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.


Welcome to The Writing Life, Donelle.


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.


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.


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.

Twitter @donelleknudsen


Blog  Http://


Where can we find your book(s)?

Book(s) link:

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.



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:






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.


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.


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:




Where can we find your books?

A Thin, Dark Line

As Darkness Gathers

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!



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:




Author Interview: Dane Cobain

Welcome to the Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog. Each Tuesday, it’s a pleasure to share my talented writer friends with readers. We have a a great line up of fabulous authors scheduled until June 2017. Please do check back in and meet a new author next week.

Today, I’m pleased to chat with multigenre writer, Dane Cobain. Dane, who hails from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK, is an independent poet, musician and storyteller with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not in front of a screen writing stories and poetry, he can be found working on his book review blog or developing his website, His debut novella, No Rest for the Wicked, was released in the summer of 2015.

He started writing at fourteen, and progressed from lyrics and music to journals, short stories and poetry before writing the first draft of an early novel whilst in lectures. He studied creative writing at London’s Roehampton University, earning a 2:1 bachelor’s degree before starting a career as a social media marketing.


Welcome, Dane.

What is your book’s genre/category?

I have a number of them on the market:

  • No Rest for the Wicked (supernatural thriller)
  • Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home (poetry)
  • The Rise and Fall of a Social Network (literary fiction)
  • Social Paranoia: How Consumers and Brands Can Stay Safe in a Connected World (non-fiction)


Dane, please describe what  is about. 

I’ll use, my most recent fiction release, to answer these ones. The novel follows a fledgling social networking site as the team tries to scale upwards and to take over the world. But it’s not a smooth journey – the site’s two founders share a dark secret, a secret that someone is willing to kill for. 

How did you come up with the title? is the name of the fictitious social network in the book, and it takes its name because it’s a social networking site for the dead – you sign up, post updates that are hidden from view, and then after you die, the updates go live for the rest of the world. They call themselves because that’s their domain name, and it refers to the fact that their users were formerly alive. That’s not actually explained anywhere in the book, and you’re the first person to ask about it!

What inspired you to write this book?

They say that you should write what you know, and I work in social media marketing. It seemed like a good idea to write about my very own fictitious social network. I think it helps to capture the zeitgeist of the times we live in.

What is your favorite part of writing? 

I just find it therapeutic. I’m compelled to write, and I start to get uncomfortable if I’m not able to write much. It’s a bit like scratching an itch.

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

He does resemble me to some extent; he’s sort of a mixture of myself and some other people that I know. We have a similar outlook on the world, and as the book is written in first person, it was only natural that certain elements of my personality would filter through to Dan. 

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

Finding the time! It takes a lot of time to write a book, and you need to force yourself to stick at it until you’re finished. Plus, there are plenty of potential distractions!

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

I’ve just finished reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and the last book that I read was The Wind Through the Keyhole, which was written and released after the rest of the books in the series but which is set somewhere in the middle. It was alright, but not as good as the rest of them, mainly because it didn’t really focus on the same characters. Still good, though. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

There are too many to name individually, but the list includes Graham Greene, Philip Pullman, Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway and Terry Pratchett.

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

I think that we’re all influenced by each other, so again – the list is too long for me to mention them all. But it’s the contemporary writers that I’ve met and befriended along the way who really have the biggest influence of all. I think we’re all learning from each other, and that’s a good thing – one of the main advantages of the internet. 

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

I’ll write pretty much anywhere – I carry a notebook around and jot stuff down on my phone. But my favourite place to write is in my living room, because I can sit back and relax while doing it. As for reading, I mostly read on the bus to and from work, chilling on the sofa in the office on my lunch break, or when nipping out for cigarettes at home. 

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

I have anxiety disorder. My closer friends tend to know about it, but a lot of people don’t, and it often surprises them when they find out.

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

I think you’re always learning from everything that you do, even if you’re just reading someone else’s work. The main thing that I’ve learned along the way has been the importance of having a good editor and a decent cover designer. People always seem to think that they’ve done an amazing job by editing themselves, but that’s usually not the case.


What do you hope readers will gain from

I just hope that they enjoy it. I think that it’s important to have fun when you’re reading; if they want to draw their own conclusions and find a lesson in there then that’s their call. 

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

I think that hitting the zeitgeist – by which, I mean writing about social networking when social networking is all over the news and a new and exciting part of our day-to-day lives – has helped to get readers interested in the first place. Hopefully the writing does the rest.

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

Nothing in particular – I suppose the main challenge was to make sure that the book wasn’t outdated before it was released. That’s the problem with writing about social networking sites – they move quickly!

So true! Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Just stick at it and keep on trying. It’s also important to work on building up a social media following – potential publishers will want to know that you have a potential readership before they invest time and resources to release your work. Starting a blog site can be a good way to do that.

Please share your website and social media links.

You can find me at or follow me on Facebook ( and Twitter ( 

Where can we find your book?

It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats from most major online retailers, including Amazon. Here are the links to



What’s next for you, Dane?

I’m keeping busy at the moment! Next up, I’m planning to release a horror novella and screenplay called Come On Up to the House, followed by an anthology I’m working on with 21 authors, called Subject Verb Object’. I’m also currently 25,000 words into the first draft of a detective novel, called ‘Driven’.

You certainly are keeping busy! Thanks for a super interview, Dane. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and your books. I wish you all the best in your writing life.



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:


Please visit Eleanor at her website:





Author Interview: C. P. Lesley

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. We have a wonderful line up of talented authors into May 2017, so please check back in next week.

Today I’m very pleased to welcome C. P. Lesley, a historian who has published six novels. Her Legends of the Five Directions series, set in Russia during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible, so far includes The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, and The Swan Princess.

C. P. also hosts New Books in Historical Fiction, a channel in the New Books Network.

Welcome to The Writing Life.



What is your book’s genre/category?

Historical fiction, with elements of romance and adventure.

Please describe for our readers what The Swan Princess is about.

The Swan Princess is no. 3 (North) in Legends of the Five Directions, a series set in the 1530s featuring a Tatar princess, Nasan, who marries a Russian nobleman. In this book Nasan, whose ambition in life is to imitate the warrior heroines of old, feels abandoned by her husband, who has gone off to war and never writes, as well as suffocated in the rigid household run by her mother-in-law, Natalya. When Natalya decides to undertake a long pilgrimage for her health, Nasan sees a path to regaining the life she loves, but she soon runs afoul of an old enemy determined to avenge what he perceives as unjust treatment from her and her husband. Fortunately for all concerned, she has more skills to draw on than the domestic knowledge her mother-in-law considers the only acceptable pursuit for women.


I’m currently reading and very much enjoying The Swan Princess.  How did you come up with the title?

Well, as has happened throughout this series, the title came to me before I knew what the image meant for my story. I had to hunt down legends about swan maidens and swan wives before I could figure out what my subconscious was trying to tell me. I discovered that such legends are widespread throughout the world, including in the Tatar lands. One version, familiar in the West, appears in the ballet Swan Lake, but most often the story involves a young woman who has been captured and forced into domesticity until she can reclaim her wings, which her captor has hidden from her, and fly away. That urge for freedom drives Nasan’s character development here. But swans also symbolize marital fidelity, and the loss and recovery of her relationship with her husband are also an important theme in the novel.

What inspired you to write the Legends of the Five Directions series?

The series came about because I have spent four decades studying this fascinating place and time: Russia between the Mongol invasion (1237-40) and the reign of Peter the Great (1689-1725). I wanted to share it with people in an accessible way, and fiction seemed like the ideal means to do that. In particular, I love to explore the many different ways that women adapt and grow in societies that restrict their choices and have low expectations of their abilities—historically, most societies. Every one of the women featured in this series, from Nasan, the descendant of Genghis Khan, to Grusha the slave girl, has to address and solve the question of where she fits in the larger world; each one responds in her own unique way.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love every part of writing except the final proofreading. Because I tend to start with sketches and fill them in as I go, I’d say that my absolute favorite part is the second stage, when I can see the broad lines of the story but still have lots of room for creativity and invention. But I find even the revision and pruning stages satisfying in their own way. 

C. P., does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Well, psychologically, all my characters—even the antagonists—must represent some part of me, right? I just don’t always want to admit it! Nasan is braver than I am and does things I’d never think of, like impulsively going after men-at-arms with her sword. Her emotions lie on the surface, whereas mine tend, in good Scots style, to remain hidden. She is like me in terms of having a practical approach to life, and she loves to read, which I do, too. But I have worked to make her different from me, unlike some of my earlier heroines (Nina in The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel; Sasha in Desert Flower and Kingdom of the Shades). By the way, it’s easier, in my view, to write a character less like the author; it gives me some much-needed distance to appreciate both her virtues and her flaws.



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

Character development always gives me fits. My brain goes to plot first, and so left to my own devices I would shove my poor characters into situations without considering how they feel or even why they would act that way. Fortunately, my critique group (Ariadne Apostolou and Courtney J. Hall) exerts steady pressure until I stop contorting the characters and focus on who they are and what they need to learn.

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

Martha Conway’s Sugarland, a mystery set in semi-segregated Jazz Age Chicago. I read it for New Books in Historical Fiction, a podcast channel that I host for the New Books Network, and I really enjoyed it. It has a nice twisty plot and believable, not always admirable characters, as well as a fast pace, good writing, and great historical detail.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That would be a long list, but the ones I always come back to include Agatha Christie, Laurie R. King, Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy L. Sayers, and for real literary comfort food, Georgette Heyer. No one since Jane Austen has managed to nail a character in a line and a half the way Heyer could.

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

I enjoy reading books on the craft of writing. Particular favorites include John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, and Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make a Scene. So those authors have all influenced me. But my critique group, which has now expanded to include the writers of Five Directions Press, are the ones who help me figure out how to apply the advice to my own work.

That’s a great list, thanks. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write at my computer, which is in my office. Reading, though, is an activity for the couch and evenings, unless it’s research—then that, too, takes place in my office and during the day.

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

I took twenty-five years of classical ballet class—with teenagers, no less—starting at thirty-six, when most ballet dancers start thinking about retirement. That’s where my two nonhistorical novels, Desert Flower and Kingdom of the Shades, come from. They star a ballerina and were great fun to write.

Good for you for following your passion! Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

My characters surprise me constantly. No matter how much plotting and outlining I do, they get on the page and act like they have minds of their own. I’d heard other people say that, but experiencing it amazes me, even now. And the research, which I love, produces wonderful story twists and possibilities that I might never have considered on my own. As for publishing, the climate has changed so fast in so short a time, I don’t think I—or anyone—could have predicted what it would like today or will look like five years from now. 

True words about characters and the publishing business. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

To appreciate the resilience of the human spirit. It’s easy to think of women, especially, in the past as being downtrodden victims or ignorant housewives, but that ignores the influence of social standing and wealth as well as individual creativity. Some of my characters—Natalya, Nasan’s mother, Nasan’s sister-in-law Firuza—thrive in their traditional world. Others—like Nasan and, in a different way, Grusha—fight to align society’s expectations with their need to stay true to themselves. Maria, my current heroine, conforms outwardly but suffers inside and takes out her unhappiness on those around her. She would excel in the modern world but needs a huge push to get herself moving where she is. This complexity seems more real to me than sticking everyone into a single box.

I’d also love to push people’s understanding and knowledge about Russia beyond Vladimir Putin’s latest stunt or even the Cold War. It’s a thousand-year-old country with a rich and varied history that is tailormade for fiction and film; it deserves to be seen as more than an enemy state or a foe of democracy and capitalism.


Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market The Swan Princess?

I wrote what I love, without worrying about whether it would sell, and took good advice everywhere I could find it. I agreed with my writers’ group to set up our own publishing cooperative. That was an even bigger learning experience than the writing, and we’re only now starting to figure out what works and what doesn’t, but it’s been an amazing journey over the last four years. I started a blog, which I update every Friday, and dipped my toe into social media. And I accepted the position as host of New Books in Historical Fiction, which has given me a platform, as well as introducing me to writers both famous and not so famous.

What didn’t work?

I don’t think anything has really failed, but marketing is still a work in progress for both me and the coop. I probably need to do a lot more with social media than I do, for example, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Revise, revise, revise. Find people you can trust, whose writing you respect, and work with them. Don’t assume that your first draft will be your last, because first drafts are hardly ever publishable, even when experienced writers produce them (experienced writers know this, unlike beginners). And if you decide to self-publish, which is very easy nowadays, do yourself a favor and hire a copy editor who understands the requirements of fiction, a typesetter who knows what goes into producing a physical book, and a professional cover designer. Nothing will sink your book faster than an amateurish cover and a book riddled with typographical and grammatical errors. The only exception to that last is where a character uses nonstandard speech as evidence of his or her background and educational level, and even then, you need to be careful not to slip into dialect. 

Great advice. Website and social media links?  (where I have boards for each of my books)

Where can we find your books?

All my books are on The Golden Lynx and The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel are also available as e-books at Barnes and Noble and to libraries via Biblioboard The best way to find any of my books is to go to and click on a cover picture. A page will open with purchase links, a description, endorsements, and excerpts for that book. The page for The Swan Princess is

What’s next for you?

The Vermilion Bird (Legends 4: South). I have four chapters and a prologue in reasonable shape, plus goal/motivation/conflict charts and a vaguely defined plot. Now I need to figure out how to put the two halves—plot and character—together into a functioning story.

Thanks very much for your visit, C. P.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I wish you the best with the publishing coop, the podcast, and on your writing journey.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia


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 in Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the award-winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Well-traveled Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger who is never without a pen and a notebook, her passport, and a camera. 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:

Please visit Eleanor at her website:



The Writing Life: Interview with Anna Belfrage

Welcome to The Writing Life. Today I am thrilled to welcome the talented and lovely Anna Belfrage, author of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, a series of eight novels, many of which have received well-deserved awards from the Historical Novel Society, six BRAG Medallions, and a RONE Honorable Mention.

Anna-B-höguppl-300x206Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, chances are she’ll be visiting in the 17th century, more specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This series is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him.

Anna Belfrage series of books image

Welcome, Anna.

What is your book’s genre/category?

I’m fast approaching the publication of my tenth book, but the nine I have out there all have in common that they belong under the Historical fiction umbrella. I would add that there is a considerable amount of love – not so much “classic” romance, as my protagonists quickly conclude they’re meant for each other and therefore present a unified front to their future adventures.

Please describe what your books are about.

My first eight books are all part of The Graham Saga, which is the story of two people who should never have met, seeing as she was born three hundred years after him. A heady mixture of action, adventure, history, passion and time-slip, The Graham Saga is set in the 17th century, both in Scotland and the American Colonies.

Anna Belfrage book coverMy most recent release, In the Shadow of the Storm, is the first in a new four-book series and set in the 14th century. It tells the story of Adam de Guirande and his wife, Kit. She was coerced into marrying him, he has no idea she isn’t who he thought he was marrying, and things between them become a bit dicey. Until Adam’s lord, Roger Mortimer, rebels against the king, dragging Adam with him. Domestic quarrels become immaterial in the larger perspective…Adam is a man of honour and integrity, torn apart between his loyalties to his beloved lord, his king, and his wife.

How did you come up with the title?

For my latest book, I just had this image of a knight riding towards a brewing storm. In general, I spend a lot of time choosing my titles – also, when writing a series, the titles must sort of go together, and as I have most of the series written before I consider publication this gives me time to play around with titles.

It’s a great cover. What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been fascinated by the tumultuous end to Edward II’s reign – and the role his wife, Isabella, played in it, together with her lover, Roger Mortimer. The real-life story is an impressive mix of passion, intrigue and political maneouvering.

What is your favorite part of writing?

The first rewrite. I generally get a first draft down in a month or so, and then I start the truly fun part, which is adding flesh to the bones, if you will. Not that the first draft is all that bare to begin with – the first rewrite will generally slash like 30% of the words and add 15% – but it is during the rewrite that the story acquires colour and smells.

I’m still stuck on the one month for a first draft! That’s incredible. What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

The editing. I use professional editors for a final edit, but before I turn anything over to them, I have done numerous edits. I still find it very difficult to slash scenes I love just because they are “unnecessary”. Sometimes, I indulge myself and leave them in, but mostly out they go and I spend some time feeling a bit depressed.

I know what you mean; it’s tough to cut scenes. Who are some of your favorite authors?

Where do I start? I read a lot of historical fiction, and Elizabeth Chadwick and Sharon K Penman are among my favorites. I enjoy Barbara Erskine and Diana Gabaldon, I’ve read a lot of Bernard Cornwell and am a big fan of Venezuelan hist fic writer Francisco Herrera Luque. I don’t think any of his books have been translated, which is unfortunate as not only is he meticulous in his research, but he also writes about larger-than-life people.

I don’t only read hist fict. I read a lot of romance (love Amanda Quick and Lucinda Brant) and quite some crime/thriller, where I have a tendency to while away hours in the company of Mr Reacher. Plus, I love fantasy – blame it on Tolkien, a very early love of mine.

Being an indie writer myself, a huge chunk of my reading is other indie authors. Not that I give them free passes: I have a restricted amount of time, and books that do not meet basic standard when it comes to editing and formatting are quickly discarded (whether indie or mainstream. Quite a few mainstream lack good editing…) and unless the story hooks me the first 50 pages, I set it aside. (Once again: happens just as much with mainstream as with indie). Great indie authors are Alison Morton, Helen Hollick, M J Logue, Derek Birks, Steve McKay and Matthew Harffy – all of whom have written series. I obviously like series…

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

When it comes to my writing, my mother is undoubtedly one of the main influencers – not because she writes, but because she instilled a love of the written word in me from the age of one or thereabouts. She always read to me, and once I could read, she welcomed me to read whatever I wanted to read in her extensive library. Her tastes are eclectic, and so I found both Emmanuelle and Sartre on the shelves, although there was an overrepresentation of English writers – and particularly English poets.

Featured Image -- 3346

Do you have a favorite place to write?

At my desk in our country house. I turn my head, and I see a sloping meadow, beyond it the expanse of the lake. Now and then, an osprey soars upwards, I see kites and buzzards, swallows and swifts, and, in summer, a sea of blue lupines. Not bad.

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

I know a lot about dogs – I think I recognize most breeds around, seeing as I’ve worked as ring secretary at various dog exhibitions.

What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?

It’s much more work than I expected it to be. Okay, so I’m indie published, and I knew that would mean more work than going mainstream, but all the same, it takes a minor tribe to get a book out there – especially if you’re aiming for quality. The cover, the editing, the proof-reading, the type-setting – all of it a lot of work. And then, once it is out there, the true slog starts, namely PROMOTION. All authors have to do it, most authors find it difficult and resent it because it impinges on writing time. But it has to be done, and it requires a lot of creative effort.

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

I wrote the story I wanted to tell. Sounds simple, but is fundamental. As a writer, you must burn with passion for your Work in Progress. If you don’t, no one else will.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

I’m biased here, seeing as I am a big advocate of doing things the indie way. But whether you opt for the traditional route or the indie route, there are no shortcuts: your book has to be edited and revised and edited and revised. And if you’re going indie, you need to invest in external services – editing and cover design must be done by professionals!

Website and blog?

My blog:

My website:

Where can we find your books?

For my latest release:

or, for The Graham Saga:

What’s next for you?

More writing 🙂 Other than my present series, I am working on a ninth book in The Graham Saga, and then I have a trilogy more or less ready to go – this time contemporary with a paranormal touch.

Thank you for visiting The Writing Life, Anna! I enjoyed learning more about you and your wonderful books. I admit I’m trying to wrap my head around writing a draft of an historical novel in a month, so perhaps you’ll consider writing a blog post on your writing process? Whatever it is, it works like a charm! Thanks again and happy writing to you.



Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker and refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is happily writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’.






New Anthology: Latina Authors And Their Muses

Latina Authors and Their Muses

Final book cover Latina Authors and Their Muses

Eleanor Parker Sapia is honored to be featured in the new anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. The anthology, which highlights 40 respected Latina authors, …”is a celebration of creativity, the writer’s life, the passionate quest for spiritual and artistic freedom.”

Enjoy an excerpt from Eleanor:

“In many descriptive passages in the book, I see where my painterly eye took over. Knowing the ins and outs of painting, and understanding the necessary patience and discipline helped me with writing—like already speaking the local language when you visit a new country. Building layers, focusing on details, always the details, and highlighting the nuances, light, and dark parts in a painting, are a lot like writing.”

The ebook version debuted September 25th, 2015 through Twilight Times Books. The paperback version will be available in December 2015.



Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

A Decent Woman is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

Barnes & Noble for Nook and in paperback.

La Casa Azul Bookstore    143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029


Sometimes You Must Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

Earlier this week, nearly twenty days after my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman was published, I set about creating a to-do list that included, answering emails, writing articles for ezines, replying to author interview questions, and trying to keep up on social media sites I’m part of. The list of what I needed to accomplish post-publication seemed overwhelming, and I didn’t expect to feel new, strange emotions–I was a bit disoriented, and felt flustered and overwhelmed. The book I’d worked on for five years was no longer in my hands–it was in readers’ hands. All I could do was stand on the sidelines and watch my protagonists, Ana and Serafina, take over–it’s their story. At this point, my book, the story, must stand alone. I just happened to write it. But, of course, I got in my own way.

When A Decent Woman first came out, I was overwhelmed with feelings of pride and joy, much like a parent when their firstborn goes off to school. I was grateful to Booktrope Publishing for taking a chance on a historical novel about an Afro-Cuban midwife, who lives and works in Puerto Rico and thankful to my publishing team, who were a dream to work with on this project. I was thrilled and grateful when readers left wonderful comments and reviews. I was humbled and felt dizzy. Much like my experiences when my adult kids left the nest, who are doing wonderful things in the world, by the way, I knew post-publication that it was time to get a life.

I realized I had to write another book, but how? I couldn’t concentrate, and in the first ten days, I obsessively checked Amazon, looking for new reviews so I could thank the kind reader (if I knew them). Checking my rankings on Amazon was a daily ritual, which I didn’t know how to do until my marketing guru, Anne told me where to look. Then, I realized being a best selling author is an hourly thing, and I soon gave that up. I now look weekly and hope that stops. During the first ten days, I found it difficult to have ‘normal’ conversations, and discovered it was extremely difficult not to mention my debut novel to the mailman, the guy at the post office as I mailed out copies of my book, and to the guy behind the deli counter, who loves historical fiction. I went a bit nutty reminding my very kind and tolerant family members and friends not to forget to post an honest review for A Decent Woman on Amazon. Sheesh.

I was sick of me, and this isn’t me. Although I know how important social media is, and how very important reviews are to an author, I lived alone for five years, writing and rewriting a story that loved. In the pre-publication days when I was writing, I wouldn’t speak to a soul for days on end, save for a quick phone call, emails and texts to family and friends to catch up and let them know I was alive. I did talk with my cat and my Chihuahua Sophie, who as it turns out, is an extremely good listener if you don’t mind her licking your face. I knew how to do all that. I just didn’t know how to be humble and a social animal, when all I wanted to do was write more books. Life is all about balance, and I wasn’t feeling particularly balanced right after publication.

So, I wrote an email to my friend and writing mentor to many writers, including myself, the master storyteller, Jack Remick. Sensing that I was experiencing, as he calls it, “Firstitis”, he kindly wrote back with a diagnosis that was spot on. He gave me the definition of this curable illness and the cure–get back to writing. Immediately. He was absolutely right. It was sage and timely advice from an incredibly talented writer and a composed, generous man to a discombobulated, but well-meaning, new author.

Thank you, Jack. The craziness has diminished. I’m getting down to the business at hand-writing on my second book–and I’m at peace. I should have written sooner, but I learned valuable lessons, and I’ve always learned the hard way.

Ana Belén, you are on your own, my love. I’m onto The Island of Goats, my second historical novel set in 1920 Puerto Rico and Spain. I’m getting to know my characters, Alta Gracia and India Meath, and accessing my experiences on the medieval route of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, The Way of St. James, in Spain, which I walked with my then-teenage children.

But, I’ll see Ana and Serafina again when I get to writing the sequel to A Decent Woman called Mistress of Coffee.

Sometimes, you must lose yourself to find yourself again.

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, an alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her 25-year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.


Rainy Day Update

A DECENT WOMAN is scheduled for publication in July 2014. At this time, my Booktrope Team and I are heavy into the editing and marketing phases of the book. I am fortunate and blessed to work with such talented folks!

This week, I’m finalizing the email to family and friends about joining my Book Launch Team. I’m also putting together a list of local book stores and hope they are open to me coming in to do a book reading. Local in this area means I’m looking at book stores in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and possibly, Washington, DC. I’ll be happy to drive an hour or two to do a book reading. But when I think about reading from my book, I get butterflies in my stomach. Not the good kind. I begin to worry. Will I ever get to the point where I feel confident that I’ve sent out the best possible version of my book?

Lighting another’s candle from the flame of our candle does not diminish our flame in any way.

On Saturday, I met 10 awesome authors at the Chocolate and Book Festival in downtown Martinsburg, West Virginia. Half of the authors live in my town which was exciting to learn. I enjoyed visiting with them and with my favorite Queen Street store owners who graciously hosted the authors for the annual event. It was a fun event, the chocolates were amazing and I am excited to join the book festival next year! The authors and I shared information about our books and the issue of butterflies in the stomach during a book launch. I realized that my butterflies and I aren’t alone. The consensus was that sending a book out into the world with complete confidence is a goal! Gaining more confidence comes with experience, learning as much as we can about writing and, of course, continuing to read great books by talented authors.

I am extremely grateful to authors who share their writing and marketing expertise through classes, workshops, blogs, and books. I am a sponge at this point in my life which seems pretty amazing given that I’m over half a century old 🙂 The authors I met on Saturday very kindly shared what they’ve learned about marketing in this area and offered me several great tips on who to see about printing bookmarks, postcards, and banners for my book launch. In June, I will be giving a brief presentation on reviewing books at the Berkeley Springs Book Fest in beautiful Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. I’m looking forward to meeting more local authors on that day!

In the middle of all this excitement, my son moves to Europe in a week. His move is never far from my thoughts. This past weekend, I enjoyed a wonderful weekend with my children and family in Northern Virginia, celebrating my son and this happy milestone in his life. It is looking like London will be my son’s new home. Two companies are willing to sponsor him and that’s great news. I only had to excuse myself once from the dinner table. I thought that was pretty damn good. I managed to hold it together and will try to keep it together at the airport next week. I can’t promise, though…a dear friend will accompany me to say goodbye to my son. He will keep me focused on making it back to West Virginia through DC traffic in one piece and has promised to remind me that the future looks great because it sure does.

All in all, this will be a busy week for me. I hope you are well where you are!

This Friday we will be interviewing Patricia Mann, author of the women’s contemporary fiction novel, IS THIS ALL THERE IS?. I hope you will enjoy this talented writer as much as I do! Please join us.


Ellie’s Update On Her Summer Book Launch, Reviews and Kind Critiques

What a week! I say that with a big smile, mind you. I hope you’re having a terrific week and that all is well in your world.

I’m learning a lot more about myself in regard to my Summer book launch of my historical fiction novel, A Decent Woman. Mostly, I’ve learned how I deal with new pressures, new information (mostly technical) and what I must do to control stress and pressure. I’m also growing thicker skin for the book launch.Yesterday, I read two author’s accounts of hateful reviews they received after their book launch and that has stuck in my mind. It happens. I follow Bambi’s mother’s advice – If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. If you don’t like the book you’re reviewing or reading, for goodness sake, put it down and pick up another book!

Now, I’m one tough cookie. My friends will tell you that about me. Like everyone on this planet, I’ve had my share of heartache, tragedy and loss. At one point in my life, my friends called me the female Job as in the Bible Job. What didn’t happen to me during a two year period. Well, I didn’t die which was great and my children were safe and healthy, but it was a very rough time in our lives.  I wouldn’t say that I’m stoic, either. We’ve all had our moments and I’m not immune to a little crying jag every now and then and have leaned on the sturdy shoulders of good friends and family recently. I’m very fortunate to have a great support system!

My intimate support group will rally with me when my book comes out. I know and love them well. And if one (hopefully, only one!) approaches me to say that they couldn’t get through my book, c’est la vie! To each his or her own. All authors need to hear the truth, BUT BE KIND. When you write a book and launch it into the world, you are introducing the world into your small world. Small in that writers are usually pretty solitary folks who spend thousands of hours alone in their head with their books and characters. With my book launch, the doors and windows will be flung wide open for reviews, critiques, and comments-positive and negative. I’m preparing myself and just pray that the positive outweighs the negative! If I do receive a nastygram, I hope it’s constructive criticism and on point. I’m okay with that. This is my debut novel and although I want my book to be perfect, that is impossible. I’ve written the best novel with what I’ve learned thus far and continue to learn to write better prose every day. All writers improve with more experience and practice, right?

So today my emotions have run the gamut from happy to anxious to excited to self-doubt and back to happy. I have a gazillion things to do to prepare for my book launch of A DECENT WOMAN this summer and my list keeps growing. I’m not complaining, mind you. I realize that much of the promotion and marketing of a book falls on the author and Book Manager. And I’m fortunate to have a super Book Manager. Hey, if anyone points me in a new direction for marketing my book, I’m there. This morning, two friends sent me emails about online book clubs and I’m all over that, too. I am grateful for each and every piece information, advice, suggestion and ideas, people! Feel free to contact me 🙂 Any time.

I’m a list maker from way back and cannot function well without one. My author list of things to do is long and many things are new to me. I’ve decided to break down my list by week. I have to. I need bite-size pieces of information, please. I bought a huge calendar that has helped me keep track of author interview dates and future book reviews for my blog. This is my list for this week and the next:

Make corrections and additions to my website which is under construction at this time. That first impression is vital and so is the second!

Have a professional photograph taken for website, blog and media kit.

Find a venue for my Summer book launch party in Northern Virginia. I’m thinking a winery 🙂

Send out invites for the fantastic book launch party.

Order enough books for my guests who attend the book launch party.

Contact friends and family to join my book launch team as readers, reviewers and cheerleaders of the advance reader copy (ARC) of my novel. This is in bold because if you would like to be a part of my  launch team, please contact me!

I will be sending out email invitations and will post it on my Facebook Author Page, as well. I would love to have you! THANK YOU!!

Continue doing my social media bit on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, ReadWave, LinkedIn, Pinterest and groups that I’m a member of.

Learn what WATTPAD can do for me.

Continue checking Part 1 of my novel for typos and mistakes and wait patiently for my editor to send Part 2 of her edits.

Contact authors whose blurbs and reviews I would love to include on the book cover and in the book. I’ve already contacted four awesome authors who I respect and admire very much. Two more emails to write to two more awesome authors. If you are a praying person, please do 🙂 Thanks!

The last item on my list was to create an official Author Page on Facebook. I figured it out last night and that was exciting! This morning, I had 65 beautiful LIKES. My smile was huge! This has helped keep me focused on my readers and my book at this dizzy, wonderful, and exciting time in my life.

I’m taking Saturday and Sunday off from all book stuff to drive to Northern Virginia to spend the weekend with my beautiful children before my son departs for Europe on May 7. We are having a family dinner at a great restaurant in Arlington and I’ve promised not to cry…too.much.

SO, please join me on Facebook –  (If the link doesn’t work, my apologies and please let me know)

Press that nice LIKE button and make me happy!

Join me on Twitter – @eleanorparkerwv

and on Pinterest – elliepinwv

Thanks in advance! I wish you a wonderful Thursday.