Author Interview – Donna Wolfe Gatti

I’m very pleased to introduce Donna Wolfe Gatti, author of the autobiographical novel,  Angels and Alchemy. I met the lovely Donna at the Berkeley Springs Book Fair in June, and we’ve been in contact ever since. If like me, you believe in angels and enjoy books about mysticism, you will love Donna’s books.

angels and alchemy - Donna's book coverDonna Wolfe Gatti is the author of five books about angels and mysticism. At the age of four, she began to have angelic encounters and mystical experiences. During a near-death experience at twenty-five, she met the Escort Angels who said they had “come to take her home.” Though it was a tempting offer, she chose to return to life on Earth, and now lives in The Woods Resort in West Virginia, where she is known as the Angel Lady.

Welcome, Donna!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Angels and Alchemy is an autobiographical novel. Some of the names, places and events are fictional, but all the messages from angels are real.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Angels and Alchemy is about a troubled woman named Donatella, who seeks help from Maya, a psychic with the ability to channel messages from angels. As the angels reveal Donatella’s previous lifetimes, she begins to understand herself and her relationships, and the reason why love has caused her so much pain.

How did you come up with the title?

“Angels” is in the title because the book is about angels, their work here on Earth, and how they help us progress along the spiritual pathway. “Alchemy” refers to the art of turning lead into gold. In esoteric terms, it’s the transformation of a leaden soul into a golden light. 

What is the reason you wrote this book?  

Angel Dalia asked me to share their messages with others. She said the words weren’t meant for me alone, and the wisdom and knowledge they gave me should be given to seekers in search of the truth.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love the feeling of co-creating with the angels. In my mind, it’s never “my book.” It’s always “our words, our book, our project.”

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

The first sentence is the most difficult one to write. I have to overcome self-doubt, self-consciousness, and all of my irrational fears.

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

Ann Ree Colton, Florence Scovel Shinn, Peter Richelieu, Frederick Lenz, and Rev. Wing F. Fing. And I treasure the White Eagle books, which were channeled by Grace Cooke.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Angels and spirit guides have had the greatest influence on me. 

Favorite place to write? 

I keep a pen and pad handy to jot down random thoughts, but the only place I can write is at home, in my office. 

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I am terribly shy and plagued with an array of fears. Germs, bugs, animals, people, moving objects and just about everything that exists in the physical world scares me. But I’m not the least bit afraid of ghosts and evil spirits.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

I was surprised to learn that writing a manuscript is a very small part of the publishing process. It takes tremendous energy to produce, market, and sell a book.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I held in my mind a clear image of my perfect reader and wrote the book for her.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

A good relationship with an editor or a publisher is more effective than a hundred well-crafted query letters.


My website is

Where can we find your book?

Angels and Alchemy is available at and on my website:

What’s next for you?

In all honesty, I don’t know. I’m waiting for the angels to give me a sign.

Thanks for an interesting interview, Donna! All the best to you!


A DECENT WOMAN Has a New Look!

I am very excited to share the new book cover of A DECENT WOMAN with you!

It has been an intense week of designing, changing fonts and backgrounds on a photograph I shot of a hand-painted wood statue of the Virgin Mary of Montserrat I purchased in France many years ago.

Although I was deeply disappointed to discover we couldn’t use our original book cover because two authors had already used it on their books, I love this image which personifies some of the important themes of A DECENT WOMAN – faith, tradition, and change.

I hope you like it as much as I do. My thanks to my Cover Designer, Greg Simanson, and Mindy Halleck, my Book Manager for working with me and sharing my vision!

A DECENT WOMAN is coming out Fall 2014 with Booktrope Books!


Author Interview with Jonathan Marcantoni

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It is my great pleasure to welcome author, Jonathan Marcantoni to The Writing Life. I followed Jonathan on Twitter where we discovered a mutual friend–author, Mayra Calvani. I’d read Mayra’s interview with Jonathan a while back; it is indeed a small world. I am excited to read his Latino Crime Noir novel, The Feast of San Sebastian.

Jonathan Marcantoni is co-founder of Aignos Publishing, and author of Communion (with Jean Blasiar), Traveler’s Rest, The Feast of San Sebastian, and the upcoming Kings of 7th Avenue. His works focus on the struggles of Puerto Ricans on and off of the island. He is also the founder of the YouNiversity Project which helps college students learn about the publishing industry and prepare them for careers as professional authors. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife and three daughters.

Welcome, Jonathan!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Latino Crime Noir

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Feast of San Sebastian is about a middleman, Ilan, who arranges illicit deals for drugs, guns, prostitutes, and anything else his clients need. A former human trafficker, he has distanced himself from that life, but the deals he now makes still haunt his conscience since he knows that he is contributing to the destruction of the country he loves, Puerto Rico. To appease his demons, he turns to drinking and gambling, which land him in debt to San Juan’s biggest crime boss, Antonio. Antonio respects Ilan and approaches him with a chance to free himself without having to pay back another dime: by arranging the assassination of Aurelio Oviedo Narvaez, the corrupt Superintendent of Police. The plot will force Ilan to face his past as a smuggler and confront the contradictions and consequences of his actions, which are a microcosm of the moral and political dilemmas which face all Puerto Ricans.   

How did you come up with the title?

The climax of the book is set during the Calle San Sebastian street festival, which leads up to the religious festival which gives the book its title. I chose that title for the contrast of religious ideology and theory going up against the corrupt reality of everyday life. It emphasizes how far the people in the book have strayed from living honorably and humanely.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

To educate people on and off of the island of these issues that are so often swept under the rug or deferred to someone else to deal with. Many Puerto Ricans are not even aware that human trafficking is such a huge problem, since the victims are most often the poor from rural communities or foreigners. In the case of the book, the victims are Haitians, who are subjected to extreme prejudice on the island. Our modern mentality is to dehumanize in order to defer responsibility for injustice. It is much easier to say that an atrocity is someone else’s problem, but the world is so interconnected, now more than ever, that everyone is guilty to some degree. Human trafficking occurs because we want cheap products and cheap thrills like drugs and prostitution. General society makes human trafficking possible, without the demand there would be no need to exploit people in this manner. So we are all at fault, including myself.  

What is your favorite part of writing?

That moment when you finish a scene and know intrinsically that you hit it out of the park. It does not happen often, so when it does, you savor it.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Working with an editor and performing self-editing. The whole editing process really is painstaking and rarely fun. When your edits are done and you are happy with the book, the suffering pays off, but the editing process, second only to the post-publishing process of marketing and fighting for readers in a sea of indifference (which I consider to be a part of being a writer, but not of writing itself), is the most humbling part of writing, and therefore the most challenging.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That is too long a list to name everyone, but briefly, Toni Morrison, Hubert Selby Jr., Julio Cortázar, Juan José Saer, Fernando Pessoa, José Saramago, Naguib Mahfouz, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Luis Rafael Sanchez, Miguel de Unamuno, Julia de Burgos, Luis Llorens Torres, Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo, and Pablo Neruda, to name but a few.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My biggest influences have been Cortázar and Selby Jr. I borrow a lot from both of them, but Saer wrote my favorite book of all time, El Entenado, and his combination of poetry, horror, and philosophy is something I am moving toward. My newest works keep inching more and more toward allegory and spiritual meditation, not in a new agey way, but in a thoughtful way. My books so far have been very much about photo-realism, capturing life as it is. But now I am most interested in the transcendence of human nature and that internal struggle to be more than what society offers.

Favorite place to write?

I do not have the luxury to have a single place to do my creative work. I am a father and husband with a day job who also co-owns a publishing house, I am all over the place. So I write where I can, though I will say that music being present is a necessity, no matter where I am, even if it is just a tune in my head, music has to be present. 

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know? My day job is in the military, which is especially contradicting because I am a Puerto Rican independentista with an ideology similar to the macheteros, but you do what you have to do to make a living, I suppose. Even Albizu Campos served in the military, it is an honorable thing. I do not find it prevents me from believing in and supporting a free Puerto Rican nation. 

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Well, I have had the great opportunity of being an author, editor, editor in chief, and co-owner of a publishing house, so I have experienced publishing at every stage. I can say the biggest thing I have learned is to be patient and to be educated. The more you know about the process, the less of a headache it is. A lot of frustrations writers have come from a sense of entitlement that at times is essential, since you should not be a push over and having a sense of self-worth prevents a lot of people from taking advantage of you, but at other times gives both you and other writers a bad name. A writer must know when to be headstrong and when to be humble. Too many writers think because they do not get the world handed to them on a platter, especially the first time out, that publishers are evil or just want to hurt them and their work. There are legitimately bad publishers, but most of them are the biggest champions of literature and who love books in the sincerest, most profound way possible. But publishers have to always keep an eye on the business side of writing, as much as they want to be all about the art, they cannot do that and stay in business. Many writers resent the business side, but that is essential if you want this to be your profession.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I guess I did not burn the wrong bridges. Had I, I do not think the book would have come out. I met the right people to support this kind of story and cultivated those relationships, and that is perhaps the biggest reason you are interviewing me right now. Had I been like I was at age 19, when I had my first paid writing gig, I doubt I could land a publisher. I had to humble myself and build friendships to have the opportunities afforded me today.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Get educated about the process so that your expectations are realistic. The more measured you can be about the process the better. Clear minds win good deals, and I do not mean that as solely financial. I mean working with the kind of people who fit you and your aesthetic. It may mean you are not making six figures as a writer, but a lot of writers who get the big bonuses end up with books being released that do not reflect their vision, where they had to make big sacrifices in the name of marketability. There is nothing wrong with being marketable, as long as you can live with the sacrifices. Even at a good company, cuts and changes will be made, but when you work with the right people, those changes will not only be less painful, you will find once you do them that you love them. But you need that team, I am a stickler for the team that a publisher gives a writer. That is why so many self-published books are awful, writers take the whole vision thing to an extreme that only feeds their ego. So find that community of people who force you to make the tough decisions because they are right for your story and right for you, and be willing to get your hands dirty promoting the hell out of the book that you and your publisher have put together, that is the only way people will take notice of you. 


YouNiversity Project and Facebook and Twitter.

Where can we find your book?

The Feast of San Sebastian is available in English at and in Spanish as an ebook at Casa del Libro. The book is also available for sale at La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York City and Twig Book Shop in San Antonio, TX.

What’s next for you?

I am currently, along with author Chris Campanioni, heading the YouNiversity Project. We have three amazing students, Yma Johnson and Emma Mayhood from Eastern Michigan University, and Julia Horniacek from Ramapo College, who are embarking on a year-long journey where we will assist them in writing a query letter, building up a web presence on social media, networking with other writers, publishers, agents, graphic artists, and radio personalities to learn about the interconnected world of publishing and entertainment, and workshopping their own writing so that by next year, they can begin seeking out publishers and/or agents.

I also have a new book coming out, Kings of 7th Avenue, which is a surrealistic drama set on the Tampa club scene that explores the effects of misogyny and abuse on individuals and society. I am also working on a Spanish novel for Araña Editorial.

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Thanks for a super interview, Jonathan! It was an honor to have you with us today.


Always Have a Plan B…and C, If Possible


After much thought and deliberation, I changed the book cover image of my novel, A DECENT WOMAN. The main reason is that two award-winning novelists already used images of the painting by Marie-Guillemine Benoist on their book covers, and like my novel, both novels are about the lives of Caribbean slave women. The fact remains – the painting would have been the perfect image for my book cover, but I felt the need for a little distance. Our stories are completely different…but, you know.

Friends and family told me from the very beginning, “Paint a portrait of your character for your book cover.” I probably should have early on, but there was no the time to tackle painting a portrait with editing, social media, and blogging. Not to mention I had to figure out how to make a book trailer which I finished today. It was great fun to make. If I can make a book trailer, anyone can! I was excited to use photographs I’d taken on my many trips home to Puerto Rico, and I am pleased with the result.

So, back to the book cover. Once I decided to ax the original cover, I decided to play with the theme of  faith that runs through A DECENT WOMAN. I scoured the house for appropriate items, and selected the red, paint-chipped wall of my kitchen porch for the backdrop (which has been on my list to paint white for a year). I shot twelve photographs, and I have to tell you, it was magical. I’m glad I didn’t have time to paint that wall. The lighting was right, the colors were complimentary, and two photographs were very special. I immediately sent the two images to my cover designer and book manager who loved it. My cover designer did a fantastic job putting it all together, and we should have a cover reveal as soon as the mock cover design is approved.

No more hassle with licenses, copyrights, and writing emails trying to track down the owners and photographers of images found on the Internet. It was an ordeal, but today, I am headache-free. Well, I will be as soon as I receive the approval of the mock book cover. And, next time? Next time, I won’t have this problem 🙂

I am excited to present the new, improved book cover AND book trailer of A DECENT WOMAN in the very near future!



The Use of Spanish Slang, Words, and Phrases in Novel Writing

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. –Buddhist proverb

A Google search for the definition of a new term to me, ‘heritage speaker’, led me to a blog series by Lisa Bradley who writes at Cafe Nowhere. Lisa’s blog is a gold mine of information and I was happy to land in her’ Cafe’. I especially enjoyed her series, Writing Latin@ Characters Well, where I found the answers to questions about the complicated business of using Spanish words and phrases in novels.

My novel, A Decent Woman, debuts this autumn with Spanish words sprinkled throughout the story. I’m a native Spanish speaker, so it was natural for me to include them as I wrote the story.

The questions rattling in my brain this week,( besides the questions of when the City Public Works will collect the debris from my neighbor’s downed tree branches now littering my sidewalk), were:

1. Should I italicize the Spanish words and phrases in  A Decent Woman? What about my character’s thoughts? Should they be italicized?

2. Is it best to offer the meaning of Spanish words and phrases within the text, or place a comma after the Spanish word and use the English word in the same sentence?

3. Should I include a glossary at the end of the novel for non-Spanish speaking readers?

4. Am I missing important differences between 1900 Cuban and Puerto Rican slang, words, and phrases? Important to know as A Decent Woman is historical fiction. I wouldn’t want to get caught making a faux pas. See right there? I automatically italicized the French word.

5. What were Puerto Rican Spanish curse words used in 1900-1930? Yes, I need to know this!

Thoughts and light bulb moments I gleaned today from a few of Lisa Bradley’s blog posts, and from her reader’s comments as they pertain to my novel:

1. Me – Do not use names for characters that require accents marks. I used the names, Raúl, Agustín, Isabél, and Vicénte in A Decent Woman. Great names, but what a pain when it came time to edit! I kept finding names with missing accent marks during editing. I have since replaced Raúl with Isidro because it’s an older name, and learned about the ‘find’ and ‘replace’ feature on Microsoft Word. I’m no longer hesitant to use great names with accents. I learn every day.

2. Do not italicize Spanish phrases or words in a book. Potential readers and buyers will (hopefully) have read the book cover blurb and/or the synopsis on Amazon or Goodreads. If the author has written a good description, synopsis or blurb, the reader will know to expect some Spanish words.

3. Readers will rise to the challenge; don’t dumb down text with translations of Spanish words. I’ve read books with French and German words in the story; a talented writer will offer the meaning of the word or phrase within the text. A very talented author will make you think you haven’t missed a beat as you read along.

4. No glossary. Same reason as #3.

5. I’m still searching for the answer to my question about whether thoughts should be italicized in a novel. I’m sure my editor extraordinaire, Ally Bishop, will know the answer to that, so I’m leaving that one alone for now!

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments!

Thanks for your visit today! Click Like and Follow, please. I will do the same!

Definition of a Heritage Speaker: “a person who is raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken, who speaks or merely understands the heritage language, and who is to some degree bilingual in English and the heritage language” (Valdés, 2000)

Link to Cafe Nowhere:


Publishing Advice from Literary Agent Extraordinaire April Eberhardt

I’m pleased to reblog this awesome interview by Mary Rowen with April Eberhardt!

April Eberhardt pictureToday, I’m thrilled to welcome my wonderful literary agent, April Eberhardt to my blog!

MR: Welcome April! It’s an honor to have you here today.

AE: Thanks, Mary!

MR: So April, you’re known in the literary world as a “literary change agent.” What does that mean?

AE: When I moved into agenting a relatively few years ago, it was clear that things were changing, and fast. I could foresee a time when authors would need, and want, to take control of how their work was published. Legacy publishers haven’t been able to keep up with the changes, nor have they really tried very hard since it means relinquishing profits and power. In my view a change agent is someone who looks to the future with the goal of enabling people to do more, or to achieve outcomes that were previously unattainable. I’m excited about the new publishing models emerging because as…

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Just Bumps on the Road to Publication



Last week, an author and new friend emailed to tell me about a novel by Marlon James titled, The Book of Night Women, published in 2009. From my immediate reply, it was clear to my friend that I’d never heard of Marlon James or read any of his books that were well-received and highly thought of.

As I scrolled down her second email, I saw the cover of his book, The Book of Night Women, and my jaw dropped. It features an image of the painting by Marie-Guillemine Benoist that currently graces my debut novel’s book cover. You could have knocked me over with a paperback book. What are the odds of this happening? And, so close to the publication of my book!

Well, it was clear Mr. James and I have good taste in book covers, and we share Caribbean roots–Marlon James is Jamaican and I’m Puerto Rican, both born on beautiful islands. What to do? Not surprising we’d come up with stories with similar settings, so  I went on Amazon and read the synopsis of his story.

Not only do our historical novels share the same image, but they are written about slave women in the Caribbean. His Jamaican slave woman/protagonist has green eyes; my Afro-Cuban slave woman/protagonist has hazel eyes. Not too crazy given the times and places; both women grew up as slaves on Caribbean sugar plantations. But, O.M.G. I read on…

Marlon James’ story is about a group of slave women who plot a slave rebellion on their sugar plantation in Jamaica. Nothing like my story, thank God. No similarities. My story is about a freed slave who flees Cuba to Puerto Rico and begins her life as the only midwife in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico. My book begins in 1900; James’ story starts in the late 1700s. My protagonist Ana was a real person; she was my grandmother’s midwife, Doña Ana.

I immediately ordered The Book of Night Women, and am waiting for it to arrive. I can’t wait to read the book as my manuscript goes into the final editing stage. My book should be on shelves Autumn 2014…with a new book cover.

Well, the stars and the Universe have spoken. I discovered an awesome black and white image of a Caribbean belle, and I am praying I can use it for my book cover. Fingers crossed and back to the drawing board for me and my publishing team. Who knows why these things happen?

I first saw the Benoist painting in the Louvre in Paris after I wrote my story. The year was 2006 and I lived in Brussels, Belgium. I’d always imagined I was telling the story of the woman in the Benoist painting, or maybe channeling Doña Ana which wouldn’t surprise me one bit. In the end, we write what we know, and we write what we’ve experienced in life. As I write this blog post, it is clear this although this was an unusual occurrence, we write what we know, and we write what we experience in life. This is what I know.

Now, what in the world do I do with 500 bookmarks, 500 book postcards, and 500 business cards that feature this image?? A bonfire, a collage? Use them anyway?

No matter, I’m eternally grateful to my new friend, BB, for coming forward with the information. Thank you, BB!

We go on, that’s what we do. I pray my novel is as well-received as Mr. James’ novel, and I’d love to meet him.

Congratulations, Marlon James. You sir, have an awesome, kick ass book cover!