Author Interview with Z Egloff

9 03 2013

Hello readers!

This week we interviewed Z Egloff about her novels: Verge and Leap. Her debut novel, Verge, was awarded the Bywater Prize for Fiction in May of 2008. Her newest novel, Leap. will be published March 15th by Bywater Books.

What makes a good story?

Ultimately, I can only speak for what works for me as a reader. Bottom line, I like a story that draws me in. If I learn something in the process – either about myself or the world in general – that’s a bonus.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

My three big passions in life are writing, music and speaking. I do a fair amount of all three. I play piano with a choir and also with my wife, Melissa, who is a singer/songwriter. I give regular talks about spiritual practice at the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa. My three passions feed each other, keeping everything interesting.

What inspired you to start writing?

I was first inspired to write by television! The TV show “ER” had a storyline with a couple of lesbian characters back in 2000. I was drawn into the fanfic universe online, and soon progressed to original fiction.

Claire Minn is a loveable but frustrating character to read about; what was she like to write?

It’s funny, because I know a lot of people have been frustrated by Claire, but I never was. Perhaps it’s like an actor who agrees to play a less-than-perfect character. She just led me into her world and I recorded what happened. In spite of her numerous flaws, I always had great affection for Claire, which helped me to stick with her and her story.

Were you worried about a religious backlash from Catholic groups because Sister Hilary is a lesbian?

I was a little worried about backlash. But more than that, I was worried about being true to the character of a modern-day woman religious. I did lots of research on the topic, including interviewing former nuns who had later come out as lesbian.

Many characters in Verge and Leap are recovering from various types of addictions or destructive behaviors. Are these situations and characters based off of real people and events?

The characters in my stories are only vaguely based on real people. In general, they are an amalgamation of people I’ve known and places I’ve been in my own life. I know that some writers take people in their lives and turn them into fiction, but that’s not the case for me. It’s a much more indirect process.

What sort of research about filmmaking did you have to do to write Verge?

I was a film minor in college, so I had that as a base. I did lots of reading about film and video for Verge, as things had changed a lot since I was in college. I also talked with people who knew a lot about video in order to understand some of the mechanics. I’m still in love with film and movies, so that was one reason it was easy to research and write about the topic.

What are your favorite films?

Oh, there are so many. Two very important films for me are “Cousin Cousine” and Truffaut’s “Small Change.” I saw these two movies as a teenager during a period when I had been depressed for months. The combination of these two films brought me out of my depression. They’re both French, which is interesting, because my depression had been brought about by studying French existentialists. I guess I needed a different perspective.

Was writing and publishing your second novel, Leap, easier than writing and publishing Verge?

Leap was the first novel I wrote, so it was actually harder to write than Verge. After finishing an early draft of Leap, I put it aside. Verge  was the first book I sent out to agents and publishers. When Bywater picked up Verge, I sent them Leap and they decided to publish it as well. When I was writing Leap, I was still on a huge learning curve. It went through countless drafts, with long periods between some of them. There were several points along the way when I just figured that Leap would stay on the shelf. I was wrong.

Leap explores falling in and out of love. Are any of these experiences based on your life?

Like the previous question, the experiences of my characters only hint at things I’ve experienced. The commonality is the emotions evoked by what happens. I’ve had my heart broken, and it happened when I was young. More than once. So in that sense, there’s a link there.

What advice do you wish you could give Rowan as she starts to understand her sexuality?

I would tell her that time is amazing. Things that are so hard in one period of your life can completely turn around and become easy. Challenges can become strengths. And understanding and celebrating your sexuality is one of those strengths.

Finding a place within your family and your community are strong themes in your books. Would you like to expand on those themes?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Each book seems to emerge on its own, without me deliberately deciding what it’s going to be about. I suspect that the themes of family and community will always be there somewhere, though.

Which character from your novels would you like to go to dinner with and why?

Great question! Probably Claire. She’s such a hot mess, I’d love to see what she’s like in person.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I’ve got several projects in the works. There’s a novel about a woman whose love interest disappears into another dimension. And then there’s a book about a woman who falls in love with her spiritual teacher. And then another one that’s just starting to form.

Where can we buy your books?

Books are available through Bywater’s website at http://www.bywaterbooks.com/  Copies are also available through amazon.com and many bookstores. If your bookstore doesn’t have it, they can order a copy through Bywater.

If you want to learn more about Z Egloff visit her website:  zegloff.com; follow her on twitter https://twitter.com/ZEgloff; or go to her Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/ZEgloff





Author Interview with F. W. Brooks

8 03 2013

Hello readers!

This week we are interviewing F. W. Brooks about his  novel The Tithes of March. The Tithes of March follows a wrongfully fired teacher uncover a scandal about a preacher at a local parish. Does he go to the police and report the scandal or blackmail the corrupt preacher? You’ll have to buy The Tithes of March to find out!

What makes a good story?

I feel a good story must have an interesting or likeable protagonist, one in which the reader feels a connection with.  Once the reader has a vested interest in the main character, a good story evolves when the protagonist is faced with some type of desperate or problematic situation that turns his or her world upside down.  Usually when a person is placed in such a situation, they are forced to either act or react – sometimes uncharacteristically.  As a result, often times their ethics and morals are tested.  I feel a good story shows the protagonist succeeding in the end, and in doing so, the character grows and changes for the better.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I am not writing, I like to watch reality tv shows.  Many of them have quite a few eccentric, off-the-wall characters that have me either laughing out loud or shaking my head in disbelief.  In fact, some of the characters in my forthcoming projects were inspired by reality tv personalities.   I also like attending my kids’ sporting events with my wife.

Was Mr. Holloway based on a real person?

Yes and no.  Mr. Holloway is a fictional character, but his appearance, physique, and some of his ways of thinking are based on me.  In fact, I lived vicariously through Mr. Holloway.  In many of the situations he found himself in, he reacted in ways I would have liked to have reacted if I were in his shoes.

You portray Christianity as corrupt and manipulative in your book.  Does this reflect your views on the religion, or is it pure fiction?

The Tithes of March is pure fiction.  It does not at all reflect my views on religion or Christianity.  In response to your statement that my novel portrays Christianity as corrupt and manipulative, I respectfully disagree.  It by no means portrays Christianity or religion as corrupt and manipulative.  It simply portrays certain individuals, so-called Christians if you will, as being corrupt and manipulative.  The religion itself is not corrupt or manipulative – at least I don’t feel it is.

One reason why I wrote The Tithes of March was to bring light to a lot of things that take place in a Baptist church.  I wanted my story to be humorous, yet eye-opening.  I wanted the reader to realize that preachers are human beings just like everyone else.  Just because the sharply dressed man behind the pulpit is charismatic and articulate, does not necessarily mean he can always be trusted.

Which character was the most fun to write?

By far, I had the most fun writing about Reverend Ronald E. Revenue.  The reason being – he was not at all the person most people perceived him to be.  Instead of him being a holy figure people can trust and depend upon, he was the exact opposite.  In fact, it was very easy to write about him because he was so corrupt, for the most part there were no boundaries or limitations.  With him, anything goes – and his ability to get away with a lot of his shenanigans made him even more fun to write about.

Which chapter was the most difficult to write?

The final chapter was the most difficult to write.  As I tied up all loose ends and brought the story to an end, it was bitter sweet.  It was the final chapter of a project I had worked so hard on for so long.  I was glad to finally complete it, but at the same time, as strange as it may sound, I felt like I was closing the coffin on some of my characters.  On a brighter note, I have so many other interesting characters bouncing around in my head, I can’t wait to begin writing their stories.

Who designed the cover of your book?

Creating the book cover was a team effort.  I knew I wanted the image to be a pile of money because it’s simple and it symbolizes the main topic of the book.  I also came up with the idea of using money-green lettering for the title, along with using the cents symbol (¢) in the word “Mar¢h” and the dollar symbol ($) in the word “TITHE$”.  My design team did the rest.  They came up with the concept of using the same font as the font used on paper currency.  To be consistent with that, they also came up with the idea of bordering the cover the same way a dollar bill is bordered.  I was very pleased with the final outcome.

Is there anything that you learned about publishing a book that you wish you knew when you started writing your book?

Not really.  I guess it was because I thoroughly did my homework and did a lot of reading about the publishing industry and what to expect.  In fact, I think I may have over prepared because the publishing process was much smoother than I had anticipated.  I owe a big “thank you” to my publishing team at BookBaby.  Regardless of how demanding I was, they were very patient and supportive throughout the process.  I couldn’t be happier with the final product.

What are your upcoming projects?

I am currently working on my second book, which also involves a struggling math teacher.  However, I have yet to come up with a title.  A few of the characters from The Tithes of March are in this new book, but Mr. Holloway and Reverend Revenue did not make the cut.  Although I am very proud of The Tithes of March, as I write my second book, my mindset is – the best novel has yet to be written.

Where can my readers buy your book?

If you wish to purchase an e-book, The Tithes of March can be purchased through the following venues:

  • Apple iBookstore (for iPad)
  • Amazon (for Kindle)
  • Barnes & Noble (for Nook)
  • Reader Store (for Sony Reader)
  • Kobo
  • Copia
  • Gardners
  • Baker & Taylor
  • eBookPie
  • eSentral
  • Scribe

If you wish to purchase a paperback edition, send a check in the amount of $12.00 (includes shipping) to my agent:

J.L. Harris

7818 N. Teutonia Avenue

Brown Deer, WI 53209.

Be sure to include your name and the address to where the book should be sent.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Learn more about the author, F. W. Brooks, on his websites : BooksFromBrooks.com or fwbrooks.com. Follow F. W. Brooks on Twitter                                                 @BooksFromBrooks on learn more about his work on Facebook by searching  F.W. Brooks





Author Interview: Brad Manzo!

28 02 2013

Hello all!

Do you need a funny book to make your week a little better? Check out How Not To Parent by Brad Manzo. Manzo chronicles the trials and tribulations of parenting, loving the wrong sports teams, and growing older in a collection of laugh out loud essays. This week Brad sat down with us to answer a few questions about his book and his life.

What makes a good story?

For me, the best stories are the ones that really happened, though that doesn’t always translate into a good piece for me. If I can tell a story to which others can relate and makes people laugh, I know it’s a keeper.

What is a typical day of a freelance writing like for you?
I have a full-time job so I write in the morning on my bus ride to work. I have an hour to kill, so I pull out my iPhone and start writing. I absolutely love this time because there’s nothing else I can really do. When you’re home and writing you feel guilty that the kids or housework is being neglected. But that bus ride is my time. The only downside is trying to type on a touch screen on a bumpy ride.

What inspired you to write the Imperfect Man column?

I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh. Before I started writing columns,  I was an aspiring sitcom writer. I worked for a couple of years with a mentor who wrote for All in the Family (as well as Sanford and Son and Three’s Company).  But you need to be in L.A. to break into sitcom writing and I was married with a child on the way. And I had a good technical writing job and lived in New York.

Instead of moving to LA, I started using the humor writing skills I learned and began writing humor columns. Over the next year or two with a new child, I found myself writing about parenting and poking fun at the foolish things I did. As my wife would quickly add, I had tons of material. That’s how The Imperfect Man came about.

What topics do you teach in your online writing courses?

I teach business writing, but as I point out in my class, the same principles apply to other types of writing.  Whether you’re writing jokes, a weekly advice column,  or a technical writing procedure, you have to know your audience. Also, clear and concise writing is best—eliminate unnecessary words. For example, if you’re writing a joke and your setup is too long, you can lose your audience before you get to the punch line. The same thing applies to business writing. People don’t have time during a busy workday to read wordy emails; cut to the chase.

What was the biggest challenge going from technical writing to writing How Not to Parent?
In technical writing, you’re just presenting information or procedures. You ‘re not offering opinions or thoughts. Six technical writers would write a procedure similarly but six people writing about parenting may offer six pieces that are completely different in style and viewpoint. I think the biggest challenge is changing your mindset. Humor writing and tech.writing are completely different animals.  Tech. writing is very formal.Additionally, in How Not to Parent, I had the freedom to write about whatever I chose.

Which chapter of How Not to Parent was the most fun to write?

Honestly,  it was all fun to write but most of the material focused on my married life over the last 10-12 years.  But when I wrote the Introduction and Prologue for the book, I wrote about things I rarely touched on in my column and in the book—my childhood, my single years and the horrible, rodent infested apartments in which I lived, and when I met my wife and finally grew up. Sort of.

What do your kids think about being the subjects of your book and column?

They’re only 7 and 10 so they still think it’s kind of cool. I wouldn’t dare write about teenagers. They already find you annoying and embarrassing and I wouldn’t want to add any more fuel to that fire.

I hope my kids read the book one day when they’re older and appreciate it for what it is—a light-hearted look at family life.

When you are not writing what do you like to do?

I love to read, play Wii with the kids, and watch sports on TV. Unfortunately,  my favorite sports teams—the New York Mets and the New York Jets—aren’t very good and the kids always beat me at Wii,  so I do a LOT of reading. I’m about to read The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I’m currently marketing some humorous greeting cards and working on a fictional book tentatively titled, The Toy Factory. I’m also hoping to do a few seminars on self -publishing and marketing a book. I’ve  learned so much over the last 2 years working on How Not to Parent.

Where can my readers buy How Not To Parent?
Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Brad-Manzo/e/B00AJD1LBA), Barnesandnoble.com (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-not-to-parent-brad-manzo/1113317968?ean=9781477536391) and other online booksellers. It’s available for the kindle and as a paperback.

To learn more about Brad Manzo, his column, or his book go to  bradmanzo.wordpress.com

Find Brad Manzo on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brad-Manzo/401662259853192

Follow Brad Manzo on twitter: @bradmanzo

 





Author Interview: Smoky Zeidel

15 02 2013

This week we’ve interviewed Smoky Zeidel about her book The Storyteller’s Bracelet. Her book tells the tale of two young Native Americans who must travel to a white boarding school. The book explores identity, loss, and hope in a raw, realistic way.

What makes a good story?

A good story grabs you from the very first sentence and piques a curiosity about what will happen to your characters that makes it difficult to set the book down. A good story has characters with flaws, like people are flawed. You see the vulnerabilities and strengths in your protagonist(s), but you also see the humanity in your antagonist(s), because no one is completely bad. A good story transports the reader from the safety of their reading chair to worlds they can only imagine, and makes it seem like the reader is actually there. When you reach the end of a good story, you feel regret, for you feel you are losing your new best friend.

What do you do when you are not writing?

My husband Scott and I are outdoors people. When I’m not writing, we are exploring the mountains, desert, and ocean that are all within an hour’s drive of our home. We hike, we camp, we take pictures. In the warmer months, we like to garden, although we have to garden upside-down! We have success only when we plant our tomatoes, beans, and peppers in hanging planters, because otherwise, the neighborhood squirrels decimate the garden before it even fruits. I also love to create art that isn’t the written word, using mostly driftwood, shells, and glass beads. I recently took up crocheting after a 30-year hiatus from needlework, and I find that a soothing way to wind down at the end of the day. And it goes without saying, I’m an avid reader!

What was the first story you wrote about?

I don’t know if I should laugh or cry at this question! The first true creative writing I did was in the sixth grade. We were giving an assignment in English class to right a story called “Thoughts of ________.” The teacher passed around a hat with slips of paper listing inanimate objects with which to fill in that blank. I drew “acne pimple.” So my first creative work was titled “Thoughts of an Acne Pimple.” I actually did a great job with it and got an A+. But did I ever envy the girl who drew “Cinderella’s Pumpkin Carriage”!

What drew you to writing about Native American culture?

I’ve always been appalled by the shameful way the First Nations have been treated by our government. I remember standing in the enormous hall in Chicago’s Field Museum where totem poles are displayed and feeling that something was terribly, terribly wrong with them being there. I was only six or seven; I had no way of knowing the totem poles had been stolen from the Northwestern Tribes. But I could feel something was wrong.

When my sister gave me a storyteller’s bracelet she’d bought at Mesa Verde National Park as a birthday gift, I fell in love with it. I was searching for inspiration for a third novel, and the bracelet just captivated me. I mediated on it, I wore it 24/7. Eventually, my story came to me.

What research did you have to do to bring The Storyteller’s Bracelet to life?

I studied books and everything I could find on the Internet about the Indian boarding schools in the late 1800s. I had a long talk with a Navajo silversmith about storyteller’s bracelets, and also about the boarding school experience. His grandmother had been sent away, and he had heard her stories and shared them with me. I’ve traveled the Southwest extensively, so the setting for the parts of the story that take part there were taken from my own travels and experiences.

I am also blessed that I’m an active lucid dreamer. A lot of the story came from these experiences. It was almost like I was channeling Sun Song and Otter. And who knows? Maybe I was!

Did you travel to any Native American Boarding schools while writing your book?

Unfortunately, no. There are still schools out there, but the experiences today are much more positive than they were 100+ years ago. I don’t think I could have garnered any new information by visiting them.

Are Sun Song and Otter based off of real people?

Sun Song and Otter are completely taken from my imagination. This was a change for me, as some of the characters in my previous novels, The Cabin and On the Choptank Shores (formerly titled Redeeming Grace) are based on real people. But because I took them completely from my imagination, I chose to say they came from a group called simply The Tribe. The story strongly suggests they are either Navajo or Hopi, because I wove so many elements from these tribes into Sun Song and Otter’s experiences.  But I am not from the First Nations, and I don’t pretend to be. I wanted to honor their heritage without claiming it, so I created an imaginary Tribe.

Which character was the most fun to write?

Sun Song, without a doubt. My heart broke writing the chapters where she is being … I don’t want to give too much away … being tormented at school by the headmaster. But when she comes into her power at the end of the book? That was fabulous to write. I dreamed her entire mystical transformation while meditating on my deck one afternoon, and it was one of the most intense experiences of my life.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I’m pleased to say work on my book Trails is nearly complete. Co-written by my husband Scott, Trails is a collection of essays, poems, and stories about the many trails we take through life, from our Personal Pathways to The End of the Road and every trail in between. The title, Trails, is a metaphor for our journey through life together, and the individual chapters represent random experiences (both voluntary and involuntary) along the way.

Once Trails is released next month, I’ll return to working on my next novel, titled The Madam of Bodie. It’s loosely based on the life of a prostitute who lived in what was, at the time, known as “the biggest, baddest town in the West,” the mining town of Bodie, California. I’m about a quarter of the way through it already, and I’m very proud of what I’ve written so far.

After The Madam of Bodie I’ll begin writing the first sequel I’ve ever written, a sequel to The Storyteller’s Bracelet. Called The Storyteller’s Daughter, it will pick up where The Storyteller’s Bracelet left off, in the Fifth World, and will chronicle the life of little Yazhi and Tocho as they grow up in the new world. I’m very excited about this book, too, and wanting to write it keeps me motivated to finish the projects already in the works. Every novelist’s worst nightmare is not knowing what they’ll write next. I’m blessed that, at least for now, I don’t have that problem.

Where can we buy your books?

All the usual venues, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. My books are available in print and nearly all electronic formats. I have buy links on my Website, at http://smokyzeidel.wordpress.com/book-buy-links/. If you go there, you can click on a link to buy the book of your choice at the merchant of your choice. I’ve made it very easy.

Get to know Smoky Zeidel

Website: http://smokyzeidel.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Smoky.Zeidel.Writes

Twitter: @SmokyZeidel.  I follow back.





Author Interview: Ginny Karoub

8 02 2013

This week we are interviewing Ginny Karoub about her works. Ginny Karoub is a children’s author, publisher, and is currently working on a YA novel.

What makes a good story?

For me, an inspired story is always good.  When something comes from the heart, it can always touch another heart. When reading, if the story and characters can reach out and touch the reader, you have a very good story. Reading a book is not just reading, but it can be a wonderful life changing experience.

What attracted you to writing stories for children?

When I was thinking of ‘writing a book’ one day, I would never have thought of writing books for children. But when I sat down to write that is what came to me. Oliver and Arthur, my very first book, literally flew into my head one early morning. My attraction is making reading fun for children. I loved reading to my children and I do believe a love for reading happens in your youth. I love creating colorful, fun stories to be read again and again.

What do your children think about your books?

My children, especially my daughters, the readers, love my books. They are my greatest fans.

Why did you decide to tell the story Mulberry Lane from the point of view of a pine tree?

Mulberry Lane was born from the publisher of Oliver and Arthur asking me for a Christmas manuscript for children. I sat down and typed, ‘There once was a little pine tree..’ then nothing came to me. After a day or two, I went back to my office and looking out the window at the huge snowflakes coming down, Mulberry Lane was born. It was no longer a manuscript for a book for children, but a book the whole family could enjoy. I was blessed with the whole story right at that moment in my office. The pine tree stayed special throughout because that was what I first typed.

Which character from Mulberry Lane is your favorite?

I love them all, it took courage to do what each did. We don’t always do what we should, due to fear or embarrassment. But, I will have to say Melissa is my favorite. In her loss she still moved forward in faith. And by doing so, she was used to bless many other people.

Can you tell us about your Young Adult Novel, Lilliana?

Lilliana is a wonderful, inspired story. The book and character’s are really coming to life. Lilliana is sixteen and has a ‘big purpose’ in her high school. God is using her to help several students. Her father is the pastor of the local church. He is suffering from a great loss, and it is affecting him more than he wants to admit as a man and a pastor. Lily doesn’t realize it yet, but she has a purpose in his life also. How does a teenager trying to figure out her own life, help others? In Lilliana, the bigger picture is in place… there is always a purpose and sometimes the past can be changed with a miracle.

Which of your books was the most difficult to write?

 Looking Through the Water, my first novel, had to be the best experience and the most difficult to write. It was difficult in the way, that it became so real, I had to write with tears in my eyes many times. I experienced what, Author Steven King, has taught about and that is, you have never experienced writing until one of your character’s speaks to you. I experienced that with, Looking Through the Water. What was so great to me, it was not the main character, but one of the other important character’s asking me for a second chance. My character’s second chance changed the outline ending. I had something else in mind for the ending but I was questioning it. The change in the book, for my character, made the book so much better. It was true inspiration at its greatest. My ‘difficult’ was a moving experience I am so glad I had.

I heard you are starting your own publishing company. What sort of books are you planning on publishing?

I started, Turn the Page Publishing because the publisher of my book, Adventures With Samantha Fellows, The Big Move! had to close their doors due to the economy. I did not want to lose the book, so  at the advice of another publisher of one of my books, I started my own to get the book re-published.  At this time I am only publishing my book but who knows in the future, I may want to take on a book or two! A good point to point out here is, I am making an author name change on my books. Over the next few months my books second printings are going to happen, so I am going to use, Ginae Lee Scott as my author name. Please find me there also.

What are your upcoming projects?

Lilliana is in the writing process and almost done. Munchkin, the Baby Vampire, is in the illustration process. What a cute book for children. Munchkin is adorable and he is learning not to bite. I am at the beginning of gathering the stories for, “I Wish I Had Known” a non-fiction book of ‘after’ the abortion. This book is on a very touchy subject but I felt very led to tell it. The response so far is overwhelming! I have women lining up to tell their stories. Some have even thanked me because they believe this is the start of their healing. I have been so touched and blessed in this project already and I am just starting it. I am starting another Adventures with Samantha soon too!

Where can we buy your books?

Amazon, Kindle and other finer bookstores. I also have them at my website’s online store.

Learn More about Ginny Karoub here:

http://ginaeleescott.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ginaeleescott

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





Author Interview with Laury A. Egan

1 02 2013

Hello, readers!

This week Laury A. Egan has stopped by for an interview. She will be talking to you about writing her new book: Jenny Kidd. Laury A. Egan has also written a short story collection and two volumes of poetry.

First, let me thank you for this opportunity to “chat” with your readers. It’s exciting to have the chance to talk about my work and this novel in particular. Hopefully, some of your followers will comment after reading the book, either here or through my website.

To your question: the most obvious qualities of a good story are the ability to hook the reader, to sustain his/her interest throughout the book, to create empathetic protagonists and antagonists who are fully realized and equally fascinating, and to do all of the above with style. The reader should feel transitions are smooth and logical (even the unexpected), that the author is a trustworthy captain of the ship.

At a literary agent’s workshop I attended, they reviewed first pages of participant’s manuscripts and tersely rejected almost every one for failing to create immediate interest—a kind of what-will happen-next feeling or why is this character behaving this way—something ominous, puzzling, inexplicable that will propel the reader into the book. Another frequent criticism was that the forward motion was slowed by a clog of information explaining the main character’s personality and history. It’s a great challenge for writers to leaven in this “backstory” without slowing the narrative, but very important for a suspense, mystery, or commercial novel; somewhat less important for a truly literary work.

Although this does not contribute directly to making “a good story,” a novel written with impoverished vocabulary, at a high school (or below) level, usually disinterests the reader because the writing isn’t fresh, taut, or adequately descriptive to allow for immersion in the story. Poor usage, grammar, and punctuation literally remove “style points,” especially for more discriminating readers. Because my background is in university press publishing, I’m very old-school about how well a book is written and edited. Unfortunately, most publishers don’t do much editing or the editor is not experienced. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the author to dedicate as much energy on editing, revising, and polishing as on the actual writing itself.

Did you travel to Venice to write Jenny Kidd?

I have been to Venice three times, the last visit for 15 days (I taught an on-location photography workshop). Parts of the city I know quite well, plus I had the benefit of many photographic images to assist my memory. Several detailed guidebooks and on-line information completed my research. A story, “The Mime,” was my first effort using Venice as a setting (included in Fog and Other Stories), but I hope to return to the city soon and perhaps place another novel there.

What sort of research about art did you have to do to write Jenny Kidd?

In Venice, I spent time at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and later used their on-line website to select a painting by Kandinsky as the symbolic beginning for the book. Because my mother was a talented painter, I grew up in an artistic world and was brought to many galleries and museums in Europe and in the U.S. My degree is in graphic design and photography from Carnegie Mellon University, so I’m very well versed in design concepts, which I teach to fine arts photography students and abstract painters.

What character was the most difficult to write?

The most difficult was Jenny herself. None of the characters are autobiographical or people I have encountered, but Jenny’s personality and family history are quite foreign to my experience, thus she required the most effort to understand. She is an unformed woman as the novel opens, desiring autonomy from her over-controlling parents and the opportunity to make a career as a painter. I’ve likened her to a cue ball that is struck by the cue and bangs into the table sides and other balls—external forces determine most of her actions rather than the other way round, although as the novel progresses, she begins to take charge—not always wisely—and by the end, Jenny has matured and individuated from her parents and their expectations. The easiest character to write was the female dandy, Randi Carroll. I’ve never met anyone like Randi, but she came through into my head fully formed right down to her seersucker pants and tasseled loafers.

Were the crimes in Jenny Kidd based on any real incidents?

No, but I admit to an admiration for the work of Patricia Highsmith and often am attracted to claustrophobic, slowly tightening plots and characters who are both charming and treacherous. Venice is a fairly safe city, but if one takes a wrong turn, particularly late at night, its beauty and serenity can flip into an edgy kind of creepiness. In the novel, Venice serves as a glittering façade, which symbolizes Jenny’s naïve admiration and attraction to the beautiful. Pull back the façade, however, and Jenny finds herself in more sinister and dangerous circumstances.

Sexual freedom is a theme in your Jenny Kidd. Could you expand on that theme here?

I’m not sure that “sexual freedom” per se is a theme, though variations on different kinds of sexual attractions are presented, not all portrayed positively. At the novel’s beginning, Jenny is unsure of her orientation. When she is suddenly attracted to the mysterious Caterina Barbon, Jenny is confused about the intensity of her feelings. Her sexual exploration is a significant aspect of the novel, which does contain some graphic sex, though its inclusion arises systemically out of the plot and is not gratuitous. One of the chief themes is that people sometimes aren’t absolutely fixed in their orientation, or rather that it might change depending on who they meet. Although I believe most people are either gay or straight, I am fascinated by those whose sexuality is more ambiguous or in process or perhaps not a dominant factor in their psychology. Many of my primary characters are creative, for example, and tend to place that pursuit first over love, or at least until they run into people like Caterina Barbon.

Was it difficult to transition from writing poetry to writing a novel?

Although I began writing poetry at about age 7 or 8, I tackled my first novel several years later, so I don’t really consider myself a poet who transitioned into a prose writer. Poetry is actually a more occasional form for me, whereas writing fiction feels more constant and substantial, particularly during the last fifteen years. That said, my poetic inclinations have certainly informed my prose, but my visual sensibilities are equally important. Many readers of my poetry and fiction comment on the visual and sensory nature of my work. I’m very conscious of incorporating powerful colors, textures, smells, and natural elements. One thing I have noticed is that it is difficult to switch from writing to taking photographs (or vice versa) on the same day—perhaps a left/right brain issue.

Who are your favorite artists and why?

Good question! The beautiful and moody photographs by Michael Kenna—a real favorite, as well as Lynn Geesaman. Admired painters: N.C. Wyeth and his son Andrew, Howard Pyle, Gauguin, the Japanese print-maker Hokusai, whose “The Great Wave” is a significant image in my manuscript, Wave in D Minor.

If you could get an espresso with any of your characters who would it be and what would you ask him/her?

Randi Carroll would be my choice. She’s portrayed as a bit louche, perhaps British—though there is some doubt, a chameleon who may or may not be on the up and up. I think she is the most entertaining character, the most enigmatic. I would press her to answer questions as to her birth country and means of employment; to list other questions would betray the plot.

What are your upcoming projects?

Another psychological suspense novel, Doublecrossed, is under consideration by a publisher, and a manuscript, Wave in D Minor, a more literary suspense novel, is on the desk of several NYC literary agents. Most likely, a poetry chapbook, The Sea & Beyond, will be next out of the gate, joining my two full-length collections, Beneath the Lion’s Paw and Snow, Shadows, a Stranger. A collection of 23 stories, Fog and Other Stories, contains a diverse range of work from genre to literary pieces. I’m particularly proud of these stories, most of which have appeared in literary journals.

Where can my readers buy your work?

Jenny Kidd and Fog and Other Stories are available in bookstores and on-line retailers (paperback and eBook formats) or from their publishers (Jenny Kidd: Vagabondage Press www.vagabondagebooks.com and Fog and Other Stories: StoneGarden.net Publishing: www.stonegarden.net). Beneath the Lion’s Paw and Snow, Shadows, a Stranger are available only from FootHills Publishing or you may query me through my website for more information.

Learn more about Laury A. Egan: www.lauryaegan.com  Visit her blog: www.lauryaeganblog.wordpress.com





Book Review: My Children, His Victims by Ica Iova

26 01 2013

Some books are hard to read because the gravity of their subjects is so weighty. Some books are difficult to read because the characters are so raw and vivid, that all heartaches that the characters feel resonate in your breast. Some books are hard to read because they make you realize a horrible truth about human nature. Ica Iova’s book, My Children, His Victims, is a hard book to read for all of these reasons.

I was very happy to review this book when Ms. Iova asked me to a few months after her author interview. It is a great book: well written, unbelievably real, and a story of triumph. But when I sat down to re-read it, I almost couldn’t. I didn’t know if I could travel with Johanna as her beautiful marriage turns to open hostility and then divorce from her husband Louis. I didn’t know if I could re-read the painful details of how Louis bitterly and cruelly fought for custody of his children and how he attempted to turn their impressionable young minds against their mother. It is hard to watch Johanna’s life be destroyed and not be able to do anything to help her succeed.

What is most heartbreaking is how scenarios just like this happen every day. We have all seen a friend destroyed by divorce and embittered by the slow, capricious ways of divorce court. We have seen someone have to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of their past life and forge ahead. Some never do get the strength to move on and start a better life. I think what is truly remarkable about this book is that Johanna’s happily ever after is not a guarantee. In this book, art does imitate life; we are sated at the end: Johanna does get custody of her children but it is a long road. She makes mistakes, she is railroaded by the court, her children are put in jeopardy, and her children won’t love her with as much innocence as before the divorce.

My Children, His Victims hopes to illuminate people about Hostile Aggressive Parenting which is a serious form of child abuse that can occur during custody battles. Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP) is defined as: A general pattern of behavior, manipulation, actions or decision-making of a person (usually a parent or guardian) that either directly or indirectly. Hostile-Aggressive Parenting is most apparent in child-custody disputes and is used most often as a tool to align the child with one of the parents during litigation over custody or control of the child.  Hostile-aggressive parents will use the child as a weapon against the other spouse and family members. Hostile-Aggressive Parenting is considered by many health care and legal experts unhealthy, anti-social, abusive behavior which is emotionally damaging and contrary interest of a child. At the end of My Children, His Victims is an appendix which explains HAP more completely and explains what to do if you observe the symptoms of HAP.

My Children, His Victims is a lyrical novel that hopes to educate readers about a serious issue. Reading this book will be difficult but rewarding. I highly recommend reading this book (with some tissues) and learning more about HAP.

To buy this book go to www.xlibris.com.

Read the interview with Ica Iova about My Children, His Victims and her other books here: http://charleshenryeditingblog.com/2012/11/05/interview-with-ica-iova/





Author Interview: Jilll Malone

25 01 2013

Hello, Readers!

This week we have interview Jill Malone about her upcoming title Giraffe People which will be out in May, 2013 by Bywater Books. It is a fantastic read about adolescence, rock and roll, love and army life.

1.  What makes a good story?

I prefer character-driven stories with tension and subtlety. Jack Gilbert called it the engine. Is the engine big enough for this story? What kind of engine does this story have? I’m a sucker for grace – for stories that redeem the character(s) in some way. I don’t mean spiritually, but I am talking about soul. Why is this story told with these characters? The story needs to feel surprising, and inevitable. I have to want things with them, and for them. I have to buy in to their conflict in some way. It’s not important to me to like the characters; I’d rather they be recognizable than likeable. I read to be compelled.

2. What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve been writing stories since I remember holding a pencil. I grew up with Bible stories and Shakespeare. My mother read Jane Austen, and bought me piles of mythology stories – Greek, Roman, South Pacific, Norse. My parents read me an odd mix of Southern American writers and English writers, and when I listened to my father’s sermons, I realized they were stories, too. In elementary school I wrote plays for all my friends, and printed newspaper sheets to entertain them. It was more fun to invent news than report actual happenings.

3. How did you come up with the title Giraffe People?

For a while, I wasn’t sure what to call it, but Cole describes her family as Giraffe People early in the manuscript, and it seemed so perfect. They are these strange lumbering creatures — familial and foreign, wandering and tribal. And it allowed for the beautiful awkwardness of Cole herself.

4.  How much of the military life presented in Giraffe People is based off of personal experience?

My father was an Army chaplain for twenty years – he retired when I graduated from high school. The military details are true to my experience as a military brat. I combined the bases at Fort Monmouth and Oahu to allow for richer details and to help camouflage real people. I read this amazing story, Dog Heaven, by Stephanie Vaughn, and it seemed to me that the experience of military dependents was this trove that had rarely been explored.

5. Does Cole’s band, Doggy Life, survive her move to Hawaii?

Probably not, but I imagine something else will find her. The islands are filled with alluring music, and she has learned that new sounds are out there and it’s important to seek them.

6.  Where did the idea for the word lists come from? 

My family did sponsor cadets when I was in school at Fort Monmouth, and the cadets had these awful vocabulary lists they’d bring over to the house. It seemed like the ideal way to allow for a private conversation between Cole and Meghan as well as Cole and the reader. And you get to see how Cole’s mind works in ways that the narrative doesn’t necessarily allow.

7.  Sex and the loss of innocence is a recurring theme in Giraffe People– is there a message you want the reader to grasp about sex?

Sex is a recurring theme in everything I write. I think I’m trying to take sex and shame apart — to separate them so that I can see each clearly. Initially, for Cole, sex seems almost an empirical experience, but that changes as the story progresses, and that’s the part I love. I love that sex unfurls. That it seems, at first, to be one shape, but is, in fact, many.

8. Music is such an important influence in Cole’s life- what is your ultimate play list?

Oh! I love this question. I’ve just been listening to a lot of Jazz because Dave Brubeck died, and so there’d be horns and piano and drums. Duets with Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. There’d be Ramones, and CCR, and Fiona Apple. There’d be Spanish guitar, and Florence and the Machine. The National, Gillian Welch, Arcade Fire, Metric, Santigold, Jack White, Loretta Lynn. There’d be old country and punk and club-kid music from the 80s and Bikini Kill and Warpaint and djembe and all sorts of weird stuff.  If we could dance to it, we’d play it.

9.  Which of your characters would you like to have dinner with and why?

I’d like to have dinner with Jane from Red Audrey and the Roping, and Cole from Giraffe People. I feel like those two would have a lot to talk about and I could just sit and observe them. We’d eat Island food and watch the tide and drink beer from green bottles.

10.  When will Giraffe People be published?

Giraffe People is due out in May, 2013.

11.  Can you tell the readers about your other books?

Red Audrey and the Roping is a story about self. About self-injury and self-forgiveness.

A Field Guide to Deception is a story about family. About the kind of honesty it takes to live in a family and function.

In different ways, I think my first two novels are love stories. It just takes time to get there. Sometimes lifetimes.

12.  Where can my readers buy your books?

My books are available through my publisher’s site: www.bywaterbooks.com, on Amazon.com and at your local, independent retailer. They’re available in print and e-books.

Check out Jill Malone and her awesome book, Giraffe People at the following links:

http://www.jillmalone.com

http://www.facebook.com/jillamymalone

http://www.twitter.com/jill_malone





The Dreamer Genome by Steve S. Grant: A Book Review

19 01 2013

Science fiction fans! I found us an author to fill the void left behind by Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan, and his name? Steve S. Grant. Mr. Grant has written a brilliant novel entitled The Dreamer Genome which begins in 2020, after a scientist conducts genetic manipulations, in secret, to give human fetuses the ability to survive long periods of hibernation. In other words, he splices genetic material from bears and humans to create a prototype for cryogenic life.

When the clandestine lab is destroyed to avoid discovery, test subjects are scattered and the reader watches these boys grow up and gets to monitor their changes. All of the boys live fantastic lives but genetic failure claim the lives of many. The reader and the scientist who created these boys learn which genetic manipulations worked and which have not. As the boys grow up, some of them, resent the corporate greed that rules them and fight to live an ordinary live, even with extraordinary genes. The reader sees the struggle of a few young men try to be individuals who have their own hopes and dreams fight against their pre-programmed purpose. They do not want to be guinea pigs who must give up everything to further scientific research into cryogenics but many of them cannot escape their fate.It is even more difficult to escape when the man who you have known as your father a scientist who created you for observation.

Love, hate, and genetic destiny are major themes in this book and they are explored from a variety of points of view. The Dreamer Genome presents some very realistic potraits of human beings. There are villains who love and heroes who hate. The multiplicity of the ethical issues that surround human experimentation and the scientists who work on such experiments are portrayed with depth and feeling. This is a book that will make you think long after the book is closed.

The Dreamer Genome tells us that to live forever, things will be sacrificed: hopes and dreams; morals and sometimes even men.

Find more about Steve S. Grant here:

http://www.stevegrant.ca/home/

Or buy The Dreamer Genome here:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/259480

http://www.amazon.com/The-Dreamer-Genome-ebook/dp/B00AEH0QW6





Author Interview with Georgia Beers

18 01 2013

Hello, Readers!

This week I interviewed Georgia Beers about her book 96 Hours. 96 Hours is a romance set against the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. It is a beautiful and heart wrenching story about love, grief, and community.

What makes a good story?

For me as a reader, I think it depends on my mood that day. Sometimes, I want to be able to relate to the main character; I want to read about somebody that could be me. Other times, I want escapism. I want a character who is nothing like me (but I might want to be like her) working through a crazy situation. I tend to read suspense and thrillers more than anything else.

For me as a writer, I feel a good story is made by writing characters my readers can relate to. I write romance for the most part, and I think people who read romance want to read about either somebody who could be them or somebody they could run into. They want to escape their lives for a while, yes, but they also want to be able to insert themselves into the story, thinking, “That could be me,” or “I know somebody like that.” I do my best to write real, relatable characters that my readers could run into any time during the course of their day…at the grocery store, the gym, the office, wherever.

When you are not writing what do you like to do?

I am quiet and I am a homebody, so I tend to stick near my house and do introvert things. I read. A lot. I love to spend time with my dogs; they’re my kids. I love movies; I enjoy going to the theater as well as searching my Netflix account for movies I may have missed and then watching them on my laptop cuddled in bed. I lift weights (at home), which has become something much more fun than I expected.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have several. For general fiction, I am in love with Ann Patchett and have been for years. The Magician’s Assistant is one of my all-time favorite books. She is the author I’d most like to emulate when it comes to the magic of stringing words together. There isn’t a novel of hers that hasn’t made me stop mid-chapter to read a sentence or paragraph out loud to my partner, just to share the awe. The woman is magical. I’ve had the honor of meeting her several times and corresponding with her through letters, and she’s incredibly witty and intelligent, which is just icing on the cake.

As I’ve said, the majority of what I read is suspense/thrillers. In that genre, I have my Lisa Trifecta:  I love Lisa Gardner. She writes mystery with a gentle coating of humor that I envy. Lisa Unger is a recent favorite. She’s a bit more literary in her suspense, and her plots are complex. Lisa Scottoline is somebody I’ve read for years. She is very funny, but writes an amazing mystery. She also crosses genre lines slightly by veering a bit more into drama territory rather than suspense. Beyond the Lisas, I am a huge fan of Tami Hoag, Sue Grafton, Laura Lippman, Kristin Hannah (who writes drama rather than suspense and makes me cry every time), and many, many others.

The idea for the 96 Hours began after watching a documentary. Could you tell us a bit more about the documentary you saw?

My partner, Bonnie, and I were watching the 2010 Winter Olympics when, in between sports, NBC showed a documentary about the town of Gander, Newfoundland. It’s an amazing piece (I think you can find it online if you Google it), and we were both riveted by the stories of the residents and how they took care of the stranded passengers on 9/11. Admittedly, I am not one of those who believe in the inherent goodness of people, but this documentary really left me wondering if I’m not mistaken. I was totally touched by the examples I saw. Then they showed a couple—a man from England who was on his way to Texas for business, and a woman who was a native Texan. They were on the same plane and got stranded together. They ended up falling in love and marrying. Bonnie looked at me and said, “Oh, my god, wouldn’t that be a great setting for you to write a romance?” And so I did.

What challenges did you have to face to bring a story about September 11th, 2001 to life?

I think the biggest issue was the fact that I was writing a romance. And wrapping a romance—something that’s supposed to be “feel good”—around  an event so horrifically tragic was dicey. I had to step very carefully. I did not want anybody to think I was making light of 9/11. At the same time, people in the documentary were proof to me that a single event can change a person in a big way, and I wanted to explore that.

The other difficult part was the research. In order to accurately convey the horror of what the Plane People felt watching the planes hit the Towers for the first time, I knew I had to watch it again. It was ten years after the fact, but I was no less horrified when I watched the news reports online. I made myself watch a few times, just to be sure I got all the detail, but it was awful. If I never see that coverage again for as long as I live, it will be too soon. Heartwrenching.

Erica is often criticized for being cold and unfeeling by the other character do you think this is a fair assessment of her?

Of course not. But to Abby, who is the epitome of a free spirit, that’s exactly what Erica is. And in any other circumstances, Abby wouldn’t think twice about Erica beyond the fact that she’s hot. But because they’re stuck together, Abby’s almost forced to dig deeper, to understand that there’s much more to Erica than a haughty exterior and a need for routine.

What do you think of Abby’s carefree life? Is she lazy like Erica suggests?

Abby wasn’t as easy for me to write as Erica was because I tended to lean towards exactly what you said: Abby’s a little lazy. Ultimately, I think I thought that way because I am much more like Erica than I am like Abby. I like routine. I am a big fan of manners and etiquette. But I know people like Abby, and they are not lazy, so I had to grab onto that and get past my own hang-ups and judgments. It was interesting for me.

Did you travel to Gander, Newfoundland to write 96 Hours?

I did not, though I thought about it more than once. It ended up not being in the cards for me financially at the time, but I did as much research as I could, right down to printing out a map and placing all my locations on real streets in Gander. I would still like to go there at some point. It’s not terribly far from where I live, and I adore Canada.

What sort of research did you have to do for the book?

In addition to watching the coverage of the planes hitting the Towers and printing out maps of Gander; I read books about that time in Gander during 9/11; I read conversations from chat rooms (many of the Plane People have chat groups with the friends they made, both on their planes and in Gander); I read accounts of people on the planes during the diversion of their flight when they were still in the air; I spoke to a couple people from Gander. It’s the most research. I’ve done for any of my books.

Are there messages about grief and love you would like the reader feel after reading 96 Hours?

Well, I guess what I learned is the same thing I’d hope my readers come away with: that even in the midst of terrible grief, there can be a glimmer of hope…that love and kindness do tend to prevail, even in the most tragic of circumstances. Somewhere in the book, Erica says that it took the most heinous act of cruelty to introduce her to the most wonderful humans in the world. That’s the strangest, most interesting twist of fate to me, and I have no idea how to reconcile it in my mind. I think about it often.

What are your upcoming projects?

I am currently working on a new romance, one my friend Rachel lovingly calls “the epic.” It follows the same couple through 25 years of romance, heartache, heartbreak, recovery, etc. In addition, I have several short stories in the works, and a fun novel in which I collaborated with the four members of a writers group I taught. Busy, busy, busy!

Where can my readers buy 96 Hours?

It’s available directly from my publisher at www.bywaterbooks.com and at most booksellers (Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com).

Do you want to get to know Georgia Beers a little better? Go to her website http://www.georgiabeers.com, or follow her on facebook: Facebook: Georgia Beers or twitter@GeorgiaLBeers.





Volunteers for Literacy by Gretchen Elhassani: A Book Review

12 01 2013

When I agreed to review Volunteers for Literacy by Gretchen Elhassani I assumed it was going to be a non-fiction book hoping to enlighten the readers about the plight of illiteracy in America. I was excited to review the book because helping illiterate people become literate is something very near, and dear to my heart. Imagine my surprise when I opened the kindle file and the cover was of a dangerous man with red eyes glaring over a stack of burning books. I checked to make sure I opened the right file and then checked it again. Volunteers for Literacy wasn’t a dry pamphlet but a thriller.

Despite its prim name, Volunteers for Literacy is exactly what a thriller should be: sensationalistic, fast paced, and violent. It is like a Clint Eastwood movie, sometimes the plot is implausible and a little too convenient but it is entertaining as hell.

The book starts out with Amanda Smith a single parent working at the local fast food joint to pay the bills and support her little girl, Jesse. Amanda works hard at the Burby-Q and looks out for her colleagues. She also wants a better life and a better job which she can’t achieve because she can’t read. Amanda’s compassion for her coworkers and her desire to learn to read set the whole book in motion. When Amanda’s co-worker, Sara goes missing, Amanda is compelled to find her. Amanda looks for Sara at the local library where Sara sometimes hangs out. While she is there Amanda learns about an adult education class which tutors illiterate people. Amanda signs up for the tutoring and goes home without any more information about Sara.

The reader finds out that Sara has been kidnapped because her boyfriend blabbed to her about a bank robbery he is involved in and the crew leader doesn’t like any loose ends. The bank robbery goes awry and the robbers are forced to take refuge in the public library- where Amanda is being tutored- and she recognizes the robbers as clients at the Burby-Q the day that Sara went missing. Amanda decides that in order to get out of the library and to help Sara, she has to befriend the bank robbers and help them escape so they can lead her to where Sara is being held hostage. Amanda befriends a homeless man, who is also ex-military and the head librarian in her quest to outwit the bank robbers.

Sounds a little crazy, right? Reading through Volunteers for Literacy I felt myself struggling deal with how implausible the whole thing would be. I am not sure that the theme of helping illiterate people melds well with a thriller about bank robbing murderers. What was most shocking is that in the end everything turned out all right. Amanda got to go to college; Sara is rescued by Amanda and is sent home safe and sound. The military man, Joe, sobers up and the head librarian tricked the bank robbers and made off with all the money without the police (or anybody else) looking for the loot. Volunteers for Literacy is a violent book and to end it like a Brady Bunch script seemed a too pat. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t happy with the ending. Everybody likes it when the hero’s win and the bad guys are punished but it wasn’t believable.

In the end though, I ate Volunteers for Literacy up like cotton candy. It was a lighthearted and fun read akin to a good episode of Law and Order. If you need a good beach read or airplane book- strap yourself in with Volunteers for Literacy and have a killer time.

If you want to buy Volunteers for Literacy go to Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.

You can find out more about Gretchen Elhassani and her books on Goodreads or on her blog: http://publottery.blogspot.com





Author Interview with Elana Dykewomon.

11 01 2013

Hello, Readers!

This week we have interviewed Elana Dykewomon about her book, Risk. I found her book to be beautifully written with rich powerful prose. It is a heart wrenching novel that I highly recommend.

1. What makes a good story?

A good story to write is one in which the characters appear, at least in the first moments, unbidden, whispering in your ear, and you are compelled to follow their trajectory. That can take years, but while you’re writing it, you experience the characters as part of your life, and those presences keep you from ever being lonely.

A good story to read reveals the world you thought you knew with new dimensions or with language/imagery that gets you staring into space for half an hour in the middle of the page. And for me, a good story reveals the heroic in women’s and lesbians’ lives with nuance and depth.

2. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Swim, drive on cliff roads or among the redwoods with the top down, organize/participate in social justice work, play video solitaire, make dinner with my beloved, Susan.

3. What was the biggest risk you have taken? Did it pay off?

Trying to kill myself when I was twelve, in the early 1960s, because I couldn’t figure out how to live my life as a lesbian and a writer. Since I survived that, everything else has been a “pay off,” lagniappe.

The second biggest risk I’ve taken is changing my writing name to Dykewomon in 1975. While I am, most of the time, glad I did it, the jury’s still out on whether or not it “paid off,” and if I would recognize pay off for that if it (has) happened.

4. Why did you begin Risk with the death of Carol’s father in Vietnam?

One of the first things I knew about Risk was that it would be about a single mother and her daughter. So, I asked myself, why is the mother single? Oh, I thought, because her husband was killed in Viet Nam. Later, as I was developing Carol’s character, I went to a friend of mine who’s an astrologer and had her work up a chart for this fictional character (an idea I adapted from Deena Metzger). I knew where she was born, how old she was, and that she would be a Leo, so I picked a day. The astrologer said my character had a childhood trauma that affected her relationships as an adult, that she was still working through. Huh, I thought, what kind of childhood trauma should I give her? And then I slapped my forehead: you’ve already given her one. Her father was killed in the war.

From that moment, I realized one of the underlying themes of Risk would be how war affects/infects all of us for generations. Starting with the father’s death was crucial to showing Carol’s full emotional life.

5. What are your feelings about assisted suicide? Does Carol go too far in helping her mother?

Assisted suicide should be legal for anyone with a terminal disease. I have had to “put down” several dogs and been with friends who also had to go through that. Usually, we waited several months too long because we were unwilling to part with our animal companions, even though they were clearly in pain and dying. I have never understood why we don’t have the same compassionate response for people. (I do understand that this right can be abused, but safeguards can be provided.) Whether Carol goes too far helping her mother die is for the reader to decide.

6. What sort of research did you have to do about gambling?

My mother taught me to play blackjack, and I learned how to shoot craps in Reno. I’ve always enjoyed gambling, although after I wrote Risk, I experienced a steep drop-off in my desire to make special trips to a casino. But I knew nothing about sports gambling or basketball, and I had to do a lot of research about both. Fortunately, my many friends who are women’s basketball fans and the internet helped.

7. Which character was the most fun to write?

I don’t experience one character as more “fun” than others, but I do find some scenes are more pleasurable to write. The opening scene and the scene late in the book, when Carol is an altered state of awareness, were so engaging that writing them was instant gratification.

8. Is there a message in Risk that you want readers to grasp?

Readers find what they need in a text. I hope this one gives them themes, ideas and images that touch their lives. While I see the over-arching theme of my writing being about lesbian/women’s community – how engaging in community is crucial to living a satisfying life – plenty else is going on. Readers create their own versions of any story and writers have to live with that.

9. Tell us about any upcoming projects.

I’m working on a memoir; I hope to put together another book of poems; I have plans for an experimental novel that I’m just beginning to sketch out. And I’ve just gotten the rights back to Beyond the Pale, my award-winning historical novel, so e-book, print-on-demand and Audible editions of that are in the works – I hope they’ll start appearing in the spring.

10. Where can my readers buy your books?

Risk is available from bookstores (you may have to ask them to order it – please support independent bookstores!), or on Bywater Press’s website: https://www.bywaterbooks.com/shop/risk

My last book of poetry, Nothing Will Be As Sweet as the Taste, is available through the Onlywomen Press website: http://onlywomenpress.com/index.html  – or you can ask your independent bookstore to order it.

My book of short stories, Moon Creek Road, is only available through me (my publisher at Spinsters Ink died…) – e-mail me at dykewomon@yahoo.com

And Beyond the Pale, the historical novel I mentioned above, will be out as an e-book soon!





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28 11 2012

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