The Writing Life Interviews: Elizabeth Passo

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Welcome to The Writing Life blog, where I have the pleasure of chatting with authors every Tuesday for our Author Interview series. 

I enjoy taking a December sabbatical from writing to enjoy the holiday preparations for our annual family Christmas visit and dinner. This year I decided to host one special author. Since Christmas is all about love, wonder, fun, and family, especially children, please welcome award-winning author of children’s books, Elizabeth Passo.

Elizabeth Passo has always had a happy knack for rhyme and stories, and impulsively bombards her friends and family with her imaginative creations. The challenge of finding a more than very special way of delivering a more than very special Christmas gift for her daughter, led her to create the tale of the Reindeer Gift. This particular story captured her heart, and she founded Happy Knack Publishing, LLC. Now the reindeer gift-hiding tradition is available for you to include as part of your annual family holiday for those more than very special Christmas gifts. Cries for more prompted Elizabeth to continue the reindeer capers into Easter. And bored students inspired her hilarious vocab building comic book. All have won national book awards and are available on Amazon. Elizabeth lives in central Pennsylvania with her two number one fans as well as a not quite perfect, but beautifully golden and rosy nosed pit bull and a gargantuan pussycat. She’d love to hear from you! You can learn more and contact her at elizabethpasso.com or reindeergift.com.

Welcome, Elizabeth!

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What are the genres of your books?

  1. The Reindeer Gift: A Fun, Easy Christmas Tradition – Holiday/Children/Family
  2. The Reindeer vs E.A.Ster: A Fun, Easy Springtime Tradition – Holiday/Children/Family
  3. Birthday Party SBD – Vocab Building Comic Book

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Please describe what your books are about.

The Reindeer Gift tells how Santa’s reindeer have gotten bored with standing around on the roof. They’ve decided to get in on the gift giving fun. Now they’re taking turns going down the chimneys and hiding a special reindeer gift somewhere in the house for each person to find. Since they take turns, you’ll want to find out which reindeer came to your house, so the last page of the book provides an interactive website www.reindeergift.com. Go to this website and click on the big, red Reindeer Reveal button, and a different nameplate will be emailed to you for free each year that tells you which reindeer hid your gift.

People clamored for a sequel, so I came up with The Reindeer vs. E.A.Ster. This continues the reindeer adventures and also tells the fun story of the bunny’s real name, which not too many people know. There is nothing for reindeer to do in the spring, so they decide to play a prank on their buddy. But he’s not as distracted as Santa and catches on pretty quickly. Well, those reindeer don’t give up. There’s a lot of action and drama and a surprise ending that you won’t see coming. There’s also the same interactive website you go to at Easter to vote for who you want your Easter present from: the reindeer or the Easter bunny. We’ve done this two years now, and both years the majority of kids have said, “We want the reindeer to bring our Easter present.” We’re going to keep track of this friendly competition each year. We’re hoping the bunny can reclaim his holiday.

Birthday Party SBD packs 75 words that students should know into the funniest story I could think of for kids. The Silent But Deadly subject matter really makes them laugh. I decided to put it into a comic book format to give context clues to the vocab words. If the students don’t know what a word like “cacophony” or “exhume” means, they can flip to the Glossary in the back for the full definition. Teachers have assessed it as being appropriate for grades 4 through 8.

How did you come up with the titles? 

I wanted the titles to tell people instantly what the books were about. They’re each unique and fun ideas, so I didn’t want to make the titles too obscure or difficult to figure out.

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Elizabeth, what inspired you to write this book?

My daughter is my muse. When she was 3 years old, she was particularly excited about a very special gift that she wanted. It was so highly anticipated that it didn’t seem right to simply put it under the tree with the others. So I came up with the idea to bring the reindeer in on the action. They’re just standing around on the roof with nothing better to do, so why not? On Christmas morning, we hid the gift. After all the under-the-tree presents were opened, I told her one very special gift was still somewhere in the house. One of Santa’s reindeer had come down the chimney and hidden it for her. Her eyes got as big as Christmas tree ornaments, and she loved looking for it. She’s 14 now, and it’s become part of our Christmas tradition so she still loves doing it.

When she entered middle school, she told me that school was getting boring, so that’s what made me come up with the vocab building comic book idea.

Now she’s in high school, and I’m writing my first full length young adult novel.

What is your favorite part of writing? 

I love brainstorming ideas. After that, I love developing the characters. I enjoy giving them each full and complete personalities, which is why I added a page for each reindeer on the www.reindeergift.com website where you can find out each reindeer’s favorite activity, favorite food, favorite color, birthday, etc. and root for the reindeer you want to come to your house. I also have little known facts for each such as who each one likes to hang out with the most.

Select one book and tell me which character resembles you? If so, in what ways?

Blitzen probably most resembles me. She has an insatiable curiosity and likes exploring. In fact, she tries something new every single day. I’m always researching something and trying new recipes. Her favorite food is pasta because of all the different things you can do with it. Pasta is definitely a “go to” food for me. And her birthday is the same as mine.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing? 

Editing. Definitely. Making sure all of the grammar and punctuation isn’t too creative. And if it is creative, that it’s acceptably so and doesn’t look like a mistake.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Bartimaeus by Jonathan Stroud. I loved it and am working through the series now. He’s just come out with the 4th book. I really like his unconventional use of adjectives, and the sense of humor he injects and his dialogue banter. He made me laugh out loud so many times. He seems like he has a lot of fun while writing. I could picture him cracking himself up as he wrote.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

The author who’s been on my Favorites list for the longest amount of time is Jack Kerouac. A recent addition is Rick Yancey. The Fifth Wave was just OK for me, but his Monstrumologist series is pure word art.

What author(s) or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and how have they influenced you?

My daughter started bringing home Cassandra Clare books and raving about them, so I got curious and started reading them. The stories are along the lines of magical realism: vampires and werewolves and such existing among us and the challenges they face by being friends with us. I researched the author to find out more about her and found that she has an enormous, devoted following. The writing isn’t necessarily award winning, but she’s captured the imaginations of millions. Her books made me think that I could do that too – that being an author who wasn’t a household name, but still enormously popular was possible. It got my imagination juices flowing and prompted an idea for my first novel.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I love chairs that move: rocking chairs, gliding rockers, swings. My husband bought me a giant, overstuffed chair that glides. It’s so big, you can sleep in it. I curl up in that, pull my laptop onto my lap, and glide and type. It’s also my favorite place to read.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know? 

I have a full drum kit and take drum lessons.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I think the amount of marketing and getting in front of people after the book is published is still somewhat surprising. We always hear about those overnight successes such as Amanda Hocking, the indie publishing sensation whose self-published novels have sold millions of copies all over the world, and Waffle House waitress Anna Todd’s four-book deal worth half a million. There’s a part of me that still keeps expecting to get “discovered” like that, I think. Until then, I keep plugging away at my book signings.

I must look up Anna Todd! Goodness, what luck. As we both plug away with our books, Elizabeth, what do you hope readers will gain from your book?

I really hope kids have so much fun with the reindeer gifts that they become fun, easy holiday traditions that are carried on for generations. The kind of traditions that provide families with moments where they come together in love and laughter and make those “Remember the time when Comet hid my new bike in the bathtub?” memories that they’ll always cherish.

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Lovely. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

The very best thing I did was hire talented artists to illustrate my books. We did not rush this process. It took a year to hand oil paint the illustrations for each reindeer book and the comic book artist took about 6 months to hand ink the SBD drawings. People consistently comment on the quality of the illustrations.

The second best thing was to enter each of my books into the National Indie Excellence Awards. My first book, The Reindeer Gift: A Fun, Easy Christmas Tradition, won the 2015 Holiday category. My second book, The Reindeer vs. E.A.Ster: A Fun, Easy Springtime Tradition, won the 2016 Holiday category. And my third book, Birthday Party SBD, placed second in the 2016 Comic and Graphic Novel category. Displaying these awards on my book signing table at the various shows I do has consistently made an impression on people and, I suspect, been instrumental in pushing a wavering mind into the “I’ll take it” decision.

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The third best thing is that I’m relentless about researching new venues to get my book out there. We typically go to art and craft and holiday shows and set up a book signing booth. We’ve gone from the Michigan State Fair to the Charleston, SC Christmas Show and everywhere in between. Since my books aren’t available in e-format yet, getting out and talking to people is what sells the books. Just doing the shows part time has resulted in over 2,100 reindeer book sales since its release in 2014.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped? 

I was amazed that putting my books in actual bookstores did very little. Since there’s an interactive part to the books, walking people through the process really helps them to appreciate it. I think that having the books sit on a shelf surrounded by scads of other books with no understanding of what makes it special just doesn’t work.

The Harrisburg Small Business Development Center actually got Costco interested in carrying my books. A buyer at Barnes & Noble contacted me. And Books A Million also expressed interest. But I was afraid that I’d pay to ship them out, they’d sit, and then I’d have to pay to have them shipped back in questionable condition. So I didn’t do it. I’ve always wonder whether that was completely stupid of me.

Soon after I published A Decent Woman, I had the same experience with Books A Million, and like you, I decided against it for the same reason. I often wonder if I should pursue that venue with the second book.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Persistence is paramount.

Determination is demanded.

Courage is crucial.

Marketing is mandatory.

Website and social media links?

www.elizabethpasso.com

www.reindeergift.com

https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.passo.3

Elizabeth, where can we find your books?

www.reindeergift.com

The Reindeer Gift – https://www.amazon.com/Reindeer-Gift-Easy-Christmas-Tradition/dp/0989496805/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1480966418&sr=8-9&keywords=the+reindeer+gift

The Reindeer vs E.A.Ster – https://www.amazon.com/Reindeer-E-Ster-Springtime-Tradition/dp/0989496813/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480966457&sr=8-1&keywords=reindeer+vs+easter

Birthday Party SBD – https://www.amazon.com/Birthday-Party-SBD-Joe-Badon/dp/098949683X

Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA

Irvin’s Books in York, PA

The Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, PA

Strawberry Gifts in Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, PA

What’s next for you?

I’m coming around the bend towards finishing my first full-length novel. The tentative title is Foresight. About a month ago, I needed to take a step back and regroup, so took some time away from it and wrote a chunk of a second, completely unrelated novel.

I’m so close to getting Foresight 100% done that I’m on a big push with it now, and plan on shopping it around to agents and trying the traditional publishing route – to see what it’s like. I have plans for it being a trilogy.

You can keep posted on my progress, where I’ll be signing books, and also read some silly poems on my author website www.elizabethpasso.com.

Thanks very much for chatting with me today, Elizabeth. I wish you a warm and Happy Holiday season, and best of luck with your books!

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA: 

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia, Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, is published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second historical novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Happy Holidays to all!

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

 

 

 

The Writing Life Interviews: Donelle Knudsen

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. This morning I have the great pleasure of chatting with Donelle Knudsen. 

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Donelle Knudsen was born in Portland, Oregon, and has lived in Washington State since 1988. She has written short stories, poetry, and memoirs. In addition to being a wife, mother, and grandmother of five, Donelle earned a B.S. in Arts & Letters from Portland State University. She is a six-time finalist and two-time winner of writing contests through Pacific Northwest Writers Association and Oregon Writers Colony. She is the author of Through the Tunnel of Love, A Mother’s and Daughter’s Journey with Anorexia and the young adult/women’s contemporary novel, Between Heartbeats, which is book one of the Heartbeat series.

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Welcome to The Writing Life, Donelle.

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I love your book cover. What is the genre/category of Between Heartbeats?

My novel, Between Heartbeats, was originally written for the Young Adult audience, but reader feedback has shown women of all ages enjoy it. I have re-categorized it YA/Women’s Contemporary. 

Donelle, please describe what the story is about.

My goal was to write about a young female protagonist who experiences a life-changing trauma. When Diana Baker awakens on her seventeenth birthday, she is told at breakfast, during a heated argument with her mother, that the man she has loved as her father is not her father at all. Diana decides to unravel the mystery of her childhood and the reason for family secrets and travels across the country to visit her step-father. And so she begins a journey where she discovers shocking truths hidden just beneath the surface. That summer she meets Kevin Wright, a college junior and when he disappears without a trace, Diana learns family is more than shared DNA and discovers who will help her when it appears all hope is gone. Between Heartbeats is about a young girl’s quest to find her roots and discovers love and the power of forgiveness. 

How did you come up with the title?

I titled my novel Between Heartbeats because I believe life can change in a heartbeat, hence, between heartbeats. I like the image of a heart on its literal and figurative levels. 

What inspired you to write this book?

Kernels of ideas for Between Heartbeats grew from personal life experiences, our daughter’s adoption, and from the fruit of my imagination. I believe young people are capable of making important decisions and can determine who is trustworthy and who is not when it really matters. When I turned thirteen, I had to make several important life-changing decisions, so I know it can be done despite the inexperience of youth. Also, I find assistance can come from the most unexpected sources, so it is wise to imagine what’s possible, seek solutions, and accept answers and sincere help unconditionally.

What is your favorite part of writing?

For novel writing, I call myself a discovery writer, in that I have the novel’s premise in my head and know the ending before I begin. Then, I sit anywhere that’s convenient with my laptop and write fluidly, freely, just letting it happen. This is my favorite part, to write without an internal editor. I allow one year to eighteen months to complete my first draft. This timeline includes submitting most of the book to my critique group so I can consider their input and begin rewrites.

My first book was a memoir so the process was entirely different from writing my first novel. I outlined meticulously, relied on my diary, my memory, and private interviews with parties involved. Through the Tunnel of Love, A Mother and Daughter’s Journey with Anorexia took five years to write primarily because our daughter’s battle with her eating disorder was erratic and unpredictable. It was a tough project to complete, but I believe I accomplished my goal to create an honest, deeply personal, and readable memoir.

I’m a discovery writer with my historical novels, which includes sending out questionnaires and communicating with people who have a good knowledge about my subject matter. Does your main character resemble you, Donelle? If so, in what ways? 

My heroine, Diana Baker, is a contemporary seventeen-year-old living in Boise, Idaho. She lives with her mother and visits her father, who resides in the mid-west, twice a year. I can relate to Diana because my parents were divorced when I was nine. It was difficult when my father had to move out, as my mother was never interested in who I was or what I wanted to become. Consequently, it was easy to create a fictional character that learns to cope with the upheaval of a divorce and leap from childhood to adulthood practically overnight. Like my teenage self, Diana has dreams of going to college, teaching, becoming a writer, and finding the forever love that brings a husband, children, and the promise of a fulfilling life.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing? 

I’m terrible at outlining and realized early on that I am a pantser or a discovery writer, in that I fly by the seat of my pants and let the characters show me the way. I have the story’s premise and plotline mentally outlined, know the ending, and let the journey begin. As the author, I have control until my characters take over and show me where they want to go. It can be challenging, but it is an exciting way to write and is never dull. 

I totally agree with you! I love when the characters take over; that’s when the fun (and rewriting) begins. What was the last book you read? What did you think of it? 

The last book I read was, “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Pulitzer Prize winner, Anthony Doerr. It is a literary masterpiece that tells the beautifully sad story of two young people caught up in the horrors of WW II. Doerr describes the world caught up in war scientifically and analytically at times, yet with the sensitivity of a poet. He walks the delicate balance of portraying his characters in their harsh settings and reveals their world of beauty, heartache, cruelty, and pathos. It is a must read.

Thanks, that book is on my reading list. Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’ve read and admired so many writers, my list of influential writers is rather long, so here goes: Maud Hart Lovelace, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury, J. R. R. Tolkien, Stephen King, and Jane Kirkpatrick. 

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Ms. Lovelace and Laura Ingalls Wilder spurred my desire to write for young people; Jane Austen’s witty social commentary and endearing characters showed me good writing is timeless. I believe Charles Dickens is the best novelist of all time. His description of life in England through his characters’ eyes and their varied experiences cannot be surpassed. Ray Bradbury and Stephen King introduced me to Science Fiction and Horror and taught me anything is possible; J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings inspired me to write about how Good can conquer Evil on any level. I have attended Jane Kirkpatrick’s workshops and book readings, and receive her newsletter, Story Sparks. Jane writes primarily historical fiction and focuses on strong women protagonists. My goal is to create strong characters that can capture a reader’s imagination and in turn give her or him confidence to face life’s challenges.

Wonderful. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read? 

My creativity flows better when I listen to music at home or sit amidst the background noise of a café. But not a word will be written without a cup of hot or iced tea, depending on the time of year. However, when I edit or do re-writes, I need complete silence and work in my office on my desktop.

I prefer reading at home, propped up in bed, again with a cup of tea and classical music playing.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I am a distant cousin of James A. Garfield, the 20th U.S. president, who was assassinated just a few months after his inauguration on March 4, 1881. 

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I think most published authors would agree that marketing is the most challenging part. Being creative is one thing, however, getting out and pushing our books in person and online can be a real chore. For me, marketing my work does not come naturally; however, I’ve learned a lot since 2011 and when my third book comes out in a few weeks, I will be even more prepared.

Good surprises have come my way in myriad ways. People I know well or not at all have attended my book signings and/or purchased both books online. Reviews are critical and some have been gracious and posted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Hooray for reviews!

I have received lots of encouragement and praise for publishing not only two books, but having crossed over from nonfiction to fiction writing. For that I am grateful. Each project has been different and I take nothing for granted. I still fear the blank Word document on my laptop and feel a degree of trepidation as I begin each new chapter. But so far I haven’t experienced serious writer’s block. Somehow, the creative juices keep flowing.

I have published two different ways: through small presses, first in 2011 and upcoming in 2017, and with a publishing house in 2015 that I found at a writers conference. I discuss this later in this interview with my advice/tips for writers looking to get published.

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Donelle, what do you hope readers will gain from your book?

Without giving away too much, in Between Heartbeats, my goal is to take the reader along a young woman’s journey on which she must unravel the mystery of her childhood and the reason for so many secrets. As Diana searches for her family heritage, handles stresses in friendships, family, and her first romance, she grows emotionally and learns to accept help from unexpected sources in multiple generations. I write about people and everyday events I believe most readers can identify with and care about. I like to create a difficult situation and then let the characters find resolution with issues that matter most to them. However, I’m a sucker for happy endings.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

What I did right was to pick genres and write stories about people or topics that piqued my interest. Also, by deciding to write a three-part series helped me to plan long term and stay focused. If the reader enjoys the first book in a series, it is likely he/she will stay with me. As far as marketing, I have found that face-to-face interaction works the best. I’ve established relationships with bookstore managers and business owners, held book signings at writers’ conferences, bookstores, and venues of my choice. I have found simple word-of-mouth is effective, too. Establishing a personal relationship with potential readers is key. This can also be done online through a blog or to some extent Twitter and Facebook.

I had my cover artist design custom bookmarks and with permission I have left them in various businesses. I make sure to have bookmarks, business cards, and copies of my books with me, always. It’s best to be prepared when a potential reader comes along. I thought swag for my first novel would help with book sales, so I invested in customized mini-journals, notebooks, keyrings, ribbon bookmarks, wine glass rings, etc. They are handy for giveaways and are eye-catching, but they don’t sell books. At book signings I’ve offered gift card giveaways with a book purchase or for filling out a short questionnaire.

There are many people out there who are well versed in marketing, so it’s a good idea to network and learn as much as possible.

Great advice. What didn’t work?

Through my previous publisher, I became involved with on-line author/reader events. These are sometimes called “take overs” where half hour to hour time slots are allotted by the host author to her guest author to pitch, advertise, and promote her book(s). Swag giveaways, free eBooks, and Amazon gift cards are offered in hopes of acquiring new readers. I found that authors are good at supporting fellow authors; however, on-line events don’t really help sell more books or garner new readers.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

My advice to writers is to attend writers’ conferences, join writer support groups, enter writing contests, and network in person and online. I am a six-time finalist and two-time winner of writing contests through Pacific Northwest Writers Association and Oregon Writers Colony. In May of 2014 I met a representative of a publishing house at a writers’ conference and pitched my novel. One year later Between Heartbeats was on its way to publication. Then I chose my editor and proofreader, and my creative team who designed my book cover and helped with the marketing phase. The process went smoothly and by Mid-August of 2015, Between Heartbeats was live.

This publisher used the team approach and seemed to have a promising future, but when they closed their doors in May of 2016, I had to decide what to do with my orphaned book. With the help of a friend, I was able to re-format the book and cover and then I re-published on Create Space and Kindle. This process took less than a month and my book was never off line or out of print.

Self-Publishing:

I published my first book, Through the Tunnel of Love, A Mother’s and Daughter’s Journey with Anorexia, with a small press. The president acted as my editor and book manager. She assigned the formatter and design artist; however, I had full control in deciding the cover and final layout. I helped proofread and approved the final copy for production. I was happy with the finished product which included many family photos. They gave life to our personal story and helped the reader relate to our journey from darkness to light, from illness to a healthy life.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing:

The Pro is that after multiple rejections with my memoir, Through the Tunnel of Love, I was able to get our story out to inform others who either faced the horrors of eating disorders or self-destructive behavior, or knew of ones who did. I was able to get my book into Barnes & Noble where I had multiple book signings. I entered into a consignment agreement with three Indie bookstores, sold my books at writers’ conferences, and hosted personal book signings. It has been a positive experience.

The Con is facing the hurdles of marketing and advertising. The first time around it was learn as I went, and I was not online savvy until Between Heartbeats was published. One year before it came out, I opened a Twitter account, an Author Facebook page, LinkedIn, and became more active with my blog. I discovered it’s not Publish or Perish, but Market or Perish.

Very informative, thank you. Please share your website and social media links.

https://www.facebook.com/DonelleMKnudsen/

Twitter @donelleknudsen

Website: http://donellemknudsen.weebly.com/

Blog  Http://dknudsen-writersblog.blogspot.com/

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5754704.Donelle_Knudsen

Where can we find your book(s)?

Book(s) link:

https://www.amazon.com/Donelle-Knudsen/e/B004X31KDQ/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

What’s next for you, Donelle?

I recently completed Heartbeat Interrupted, the sequel to Between Heartbeats and Book II of the Heartbeat Series. It is in the hands of my editor. If the schedule goes as planned Heartbeat Interrupted will be available on Amazon and in local bookstores through Seiders House Publishing shortly after the first of the year. I am about halfway through the first draft of Book III in the Heartbeat Series. It is a departure from the first two in that my heroine, Diana, who is twenty years older, finds herself enmeshed in a baffling mystery surrounding an estate built during the Civil War era. There are many supernatural qualities to it, so it is a Gothic/Urban Fantasy.

My next book, scheduled for 2018, is a sweet ghost story that would appeal to the Middle Grade reader. I plan on writing until I run out of ideas, or am too old to use a computer.

When I’m too old to use a computer, I’ll somehow dictate my stories! Thanks for an insightful and informative interview, Donelle. It was a real pleasure getting to know more about you and your books. I wish you all the best.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA: 

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia, Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, is published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

 

The Writing Life Interviews: Silvio Sirias

Welcome to Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. This morning, I have the great pleasure of chatting with Silvio Sirias.

Silvio Sirias is the award-winning author of the novels Bernardo and the VirginMeet Me Under the CeibaThe Saint of Santa Fe, and The Season of Stories.

A late bloomer in the writing of fiction, Sirias was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up there until the age of eleven, when his family moved to Granada, Nicaragua, his parents’ country of origin. He considers this move the most significant milestone in his life as it shaped his bicultural and bilingual outlook. He returned to Los Angeles to attend college. Eventually, he received his doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona and worked as a professor of Spanish and U.S. Latino and Latina literature for several years before returning to live in Nicaragua in 1999.

In 2010, Silvio was named one of the “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read).” The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature lists him among the handful of authors who are introducing Central American themes into the U.S. literary landscape.

He moved to Panama in 2002 where he lives with his wife and their dog, three cats, and parrot.

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Welcome, Silvio.

What is the genre(s) of your books?

Most reviewers, Eleanor, list my work as literary fiction. That categorization reflects my background as a reader. I labored for many years in the academic world, teaching literature. But if I were to label my novels, I’d file them under Latino titerature as my writing is a constant exploration of our shared Latino heritage.

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Please describe what your latest novel is about.

Two ideas for Young Adult novels had been bouncing inside of my head for years. One was a story loosely based on my experiences growing up in Los Angeles around the time my parents decided to move back to Nicaragua, their homeland. The second one was the story of the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, his “discovery” of the Pacific Ocean, and his subsequent beheading. I decided to merge both ideas and have fun weaving these disparate stories together. The end result is The Season of Stories. 

I enjoyed the merging stories in The Season of Stories. How did you come up with the title?

Early on in the process I discovered that the act of storytelling would have to play a key role within the novel. Also, half of the narrative revolves around the 1961 Los Angeles Dodgers’ baseball season. Hence, The Season of Stories.

What is your favorite part of writing?

There are two stages of the process that are, by far, my favorite. The first is the research stage. That’s because it’s there that I get to “experience” the story. The second part is the revision stage. It took years, but eventually I learned to treasure the task of polishing a rough draft. The revision part has become, in my eyes, akin to working on a fun, yet demanding puzzle.

Great description of revision. I love both research and revision. Does your main character resemble you?

An easily identifiable alter ego appears in all of my novels. But only in The Season of Stories and Meet Me under the Ceiba is he a key player. That said, there is part of every novelist in their most important characters. As Gustave Flaubert said regarding his best known creation: Madame Bovary c’est moi.

I agree. What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Forcing myself to get started every morning. I tend to procrastinate until the idea that I’m wasting time becomes unbearable.

What authors have influenced you as a writer?

Whenever I’m faced with a challenge in the creation of a novel, I turn to writers who were successful at tackling similar dilemmas. In my first novel, Bernardo and the Virgin, I borrowed techniques from Juan Rulfo, a Mexican novelist, and Virgil Suárez, a Cuban-American author. But the structure of the novel was lifted directly from Julia Alvarez’s ¡Yo! in Meet Me under the Ceiba, I lifted the structure of Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez. For The Saint of Santa Fe, I borrowed several literary devices from Graham Greene and the Spanish novelist Miguel de Unamuno. And for The Season of Stories, I appropriated the structure of Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter and the narrative tone of Scott O’Dell, who wrote Island of the Blue Dolphins. Does that make me a plagiarist? Not at all. I’m merely following the Aristotelian practice of imitatio, which the writers of the Renaissance embraced wholeheartedly. In other words, if writers follow great models, their own work will shine.

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Insightful answer, Silvio. You mentioned many great authors and a few personal favorites in your reply to the previous question. I found that I can’t read when writing the first draft manuscript of a novel, but of course, many favorite books remain in my subconscious. When feeling stuck or lost in a particular stage of revision, revisiting what the writer considers great works of literature can be helpful as a roadmap. 

Silvio, what do you hope readers will gain from your books?

The best compliment a reader can give me is “I really enjoyed reading that novel.” If readers experience a brief respite from the travails of everyday life while reading one of my books, then I did my job.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t be in such a rush to see your work in print. These days it’s easier to get published than at any time in human history. That makes it all the more important for writers who are serious about the craft to work as long as it takes to deliver a manuscript that’s as perfect as possible. It would be a disservice to your written legacy to publish something that’s not ready just because you can’t wait to see your name on the cover of a book. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, always put your best foot forward—and that takes a lot of work and patience.

Silvio, tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Although I’ve taught countless creative writing classes, I’ve never taken one.

Please share your website and social media links.

My website: www.silviosirias.com

My Author’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/silviofans/ (Please excuse the name; it was a gift from an overzealous friend.)

And I share tutorials on writing on my YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCjZH11xFwpjb6Hn1tzianYQ

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Where can we find your books?

All are available on Amazon. 

What’s next for you?

Like you, Eleanor, I’m a peregrino. We’ve both walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, and you well know what a powerful experience that is. At the moment, I’m writing a novel that weaves a medieval pilgrimage with a contemporary one. It’s still untitled and it has taken a lot of effort to get the narrative to take off. But it’s in full flight now and I hope to have a rough draft completed before June of 2017.

El Camino was indeed a powerful, unforgettable experience for myself and my then-teenage children. I kept a daily journal on my walk, and of course, my experiences will feature in a future novel I have in mind. How could they not, right? Good for you, fellow peregrino!

Thank you, Silvio, for chatting with us today. It was a pleasure getting to know more about you and your books. All the best!

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA: 

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

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PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Writing Life Interviews: Meghan Holloway

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. I am very pleased to welcome Meghan Holloway, author of the romantic suspense novels, A Thin, Dark Line and As Darkness Gathers.

Welcome to The Writing Life, Meghan. Please tell us about yourself.

“My dearest darling…” That was how my grandfather began all of his letters to my grandmother while he was stationed in Okinawa in World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve poured over his letters. I used to draw lines up the back of my legs, just as my grandmother had as a young woman whose nylons had been donated to make parachutes, and I’ve endlessly pestered my paternal grandfather for stories of his childhood and service. The worn letters and patiently-told stories cemented my interest in history, especially in the WWII era.

I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at a friend’s house and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery.

I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in a crumbling once-all girls’ school in the sweltering south, spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, and traveled the world for a few years. Now I’m settled down in the foothills of the Rockies, working on a masters in a once-all girls’ school in the blustery north, writing my third and fourth novels, hanging out with my standard poodle, and spending my nights helping solve crime.

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What are the genres of your books?

I’ve previously published two romantic suspense novels under the pseudonym Emma Elliot, but my work in progress is a venture into a new genre for me:  historical fiction.

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Welcome to the fascinating world of historical fiction. Please describe what your work in progress is about.

My story is about a Welsh sheep farmer, who is a veteran of World War One and whose son is a conscientious objector in WWII. After the Somme, my protagonist swore he would never set foot in France again, but after almost three decades, he’s forced to renege on that vow to save the son he thought lost to him.

How did you come up with the title?

I love a rousing battle speech, and one that became cemented in my mind in my undergrad studies is from Shakespeare’s play, The Life of King Henry the Fifth. In Act III, Scene I, before Harfleur in France, Prince Hal, the titular king, gives this incredible rallying speech to his soldiers. It begins with the lines:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger.

My protagonist is a quiet, stalwart man, very set in his ways, a salt of the earth type. But he’s forced back into the height of violence and tumult because of his love for his son. Thus, I’ve purloined a bit of Shakespeare for my title:  Once More unto the Breach.

What inspired you to write Once More unto the Breach?

I’ve long been fascinated with the WWII era. It was an age of tremendous courage and sacrifice and duty, and I think the title of Greatest Generation is a well-earned one. My grandmother told me stories of turning in her stockings to aid in parachute production, and when I was young, I drew lines up the back of my legs as she did. My grandfather was in Okinawa, and in an old hatbox in the back of a closet, I found the beautiful letters he wrote to my grandmother while stationed in Japan. My great-uncle was a medic, and when I asked him, only once, to tell me about his time in the war, his eyes welled with tears and he refused to speak of it. The men and women of that era have been greatly honored, but they’ve also been greatly haunted, and that kind of juxtaposition—glory and horror—has always intrigued me. Writing has long been my passion as has studying WWII, and combining the two has been my goal as an author.

This particular story was inspired by a friend who frequently challenges me with writing exercises. After a specific writing prompt, my characters, Rhys and Charlotte, were born.

Does the main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

The heroines of my two previous novels—A Thin, Dark Line and As Darkness Gathers—shared certain aspects of my personality. Eloise in my first novel has my passion for books and librarianship and my stubbornness. I like to think I’m as resourceful as Finch, the main character of my second book, and as quick-thinking in tough situations.

The novel I’m currently working on is my first exploration of a male main character. I’m certain aspects of myself come through on the pages, and while Rhys isn’t based on any particular person, he most resembles my grandfather and the friend of mine who originally inspired the story. He has my grandfather’s physical features—the towering height, the large, strong hands—and he has my grandfather’s taciturn nature. He has my friend’s unflappable, rational personality and strong sense of responsibility and honor.

It’s been intriguing and very much a study in psychology to write in a male perspective.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

I just finished The Girl on the Train the other day, and I loved it. When I’m writing, I don’t read books in the genre in which I’m writing. I think a writer’s brain is very osmotic, and I don’t want to absorb someone else’s way of writing about the same era and events about which I’m writing. So when I write suspense, I read historical fiction; when I write historical fiction, I read suspense.

With The Girl on the Train, I very quickly guessed the whodunit, but I loved the way Hawkins wrote such a layered tale with such incredibly unreliable narrators. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I love Alyson Richman’s books, Sarah McCoy’s, Tessa Dare’s, Paul Fraser Collard’s, Rick Atkinson’s, and Ellen Marie Wiseman’s. They are some of my automatic buys. I also love Loren Eiseley’s work, and my all-time favorite author is Mary Stewart.          

What author(s) or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Mary Stewart has been a tremendous influence on my writing. I first stumbled upon her romantic suspenses when I was about twelve years old. I loved how vividly she detailed a setting, how she used dialogue to convey action, and how classy, vulnerable, and strong her heroines were.

In my undergrad work, I studied Creative Writing, and two of my professors, Dr. Randall Smith and Mr. Howard Bahr, were instrumental in teaching me not merely how to be a good writer but how to be an effective storyteller. 

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I love the idea of a private study, but in actuality, I do most of my reading and writing on the couch with my standard poodle playing lichen to my legs. I wrote my first novel, A Thin, Dark Line, sitting at my kitchen table. But all my subsequent writing has taken place on the couch.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Well, let’s see… When I was a child, I wanted to be a Navy SEAL; I flew a plane by myself before I ever drove a car by myself; I rafted down the Nile for my eighteenth birthday; and I am an excellent markswoman.

Very impressive! What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

The most challenging aspect of writing for me is getting that first draft down on paper, to eke out a solid, riveting tale from my imagination and from the events of history. I’m a muller when I write in that I ruminate over every word and turn of phrase. I’m also a perfectionist, so if something I’ve written doesn’t strike the right chord with me, it is scribbled out of my notebook, and I begin again.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is the editing! I love fleshing out that first draft, filling in any plot holes that were left, rounding out the characters and especially the secondary ones, creating a more seamless, cohesive story. After I finish writing out the first draft—and I write everything longhand and then type it—I print out the draft and sit down with it, a slew of red pens, and a stack of legal notebooks. I relish that phase of writing.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I always research different aspects of my books, but this has been the book that, by far, required the most research. So much so that in the beginning I had a hard time even putting pencil to paper. I felt like I needed to be an expert at every aspect of not just the war, but the location, the weaponry, the clothing, etc, etc, etc. I was beginning to obsess over the fact that I felt like I would never know enough to feel comfortable writing about an era in which I had not lived and experienced. That was a learning process for me, to realize I don’t—in fact, I can’t—know every single detail about every single aspect of the war and what life would have been like then.

The publishing process was a very significant learning experience, because publishing has taught me how to write a marketable book. Being an author is very much about being a business and being saleable, and that is the publishing house’s job:  to take your story and to make it a book to be sold to the largest market possible.

What do you hope readers will gain from your books?

There are always themes and undercurrents in my books. In A Thin, Dark Line, the main theme is that history is cyclical and the image one presents to the outside world is not always an accurate one. In As Darkness Gathers, the question that was asked throughout the story was “are those with whom you’re closest truly the ones you can trust?” My work in progress explores the idea that war is fought on many fronts and that even the smallest act of courage can have a rippling effect.

Mainly, I write to transport the reader. I want the reader to be engrossed and consumed by the story I tell, to feel what the characters are feeling, to be able to visually see the scene unfold, and to be left thoughtful and moved.

Looking back, Meghan, what did you do right that helped you write and market your books? What didn’t work as well?

To be frank, in my first venture as an author, I did not market successfully. Now, my goal in that first venture was to be published, and in that I succeeded as a writer. But the publishing house I signed on with was small and didn’t have the resources to market on anything but a minuscule scale, and I didn’t have the business savvy to market either at that point. I was worried about coming across as pushy and obnoxious, so I didn’t try to sell myself or my books with anything but an occasional post about my stories. That didn’t work. I didn’t have the following built up to be able to write a book, have it published, and then sit back and watch it sale.

So I had a learning curve in that aspect. Being an author is very much a business, and the author is very much a salesman and spokesman for the book. But the example of other authors has shown me there are ways of doing that with elegance and class.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

When I finished my first novel, I spent a lot of time researching publishers. I created a list of publishing houses that would accept an unsolicited manuscript (meaning, you didn’t have to go through an agent to publish with them), and I started going down the list and submitting. Put together a stellar synopsis, and abide exactly by the rubrics the publishing house lays out when asking for submissions. And know that rejection letters are par for the course in this profession. I was lucky enough to receive only one before signing on for a three book deal with a publishing house. However, that house went under right after I published my second book.

With my work in progress, I’ve decided to go through an agent, and my best advice as someone who’s still in the process with this is to do your research and be courteous.

Website and social media links?

My website:  http://authoramholloway.my-free.website

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authormeghanholloway

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/AuthorMHolloway

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/33653434-meghan-holloway

Where can we find your books?

A Thin, Dark Line

https://www.amazon.com/Thin-Dark-Line-Betrayals-Book-ebook/dp/B0093NNL1A/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479227766&sr=1-10&keywords=a+thin+dark+line

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-thin-dark-line-emma-elliot/1112591419?ean=9781612131061

As Darkness Gathers

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MU8V856/ref=pd_sim_351_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=GBH0XAEWYXZ7JGKT06NN

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/as-darkness-gathers-emma-elliot/1119897996?ean=9781612133263

At this point, you can only find my work in progress in my notebooks and on my laptop. It was put on the back burner for a couple of years while I finished my graduate work, but I will soon be working on finding an agent for the manuscript and then a publisher. I will certainly keep you posted, though!

Wonderful, please do! Meghan, what’s next for you?

After I find a publisher for my work in progress, I may venture back into modern suspense for a story that’s been niggling at my mind for a while now about how little justice there is in the judicial system and whether or not vigilantism has its place in society.

Thank you for chatting with me, Meghan. I enjoyed getting to know more about you and your books. All the best with your books and writing!

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA: 

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

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PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

My Writing Life: How I Made It Happen

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The research material for my work in progress, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, rests in three full notebooks, scribbled on scraps of paper, and written on junk mail that day I ran out of paper. My first book, A Decent Woman, was published in February 2015.

On Saturday, after a book reading at a local bookstore, a writer asked me the following question:

“How did you make all this happen?”

I am excited, honored, and committed to doing what I’m passionate about–writing and making art full time. How did I make this happen? I’m glad you asked.

Beginning in 2011, I learned to say no. I sacrificed a lot. I changed my life. I was honest with myself. I trusted my gift. Listened to my gut. I shut out the negative, toxic, and even well-meaning voices, who offered negativity and fear when I said I would give up my job, a comfy life, and healthcare to write full time. I was afraid, but more afraid of what it would mean to never publish my book. I jumped off the cliff to my new life. I had BIG faith. Moved to a new state with lower cost of living. I was brave, tenacious, and firm. Practiced discipline and sat/sit at the writing desk every day, no matter what. I adopted a writing mentor. I refused to join a writing group for many reasons. I grew more patience than I ever thought I possessed. I’d turned 50 in 2006 and realized that time would not wait for me to be ready. I got rid of cable TV. Stopped reading newspapers. Read more books. I believed in myself and my story. I honored my gift; never took it for granted. I felt that what makes my heart soar, cry, and love a story would matter to one reader. I showed confidence on the days when I had very little. I learned from others. I strive to continue improving my writing each day. I work very hard. I play. I trust my gut. And so much more.

Most importantly? I kicked my inner critic/censor to the damn curb. But, that’s just me. That’s what worked for me.

I wish you the very best in whatever you choose to do. Oh, and today, I have health care for those who kindly asked. Thank you and happy writing to you!

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

Author Interview: Liz Doran

Happy Election Day to my fellow Americans! VOTE!

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview Series, my favorite day at The Writing Life. Please check back with us next Tuesday for another fascinating interview. Today I’m very pleased to welcome multi-talented Liz Doran, author of the women’s fiction novel, “Where She Belongs”.

Liz Doran is an Irish writer, who lives in Germany.  She has also lived and travelled extensively in the U.S.A. and spent several months living in London and Italy. She loves colour, art, books, film, design, and travel. A lifelong interest in metaphysical and spiritual matters has taken her on many interesting journeys. She trained as a Heilpraktiker in Germany, specialising in classical homeopathy and colour puncture. She also loves nature and animals, and enjoys a good laugh. She has been married to her German husband since 1984 and has two grown sons.

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Welcome, Liz!

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What is your book’s genre/category?

It’s women’s fiction.

Please describe what “Where She Belongs” is about.

“Where She Belongs” is about a woman’s transformation as she decides to be proactive by leaving her unhappy marriage in Spain and move back to her homeland, Ireland.

How did you come up with the title?

Ah, the title! Well, the book is all about belonging and I think it reflects the theme pretty well. I was struggling with a title, but then a friend suggested I might like to look at the last line of the book. And there it was, snuggled into the sentence. 

What inspired you to write “Where She Belongs”? 

I was writing a different book and got stuck in the plot. Then I decided to write Where She Belongs. I didn’t have a plan, but liked the idea of taking my character on a journey to see what would happen.

Taking my characters on a journey often turns into my characters taking me on a journey. My favorite part of writing. What is your favorite part of writing?

I’ve taken courses in hypnotherapy and have conducted and taken part in creative visualisation courses. Writing, when I’m in the flow, is similar. I see the scenes in my mind’s eye, and I can orchestrate the characters in a certain setting, or I can let the images flow through my fingertips onto the page.  

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Yes, I suppose she does in some ways. She can be indecisive, hates injustice, gets bored easily, loves adventure and travel, and is creative.

Liz, what do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I really do have that dread of the blank page, especially when I’m stuck in a difficult plot. Because when I’m stuck, I know that everything I write in the next few pages should be moving the novel forward. It’s like facing a fork in the road and deciding which of the myriad paths to take. Then there’s the aspect of remembering that one’s goal is to entertain people. You have to try to create twists, inject the unexpected. It’s all about pacing too, getting the dialogue right, creating believable characters.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it? 

That’s a difficult question because I usually read a few books at a time. I know that’s a bad habit. Blame the e-book reader for that! I like to support other Indie writers and often buy their books and dip in and out of their works according to my mood. I do usually finish them though. There are so many talented writers out there, both Indie and traditionally published. I also love going to my local book shop, which has a pretty well-stocked English section. So I’m reading The Harder They Come by T.C.Boyle, Purity by Jonathan Franzen, Anne Enright’s The Green Road.   But I ramble. I think the last book I finished was 80: A Memoir by Pauline Bewick. My sister told me about it and I started it when on holidays in Ireland in summer. It was so engrossing, what a life! It included sketches of some of her paintings and I thought, I recognise her art. Then I remembered: I have a little book called Irish Tales and Sagas by Ulick O’Connor. The illustrations by Pauline Bewick are fantastic. Every time I read a few pages of her Memoir, I felt inspired.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I don’t really have a favourite author. But I’ll mention authors who have left their mark. Deborah Moggach’s Tulip Fever, Stephen King’s The Stand and On Writing, The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan, Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and Anne of Green Gables by Maud Montgomery. An eclectic mix, right? Too many to mention. I’ve also read several Indie books this past couple of years by members of a most supportive Indie Writing Group, IASD, which was initially set up by Paul Ruddock and is now run by Ian D. Moore. The genres range from sci-fi to supernatural, thrillers, romance and everything in between.  

I agree with you, IASD is a very supportive group. What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

See above. I think I’ve been influenced by so many authors over the years. Deborah Moggach’s Tulip Fever is so cleverly written. Her sense of pacing, her humour and her historical details inspired me to try something similar one day. Then an Irish writer, Joseph O’Connor, who wrote Star of the Sea about a ship of famine victims, an American journalist and several members of the upper class emigrating to a new life in the U.S. It’s a great read with an exciting plot. He uses information from newspaper cuttings to lend historical accuracy to the times and really transports the reader into the story. 

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read? 

I prefer to read in bed or in a prone position. Usually I write in the living room, looking out onto my garden. I can watch the little robin that hops by my window when he decides to visit, or the pigeon with the white speck on his forehead, and the prowling neighbour’s cat who is usually up to no good, but he doesn’t know it.  Then there are the faces in the hedges that watch me while I watch them. I can write pretty much anywhere once I’m not distracted. I don’t think I could write well in a café. I’d be too busy people watching.

Faces in the hedges…oh, I like that. Can you tell us something personal about yourself that people may be surprised to know?

What would people be surprised to know? Hmmm. Let me think.

I trained as a Naturopath here in Germany and had my own practice. My mind is very open to the weird and wonderful. I used Light and Colour therapy, constitutional homeopathy and foot reflexology to treat people holistically and have a passion for inspiring and helping others. But I’m not a good business person. There’s a Memoir of sorts coming out soon about my journeys, my penchant for astrology, tarot, psychics, guiding dreams, if I don’t get cold feet. The book has been sitting on my computer for a few years now.

You know I love the weird and wonderful, good luck with the memoir! Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I’ve been writing for years, keeping journals, writing on snippets of paper back in my twenties when I was doing a lot of travelling and waiting at train stations, or sitting in cafes. But writing a novel is a whole other thing. I’ve learned perseverance and not to take myself too seriously either. Ah, the publishing process. I’d informed myself for years about the publishing world and many people were saying how hard it was to get an agent, write a synopsis, and that query letter. Once I’d finished my first novel, I didn’t have the patience for all of that. I decided to do it my way, with a lot of help from my friends. There’s a certain amount I can do myself, but I need to create an alter ego. who helps me with time management and marketing.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book, Liz?

I’ve already had positive feedback from other writers, both men and women, who have told me my book helped them to make a decision to transform their lives and find their place. That’s pretty amazing and certainly gives me a boost.

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That’s awesome. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I’m not sure about the marketing aspect. I haven’t done very much in that regard. My plan is to keep writing more books and hope to gain visibility that way. I find it easier to promote others’ books than I do my own. The good decisions I’ve made were finding a professional cover designer and a good developmental editor, who helped me see the big picture.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

I should have given my two main characters different names as they are difficult to pronounce, and I should have done some pre-publicity for my book. Perhaps I should have had the patience and sent out query letters to agents and publishers, especially since I am not good at promoting my own work.

Agents and publishers can help with publicity, but I find most of the work still falls on the author. Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t give up on your dream. If you love to write and want to see your book in print, stick with it, learn as much as you can. Read a lot and write every day. If you choose the traditional publishing route, do what I didn’t do and write a synopsis and a query letter. Practice getting it perfect. Writing the synopsis, even before the book is finished, can be a very helpful way to figure out where you’re going with the plot. Get the Artist’s Year Book and check out the agents and publishers who specialise in your particular genre. There is so much information available on publishing. There’s nothing original I can say on that score.

Please share your website and social media links.

I’m working on setting up a website, but I want to do it right.

I do blog occasionally. Here’s the link:

www.eclecticwrite.wordpress.com

Twitter: @DoranRogel

Where can we find your book?

It’s available on Amazon, both as an e-book and as a paperback.

Here’s the link: https://amzn.com/B01D6X71PE 

What’s next for you, Liz? 

I’m working on my next novel. It’s also set in Ireland and is a fictional story loosely based on a true historical event. Part contemporary, part historical, I’ve woven the story to encompass the event which was set in the eighteenth century. Think haunted house with an air of mystery and suspense.

Sounds intriguing! Thank you for chatting with us today, Liz. I’ve enjoyed learning more about you. I wish you the best with your books and writing.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Scarlet Darkwood

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. Yes, it’s Thursday. I’m two days late. Have you ever felt quite sure you’ve done something that you haven’t done at all? Well, I have that sheepish feeling today. I thought I’d sent my next guest, the lovely Scarlet Darkwood, the interview questions, but I hadn’t. So we are back on track today!

Please do check back next Tuesday for the next fabulous author interview.

Novelist Scarlet Darkwood always prefers avant garde themes for her stories that take the reader on unusual adventures, exploring the darker parts of the human psyche, and sometimes she takes a happy-go-lucky romp on the brighter sides of life.

Writing in several genres unleashes Scarlet’s imagination, so she never grows bored. From a young age, she enjoyed writing and keeping diaries, but didn’t start creating novels until 2012. She’s a Southern girl who lives in Tennessee and enjoys the beauty of the mountains. She lives in Nashville with her spouse and two rambunctious kitties.

Welcome, Scarlet.

What is the genre of “Words We Never Speak”?

The genre for my latest release is supernatural romance. It also fits into ghost and occult.

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Please describe what the story/book is about.

My book is a ghost story with a “gotcha.” It’s about love and forgiveness when hurtful things are said, but this takes place much later in the character’s life. People should always consider the power of their words. The spoken word becomes truth, if you’re not careful. The story is also about a connection to one’s past and wanting to hold on to those special elements.  

How did you come up with the title?

I borrowed the snippet from my spouse. Whenever I get angry at something and open my mouth, he tells me, “Oh, those words we never speak never have to be forgiven.” I use that line in the story!

Great line! Scarlet, what inspired you to write “Words We Never Speak”?

This book was inspired by a dream I had of an old classmate who died after high school. In real life, he and I were never friends, let alone dated in high school. So the work, though grounded in lots of personal truth, is fiction.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Being able to write in bursts when the ideas come. I don’t have these ideas flowing like milk and honey like some authors do. I struggle with getting a handle on my story and filling in the guts of it. Sometimes my skeleton is pretty sparse at the beginning, but in the end, it has all come together. 

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Kit Millinger resembles me in that she loves old houses and antiques, and that though she appreciates religion and some of the force or intent behind it, she doesn’t get caught up in the trappings of dogma or ceremony. Unlike Kit, I personally enjoy the ancient spiritual teachings that seem to give me a broader understanding of spiritual laws and principles.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Really grabbing the story by the horns and focusing in such a way that it gets down faster and more efficient. The other challenging aspect for me is being a little fearful of painting myself in a corner. It forces me to keep plotlines simple, and that can be a huge hindrance. What makes a good story sometimes is the intricacies and details that come together in the storytelling. I risk keeping things too predictable and status quo. Though several readers have mentioned in reviews of my books that they didn’t see “such and such” coming. So maybe I don’t do too badly!

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

I read “The Widow’s Game,” by Maddie Holliday Von Stark. I had seen a particular post of hers one day back in the summer, and I decided to read the story. I found the writing descriptive, the word choices titillating at times, and the interwoven stories intriguing. There was excitement and chapters that dug into emotion and experience.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’ve enjoyed Madeleine Roux’s Asylum Series, and I like books by Liz Curtis Higgs: Bad Girls Of The Bible, Mad Mary, and I also purchased, It’s Good to Be Queen: Becoming as Bold, Gracious, and Wise as the Queen of Sheba—also by Higgs. I didn’t realize I’d liked her that much until you asked your question! I’ve enjoyed some of Anne Rice’s books: The Mayfair Witches (I’m getting through the second book), and her Sleeping Beauty Trilogy. I have some of Stephen King’s books, but I’ve only read Salem’s Lot (Cell and Pet Sematary are on the shelf).

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

I’m not sure I can pick any particular authors who have influenced me. I look to different ones to learn how a particular genre is handled, or how certain subject material is presented. Then what I do is inject my own take and go from there.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I have a European ergonomic chair in my living room. When I’m not working, I’m sitting in that chair and on the computer. 

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I took about two years of ballroom dance, and did some showcases and competitions. Hint: Unfortunately, I look nothing like a ballroom dancer. 

Has the writing process uncovered surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

As far as surprises, go, I learned that certain genres have readers who are super picky, and certain ways you write things or the way you present the material can be an immediate turn-off. For publishing, I’ve learned that unless I’m the publisher, I’m not interested in pitching my work to agents or other publishing houses. I like total control over what I do. I might enter the occasional anthology, but it has to feel right.

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What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

I hope readers will have been entertained, most of all. I also hope some of the themes or subject matter covered allow readers to focus on those aspects or experiences in relation to themselves.

Looking back, Scarlet, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

Re-editing the book and making some additional changes created work that makes me feel more confident. Working with some marketers and other authors has helped get the book out a little more. I simply think putting out more work might help everything catch fire a little better. It’s a tough market, and everyone is told to do the same: write, write, write.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

Paying money for advertising hasn’t worked. Social media is extremely time-consuming, and if it works, it’s slow going. Also, thinking that there would be huge author support in a publishing house—not so. Authors won’t support or share for various personal reasons. So it’s really back to you as the author to find your own way.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Learn to self-publish, because you’ll never be at the mercy of another. Having control over your work is a good feeling. If you want to write, read some books on the craft of writing or take some online courses. An author needs to understand why certain elements need to be included in a story or excluded. They need to have a good handle on each story they write, and they need to learn the whys and wherefores of everything they write.

Please share your website and social media links.

Newsletter: http://ow.ly/HUyz303E5Oh

Blog: www.scarletdarkwood.com

Follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/scarletdarkwoodauthor

Follow her on Google+ at: http://ow.ly/VvZ82

Follow her on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ScarletDarkwood

Where can we find your book?

http://www.amazon.com/Words-Never-Speak-Scarlet-Darkwood-ebook/dp/B01GH7SJ4S

What’s next for you, Scarlet?

I’m off to try a different genre, and I’m opening myself up very slowly to helping publish other authors. 

Thank you for chatting with The Writing Life, Scarlet. I wish you the best with your books and publishing adventures! 

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always at the ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

Please visit Eleanor at her author website: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM