Author Interview: Yadhira Gonzalez-Taylor

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the great pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today I’m very pleased to welcome fellow Puerto Rican writer, Yadhira Gonzalez, who celebrates a birthday today!

Yadhira Gonzalez

Yadhira Gonzalez-Taylor was born in Bronx, New York in 1973 to Puerto Rican parents. She is a graduate of the New York City public school system and also attended elementary school in Caguas, Puerto Rico. She served her country as a Military Police Officer in the US Army Reserve, assigned to the 812th MP Co., 800th MP Brigade in New York State between 1992 and 2000. 

 She received her B.S., magna cum laude and M.A., in Criminal Justice in 1999 from the City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A graduate of New York Law School, she received her J.D. in 2002. Upon graduating law school, Ms. Gonzalez-Taylor served as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County where she prosecuted economic crime cases until 2006. Her career path led to an appointment as an internal prosecutor for the NYC Police Department between 2006 and 2009. Currently, she is an administrative law judge for the NYC Department of Education. An attorney by day and a writer by night, she is inspired to write by her three daughters and her own upbringing, traveling between New York and Puerto Rico. Presently, she is working on more adventures for the Martina series and other literary projects and workshops.

Ms. Gonzalez-Taylor is published in Bronx Memoir Part I as an essay contributor. She is a member of the Full Circle Ensemble and has performed spoken word at the National Black Theater with her writing circle. She is also a contributor to the Anthology, Mujeres, the Magic, the Movement, a poetry collection written by fierce warrior women resulting from a women’s literary workshop facilitated by the poet Peggy Robles-Alvarado. The anthology book launch will be occurring soon and the book will become available within the next few weeks on Amazon.

Bienvenida, Yadhira.

Please describe what your books are about.

The published books are within the folk / fable family in children’s literature genre. Martina Finds a Shiny Coin is an offshoot of La Cucarachita Martina, an old Caribbean folktale first put to print by New York City’s first Puerto Rican Librarian, Pura Belpre. In the story, a little roach finds a coin and goes on a shopping spree. She ends up buying make up, and what follows is a journey of self-discovery, courtship, randomness, and the meaning of true love.

Martina 1

Once the first story was published, I got an idea to do a spinoff using the same character. In Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall, Martina goes on a musical journey with all her friends from the Barrio.

Martina 2

How did you come up with the titles?

Martina Finds a Shiny Coin was inspired by the main character finding the coin. This sets off La Cucarachita on her journey, not only on her shopping trip, but that of her meeting many suitors on the road to discovering her true worth. Hence, Martina Finds a Shiny Coin.

The second title, Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall, came about because the main concept of the story is the journey to a magical, wondrous waterfall that Martina and all her friends go on.

They’re lovely books. I’m saving my signed copies for future grandchildren 🙂

What inspired you to write children’s books?

As a mother, I was always tasked as the sleep time storyteller. I kept repeating the same fairy tales that were not representative of my own culture, i.e., Goldilocks, Three Little Pigs, etc. One day, my husband asked if I had any stories from Puerto Rico. Immediately I remembered La Cucarachita! The rest is history. We adapted the story with different things and interests for the main character and a new illustrated version of the story emerged.

The second book, Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall, was inspired by a trip I took with friends to a majestic waterfall in my hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico.

I tell new writers to write what they’d like to read. Looks like it worked beautifully for you and your children.

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

I think my lifelong struggle with weight had a part to play in how I wrote the story. I have struggled with self-esteem, so I know what it’s like to people please or change one’s appearance to satisfy others. For example, I once had a boyfriend who criticized me every time I wore my hair in a bob. He preferred long hair, I guess. So I kept my hair long for a while just to satisfy this relationship, which eventually ended. Probably because I wasn’t being my true self. So in that way, I can relate at an intimate level with the main character. I have grown so much since then.

Today, despite all my professional and personal successes, I still struggle. And who doesn’t? It’s part of being a human being, I think. The difference now is that today, I look at myself in the mirror and I remind myself that I am made by the universe to be alive, to love, to live, to educate, to nurture, and to be of service to my fellow humans. None of those responsibilities are affected by the way I look, unless I let it, so I affirm that I am a human first and everything else is gravy.

Exactly, everyone struggles with one thing or another. When I stopped the people pleasing, a few toxic relationships ended soon afterward, which was a good/sad thing and probably inevitable. Looking back, the experience made me stronger and opened new doors.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is having the ability to purge feelings, positive and negative, into an artistic medium. I journal, write poetry,  and perform my poems (sometimes), and I write stories. It’s a form of positive escapism. If you are going to have a vice, I would say writing is a healthy one, unless you forget to bathe, then you are running into potential problems if you share space with other humans 🙂

Too funny. I live alone, so I don’t bother anyone with my late night writing sessions, but my Chihuahua complains when I leave the light on.

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

Procrastination. I can write almost anything. It’s the editing that gets me stuck. I use verbal prompts, images, and writing workshops to crank up the writing. It’s what happens next that I find tedious. However, it is necessary to produce quality work that someone is going to be willing to pay for, or even trek to the library to borrow my book. I believe a writer’s success is measured by the quality of their work. It’s one of those things where word travels and reputations can hurt your ability to market yourself. Especially in the world of self-publishing.

Very true. Most writers I know have unique ways of dealing with procrastination. I show up at the writing desk every day and force myself to write, no matter what. If the writing doesn’t move me that day, I switch to doing research for the book I’m working on or reading, which usually gets me motivated and reinspired. But I remain at the writing desk.

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

I am currently reading a few books on writing as I am working on editing a manuscript. This one is not a children’s story. The last book I read for fun was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. How could I not like a story written by a genius? I loved it. The sad tragic story of the main character coupled with his undying love for the love for a woman who abandoned him and his undying need to punish himself with self-destructive behavior is a reminder that sometimes we just have to let go; that love is not supposed to hurt.

Definitely one of my favorite books. Marquez was a genius and a masterful storyteller. I’m currently reading Love in the Time of Cholera in Spanish and loving it even more than the English translation.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Isabel Allende is a favorite. I love magic realism and she does it fabulously well in her books.

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

I enjoy authors who show their own defects and spiritual struggles in their writing. Isabel Allende is one of those authors. She is unafraid to embrace the dysfunctions and sadness of life and it shines through in her writing.

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

Writing, no. I have to adapt as an urban dweller who spends a lot of time outside. So sometimes, I write in a journal and sometimes on my laptop when I have a lunch hour to spare at work. Reading however is a different story.

I have an old winged back chair in a corner, by the large windows at the front of my home. There, I have set up a nice cotton area rug for my feet to be warmed, I’ve placed many of my (70-plus) plants in that area, and I have a space to place my coffee mug. That is where I do my best reading. It is also,where I sit to quietly meditate and read the paper on Sunday mornings.

Yadhira reading nook

Looks like a great place to read. I think everyone should have a sacred space in the home.

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

I once ran after a moving tractor-trailer truck. I was about 20, crazy, and still in the Army. I still had a lot of recklessness in me. The truck hit my mom’s car and kept going, but we were in heavy traffic so the truck wasn’t going that fast. I ran after it, climbed on the step and banged on the window to make the driver stop. Looking back now I realize it wasn’t very good idea.

Wow, the hit and run driver must have been shocked to see you on his truck! Now, I want to know the ending of that story.

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

The writing process reminds me of my propensity for procrastination, the writer’s worst enemy. It’s easier for me to create content than it is to edit and re-write. I struggle with that issue. I try to carve out time. However, writing though my passion, is not my full time employment, so I have to squeeze in writing and editing time when I can.

I learned a lot during the self-publishing process. I tried traditional agents and publishing houses, but I was unsuccessful. I had to do all the work myself. I hired illustrators, editors (of all stages), even the guy who produced the trailer for my first book. So I became well versed in the lingo of the industry, which I believe adds to my credibility as a self-published author. Many people out there are discovering createspace or other self-publishing platforms. They are buying ISBNs or using the createspace ISBN, and putting work out there that is not edited by anyone. Oftentimes, the first draft is published and we, self-published authors, have to compete against the presumption that self-published is of a lesser quality than a traditionally published book.

To your last comment, that’s a common complaint among self-published authors. Self-publishing is a lot of work!

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

Both stories involve a journey of self-discovery. There is also the underlying theme of self-reflection and personal improvement woven within the story. It is never too late to change your perspective. A positive perspective in any situation can lead to positive changes and therefore, genuine happiness.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market your books?

I was blessed to meet so many people because of writing the first book. When I first published Martina Finds a Shiny Coin, I participated in the Brooklyn Book Fair. It was there that I met Maria Aponte, a fellow author, who is very involved in the Latino writing community. She was my shiny coin! After meeting her, I met countless others that shared the same desire to produce quality written content as well as people willing to share resources and information and that is how a natural marketing process began. Today I have so many new friends, including you, Eleanor, whom I have met through my adventurous development as a writer.

Maria is a shiny coin! I was very happy to finally meet you, Maria Aponte, Bobby Gonzalez, Theresa Varela, and Manuel Melendez at the Comite Noviembre Puerto Rican Author Book Expo last year. It’s a great Boricua event, and I hope to participate again this year. My son lives in NYC, so it’s looking good.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped in the writing or marketing of your books?

I stay away from paying Facebook for ads. I don’t have an exuberant budget and I found that the amount of money I was paying for highlighting my main character’s Facebook posts was not paying a dividend.

I’ve thought about Facebook ads, and heard the same feedback from many authors. I find book blasts, book tours, and Thunderclap campaigns are good ways to introduce new books.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to be published?

Editing is an important part that cannot be skipped or minimized. I am not going to buy any subsequent books you publish if your first one is riddled with errors. Editing, editing, and more editing is the bulk of our writing. Also, don’t go straight to self-publishing. Try the traditional way first. Publishing houses have far more resources than an indie author could ever dream of having. You’ll still have to market yourself as an author, writer, etc., but you will have more support in the background.

I completely agree with you on editing and trying for traditional publishing. I recommend checking out smaller publishing houses; that’s how I got my foot in the publishing door.

Website and social media links?

You can follow me on twitter @gothamesq

Martina has her own Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/martinafindsashinycoin/

And my author page can be found on the net at: www.ygtbooks.net

Where can we find your books?

You can find both titles on Amazon.com and of course, directly from me by emailing ygonzaleztaylor@yahoo.com. I can mail a signed copy right to reader’s doors, or to their gift recipient’s door.

What’s next for you?

I am attending workshops to hone my craft as well as writing and reading as much as I can. I am hoping to finish editing a manuscript and will begin the process of finding agents to represent me in that endeavor.

Yadhira G

I just love this photograph of you! This is the happiest way to end a great interview. Best of luck on your writing journey, Yadhira. I look forward to the release of the anthology.

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Linda DeFruscio

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. Writing books is a solitary endeavor, so it’s a pleasure to meet fellow writers through these interviews. By interviewing authors across genres, I discover new books and authors, and I’m happy to bring their talents to my readers.

We are nearing the end of the 2017 Author Interview series at The Writing Life, so enjoy the few remaining interviews as I focus on finishing my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls. If you’ve missed a few interviews, or are just now “tuning in”, we had a great year! Happy Spring to you.

linda-defruscio

Today’s author is Linda DeFruscio, the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. Her writing career began years ago, when she was invited to write a series of skincare articles for a national magazine. Linda’s fascinating memoir, Cornered: Dr. Richard J. Sharpe As I Knew Him, was published in 2015 by Twilight Times Books.

NOTE: A week before Linda’s scheduled interview, I stumbled upon a YouTube video of a Harvard-educated, millionaire, cross-dressing doctor who’d shot and killed his wife. As I put this interview together, I realized it was the same Dr. Sharpe we would be speaking about today. Talk about a strange case of synchronicity.

linda-df-book

Welcome, Linda. Please tell us how you met Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, and what inspired you to write this memoir.

Richard Sharpe was my business mentor, long before he committed his crime. He was a dermatologist and I was (and am) an electrologist, so we had in common that we were both interested in people’s skin. When lasers for hair removal came out in 1998, he was one of the first to realize their potential. He bought two (they were absurdly expensive back then) and “leased” them to me and other electrologists and skincare professionals he knew. I started taking notes about my interactions with him almost from the day I met him, because I am a compulsive note taker and he was unique in so many ways. And he only became more notable (and not always in a good way) over time. By the time I decided to write about him, I had boxes of notes. And because of the notoriety surrounding his trial, eventually I had boxes of newspaper clippings and Court TV tapes and tapes from various TV interview shows as well.

I find it fascinating that you listened to your gut and began taking notes on Richard Sharpe from day one. I can imagine how incredibly difficult it was to write about your friend and business associate, but to find yourself in the middle of this murder case must have been harrowing.

In the year 2000, I was forced to make an unthinkable decision. Dr. Richard Sharpe, a man who was my business associate and friend, committed a terrible crime. I went through many stages of emotion when I learned about it, beginning with shock, then grief, then a kind of numbness. I was in the numb stage when he reached out to me, from prison, asking me to remain his friend. I knew being his friend would cost me dearly; I would lose friends, clients, and some peace of mind. But I agreed to maintain some kind of relationship with him, because someone had to. He was utterly broken and very sorry for what he did. My memoir tells his story—how he went from being a medical and business genius, and, it goes without saying, a millionaire, to being a broken man in a prison cell—within the context of my own.

Writing Cornered must have required a lot of courage, stamina, and self-reflection. What did you learn and ultimately, sacrifice in the process of writing this memoir?

Since I appear as the narrator, I sacrificed anonymity in order to tell the truest story I could. In Cornered it required much more of me. I had to really reveal myself—all my many warts included—so that the reader would understand how I came to make the decisions I did. But it was worth it. A lot of people who read the book commented on my “unfailing honesty.” I think their trust in me enabled them to better see Richard Sharpe through my eyes. Yes, he was a despicable criminal, but he was also a man who tried, and ultimately failed, to deal with his physical, emotional and spiritual burdens.

How did you come up with the title? I think it’s perfect for this book.

I was adding to my list of possible titles the entire time I was working on my memoir. But in the end Cornered, with its subtitle, seemed the most appropriate. Richard Sharpe liked to be in the limelight—and often he was, because of the many contributions he made in the medical field. But when he felt himself threatened in any way he drifted into the corner, both literally and figuratively. And frankly, I felt cornered by him sometimes, because he was so needy. So the word worked on several levels.

After watching one video about this troubled, brilliant man and the murder of his wife, I would have felt cornered by him, as well as torn by the idea of remaining friends. Human nature is fascinating.

My decision to remain friends with Richard Sharpe impacted my life in ways that were unimaginable to me at the time. I learned a lot about myself and about human nature generally because of our association. I suffered a great deal of loss too. I think any reader who has experienced shifts in their life as a result of an association with a difficult or strong-willed or mentally-ill person—whether it is a child or a spouse or a friend—will identify with Cornered.

You’ve published children’s books and this memoir. How did you come to writing?

I came to writing more or less by accident. Years ago a magazine publisher asked me if I would write some skincare articles for her. And, a doctor asked me to contribute an article to a publication called the Annals of Dermatology. I found that writing is an engaging process. If it requires research, so much the better. Now I’m working on my third book, and I’m collecting notes for a fourth book. I’m so glad I discovered writing. It has become my way of exploring the world.

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

Yes! I learned so much about myself through the writing of books. Loyalty is not something I ever gave much thought to before, but as it happens, it became a major theme in Cornered. I am a loyal person; I didn’t even know that before. And that’s just one example. Writing is a way of living; for all that it seems like such a passive activity, it results in lots of experiences and insights.

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

Great thoughts sometimes find their way to me when I’m in an environment that is not conducive to writing them down. I have been known to scribble on Post-its, paper napkins, and even checkbook registers. I have also been known to run out of my office, ostensibly to use the ladies’ room but really to have a moment’s privacy to write down a thought before it slips away. The worst is when great thoughts come to me late at night. Since I have a day job, I need to get a good night’s sleep. But I know I will forget all about the great idea if I don’t get up and write it down right away. So I get up, which leads to challenges the next day.

I can fully relate to getting out of bed in the middle of the night to jot down great thoughts! What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth by Grace Anne Stevens may be one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read about what it means to be a woman. The ironic thing here is that Grace started out as a man. Another title I loved was Joan Heartwell’s memoir Hamster Island, which is about growing up dirt poor with two disabled siblings. You can see I gravitate towards memoirs, mostly about people overcoming great emotional obstacles. I also read a lot of spiritual books.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Besides Grace Stevens and Joan Heartwell, and off the top of my head, I enjoy Jennifer Boylan, Keith Ablow, and Jeanette Walls.

Who influenced you as a writer?

Marissa Lynn is the magazine editor who, the first day we met in her office, asked me if I would like to try to write an article on skincare. I went home and poured everything I knew about skincare into a first draft. Then I took it in to show Marissa a few days later. She read it, and, to my horror, she ripped it up. She said, “I don’t want this!” I was stunned. I started to cry. “This isn’t how you write!” she continued. “This sounds like a text book. Tell me real stories about real people with real skin problems. Tell me what you know from experience, not from what you studied in school.”

My inclination was to tell her nothing, other than that I wasn’t interested in working with her after all. But I took a minute to think it over and decided that would be a mistake. She was offering me an opportunity to reach many potential clients. She opened her drawer and took out a tape recorder. She said, “Take this and start talking. I’ll type it up later.” So I pulled myself together and told her a story about a man who had the beginnings of folliculitis barbae—a rare but serious bacterial infection of the deeper layers of the skin and subcutaneous tissues—and how we determined the cause of his infection and how we finally got rid of it. Marissa loved it. That was how it all began. 

It sounds like Marissa was a tough, but necessary mentor in your writing journey. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

Because I have my own business and work long hours, I don’t have the option of writing whenever or wherever I want. I write notes, as I mentioned above, wherever I am, as I think of things. Most of them I never look at again. But sometimes I realize I have the makings for a manuscript.

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

I am a yoga fanatic. I do yoga very early in the morning, as many mornings a week as possible. I am also a closet eater of candies and other sweets that I know are not good for me. My favorite indulgence is York Peppermint Patties. So, something healthy and something not, that’s one surprise about me—though there are others.

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

I stuck with it. In these times it’s not enough to find a publisher and hope your book flies off the shelves. You’ve got to accept every interview invitation that comes along, every opportunity to talk about your work, and not just right after the launch date. You’ve got to keep at it. It’s been difficult for me, because I work so many hours. But I do as much as I can and I plan to continue to do so.

linda-df-book

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t give up. Go after your dream. Persevere. The rewards for me have been huge, even though Cornered is not a best seller. Not only did I accomplish what I set out to do, but in the process I discovered answers to questions that had plagued me for years.

Well said, Linda.

Website and social media links?

www.lindadefruscio.com

www.thecorneredbook.com

www.gingerandmoecatbook.com

Where can we find your books?

On Amazon and other online sites, on my website, and in libraries and stores.

What’s next for you?

I’m completing a wonderful book about individuals in the transgender community. Because I am an electrologist, and because I was introduced to people from the trans community early on, a great number of my clients are transgender. And because every transgender individual works with a variety of healthcare professionals, I know lots of people peripheral to the transition process. Over the last two years I worked with an assistant to interview several of my trans clients. Their stories are all different and all fascinating. Now I’m in the process of adding a preface and some back matter, and deciding on a title.

The book I’m just starting is about my sister, who suffers from MSA, or Multiple System Atrophy. As you might guess, this book will describe her personal journey, and mine as well, with the context of our relationship as sisters. Again, I have boxes of notes, some of which are my sister’s ideas and insights. I can’t wait to get started.

Thank you, Linda, for a most interesting interview. I’ve enjoyed getting to know more about you and your memoir. I wish you the best of luck with your timely book on the trans community and the memoir with your sister.

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Writing Life Interviews: Meghan Holloway

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

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

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

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

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

meghan-holloway

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.

meghan-holloway-booksmeghan-holloway-book

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

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

How did you come up with the title?

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

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

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger.

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

What inspired you to write Once More unto the Breach?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite part of writing?

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

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

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

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

What do you hope readers will gain from your books?

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

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

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

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

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

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

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

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

Website and social media links?

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

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/AuthorMHolloway

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

Where can we find your books?

A Thin, Dark Line

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

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

As Darkness Gathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA: 

ellie

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

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

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

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

 

Author Interview: Scarlet Darkwood

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

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

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

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

Welcome, Scarlet.

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

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

scarlet-darkwood-book

Please describe what the story/book is about.

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

How did you come up with the title?

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

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

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

What is your favorite part of writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

scarlet-darkwood-book

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

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

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

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

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

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

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

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

Please share your website and social media links.

Newsletter: http://ow.ly/HUyz303E5Oh

Blog: www.scarletdarkwood.com

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

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

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

Where can we find your book?

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

What’s next for you, Scarlet?

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

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

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

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

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

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

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

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, www.danecobain.com. 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.

dane-cobain

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)
  • Former.ly: 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-cobain-former-ly

Dane, please describe what Former.ly  is about. 

I’ll use Former.ly, 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?

Former.ly 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 Former.ly 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.

dane-cobain-former-ly

What do you hope readers will gain from Former.ly?

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 www.danecobain.com or follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/danecobainmusic) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/danecobain). 

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 Former.ly:

UK: www.danecobain.com/formerly

USA: www.danecobain.com/formerlyusa 

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.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

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

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

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

Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Jennifer J. Chow

 

Welcome to the Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog.

Each Tuesday, I am excited to share my talented author 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 am very pleased to welcome Jennifer J. Chow, a multi award winning author, who writes multicultural fiction with intergenerational drama.

Jennifer’s short fiction has most recently appeared in Hyphen Magazine and Yay! LA Magazine. Her Asian-American novels include Dragonfly Dreams, The 228 Legacy, and Seniors Sleuth. Jennifer lives in Los Angeles, California. Visit her author website: www.jenniferjchow.com

 The 228 Legacy
-Honorable Mention, 2015 San Francisco Book Festival
-Finalist, 2013 Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award
Seniors Sleuth
-Finalist, 2015 CLUE Award
            -Runner-Up, 2015 Beach Book Festival

 

Welcome to The Writing Life, Jennifer.

jenniferjchow

What is your book’s genre/category?

Young adult paranormal

jennifer-chow-dd-front-cover-png

Please describe what Dragonfly Dreams is about.

It’s 1880 in Fresno, California when 17-year-old Topaz Woo dies after giving birth. She can get an extension in a non-physical body—if she uses The Ten Commandments to influence her newborn. Over the course of ten years, she finds herself stymied in parenting by intergenerational drama and spiritual battle. Will she adjust to an otherworldly existence and give her daughter a solid foundation? Or will she become mired in family disputes and forfeit her soul to evil?

Very interesting and unique synopsis. How did you come up with the title?

There’s a myth that dragonflies live only 24 hours. Dragonfly Dreams signifies pursuing your dreams to the utmost in a short amount of time—as Topaz does.

What inspired you to write Dragonfly Dreams?

I wanted to couple a love letter to my hometown with a classic good-versus-evil spiritual battle.

 

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

I’m also a mom like Topaz, so I have a deep maternal love. Unlike her, though, I’m not so uncertain about my identity.

Jennifer, what is your favorite part of writing?

Creating new worlds, having stories arise from the blank page.

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

Making my vision shine on the page. A billion thoughts float around in my head, but pinning them down and conveying them clearly to the reader is still difficult.

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

The Rose Society by Marie Lu. I really like the concept behind the making of a villain, the bond of sisterhood, and the imaginative setting. At the same time, though, the book is a bit unsettling and gets quite dark. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jean Kwok: for down-to-earth Asian American characters you can root for, whether in the confines of a sweatshop or the expanse of a ballroom.

Markus Zusak: I think he’s got a great way of spinning words together and helping young people find meaning in their lives. Plus, he’s a genuinely nice guy.

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

Mrs. Okada, my sixth-grade teacher, really nourished my love of writing by first exposing me to different types of poetry (haiku, tanka, diamante, etc.). She also poured out encouragement to me. 

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

As a mom, I love writing in those squeezed-in times while waiting for a class to end, so that I have a hard deadline to motivate me.

For reading, I have this couch placed in a sunny spot in my home. It gets a lot of light (and bird songs in the morning), and it makes me happy to relax there.

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

I used to be part of the drama club in high school. Even though I’m an introvert by nature (as many writers are), I actually liked the excitement of acting.

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


Authors form an amazing tribe. Even though we write in solitude, the network of writers is strong, and people in the field are very supportive of one another.

The publishing process requires a lot of patience. When you think you’ve waited long enough, wait some more.

What do you hope readers will gain from Dragonfly Dreams?

jennifer-chow-dd-front-cover-png
Deeper insight into a spiritual realm that exists beyond the surface, and the idea that one person in a family can really influence the bond between relatives.

Those ideas appeal to me as a writer and as a reader. Looking back, Jennifer, what did you do right that helped you write and market Dragonfly Dreams?

It was great having a solid team behind me (editor, cover designer, book manager, etc.).

What didn’t work as well with this book?

Being able to locate my niche audience, to connect with them so they know about the book.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?


First, write. Then research ways to get your work published. There are so many options to getting your foot in the door nowadays: literary magazines, e-zines, self-pubbing, independent presses, literary agents, and The Big Five. Choose the path that fits your personality—or pursue a blend.

Great advice. Website and social media links?
www.jenniferjchow.com

https://www.facebook.com/JenJChow

https://www.instagram.com/jenjchow/

https://twitter.com/JenJChow

 

Where can we find Dragonfly Dreams?


https://www.amazon.com/Dragonfly-Dreams-Jennifer-Chow-ebook/dp/B01GFJ89BQ

What’s next for you, Jennifer?


I’m submitting another YA novel (but it’s set in the future instead of the past) while editing a multicultural, intergenerational contemporary mystery set near Los Angeles.

Thank you for a wonderful interview, Jennifer. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better. I wish you the best with your books and your writing life!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention 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. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, 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, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

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

Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

Author Interview: Joan Schweighardt

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. We have a wonderful lineup of talented writers joining us all the way into May 2017, so please check back with us.

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Joan Schweighardt, award-winning author of the novel, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun, which I’m excited to add to my reading list.

Joan Schweighardt is the author of six novels, a memoir, and several magazine articles. In addition to her own projects, she makes her living writing and editing for private and corporate clients. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Welcome, Joan!

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What is your book’s genre/category?

The Last Wife of Attila the Hun is fiction based in equal parts on history and legend.

Please describe what The Last Wife of Attila the Hun is about. 

The Last Wife of Attila the Hun is about a Germanic noblewoman who undertakes a dangerous mission in order to present Attila the Hun with a sword she believes to be cursed. As the story unfolds, the reader learns what happens to her after arriving at Attila’s palace as well as what brought her to her mission in the first place.

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How did you come up with the title, Joan? 

The Last Wife of Attila the Hun has been on a long strange trip. The first version of the book was published by Beagle Bay Books in 2003 under the title Gudrun’s Tapestry. Beagle Bay got out of the book publishing business a few years ago (in favor of book packaging), and rights reverted back to me. My book manager at the second publisher for the book (Booktrope Editions) suggested that The Last Wife of Attila the Hun would more accurately describe what the book is about. But then Booktrope when out of business not long after The Last Wife of Attila the Hun launched! I didn’t intend to look for a third publisher—because how many lives can one book have?–but Five Directions Press heard about Booktrope going under and asked me to join their team. We decided to keep the same title so that my Amazon reviews would move with the book to its new Amazon page. 

What inspired you to write this book? 

The legends in Last Wife come from a collection of oral “lays” or lyric poems that found their way from 5th century Germanic regions to Iceland centuries ago and were ultimately published in a book called The Poetic Edda. I read The Poetic Edda in college and fell in love with some of the material. Since the legends make an ambiguous but nonetheless earnest attempt to include the historical Attila in their narratives, I began to look at the history of Attila to see if I would likewise find a connection from the historical documents back to the legends. And I did! So I began writing my version of what really happened in the intersection between the historical and legendary materials.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I loved the research I had to do for this book. I loved the problem solving. If the history said one thing and the legends said another, I had to figure out what kind of bridge I could build to connect the two—and still be as faithful to each as possible.

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

Since my main character, Gudrun, comes to us direct from legends that probably got their start in the 5th century, she and I have nothing in common from a cultural perspective. However, I think I may have shared some of her insecurities when I was a younger woman, and I admit I did burden her with one obstacle from my own life that had nothing to do with the legends. She handles this particular obstacle much better than I ever did.

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

I have written several books over the years and they all have different challenges. In addition to my own books, I’ve ghostwritten a handful of books for other people who had stories to tell but didn’t have the time or inclination to pen them themselves. The challenge with ghosting a book is trying to think like the person you are working with and present the material in a style that you believe they would use if they were doing the writing themselves. It’s very exciting. I think ghosting for other people has helped me to become a better writer myself. I am better able to put aside my own personality and concentrate on the personality of the character.  

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

I just finished Liz Moore’s The Unseen World. I totally loved this book. I loved the relationships between the characters; I loved the plot, and I loved the questions that arise out of the plot. This is exactly the kind of novel I am on the lookout for all the time. Now I am reading Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth. I am only a few chapters in, but already I love it so much I want to both devour it and simultaneously read it slowly so it never ends. But it will end, so I’m thankful I preordered the new Tana French. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Tana French for mysteries. I love Wally Lamb, Dave Eggers, Emma Donoghue, Celeste Ng, Chang-rae Lee, Rocco Lo Bosco, to name a few. I was an English major many moons ago in college, so I had a chance to read many classical authors—Vladimir Nabokov, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Virginia Woolf—that I might have otherwise missed. I consider it a great privilege to have spent most of my life reading and writing.

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

We didn’t have books in the house when I was growing up. My family was poor and working class, and books just weren’t something anyone thought about. They were certainly never a topic of conversation at the dinner table. As a kid I attended a Catholic School that had a library the size of a walk-in closet. We had to line up by height to visit it. I was always at the back of the line because I was tall. The library featured two categories of books for girls: lives of the saints and Nancy Drews. (Boys got lives of the saints and Hardy Boys.) One nun stood guard in the library, to make sure each visitor was quick and took only one book. You had to brush up against her to get in the doorway. We were so afraid of the nuns in those days that we took the first book our grimy little hands came in contact with. More often than not the Nancy Drews were gone by time I got in and I wound up with lives of saints. I might have become obsessed with fire and brimstone! Lucky for me, one day when I was twelve or thirteen I discovered in the basement a small box of things that had once belonged to my deceased grandfather. And one of them was a collection of stories by Edgar Allen Poe. That collection (which some might say is itself a version of fire and brimstone) changed the trajectory of my reading life and influenced me greatly when I began to write.

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

I write at a desk in the corner of the den. I read wherever I happen to be. I love to read in bed, and a lot of times I dream about what I was reading once I fall asleep.

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

I used to be a publisher. Between the years 1999 and 2005, just before the advent of e-books and print on demand, I had a little company called GreyCore Press. I loved publishing and I think I was really good at it. I know I was good at selecting great manuscripts because virtually all of the authors I worked with got great reviews and were interviewed on TV and radio. One of them was a “Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers” author, which means that every BN in the country stacked her book on a shelf so close to the front door you could trip on it. I might still be publishing today but my penultimate distributor went out of business owing me (and all their other client publishers) a lot of money. I never got back on my feet again financially. In those pre-e-book/books-on-demand days it was very expensive to publish a hardcover book, and they had to be hardcover if you wanted them to get reviewed.

Probably it was for the best that I eventually got out of publishing because I didn’t have time to write my own books. And I don’t think I would have liked having a publishing company in these times when Amazon is the center of the literary universe. Nevertheless, publishing was one of the best experiences of my life. It forced me to reach inside and find out who I was at the core. Even the devastation of having a distributor go out of business owing me a lot of money—money I had borrowed from a bank—turned out to be a good experience. 

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

I think of writing as a way of exploring the world. My husband is a photographer, so he explores the world from behind a camera lens. When he prints or downloads his pictures he discovers all kinds of things in them he didn’t expect to find. He may take a shot of a tree, for instance, and discover a rare lone flower at the foot of the tree that he hadn’t noticed when he took the shot. Writing is the same way. More and more details are revealed to me as I look back on my work.

And always research offers me surprises. For instance, recently I needed to write a scene that takes place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929. To make it as authentic as possible, I started researching what well-known paintings were hanging in the museum at that time. A particular painting I came across actually changed the trajectory of the story. There is a pushing-pulling process that happens with research. You set out to discover one thing, and the pathway you take pushes something else out at you, oftentimes something that becomes a plot point. It’s as if the research process is a partner in the writing of the book.

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

The legends Last Wife is based on are universal and timeless. I am not the only one to discover them and use them as a foundation for my work. Wagner used them in his operas. Tolkien used parts of them in some of his wonderful stories. Poets have written them into their poems. Various artists have used them as a source of inspiration for their paintings. Yet no two books or poems or paintings based on these legends are alike. There is something magical about the legends; they inspire different people in different ways. My hope is that readers will be inspired by the way I’ve presented them in my book. And I hope readers will enjoy the setting, which is based on the history of Attila and the Roman and Germanic tribes who lived during his reign.  

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

I chose subject matter that inspired me deeply. As I said, the book is on its third life. After writing the first version, I had to dive back in again to make changes requested by my first publisher. Then I had to dive in once more to make the edits and tweaks required by the editor I worked with at the second publishing house. Now with Five Directions Press I made yet more edits. In other words, I’ve read the book many times. Yet I don’t get tired of it. I love the legends. And I love the history. In its first incarnation Last Wife won ForeWord and IPPY (Independent Publisher) awards and was translated into Italian and Russian. When the publishers at ForeWord and IPPY learned it was being republished, they generously allowed me to use their “award winner” designations on the newer versions. The book has had three covers, three editors, three publishers… It seems to be a book that doesn’t want to die. Who knows what will happen next!

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

It’s much more difficult to get published today than it used to be. And even if you do get published, it’s much more difficult to market your work. Think of the changes over the last decade: independent book stores have mostly closed; chains have either closed or found themselves on shaky ground; Amazon has become a superpower; newspapers fired reviewers in favor of being fed Associated Press reviews; and kingmakers, like Kirkus, began to charge indie writers (self-published or those with small presses) for reviews that were once free. If you want to really sell a lot of books, you either have to have hundreds of friends posting reviews on Amazon, or, you have to pay a service that pays (pennies, I presume) reviewers who may or may not have reviewing skills. There are online review sites, but they are inundated with requests, and unless you are a big name, it’s difficult to get the volume of reviews you need to make headway.

In the end, your love for the process of writing must be greater than your expectations about sales.

Website and social media links?

www.joanschweighardt.com

twitter@joanschwei

Where can we find your book?

Amazon

joan-schweighardt-book-cover-last-wife

What’s next for you?

I finished a new novel (currently with an agent) last year and am now working on a sequel to that novel.

Thanks so much  for chatting with me, Joan. I wish you continued success with your books! Eleanor

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention 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: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com