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

 

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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








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