Category Archives: Blogging

Christine Ristaino – Overcoming Violence

In September 2007, Christine Ristaino was attacked in a store parking lot while her three- and five-year-old children watched. In her upcoming memoir, All the Silent Spaces (She Writes Press, July 9, 2019), Ristaino shares what it felt like to be an ordinary person confronted with an extraordinary event―a woman trying to deal with acute trauma even as she went on with her everyday life, working at a university and parenting two children with her husband.

All the silent spaces book coverIn her book, Ristaino not only narrates how this event changed her but also tells how looking at the event through both the reactions of her community and her own sensibility allowed her to finally face two other violent episodes she had previously experienced. As new memories surfaced after the attack, it took everything in Ristaino’s power to not let catastrophe unravel the precarious threads holding everything together.  Moving between the greater issues associated with violence and the personal voyage of overcoming grief, All the Silent Spaces is about letting go of what you think you know in order to rebuild.

Here are some questions I had for Christine about her book, her process, and what is important to her.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

I would tell my younger self to listen to my body, my heart, my head, all of them, and see what my internal voice is telling me. So many times I focused outwardly on what others wanted. Now that I hear my own voice, everything is different. I speak from a place of power and I say what I feel, not what others want me to say. I would tell my younger self to ask herself what is important to her. I would tell my younger self that her story is important, that it is worth telling.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

Yes, I have always loved writing. I realized I could write well when a teacher told me to send a story into a competition in High School. Something clicked for me then. I began writing stories and poems in my teens and twenties, a dissertation and an academic publication in my thirties, OpEds and All the Silent Spaces in my 40s and early 50s.

Who is your favorite character in your book?

Since my book is a memoir, I would have to say that the older me, at the end of my book, is my favorite character. The book is about trying to find one’s voice after sexual assault. The experience of finding it through writing was the most powerful experience I’ve ever had in my life and I enjoy seeing a much more settled, imperfect but self-aware woman, ready to change the world, at the end of my book.

Where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing at my kitchen table in the middle of the night or in my car on the side of the road in random places.

What inspires you?

Other people’s stories about overcoming obstacles inspire me.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

Christine Ristaino author photoIn addition to raising socially-conscious children, it has become my life’s goal to make sure survivors of violence don’t lose their voices.  Since I began writing my book, I have published articles in the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Pacific Standard, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution about different aspects of my experience with violence and difficult conversations. Last January, I told my story to more than 6,000 people at the women’s march in Roanoke, VA.  Modeling how to have these conversations through my book will help more women gain the courage to say #MeToo, as well as inspire people to bear witness to the stories of those who have survived traumatic events. I would like to be a strong voice in the fight to change the discourse around violence.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I’m a pantser.  I let whatever needs to come out, come out. When I was writing my book, I felt this incredible need to write it. I just went where it took me. Ultimately, through writing, I was able to look at two experiences with sexual violence that had happened to me as a child and young adult. Writing about these two events liberated me, helped me figure out who I really was.

What are you reading right now?

I’m teaching an Italian memoir class right now and I am reading my students’ short memoir pieces. They are powerful, honest, stunning! My favorite pieces arise from the prompts “This is who I am” and “Immigrant Story”.

If you could spend the day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

I would visit my younger self and help out with the kids—allow her to have some down time and tell her how much I loved her. I would give her space to face the hidden realities that are preventing her from owning her voice. Of course, it would be fun to see my children at younger ages again, but I would miss their older selves if I spent too much time away from them.

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

I would like Julianna Margulies to play me.

What are your top 3 favorite books?

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

Usually I think of something and write it down as soon as I can pull over the car or get out of bed. Mostly I think of things to write about in the middle of the night or when I’m in the car. These two times of the day are the only moments where life quiets down for a spell and I feel creative and relaxed.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

I teach Italian, advise three super-empowered student groups at Emory, write OpEds, nonfiction, articles, spend time with my husband and children, have coffee or meals with family, students and friends, laugh, connect, exchange stories, love.

More about Christine:

Christine Ristaino teaches Italian classes at Emory University. She has co-authored an academic publication entitled Lucrezia Marinella and the “Querelle des Femmes” in Seventeenth-Century Italy through Farleigh Dickinson Press as well as the first edition of a book series called The Italian Virtual Class, which teaches language through cultural acquisition. She writes and publishes articles, essays, OpEds, and non-fiction, and presents her work in various forums throughout the U.S. and abroad. Ristaino recently completed her memoir entitled All the Silent Spaces, which confronts the topics of violence and discrimination.

Ristaino specializes in Italian pedagogy, languages, teacher training, service learning, and education.  She serves on various boards and committees and participates in efforts around social justice, race, class, education reform, and violence prevention.  Ristaino is an award-winning advisor and teacher and has experience organizing powerful symposiums, seminars, conferences and events. She leads workshops on the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion, privilege, writing and talking about difficult topics, and creating a public voice.

Ristaino mentors and advises three student groups and is a well-known, beloved faculty member. She is currently teaching a course about Italian memoir where her students share powerful memoir pieces about identity and overcoming obstacles.

Connect with Christine:
Here is where you can preorder Christine’s book:

 

 

Beth Ricanati – Baking and Breaking Bread

Beth Ricanati, wellness author

 

Author Beth Ricanati, MD, has built her career bringing wellness into everyday life, especially for busy moms juggling careers and children. She trained and worked at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.  She now resides in Santa Monica, California.

I’m excited to bring you this fabulous interview with Beth Ricanati. Beth shares with us her philosophies and ideas about the importance of ritual, and finding your own kind of peace with her newly released memoir,  Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs published by She Writes Press in September, 2018.
What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs chronicles my journey from a stressed out, overwhelmed physician-mother to one who has found a way to slow down through the weekly ritual of making challah. Braided is part memoir, part cookbook and part how-to guide.

What are you working on now?

I have thrown myself into publicizing the book, including participating in many events that often involved making challah, demonstrating making challah or braiding challah while also discussing the themes of the book. I am continuing to see patients in clinic as well, and have just realized that I may have another book idea to explore!

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Writing a book is serious business! It can be a lonely endeavor, in contrast to the effort required to publicize the book once it’s published. Surrounding yourself with people who understand what all of this entails is critical – not only will they be supportive, but the knowledge that they bring is invaluable.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

I have always written, but I did not identify as a ‘writer’ until just before I decided to write this book. Rather, I identified as a physician and a mother, even though I was writing short-form pieces – mostly health and wellness-related – for a while before this! Once I committed to this project, I realized how beneficial it was to me personally to add the moniker ‘writer’ to how I self-identified; it legitimized what I had begun to do.

Where do you do most of your writing?

One of my favorite writers since college is Virginia Woolf and I have taken her advice to heart to have a room of one’s own! I write in a beautiful office with a large window that I frequently look out of.

Book Cover BraidedWhat inspires you?

I realized after making challah weekly for five years that this meaningful ritual had taught me so many lessons; moreover, I realized that not only was I probably not the only stressed and overwhelmed person on the block and if these lessons could help me, then they could probably help someone else and hence I began to figure out how to share the story.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

I still make challah every Friday, sometimes by myself and sometimes with others – some of whom I have just met that day. Having a meaningful ritual is so important in today’s crazy world and I love to share mine with others in the hopes that they too will see the benefits!

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I work best with structure and deadlines. I am always thinking of things and jotting notes everywhere, but when it comes time to write, I like to carve out time and get organized at my desk with my computer and a cup of tea, and often some music.

What are you reading right now?

I am just diving into both Annie Lamott’s new book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, and Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open. I just finished Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage and Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels. I love to read and have books stashed everywhere, including in the car in case I’m stuck in traffic!

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

What a fun question! Perhaps Marin Hinkle, who’s currently on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”!

What are your top 3 favorite books?

An impossible question! Can I choose authors instead? I adore Virginia Woolf, Barbara Kingsolver and Dani Shapiro, to name just three.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

My space is very important to me: I like to have a clean desk! Tea and music help too.

Here is what people are saying about Braided:

“Ricanati’s memoir with recipes is a well-written investigation into her maturation as a doctor, her growth as a wife and mother, and the increasing wisdom she gained while pondering Jewish rites and rituals.” ~ Booklist, starred review

“Beth Ricanati has written a unique book: part recipe, part health, with a whole lot of soul. Reading her book is like making a new friend–you feel transported to her California kitchen. A yummy, cozy and inspiring read.” ~Lori Palatnik, author, media personality, and founding director of The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project.

“This is not just a book about making bread. It is a book about making choices, and like a good challah is at times chewy, evocative, and a little sweet. Its wisdom transported me back to the kitchens of my grandmothers and the knowledge that in complicated times, the way forward is always the simple and beloved.”―David Baum, PhD, DMin, speaker, coach, conversation architect, and author of Lightning in a Bottle and The Randori Principles

Connect with Beth:
Buy her book:

Helen Zuman dishes about her book – Mating in Captivity

I am pleased to share with you this fascinating interview with Helen Zuman, the author of Mating in Captivity, a memoir that tells the story of Helen’s quest to find meaning in life and relationships that led her to Zendik Farm; a place that espoused a philosophy of saving the world from lies and corruption through art and harmony. What she came to realize was that Zendik Farm was something she hadn’t entirely expected.
Publisher: She Writes Press

Release date: May 8, 2018

book cover - Mating in CaptivityTell us about your book!

Mating in Captivity: A Memoir chronicles my five years, post-college, in a cult called Zendik Farm. When I moved to Zendik, at twenty-two, I was seeking meaning, belonging, and skills not taught in school; I had no idea I would gradually lose sovereignty over my time, energy, mind, and relationships—that is, surrender self-trust. In writing this book, I’ve both composted the stinky guck of my Zendik experience into fertile soul-soil and, I hope, enticed readers to turn their own piles.

What are you working on now?

I have a seasonal gig editing college application essays for an admissions consulting company; in the fall and early winter, that’s where most of my writing energy goes. However, I do write a monthly e-newsletter and blog post, and I spend five to ten minutes each morning engaging, through writing, in an effort to explore and transform my relationship with money.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Embrace the shitty first draft! Decide that the mission of your first draft is to be shitty, and that if you don’t make it shitty enough, you will have failed.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and the quality of my writing has always been extremely important to me. However, what made me a writer, and an author, was my determination to share the full tangle of my Zendik experience with readers who knew nothing about it. It was the book project that compelled me to establish and keep faith with a regular writing practice, and accept writing as a process. It kept asking me to learn more, travel further—and I kept saying yes.

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

My current favorite is Owen, who pops up to deliver some shocking news to the protagonist, then fades out. I like his peculiar blend of whimsy and mysticism.

Where do you do most of your writing?

At my desk, in a nook in the living room of the one-bedroom apartment I share with my husband in Beacon, New York.

What inspires you?

Crisis. Magic. Things that disturb me deeply, or strike me as miraculous. I’m also inspired by delicious writing—in particular, the word-feasts cooked up by my dear friend Nina Kang.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

I see my book, my other writing projects, and my book-related events as shuttles with which to weave and reweave the web of relationships, i.e., the fabric that both holds and comprises all life. Each connection made, each book read, each story shared is one more thread in the web.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

Since my book is a memoir, I knew the basics of my story before I started writing it. However, I did make many rounds of decisions, over the years, about what belonged and didn’t—and chose, eventually, to focus on my development as a sexual being and my quest for a partner. Those two threads became the spine of the book.

What are you reading right now?

Writing Down Your Soul, by Janet Conner. It’s a guide to getting in touch with, and listening to, one’s inner wisdom, while connecting with the infinite knowing of the larger whole. Also, I just finished two books by Ursula LeGuin—The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed—that seem to be grappling with big questions close to my heart: Is it possible to create a culture without money or overlords, in which everyone cares for everyone else? Is it inevitable that any pathology a group roots out will eventually be replaced by a new one?

If you could spend the day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

Wulf—the male half of Zendik’s founding couple, whom I never met. I would ask him questions, or perhaps just listen to him ramble, in quest of a better understanding of his motives, his contradictions, his unsolvable knots.

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

Reese Witherspoon.

What are your top 3 favorite books?

In order of appearance in my life: Bomb the Suburbs by William Upski Wimsatt. New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. Lost and Found: My Life in a Group Marriage Commune by Margaret Hollenbach.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

I make sure I have an adequate supply of homemade chocolate balls—also known as “crack”—on hand, so I can bribe/reward myself with one ball per half hour of thought-work.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

I like engaging in nourishing conversation driven by open, honest questions about things that matter. I like villaging—especially at Earthaven, an off-grid intentional community in Black Mountain, North Carolina. I like growing food with as little effort as possible. I like singing, writing songs, writing skits, inciting laughter. And I like walking—if not for my quota of six miles per day, I would be a cyborg.

Photo Helen ZumanMore About Helen:
Helen Zuman, author and witch, turns waste into food and the stinky guck of experience into fertile, fragrant prose. A graduate of Harvard College, she lives with her husband in Beacon, NY and at Earthaven Ecovillage in Black Mountain, NC. Mating in Captivity (She Writes Press 2018) is her first book.
More about Mating in Captivity:

When recent Harvard grad Helen Zuman moved to Zendik Farm in 1999, she was thrilled to discover that the Zendiks used go-betweens to arrange sexual assignations, or “dates,” in cozy shacks just big enough for a double bed and a nightstand. Here, it seemed, she could learn an honest version of the mating dance and form a union free of “Deathculture” lies. No one spoke the truth: Arol, the Farm’s matriarch, crushed any love that threatened her hold on her followers’ hearts. An intimate look at a transformative cult journey, Mating in Captivity shows how stories can trap us and free us, how miracles rise out of crisis, how coercion feeds on forsaken self-trust.

Read Helen’s blog:
helenzuman.com.
Buy her book!

http://helenzuman.com/signed-copies/, https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781631523373, https://www.amazon.com/Mating-Captivity-Memoir-Helen-Zuman/dp/1631523376/

Author Interview – Read about Kathryn Taylor

From loss and despair, Kathryn Taylor has learned how to live life to the fullest again. Today she shares with us the impetus for writing her memoir, Two Minus One. Her book will be released November 6, 2018 by She Writes Press. Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing your story of empowerment!

Kathryn Taylor - headshot

What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

Two Minus One: A Memoir

I had been divorced and was raising two daughters as a single, working mom. The three of us had carved out a life for ourselves and made our way in the world as a united entity without a male figurehead. We had grown strong in our relationship and independent in our lives. I had met with success in my career, my daughters were ready to move off to college, and I was content with my life and happy in my world.

Then I took a chance! The father of friends of my daughters was divorcing his wife. He had always been supportive of the three of us as a family unit and ready to help in any way that we needed. Over several years, it became clear that his intentions were evolving from friendship to relationship. I was adamant that was not what I wanted and had no interest in another man in my life. However, after years of hearing his repeated refrain, “You can quit waiting for the other shoe to drop: I’m in it for life,” I thought it might be true and worth taking a chance.

Those fateful, repeated words convinced me to remarry, retire from my thirty-year profession, sell my home, and relocate in support of my new husband’s career. We enjoyed an idyllic life committed to making our second marriages last a lifetime. We awoke each day in wonder and awe that we had grown children who were independent, no financial liabilities or elder care responsibilities, and enjoyed good health. But five years later, in a car packed with food I had carefully prepared to nourish my husband’s dying brother, the other shoe did drop. On a road trip, my loving husband unexpectedly proclaimed he was, “done with the marriage and doesn’t want to talk about it.”

I somehow survived the weekend with his family – convinced he didn’t mean a word he was saying, and that he was striking out over fear of his brother’s imminent death. However, on the return drive home, he made it clear that he was “fucking damn done,” that I was “mean and despicable,” and he, “has nothing more to say.” As the door closed behind him, so did my world. I remained on the sofa, with the shutters closed to block out the world that I knew could not go on without the life we had built.

I was completely distraught and debilitated. The man I had come to completely love and trust had walked away from the life we had worked so very hard to build – without any indication that anything had been wrong. We had routine “state of the union” discussions about our relationship and covered every topic from sex to travel to retirement. We had been building a strengthening relationship in a new environment and reported nothing but growth and increasing commitment in each of these meetings. Yet, now he was gone – and didn’t want to talk about it!

I was immobilized by grief. I was overcome with shame for what he said I had displayed in bad behavior towards him. I was certain that if he said I was mean and unworthy of love, it must indeed be true. I felt that if I had destroyed this wonderful man and our wonderful marriage, I certainly had nothing to offer to anyone else in the world and held no value whatsoever– for myself or for anyone else. I remained on that sofa for weeks – of which I am not proud to admit – blubbering, dripping snot, and unwilling to take or make phone calls or connect in any way with the outside world.

I felt a sense of shame that I had never experienced in my life and was certain that I was unworthy of anything that life offered. The unexpected betrayal – by the man I trusted and who had assured me that he loved me more than his next breath – was more than I could bear. Except for an occasional text, I terminated all outside communication with those I loved – and who I had once felt certain loved me.

Finally, I received a text from my very best friend. She stated that she would call me and expected me to pick up the phone. She did not care if I did nothing but sob, but she was going to connect. If I did not answer, she would send the police to my door to check on my welfare. Hesitant, I took the call and let the details tumble out. Days later, my friend arrived at my house.

Two Minus One coverI began relying on the strength of that lifelong friend who refused to let me succumb to the intense waves of grief. I gradually began to find my way out of the darkness that had become my life. Over the course of two years, through appointments with attorneys and therapists, purging shared belongings, and pushing myself to meet new people and do new things, I gradually regained a sense of control in my world. I slowly learned to enjoy the new life I began to build, the friendships I began to form―and to savor my triumphant outlook and new-found strength.

My book relates that personal journey from unexpected loss to triumphant new beginning. I believe it – and I – have a strong message that will benefit many others that are experiencing similar loss.

What are you working on now?

Marketing the book. I am in awe of authors who can write, blog, and market simultaneously!

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Never underestimate the demands of the publication/marketing process.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

I had always dreamed of writing. I entered a writing contest at an early age and have always journaled. However, my “calling” at the age of six, was toward teaching and from there, life happened. I journaled continuously, and wrote report card comments, but did not attempt a “book” until the sudden termination of my marriage. The writing helped me heal and move on.

Where do you do most of your writing?

The beach when possible. Everywhere else in the house until it is actually time to use the computer, then in my office.

What inspires you?

The pain of my story was my inspiration. It was visceral, and I strove for understanding and clarity through my writing.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

I have no training or experience in writing.  My story has taken on a life of its own. If someone out there believes they have a story to tell and to share, they should follow their dream – no matter their circumstance or age.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I believe my process was different than most. I was writing my story in real time and working through some intense emotional pain. I wrote in journals, scribbled notes randomly and continuously, and compiled chapters and flow as the story appeared on the – handwritten – pages. I literally cut and pasted with scissors and glue, spreading my pages all over the house before I sat down at my desk with my laptop to put the story together. So, to answer your question, I would be called a pantser.

What are you reading right now?

Because I am so new at the entire publication and marketing process, I am certain it requires far more of my time than for most authors. Because of that, I read far less than I would like – and mostly when I do get away to the beach. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was a wonderful recent read.

If you could spend the day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

If I could spend the day with my former spouse, I would question him as to his motives and feelings about leaving. I would love some answers and insights.

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

That is an interesting question as when I spoke with my first therapist I asked her, “Who do you think should play me in this made for TV drama that I am living?” Her answer, “A woman with the utmost dignity.” I think Michelle Pfeiffer could pull it off!

What are your top 3 favorite books?

Anne Frank:Diary of a Young Girl– I was destined for memoir from an early age! She was so brave and never bitter in the worst of situations. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh remains as timely as when it was written in 1955. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz: Be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, always do your best, and the newly added fifth agreement, remain skeptical but learn to listen.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

I light a scented candle, have a stress relief Wonder Woman bitsy, and I turn off my cell phone.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

I am happiest on the beach-any beach. When I cannot be on the beach, I love to be outdoors biking or taking long walks with my dog Lucy. I love to read and share time with dear friends and family.

Here is more about Kathryn:

Kathryn Taylor was born at the Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago, Illinois and spent much of her life in the Chicagoland area. When she entered first grade, reading came easily to Taylor. Decades before terms such as “peer tutoring” and “collaborative learning” had been coined, her teacher had an inspiring idea. She would allow Kathryn to assist classmates struggling to decode those pesky letter combinations and help them learn to read. Taylor experienced an undeniable sense of fulfillment helping her classmates and licking gold stars onto completed pages. The desire to become a teacher took root.  Taylor enjoyed thirty years in the classroom and had taught in the schools of Illinois, California, and Virginia before her retirement and relocation to South Carolina. It was there where Taylor wrote her book, Two Minus One: A Memoirfollowing the unexpected abandonment by her second husband. Taylor is an avid reader, enthusiastic traveler, and incurable beach lover. She resides outside of Charleston, SC, with her rescue dog, Lucy, where she can enjoy all three of her favorite past times.

More about Two Minus One:

“You can quit waiting for the other shoe to drop, I’m in it for life.”

Those are the fateful, repeated words that help convince Kathryn Taylor to remarry, retire from her thirty-year profession, sell her home, and relocate in support of her new husband’s career. But five years later, the other shoe does drop when her husband, without any explanation, tells her he is done with the marriage.

Poignant and full of raw emotion, Two Minus One is Taylor’s story of loss and rebuilding, betrayal and friendship–and of recalling life on her own terms.

Connect with Kathryn:
Buy Kathryn’s book:
vintage writing

Building a Character on Top of a Historical Figure

This article was first published on the SheWrites Blog, June 27, 2018

I’ve always been at my most creative when I have to work within structural confines, whether it be an extensive outline for a novel, or creating a character based upon someone in history. Within those structural walls, my mind is free to roam, without getting lost in all the noise outside.

As writers of historical fiction, we will never really know what was going on in the minds or emotions of the people in history we want to portray. We see them through their actions, what they’ve written, or what they’ve reportedly said, but we don’t always know their deepest fears, or what they secretly wanted in life. We don’t always know their unrequited loves, their biggest regrets, or their pet peeves—unless it was written down. And even that can be up for interpretation because we can never really be inside the mind of anyone, much less a historical figure. Even non-fiction historical accounts can be skewed because every writer has a personal bias. They put their perceptions and interpretations onto the page. It’s human nature.

But, interpretation can open the doors to a whole new kind of creativity.

When I use a historical figure in fiction, I do extensive research to know as much about that person as I can. I read books and articles on them, and I watch television shows, documentaries or movies featuring that person. I make notes on what I think is most interesting about them and what is portrayed about their life. Then I start exploring what that person must have been going through psychologically at any given event or circumstance.

I try to put myself in that person’s shoes and wonder how they felt about what was happening to them. I also like to create a new reality for them, and then based on what I know about that historical figure, I imagine how they would react to the situation I have created for them.

Some of my favorite books feature historical figures as amateur sleuths. The author has, within the confines of history as we know it, put that character in charge of solving a puzzle the author has created. The author uses what they know about that historical figure’s personality and the events that surrounded them, and then they create a mystery within those confines for the character to solve. What a great way to delve into the heart and soul of a person!

Some of my favorites have been Stephanie Barron’s series featuring Jane Austen as an amateur sleuth, and Karen Harper’s series featuring Queen Elizabeth I as an amateur sleuth. It was great fun to sink myself into the world of the historical figure I knew through stories and my own research, combined with situations created by a present-day author. I found it inspiring.

photo Annie OakleyIn my historical series, I’ve used the famous and iconic figure Annie Oakley as an amateur sleuth and put her into situations she never encountered in real life. It was interesting and exciting to imagine how she would have reacted to being compelled to solve murders. I took what I knew about her, and surmised that she was gutsy, smart, lovable and loving, and incredibly talented at something a woman rarely pursued—sharpshooting. She also bested most men in her field.

Annie Oakley did not live the life of an ordinary woman in 1885. Given the scope of the Wild West Show’s travels, and what Annie did for a living, I thought she would make an excellent amateur detective. One who is driven by seeking the truth and finding justice.

The key is to be as accurate as possible given the information you have, and most importantly, to make your historical and fictional story believable.You wouldn’t make King Henry the VIII a pacifist or monogamous, or Fanny Brice dull or somber. Readers won’t buy it. Be smart about it.

If you want to assert in your historical fiction novel or series that a historical figure can act like, or be something history did not record, make sure you do your research to see if the historical accounts of him or her support that idea. Then, dive deep into what you think that person is about, and what drove them. Let your imagination go.

Author Interview – Rachael Sparks

I am so excited to share with you my interview with fellow Spark Press author, Rachael Sparks! She is here to talk about her debut novel Resistant, to be released October 16, 2018. Mark your calendars, you won’t want to miss this one!

Tell us about your novel

Resistant, imagines a world post-antibiotics, which is truly almost upon us. The main character is a woman who has lost her mother to an infection and is getting by with her father but discovers she might hold the cure in her own blood. Because of that, she’s a target of several groups that would like to control that cure. She’s unsure whom to trust and still trying to protect her friends and family while she determines the real answer, and the adventure takes off from there. It’s a little bit sci-fi, adventure, action and romance, so I think it’s going to appeal to many readers.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the publicity steps for Resistant, which releases in mid October. I’m also finishing a work in progress that I love working on. It’s set in 1700s Maine and the present day, with just a dash of science, a pinch of witch, and romance threading through two stories. The two main characters are distant relatives and I’ve really come to adore learning about them—and about lighthouses, Maine, and medicine in colonial Americas.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

I’m certain I was quite a terrible writer in my youth, but I was just writing fun tales for myself. Later in my early 30s, better stories came to me but I wasn’t confident enough to write them. If I could advise younger Rachael, I would say to start practicing and writing down those tales stuck in my brain. It took the confidence of age for me to begin writing seriously, but also the experiences and exposure to different styles of writing. It even took exposure to some poor, yet published, writing that gave me a sense of “Well. If they can, I can.” So maybe I would just buy her a drink, wink, and tell her she’s capable of more than she knows.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

Very, very secretively, yes. As a kid, I read nonstop. I daydreamed in full, detailed stories that I would revise constantly, as if daydreams needed to have a proper plot. I never actually dreamed it could be a career, though. Michael Crichton was a god to me, and he seemed omniscient in a way I didn’t think I was capable of achieving. But over time I came to see I was an autodidact with obsessive research tendencies.

At some point I realized I’d accrued a lot of these stories, along with a fairly unique knowledge set, and that I could weave many into a full novel, the type I wished someone was writing and publishing: a meal with all my favorite flavors of science, action, thrills, mystery, romance, danger. It had been simmering, then two events made Resistant happen. One, a dream of Rory and Navy in a certain scene that happens at the climax of the novel. And two, my husband and I had a dare between us for who could finish the first step towards our most secret aspiration—either he would finish a small piece of furniture, or I would finish the first five chapters of a novel. We had three months. I finished Resistant nine months later.

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

Well, Rory is my main character, so I do adore her. But I think I favor Navy, her co-hero, because I find him difficult to get to know. There’s a lot more to learn about him if one could pry his brain open. Fortunately, that’s my task.

Where do you do most of your writing?

Wherever I can find a quiet moment! Family, work, and trying to have a healthy life can both slow you down and feed your imagination. But usually from nine to midnight, and if I can beat everyone awake, during the blue hours of the morning. I love that color of light and the sense that everyone is dreaming on pillows while I’m dreaming on [digital] paper.

What inspires you?

Learning new information, exercise and music inspire me. I read as many scientific and history articles as fiction work, and am constantly saving them to bookmarks so they can inspire a new plot twist. I have a playlist that is curated to the mood of each WIP. It’s the soundtrack to the movie playing in my mind. If I’m stuck, for me, a hike or a long walk to said soundtrack usually bubbles up a new twist or motivates a stuck character. And when I want historical perspective, I love to dig through the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection– if you haven’t been, go, and I advise putting your vacation responder on.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

I’d probably want my readers to know that I appreciate them. If we ever meet, I hope they’ll say hello, let me buy them a beer, or even cook them some pasta. For reassurance, I would also want them to know I used to cook professionally. It’ll be good.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

Once I sit to write, the pantser takes over. When I am unable to actually type, I try to record my disparate thoughts and needles of “this character is too likeable and needs faults” or “don’t forget to take that gun off the wall soon”. Thank goodness for Google Keep (tm?), while I continue the search for a plot-mapping app that I like.

What are you reading right now?

I’m ashamed to admit how many books. I’m reading Eliot Peper – 2 of his. Just finished Adrienne Young’s Sky in the Deep. Kelli Clare’s Hidden. Andrew Mayne’s Looking Glass. James Scott’s The Kept. The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry. And re-reading Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, That’s the fiction stuff. Maryn McKenna’s Big Chicken is in progress too. As you might imagine, everything moves pretty slowly with that many going on. It’s a recent problem I’ve developed that I’m not sure how to treat.

If you could spend the day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

AJ, a character who will have a larger role in the sequel, is a fishing captain of her own vessel. I’d love to go on a fishing trip with her off the coast of Woods Hole, MA. Maybe swing into Martha’s Vineyard for a homebrew and pizza at the Offshore Ale Co.

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

Rory is in her twenties, so I imagine there are hundreds of talented actors [actresses? Not sure the preferred parlance these days] who could play her. It seems more fun to find an unknown actor with untapped talent! I’m certainly unknown so far. On the other hand, I think Jennifer Lawrence and I share the commonality of a well-educated pirate’s vocabulary and a fondness for a pint.

What are your top 3 favorite books?

So hard to narrow down! I guess I’d say the ones that haunt me most: The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry. Wuthering Heights. Jurassic Park.

But if we’re being honest, I confess to rereading Daddy Long Legs. Though fiction, it’s this historical, literal progression of a poor, uneducated orphan from child to a young woman, told through the letters she writes to her benefactor. While it’s outdated and of course today the story would never be so patriarchal, I still like reading how Jerusha overcomes her insecurities through education and faith in her natural skills. Her college education, her social education, are all relayed through such an honest lens, and her destiny is to be a writer. I daydream of writing the modern adaptation.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

Music on. That’s all. When I write, I think it’s wise to read a bit of my last writing as well as a random chapter somewhere else. The former refreshes me of where I was headed, and the latter both cuts editing time in the final product and keeps the mood consistent in the overall story.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

I love to cook with my daughter, and to feed my family and friends. Pasta occupies a steady 1/8thof my daily thoughts. My dogs appreciate a walk, though I don’t always appreciate their addition to mine. I like to have a glass of anything with my husband, who is charming and hilarious and challenges me. I treasure time with my mother, who at 74 is spry and brilliant, especially when she gets sassy. She leads our hiking adventures. I garden for beauty and food, and try to learn what is edible that we all ignore [latest: look for a plant called lamb’s quarters, it’s a weed but the wilder, nuttier version of spinach]. Ask me on Twitter for my fresh Caesar dressing recipe, or anything about pasta.

Here is more about Resistant

Book Cover Resistant

In the final battle with drug-resistant bacteria, one woman’s blood holds a secret weapon. Rory and her father have survived the antibiotic crisis that has killed millions, including Rory’s mother—but ingenuity and perseverance aren’t their only advantages. When a stoic and scarred young military veteran enters their quiet life, Rory is drawn to him against her better judgment . . . until he exposes the secrets her mother and father kept from her, including the fact that her own blood may hold the cure the world needs. Now she is the target of groups fighting to reach it first. When the government comes after Rory, aiming to use her for a cure it can sell to the highest bidder, she’s forced to flee with her father and their new protector. But can she find the new path of human evolution before the government finds her?

Here is more about Rachael:

Rachael Sparks was born in Waco, Texas. She graduated with a degree in microbiology from Texas A&M University and her first college job was ghostwriting a nonfiction science book. After a decade-long career in Austin, Texas, as a transplant specialist, she joined a startup fighting healthcare-acquired infections. After relocating with her husband, young daughter, and mother to Asheville, North Carolina, she finally put her first novel onto the page. In her free time she serves on the board of the Asheville Museum of Science and loves to cook, brew, garden, and spend time with friends and family in between obsessively researching new science concepts, history, or new recipes.

Connect with Rachael:

 

 

Author Interview – Alexa Padgett

Ready for a murder mystery?
Today I am interviewing a fellow New Mexican, Alexa Padgett, whose novel, A Pilgrimage to Death, was released August 14, 2018, with Sidecar Press LLC. Here is a little bit about Alexa:

Alexa PadgettWith a degree in international marketing and a varied career path that includes content management for a web firm, marketing direction for a high-profile sports agency, and a two-year stint with a renowned literary agency, award-winning author Alexa Padgett has returned to her first love: writing fiction.

Alexa spent a good part of her youth traveling. From Budapest to Belize, Calgary to Coober Pedy, she soaked in the myriad smells, sounds, and feels of these gorgeous places, wishing she could live in them all–at least for a while. And she does in her books.

She lives in New Mexico with her husband, children, and Great Pyrenees pup, Ash. When not writing, schlepping, or volunteering, she can be found in her tiny kitchen, channeling her inner Barefoot Contessa.

 

Alexa, what was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

A Pilgrimage to Death is a murder mystery. The novel released August 14, 2018. This book’s protagonist is a Harley-driving, potty-mouthed reverend whose identical twin sister was murdered a year ago. The book opens with Cici and her hiking buddy, Sam, finding the body of one of her parishioners in the Santa Fe National Forest…with stab wounds reminiscent of her sister’s. As she’s pulled into the investigation, Cici discovers her sister was on the trail of a deep-rooted criminal operation, and her death was no random act of violence.

Readers mention this novel saddles a few genres: true crime, thriller, supernatural mystery/suspense and just a tiny touch of romance.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing the edits to book two in this series, A Heritage of Death. It releases October 23, 2018.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Take more risks. Write even when you don’t feel like it and even when what you think you’re writing is total crap. Get in the habit and be open to new ideas and methods. Never stop learning. A bit cliché, huh? But still advice I wish I’d followed.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

When I was seven, I read L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. That year, my teacher had a “reading tub.” She claimed it a special treat to snuggle into the heaps of pillows and read there—I believed her and spent many hours with Anne in that cracked, white porcelain palace. I’ve been hooked on novels since, though I tended toward genre fiction: fantasy, mysteries, thrillers, and romance. In fourth grade, my friend Ginger used to come over, and we’d write fantasies based on Narnia and Lord of The Rings. In some form, I’ve been writing since then.

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

I find this questions hard to answer! I adore many characters, but here are a few that come to mind quickly. I love Inspector Poirot in Agatha Christie’s cozy mysteries. I adore Claire in Diana Gabaldon’s The Highlander. I chuckle at Nuala Anne McGrail’s antics in Andrew M. Greeley’s series.

Where do you do most of your writing?

Oh—this is pitiful. I have a desk and a lovely chair in my office, but I prefer to write with my laptop on my lap while I sit on the couch.

What inspires you?

That’s changed over time. Now, I find I’m more drawn to ideas that hold themes and emotion. Sometimes it’s a news story or a person I hear about—other times, I’ll go for a walk, my brain will be doing its thing and voila! Inspiration!

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

I was the English nerd…who never actually took an English course in college. I adored some of the assigned readings in high school and college, like The Scarlet Letter, The Stranger, and Madame Bovary, but my favorites were The Remains of the Day, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Catcher in the Rye. I’m sure it helps that I’ve participated in a book club for years—since right out of college, really, and many of my close friends are voracious readers. I worked as a literary agent where I learned to broaden my scope and enjoy a vast array of excellent works. I’ve always been a fan of a beautifully-crafted phrase or a quixotic project that just works.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I like to have a basic idea of the book I’m developing. Though, in completing a book earlier this year, I ended up tossing the outline and starting over—for the third time—because my brain finally latched onto the right story thread for that novel.

What are you reading right now?

I’m listening to Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I love the quirky humor that abounds throughout this novel.

If you could spend the day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

Tough one! I like most of my characters and enjoy spending time with them on the page. But…in real life? I’d have to say the spy we meet in An Artifact of Death(that’s book 3 in my Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery series). He fascinates me. He’s such a debonair man-of-the-city, but he’s adaptable enough to handle a mountain lion and a flash flood. I think I should like to spend the day in Charleston (because I’ve been wanting to go for years!), learning about the city and maybe catching an international operative during a jewel heist. I do have a purple belt in Kenpo, so I’d like to think I’d be helpful.

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

Oh, tough one! Maybe Morena Baccarin or Salma Hayek because they’re both so talented and look somewhat like I imagine Cici to look. Or dreaming really big (one of my favorite actors), Anne Hathaway.

Here is more about A Pilgrimage to Death:

Book coverThey murdered her sister. They threatened her church. Now, the day of reckoning will cost her everything…

When Cici Gurule finds the dead body of a parishioner in the nearby Santa Fe National Forest, she’s horrified to realize the victim bears the same stab wounds that ended her twin sister’s life one year earlier.

Now, as a freewheeling, progressive reverend who’ll stop at nothing to protect her flock, she’ll need to join forces with her detective friend and a loyal pair of Great Pyrenees to hunt down the killer before she’s forced to officiate another funeral.

Soon, however, Cici discovers her sister was on the trail of a deep-rooted criminal operation, and her death was no random act of violence.

With the criminals out for Cici’s blood, she needs to catch the wolf by the tail…before it goes in for the kill.

Connect with Alexa:
Twitter: @AlexaPadgett
You can buy her novel here:

Author Interview – Mary Kathleen Mehuron

Today I have the pleasure of bringing you my interview with Mary Kathleen Mehuron, author of The Opposite of Never released by Spark Press, April 24, 2018

Mary Kathleen Mehuron is a career educator who made a splash with her first book, Fading Past, an autobiographical novel whose protagonist, like Mary Kathleen, grew up Irish-Catholic in New Jersey. The Opposite of Never is Mary Kathleen’s second book, and to finish it, she traveled alone to Havana in January 2015 in order to experience the city before it became Americanized. Mary Kathleen lives and teaches in a ski town in Vermont where they call her Kathy. This is where she and her husband raised three sons,  and she is an occasional columnist and writes curriculum daily for private math and science students. She takes extended time to work on her novels on Grand Turk Island and in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

Mary Kathleen, tell us about your latest book.

At the end of April, SparkPress released my new novel The Opposite of Never. It’s about four Vermont families, three close women friends, two love stories (millennial and baby boomer), a devastating mistake on the part of the young couple who become involved in the opioid epidemic, and a truly grand, grand finale.

I never really know how a reader will interpret the words I’m writing, because, his or her own experiences become mixed in with my intentions. But, I know for sure, that I wrote this particular story about hope, which I firmly believe, is contagious. The novel has been included in the Most Anticipated Books of 2018,Brit+Co; Breakout Novels of 2018,Indie Picks; Six Books About Family to Cherish This Spring, Buzzfeed; Ten Heartwarming Tales About Family, Culturalist; 12 Inspiring Me-Time Reads Perfect for Mother’s Day, Working Mother; and10 Books to Keep You Woke in 2018, Bookstr.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a third novel with the working title The Belonger. A “belonger” is someone with historical ties to the island of Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos, where my family and I spend a great deal of time. At one time salt was more valuable than gold but producing it was grueling work. White business owners brought African slaves to the Grand Turk to do it. My novel begins in the 90s and is about a young man descended from such slaves, who is offered a chance to come up to largely white State of Vermont. As always I am interested in love stories and how life throws curve balls at us, but, in this case, also the subject of skin color.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

I’d say, “You are not going to believe this. When you enter into the third act of your life, you are going to turn it into a grand finale. You are going to publish a book. Seriously, you are! And then a publishing company is going to take an interest in you and you will publish a second. Yes, I know you are a math and science teacher and it seems unlikely, but it’s true. Oh, yeah, and I left out the part when you are middle-aged and you become a professional singer. All I’m saying is hold on; it’s going to be a wild ride.”

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

Spencer Paquette. Like many young men, he makes some terrible decisions and it affects not only him but his family and friends as well. I’m a sucker for a comeback story. Who hasn’t made mistakes? But, we can always make restitution and grow as human beings. We can. I think that’s an absolute. Obviously, not everyone cares to put in the hard work to do so or wants to be felled by the amount of humility it takes to admit the need for a big change. Yet, it is a road that is always possible.

Where do you do most of your writing?

I can write anywhere. It’s probably because I grew up in a melting pot neighborhood filled with swarms of children. We had five kids in our family, not nearly as many as our neighbors, but it was enough to ensure our household was in a constant state of pandemonium. You either learned to do your homework surrounded by noise or you didn’t get it done. I am probably the only person in the world who looks forward to long airport layovers— they are generally very productive times for me with my laptop. But, if I really think about it, I wrote most of my two novels on Grand Turk island and in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

What inspires you?

I am a person who remembers the vivid details of life’s extreme up and downs. One day I’m singing before a seven-piece country swing band and the next, I’m diagnosed with two different breast cancers. My prognosis was grim, yet I went on to travel the world, see my sons grow up and become very successful, and to write my books. I feel better today than I did twenty years ago. Savoring a beautiful moment is an art form; living beyond tragedy is too. So I would say it is hope that inspires me. Sometimes that’s all you have. Hang on to it.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

In every other area of my life I am an obsessive planner, but not when writing a novel. That is more like channeling a story that I’m being told as I sit at my desk. It just kicks in and starts flowing. No note cards. No outline. I literally don’t know the ending until the day I write it.

What are you reading right now?

On Writing by Stephen King, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, and A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere by Kris Radish.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

I go shopping for beautiful food to cook that night. I meet some friends for a five-mile hike in the fresh Vermont air, where we finish at a vista, that every time, takes my breath away. When I’m well exercised and the groceries are all put away, it’s “go” time. I sit down and write.

Thank you so much, Mary Kathleen! I enjoyed reading your responses and I look forward to reading your book.

You can buy Mary Kathleen’s book here :https://amzn.to/2MjRdGb

Connect with her here:

Website: https://www.marykathleenmehuron.com/mary-kathleen/

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

Here is a little bit more about The Opposite of Never:

Devastated when they lose their spouses, both Kenny Simmons and Georgia Best carry on for the sake of their children, although they are certain that the best part of their lives is long over. Then Georgia and her lifelong companions, Linda and Yvonne, meet Kenny while walking down a dusty Vermont country road, and the four of them hit it off. Soon, Kenny becomes a regular part of their hiking group, and he and Georgia grow more than fond of each other.

Kenny’s stepdaughter, Zelda, and Yvonne’s teenage son, Spencer, also fall in love—at first sight. Through surprisingly relatable circumstances, they are drawn into opiate use, shocking everyone, and the two of them struggle through the torment of addiction together.

In an impulsive and daring attempt to create a grand finale out of difficult times, Kenny takes Georgia off to vacation in Cuba just as it is opening up to Americans—and what they discover in the golden light of Old Havana is another startling surprise.

Author Interview – Jacqueline Friedland

Jacqueline I am so pleased to share with you my interview with attorney turned author, Jacqueline Friedland! Today, she is telling us about her novel, Troubled The Water, which was released May 8, 2018, by Spark Press. She also gives us insight into a little bit about her process.

What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

My latest book release is a historical fiction novel, TROUBLE THE WATER.  The story takes place twenty years before the Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina. I was inspired to write this story after learning that the international trafficking of slaves was outlawed in 1808, but the practice continued nearly unfettered for decades afterwards.  The governments of countries like the United States and England did not do nearly enough to enforce the anti-trafficking laws nor otherwise stop the atrocities.  I began to wonder what if there had been a person, a vigilante, who stepped in to make a difference?  Maybe there could have been someone with sufficient resources and sufficient manpower to get a group together and make the kidnapping of Africans more difficult for the criminals of the high seas.  I asked myself what kind of person would be brave enough, bold enough, to do such a thing?  What would his life be like, and what would his actions cost him?  I created my main character, Douglas Elling, based on these thoughts, and the rest of my story grew around him.  Interestingly, when I introduced a female protagonist to challenge Douglas, I found that her story fascinated me as much as his, and I created a young woman who I envisioned as an early feminist and an independent thinker. As this character, Abigail Milton, and Douglas Elling get to know each other, they each learn a great deal about themselves, as well.

What are you working on now?

I am working on another novel.  Unlike the first one, the next story is contemporary fiction.  I so greatly enjoyed writing a historical novel and will most likely write others, but just as I love reading across different genres, I also appreciate that interesting stories can materialize out of so many diverse situations and time periods.  The next book is about a young woman in Manhattan who finds herself in a surprisingly complex love triangle.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

I would advise my younger writing self to commit sooner. I wasn’t sure if I had the talent or the dedication to work as a writer.  I was afraid to fail, and so I moved very slowly at first.  I dabbled in the research, I wrote scenes in my head but stalled before putting them down on paper.  I wish I could have been braver, that I could have brought myself to sit down at the computer a little sooner.  The first rule to being a successful writer is that you actually have to WRITE.  I would have pushed myself a little harder at the beginning.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

I have wanted to be a writer my entire life.  I have always loved words and crafting sentences, but I worried as a young adult that I wouldn’t find success.  So instead I went to law school and became a lawyer. I was actually pretty good at my job as a lawyer, but I never felt passionate about my work.  I also never got accustomed to office culture.  After my first child was born, I decided to use a portion of maternity leave to begin working on my first book.  It was an attempt to see if this whole “writing thing” could really pan out for me.  Unfortunately, in my naïvete as a new mother, I didn’t realize that I would have precious little time to do work with an infant in the apartment.  Even so, something about the transition to motherhood helped me realize that I was truly an adult, and I’d better get busy doing something I loved because life is short.  I tried to transition to teaching Legal Writing as a compromise between the two disciplines, but I still wasn’t satisfied because I wasn’t creating fiction. I finally left the law and went back to school for an MFA in Creative Writing.  I am glad to have my background in law, and I still find several aspects of the legal system genuinely interesting, but I am thrilled to finally be living my dream as a writer.

Where do you do most of your writing?

I do almost all of my writing at home. I know many people are easily distracted at home and feel they have to set up shop at a café or a library in order to be productive.  I am the opposite.  I find people enormously fascinating, so if I am in public, it’s very difficult for me to draw my eyes away from all the other people around me and focus on my screen instead.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I am a hardcore Type A kind of a person, which puts me squarely into the category of Plotter.  That said, it never works out like I’ve planned.  Before I start writing, I make a detailed outline.  Then I fix it and re-do it several times.  Then I highlight and color code.  Then I make various changes and fix everything all over again.  I don’t begin writing the story until I really feel that I have a step-by-step guide about where the piece is going.  Then when I actually begin writing, everything changes.  Nothing turns out as I expected, the characters keep doing things that surprise me, and the story ends up going in a completely different direction. At this point, I am comfortable with the spontaneity, and I even expect it, but I am still committed to completing those outlines in advance. Imagining all the different scenarios and laying out a framework for myself helps me to get to know my characters and my setting. It puts me inside their heads deeply enough that when they start going off-script, I can understand why, and I can work with it.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

Before I write, I have to get my kids out of the house to school or camp.  Then I drink a big cup of coffee and respond to any outstanding emails.  Once my inbox is organized, and my desk is clean, I can get to work.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

When I’m not writing, I love watching movies with my family, reading fast-paced novels, exercising, sitting outside on warm days, and laughing with friends.

Here is more about the book!

Book coverAbigail Milton was born into the British middle class, but her family has landed in unthinkable debt. To ease their burdens, Abby’s parents send her to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. When she arrives in Charleston at the age of seventeen, Abigail discovers that the man her parents raved about is a disagreeable widower who wants little to do with her. To her relief, he relegates her care to a governess, leaving her to settle into his enormous estate with little interference. But just as she begins to grow comfortable in her new life, she overhears her benefactor planning the escape of a local slave—and suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Douglas Elling is turned on its head.

Abby’s attempts to learn more about Douglas and his involvement in abolition initiate a circuitous dance of secrets and trust. As Abby and Douglas each attempt to manage their complicated interior lives, readers can’t help but hope that their meandering will lead them straight to each other. Set against the vivid backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, Trouble the Water is a captivating tale replete with authentic details about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.

Read more about Jacqueline!

Author Bio:

Jacqueline Friedland holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from NYU Law School. She practiced as an attorney in New York before returning to school to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York with her husband, four children, and two energetic dogs.

To connect with Jacqueline:

For more on Jacqueline or her writing, go to www.jacquelinefriedland.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JacquelineFriedlandAuthor

https://twitter.com/jbfriedland

https://www.instagram.com/jackiefriedland/

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Author Interview – Dana Killion

Today, it is my pleasure to post an interview with fellow mystery writer (and good friend), Dana Killion. She is the author of Lies in High Places and The Last Lie, published by Obscura Press.

 

What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

The Last Lie was released March 26thof 2018. It’s the second book in my Andrea Kellner mystery series. This time Andrea must uncover the source of a poison contaminating an energy drink before her sister becomes one of the victims.

Here is a little more about the book:

 

Investigative journalist Andrea Kellner never lets anything get between her and her next scoop. So when a grief-stricken man crashes a charity gala and demands answers for his daughter’s death, Andrea knows it’s her duty to investigate. But she never expected him to point the blame—and his gun—at her date and his energy drink empire.

When Andrea’s sister falls ill after ingesting the same exact beverage, her case gets even more personal. To uncover the truth behind the contamination, the journalist must confront the man she thought she knew and corporate execs with hush money to spare. With her sister’s life in peril, Andrea will stop at nothing to break the story before the death toll rises.

What are you working on now?

Book three in the series is on my plate now. Still early stages as I move from plot development to first draft. Titles are something I wait until the end to decide on, but for the moment the working title is Retaliation. I like to use real events as the starting point and in this book, readers will certainly recognize some parallels to news stories we’ve read about.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Just do it! Stop overthinking everything.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

No, my writing aspirations started just a few years back, but I’ve always been a reader of mystery and thriller. A lifestyle change is really what pushed me into a higher gear on the writing. My husband retired, which gave us a shot at the snowbird lifestyle earlier than we planned so my career needed adjustment too. My previous business as a clothing designer wasn’t portable so I traded in my industrial sewing machines and cutting tables for a laptop and notecards.

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

Well, Andrea of course!

Where do you do most of your writing?

I have a home office in both of my condos. I’m in Chicago in the summer and the west coast of Florida in the winter. I’m also starting to dictate my first drafts which really opens up the possibilities. I can pop on my headset, go for a walk along the water, and have a thousand words or more recorded before I get home.

What inspires you?

It’s the puzzle of it all. When I decided I wanted to try my hand at fiction, it was an easy decision as my reading is tight. Mystery, thrillers, preferably female protagonists. I just love the process of unfolding the story, digging through the layers of who-done-it.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I’ve discovered that I’m a plotter. Each book I’ve written has resulted in a more complex outline than the one before. I start with digital 3×5 cards and build from there, developing each scene, building character sketches, and developing a timeline of events. That doesn’t mean I don’t leave myself open to better ideas as I draft, but that first draft is the toughest one for me. Having an outline kicks my brain into gear faster.

More about Dana

Dana Killion grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, reading Nancy Drew and dreaming of living surrounded by tall buildings. A career in the apparel industry satisfied her city living urge and Nancy Drew evolved into Cornwell, Fairstein, and Evanovich.

One day, frustrated that her favorite authors weren’t writing fast enough, an insane thought crossed her mind. “Maybe I could write a novel?”

Silly, naïve, downright ludicrous. But she did it. She plotted and planned and got 80,000 words on the page. That manuscript lives permanently in the back of a closet. But the writing bug had bitten.

Dana lives in Chicago and Florida with her husband and her kitty, Isabel, happily avoiding temperatures below fifty.

Website – http://danakillion.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DanaKillionAuthor/

You can purchase her book here:

Amazon –  https://www.amazon.com/Dana-Killion/e/B076YL6VSB/

 

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