I don’t usually re=post things of this nature. I prefer to talk about what I love, writing, But this is worth sharing with anyone who will listen, Who knows, maybe it will save a life.
Welcome Linda Schell to Author Interview Friday. Tell us a little about yourself.
Combining childhood innocence with historical verisimilitude and a dash of magical fantasy—that was the impulse behind the start of my writing career. A travel log about the city, St. Petersburg, Russia inspired me to write my first fantasy-adventure book, Come Along With Me.
I wanted to bring appreciation to American children and their parents for the magical city known for its culture, architecture, tree-lined parks, and its bridges by the hundreds. This led me to my second book, The Palace Buzz, a wacky romp coated in outrageously true history.
Perhaps one day the series will find its way into Russia, and the people there will learn that there are people here in America who have an appreciation for their history and accomplishments.
Do you remember when you first wanted to be a writer?
When I was five years old I saw a broken typewriter in my aunt’s attic, and I wanted to start writing then. I didn’t have access to a typewriter until I was a junior in high school. By then I had put my writing ideas aside.
My long-range goal is to expand the imaginations of children while simultaneously exposing them to a variety of cultures and histories. For the last twenty-four years I have lived in Venice, Florida with my husband, Tom, of forty-six years. We have one son.
Do you have a background in writing?
My background in writing is business. The Elements of Style helped me in the business world. The book is short, and informative, and easy-to-understand.
I wrote the first rough draft to my debut story in about three weeks. Because I worked full time and sometimes sixty hours in a week, it took me years to tweak it, have it edited, and finally published.
What genre are your books in?
The two books I have written are fantasy/adventure, primarily for the nine to twelve set.
The Gracie Series would be found in the children’s section for fantasy, although the books do claim a little science fiction.
I see you went with self-publishing? Why did you go that route and are you happy with the results?
The hours I worked in my day job didn’t permit me to query main-stream publishers. At the end of the day I was too tired to query. Eventually, I would like to try mainstream. I am pleased with Amazon’s Create Space. Their crew responds immediately to my phone calls. They are patient.
What has been the hardest part of writing for you?
Writing a well-crafted descriptive sentence. In order to overcome my personal obstacle, I read not for enjoyment, but to learn how other author’s craft their sentences.
What are you doing to promote your books?
I’m a novice to writing as I started two years before I retired from work. Right now I am relying on Facebook, book fairs, and my husband’s great selling skills. Eventually, I will have to move to my own blog and website. I’m talking my time and learning as much as I can about marketing before I take definitive steps.
Do you have advice for other writers just starting down this path?
If the writer is as “wet behind the ears” as I was, I hope the newbie can find a friend who doubles as a writing coach. I’m not suggesting a professional, I am suggesting someone who understands what it takes to move a story forward, and someone who understands good sentence structure. I would suggest finding a Writer’s Group to learn about social media and marketing. If new writers finds themselves in a Writer’s Group that delves on negative personal criticism and the leader of the group is weak, move on. There are lots of groups out there. Read good “how to” books. Be mindful that some books are long on form and short on good advice. Read books. Although my target audience is children’s chapter books, I read adult books to improve my writing style. J. D. Salinger is a great author to study. Personally, I don’t care much for what he says, but how he says it was a learning curve for me. When sitting down to write, don’t worry about an outline. How can an author produce an outline if the author doesn’t know what he wants to say in precise detail.? Let your pen take you to the place you want to go. If you have amassed a great deal of research data, a time line will start to emerge in your mind. At that point, write down key events of what comes next and when. Another thing I taught myself to do, I did this with my first book because I had a beginning and no middle or end, I wrote little scenes that I thought would be interesting. The scenes spawned other ideas. Before I knew it I was easily connecting one scene to another, and throwing out other scenes that didn’t fit. That said, if an outline works for the author, use an outline. Use what works. Write in a way that the reader wants to keep turning the page to find out what will happen next.
What is the premise of the book we are promoting today?
My protagonist wants to visit the magical, fairy-tale city of St. Petersburg, Russia. Instead she finds herself marooned on a dairy farm in St. Clair, Pennsylvania where she meets a new friend, Gibson, a Maine Coon Cat who was just dumped off on the farm. Gibson is a dude from the city. The two meet two evil rats who are on a mission to destroy the farm and the farmer. In the end good triumphs over evil. In the meantime the grandparents will have fun reading Come Along With Me, because it takes place in the 50’s, pink kitchen appliances, hoola hoops, and all!
Watch this interview with author Linda Lee Schell:
BUY LINKS :
EXCERPT OF BOOK Come Along With Me, Vol. 1 in the Gracie Series: (First page)
Deep inside the thirty-sixth universe, just south of the Never-Ending Rainbow, millions of shimmering spheres drift serenely through a tranquil sky. Gracie, a gentle soul, lives on one of these spheres, located near the heart of not only one of the oldest, but quite possibly the grandest of all the universes.
When the rays of the Everlasting Never-Ending Rainbow find their way to Gracie’s sphere, rose petals in myriad shades of pink and red flutter playfully to the ground. The creatures in Gracie’s world amicably take turns removing the petals from their lawns and winding paths. Here, even the local version of “bad weather” (which is always conveniently forecast well in advance by the Weather, Whether or Not creature), rarely turns out to be anything more severe than a late afternoon breeze, producing much rose-petal clutter, but little else. Undoubtedly, Gracie’s world is perfect in every way–except for one small problem: Gracie is bored.
Cheryl Abney is a retired educator with over 30 years’ experience as a teacher and counselor at all levels—college, high school, middle, and elementary. She is a current member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Florida Writers’ Association, Gulf Coast Writers’ Association, and the Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. Cheryl loves to create historical fiction stories and has written two middle-grade readers set in the Florida Lake Okeechobee area, circa 1918—Belle of the Glades, and its sequel, The Bone Field Mystery. She lives in the Florida Glades area of her story’s setting with her husband, two Jack Russell terriers (Zoey & Ditto), and her tortoise (Theo). She loves her current freelance position of creating short historical fiction stories for www.TheFreedomkids.com, and she hopes you’ll like reading them as much as she has enjoyed writing them.
Cheryl Abney weaves a new adventure in the old frontier as a young city girl meets rustic fish camp in her book Belle of the Glades. When recently orphaned Isabelle Lacy, is sent to live with her uncle on the shores of Lake Okeechobee in 1918, a whole new world is opened to her–a world shared with snakes, alligators, outlaws, and a new Indian friend.
The Bone Field Mystery is the sequel to Belle of the Glades, and it takes Belle on an adventure to solve whether there is a Bigfoot at the Bone Field. Both Christian oriented middle-grade readers can be purchased online at www.BelleoftheGladesBooks.com as an e-book or softcover through links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble (iUniverse for Belle of the Glades only).
Cheryl, do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think I inherited my note-writing from my father, who would leave these small manila- work-tags scribbled with notes on his desk (the top of the refrigerator). I kept diaries when younger and still journal, was PTA secretary a number of years, and loved English and shorthand classes. My first remembered interest dates back to a fourth grade activity of creating a class poetry book—which I still have. We each had to create three poems for this hard-cover book. I was ecstatic.
What type of writing do you do?
I have written nonfiction articles for magazines, newspapers, websites like The Parenting Network and Kids Faith Garden, but my books and short stories are historical fiction for middle-grade readers. That’s where my heart is.
Why did you choose the self-publishing Indie route? Why did I choose this publisher and would you recommend that same Indie publisher?
I was probably premature to self-publish BOTG, because I’d only submitted it half a dozen times, and was encouraged to hang tough by a writing mentor. I retired in 2011 and I wanted to see it in print…felt I didn’t have the advantage of youth to wait years. I chose iUniverse after speaking with a friend who used them, and I did my homework researching the different Indies. My sequel, TBFM, was published through CreateSpace. It involved more work on my part, but I had more control over the product price…which dictates our profit margin.
I know that feeling of wanting to hold your book in your hands. I don’t think patience is an easy virtue for authors.
Do you always write in the same POV or do you switch it up.
I have always written my books in third person POV. It wasn’t until this year, when hired to write historical-fiction short stories for middle graders in first person, that I attempted this POV. It was definitely a learning curve, but I do feel it more effective in getting your reader into the story—as if they’re experiencing it.
I am also working on my adult historical romance, but keeping it in third person POV; so yes, I’m switching it up. I find I have to edit the short, first-person stories carefully so I don’t slip back into my books’ POV.
Are you a pantser or a planner?
I have done both, but I tend to grab an idea and jot a few notes, then write, write, write. I usually end up stopping at some point and creating a plan. But over all, I’m a pantser. I must admit to trying some excellent planning programs, but don’t follow through with them. However, I think it’s extremely important that you do lengthy character sketches of each main character before starting to write. I clip pictures from magazines for images. I’ve heard it said that you don’t “write what you know, but who you know.” Personalities, I steal from people I know. I heard one author assigned character names starting with the letter of the known person’s name, who she could relate the character’s personality to. Important thing, is to get to know your character well, before writing.
What advice would I give to new writers just started with their first manuscript?
Two notes of advice—join a supportive, productive writers’ group and an editing group; and practice discipline. Set a definite, nonnegotiable time of the day to write, and write most every day. I’m most productive when I treat my writing like the business it is—showing up regularly.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I enjoyed reading Patrick Smith’s A Land Remembered, and Zora Neale Hurston’s There Eyes Were Watching God, both about the everglades; I thought it’d be enjoyable and educational to write about the area I reside in from a young reader’s view.
How did you come up with the title?
When I was a young college student first introducing myself to a class, the professor kiddingly referred to me, that one instance, as “Belle of the Glades.” I’ve never forgotten it, even though I now know the label was referring to Belle Glade (my residence then) by its original name.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
May sound corny, but I like to think it says “home is where the heart is.” Home has nothing to do with money, possessions, popularity, location—but a lot to do with security found in family, faith, and friendship.
How much of the book is realistic?
The dates and locations of the islands and settlements bordering Lake Okeechobee, the Palm Beach Canal, 1918 flu epidemic, and environment are realistic. I’ve created the Glades Runner, Sam’s store, and Hayes’s Fish Camp—but representative of the real things.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Pieces of every author creep into their writings. In BOTG, my youth was more like Belle’s after she came to live at her uncle’s fish camp. I loved wading and catching pollywogs, frogs, and turtles in the pond near home. My friends and I climbed the sand hills and wandered paths in the woods.
What book are you reading now?
I enjoy historical books like BOTG. Right now I’m reading the second in a series that started with an historical time-travel plot—Tomorrow & Always by Barbara Bretton. It’s captivating, as I hope Belle of the Glades is.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I belong to several writing groups, but Gulf Coast Writers Association (Fort Myers) has definitely been the most interactive and rewarding. They meet the third Saturday of every month. I also meet with three other ladies, Critique Critters, to edit each other’s work once a month.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Francine Rivers is my favorite author. I just finished her current series that starts with Her Mother’s Hope (Marta’s Legacy). It is historical and crosses three generations. This Christian author, whom I’ve heard and met at conference, writes detailed accounts of another time and place, so that the reader is transported to that era.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)
No, because I’ve lived in the area of my setting, Lake Okeechobee, for 43 years. I have, however, visited many of the museums within driving distance to research the material in BOTG. Have you learned anything from writing your book?
I’ve learned how difficult it is to publish and market a book for profit. I’ve learned to stress less and enjoy the journey. An author needs to enjoy the accomplishment—the fruition of their efforts. Enjoy the kind comments and support from readers, and keep their eyes on the original goal to share knowledge and pleasure. I would advise young writers to follow their dream now—for it’s true that “tomorrow never comes.”
Writing for profit has a long learning curve, so take advantage of writing clubs, online seminars, workshops—and write. Google “young author publishers,” and check out CreateSpace. Parents can encourage their children’s writing by helping them navigate CreateSpace and publish 5 copies of their book for a minimal fee.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
A link to a short-story sample can be found at www.BelleoftheGladesBooks.com, as well as book purchase links. I hope you enjoy Belle’s adventure and will contact me.
Thank you so much for a wonderful interview. Cheryl’s books are available through:
Create Space: The Bone Field Mystery: http://www.createspace.com/4500669
Her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylabney
Her website: www.BelleoftheGladesBooks.com.
Welcome Shannon Danford to Author Interview Friday. I have met Shannon twice now in author events such as Marco Island’s AuthorFest. It is a pleasure to have her on my blog today.
Shannon, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?
Some of my earliest memories are of my parents reading to me, reading whatever they happened to be reading. Not surprisingly, I became intrigued with the magic of the written word. Then, in the fourth grade, my teacher published some of her students’ stories and after seeing my story in ink, I knew writing was in my future. That future turned into a circuitous journey that ultimately provided the stories that needed a voice. I saw my first book in print at age 49. It’s been a long road.
I know the feeling. Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication?
I have an undergraduate degree in marketing, so I have a basic understanding of the pipeline from creator to end user. And since I’m not a fan of traditional marketing, I’m employing a strategy that makes more sense to me – place a high value on creativity throughout the product cycle; it keeps things fresh and authentic. To that end, I think the wordsmith/creator has to reinvent herself to adapt to a new literary world where she has to escort the book from concept all the way to the end reader and employ her creativity in ways that defy traditional marketing. At this point, if a major press became interested in my books, I don’t think I’d sell out the flow and process I’ve forged. I like being a rebel.
What does finding your “Voice” mean to you?
I think part of the human experience is coming to understand your authentic self which naturally includes the discovery of your own voice. Whether you play an instrument, dance, cook, paint or write, that spark that animates us wants to be known. For me it happened while working in a nursing facility. Watching people die (often without any family around) and handling things like adult briefs that no one wants to touch, takes a toll on you. To get through the day, I started imagining I was on the set of a sitcom. If I didn’t figure out how to laugh about my situation, I would be too depressed to function. That humorous perspective allowed me to survive and ultimately flourish. Back then, finding my voice was liberating. Today, writing in that voice keeps me grounded.
What was your biggest challenge in learning to write or in the industry?
For me, the hardest part of writing is changing hats from writer to editor, to publicist, to publisher, to marketer. But the literary world is in flux and I believe to survive it, one must adapt. On a positive note, I have to think that with every book the obstacle course gets more familiar and easier. I look forward to the day when I can take off my training wheels.
Do you have any advice for new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Believe that you can’t fail. You are the only person who can speak in this voice; you have a story to tell. The only way you can lose is to stop writing! When you have a finished manuscript, get as many people to read it as possible and listen to their feedback with an open mind. Then buy the best editing you can afford.
Complete this sentence……. My favorite place to write is …..
My favorite place to write is at my desk with a cup of coffee on my right and a lighted fragrant candle on my left. Celtic music plays in the background and it is raining outside. Ahhhh
What’s your next big writing challenge?
Everything I’ve written to date has been humorous and I plan to continue in that genre for at least two more books; however, my sister writes screenplays and encouraged me to give that a try. So I’m working on a story that is told largely through pictures. It is a challenge that I think will help sharpen my dialogue skills and allow me to explore another writing medium. Beyond that, I’ll go where the muse leads.
Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet our appetite?
This excerpt is from my third book in the blues series – Chinese Takeout Blues.
“What the hell is this?” Bucky knelt down and picked up the script. He began to read the questions out loud. When he looked up, Bucky’s mouth hung open, unhinged; his eyes were black pinpoints of malice.
Mo collected the rest of the pages and tucked them away. Then he stood and faced his colleague. “I would like to say I’m sorry, but I’m not, Bucky. You don’t deserve to serve the people of this county.”
Fern made no move to turn off the camera when she left the sound booth. Hiram followed behind and they entered the chamber where the two commissioners were still facing off.
“You did this!” Bucky shook the paper at Fern, spittle flying from his mouth.
Fern nodded. “Yes. I had to do something before you hurt anyone else.”
Bucky stormed toward her full of enmity and rage. “Are you trying to shake me down?” He drew up to within a foot of Fern and stood, nostrils flaring with each breath, oblivious to the fact that his entire comb-over hung free, dangling from his barren pate down to his shoulder like a threadbare beret. Buell closed the gap between them to inches. “This is setup!” He held the script under her chin and then released it. It floated harmlessly to the ground.
“No, sir, this is justice.” Fern said the first words that came to her. She stood toe-to-toe with the man, daring him to push her further. Buell flinched first, turning to the sound of the chamber doors opening. After several very tense seconds, all of which were being recorded, Fern knelt and picked up the paper, turned on her heel, and left him seething in his Kenneth Cole loafers.
Thank you Shannon. Where can readers buy Chinese Takeout Blues or your other “Blues” mysteries?
To purchase my books at the best price, go to my website: www.mamasluckymojo.com
There are also available on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Shannon%20Danford&search-alias=books
Sarah walked in to Marco Island Writers and stole everyone’s heart. She is a breath of fresh air among most of us grey haired (if we were honest – only L’Oreal knows for sure.) To my great surprise, Sarah was anything but a novice. Tell the readers a little of your background.
Sure. When I was an undergrad, I took several creative writing courses. I took two or three poetry classes, one fiction, and one creative nonfiction course. I majored in English and had a creative writing minor. After undergrad, I earned my Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I took two years of creative writing courses and finished my degree by writing a thesis that was a full-length book. My first book, The Other Summer Girl, was not my thesis but I did get started on it while in grad school.
How long did it take you to write The Other Summer Girl?
From first starting the book to pressing Publish on Amazon, it took about a year and a half – I wrote the first 60 or so pages while I’m grad school, took almost exactly a year off from writing The Other Summer Girl, and then finishing writing and editing in six months.
Tell us aboutThe Other Summer Girl.
If I could say which shelf in the bookstore my book would appear, I’d have to say Young Adult. Some might consider this YA Romance, some might say just YA, and others might consider it New Adult (NA) because the protagonist is a freshman in college.
I do think that my book would speak most to a YA audience because I feel like it speaks to the issues a freshman might experience – homesickness, social anxiety, love, being in a new place, growing up and so on. When you’re a freshman in college, you are technically a new adult but I think there’s a blurred line between this YA/NA genre labeling. Melanie Collier, the main character in The Other Summer Girl, is very much a young adult – yes, an older young adult but still a young adult – when she enters college. Her naïveté and social hesitations make her a character that I think a lot of high school students could look to and get an idea of what college is like – I wish there had been a book like mine or like Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl when I was freaking out about leaving home and being in a whole new town. It is my hope that the YA audience will connect with Melanie on some level and be able to go on this college journey with her. I am working on the sequel, The Fall Of Us (working title), that will be out by late summer.
Let’s talk about writing style. Do you always right in the same POV?
I started writing The Other Summer Girl in 1st person and discovered that I wanted the story to be told with more uninhibited observation, so I moved it to 3rd person past tense. I felt like 1st person, especially in present tense, didn’t offer the reflective distance I was looking for the main character to have. I also feel like the 3rd person/past tense gives the story the feel that the character can make it through her social struggles in the end and that there is a summer after that first year to regroup and grow and move forward.
I sometimes write poetry in 1st person, and I think I will experiment with 1st person in future novels. But for now I like the 3rd person POV.
Sarah, what makes you tick? In other words, why do you write?
I write for many reasons but if I had to choose I would say because there’s something about it that fulfills me. When write a sentence or paragraph or scene of dialogue that just clicks and reflects exactly what the feeling is for that moment, it makes me happy and I hope that others can gain something from my story if it’s something as simple (and amazing) as just enjoying the story.
My favorite place to write is anywhere that serves fresh coffee and a has large windows. But there are those nights, especially when I was finishing The Other Summer Girl, I wrote on my big comfy couch with my laptop into the early hours of the morning. I also have to play music while I write – there’s something about it that makes the writing flow easier.
I hope you all will check out my debut novel, The Other Summer Girl, available for 99 cents on Amazon. If you want to learn more about the book and read some of my blog posts, head on over to my website: sarahdtowne.com
In addition to writing, I am also an editor. I co-founded E&E Literary Services with my mom; we work with writers on developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading. We also have been beta readers and can help you with your social media creation and management. If you would like more information, you can visit our website eeliteraryservices.com or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
I am pleased to have author, Vanessa Covington with us today on Author Interview Friday. Originally from Philadelphia, Vanessa moved to Los Angeles in the 1980’s where she was inspired to write “The End of the Rainbow.” Vanessa currently lives in Bonita Springs with her husband Kevin and children Regina and Kent. Tell us about your novel Vanessa.
My novel is based on real events, inspired from my exposure to life in the big cities of Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The story is about two young girls who travel from Philly to L.A. in search of a new beginning but finds themselves involved in a murder. It takes place in the 80’s.
I had the idea to write “The End of the Rainbow” almost twenty five years ago when I lived in Los Angeles. Life took me into other directions at the time so I didn’t focus on writing. In 2007, I finally started my outline and kept at it until I published my novel in March, 2013. I love writing thrillers and writing in narrative form.
That is impressive that you stuck with it for six years. I’ve heard people say that is is easy to start a book, it is finishing it that takes the real work. What does “finding your voice” mean to you?
Finding my voice in this novel was easy because it was inspired by real events. To me, finding my voice would mean writing about what I know and expounding on it.
Marketing is difficult for all of us. What do you do to promote your book?
I’m trying to get as much exposure as possible by attending book signing events and marketing through my website and social media. I had two booksigning events at Barnes & Noble Fort Myers and Naples stores. I recently joined the S.W. Florida’s Writer’s Group so that I can learn more about promoting and writing from other authors. My next goal is to write a screenplay.
New writers look to those that have been through the ropes, so to speak. If a new author approached you, what would you say to him/her?
My advice to new writers is to never give up. Writing can be extremely frustrating when you hit that block and can’t transition into the next paragraph or chapter. Remember, something will come to you eventually that will get you writing pages and pages afterwards. Be patient.
A tidbit from my novel:
TWO YOUNG WOMEN TRYING TO START A NEW LIFE IN LOS ANGELES BECOME EMBROILED IN A MURDER COVERUP.
. . . She waited, ready to knock him back down with the statue the moment he tried to stand. When he didn’t move, she thought he was unconscious and the worst that would happen was that he would sleep off the booze, wake up with a nasty headache, and apologize for what he had one to her.
Blood trickled down his face . . . she lifted his head to place a towel around it to keep the blood from reaching the Berber carpet. He wasn’t breathing.
Thank you Vanessa. Readers, you can find Vanessa’s book on this link: http://www.amazon.com/End-Rainbow-Vanessa-Covington-ebook/dp/B00BTN26LS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394890708&sr=1-1 Visit her website at: thecallgirlchronicles.com
I would like to welcome back Shannon Thompson, who was on Author Interview Friday when I first started my blog about a year ago. This young lady is an inspiration to everyone, and especially to the young people that are contemplating starting into a career as a writer.
Shannon, complete this sentence….. My first ever published piece of writing was November Snow. It was a dystopian science-fiction novel for teens. It was published in 2007, but I hope to re-publish it one day. (It’s still available as a paperback, but I was 16 when it was published. I would love to send it out in the world again.)
How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript? November Snow was completed in 2005, but it wasn’t published until 2007, so two years. I didn’t get published again until 2012, but since then, I’ve had a steady stream, so never give up – it might take a few years, but it’s worth it.
What advise would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript? During your first manuscript attempt, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just enjoy the writing, feel the story, and if it works out – great! – if it doesn’t , that’s okay, too. I believe I wrote two novels almost to the end before I finished November Snow. Sometimes, artists have to create a lot before they finish what they want to share with the world.
Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way? Sure! My mother was a writer, so she taught me a lot. After that, I was taken under the wing of T.L. McCown, and then I went to the University of Kansas where I studied poetry, fiction, screen writing, and many kinds of literature.
Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s: My published novels alternate between a boy and a girl telling the story. My upcoming novel that releases March 27 also alternates, but my NEXT novel is only told from one perspective, so I’m excited to share it with everyone.
Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore? Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise in The Timely Death Trilogy would be in the Young-Adult section for sure, probably in paranormal romance.
Do you always write in the same genre? Actually, I’m a firm believer in writers exploring other genres, even if they don’t plan on publishing it, because we learn by pushing through our boundaries. I’ve written in many genres, and I was amazed that I ended up getting some of my “outside” genres published, such as military fiction and poetry.
Here is her synopsis for her 2nd book, Seconds Before Sunrise
Two nightmares. One memory.
“Chaos within destiny. It was the definition of our love.”
Eric has weeks before his final battle when he’s in an accident. Forced to face his human side, he knows he can’t survive if he fights alone. But he doesn’t want to surrender, even if he becomes the sacrifice for war.
Jessica’s memory isn’t the only thing she’s lost. Her desire to find her parents is gone and so is her confidence. But when fate leaves nightmares behind, she decides to find the boy she sees in them, even if it risks her sanity.
Thank you Shannon. I can’t even imagine having enough of my head together to write a novel at sixteen. Good luck in your career. I know you will go far. I expect to see your books to be equal to the Harry Potters and Hungers Games of the world very soon. Readers, go to her website below to get more information and to buy her books.
Judy, it is such a pleasure to have you with us today on Author Interview Friday. Tell us a little about yourself.
Originally from downstate Illinois, I now live in rural Virginia, inspired by the history that surrounds me. I have six grown children, nine grands and great grands, and a growing bunch of furry grandchildren. I have been writing seriously most of my adult life, first as a school administrator in charge of producing newsletters, enrichment class lessons and the flurry of papers all of you parents receive from your child‘s school daily.
Under contract to the Department of Defense in the Pentagon, I wrote proposals and training, testing and technical support materials. Now retired, I write for pleasure alone drawing on a background of many classes, extensive reading, a love of history and the English language, working in the theater and as an historic house docent. These days I can indulge full-time in writing short stories, poetry, and novels.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Around the age of ten. I wrote a play about a band of gypsies gallivanting around a forest – kind of a cross between Carmen and Robin Hood. My very best 4th grade girl friends and I produced it for our parents to thunderous applause. I was hooked and have been writing ever since.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. For instance, the inspiration for my recently published first novel was the book, Born Fighting, How the Scotch Irish Shaped America, by the former Senator from Virginia, James Webb. I also love the story of the founding of America, and my own trip to Scotland where I unexpectedly discovered that my family name, Allen, has Scottish roots.
Primarily, when I sit down to write, I draw on my pool of distilled experience: everything from people I have known to places I have been to achievements and failures, pleasures and pain. The memory bank can be a strange place to visit, but so much of what I dredge up from there often lands on the page – a fit of laughter, a painful affair, the scent of a long desiccated sprig of lavender plucked from a childhood garden, all woven together with fragments of truth and wild sprints of imagination. And that is why I write. It is such an adventure.
Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?
I like to say I have a PhD in Living – a little conceit of mine, as much like my secretly adopted mentor, John Steinbeck, I have never completed a degree program, but if experience has anything to do with putting words on paper, I’ve probably done it or taken a class in it. But the daily practice of writing to make a living has been the best education. I have written newsletters, white papers, administrative, technical and financial reports, government proposals, user guides and training plans, software test plans, meeting minutes – facts, protocols, standards. All wonderful training for learning how to organize thoughts, write succinctly, and deliver an exact message. My relief from this routine was reading the best fiction I could get my hands on, working evenings in the theater and as a docent at the historic house of James Madison, Montpelier.
How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?
From first ‘bee in the bonnet’ to actual publication of my first novel, The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae, took about eight years of fits and starts, several iterations of the story, and at least two years of rewrites.
Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?
After hearing Kathryn Stockett’s story of having her novel, The Help, rejected by 60 literary agents, I decided I was getting too old to go through that ordeal and chose to self-publish. It has become an accepted and much more respected way to go than in the past.
I investigated several independent publishing houses, but after attending a seminar run by a fellow writer, I published through Amazon’s Create Space. I am a bit of a technical dunce, but after an initial learning curve, found the process easy, and am quite pleased with the final products: a print-on-demand quality paperback and a Kindle version. And I might add – at no cost.
Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?
Interestingly enough, The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae is written in three POV’s – that of the two contemporary main characters living in 1946, and of the 1746 writer of the titular diary.
With part of the story taking place in the 1700’s, I would guess your story would fit under Historical fiction. Did you do a lot of research to make sure the scenes fit the era as far as language, clothes, mannerisms? How closely do you stick to history to make sure it is correct? What other challenges do you face when writing in a different era?
My novel should probably be listed first as Historical Fiction with sub-genres (if there is such an animal) of mystery, literary fiction, family, love, and with a stretch of the parameters, ‘coming of age’ because the primary character, Margaret is a naïve 21 year old with as much ‘street sense’ as a 12 year old.
However, the background is American History. I wanted to explore life’s experiences during two eras not only very different from today but were, in my opinion, incubation periods for the country we have today: 1746, when waves of immigrants were arriving in America just as it is poised to launch the war from which it grew into a fledgling power; and 1946, when the United States, victorious in World War II, emerged as a world power.
I have tried to make the historical references, locations and culture as authentic as possible by doing extensive research on both eras. It was necessary to verify all of the items you mention as well as current events, laws, economics, antiques, plant life, food – I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Then I began on research of Scottish independence, emigration, indenture, migration, frontier life and finally Cherokee culture. It was great fun.
What does “finding your Voice” mean to you and how did you find yours?
My novel is strong on character development and in order to accomplish that I needed to ‘befriend’ my characters. Strange as it may sound, they became as familiar to me as family. I found I could think like each one, talk like each one, and each one is very different. The process started as I wrote back stories for the two main characters, Margaret and Phil. Where were they born, what were their family and childhood experiences, their coming of age, education, conflicts, and the problem or event that brought them to my novel. My “Voice” actually became theirs.
It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?
Marketing is not my strong point. I know that a good platform is important: social media, website, blogs, etc. And I am working on these. But as a neophyte, I find my best results to date have come from personal appearances, talks and book fairs.
As my website is in the design stages, please find The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae on Amazon at the link below: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=diary+ewan+macrae
Are you a pantser or a planner?
I have a blanket plan and usually an ending. Getting from the beginning to that end, I am a pantser. Also I have experienced the phenomena where my characters dictate what they want to do. When I follow their lead, the results are often better that what I had planned.
What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Write, write, write. Let the story flow. Get involved in a good critique group that understands your genre and listen to their criticism – it is good food for thought. You can take it or leave it, but do consider it. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?
The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae is a story of self discovery and America’s early years told through the experiences of Margaret Macrae, a naïve North Carolina small town girl trying to survive on her own and Phil Domin, a jaded New York City writer running from the law. Together they search for the answers to a mystery, uncover a conspiracy, and fall in love. A source of strength and inspiration for them both is the 200 year old diary written by Margaret’s Scottish ancestor who fled to America in 1746. The accounts, spanning two centuries have amazing parallels.
Thank you Judy. Your book sounds intriguing. I can’t wait to read it. Can you share a few paragraphs to wet our appetite?
Shafts of light leaked from the edges of the drawn shades of Marlin’s Cafe. Thinking these security lights, Margaret piled the cookie tins against the door when, startled – she toppled into a snow drift – Marlin opened the door. “What’s all the racket out here? Well, look who it ain’t. Come on in, gal, ya look like a block o’ ice. What in the world are ya bringin’ me?”
“Cookies,” said Margaret, her teeth chattering, “I made so many, I thought maybe you could use them.”
Marlin pulled the lid from one of the tins. “Lawdy, lawdy, will ya smell that – cinnamon and cloves.” She opened another tin, “Good gracious, these’re chocolate and nuts.” A third tin revealed, “lemon, just like they’re fresh from the tree.” On and on, “Mincemeat, almond, peppermint sprinkles, Christmas trees and stars. Gal, you are really somethin’. You musta used yer entire month’s sugar ration coupons.
“Come on in here. I am gonna fix you a big old cuppa hot cocoa. Take the chill outa your bones. Phil, will you come see what just dropped in.”
Out from the kitchen, wearing a long white apron, wiping his hands on a greasy towel, came Phil Domin. Another surprise.
“I been here all day,” said Marlin. “Gettin’ ready for the big Christmas day crowd. Bakin’ hams and turkeys. Can ya smell ‘em? Phil stopped by for coffee on his way home.
“Say, we got nothing else to do tonight. My money says you’re in the same boat. How ‘bout stayin’ and helpin’ with the cookin’?”
Margaret nodded – an uninvited impulse. The day was full of them. The warmth of the room – perhaps it was the company – melted the cold from her body and the usual shyness from her heart. Cocoa was brewed, three cups poured, a plate of cookies shared, stories of culinary disasters, remembered snowball fights, embarrassing moments, and the pageant chaos that, doubling over in laughter at the telling, they dubbed, the Christmas Riot of ’46.
Marlin rose from the table. “Y’all stay put. Time to check on the turkeys; take out the hams. We can sneak a bit for us to lay on some supper. If one of you knows how, you might throw together a little punch. And put on some music, Maggie, honey. It’s just plain dark outside. You best plan to stay the night with me.”
Margaret didn’t protest, but stacked the player with records and switched it on. Phil swirled together in a big glass snifter, a potent mixture of orange juice and champagne with a shot of Cointreau, a dash of sugar.
“Here, taste this.” He handed Margaret a tiny glass. She sipped the bubbly liquid and her nose began to run. It was her first taste of alcohol, titillating and wonderful.
Marlin returned carrying plates of turkey, ham and crusty bread, spicy apples, brandied pudding, ripened cheese and walnuts. They feasted and drank and laughed some more.
The café was warm and filled with the smells of cooking: cinnamon and nutmeg, pineapple and cloves, rosemary and sage. Marlin lit the strings of tiny white lights that hung round the windows, the red, blue and green ones on the tree that sat in the corner. Phil dimmed the café lights. The strains of White Christmas drifted from the record player. Snow began to fall.
With one hand at her back, Phil lifted Margaret from her chair and drew her close. As his lips brushed her cheek, she warmed with the feeling of falling into white clouds of soft cotton and silk, and smooth as breezes blowing through the trees, they moved as one to the enchantment of the song.
Who knew Christmas could be such a magical time? Who knew a grieving girl could grow into a woman overnight? Who guessed a cynical old New Yorker and a shy naïve mountain girl could fall in love?
“I did,” smiled Marlin. “I did.”
Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a very accomplished author, with both traditional publishing houses and self-published works. Susan Squires offers a wealth of information about her journey in the literary world.
Joanne: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?
Susan: I tried to write my first book when I was twelve. It was first person from the point of view of my dog. Got 35 pages on an old typewriter. So writing was always in me. I was a theater major in school and then switched to English literature. I considered a creative writing masters degree, but chickened out. Then life got in the way. I got a Masters in English Literature, and then got a job. The company was growing fast, and I got promoted. Pretty soon I felt stuck. So I started to write on the side. The degree in English literature was actually a problem. I’d spent years being a critic and reading the masters of literature. Anything I tried to write, I just got disgusted with because it wasn’t good enough. What finally got me started was a book I bought that I thought had a great premise. But the execution really disappointed me. I thought, I may not be Jane Austen, but I can do better than that. That freed me from my inner critic long enough to get a book written. It wasn’t very good. But I learned along the way.
Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?
Susan: I was first published by a New York Publishing House. My first publisher was Dorchester Publishing. I wrote five books and a novella for them. Then I switched to St. Martin’s Press (a division of McMillan) and published 11 books and two novellas there. I got my first agent at the San Diego State University Writing Conference. They allowed agent and editor appointments, where you got to submit the first seven pages of your manuscript. The agent who read the first pages of my book, Danegeld, offered to represent me. I thought I was in! But she couldn’t sell the book. It was dark and very carefully researched historical paranormal about Vikings and Saxons in Dark Age Britain, when language was changing, and religion, and cultures were clashing. I went on to write the next book, but I loved Danegeld, and didn’t want to let it die. I joined Romance Writers of America, and started entering contests where the finalists were judged by editors. Danegeld won the paranormal division of 11 contests, but it was one I didn’t even win (I think I came in third overall) where the editor from Dorchester who read it bought the book. So, I believe in both writer’s conferences and contests! I often judge contests to give back to others what I was given.
Joanne: Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indi publisher to a colleague?
Susan: After 17 books with New York publishers, and being on both the USA Today and New York Times bestsellers lists, I burned out. I’d been working a day job of 50 plus hours a week as an Executive for a Fortune 500 company as well as producing a book on deadline every 9 months for 12 years. I thought I could do it forever. I couldn’t. I was fortunate to be able to take early retirement from the dayjob. But the joy of writing was gone. It took about six months to a year to re-emerge. It was then that I conceived my six book Children of Merlin Series about the big, modern day Tremaine family who have inherited a magic gene from Merlin of Camelot. Each sibling is drawn to another person with the magic gene. With true love comes a magic power. Of course, it isn’t that easy. Each has unique problems to overcome. And there are those who inherited their magic from Morgan Le Fay who become the Tremaine family’s enemies. But I was excited to live with that family and watch the kids grow up. My agent said he could have sold it, if not to New York, where the market is tough, to one of the reliable independents like Montlake or Sahmain. But I looked at having deadlines again, and I didn’t want to do it. So I published them myself. I love it. No deadlines. I have a pretty big mailing list because of my prior career and it’s worked out fine. The first two books in the series (Do You Believe In Magic? and He’s a Magic Man) were the winner and runner up in the Book Seller’s Best Contest paranormal category, which just allowed self-published books in this year. So I’m writing what I want, and getting it out there without having to deal with deadlines and marketing departments. Would I self-publish without having published in New York first? Probably not, if I thought the book had a chance at getting bought by New York. They have great distribution, and they can make your career.
Joanne: What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?
Susan: Synopsis! Without question, the synopsis is the hardest part for me. I started out as a pantster, and we hate synopses. The first three books I sold to Dorchester were already completed when they sold. No problem. That editor bought the next two books off a vague description in a half-page email. But then I went to ST. Martin’s Press. While my editor there bought three books on the strength of one of those half-page emails (and the fact that I had five books published, so I did have a track record), she didn’t want me to do that to her in the future. It was too risky for her. So she structured my contracts so I got paid 50% of the advance on signing the contract, 10% on her acceptance of the synopsis, and 40% on delivery of an acceptable book. Voila! I was not allowed to be a pantster anymore. I learned to do synopses. I even teach classes in how to do it now. But it was painful! Now I will say this—it saves time and pain in writing the book. You never get lost in the middle, or write yourself into a corner, because you have figured it out in advance. And it’s just a fact of life that you deviate from the synopsis if you have to do that to get the book done. It’s like a roadmap, and that can be a good thing.
Joanne: What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Susan: Take the time to learn to write well. We’re all so anxious to get our book published that we send it out before it’s ready. I did that. My first book was nowhere near in a shape to be published. I sent it out and got a lot of discouraging rejections. I re-did it (and it still wasn’t ready) and sent it out again. This time one agent said she thought it had hope, and if I’d cut it in half she’d look at it. I didn’t know how to do that, so I never sent it back to her, and got discouraged again. So the other advice I would give you is, don’t stop. Keep plugging away at the craft, and when it’s ready, or the next one you write is ready, keep sending it out. I wasted years in discouragement when I could have been practicing my craft and been published much sooner. (That first book did see the light of day. I reworked it again after I sold Danegeld and the editor wanted to know what else I had in the drawer. He bought it and it was published as Sacrament.)
Joanne: What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?
Susan: Waiting for Magic is the third book in the Children of Merlin Series. This one is a little different than the first two books, Do You Believe in Magic? and He’s a Magic Man, in that it follows two members of the Tremaine clan. Keelan Tremaine waits for the promise of true love that will activate the magic in her genes, now that two of her siblings have already found their soul mates and their power. Waiting turns out to be hard. But if waiting is hard for Kee, not having the Merlin gene at all is harder for Devin, the orphan adopted by the Tremaines when he was nine. He and Kee have lived like twins, but now they have to accept that their paths will diverge. Everything is about to change.
Joanne: Can you share a few paragraphs from your book, Waiting for Magic, to wet out appetite?
A misshapen shadow fell across Kee’s canvas. Her brush, laden with the deep teal she was using for the early November shadows under the pergola, paused in midair. The somber tone of her painting matched her mood today. She might be moving out of her Monet period. The question was, whose style was she moving into? She sighed.
“Those are going to fall off one of these days,” she said to the shadow without turning.
“You always say that,” the familiar deep voice complained. “They never do.”
She gave a reluctant smile and swiveled. In spite of his protest, Devin put his surfboard down on the lawn and hiked up the baggy, wet board shorts from hips to waist, retying the cord. The chill November wind had dried his body on the hike up from the beach, but his longish blond hair was still wet and dark. She refused to ask if he was cold. He always called the weather “brisk,” even if she was freezing. Today she’d bundled up in a turtleneck under the men’s work shirt she used as a painter’s smock, while Devin was half-naked. Salt rime left a wavy line over his tanned chest and shoulders. He had to be strong to surf the big waves and he’d worked hard at it. His muscles were sleek. Like a seal, he seemed to have been born for the water.
Kee turned herself forcibly back to her painting. Somehow the bougainvillea looked like the last bright defiance of the coming winter. She hadn’t intended to make it seem so poignant.
“You just want to give those surfer girls a thrill,” she said over her shoulder.
He snorted and plopped down on the grass. “Like I care.”
“Not for any of them?” she asked, suddenly serious.
Her brother, with whom she’d shared everything since they were nine, had seemed, well, closed off lately. She’d thought maybe he’d finally found a girlfriend. “You’ve got to start dating.” It was inevitable. She’d been dreading it, but he had to move on. He wasn’t a boy anymore.
Everyone’s life would move on, except hers. She was like that mosquito stuck in amber for a zillion years from Jurassic Park. Frozen, still.
Thanks Susan. Readers – here are the links to her website and Facebook pages so you can order her books. It has been a pleasure to have you on Writing Under Fire’s Author Interview Friday.
Susan’s Website: http://www.susansquires.com/
Susan’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susansquiresbooks
Do You Believe in Magic Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007SH6YL2/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb
He’s a Magic Man Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0099G5ISA/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb
Waiting for Magic Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G76PXHG/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb