Author Interview: Manuel A. Meléndez

Welcome to our Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today I am very pleased to welcome Manuel A. Meléndez. 

Manuel A. Meléndez is a Puerto Rican writer, who was born on the island and raised in East Harlem, N.Y.  He is the author of two mystery/supernatural novels, WHEN ANGELS FALL, and BATTLE FOR A SOUL, five poetry books, OBSERVATIONS THROUGH POETRY, VOICES FROM MY SOUL, THE BEAUTY AFTER THE STORM, MEDITATING WITH POETRY, and SEARCHING FOR MYSELF.  Two collection of Christmas short stories, NEW YORK CHRISTMAS TALES, VOL. I and II, and IN THE SHADOWS OF NEW YORK: TWO NOVELETTES.  The novel WHEN ANGELS FALL, was voted by The as the Best Novel of 2013, while BATTLE FOR A SOUL was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards for Mystery Novels.  His short story A KILLER AMONG US was published by Akashi Books in SAN JUAN NOIR anthology.

New Manuel Melendez

Welcome, Manuel!

Which book are we chatting about today, and what is the genre?

The book I would like to talk about is a collection of supernatural/mystery short stories I’m currently working on called “Wicked Remains”. The supernatural genre is one of my favorite genres not only to write, but to read, as well.

Please describe what “Wicked Remains” is about.

The collection is an assortment of tales, from the typical old fashioned werewolf and vampires stories, to the demons who invade your dreams, turning them into nightmares.  And then, to the twisted, criminally insane killers.

Thanks for sending the illustration by Henry Simon, which will appear in your short story collection.

Manuel Melendez photo

How did you come up with the title?

I played with many different angles to come up with a title I felt was able to capture the many themes of the book and its eclectic collection of stories.  “Wicked Remnants” is what haunts you after the nightmare.

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

Yes, many of my characters have some of my DNA twisted somewhere in their personalities.  You can’t help it.  I’m sure many writers use their own experiences, pain, laughter, and tears to blend into their fictional creations.

So true; it’s hard for most writers to not weave something personal into their character or story. What inspired you to write this collection?

Even though the majority of my writing involves poetry and novels, short stories have always been the format I’m most drawn to.  The challenge of creating rich tales complete with conflicts has always fascinated me.  I believe to quickly deliver the full arc of the story to the reader makes you a better novelist…and poet, as well.

I agree with you. What is your favorite part of writing?

Taking a deep breath, having an idea that will launch a story and give it flight, and then allowing the voices to take over your creativity. Then just let it flow. Forget the basic concepts of grammar, spelling, run-on sentences—just write and write non-stop.  Those voices are not going to stop because you want to refer to your reference books…that comes later. At the beginning it is all freestyle. It’s like a street fight with no rules or referee!

That’s a great description! I research my book idea for a few months, write furiously for six months, and then the rewrites and deeper research begin, which can take up to two years. The first few months are very exciting.

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

Coming up with something new, something that has never been done or written about.  Which seems impossible, but creatively makes you dig deeper, or soar higher, it’s there you just have to find it or expose it.

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

Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes”, the first of a trilogy.  I’m a big Stephen King’s fan, and the interesting thing about this book is that it is unlike most of his books, which are supernatural. This one is strictly a detective story with a team of three very diverse characters.  Very enjoyable, not one of his best, but still a good read.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Too many to put on paper, but obviously Edgar Allan Poe must lead the parade.  Followed by Stephen King, Piri Thomas, Pete Hamill, James Clavell, Frank Herbert, Vicente Blasco Ibañez, to name a few.

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

Edgar Allan Poe for introducing to me the short story format.  Stephen King for teaching me how to developedbelievable characters, and Piri Thomas for allowing me to dream at the age of 13 that Puerto Ricans from El Barrio could be writers, as well.

Puerto Rican writer Esmeralda Santiago inspired me to try my hand at writing after I read the now-classic memoir, “When I Was Puerto Rican”. Like you, I love Stephen King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”.

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

Any place I get inspired, but my favorite places are the subway trains, parks, and a place that I discovered to be a beacon to my creativity, underneath the elevated tracks of the subway line in my neighborhood.  I need the chaos and noises of the city. If you put me in a quiet place, like up in the country, my voices refused to speak!

I find it so interesting where people write and find inspiration. I need total silence in the country for my voices to be heard.

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

Two of my favorite things are drawing/painting and cooking.  The activities allow me to relax and think about the plots or characters I’m working on, and it’s a form of meditation.

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

Writing can be very liberated. Through my writing, I have an outlet for my emotions; regardless if they are happy, sad, angry, or even mean-spirited.  The publishing process is too much of a business that I’d rather not get involved in, but it’s also part of the game. I need to work a bit more on the publishing process. One thing for sure, do your research before signing anything, and especially do your work before agreeing with promises, that may be broken and not fulfilled.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

To be entertained.  To be moved, to be afraid, and sometimes to be informed about things they never knew. Lessons may be learned through stories.

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

The writing part is actually the easiest. Somehow the plots, characters and situations come pretty easy and are extremely rewarding.  The marketing aspect is what I need to work on, especially being a shy person who’d rather let his words on paper be his voice.

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

Well, it’s not so much what didn’t work, but more of what I need to do to make it work, and that’s to be more involved and let people know I’m here with a lot of stories and poems to share.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

First work on that story, and don’t be lazy.  Revise that book as much as it needs to be revised.  Get an excellent editor, not a friend, but a real editor, who is not afraid to tell you what works on the story and what doesn’t.  If you write 400 pages, don’t be afraid to cut down as many pages as you need to cut.  Don’t fall in love with a whole paragraph or even a sentence, or a character because if it doesn’t move the story, but rather slows it down, you need to delete it. After your book went through every cycle, and it’s the best thing you have written, then it’s time get it out there.

Good advice.

Website and social media links?

Manuel A. Melendez’s Books on Facebook

Where can we find your book, Manuel?, or feel free to contact me if you’d like an autographed copy.

What’s next for you?

For the second time, I’m doing the 30-30 Poetry challenge.

I’m also working on two novels, one is a supernatural tale and the other one a more crime/human drama.  And, I have two other stories, which I wrote about 20 years ago that must be revisited.

Thanks for chatting with me today, Manuel. I wish you continued success with your writing! 

About Eleanor:


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. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

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 adult children are out in the world doing amazing things.

Eleanor’s book:
Please visit Eleanor at her website:


Author Interview: Barbara Eppich Struna

Welcome to The Writing Life blog! Today, we are celebrating our third blog anniversary, and to help us celebrate is Barbara Eppich Struna, who was my first guest author in 2015. That seems like eons ago, and I’m happy to say that the Tuesday Author Interview series is still going strong. We have a wonderful line up of talented authors for 2017, who will chat with me about books, writing, publishing, editing, marketing books, and publishing. I hope you’ll join us each Tuesday. Thank you for your support!


A storyteller at heart, Barbara Eppich Struna lives on Cape Cod with her family in an old 1880 house where her imagination is constantly inspired by the history that surrounds her. She is the published author of two historical novels, The Old Cape House – “First Place – Historical Fiction, Royal Dragonfly Awards 2014”, and The Old Cape Teapot.

Struna is an International Best Selling Author, a Member in Letters of the National League of American Pen Women, International Thriller Writers, Sisters In Crime, and President of Cape Cod Writers Center. Always a journal writer, she is fascinated by history and writes a blog about the unique facts and myths of Cape Cod.

Welcome back to The Writing Life, Barbara!

What is your book’s genre?

Suspenseful Historical Fiction


Barbara, please describe what The Old Cape House is about.

Nancy Caldwell relocates to an old sea captain’s house on Cape Cod with her husband and four children. When she discovers an abandoned root cellar in her backyard containing a baby’s skull and gold coins, she digs up evidence that links her land to the legendary tale of Maria Hallett and her pirate lover, Sam Bellamy. Using alternating chapters between the 18th and 21st centuries, The Old Cape House, a historical fiction, follows two women that are lifetimes apart, to uncover a mystery that has had the old salts of Cape Cod guessing for 300 years.

How did you come up with the title?

My husband and I, along with our children, live in an old 1880 house on Cape Cod similar to the house in the story. In fact, it is the house pictured on the book cover.

What inspired you to write this book?

I always wanted to write a story about our old house and its history. I knew from my research that it held many secrets. When a connection finally sparked in my head between our house and the 18th century Cape Cod legend of Sam Bellamy, his lover Maria Hallett, and the pirate ship Whydah, I knew I had to write The Old Cape House. Besides I’ve always maintained a philosophy in life of,  ‘It could happen….” and “What if….”

Of course, I never found what my contemporary character discovered but I did uncover several surprises.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Crafting the plot, and if I discover any missing facts or holes in the history within the story, after months or years of research, that’s where I make it up and fictionalize. I love to tell a good story.

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

My contemporary main character resembles my life and thoughts about 50% through the storyline. The character experiences some of my adventures and choices. She takes chances as often as I do.

For example:

Did I move across the country with my children into an old 1880 house at forty years old? Yes.

Was I a stay–at-home mother of five children? Yes.

Did my husband/artist support us through his artwork? Yes. I was the business manager/agent for his career.

Did I unearth a surprise in my backyard like my character? Yes, under 10 inches of dirt.

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

Making sure the reader wants to turn the page.

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

To be honest, it’s been a while since I have had the time to finish reading someone else’s book. When I’m engrossed in writing, and I’m on Book #4, I’m too tired to read extra. Plus my research takes up a lot of time. But I do love the whole process of writing a book. In the new year of 2017, I plan to read more.

I find it difficult to read for pleasure when I’m writing, as well. Who are some of your favorite authors?

I enjoyed reading William Martin’s Cape Cod and Back Bay. I love the technique of alternating chapters between centuries, which he does so well.

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

My mother always encouraged me to follow my dreams and my husband, a full time/self-supporting artist, who never gave up on his goals.

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

I write in the parlor of our old house in front of a large bay window and always listen to instrumental music, usually movie soundtracks. Because all of my children are grown and on their own and my husband works in his art studio, I can play my music without interruption. I have to set the timer on my phone to 45 minutes; otherwise I’d sit at the computer all day, lost in the story.


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

Whenever I’m driving on the road and I see a garbage bag on the side, I always think there’s a dead body or treasure inside.

I’ll admit my mind goes there, as well. Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I knew there would be numerous drafts and editing but did not expect the lengthy time involved as the MS moved through editors, proofreaders, and beta readers.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

An appreciation for a good story that is simply told and the need to keep turning the page. 

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

I think the best thing that happened to me was that a publisher picked up my book and guided me through the preparation and publishing of my first and second novel. I also paid attention and educated myself about the many confusing ins and outs of the process. My third book, coming in 2017, will be self-published because my publisher closed. It has turned out to be very challenging but with my background knowledge in place, I know it will be a success.

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

Querying too early and thinking the MS was finished. I was rejected 55 times before I re–wrote the MS based on the comments in the rejections and finally received a contract.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Edit, edit and edit. Find at least 10 beta readers that include, some family, friends, but mostly readers who are merely acquaintances.

Great advice. Website and social media links?  Blog  B.E.Struna Books

@GoodyStruna  twitter


Where can we find your book?


Barnes& Noble



What’s next for you?

As I mentioned before, my third novel in The Old Cape Series will be out in June 2017, The Old Cape Hollywood Secret.

Currently I’m writing the fourth in the series.

Thanks for visiting us again at The Writing Life, Barbara. I wish you the very best with your series. Happy writing.

About Eleanor:


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 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, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book:
Please visit Eleanor at her website:




Author Interview: Theresa Varela

The Writing Life is very pleased to welcome award-winning author, Theresa Varela.

Theresa Varela

Theresa Varela, Puerto Rican author, was born and raised in Brooklyn. She holds a PhD in Nursing Research and Theory Development and currently works with the mentally ill homeless population in NYC. She is a recipient of a 2015 International Latino Book Award for Best First Novel for Covering the Sun with My Hand. Her second novel Nights of Indigo Blue: A Daisy Muñiz Mystery, is the first in a series featuring an amateur Latina sleuth. Dr. Varela is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses; Las Comadres para las Americas; and a member of PEN American Center. She is Co-Founder of La Pluma y La Tinta- a Writer’s Workshop. Her blog LatinaLibations on Writing and All Things of the Spirit can be found at

Welcome, Theresa!

Nights of Indigo Blue-Varela

What is your book’s genre/category?

Nights of Indigo Blue: A Daisy Muñiz Mystery is just that-a mystery.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Daisy Muñiz is ready to embrace a fresh new start in her brownstone apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, when she is thrust into the midst of the mysterious murder of Windsor Medical Center’s most prominent surgeon, Arthur Campbell.  As the secrets of the Campbell family are revealed, Daisy is forced to delve into her own troubled past and she becomes the unwitting ally to Detective David Rodriguez.

Theresa, how did you come up with the title?

The original title was “Do No Harm.” I called it that initially while thinking that it was a terribly lame title and I knew I had to come up with a new, more original one. One morning during my early run I started playing with words in my head. ‘Blue’ was easy to come up with because I usually run during the inbetween times right before dawn when the sky is still dark. My spiritual guardian is Yemayá, the Mother of all things and Orisha of the oceans, so the indigo blue color is something in which I have a love for and am deeply connected. I thought it was important to add the “A Daisy Muniz Mystery” to show that it one of a series of mysteries starring Daisy Muñiz.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write something that was fun, yet was realistic. Daisy is one of many young woman I’m aware of who have struggled with dark pasts, troubling intimate relationships, and have turned to alcohol to fill that inner void. She’s fortunate in that she has wonderful friends, the couple Jose and Rubio, who come to her aid by inviting her to explore a new life in sobriety and by finding her an apartment in the brownstone in which they are also renting from a wonderful elderly woman who becomes sort of a grandmother figure to Daisy. Her friends also introduce her to the mysteries of Espiritismo and the Orisha tradition and Daisy realizes she’s had a knack for intuitiveness all along. I wanted to have a Latina heroine that solved mysteries- something I feel is lacking in our literary world.

What is your favorite part of writing?

When I’m on my writing swing I feel as though I’m reading the story rather than writing it. I don’t outline my work before hand and allow my characters to tell me their stories. My current manuscript Coney Island Siren incorporates the concept of domestic violence and while I had a hard time with some of the passages, I knew that allowing the characters to fully be themselves without censorship is paramount to the telling. I really have to step out of my shoes when I’m writing and let my fingers create the music of my computer keyboard.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I would have to say that finding the time to write is the most challenging. I have a list of current projects, multiple folders with ongoing work, and several ideas for future projects and really have to carve out time to make them all a reality.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My favorite of all time is Joyce Carol Oates. I met her recently at the NY Historical Society and she asked me what I did for a living as she signed my book. I told her that I was a writer and then added that I’ve worked in mental health for many years. It was a special moment for me. Early reading also exposed me to Piri Thomas of ‘Down these Mean Streets,’ and Claude Brown who wrote ‘Manchild in the Promised Land.” These authors have an uncanny ability to weave realistic stories that are raw, true to life, and that don’t protect their readers from the shock of living. They all share that ability to give voice to dismal yet magnificent vistas from deep within their gut. They didn’t care to make it pretty nor palatable and that inspires and influences my writing. More contemporary writers that inspire me are Lyn di Orio of ‘Outside the Bones’ and Ernesto Quiñonez of ‘Bodega Dreams.’ Another all-time favorite of mine is Dion Fortune who wrote esoteric works and of the occult. Two of her best, in my most humble opinion, are ‘The Sea Priestess’ and ‘Moon Magic’. I must add Lawrence Block who has written multiple mysteries that include the character, Matthew Scudder, who just as Daisy, also struggles with alcoholism and sobriety.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

First off, I have to say my mother, Alicia Varela, God rest her soul. She started it all by reading to me and my older sister early during childhood. She knew exactly how to teach me to pick up a book. After dinner, my mother would read books to us such as Elsie Dinsmore and other classics. When we got to a really interesting passage, she’d place the bookmark between the pages and close the book. We knew we would be read to the following night but we learned that we didn’t have to wait so long and often picked the books up ourselves. On summer evenings, she told stories to a group of us little ones under the stars on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where much of my work is set. I also rested on the couch with my Dad while he read the paper and I read the comics to him. A high school English teacher, Mrs. Farrell, ordered the students novels that weren’t on the school list but she knew we’d keep our noses in such as The Bad Seed. Other high school teachers also read aloud to us even in Senior year. I think that makes such a difference. In my doctoral program, one of my qualitative research teachers, Margot Ely, charged us with writing poetry and playlets in addition to other creative forms. She is another highly influential educator. Reading, for me, has been the key to writing.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I write anywhere and everywhere. My writing sanctuary is partly my office and partly my spiritual space with my altar in it where I pray and meditate. The room used to be my daughter’s bedroom until she moved out over ten years ago. I’ll admit that I grew up sitting in front of the television doing my homework and I still love writing in the living/dining room where I put my lap top on the dining table and write to the sounds of old movies on the screen. Writing this way is also encouraging because it reminds me that I need to work my creative muscles and not sit back and be fed by others creativity while negating my own.

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

I think that I’m an open book but I’m always surprised when people who I believe know me well seem shocked when I tell them that I work an almost full time job. They have visions of me writing all day and what I’m doing is practicing as a psychiatric nurse practitioner in a women’s shelter in Manhattan. So, I guess some people may be surprised by that. Lastly I have a PhD in Nursing Theory Development and Research and that is probably the antithesis to creative writing. If that doesn’t surprise people, how about that I can never have my fill of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

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

I’m surprised at how quickly my timidity and innocence in business has swiftly disappeared. Words that were never part of my vocabulary, such as incorporated, formatting, intellectual property, and royalties are now being articulated during breakfast at my house. While most of my experiences have been wonderful, I’ve also been shocked at how dismissive and insulting some potential agents and editors have been at times. That’s where perseverance steps in to help an aspiring author.

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

I allowed the character to develop slowly over a period of about seven years. Daisy told me her story little by little and I didn’t try to coax it all out of her too quickly. Our characters are relationships that have to be grown organically. Five years ago she wasn’t ready to tell her story in the world. I think her story is a series because there is still so much to learn about her.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

My advice is not to give up if you believe in your work. While waiting for responses from agents and publishing houses, take creative writing courses that will sharpen your literary skills. I also suggest that you read, read, read. On another note, look carefully at what your prospective publisher has done in the past. If they haven’t worked particular angles, such as formatting, that you’re interested in don’t expect that they will start with you. Media and publicity are areas that an author should be familiar with because many publishers don’t tackle those areas. If you are comfortable with ‘as is’ then sign the offered contract and not a moment before no matter how long you’ve been attempting to have your work published.


My website can be found at It offers what I call ‘LatinaLibations on Writing and All Things of the Spirit.’ I write about my perspectives on writing, spirituality, and mental health- my beloved topics.

Where can we find your book?

Nights of Indigo Blue: A Daisy Muñiz Mystery can be found on my website, where I am happy to personally sign ordered copies, at La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, NYC, at and at

What’s next for you? 

I have a few projects that I’m working on simultaneously. I’m adapting my first novel Covering the Sun with My Hand into a play. It had its first reading at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre this past spring. I’ve been working under the direction of Producer and published playwright Mario Golden and award-winning director Andreas Robertz. Secondly, I’m reading my current manuscript Coney Island Siren for last edits and will decide to which forum I will take it. Lastly, I’ve just completed my first chapbook of poetry entitled Most Grievous Fault. These poems are written about my experience regarding the death of my older sister to a chronic illness when I was eleven years old- eons before I was able to fully articulate my feelings. These are just a few of the projects that have been keeping me busy.

Thanks for chatting with us, Theresa. I enjoyed getting to know more about you. Best wishes with all your writing projects.




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 Center; and 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




Author Interview: Maria Catalina Vergara

It’s my great pleasure to welcome M.C.V. Egan to The Writing Life.

M.C.V. Egan is the pen name chosen by Maria Catalina Vergara Egan. Catalina was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1959, the sixth of eight children, in a traditional Catholic family. From a very young age, she became obsessed with the story of her maternal grandfather, Cesar Agustin Castillo–mostly the story of how he died.

She spent her childhood in Mexico. When her father became an employee of The World Bank in Washington D.C. in the early 1970s, she moved with her entire family to the United States. Catalina was already fluent in English, as she had spent one school year in the town of Pineville, Louisiana with her grandparents. There she won the English award, despite being the only one who had English as a second language in her class. In the D.C. suburbs she attended various private Catholic schools and graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland in 1977.

She attended Montgomery Community College, where she changed majors every semester. She also studied in Lyons, France, at the Catholic University for two years. In 1981, due to an impulsive young marriage to a Viking (the Swedish kind, not the football player kind), Catalina moved to Sweden where she resided for five years and taught at a language school for Swedish, Danish, and Finnish businesspeople. She then returned to the USA, where she has lived ever since. She is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Swedish.

Maria Catalina Vergara Egan is married and has one son who, together with their five-pound Chihuahua, makes her feel like a full-time mother. Although she would not call herself an astrologer she has taken many classes and taught a few beginner classes in the subject M.C.V. Egan’s new series DEFINING WAYS uses Astrology and othe Metaphysical tools


Welcome, Maria!

What is your book’s genre/category?

The Bridge of Deaths is cross-genre. It is primarily Historical, based on a real 1939 plane crash in Denmark. My maternal grandfather lost his life on that plane 20 years before I was born. I am not a trained historian or researcher, so the original version is fiction, basically a history book with over 200 footnotes with a fictional narrative weaving the storyline. The revised edition incorporated all the data into the narrative, to have the format of a novel, but it is the same book.

I used traditional and untraditional methods for my research, the combination of traditional archival materials and untraditional use of psychics and past lives make the book also Metaphysical. The main characters Bill and Maggie have a nice love story.

The short answer is; Pre WW II historical, Metaphysical, Romance and Mystery.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

On August 15th, 1939, an English passenger plane from British Airways Ltd. crashed in Danish waters between the towns of Nykøbing Falster and Vordingborg. There were five casualties reported; two executives from Standard Oil of New Jersey (one was my grandfather), a German corporate lawyer, an English member of Parliament, and a crew member on the plane. There was one survivor; the pilot.

Just two weeks before, Hitler had invaded Poland. With the world at the brink of war, the manner in which this incident was investigated left much open to doubt. The jurisdiction battle between the two towns and the newly formed Danish secret police created an atmosphere of intrigue and distrust.

The Bridge of Deaths is a love story and a mystery. Fictional characters travel through the world of past life regressions and information acquired from psychics as well as archives and historical sources to solve “one of those mysteries that never get solved.”

It is very strongly based on true events and real people, The Bridge of Deaths is the culmination of 18 years of sifting through conventional and unconventional sources in Denmark, England, Mexico and the United States. The story finds a way to help the reader feel that s/he is also sifting through data and forming their own conclusions. The British Airways LTD plane the G-AESY, was a Lockheed Electra 10A like Amelia Earhart’s.


How did you come up with the title? 

In 2002 while researching in Denmark, I visited the site of the crash with a group of Danish people. A good friend whom I have known for years, an archivist, who was so kind as to place an advert on a local newspaper, found the daughters of the diver who retrieved the bodies and helped salvage the plane as well as other extraordinary sources.

My friend told her that The Bridge, Storstrombroen was a landmark, ithe “last leg” on the drive to her grandparents to celebrate holidays and family gatherings. A policeman accompanying us said there was no joy on or around that bridge. He described how after my grandfather’s plane crashed, so many others fell in those waters. It was used by the Germans after the occupation of Denmark to shoot down allied planes on their way to bomb Berlin. He also explained that in 2002 it had become a popular bridge for people to commit suicide; my original title was going to be The Bridge of Secrets, but the chill of all the deaths in the location made me chose THE BRIDGE of DEATHS.

What inspired you to write this book? 

I was fascinated by the grandfather I never knew. My grandmother remarried four years after he died, and the only grandfather I ever knew was also an executive at Standard Oil of New Jersey, their New York offices were right in the 30 Rock Building. My step grandfather often compared me to the Castillo family, because of my ease in learning languages and my ability to win arguments.

As I got older the interest became a bit of an obsession; not to the point that it interrupted my life, but a characteristic I imposed on the Catalina in the book. I did, however, spend my money visiting archives and researching the book as much as I could, while working and becoming a mother.

I first held the British Airways Archives in my hands on January 1993, the book was ready on June of 2011, so it was an obsession. The obsession was with all the people involved; not just the victims of the crash, but Anthony Crossley British MP had such a fascinating trail of accomplishments and political involvements; and my grandfather’s loyalties were questionable as he was raised in Germany.

What can I say, in 1939 all the passengers onboard the plane were men with quite a story and background, and the crew was also very intriguing.

What is your favorite part of writing?

For this particular book the research was fascinating, I was allowed into the reading room at The British houses of Parliament, and met fascinating people along the way.

In general when it comes to writing, the creating a story that will grab and excite reader, the unfolding of surprises…well the first draft!

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Editing and outlines. Restrictions and rules!  A huge and necessary part, but not too fun. My outlines change often.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I absolutely love W. Somerset Maugham. I love all his works, and he has a little known book bearing my name CATALINA published in 1948, which starts on August 15th; the day of the plane crash in The Bridge of Deaths and around Chapter Four when Catalina goes to confession; the priest is Father Vergara; my maiden name and the V in MCV Egan!

I like many British authors, Susan Howatch, Nick Hornby, and Jeffrey Archer to name a few. Modern American writers I am a big fan of are John Irving, Irma Bombeck, and James Patterson.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Every author I have read, read an article about, attended a lecture or workshop. There is so much to learn from all fellow writers. I am also influenced and inspired by many other forms of art.  

Do you have a favorite place to write?             

My home office with the lovely view I am so fortunate to have. I get visits from birds, insects, reptiles, and the occasional squirrel.  I do not find them distracting, but I seem to look up at just the right time, to witness lovely creatures.

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

In my younger days I modeled in Sweden and I was given many chances, but was hopelessly bad at it. Looking good in a photograph is an absolute art form I could not achieve, and I tried hard. 

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

Cross-genre books are VERY difficult to place and to market! It is far better to choose a genre and use just one genre for a book. Publishers have very limited shelf space for cross-genre books.

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

I was meticulous and very passionate. I carefully organized my data, as each archive was different and they all complimented each other.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Start building your Cyber Footprint, blogging, tweeting, reviewing books. It really pays off to have “a brand” as a writer before you get a book out there.  Don’t be afraid of rejection and get VERY THICK SKIN, not everyone is going to like your work or you, and people can be brutal!

Website and other links?

Website ~

Amazon Author Page ~

Facebook fan page ~

Twitter ~

Goodreads ~

Google+ ~

Linkedin ~

Shelfari ~

Book Blogs ~



4covert2overt A Day In The Spotlight ~

Is History The Agreed Upon Lie? ~

Defining Ways ~

IntroSpective Press ~ 

Where can we find your book? 

The Bridge of Deaths **** Revised Edition

Amazon US KINDLE ~


Amazon UK KINDLE ~


The Bridge of Deaths **** Original Edition

Amazon US KINDLE ~


Amazon UK KINDLE ~


Barnes and Noble ~

authorHOUSE ~

What’s next for you?

I am now writing Women’s Fiction and I released the first of a series called Defining Ways. Defined by Others was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. I think that for me, the editing was so much work, because the pressure to write 50K words in a month was too much.

I like to write and revise the following day, the way I write that would not have met the goal, but would have made the clean-up of the manuscript far easier!

I still research a little to make the story believable, but the freedom to concentrate on the fun of a storyline is most welcome after all the work that went into The Bridge of Deaths.


Follow Bill and Maggie as they cross THE BRIDGE OF DEATHS into 1939 to uncover the mystery behind the plane crash of the G-AESY. A blend of historical fact and fiction takes the reader through well-known and little known accounts leading up to WWII.

In the winter of 2009-2010 a young executive, Bill is promoted and transferred to London for a major International firm. He has struggled for the better part of his life with nightmares and phobias, which only seem to worsen in London. As he seeks the help of a therapist he accepts that his issues may well be related to a ‘past-life trauma’.

Through love, curiosity, archives and the information superhighway of the 21st century Bill travels through knowledge and time to uncover the story of the 1939 plane crash.


Maggie liked Foyles at Charing Cross Road and shopped there often. She had been raised with all that is unlikely, unconventional, and supernatural (perhaps even magical). When she was a child, her world was that of fairies, ghosts, wishes, and the power of crystals and planets. She was taught that answers were to be found in round circles called astrology charts and that there were many people in the world who were psychic and could foretell the future. Although that world was an appealing world, it was inevitable that Maggie, as so many teenagers do, would rebel against the beliefs she was raised with and seek other philosophies.

She experimented with various traditional religions and belief systems that existed to fill in the voids felt by those lacking any sort of faith. She found that although she liked many traditional religions and appreciated what they stood for, it was indeed Buddhism that made her feel the most complete. Maggie was for all intents and purposes an illogical, whimsical, adventuresome, and happy young woman. She slept soundly and lived a very complete life.

The philosophies of acceptance by which she lived her life made her compatible with most people. She had a nice relationship with her mother, a Danish astrologer, and her father, a successful English businessman who was happy to receive a little guidance from the planets. (If anyone objected to this, he happily pointed out that it had worked for Ronald Reagan.) Maggie often read the books her mother spoke about, and every once in a while, she even joined her mother in some new age ritual or other.

It was the excuse of searching for the perfect birthday gift for her mother that placed her at the same book section and store. From the moment she saw the tall, slender man walking down the street, she felt that she needed to follow him. This is not something she remembered ever having done before. She was pretty, and more often than not, men approached her. Experience had taught her that many men worth talking to could be shy and sometimes needed to be approached. With the confidence that is often exhibited by very pretty women, she was not deterred in the least by his surprised reaction to her smile, and so she spoke.

“So, which of the women in your life recommended that book to you? Was it your mum or your girlfriend?”

She was indeed pretty, and inasmuch as he was instantly attracted to her, it was not in a purely physical way. Someday, as their love story flourished, she would explain to him that when two souls from the past meet, they recognize each other. This happens in love stories, to parents when they first encounter the eyes of their newborn, and to friends as well as enemies.

As so many lovers do, when they first met, neither one of them spoke the absolute truth. Like so many lovers starting out a new love story, if they had known where this would lead, both of them might have run out of the bookstore. But they both chose to stay, and so on a cold winter day in January of 2010, when the world was mourning the passing of so many souls in Haiti, their love story began. He smiled back and answered her question.

“Why would it have to be a woman? Why couldn’t a man recommend it?”

“Oh I see. You are an American.”

“No, Canadian actually.”

“Same difference. Perhaps in America or Canada, a man other than the author would recommend Many Lives, Many Masters. But here in England, well, it would have to be a girlfriend probably on her grand quest as to how you are soul mates eternally destined to be together, or maybe it would be a middle-aged mum who just discovered Brian Weiss, the author. So, it is that, or you have some sort of existential crisis that led you to find the book on your own. So, mum or girlfriend?”

“Hmmm, let me see. My mother prefers to pray and attend church. I don’t have a girlfriend, and it was the medical background of the guy who wrote the book, Dr. Weiss, that impressed me. So, maybe I do fall into the existential crisis category”

Her beautiful eyes widened. “Existential crisis it is then, but if you seek impressive credentials in past-life therapy, you might want to read this book, Other Lives, Other Selves. Tell me, what triggered your belief in past lives?”

“Belief! I would not call it belief … possibility. I’ve come to realize that strange things happen.”

“You know, once you read that book, you will believe. In life there are certain doorways that once you cross them, they will forever change you. And you might also resolve your existential crisis. What you will definitely find is that women love to sleep with men who search for depth through such beliefs.”

So in that cold European winter when some in the world denied global warming, he lay in bed, holding her. He could not imagine a less likely place to have encountered the perfect girl, the self-help section at a bookstore. She was, by all accounts, very beautiful. Her laughter and smiley eyes were completely contagious. He was ready to settle down, and she might be the one, even if that involved accepting some very unlikely ideas that she held. There was the most extraordinary feeling of comfort in simply being with her.

Maggie had to laugh; she thought he’d be a quick and fun adventure, one that she would soon get out of her system. But this yuppie geek, as it turned out, was surprisingly special from the very first moment. This could be far more than a casual adventure.

Bill had not spoken to anyone about his problems. Not anyone other than doctors or therapists. Maggie worked counseling young kids. She was trained to ask just the right questions to make people talk. Bill was used to carefully giving only the information he wanted to give in business and in his private life. He sometimes caught himself telling Maggie much more than what he expected was safe. She thought that she knew just how to pry and could tell he was holding back; this, of course, made him all the more interesting.

Their love story grew and developed as some do. Maggie usually led and Bill followed. They enjoyed the typical things new couples enjoy, such as going to restaurants, the cinema, shops, and museums. Sometimes, if the winter weather allowed, they went for nice long walks. Before Bill met Maggie, he had spent all his time in London buried in his work, with his colleagues at the gym, or finding ways to run away from the dreams and thoughts that haunted him. He did this by playing any distracting “brain game” that helped him to forget the letters, the same five letters, on the wings and on the side of the aircraft in his nightmares.

He liked to remember how it had been the day they met there in the bookstore by the self-help and philosophy section while he had been holding the book Many Lives, Many Masters, a book that seemed sensible enough to explain past lives. (He had also noticed one discussing future lives. That seemed ridiculous, and he was wondering if in spite of Dr. Weiss’s credentials, this was the right way to learn more about past-life regression therapy.) It was right at that moment that she had smiled and spoken. He liked the thought of how later that day, before they left the bookstore together, they each had purchased a book; he bought Many Lives, Many Masters, and Maggie chose the one about future lives, Same Soul, Many Bodies, the ridiculous one. They often visited Foyles on rainy days.

Maggie loved that bookstore, so it could not exactly be said that she had followed him inside. That would have been completely out of character for her. She had not only felt attracted to his physique, but also the way he moved as he walked seemed so familiar; there was a very strong force there, and there had been something she recognized.

Then he absolutely surprised her; he went to the section she had least expected “his type”—the cute, yuppie geek type—to choose: he went to her mother’s favorite section, the self-help and new age philosophies section, and in his hand was one of the new age beliefs’ basic books, Many Lives, Many Masters.

This was good; it could only mean that he was new to such ideas. That was an old book. It was from the 1980s. Maybe even older. It had to be that old; she remembered a copy or two in her parents’ house for as long as she could remember. This guy, this conquest—Maggie, as many pretty young women do, conquered the hearts of men for sport—this conquest would be a breeze. It was then that he felt different, when he spoke and she heard his accent, an accent so familiar to her from the cinema and the telly, the accent of all the handsome men of her fantasies, an accent that made him even more appealing. Unlike the man she had just met, Maggie was very aware that she was a hopeless romantic.

Thanks for a super interview, Maria. I enjoyed getting to know more about you. Best wishes with ‘The Bridges of Deaths’!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

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.

Author Interview: Juliana Barnet

Today I am pleased to welcome mother and daughter authors, Juliana Barnet and Sophie Barnet-Higgins, who co-wrote Rainwood House Sings, a social justice mystery for youth and adults.

At the end of June, my cousin emailed to say she’d met an author at a US Social Forum in Philadelphia who knew who I was, but she’d forgotten the woman’s name. Today, Juliana emailed to say she’d met my cousin at the conference, but had forgotten her name. Today, the mystery was solved. Small world!

Juliana and Sophie pic

Juliana Barnet is a lifelong social justice activist, artist and writer with grassroots movements in Mexico City and in the DC area. Rainwood House Sings draws on her own experiences and those of comrades from the diverse worldwide tribe of social justice agitators and activists, including the considerable number who lent their assistance to the creation of this book. Her daughter Sophie loves stories and drawing, especially Japanese-style comics.

Welcome to The Writing Life, Juliana and Sophie!

cover image-Juliana Barnet

What is your book’s genre/category?

Rainwood House Sings is a “social justice mystery” for youth and adults, painting a truthful yet mildly magical picture of activists tackling mysteries large and small with creativity, humor and collective action.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Rainwood House, lightly haunted by local civil rights struggles, rampant houseplants and musical plumbing, is home to University of Maryland groundskeeper Marlie Mendíval and her bat- and book-loving granddaughter Samantha. Marlie rents a room to Demetrius, a good-natured radical horticulturist, unaware that prior to knocking on her front door Demetrius has been hiding from the police in her basement.

Marlie battles mounting bills, bellowing pipes, a lecherous boss, her ex’s scheme to evict her from Rainwood House, isolation, decay and self-doubt, as Samantha becomes embroiled in playground culture wars. Demetrius wanders through Rainwood House’s shuttered rooms pondering how to beat accusations of cop-shooting and terrorism while remaining incognito under Samantha’s friendly but sharp-eyed gaze. Increasingly entangled in each others’ lives, the characters join glamorous union shop steward Laranda Moss and a lively crew of supporters to launch a friendship club, a campus workers’ movement, a neighborhood people’s history museum and a present-day Underground Railroad stop.

How did you come up with the title?

Rainwood” is a fictional community based on three small towns right next to one another on the Eastern border of DC, named Brentwood, Mt. Rainier (the town I live in) and North Brentwood. The story draws on the history and ambiance of these towns. The first working title was Rainwood House, until a friend suggested that active titles were better. I added “Sings,” and ended up deciding that the book was actually a trilogy. The second book is titled Rainwood House Burns.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

As a lifelong social justice activist and a lifelong fiction reader, I became increasingly frustrated at almost never seeing activists depicted in novels, other than occasional appearances as one-dimensional (and generally negative) stereotypes. Even though I know activists to be adventuresome, funny, fascinating, smart and at times heroic people who take on all kinds of issues and activities that lend themselves to mysteries and other exciting, active stories—the kind I most like to read—novels with sympathetic activist protagonists are extremely infrequent. So I ended up following the old adage: if you really want something to happen, you have to make it happen.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love having ideas pop up, and then following them where they lead. It is thrilling to follow an idea and see it open up like a glittering underground cavern as I explore its branches and possibilities.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I find writing a first rough draft difficult, not so much  because the words don’t come—I tend more to the opposite affliction, which in Mexico they call “verborrea!” Afterwards, of course, you have to pare and select, a process I enjoy but at the same time I find it hard to contend with the chorus of internal voices pelting me with putdowns, advice and rude comments that what I’m writing is boring or nonsense or whatever. When I do expository writing, I find it challenging to decide that something is finished, rather than wanting to go on and on perfecting it. So far, though, the most difficult hurdle has been learning the process of putting my writing out in the world in circles wider than folks I have direct contact with. That is the challenge of this moment, for me.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Here’s an off-the-top of my head, arbitrary, not-in-order and incomplete list of fiction authors I’ve enjoyed—in other words, I’m not making any judgment about how “deep” or transcendent they are, but include them because I’ve read—and in most cases reread—more than one of their books, often numerous times, for fun. I know I’m leaving out quite a few. Robertson Davies, Jean Auel, Chimamanda Achibie, Leo Tolstoy, Ken Follet, Anton Makarenko, Laurie King, Terry Pratchett, L.A. Meyer, Zora Neale Hurston, Walter Moseley, Barbara Neeley, Meredith Tax, Jane Austen, George Elliot, Alexander McCall Smith, Carl Hiassen, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Barbara Kingsolver, L.M. Montgomery, Douglas Addams, Katherine Ann Porter, Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Laura Esquivel, Paco Ignacio Taibo, Jules Feiffer, Lewis Carroll. A.A. Milne,  Caroline Dale Snedecker, Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters), Kurt Vonnegut, Miguel de Cervantes, Chinua Achebe, Kazuo Ishiguro, Tarquin Hall, Sherman Alexie, Sara Peretsky, C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Octavia Butler, Joseph Heller, Dave Barry, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, Clyde Edgerton, Elizabeth Peters, Dorris Lessing, Judith Viorst…(stopping because of time and space considerations, not because I’ve run out of authors!)

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Barbara Kingsolver, Makarenko, Lenin, Engels, Ruth Benedict, Franz Fanon, Paolo Freire, Margaret Meade, Claude Levi-Strauss, Augusto Boal, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Silvio Rodriguez, Nacha Guevara, Mario Benedetti, Atahualpa Upanqui, Victor Martínez, Assata Shakur, Anne Tyler, Mumia Abu Jamal, Noam Chomsky, Rebecca Solnit, parents Ann and Richard Barnet (both writers), many political bloggers and journalists, teachers and companer@s in Mexico and the U.S. And that’s just a smattering of writers, political folks and musicians off the top of my head. The full list would be much longer!

Favorite place to write?

Outdoors, on my back porch, or other people’s porches if they have a nice view of trees, sky and other restfully beautiful things.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I lived for sixteen years in Mexico City, becoming immersed in a large community and social movement with people who became close friends, comrades and family. Among other adventures there, I played keyboard and sang for a dance band that performed rock and Latin music at parties and events and in nightclubs. And I participated in a popular education movement, including living for several weeks in the building of a democratically run school housed in an abandoned munitions factory. Also, Rainwood House Sings is part of a larger project I am working on called Life in the Liberated Zone, which is about raising awareness of the culture of activists. Another part of this project is working with others to write fun and imaginative fiction that focuses on folks working together to tackle social issues. In June a group of third graders and I published Zombie Elementary, which is a children’s companion book to Rainwood House Sings, and deals with kids and zombies overcoming the fear and prejudice they feel towards one another in order to work together to save their school and friends.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Publishing pundits always say it is after the extremely challenging work of writing and publishing your book that the truly challenging work of putting it out into the world begins. Intellectually it’s not a surprise to find myself proving them right, but it still feels surprising to be continually discovering how complex and multifaceted this phase of being an author is! As far as learning, it was great to learn so many cool things associated with creating a book, reaching out to folks with and through the book, and to be in the process of learning how important it is to have help!

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

I took my time—both to write and edit, and to learn other skills like research, working with graphics on the computer, and formatting; got input and info from plenty of helpful folks; developed a good way of working my young coauthor—my daughter, who worked with me on it from age 10-15; had enough passion and decision to carry me through the process.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Persist! And choose the avenues that are most interesting to you. The process is arduous so enjoy it as you go along!

Website? ,, (under construction. This latter site will unify all the work alluded to in this interview, once it is online.)

Where can we find your book?

You can order the print book through the website or at and other distributors. Order the ebook at the website or at, and through other ebook distributors. Purchase signed copies directly from me at book events, or by writing to More information and sample chapters available at

What’s next for you?

  • Writing Rainwood House Burns, book 2 of the Rainwood House series.
  • Developing Rainwood House Sings book events focusing on activists, both locally and elsewhere, as well as online, starting with folks I know and reaching outward.
  • Collaborating once again this coming school year with children from the local elementary school to promote and sell Zombie Elementary, and to write another collective novel with them.
  • Developing Life in the Liberated Zone, in particular the website and zine (blog) of literature and essays about activist culture.
  • I’d love to hear from any other writers out there who are writing or thinking about writing fiction featuring activist characters! We are planning to start a writing group with this focus.

Thanks for chatting with me today, Juliana and Sophie. I enjoyed getting to know you both and wish you much success with Rainwood House Sings.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s career paths as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of 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.


I’m very pleased to welcome author and poet laureate, Julia Park Tracey to The Writing Life.

Julia Park Tracey pic

Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning author, journalist and blogger. Julia was the founding editor, and later, publisher, of The Alameda Sun. Her work has appeared in Salon, Quill, and Thrillist. She is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, and holds a BA in journalism and MA in English.

Her published work includes the novels Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop, Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News (Booktrope), and Tongues of Angels; two biographies, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen and Reaching for the Moon: More Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen; and Amaryllis: Collected Poems.

Welcome, Julia!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop is the first in a chicklit mystery series about a 20-something newspaper reporter trying to fight the good fight.

Veronika book cover

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Veronika Layne. Sassy, tattooed, twenty-something newspaper reporter. Never saw herself working for the “man.” When her small weekly is swallowed up by Singh Media Group, that’s exactly where she ends up. Stuck writing fluff pieces that might as well be ads, how can she resist digging into rumors that a real estate developer is destroying native burial grounds? Warned away at every turn by her editor, she worries whether the story will see the light of day? And, dazzled by her sexy rival-turned-coworker, what is she going to do about her love life?

How did you come up with the title?

Veronika is a good Greek name (she’s Greek) that means True Image. Lois Lane was a female reporter (in Superman), so I put the two together for Veronika Layne. Getting the scoop is getting the story first, getting the inside information. She gets it – but not how she envisions it.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I am a poet and lit-fic writer, as well as a working journalist. I put some of those pieces together and came up with the character, and wrote a lighter, fun story using my mad skills.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Finishing. Reading what I wrote and feeling satisfied.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Getting started. I have to have a deadline to light a fire under my feet.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I love Jane Austen (she’s a perennial favorite…but I just love her narrative arc.) I also love the domestic novels of WW2 and the first half of the 20th century – Monica Dickens, Dorothy Whipple, and DE Stevenson – I love these women and their fortitude.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

I learned a lot about chicklit and the sassy shorter form from reading Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. I learned how to include multiple POVs from Jane Smiley. I learned the sweeping arc from Austen as well as from Nevil Shute.

Favorite place to write?

Best place to write poetry is when I’m on vacation. On the deck of a cabin or at the beach. Best place to get longform writing done is at my desk. No joke – business gets done there.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I almost became a forest ranger instead of a journalist. I am very interested in eco-living, recycling, sustainable living, and other green topics. I have never lived in a redwood tree but we have a house in a redwood grove, and that’s close enough.

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

I kept the tone light. When I get too ponderous (too poetic), I have to remember that I’m not writing an essay or a sonnet. I’m writing New Adult fiction – it’s joyous and playful. I need to cultivate that side of me.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

There is no easy way out. You have to do the work. No one publishes the first draft – it takes many times to get the words right. Be willing to learn and open to critiques, and just keep writing. It won’t write itself, you know!


Where can we find your book?

Any bookstore can order from Ingram; Amazon has it right this very second.

What’s next for you?

A second Veronika Layne novel is on its way to bookstores, with a drop date of June 1. That novel, book #2 in the Hot Off the Press series, is called Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News. More hijinks for our sassy heroine.

And later this year, I have a contemporary novel called Whoa, Nellie that is heading for publication as well.

Thanks for a fun interview, Julia! Best wishes with Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

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 PEN America and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and 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 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 available on Amazon

Author Interview – Ally Bishop

ally bishop pic


I’m very pleased to have the multi-talented, Ally Bishop, with us today!

Ally is a freelance editor and writing coach, Podcast interviewer extraordinaire, writer, and an Editor at Booktrope.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ally and have already learned so much about good writing from her. I’m sure you will enjoy learning more about her in this interview!

Welcome, Ally!

What is your book’s genre/category?

So…I’m actually a freelance editor and writing coach for fiction and nonfiction writers. We eradicate writer’s block and create awesomeness for authors. 🙂 But I also have a novel dying to be written – several actually. And I have a mystery novel I’m currently working on called CHASING MERCY.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Eddie Keen is a washed up musician-turned-private investigator, on the brink of bankruptcy, when she takes on one last case. A local church is embarking on their own reality television show, based on the faith healings of their members, but one member is calling them on fraud. When Eddie digs deeper, she finds that fraud isn’t their biggest sin. As church members start dying, Eddie is drawn into a web of confusion and lies, loyalty and secrecy, and no one is quite what they seem. With fame on the chopping block and Eddie getting closer to the answers, her own death might be the only testimony she leaves behind.

How did you come up with the title?

Oh, grief – it was tough. I’ve never been good at titling my own work. The original title was Blood in Gilead, which was a twist on a hymn. But the story has morphed and changed, and now the focus is different than the vision that inspired that title. Chasing Mercy is a direct comment on Eddie’s personal development, as well as the tale itself.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I’ve been writing since I was 8. I’ve completed three books that will never see the light of day. This originally started as a project for my MA in creative writing, and it had a vampire and a felon in it. I really wanted to write a paranormal mystery, but my program had so many literary minds in it, I was embarrassed to say that I wanted to write anything in the fantasy realm.

So I figured mystery was safe and “normal.” Ah, foolish me… Nonetheless, I removed all fantasy elements, wrote a straight up mystery (think Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series), and thus, Eddie Keen and Chasing Mercy was born. It’s had probably 11 rewrites (at least), and three major face lifts. It was originally much more snarky, but also, much longer. But now it’s tighter and more focused on Eddie and the story.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part(s) of writing are the initial idea phase, where the excitement insists you get it down on paper. You write from muse and inspiration, and the words don’t stop. LOVE, love, love that time. My next favorite is when you are finished your first draft, and it’s time to dig into the rewrite process. I love to crunch words, move concepts, shape and polish the story so it sparkles. (My inner editor can’t wait to come out and play).

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Honestly, finding time to invest in it. We live in such a harried, distracting world. I’m a social media maven. I’m curious. I have adult ADHD. Sitting down and getting that focus can be tough. The only way I know how to combat it is to have scheduled time to write, that no one and nothing intrudes on. And right now, with a freelance business that is booming and some wonderful opportunities on the horizon, it is critical that I schedule that time and don’t budge from it!

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I have favorite writers, and then I have favorite storytellers. When I read, it is in my nature to be critical – that is what makes me a good editor. So when I read for pleasure, I read storyteller’s works that are engaging and non-stop but at times, irritate my inner critic. But when I read for the purpose of improving my own abilities, I go to writers who I feel have a writing style that is top notch and something I aspire to.

My favorite writers are people like Ellen Miller (Like Being Killed), Gillian Flynn (Sharp Objects), and James Lee Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series). Amazing wordsmiths that can turn a phrase that will make your heart pound and your brain melt.

When it comes to storytellers, I adore Jim Butcher (the Harry Dresden series), Diana Gabaldon (the Outlander series), and classics like Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep). 

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My English Composition professor Nkanyisu Mpofu: he believed in me and my writing, and no one ever had before. He made me hungry to go after that approval. Since then, I’ve been wildly influenced by everything I read. Diana Gabaldon was the first book series that I read as an adult that made me realize the power of characters. Despite the fantasy elements of her series, the characters feel so real. It’s hard to believe they don’t really exist.

Jim Butcher taught me the importance of an evolving character. Harry goes so dark and almost evil at one point in the series – he’s barely recognizable as the wizard you fell in love with. But he’s on a journey in the books, and that makes you want to keep reading, keep finding out what his next step is going to be. It also ensures that you can’t guess what’s going to happen.

Every movie, every book, every magazine with short stories towards the back has taught me about what words can do and create in our imaginations. People often say, “But they’re just words.” I want to respond, “Yes, they are just words. And words are what define and unite us as humans!” They matter, and as writers, we know that.

Favorite place to write?

Coffee shops. Headphones, laptop with uber-long battery (thank you, Apple!), and some sort of hot beverage. When I can, I set myself up in NYC, in a different coffee shop each time, and I always do some of my best writing there.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’ve worked in a large prison, I’ve been on a high-speed car chase, and when I’m not writing, I am gaming. I love Guild Wars 2.

 Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

I completed my internship for my MFA with a small press, and now I am an editor for Booktrope, in addition to my freelancing business. I think we’ve built a mystique around publishing that is simply not accurate. Publishing is a business. If you have a platform and people will buy your book, someone will publish it. But in so saying, you can also do it all yourself – many readers do not care whose stamp is inside the cover. So whether you self-publish or get picked up by the “big 5” publishers, if you have a good story, people will read it.

The really cool thing is that our new social-media-focused world allows for opportunities like Booktrope, where you can get your book published in a more traditional way (with no money out of pocket), have an amazing team of people supporting you (editors, book managers, cover designers, etc.), and not have the headache of self-publishing. Booktrope has such a forward-thinking model for authors, and I daresay, this is only the beginning. In five to ten years, I think we are going to see more unique approaches to publishing that will ensure writers get their stories into readers’ hands.

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

I wrote through the awful. Awful writing, awful inspiration, awful plot line. I had never written a mystery before, so understanding how it flows was difficult for me. I kept trying to write to the formula (all genres have formulas, and mysteries have a very set-in-stone formula), rather than trust the process. Once I started to trust the process, the formula just showed up, rather than me trying to force it.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Write. I know, I know, it seems obvious. But often, we get hung up on the frustrations of publishing, and we forget to keep writing.

Find a good support system. Chances are, it may not be the people that you love. So find people that love writing. They may be on Facebook, Twitter, through, or even your neighbor! Check in with a group at your library or local bookshop. You need somewhere to go and connect with people who get it.

And create your platform now. Get a free blog. Open a Twitter account. Get social media savvy. Gone are the days where we can put our heads down and leave it up to the publishers to advertise for us. And I know some complain about it, but really, you’ve never had more control over your creative identity than you do, right now. You get to choose how big it is, how slick it is, how serious it is. Some people embrace that. If you are someone who wants to but isn’t sure how…contact me!


Where can we find your book?

It’s up on Wattpad ( J

What’s next for you?

Currently, I’m working on some amazing projects that will be published late summer/early fall, and I’m finishing up my final draft of CHASING MERCY. Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@upgradestory) to hear the latest!

Thanks for a great interview, Ally! Good luck with everything!



Author Interview Friday-Barbara E. Struna

book cover - the old cape house, barbara eppich struna

A warm welcome to Barbara Eppich Struna, author of the historical novel, The Old Cape House. Barbara and her husband, to continue their creative lives, moved from Ohio to Cape Cod 28 years ago. They opened an art gallery representing her husband’s artwork and Barbara wrote and published The Old Cape House, set on Cape Cod. The wonderful period house that graces the cover of her book was painted by her husband. That is what I call a team effort.

Barbara, please describe what THE OLD CAPE HOUSE is about.

The Old Cape House is historical fiction. It’s about a woman who relocates to an old house on Cape Cod with her husband and four children.  In her backyard she finds an abandoned root cellar. At its bottom, a baby’s skull, gold coins, and other evidence that connect their land to the legend of Maria Hallett and the pirate Sam Bellamy. Using alternating chapters between the 18th and 21st centuries, the story uncovers a mystery that has had the old salts of Cape Cod guessing for almost 300 years.

How did you come up with the title?

The house that’s pictured on the cover is actually the house we live in.  Because I found so many interesting things around and about the house when we moved in, I felt I could write a story using what I ’d discovered. Also, the fact that my meta data and tag words were important for people to find my novel, the word Cape was important. In fact the subsequent books in this series will all have the words, The Old Cape ….in their titles.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I wrote this particular book and developed this series because I’m fascinated with history, especially on the Cape. You can drive down roads or walk the old fire trails catching glimpses of the past, sometimes actually touching the old houses or artifacts that still remain and surround us today. In fact, I found a layer of red bricks laid out in a pattern under ten inches of dirt behind our barn; it sparked my imagination of who put them there and why. Then I became aware of the Cape Cod legend of Sam Bellamy, Maria Hallett, and the pirate ship, The Whydah.  According to legend, Sam was a real pirate and his ship the Whydah was discovered off the coast of Cape Cod. Sam’s body was never found after his ship’s wreck and Maria was never proven to exist.   So I took these two unknown elements with the secrets of my 1880 house and wrote a new story about Maria.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Conjuring up plots, inventing characters, and telling a good story.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Finding the time to write… uninterrupted. I have five children, living all over the country, ranging in ages from 22 to 44 and two grandchildren plus a wonderful husband that I love spending a lot of time with every day.

Who are your favorite authors?

That’s a difficult question.  I read but not as much as I should. I do like mystery writers. I enjoy Dan Brown, Stephen King, and William Martin.

What authors or persons have influenced you?

When we moved to Cape Cod 28 years ago, I discovered historical fiction author, William Martin. At the time, he had written about Cape Cod and New England using alternating chapters from one century to another. I was fascinated with his stories because I was able to experience history and present day at the same time. I liked connecting the past with what surrounded me in present day. He was the major reason I chose to write using alternating chapters.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I like to write in the front of our 1880 house in the parlor. I also need music (instrumental only–no vocals) I listen to the background music for video games and movies. Olafur Arnalds and Hans Zimmer are great.

Have there been any surprises or learning experiences with the writing and publishing process?

Yes! The most surprising aspect was how much actual work is involved with the completion of the book and the process of getting it into the hands of readers.  Along the way, it became a labor of love and a task that I would do again in a heartbeat.

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

I never gave up on my dream of becoming a published author, even after 54 rejections and a span of three years of querying plus many rewrites.

Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?

Submit as many queries as you can. They are all learning experiences. They will teach you, if you’re lucky, what you need more of or what you can get rid of in your manuscript. It will make you analyze your words and fine tune them. Out of all my rejections, I did receive four full requests. They all said the same thing: loved the story, the pacing, the writing, but not invested in the characters.  So I rewrote it again for the umpteenth time and it finally worked.

Social media?

I write a blog, have Facebook and Twitter pages, and am working on a website,

Where is THE OLD CAPE HOUSE available?

It’s available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iTunes,

Something personal about you…people may be surprised to know?

A few years ago I was an extra in a movie that was filmed here on the Cape. The Golden Boys! I worked two days alongside of David Carradine, Bruce Dern, and Rip Torn and was fortunate to be in several scenes and in a behind–the–scenes extra on the DVD. I got paid $30 a day!

Tell us about your second book?

The second in my historical fiction series is almost completed. It features my contemporary character Nancy Caldwell solving another mystery. The story takes place on Antigua in the West Indies and on Cape Cod. The reader follows the lives of the two survivors of the 1717 wreck of Sam’s pirate ship, The Whydah and Nancy in present day. I use alternating chapters again to tell the story.  It’s called The Old Cape Teapot.  

Thanks for joining us, Barbara! We enjoyed getting to know you and your novel, The Old Cape House.