Tag Archives: Author interview

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:

 

 

Author Interview – Betsy Graziani Fasbinder

This woman really loves life! I am so excited to share with you my interview with the vibrant Betsy Graziani Fasbinder. She has released three books with SheWrites Press and shares a little bit about all of them here. I’m certain you will enjoy learning about Betsy and her books!
Betsy Fasbinder

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

My latest book is not a work of fiction, but a resource for writers. It’s called From Page to Stage: Inspiration, Tools, and Public Speaking Tips for Writers. I wrote it because I was once positively terrified to speak in front of groups. In fact, fear kept me from thinking of publishing my writing for many years, so terrified was I that if I actually published a book, I’d have to stand in front of people to talk about it. That seems absurd now, but it’s true.

 

I eventually got frustrated that I was letting fear of being in front of a group rob me of opportunities, both in my writing and in voicing my ideas, experiences, and viewpoints on matters about which I’m passionate. So, I sought training in public speaking, and I saw that a few simple skills, supportive coaching, and some practice could radically improve my ability to speak in public. I learned to manage my nerves and to speak in front of audiences of any size with confidence and skill in a way I could not have, at first, imagined. I want that for every writer, many of whom are either timid about speaking in public, perhaps as fearful as I was, or simply want to gather some skills to talk about their stories, their writing, and ideas they hold dear. This book is my version of a love gesture to writers and storytellers whose work has meant so much to me. I want every author to feel confident and bold when they’re talking about their writing and their ideas.

From stage to pagePrior to this book I published a book of fiction, Fire & Water and a memoir, Filling Her Shoes: A Memoir of an Inherited Family. Fire & Water is a dark love story about the link for some people between extreme creativity and madness, and about the painful experience of being in love with someone suffering profound mental illness.

What are you working on now?

I’m about halfway through my first draft of a new book of fiction. I’m happy to be back to fiction, my first love as both reader and writer. It’s fun to be back into the work of an imagined world. This new story keeps knocking on my mind…even coming to me in dreams. That’s when I know it’s a story that I must write.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

“Be braver sooner, you’re stronger than you know and living out loud is far more freeing than you’ll ever imagine.”

So many of my younger self’s fears kept me from pursuing all kinds of things, including publishing books. I was afraid of “living out loud”, telling both my lived and imagined stories, fearful of feeling exposed and conspicuous. What I’ve discovered is that in finding my voice, first on the page and now in my spoken work, that it’s incredibly freeing to rid myself of the burden of hiding. By first publishing, then talking about my writing, I’ve had the priviledge of encounters with readers who tell me that my stories made a difference to them, made them feel more understood or gave them insight into some aspect of human experience. This is the most deeply gratifying part of writing for me. I’d have missed out on all of that, were it not for writing and publishing stories.

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

I recently recalled something funny regarding that. When I was about eleven, I read an author’s dedication to her mother in the front of the book. I decided at that moment that I’d someday write (though I didn’t imagine publishing, at all). So I took a piece of onion-skin paper, and in my eleven-year-old version of caligraphy I wrote a dedication to my mom of some future, imagined book I’d someday write. I stained the paper with tea to make it look old, burned the edges, and rolled it like a diploma, tying it with a black ribbon. This became my mom’s holiday present.

Later, practicality prevailed and I did other work to earn a living, but I always wrote privately.  I published my first book at age 54, sadly long after my mother had passed away. So I suppose this desire has been in me for a long time. I always wrote—stories, poems, journals—but only pursued publishing in my more mature years. I think I wanted to become a writer because stories mattered so much to me. They were not just entertainment, they were escape, inspiration, understsanding, and adventure. I wanted, and still want, to be able to provide that to others.

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

It’s funny, I actually miss the characters in my novel, Fire & Water. They feel, even still, that real to me. A supporting character in the story in Fire & Water  is Mary K (short for Kowalski).  I may miss her the most. She’s a sassy, sometimes foul-mouthed, but an always truthful friend to Kate, the protagonist of the story. She’s fiercely loyal, brave, and also funny. Mary K became a surprising hero in the story—surprising to me, even! She’d be a girlfriend of mine in “real life” when actually, she’s a composite of many close women friends I’ve enjoyed in my life.

Where do you do most of your writing?

This is where I must confess a luxury. Six years ago, my husband and I moved to a modest mid-century ranch house. It’s a small, not a fancy place, but it does have a little cottage in the back yard, separate from the house. This has become my writing studio. I think of it as a little birdhouse, overlooking a scene of hills and trees in the distance. Honestly, I feel like a millionaire when I’m in that studio and am reminded of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. My earlier books were written in a open landing at the top of the stairs, with family members and pets running through constantly.  I have little excuse now not to get writing done–though I manage to find excuses, I’m afraid.

What inspires you?

Honesty. Honesty in personal life and in writing or any professional pursuit. This seems like a simple word, honesty, but it’s a complex virtue. It’s not simple truth-telling, it’s about being impecible in the pursuit of understanding and telling of truth. It’s about authenticity. It’s about setting aside biases and agendas. It’s about bravery. It’s integrity. A fictional story can be told with “honesty” because it tells a story with authenticity and not simply for commercial gain. It’s not manipulative of the readers nor a contrivance.

Memoirs and essays are one kind of truth-writing, but not the only kind. Sometimes the truest stories are told through fiction, though that may seem contradictory to some.  I recall as an adolescent reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Though a work of fiction, it felt at that time like the “truest” thing I would ever read. I like what the author Pam Houston says, that everything she writes is true, and some of it actually happened.

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

I’m someone who loves sharing whatever I’ve learned, sometimes what I’ve just learned, with the next person right behind me trying to understand the same thing. This is true for those whom I coach as writers, as speakers, and in my role as a therapist, though of course that’s a different kind of sharing. Now in the final year of my fifties, I’ve finally determined what I want to do when I grow up. Throughout my various careers and roles, I’ve strived to communicate clearly in intimate conversations, public ones, and in my writing. I love helping others to do the same. This feels like my life’s purpose.

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

I do tons of mental plotting of what I write in every genre, sometimes for many months, or even years.  I often have a mental image of the beginning, much of the middle, and the probable ending of a story or book, though that can change and evolve as I do the writing. I write reams of notes about my characters, search for photos of people whom I think they might resemble. But I don’t so much plot stories out on paper. Sometimes this causes me some pain because I write many pages—sometimes many chapters—that later get deleted from the final piece.  But I’ve tried to plot more formally, and for me, it takes the freshness out of the writing. My way is messier, but it works for me.

What are you reading right now?

In my few recreational reading moments, I’m reading Beautiful Illusion by Christie Nelson. It’s a gorgeous bit of historical fiction set in my own San Francisco. Most of my reading time is going toward the manuscripts of writers for whom I’m providing developmental writing coaching. It’s a delight, but not quite the same as simple pleasure reading.

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

Of course, I’d love to spend some real-life time with Mary K, whom I mentioned above. But I would also love to spend time with Jake Bloom, a more primary character in Fire & Water. He’s a brilliant artist and a passionate person. I’m sure he’d be a fascinating person, as long as he is not in his more treacherous cycle of his mental illness.

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

I actually sent a copy of Fire & Water to Maggie Gyllenhaal because I thought she’d be a perfect person to play Dr. Katherine Murphy in Fire & Water. I’m sure she’s inundated with books, so I never got a response, but hey, a writer can try, right?

What are your top 3 favorite books?

This is tough. Of course, it might be tough to name just 300 favorite books. But okay…three.  I have to list John Steinbeck’s East of Eden for its sheer mastery. Pam Houston’s Sight Hound also comes top of mind. It is such a creative way to tell a story and she exposes with raw candor the “truth” that she and her characters uncover. And finally, I must say I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou is among my favorites. This book was so groundbreaking, telling a story both in its ideosycratic detail and its universal truth. This book changed the course of my life in profound ways.

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

I have to confess that I’m a bit of a binge writer, so my writing “rituals” change all the time depending on what I’m writing and in what stage. But one practice holds me in good stead, regardless of what I’m writing. At the end of my writing time in a day, particularly when I’m feeling a little stuck about the next part of the story, I write what I call “dream seeds”.  Just before bed, I write questions to myself or even addressed to my characters about their choices, behaviors, background, etc. More often than not, my dream seed blossoms and I dream the answer to the question. Sometimes I dream of a plot point. At other times, I uncover a motivation of a character or a bit of their history I’d not yet imagined. I think these come to me in dreams because the distractions of the world are set aside during sleep.  Dreams are my main source of untangling the knots in my writing.

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

Of course, I love books and I love going to author events, and even host a quarterly readers’ series. But beyond that, I am a bit of a movie nut, rarely going a week without going to the movies and now, there’s Netflix—both blessing and curse. And I love spending time with loved ones, sharing meals, playing cards, traveling together.

Connect with Betsy:
Facebook: BetsyGFAuthor
Twitter: @BetsyGFasbinder
Instagram: betsygrazianifasbinder
Here are some reviews of Betsy’s books:
 
From Page to Stage – “Fasbinder’s candid yet comforting delivery makes it feel as though she’s with readers every step of the way, offering a thumbs-up from teh back of the room. A lean, helpful primer for authors who want to succeed as speakers.” ~Kirkus Review
Filling Her Shoes:  “A beautiful and inspiring testament to the resilience and healing power of family.” ~Booklist Starred review
Fire & Water: “…Fasbinder takes the reader on a most compelling and satisfying ride, all the way to the final four words.” ~Sands Hall, Author of Tools of the Writer’s Craft
 
Buy Betsy’s books:
 From Page to Stage
Filling Her Shoes
Fire & Water

Quirky Stories for a Quirky World – Mindy Tarquini

Author Mindy Tarquini spends her time creating and crafting new worlds in which all things, good, evil, and quirky are possible.

Deepest Blue, Mindy T.

Today, author Mindy Tarquini tells us about her novel, Deepest Blue, published by Spark Press last month, and gives us a peek into her process and how pain brought her to writing. Here is what Publishers Weekly had to say about Tarquini’s newest release: “…a haunting lyrical fantasy dealing with love, loss, and political turmoil…”

Fans of Paulo Coehlo and Neil Gaiman will revel in this magical tale.

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

My latest release is Deepest Blue (Sparkpress 2018). The story is set in a fairytale land where everyone’s destinies are predetermined, until one young man decides to seek a life of his own.

What are you working on now?

I am leaving fairyland for a while to return to the county of humorous contemporary fiction. The story is set in Arizona, the time-traveling is sublime.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Learn story structure, and use it. A great story needs a great structure or it is just a series of events.

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

Mindy TarquiniNo, I have worn many hats. From restaurant to retail to accounting to allied healthcare, it wasn’t until I had my mom-hat on that I truly began to write. I hurt my back, which meant that there wasn’t much else to do except hang out on the internet and search the pain forums for ideas on how to alleviate the constant ache. I ended up chatting with someone who was a writer. She invited me to a writer’s forum where people exchanged stories. There, I made a couple of friends whom I still consider to be among my closest. We don’t exchange stories so much anymore, but we do love to laugh.

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

Claudio from Deepest Blue. He’s a cleric, which makes him the man who knows everything but can’t say any of it.

Where do you do most of your writing?

At home with my dog. Punctuation makes her happy.

What inspires you?

The land of “what-if” inspires me. I see something, I go to the land of “what-if”, and all kinds of wondrous things happen.

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

I’m always breaking the rules that I set for my characters.

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

Who actually likes wearing pants? As my daughter says, “comfy pants or bust”. As for writing- I’ve never met an outline that couldn’t be expanded.

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

I used to sacrifice a blue bird or two, but the neighbors complained to the HOA.

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

Plotting the next one. There’s no time once you get on this publishing rollercoaster. Like…none.

Read more about Deepest Blue.

In an enchanted city seen only at twilight, a resentful second son unlocks secrets which could cause his world’s star to finally set.

In Panduri, everyone’s path is mapped, everyone’s destiny decided, their lives charted at birth and steered by an unwavering star. Everyone has his place, and Matteo, second son of Panduri’s duca, is eager to take up his as Legendary Protector–at the border and out from under his father’s domineering thumb. Then Matteo’s older brother pulls rank and heads to the border in his stead, leaving Panduri’s orbit in a spiral and Matteo’s course on a skid. Forced to follow an unexpected path, resentful and raw, Matteo is determined to rise, to pursue the one future Panduri’s star can never chart: a life of his own.

Brigadoon meets Pippin in this quirky tale of grief steeped deep in Italian folklore and shimmering with hope–to remember what helps, forget what hurts, and give what remains permission to soar.

More about Mindy!
Mindy Tarquini grew up convinced that there are other worlds just one giant step to the left of where she’s standing. Author of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Hindsight (SparkPress 2016) and The Infinite Now(SparkPress 2017), Tarquini’s writing has appeared in Writer’s Digest, BookPage, Hypable, and other venues. An associate editor on the Lascaux Review and a member of the Perley Station Writers Colony, Tarquini is a second-generation Italian American who believes words have power. She plies hers to the best of her ability from an enchanted tower a giant step left in the great Southwest.
Connect with Mindy:
Buy Mindy’s books here:

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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