safe, the ocean steeped in chemicals that could peel a person’s skin before too long. Their father had burning water scars up and down his arms and speckled across his face from working as a jellyfisher for so long. By comparison to other men who worked the sea, he had remained pretty intact.
The Cotillion was probably having a great time. Rain meant clean air and fresh water, for a little while at least. Sometimes if the rain came at the same time as a toxstorm, it would bring the fumes down to Earth, keeping everyone inside for days, sometimes weeks. The last time that happened, Julip had been nine and was forced to stay in her parents’ dwell with no one but her brother for nineteen straight days. The damage the fumes caused still marred the walls of the bedroom they shared.
The siblings had complained, begged to be allowed outside, but nothing they said or did would convince the adults to let them go. Only her father ventured out to pick up a daily ration of food and water from the Center-of-It-All. He would bundle up, covered from head to toe in fabric and plastic. Even his head was wrapped in one of her mother’s scarves, and his eyes hid behind goggles he’d made out of extra window plastic.
Thirteen people died during that storm, and two more were blinded. For months after, there was a rash of stillbirths on the reservation. The Daughters all agreed that the fumes had come down and poisoned the babes. It’d been five years since the last bad toxstorm whipped through Greenland, so one was due to come soon. Julip loved the cool rain as it soaked through her scarf. She uncovered her head and felt the water trickle down her face and saturate her hair. Parents would take the littlest kids on the rez outside, strip them, and scrub them red. Clean rain meant a real washing, not a quick, timed wipe-down with the gray water from the sinks.
Norwood pulled a canteen from his trouser pocket and caught drips of water from the oversized leaves surrounding them. The trees weren’t much taller than him, but the forest canopy closed in as they walked. Soon they walked on dry earth, and the only remaining evidence of the rain was the heaviness of her hair and the sound of water dripping on leaves high above.
“I’ve never been deep in the Wilds,” she said.
“Ya’ve never been shallow in the Wilds.”
“True, but there ain’t even words for this back home. It smells different, dirty, but my nose ain’t pained by it.”
“‘Cause it’s real. This dirt is from the Earth, not the toxes.”
“Why do we have so much tox on the rez if this is right here?”
“I dunno, but I reckon it’s ‘cause we’re human. People made the toxes. In some way, I guess it’s only right we live in ‘em.”
A howl rose from deep in the forest, and Julip yelped and bent down, trying to blend in, hide in the underbrush. Her legs wanted to give out, but she squeezed her eyes shut and demanded her body not betray her.
About the Book
They came as saviors to a deteriorating Earth
Julip Thorne questions whether there is more to life beyond the barren dirt, acidic seas, and toxstorms her people work and die in. Living in poverty on the withering Greenland Human Reservation, she wonders if the alien Mezna goddesses are truly as holy as the temple preaches. Julip begins to dig deeper into the history of the planet and her leaders’ rise to power. But nothing can prepare her for the atrocities she uncovers.
Meanwhile, Jakkattu prisoner Sabaal suffers constant torture and heinous medical experiments as her Mezna-priest captors seek to unlock the key to her genetic makeup. Escaping from captivity, she finds herself suddenly alone on the hostile alien planet of Earth. To survive, she’s forced to work with the same Mezna-human hybrids she’s loathed her entire life, but the more they work together, the more they realize that their enemy is the same.
When humans and Mezna collide, will Sabaal turn out to be the genetic vector the Mezna have been searching for all along, or will she spark the flame that sets a revolution ablaze?
P.K. Tyler is the author of Speculative Fiction and other Genre Bending novels. She’s also published works as Pavarti K. Tyler and had projects appear on the USA TODAY Bestseller’s List.
“Tyler is essentially the indie scene’s Margaret Atwood; she incorporates sci-fi elements into her novels, which deal with topics such as spirituality, gender, sexuality and power dynamics.” – IndieReader
Pav attended Smith College and graduated with a degree in Theatre. She lived in New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off-Broadway. Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry for several international law firms. Now located in Baltimore Maryland, she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not penning science fiction books and other speculative fiction novels, she twists her mind by writing horror and erotica.
You can follow PK Tyler on Facebook, Twitter, and sign up for her newsletter, or visit her website here.
Author Interview with Rich DiSilvio
ULM: What led you to writing your novel, Nazis Nemesis?
Actually two things: First, was my intense interest in history and WWII, and second, was a recurring dream I had. For almost two years after publishing my previous novel, A Blazing Gilded Age, I was having a vivid dream of an American WWII soldier and Nazi officer fighting aboard an airplane. It gets very nasty and well, I’ll leave it at that. But it made for an exciting opening. I finally committed to sitting down and crafting an outline, since my dream was merely one action scene. Therefore, an entire storyline, with motives, characters, settings etc., had to be built around that one event. A very odd way to start a story, but that was the seed that grew into a rather complex and twisted tale.
ULM: Which of the characters did you enjoy creating the most?
The protagonist was a fun character. Jack Goodwin/Hornsby is a real piece of work; charismatic, funny, clever, and a puzzle. Jack even had me on my toes, guessing what would happen next. The first half of the novel he is telling his daughter, Eleanor, about his escapades during WWII, and they were so compelling, that I truly had a hard time pulling myself away from writing. Happily, many readers also found his yarns riveting, just as Jack’s daughter had in the novel.
But several other characters had also pulled me in deep, examining their particular psyche, past, or motives, such as Veronika and Bronislaw, who play key roles in the subplot that develops. I also enjoyed crafting Eleanor’s development from an innocent teenager into a self-thinking strong woman. Yet, even small characters have their own charm in the creation process.
ULM: What other projects are you working that you can share with us, readers?
I’m currently working on a series called Tales of Titans. It features a collection of short fictional scenarios, each about a major figure of history. This first volume extends from ancient Rome to the Renaissance, and features such icons as Augustus Caesar and his wife Livia, Constantine, Dante, Columbus, the Borgias, Leonardo da Vinci and others. It also contains brief nonfictional material, making this series both informative and entertaining. And the fact that each chapter is relatively brief gives people a fast read and good taste of how these titans may have sounded in conversation and what made them tick.
Additionally, I recently released two YA books. Danny and the DreamWeaver is somewhat of a fantasy/time-travel novelette, dealing with a ninth-grade boy’s odd yet edifying dream. It’s published under the pseudonym Mark Poe, which is a gracious nod to two great American writers, Mr. Twain and Edgar.
Meanwhile, Meet My Famous Friends is a whimsical picture book that will make kids of all ages laugh, with the subtle intention of fostering an interest in great historical figures, such as Vincent van Goat, Susan Bee Anthony, Albert Eine-Stein, Queen Elizardbreath etc. Humor is a great tool to get kids’ attention. So hopefully some of “my famous friends” will become positive role models for a younger generation and brighten their future.
ULM: What inspired you to write in the historical war thriller genre?
Actually, my first book was a 750-page nonfictional tome on Western civilization, and wars are naturally a part of human history. In fact, all my previous novels include wars, whether in large measure, like in Liszt’s Dante Symphony, or even a single chapter, as in A Blazing Gilded Age. War offers a writer and readers conflict, as well as the ugly and heroic sides of mankind, hence being an intriguing topic.
However, it is keen to note that while My Nazi Nemesis takes place during both WWII and the Cold War, the main storyline focuses on the personal lives of the main characters. Their odd and harrowing situations drive them in various directions to resolve their misfortunes, and that takes them all across Europe and the United States. I think that’s why this novel is even appealing to readers that aren’t necessarily drawn to pure war novels. Additionally, these period pieces offer me the chance to write about other interests of mine, namely music and art. Each of my novels feature the arts in some capacity, giving authenticity to the time period and enlightening some readers about works of art or older music, especially classical music.
However, there are naturally scenes that relate to events during the Cold War and Nazi Germany. Having grown up during the 1960s, there were many WWII movies that were imprinted on my mind, such a The Great Escape or Von Ryan’s Express. While they were not as intense as more recent war movies, like Sophie’s Choice or Schindler’s List, they did instill in me a fascination and fear of the Nazis. As such, I was compelled to incorporate a disturbing scene where Veronika is sent to Auschwitz. What she witnesses and endures, as well as the profound questions she asks her captors, brings something new to this historical tragedy.
Likewise, the Cold War threats of Soviet expansion and a nuclear attack during my childhood also instilled a lifelong lesson. It makes one realize that whether it was the Nazis, the Soviets, or modern day Jihadists, our security and liberty is always at risk. So it is crucial to refresh our memories about these events, even in novel form, because whether it’s the Nazis gassing Jews or the Jihadists decapitating infidels, we must be cognizant of the ugly realities in life and remain vigilant at all times.
ULM: Using three words how would you describe your writing?
Entertaining, thought provoking, and intriguing.
ULM: Besides writing an amazing novel, what are your other hobbies?
I love creating, in all forms. I’ve had my hands at drawing and painting for many years, having studied at an academy under a protege of Norman Rockwell’s. Yet over the years I’ve veered away from oil painting and work primarily in the digital medium. My artwork has appeared in various art galleries nationwide and I recently released a limited edition book of my surreal and fantasy art. I have also toyed around with music, composing a number of songs, and have built all sorts of things, from furniture to all types of home renovations, large and small. I’ve managed to incorporate those hobbies into my careers, so I’ve been fortunate.
And of course I love researching, mostly about historical people and events, especially when it is newly revealed information regarding things we Americans hadn’t learned in school, such as how Soviet women were the only women permitted to fight during WWII. While women from other nations could work in weapons factories or be nurses or fly planes for non-combative operations, Soviet women, in contrast, were flying raids against Hitler. That’s why I found it imperative to incorporate that into My Nazi Nemesis as well. Writing is a powerful medium, and I don’t take it for granted. I believe it’s important for an author to share knowledge with their readers, as entertainment doesn’t have to be frivolous.
ULM: How did it feel to be an international 2016 gold medal winner for your novel, Nazis Nemesis?
Quite stunning. I recall blinking hard, then squinting to get a better look at the announcement page. I had to see if my eyes were really seeing what they were seeing. I knew it was a long shot, competing against so many writers from over a dozen countries, but in my gut I had this uncanny feeling that this novel would rise to the top. As mentioned, the protagonist, Jack Goodwin/Hornsby, even had me enthralled with his engaging tales and sarcastic wit, while also keeping me in suspense and guessing. And the twisted story, I knew, would not be easily forgotten.
Another reason for my confidence was that I had previously received five separate glowing review awards, so my spirits and belief in this work were high. Yet despite the positive feelings, in reality, it is always a tall order to win a competition of this magnitude. So “overjoyed” about sums it up.
ULM: What advice do you have for other writers?
As hard as it is, endure the insults of critics, learn from your mistakes, stay true to your artistic convictions, and keep at it! Quite oddly, besides the gold award and all the glowing accolades, My Nazi Nemesis has also received a handful of insulting reviews. We’ve all heard how some famous writers and their novels had been rejected by the so-called “professionals,” only to be picked up by another, more perceptive agent, to become block busters. So beyond lay readers, even some professionals have bad judgement.
It’s critical to realize that art, in all forms, is subjective. Even works of pure genius can sometimes not be huge commercial successes. For example, the 1974 album “Relayer” by Yes, was a masterpiece in progressive rock, yet due to its sophistication it could never compete on the billboard charts with pop songs that appeal to a broader base. So success can only be measured by your particular niche.
Therefore, the true indicator is what the majority in your particular genre thinks. If a book sells well and scores a solid average of 3 stars or better, you’re in good shape. Dropping below that, you need to do your homework. But naturally, you must always shoot for the stars, all 5 of them!
ULM: Where can readers find both you and your book online?
They can view my books and artwork at my website: http://richdisilvio.com
They can purchase books and eBooks at Amazon http://amzn.com/B01ADO2UUA – Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, etc. But the only place to get autographed books and special bonuses is at my website.
ULM: What lead you to writing your spy novel, Active Measures?
There was no single “light-bulb” moment for this story. I first had the notion to write some sort of spy novel in May 2002 when I was in the sixth grade. Of course, twelve-year-old me had no inclination of how to possibly tell the story that was in my head, but I let it brew over time, evolve as I evolved. And, to tell you the truth, there hasn’t been a single day over the past fourteen years when these characters and the world they inhabit haven’t been with me in some form.
ULM: How long would you say it took you to write your novel?
Fourteen years from inception to publication. No joke. A radically different first draft was completed in November 2011 and then the manuscript went through five major revisions right up until June of this year.
ULM: As a writer, what would be the three things that you would like to share with other writers in your genre?
I’m not quite in a position to share advice with other writers, but there is one thing I’m trying to accomplish with Active Measures that I’d like to see proliferate.
When he accepted the Nobel Prize in literature, William Faulkner said that the only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself. I’ve always tried to maintain that as a guiding principle. Despite the guns, the “kit,” the action, the intrigue, we have to tell stories about imperfect human souls trying to find their way. Active Measures is a story about a young man coming to terms with the death of his father. That’s it. The rest is all lights and clockwork, window dressing so that hopefully fingertips will dampen the page.
As writers, we owe it to our readers to challenge them, to provide a commentary on our world for how it is, not simply how we might wish it to be, well intentioned or otherwise; to invite them inside a fictional universe we’ve created so that they may leave with a clearer appreciation of their own. I hope our genre doesn’t lose sight of that principle.
ULM: Other than writing a spy novel series, what other hobbies to you have?
Writing this trilogy and the prerequisite research consumes the bulk of my free time, but I’m a big film and TV buff and like to stay well read. I also hit the gym a couple times a week and appreciate a good cigar once in a while.
ULM: Can you briefly share with us readers what Active Measures is about?
Active Measures: Part I is a geopolitical thriller and the first volume of a trilogy about the dangers of loose nukes, terrorism and espionage.
The bulk of the action follows three major plotlines: In Iran, the United States’ most valuable agent since the 1960s uncovers a faction within the hardline Revolutionary Guards that has been secretly constructing a crude nuclear weapon designed to fit in the trunk of a car—and all without the knowledge or blessing of the regime’s leadership. As the full might of the American intelligence community is mobilized to sabotage it, the CIA’s new director is forced to navigate a minefield of global power politics from Washington to Tel Aviv.
In Moscow—after an oil trader with ties to the Kremlin is found burned alive in his Geneva home—an aide to Russia’s adored and despotic president is caught between opposing powers. At one side is an eccentric billionaire with lofty dreams of reorienting Russia toward the West, and at the other is the autocratic strongman whose ardent quest for resurgence has brought Russia into an open confrontation with NATO, and threatens a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the hasty climax of the Syrian civil war has brought the Middle East to a dangerous crossroads. Israel is set to begin peace talks with the fragile new government in Damascus, which promises to reshape the balance of power in the region. Hezbollah has been left bloodied, humiliated and exhausted with discontent simmering inside the ranks. Against this backdrop, a brilliant CIA officer in Beirut stumbles upon the trail of a master terrorist and the shadowy menace whispering in his ear conspiring to drag the world into the abyss.
ULM: What was the hardest part in writing this first novel of your series?
Staying atop the sprawl. There are over two hundred named characters introduced in this first volume of the trilogy and three major plot lines spread over multiple continents. And, spoiler alert, there’s still more to come. It was—and still is—a constant battle with the morass of details, faces, and places; and an even greater struggle to shape it all into a compelling story. The foundation was cemented with Part I, but I think the worst of it (for me, anyway) is still to come.
A second problem I’m confronting is how to tackle the ending of Part III. I have ideas for two novels after Active Measures. The big question right now is if I want this universe to continue beyond the trilogy. Right now I’m leaning “no.” The end of Part III will be bittersweet with very real, lasting consequences, and that’s hard for me to reconcile if “all your favorite characters are gonna get together for a new adventure next summer!” Let me make it clear: Chances are, most of your favorite characters WILL die, and believe it or not that’s a good thing. I don’t want a series based around scenarios where there’s some super spy who goes around from one stereotypical bad guy to the next. Plenty of writers have done that, and have done it well—the genre is infinitely stronger for their work—but I’m interested in doing things differently.
ULM: Which one of your characters did you enjoy creating the most?
That’s tough to pick. There’s a pretty deep bench of supporting characters in this trilogy—Angela Weisel, Benny Isaac, Saeed Mofidi, and Qasem Shateri come to mind. All of those characters initially had smaller roles and only became more important players as I was writing, which is always enjoyable to see. But if I have to pick one, I gotta go with David Kazanoff. He’s always been the “big bad” of the trilogy, going back fourteen years now, but how I’ve interpreted him has changed a lot. I went through a bad depression in college a few years ago and that had a HUGE impact on his character. You know, in a way, he’s not really even a villain (in the sense that, would you call a lion a villain for shredding apart a gazelle?) but more like a virus rampaging through the DNA of this story. At the end of it all—after the politics, after the tradecraft—Kazanoff is just Death coming for everyone and everything. He’s the great equalizer.
If you’re really a sick SOB and want to get inside Kazanoff’s mindset, check out The Conspiracy Against the Human Race and Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti, nihilistic and anti-natalism philosophy, and any sort of cosmic horror by Lovecraft or Robert W. Chambers: ingenious writers who created monsters that aren’t scary because they render us dead, but rather render us insignificant against our own universe. All good beach reading!
ULM: When will the next book in your series be published?
This is terrible, but I really can’t say. Part II of the trilogy is utterly massive. There’s so much ground to cover, so much story to tell. I’m doing my damndest, but I want to be certain this book is as good as I can possibly make it. So, easiest answer to your question: As soon as it’s done. But not fourteen years like the last one, I promise!
ULM: What other projects are you working that you would like to share with us readers?
There may be a few other things coming down the pipeline while I’m working on the Active Measures trilogy, but it’s still too early to talk about them.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your book(s) online?
The novel’s here on Amazon: http://amzn.to/29IT5HW. I’m quite active on Twitter (@FultonMatt), and can also be found on Facebook and Goodreads. Also, don’t hesitate to send me an email (email@example.com). I always love to hear from readers!
ULM: What inspired you to write your book, Don’t Trust A Stranger?
I wanted to write something with meaning behind it. Parts of my book are true, and others are not. I want to help people who are involved with domestic violence because it’s something that happens every day. If my book can help save at least one life then I would be very happy.
ULM: Did you always want to be a writer or was that something you discovered later on in life?
I discovered around the age of 10 how much I loved writing. I would sit in my room and write non-stop poetry. I eventually had a notebook or two full of different ones. Writing has always been something I was passionate about. However, writing a book didn’t come to mind until I was in my early 20’s. The more I went into book stores, the more I wanted my own to be on their shelf one day. Stephen King is my biggest inspiration, I love his work and I think he is just brilliant.
ULM: What would you like readers to take away from your book?
I want readers to take away that life isn’t perfect. Relationships fail, and you CAN move on. Family is there for you during your darkest hour. I want them to read my book, and think about certain situations in a different perspective, kind of like an outsiders point of view.
ULM: Was it difficult in writing your book, Don’t Trust A Stranger?
Parts of my book were hard to write, because it happened in real life. But, I feel like real life situations always make that book that much better. Overall, it wasn’t bad writing it.
ULM: What are three of your hobbies besides writing great books?
Three of my hobbies include: Being with my son, he’s 6 years old and I love taking him to WWE events with me, meeting superstars, taking him to the movies.
Being with my friends, when I am not working on my books or working my full time job. And lastly, driving around listening to music.
ULM: When will the sequel to your book be ready for readers?
I am hoping to have my sequel done and published by spring of 2017, fall at the latest. I am working like crazy to get this done.
ULM: Can you share with us, readers, about any other future works you may have planned?
When I am done with the sequel, I am working on two other (single) books, one is going to be a complete thriller/horror book, and one is going to be a complete romance book. Both of these genre’s are my favorites to read, so I want to make it enjoyable for my readers as well. I never want any of my books to be extremely long, so if everything goes the way I want then I will have a new book published each year.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your books online?
I have an author blog: here is my link.
The links to buy my book is here:
Don’t Trust A Stranger (Volume 1): Jacquelyn Wiles: 9781533632432: Amazon.com: Books
Buy Don’t Trust A Stranger (Volume 1) on Amazon.com ✓ FREE SHIPPING on qualified orders
Don’t Trust A Stranger – createspace.com
Have you ever wanted to date someone online? Do you trust people easily? Sometimes that can be a deadly thing. Never be too careful. Never settle for less than what …
Barnes and noble:
Have you ever wanted to date someone online? Do you trust people easily? Sometimes that can be a deadly thing. Never be too careful. Never settle for less than what…
ULM: What is your advice to both your readers and fellow writers?
My advice is to just follow your dreams, never let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish it. Even if you have writer’s block (believe me, I suffered with it a lot) anytime you have an idea write it down, you can always go back to it. Write until you cannot write anymore, you can always go back and change things. Take criticism with a grain of salt, do not let it discourage you. Instead let it help you with your next project.
ULM: What led you to writing a book about mental illness for both adults and children?
I wanted adults and children to learn that mental illness is treatable and nothing to be afraid of and that people can live normal, healthy, happy lives.
I also wanted them to know that mental illness is not the end of the world, it is just the beginning of searching for your roots once again. It is all right to still have hope for the goals and dreams that will make a person achieve success in their life.
ULM: What are some of the most common misled facts that come into association when people find out someone has a mental illness?
Some common misled facts are sometimes having a mental illness means that their crazy or a weakness in themselves. That is not true. You can still pursue goals and dreams and make a success in your future. Mental illness is a chemical imbalance and although it requires medication, it is not the only asset to recover from a mental illness. Having support from friends and family is important, doing something productive with your life like working or going back to school.
ULM: After reading your books, what would you like readers to take from them?
I would like readers to realize that there is hope for people with mental illness and that recovery is possible.
ULM: I noticed that you are an active candidate working to break the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. What are some ways others can help fight that?
You can help fight stigma in so many ways such as involving yourself with organizations that do quality work for the mentally ill like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), working as a Certified Peer Specialist, writing articles in newspapers and journals about stigma towards mental illness, etc.
ULM: As a writer, you took personal experience into creating beautiful books for both adults and children alike. What was the journey like when writing these books?
Very fun, interesting and also therapeutic. My memoir, especially was therapeutic for me because I was re evaluating my life once again.
ULM: Winning one award is like winning the lotto for most authors.. How did it make you feel knowing your books won not one but several awards?
It made me feel special and that my life story is of interest to them and that it gives people a sense of hope and encouragement.
ULM: For those readers who haven’t read your books yet, can you briefly tell them what they are about?
My first book, Surviving Mental Illness, My Story is a memoir of the heartbreaks and challenges I faced growing up with bipolar disorder and how I achieved recovey. The second book, I coauthored with my husband, is a children’s story of how two adults affected by mental illness get better with medication and support by their family and friends.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your books online?
You can find my books on amazon, barnesandnoble.com , and on my website: http://www.surviving-mental-illness.com
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Interview with S. McPherson
Me: Can you briefly tell us readers what your debut novel, At Water’s Edge, is about?
SM: At Water’s Edge tells the tale of Dezaray Storm; a 17-year-old girl from England who is mistaken for the most powerful sorceress of a distant land and one unexpected night, she is pulled through a portal leading to that realm. Dezaray is flung into a world of magic spells, empires, legends and boys; one boy in particular. As time passes, Dezaray finds herself and she finds love but she cannot stay in the mystical land of Coldivor as it is on the brink of war. For the sake of the realm, and all those that follow, she must trade places back with the real sorceress (their only hope of survival) and she must say goodbye to her darling; Milo. The trouble is, Dezaray doesn’t believe she can or that she will.
Me: Who were your hardest characters to create and which ones were your easiest?
SM: I can’t really say any of the characters were easy, each one having some attribute that I really wanted to shine through whether it be physical or emotional, and I was always aware of how what I made them do or how they did it in this book, would cement their character for the future books they appear in.
I think my hardest characters to write were Dezaray, Jude, Milo and Lexovia; more so the getting to know them and how they interact with one another and how differently each are affected by situations unfolding.
Me: What are three words you would use to describe your novel?
SM: I would say love, war and dreams sum it up quite nicely.
Me: What are your three tips that you would give to other writers?
• Invest in help from professionals e.g. cover, PR, etc.
• Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
• Never give up.
Me: What are your future plans for novels, if any, that you can share with us readers?
SM: I am currently working on the second work in the Water Rushes series. Once the entire series is completed, *sniff* I have plans for another YA Fantasy series centred around growing up.
Me: Where can readers connect with you and find your work online?
SM: I am always happy to connect with readers and can be found below:
Meet Allen Eskens
As a talented author, with two stunning novels out, what are your goals when writing a new novel?
I have, in my head, two goals, the first is to give the reader a suspenseful plot to keep them turning pages. The second goal is to draw the reader into the characters and evoke emotion. Achieving both those goals is difficult, but as a reader, that is what I look for in a novel.
Your Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Juris Doctorate degree in Law have helped shaped you as writer. When writing your novels what kind of research do you have to do, if any?
I’m always researching scenes, going to the places that I am writing about and filling my senses with what is around me. I also try to be accurate in what I write about, especially historical events that come into the novel. I do most of that research online, but have been known to hit the library to do research as well.
Can you tell us readers what it is like going through the M.F.A program?
As a matter of fair disclosure, I didn’t finish the MFA program. I already had a law degree and didn’t plan to teach, so I studied those elements of writing that I felt I needed to become a better writer. When it came time for technical writing or classes that didn’t apply to creative writing, I chose not to take them, and thus didn’t finish my degree. But while I was there, I was inspired to become a better writer. I was particularly inspired by classes that I took from Terry Davis (author of Vision Quest). I learned important tools and gained a greater understanding of the craft of writing.
Your debut novel, The Life We Bury, is the most intriguing and suspenseful novel that I have ever read. What inspired you to write such a stunning novel?
First of all, thank you very much for that wonderful compliment. The Life We Bury came from the notion that I wanted to start with an average Joe and have him thrown into an extraordinary circumstance. I came upon the idea of a college student doing an assignment from an actual assignment I did in college. But I also wanted to tie that in with an emotional story. I knew that I would have Joe running away from home to go to college, but I didn’t know at first what he was running from. When I came up with the backstory of Jeremy, the autistic brother, I knew that I had my novel.
You have mentioned that you have written a second novel called, The Guise of Another. Can you briefly tell us readers what this new book is about?
The Guise of Another is the story of two brothers who are both detectives in Minneapolis. Max Rupert (the detective from The Life We Bury) is a homicide detective and his younger brother Alexander is in Frauds. Alexander’s life and career are in a downward spiral and he gets a case that he believes will rehabilitate his reputation. He throws himself into the case and bites off more than he expected. When things get really serious, Max tries to help his brother survive the carnage that gets unleashed.
In your novel, The Life We Bury, who was your toughest character to create and which was the easiest?
I think Carl was the most difficult to create because I wanted the reader’s opinion of him to change over the course of the novel, but not because he does something overt to change that opinion, but because the reader gets to know him. I think Joe was the easiest, because there is a lot of me in Joe.
What are your other hobbies besides writing perfect thrillers/mysteries?
I enjoy wood working, although I have not had time to build anything lately, and I have rescued dogs in the past, but with the travelling that I’ve been doing, I’ll hold off on that for a while as well.
What is your advice to those wanting to become writers?
My advice is learn the craft. No matter how talented a writer may be, there is never a point where he or she should feel that they have finished learning. Even the most talented athlete still trains and gets advice from a coach. I see so many writers who think that once they have a good idea for a story that they can just write that down and have a novel. I think to myself that I should be able to take any simple tale—say Jack and Jill went up the hill—and, through craftsmanship, write a suspenseful tale full of rich language. Once a writer can do that, then they can tackle that wonderful plot idea.
What three things would you say writers should mostly focus on when creating their novels?
Characters: Make them complex. Everyone has a history and that history dictates who we are and what we think. Characters should have that complexity as well.
Plot: Understand the three-act arc. Understand the elements of plot that Joseph Campbell wrote about (see also Chris Vogler). These elements have been forged over ions of storytelling. Writers do much of this intuitively already, but if they understand what they are doing and why, they can expand upon their story.
Language: Make it fresh. Every now and again I’ll come across a line so well written that I’ll close the book and just think about the sentence (usually wishing that I’d come up with it). A book does not need to be rife with this brilliance (we can’t all be Sylvia Plath) but let the reader know that you have those arrows in your quiver (excuse the cliché).
Can you share with us readers on plans for new novels, if any?
Right now I am working on a three book arc for Max Rupert, The Guise of Another being the first of the three. After that, I have a plan for a story for Boady Sanden (the attorney in The Life We Bury). I also have a plan to do a sequel for The Life We Bury.
Where can readers find you and your books online?
You can find my books just about everywhere online, Amazon, B&N, KOBO, BAM.
Your novel, The Replacement, is an absolutely addictive read. Can you tell those readers who have not read your novel, briefly, what it is about?
The Replacement is a story about two homicide detectives, Patrick Sullivan and Jonathan Hawkins, chasing after a serial killer that the public has named The Surgeon. The only problem is that The Surgeon is so good at covering his/her tracks that the police can’t seem to find any substantial evidence to lead them to their perp. This causes a lot of tension between the two partners, who share very different views on how to go about a murder investigation.
How long would you say it took you to write it?
I created the file on January 21, 2011. I was pretty much tweaking and doing some fine tuning as far as editing was concerned up until a day or two before it was released, which was January 20, 2015. So the whole process, from start to release, took four years.
You made mention of the tension between Patrick Sullivan and his partner, Jonathan Hawkins. How would you best describe the relationship between the two?
I think the best way to describe Patrick Sullivan and Jonathan Hawkins would be to say they can easily be compared to fire and water. They are two people who have, by no means, any right to be working side-by-side with each other. Yet they are forced to and, as one could guess, it’s not always smooth sailing. They share completely different views of the job, which only leads to a continuous building tension throughout the story. This adds a dynamic to the story that I don’t think could be portrayed if the two partners got along just fine.
What inspired you to write The Replacement?
Years ago, my friends and I got the brilliant idea to start writing screenplays. Our first attempt was at a comedy, and, looking back at it now, it was pretty terrible. Still, back then, we thought we were writing gold! During this time, I came up with the idea for a screenplay about a rookie detective coming in to replace a retiring veteran, and they end up working a case together; chasing after a serial killer—I swear I did not come up with this idea while watching the movie, Se7en! Haha. I also had the ending plotted out, which I’m obviously not going to discuss here.
So years later, when I decided I wanted to write a novel, that particular idea stuck out in my mind. I had toyed around with a few other ideas, first, but I eventually landed on the one that would become The Replacement.
What made you decide to become an author?
If I’m being honest, growing up, I never really envisioned myself being an author. My dream, starting in my teens and running through my mid-twenties, was to stand on stage; playing music. However, when a friend of mine published his own debut novel (The Never Enders by Michael Sonbert – Check it it!), I purchased a copy to show my support. When reading it, I found myself thinking how cool it was that he had created this entire novel just from something he thought up in his head. I had a bunch of ideas floating around, at the time, so I thought I would give it a shot. Once I got started, I loved it. The entire process; ranging from thinking up these stories, fleshing out characters, and then getting it from the imagination onto the paper is such a satisfying feeling. I have a far greater passion for it than I ever did for music.
As a thriller suspense novelist, what is your advice to other writers in your genre on how to write a compelling story with believable characters?
Well, for starters, I don’t consider myself a thriller/suspense novelist. I simply consider myself a novelist. The book I’m working on now does not fall anywhere near the realm of Mystery/Thriller. I don’t like the idea of being tied down to one genre. If anything, I am a writer of fiction. That would be my first advice to any writer; don’t become tied down to a specific genre, and don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons. If you have an idea that you think is good, go with it! Don’t become a mystery writer, or a romance novelist, or a horror writer. Just be a writer!
As far as the question you asked goes, the best advice I can give is to bring your characters to life. I know that sounds pretty vague and very cliché, so let me try to explain. You are playing God here, and you are creating characters and controlling their destinies… do your best to humanize them. If your reader doesn’t connect with your characters, they aren’t going to become invested. You could have the most intriguing storyline in the history of fiction, but if your characters do not resonate with your reader, there’s a chance it will fall flat. Give them lives, give them histories, give them emotions, and give them meaning. Don’t just have them do. Let the reader into their souls, and have them understand the actions.
Also, read On Writing by Stephen King. It was the first piece of advice ever offered to me when I started writing, and I’m thankful for that book every time I sit down in front of the computer to write.
What would you say influenced your writing the most?
I think, more than anything, living has influenced my writing. I like to think I’m pretty in tune with my emotions. I’m not afraid to get angry, upset, or even cry if I’m overwhelmed. I know what makes me happy, and I know what I’m afraid of. I also think I have a pretty good sense of human psychology. Now, I’m not saying I’d go and offer people advice and call it professional, but I think I have a well enough understanding of it that when I incorporate it into my writing, the reader can feel a connection with my characters or story. With living, also comes the burden of learning the sad and the ugly things that go on in this world. With the Internet, television and Smart Phones, the world is at our fingertips. I remember being on lunch at work when I heard the news of the Sandy Hook school shooting. I was on my phone; just browsing my Facebook newsfeed when I saw it. With no hassle at all, the world, and everything going on in it is at our fingertips. Those kind of things, indirectly, get incorporated into my writing. Not the actual events, but the raw emotions that comes from seeing the things that go on in this world. This is also the same for all the good things that happen in the world. We go down our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram newsfeeds, and we see friends getting engaged, married, having kids. Those things that bring us joy should also get poured into our writing just as much as the tragic things we are exposed to
What are your future projects that you are currently working on at the moment?
I am currently working on my second novel. The details of it, I am not ready to divulge, as I am only five chapters into it. I will say this about it… It is nothing like The Replacement. I think with The Replacement, I was getting my feet wet. Even though the storyline and characters are very original—at least I think they are!—the detectives chasing a serial killer has been done before. I just took something that’s been done and that’s popular, and I made it my own. This new project is me jumping into uncharted waters without a lifejacket! The idea is more out there than your popular Mystery/Thriller, and I’m not entirely sure it’s even been done before. At least that’s what I’m hoping!
Do you have any plans for any sort of follow-up to The Replacement?
As far as a follow-up goes, I have no plans for writing it, at the current moment. I’m diving into more uncharted waters, like I just mentioned. I will say this: I do know what happens to all my main characters once the last word of The Replacement has been read, and the book has been closed and put up on a shelf.
Do you enjoy reading a lot? And if so, what books have your read that you liked? Which authors inspired you?
I do enjoy reading. I wish I had more time for it, but sometimes life gets in the way of doing the things we enjoy. You should never shun life’s responsibilities, but they should never stop you, completely!!! I also wish I discovered my enjoyment of reading at an earlier age. I could’ve covered far more ground and discovered a lot more authors by now, if I did.
As far as books I have read go, I actually have a story to tell. In 2013, I decided I wanted to find a book that made me cry. Not feel sad. Not even get choked up. I wanted this book to make tears stream down my face. So I actively searched for books that would, undoubtedly, pull at the heartstrings. Attempt after attempt, book after book, author after author, and I couldn’t find the book that made me cry. Don’t get me wrong, I read some great works that year. Just nothing made me cry. So when the year ended and my goal had not been reached, I didn’t renew it in 2014. Well they always say when you aren’t actively looking for something is when you’re most likely to find it. One morning, I was sitting on my couch and nearing the end of The Fault in Our Stars, and by the time that book was finished, I was having myself a good cry. That story will always stay with me and I recommend to anyone.
Other title’s I’ve enjoyed and just couldn’t put down are Silver Lining’s Playbook, the Harry Potter Series, The Help, The Glass Castle, and Looking for Alaska. I’m currently reading A Dance with Dragons from the Songs of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series.
As far as authors who have inspired me go, Stephen King has to be at the top of that list. I start every year off with a Stephen King novel, and I’m a fan of most of his work. We share some similarities when it comes to writing. I would never be so bold as to compare myself to Stephen King, and say my writing is like his! My writing is like Jason Pellegrini’s, and that’s who I’ve always wanted it to be like. King and I just both have a strong emphasis on character development, and I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about pacing a story from him.
Other than King, I draw my inspiration from whatever I read that captivates me. You can learn just as much from reading as you can from writing. You learn what works for you and what doesn’t work for you by discovering methods that you love and hate.
Lastly, where can readers buy your novel?
My novel can be purchased at Amazon.com and on Amazon Kindle, currently. I’ll be getting it on other platforms, in the near future, hopefully. If searching for me on the actual Amazon site, I suggest searching me by name instead of title. There are other books with the same title, and you wouldn’t want to purchase the wrong one! On Kindle, last I checked, I was the third choice in the store when you search The Replacement.
As a novelist, how would you describe a writer’s lifestyle as? Crazy? Fun? Exciting?
Interesting question! I think it varies. As for my particular lifestyle, it’s unpredictable. But it’s not just because I’m a writer, it’s just how it goes. Now inside my head- that’s the crazy part. Characters constantly nagging at me to write their story (They are FAR worse than sibling rivalry) I live like a simple person. (I was going to say normal, but I’m far from normal)
How many novels have your written so far? And how would describe the experience of having written and published so many novels?
By the time this interview is seen, I should have 12 completed works in my lifetime. Three of them will never see the light of day unless I completely rework them. One was written when I was ten, another in my teen years, and then a romantic suspense when I was in my early 20’s. Then there’s the eight I have published and the one that I’m attempting to finish as I write this 🙂
As for the experience- It’s surreal. I look at my Amazon author page and think “Did I really do this?” I’ve always had a huge creative outlet, and writing has always been my way to get feelings and thoughts out. It’s my expression. Each story I write, I learn and grow more as an author.
Which novel was your very first one that you published? And can you tell us readers a little bit about that novel?
My debut story was a Christmas novel titled The Secret Santa Wishing Well. I wrote this during the late summer months in Arizona…lol. I’d had a short story in mind for a while about a man meeting a family in need and becoming their ‘Secret Santa’ somehow. What it turned into was a six year old boy making a grown up wish for his tired, overworked mother. The grumpy mall Santa (Now he has his reasons, mind you) is so touched by the boy’s wish he nominates him for an award and ends up meeting his mother. You know the rest from there…it’s a romance novel. They meet, they enjoy each other’s company, and they start to fall in love. And things happen. This story has made readers cry (that’s the only time I’m okay with making someone cry!) and it was the start to my incredible journey as an author.
Out of all your novels which one would say was your most favorite to write and why?
Oh, this question is too hard!! It’s like asking which kid is your favorite (I only have one child lol)! Each has a special place in my heart! Secret Santa because of course that’s my debut, but Baby Stetson is about music and finally finding the courage to pursue your dreams, even at a later stage in your life. I’m a singer/lyric writer myself, so writing Avery (Baby Stetson) was so much of a blast. Then the books that follow in that series. The Masterpiece books because Becca is a reflection of two of my best friends, and I adore Hunter. See? I can’t. I can’t pick just one.
What is the name of your latest novel? And can you tell us readers briefly what it is about?
My latest which is almost done, is Fallen Idol. It’s the fourth stand-alone book in my Love and Music in Texas series. Kyra Sanders, the heroine, broke out in the music scene as a teenager and soared to the top of the charts until an accident knocked her off the radar until six years later. She’s planning a comeback album, but her parents are injured in a fire in Texas so she goes to see them. The hero, Matt, is a single father dealing with his ex-wife’s abandonment when she finally decided to pursue her own music dreams but goes about it the wrong way. There’s a suspense element as well, as someone doesn’t want Kyra to make a comeback on the music scene.
What would you say inspired you to write your novels? How has this inspiration helped you as you progressed further as a talented author in your genre?
My inspiration comes from everywhere. An idea might spark from a news story, a song title, lyrics…I mean really…my muse is on full swing And will hit me with ideas all the time. Sometimes while writing my current books, I get ideas for something else. I try to keep my stories unpredictable and unique. As I progress further, I think readers are learning easily that my stories don’t fit the typical formula. There’s many layers and dimensions to my stories, and it’s because I use real life inspirations and aspects to keep them that way, but still add that element of “Escapism and fantasy’ to help readers get away from reality.
Did you always know that you wanted to become an author? Or was that something that you discovered later on?
Yes, I’ve always known this is what I wanted. Now, I moved around from novel writing to poetry, song lyrics, and then back to novels, but the writing bug has always been a part of me.
How many trilogy sets have you written? What is your advice to other writers when writing a trilogy?
The Masterpiece Trilogy is the only trilogy so far. I honestly wasn’t expecting to expand on Hunter and Becca’s story. I needed to throw a stand-alone book in between my two series, but my mind had other ideas. Halfway through writing A Masterpiece Of Our Love, I realized Becca and Hunter had so much more story to tell. I’d read a lot of trilogies lately and thought…”Sure, why not?” I’m so glad I did. Hunter and Becca have become reader favorites, and I love the two of them.
As for advice? Hmm…Never thought of that. Okay, a lot of trilogies have cliffhangers (And we all know there’s a love/hate relationship with them) What I did with mine was I left some things open, but still wrapped up part of the story. I didn’t just end it in the middle of a big scene. Still, opinions vary and some have said it’s a major cliffy, some have said it’s not at all. Oh, and don’t make the wait between books too long! I’d have made them shorter if I wasn’t in the midst of three series- but it’s still in good enough time. 🙂
Which of your characters were the easiest to write and why? And which were more challenging to write?
Easiest character? There’s two: Avery from Baby Stetson, because I feel the same passion she does about music. Becca from the Masterpiece Trilogy because she’s a reflection of special people in my life.
More challenging? Eric Jensen. He made an appearance in my first two holiday stories- The Secret Santa Wishing Well, and On the 12th Date of Christmas. In a reader’s review for On the 12th Date of Chirstmas, she mentioned she’d love for Eric to fix himself up and win back his ex. I was blown away by that, because Eric was never meant to be a good character. I showed that review to my husband, who challenged me to write his story. I had a conversation with the reader about how she already saw one redeeming quality in him from something he did. I was stuck on that story! I even watched American History X per my husband’s suggestion because I wasn’t sure I could redeem Eric. His character was the biggest challenge so far!
If a writer wants to publish his or her novel in your genre, what would be your advice?
Learn your craft. And learn more. Always know there’s room for improvement.
Make your story the best that it can be. Don’t be afraid to go outside the box. Follow your muse. Make sure you have a well written, well edited book. Network with other authors.
What are your favorite tools to use that help you out as a writer?
I don’t know if I’d call them tools, but reading and watching life around you. The world is a learning experience if you take the time to look around. And reading, because you learn all sorts of different stories and ways of writing. To me, that’s it. Simple. Easy, and right at your fingertips.
How does it feel knowing that you are working on your 9th novel?
I’m very awestruck that I’ve already made it this far. I went through a lot of things in the years before I wrote Secret Santa and published it- and that was in November 2012. Now I can’t seem to stop! (Which makes readers happy! lol) I’m just happy that there were enough people who took a chance on me that I can make this my reality!
Where can readers find your novels?
All of my books are available in eBook format on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’m working on getting a few titles still on Apple and Kobo. Also available in print on Createspace and Amazon. I’ll be working this year to have availability on my website to purchase signed books.
What are your favorite hobbies, besides writing amazing novels for us readers?
I have a LOT things I dabble in- I’m a singer and love to go to karaoke. I love photography, especially weather. I’m also into jewelry making and am in business in that field with my mom. I’m also a book blogger with my own blog Storm Goddess Book Reviews. I just love all things creative.
Where can readers contact you about your books?
I’m everywhere! Even in your dreams! (Wait, do I even want that? LOL)
My website: http://www.nikkilynnbarrett.com
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Nikki-Lynn-Barrett/e/B00A9UDX0K/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
And I have a handful of places on Facebook where you can contact/join/friend me.
Nikki’s Book Nook: a chat group about all things books! (Not just mine)
Nikki’s Book Stormers- my street team where readers can help promote me and my books. And we have fun, get sarcastic and sometimes do serious stuff 😉 https://www.facebook.com/groups/NikkisBookStormers/
or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I love talking with readers!
Thanks so much for letting me talk up a storm!
Victoria Warren Jackson Responds to the Interview Questions
- How old were you when you wrote your first book? And what was the name of that book?
I cannot remember the exact age, but I do recall writing a short story about a young girl who lived on a farm. I was in the third grade. I did not give this book a title, but I was so pleased with my work because my mother read it and asked me questions about the main character.
- How many novels have you written so far?
I have written two novels and one poetry book.
- Which is more enjoyable to you, writing poetry or writing fiction novels?
I enjoy writing fiction more than writing poetry because I have more opportunities to develop the plot, climax, and conclusion of the story.
- I noticed that one of your novels has a silver medal from Reader’s Favorite with the rating of five stars. That is the highest honor to receive from that company. How did you feel when you received that medal for your novel?
I was so happy. At first, I did not believe it. I closed my email and re-opened my email to make sure there were no technical errors. I also checked several other websites to actually read the review. This honor makes me very proud.
- On your author website you have stated that writing is therapy. Why do you think writing is a form of therapy and how so?
Writing is therapy for me because I can relax, evaluate certain situations from my own life, make sense of what is happening currently in the world, and forget any stressors from the day.
- What advice do you have for other novelist wanting to write in the same genre as you?
I would advise the novelist to read my books or other books written in their preferred genre to give them ideas on how to organize their book. Next, I would advise the novelist to get to work, and do not give up!
- Do you think that being an educator for at-risk youth has helped shape your form of writing? Why or why not?
Teaching has helped me grow as an author. The students I have taught in the past and my current students have shaped my writing style, word choice, and my selection of the audience. Some of my poems reflect experiences I had with students and parents. Being an educator requires me to be flexible and open-minded, which has helped me to step outside the box with my own writing. Working with at-risk students requires patience and understanding. The writing process is a challenging effort requiring a whole lot of patience especially when publishing and marketing the book. My students are creative, and they challenge expectations when necessary. Over the years, my students have asked me questions about grammar and mechanics. I learned it is a choice to follow grammar rules. For instance, I decided not to follow grammar rules with the title of my book Untraditional Love In The Dark. I knew what I wanted to see in print, and regardless of grammar rules, I just followed my heart.
- Can you tell us readers a little bit about your novel called Not Just Us?
Desiree and Shanna are sisters. They both lived similar lives, but Desiree becomes infected with HIV. With two children, a caring sister, a supportive mother, and a new boyfriend, Desiree’s world could be perfect. The fear of dying from AIDS stands in the way of Desiree’s happiness. For Shanna, life will never be the same.
- Which of the two sisters is your favorite character from Not Just Us? And why?
My favorite character is Shanna. I like her because she steps up during a difficult time to support her sister. She also decides to become the adoptive mother of her sister’s children after her sister dies. Shanna is the perfect example of how family love links lives.
- Can you tell us a little bit about your novel Untraditional Love In the Dark?
Samantha learns a valuable lesson about self-love after Isaiah, her future husband, jogs into her life one windy morning. On the rebound, Samantha marries Isaiah to later discover he has a violent temper. He is physically abusive, lazy, and has a naughty secret. Samantha is about to face the fight of her life when she discovers Isaiah is bisexual. As her life unravels, Samantha faces death and must triumph over adversity to rebuild her life. The conclusion is a definite surprise.
- What inspires you to write your poetry? And what three words would you use to describe your poetry?
I am inspired by family, friends, love, life, and everyday experiences. I get my rhythm from these topics. The best three words to describe my poetry are encouraging, soothing, and vibrant.
- What is the name of your fourth novel? And when will it be coming out?
The title of my fourth novel is Maricella. This book will be released in Spring, 2015.
- Can you tell us readers about your fourth novel?
The main character, Maricella, retells the details of her life in a dramatic story. Maricella is sentenced to death row after murdering an innocent woman during a brief stay in a shelter.
- Where can readers find your novels?
All of my books can be purchased on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com
Click on the link below to watch the trailer o her new book.
1) Did you always know that you wanted to be an author? If, not what made you decide to become one?
2) What is the name of your very first book that you wrote? And can you tell us readers what it is about?
3) What advice would you give to other Science Fiction Fantasy writers? Any tips?
4) What is the hardest part about writing within your genre?
5) How many books have you written so far? And can you tell us the the names of each book?
6) Who is your favorite villain from your stories? And why?
7) Who is your favorite hero in your novels? And why?
8) Name one scene in your your latest book that you really enjoyed writing about.
9) Who would say was the hardest character to come up with? And why?
10) How long did it take you to finish your first novel?
11) When writing what inspires you most?
12) Where can readers find and purchase your books?