Luke’s Tale

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 “If there are no dogs in Heaven,” wrote Will Rogers, “then when I die I want to go where they went.”

It’s a quote that anyone who has ever been rescued by a dog can relate to, for who but a dog can find complete contentment curled up by your side, greet you enthusiastically even if you’ve only left the room for five minutes, and gaze at you through old-soul eyes as if you were the center of the universe. Whether your canine companion is big, little, young or old, Carol McKibben’s new book, Luke’s Tale, is a heart-tugging reminder that our four-legged best friends often know us better – and love us even more – than anyone else can begin to imagine.

 Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us about your new book and what inspired you to write it.

A: Luke’s Tale follows the obstacle-riddled journey of a couple’s search for unconditional love, told from the point-of-view of their blind dog, Luke.

The novel was inspired by two things. The first was my blind dog Luke who was such an inspiration for me. As he spiraled into blindness, he was my constant companion. He was fearless. He had always been my barn dog before he went blind. After Progressive Retinal Atrophy took his sight, he continued to go to the barn with me every day, and, stuck to me like Velcro everywhere I went. He was never afraid to go somewhere on his own, feeling gently with his front paws as he went along. It was his loyalty and love for me that made him so courageous.

Secondly, I truly believe that couples today give up on their relationships because they place unrealistic “conditions” on each other. But, no matter if you are sick, tired, unemployed, had a bad day or are even angry, your dog will love you. That is why I made Luke, the Dog, the narrator of this story. I want people to see what it means to stick by those they love, no matter how bad it gets.

There are dog owners who would have “put Luke down” because of his blindness. It never crossed my mind. Our love was without conditions. Life is full of ups and downs, and it’s important for people to understand how to ride through the ‘downs’ and why not placing our own expectations on others will strengthen any relationship. This may seem ‘too out there,’ but this message came to me in a dream. That and my blind dog, Luke, were the inspiration for this novel. So, perhaps angels inspired my story? I know that Luke was an angel here on earth, and maybe angels brought the idea to me in my dreams!

Q: Your dog, Luke, is the narrator of the story. What governed the decision to deliver your message via his unique canine perspective?

A: First of all, a dog is the only creature on this earth that loves unconditionally. You can be in a bad mood, sick, speak to him harshly, ignore him, have pimples all over your face, and he will still lick your hand, sit by your side and love you, no matter what. I needed the representative of true, unconditional love to guide the story. I am heavily involved in fostering rescued dogs that have been abandoned and mistreated by their human owners. I have seen the compassion that those in dog rescue offer their canine friends. With this story, I wanted the dog to be the one to rescue his humans and save them for a better life. It just felt like something a dog would do, if he could, especially my real-life Luke.

Q: Have dogs always been a part of your life? Tell us about some of your favorites (including Luke, of course).

A: Yes, I’ve always had dogs since childhood. As I stated earlier, my husband Mark and I foster rescued dogs and help them find forever homes. We currently have two dogs of our own, Neo, a 113-lb. Labradoodle, and Binks (a rescue and black Lab with a heart condition.) Our current foster is Blanca, an Australian Cattle Dog, but we’ve had many fosters – from Beagles to Huskies to Pit Bulls.

Luke was a certified therapy dog, both before and after his blindness. He also played Annie Potts’ dog, Scout, on the Lifetime Series, Any Day Now for three years. He was my constant companion. Luke was one of a litter of 10 born in our bedroom to our black Lab, Leia. We kept three of the pups, along with Leia and dad, Darth. So, we had Darth, Leia, Luke, Yoda and Obe wan Knobe (Tipper for short).

Our current Labradoodle, Neo, is a therapy dog, and Binks, who wasn’t supposed to live past four years of age, is now six and knows how to regulate his exercise to contain his heart problem, along with regular meds.

Yes, dogs are a huge part of my life, as well as horses.

Q: Why do dogs make such good listeners?

A: They aren’t judgmental. They don’t interrupt! They love you no matter what you say.

Q: On a regular basis, the media brings us no shortage of stories about animal abuse and cruelty. Do you see a correlation that people who can harm, abandon and torture defenseless creatures for no reason have just as little empathy for human life?

A: People who can harm and torture defenseless creatures are sociopaths. They have no conscience, no sense of right and wrong, no remorse, shame or guilt when it comes to their actions. What they do is all about them, and this extends to their interaction with human beings. Many a sociopath started out as children capable of unspeakable cruelty to animals and extended it to humans. So yes, there is a correlation.

I have yet to understand people who abandon their pets. And, there are so many animals that have been pushed aside for reasons that I don’t understand. One woman told us she just didn’t “have time” to take care of her dog. It was a case of “you take him or he goes to the shelter.” I have very low regard for this type of person.

Q: Coupled with a growing trend toward no-kill shelters and behavioral training to make stray animals more adoptable, there are numerous rescue missions both here and abroad (particularly in Afghanistan) to find homes for dogs that would otherwise be put to death. Please share your thoughts on why rescue and adoption are such vital issues.

A: I am involved in a rescue that has brought animals from abroad here to find them homes. Rescues are the only hope for abandoned and abused animals. I have never met more caring people than those who tirelessly devote their lives to helping those who can’t speak for themselves.

There is a movement for pet stores to start offering rescues for adoption instead of buying from breeders and puppy mills. I know of several stores in the L.A. area who are displaying rescues in their stores and working with rescue operations to host adoption events for animals needing forever homes.

Because there are countless numbers of animals that are abused and abandoned, it is vital that we trend in this direction.

Q: As humans, we are constantly placing conditions and behavioral expectations on our partners, our children and our peers as “proof” of their love and loyalty; i.e., “If you really cared, you’d do such-and-such for me.” Dogs are completely opposite to us in this regard, steadfast as our best friends even on the occasions when we have been neglectful of their own needs. In your opinion, what are animals – and especially dogs – trying to teach us about the importance of unconditional love?

A: Wow, that’s such a great question. I think dogs show us by example, don’t you? Their entire being is waiting for us, loving us, being our best friends. What better way than to lead by example?

I once heard a story about a little boy who, with his parents, watched his beloved dog pass away at the vet’s. The father posed the question, “Why is it that our dogs live such short lives compared to human life?” The little boy piped up with, “I know why!” The mother, father and vet looked at him simultaneously with “Why?” The little one smiled as he petted his dog’s head, “Because humans come into this world not knowing how to love, but dogs are born knowing how.” Out of the mouths of babes.

Q: When a couple’s relationship is in trouble, there is often a tendency to shut down communications as either a defense mechanism to safeguard anxieties or to avoid overwhelming the partner with problems s/he can’t possibly resolve. Why are these actions harmful to the health and longevity of the relationship?

A: Open communication is the key to a successful relationship. It’s often what is not said, what is withheld, that creates problems in a relationship. Withholding information can be viewed as dishonesty by the partner who is shut out. It also allows the person being shut out to feel disrespected. This, in turn, creates mistrust. There is no real love without honesty, trust and respect.

There’s another factor at work here. Oftentimes, women just want to be heard…they want their partners to just listen to them. Adversely, men just want to “fix the problem.” That, too, can create issues.

Q: “The best thing about the future,” wrote Abraham Lincoln, “is that it comes one day at a time.” Too many people, however, sabotage that future – as well as their present – by obsessing about all of the mistakes they’ve made in the past. How does one get past the fears that are preventing them from “living in the moment” and moving forward, day by day, in a positive manner?

A: I call this self-victimization and have a 7-step method: 1) Decide that you are a worthy human being. Those who live in the past are still hiding behind past events and think they aren’t worthy of better than they have. 2) Surround yourself with winners, not losers. Associate with those who make you feel positive about yourself, who help you believe that you “can if you think you can!” 3) Don’t let others rule your destiny. Take control of your life. 4) Label yourself as STRONG, not weak. Believe in that strength. Know that you can do anything you set your heart and mind to do. 5) Take responsibility for your past and current mistakes, and then leave them behind you. Don’t blame anyone else for your past…it’s all you, baby. 6) Stop living in a “poor little me” pity party. Get out of the doldrums and focus on what you want out of life. 7) Stop always choosing the “easy way out” of things. The easy road is rarely the right road. The bottom line? It’s all about attitude. You may not change the situation, but you can change your attitude about any and everything.

Q: When something good happens, a person is likely to take all of the credit for it; i.e., “I got an A on my math test.” Conversely, blame is usually placed on another party when the outcome is negative; i.e., “It’s all George Bush’s fault.”  Why – and how – is it easier for people to make themselves victims rather than assuming personal responsibility for their actions and taking control of their lives?

A: It’s always easy to play the victim, blame everyone else and never take responsibility for one’s actions. We all have blame moments. But, if we go back to my theme of unconditional love, isn’t it important for us to see the soul inside even the worst of us? And, isn’t it important for each of us, in our individual blame moments, to dig deep inside and take responsibility for our words and actions? If others didn’t place conditions on us in those moments, we might feel freer to take responsibility for past, present and future. Think about how that might work.

Q: Whether it’s a product of technology, insularity, impatience or perceived entitlement, respect for the opinions and property of others seems to be radically falling by the wayside, especially with the younger generation. What are some of the traits of a respectful person and how can those traits lead to success?

A: Trait #1: They’re honest. They don’t lie. People can depend upon them. Think of the heroes we admire in books, movies and real life. Don’t they act with honesty and integrity? Aren’t they generous with others? Doesn’t everyone look up to them?

Trait #2: They don’t lose their tempers, scream, yell or strike out against others when things don’t go their way. In other words, they rarely lose control. When negative things happen to them, they remain positive. They treat people as they would like to be treated.

Trait #3: They are tenacious. They don’t give up easily. They become resourceful when the going gets rough.  They totally get that they can’t change other people or the circumstances, but they can change their attitudes about situations.

Trait #4: They admit when they’re wrong. Instead of sticking to their guns (no matter what) just to be “right,” they fess up to their mistakes, particularly when it lets another person “off the hook” or eases a situation.

Trait #5: They aren’t lazy; they strive. They are hard workers who always want to “get it right.”

Trait #6: They have their priorities straight. They put what is truly important, what will really help others or a situation, above their own needs.

Trait #7: They have an inner sense of right and wrong. They innately know the right thing to do, and they understand clearly when an injustice is being served.

Trait #8: They tend to be role models for other people. Others admire and looked up to them.

Trait #9: They are givers. Most successful people are. They know the “secret” that the more you give, the more you receive when you are genuine about your gifts. We’re talking not so much about money but time and expertise. They operate on Zig Ziglar’s quote, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough people get what they want.”

Trait #10: They have high self-esteem. They believe they deserve success and know they can do anything they go after. They know that a mistake is something that they do and not who they are. They also keep a positive self-image because they know that self-esteem is a state of mind that they have chosen.

Trait #11 – They are loyal, even when it’s tough to do so. They stand behind those with whom they have forged relationships and don’t betray them.

If a person has all these traits, how will that help him be successful? Isn’t it obvious? These are the qualities of highly-successful people in our society-I’m talking Bill Gates; Oprah; Warren Buffet; George Washington; Abraham Lincoln and the like. It isn’t a coincidence that both highly-respected and highly-successful people possess these traits.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I am working on an episodic series for Troll River Publications to be published online in installments. Its working title is Snow Blood. I don’t want to say much more than the story is told through the eyes of a vampire dog…do you see a pattern here?

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your book?

A: I want people to see what it means to stick by those they love, no matter how bad it gets. People need to learn to ride through the ups and downs of life and how not placing our own expectations on others will strengthen any relationship. I mean, honestly, if a dog can love us unconditionally, why can’t we love each other in the same way?

Luke’s Tale is available on amazon.com in both Kindle and print formats.

Please visit www.carolmckibben.com and tell me what you think about unconditional love.

 

The Summer Called Angel

 

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There’s no shortage of stress, anxiety and fear that underscores every new pregnancy. When a baby makes its debut well in advance of the scheduled due date, the perilous proceedings associated with its survival impose physical, emotional and spiritual challenges on the parents that they could never have anticipated. I interviewed Sola Olu about her debut memoir, The Summer Called Angel as part of the WOW! (Women on Writing) Blog Tour. My book review is at Blogcritics.

Interviewer: Joanna Celeste

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Q. You mentioned that it was part of your culture to be strong. What do you consider you have passed down to your children from your (and their) cultural heritage?

A. Funny you asked this – I just had a reprint of my article in In-Culture magazine. Hopefully that will give you an idea.

Q. As someone who visited Zimbabwe when I was just a kid, my impression of the African culture was that of strength, dignity, endurance, compassion. Share with us more about your cultural heritage.

A. Nigeria is part of Africa—so the culture is like that of Zimbabwe—exactly that. Crying, etc., could be seen as a sign of weakness. We are raised to be strong and resilient. The typical response to hard times is “It will be better or it will become better”. Things like panic attacks are not even discussed, which is why I mentioned it in my book… it does happen. The culture is changing to be more accepting thankfully.

Q. Yes, you shared your experiences with PTSD in your book. What ultimately helped you overcome those panic attacks?

A. I saw a therapist on the advice of my dad. She helped desensitize me by exposing me to driving in the spots I feared. It took a while. It took me 3 years after the birth of my son to get back to driving on the highway.

Q. That’s great you were able to push through. This is a day [Valentine’s Day] that celebrates love, albeit commercially. Your story is that of exceptional love—between you and your husband, the two of you and your children, your family and you, and your relationship with God. How did you draw strength from this tapestry of love?

A. Just knowing I wasn’t alone, my husband was there and that God in a mysterious way was still watching over us, even though I went through periods of frustration and doubt. We had to be there for our daughter and that’s what we did, I think that’s what any parent would do.

Q. Yes, but it doesn’t make what you and Chris pulled off any less miraculous. What did you hold on to when your faith wavered, when you were spent of all you could possibly give, and there was truly no hope?

A. Some form of inner strength, at other times, just sheer numbness, just surviving day to day. It’s like being in a dangerous place and your survival instincts kick in. I knew there was an ending; I just didn’t know at some points what God’s will was.

Q. I could appreciate your experiences through your raw descriptions; your ability to capture the miracle of life was intense (sometimes painful) but beautiful. Your blog conveys your generous spirit, your playful verve employed in tackling challenges, and your attitude towards the things you seek to discover and change. What is your writing process for your blog posts?

A. Thanks for visiting my blog. As you can see I stopped in 2010, due to work, trying to get my memoir published and other life commitments. I have now restarted it with renewed energy, and my aim is to blog about whatever comes my way in my new journey as an author, the good, the fun, and the bad.
My process /schedule should be the weekends – one posted and one written to be posted mid-week. I haven’t achieved that yet, so I try to post whenever I can. I mostly write at night after my kids go to bed. If I can nail the weekend schedule down, I should be good.

Q. In your blog, you refer to yourself as a recovering procrastinator. How have you organized yourself to juggle your family, your new book release, work and your volunteer efforts?

A. I’ve divided my time into chunks –during the day, early evening, and late night, and of course weekends. Each item has its own time slot.

Q. Smart! You also mentioned that publishing your memoir is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to become an author. It’s difficult enough to write a fictional story, but piecing together all the medical records, the memories, and reliving experiences so you could convey what you felt in that exact moment—that must have taken extreme courage and dedication. How did you write your memoir (did you use storyboarding, index cards, etc.)?

A. No I didn’t—no formal beginning or planning here. My memoir initially started as something to write and read to my daughter when she was older, then as the hospital stay became longer, it became more than that. I started and stopped several times, depending on where we were with her complications. A lot of it also came from sheer memory—I can still remember certain scenes vividly, and certain words even up to today. I guess writers don’t forget… the pain fades but the memory is there.

I thought it might become a book when the title came to me, but I didn’t really seriously consider that until she was safely home and then I felt I could inspire people with her story of survival so I restarted with that aim. It took forever because I’m a working mom; then came my second pregnancy and ultimately that story was added in.

Q. Your book covers how your title came about on page 100, but would you share the story with us?

A. The title came to me in conversation one day, when my husband and I were leaving the hospital. I noticed the leaves were turning orange—it was autumn and I asked my husband what happened to summer, it felt like we didn’t have a summer. He responded that we did indeed: “we had a summer called Angel”. I thought “hmmm… that might be a good title for a book”. (At that time I didn’t know what the ending would be.)

I always dreamt of being an author and have several unpublished works, but it was by accident that my memoir helped me fulfill that dream.

Q. Congratulations! As you wrote, God often works in mysterious ways. In your blog, you shared some of your experiences self-publishing (that your process took two years and you went through five editors, and the stream of never-ending issues there were to deal with), as well as some of your lessons learned. What advice would you give to others just starting out in self-publishing?

A. It takes time, and you do almost all the work—I wouldn’t use the editing process of the self-publishing company again. That process did not work for me. My subsequent editors were great, with each one finding different issues, but I believe I still have a lot to learn in the editing process.

Q. Thank you. What has been your most effective marketing strategy?

My website, Facebook fan page, author sites, interviews with targeted groups and of course the [WOW! Women on Writing] blog tour.

Q. Did you contact WOW!, schedule interviews, and set up your own site?

A. Yes, I contacted WOW, they set up the blog tour, and I set up my own site using GoDaddy products. It’s a constant work in progress 🙂

Q. Thank you. Your epilogue referred to your children as toddlers. Please tell us more about how they are now.

A. They are both doing very well. Thank you. Lani is a thriving, inquisitive kindergartner. Angel is a beautiful 8 year-old third-grader thriving and enjoying life. She is an excellent reader and enjoyed the book a lot—she has her own copy. She graduated from all the services, though we still have a doctor’s appointment once a year to monitor her vitamin levels due to the surgeries.

Q. Yay! What are your plans for the three children’s books that you have stuck in a drawer?

A. Working on one of them next!!! Stay tuned.

Q. You’ve mentioned you may go the traditional route for your next book – is that referring to your children’s book? What are your plans for the traditional route? (Have you made any contacts who are interested?)

A. Not yet… I’m doing a lot of research, compiling lists of agents, etc. I also plan to attend a writers conference very soon. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from that. It’s the same one I went in 2010 that helped me decide to publish, so I’m very excited. Yes this is for one of the children’s books.

Q. Awesome! I loved your blog post on the seasons of life. How would you describe this season?

A. Very fulfilling… very, very fulfilling. I’ve always loved to write and like so many of us, we go on several detours on our journeys. I believe I am back on track and using the talent that God gave me.

Q. Congratulations. I’m truly happy for you, after everything you have experienced and how you have turned those dark moments into something beautiful. What is your favorite motto?

A. Dream it, write it down, make it happen. There used to be a magazine that featured people in a column with that title, I can’t remember which.

Q. What a great motto. You’ve talked about how you volunteered to help parents who find themselves in your shoes. How do you advise parents struggling with premature births, preeclampsia, or the various mental, spiritual and physical challenges associated with “difficult births”?

A. It’s difficult to advise because all situations differ, even with premature births. Be strong, be an advocate, do your own research, seek second opinions, and, if applicable, pray that God’s will be done. That was my father’s advice when I didn’t know what to pray for.

Q. I appreciate it. Your supplementary essays and the poem were a lovely close to your journey. Please share with us the one thing you hope that everyone—regardless of their experience with premature births or not—takes away from your book The Summer Called Angel.

A. Miracles do happen, but sometimes other things happen that are beyond our comprehension. I have learnt that we can’t have all the answers, at least not in this life. Always have hope—no matter how difficult—and this is something I tell myself constantly. I have seen others have hope, even when I’ve been weak, and I think it serves as a buoy.

No Good Deed

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If you have ever harbored dreams of becoming a published writer, it’s likely that anyone you have asked for professional advice has either replied, “Write what you know” or “Write the kind of book you like to read.” Jeanette A. Fratto, author of No Good Deed, not only brings to the table a longstanding fondness for the mystery genre but also shares much in common career-wise with her intrepid protagonist – Probation Officer Linda Davenport.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start out with some background on your personal journey as a writer and, in particular, your decision to start penning mysteries.

A:  I’ve been writing all my life, short stories, essays, and articles.  I didn’t tackle a novel until I retired from a 26-year career with the Orange County Probation Department, and chose a mystery because it’s one of my favorite genres to read.

Q: Were you a voracious reader when you were growing up? If so, who were some of the authors and what were some of the books that you feel had the most influence on your own style and sense of story structure?

A:  Voracious! I read all the famous fairy tale and Nancy Drew books, graduating to adult books as soon as I could. Many authors have probably had an influence on me – Mary Higgins Clark for her simplicity in story telling, James Patterson for his ability to keep you turning pages, T. Jefferson Parker for his very intelligent writing and plotting. I admire them and many others but I’d like to think my own voice is distinctive to me.

Q: If you could go to lunch with any famous mystery writer that has ever lived, where would it be and what is the one question you would most want to ask him/her about their life, their books or the publishing industry?

A:  So many questions, and authors pop into my mind.  For sheer fun I’d like to have lunch with Janet Evanovich and ask her how she came up with such crazy, likeable characters in her Stephanie Plum series. Our restaurant would probably have to be a very non-serious place, like  IHOP.

Q: What’s the first thing you ever had published and do you remember what your reaction was?

A:  Aside from articles in my local Detroit paper about my high school doings, my first real publication was in 1983, a short story “true romance”.  Since it was supposed to be “true” I did not have a byline, but I signed a contract and was paid $160 by McFadden Publications. My reaction was – wow! I guess I’m now a professional writer.

Q: Do you ever go back and read some of your earlier writings? What’s your reaction when you do? 

A:  I occasionally revisit earlier writings and I usually think they’re not too bad, and sometimes really good. Other times I wonder, why did I take on that topic?

Q: Your latest release, No Good Deed, is actually a sequel to your first book, No Stone Unturned. Was the decision to do the sequel because you had unfinished elements you wanted to explore or, like many authors, was it because it was hard to part company with the characters you had brought to life and spent so much time with?

A: Actually it was neither. When I finished No Stone Unturned  I doubted that I’d ever write another book, and went back to my short stories and articles. However, my readers seemed to have other ideas. So many asked me if I planned to write a sequel, as they wanted to know more about my characters.  As time passed, all the turmoil connected with writing and publishing dimmed in my mind, and I thought “why not?”  I had my main characters.  All I needed was a new plot.

Q: In the film industry, movie sequels typically draw 60 percent of the audience that liked the original. There’s a danger, however, in either reinventing exactly the same wheel or taking the sequel in a different direction that inevitably disappoints. From your own experience, was it harder or easier to write No Good Deed? How did strike the right balance between delivering something new and yet retaining that which was already familiar?

A:  I found the sequel much easier to write. Where the first book took me several years, the sequel was completed in a year and a half.  I had my main characters, and had the book begin about six months after the first one ended.  The familiarity was the setting.  Linda Davenport is no longer in training but is settled in her first assignment as an investigator. Now she’s involved in something new, investigating a Hollywood movie star accused of molestation.  This brought about some new characters, one of whom may continue into a third book.

Q: Speaking of Hollywood, if No Good Deed were adapted to a movie or a TV series, who would comprise your dream cast?

A:  Funny you should ask.  I was able to get my first book to Oprah. Although it didn’t make the book club “cut”, the feedback I received was that it would make a good movie and I should find a literary agent who could help me with this. That never worked out. However, I often thought about who could play Linda.  Hilary Swank came to mind, and more currently, Rachel McAdams.  Jan should be played by Sara Rue, Edith by Betty White, Gregory by Ben Affleck, and Carol by any current pretty blonde star, since Carol’s part is quite small. David could be played by Josh Duhamel, or if they could find a young Jude Law, that would be the best.

Q: Did you work from a formal outline at the outset or invite your characters to “speak” to you as you went along?

A:  I didn’t use an outline. I had a rough idea and I let my characters speak to me as I went. Amazingly they spoke to me in directions I didn’t plan on taking.

Q: Let’s talk about your intrepid protagonist, Linda Davenport. Her career starts out as a school teacher in Michigan. What was the inciting incident that compelled her to become a probation officer and move to Southern California (besides, of course, our fabulously lovely weather)?

A:  Linda moves to California for a job in publishing.  While on the plane to Los Angeles, she makes the acquaintance of probation officer Carol Alder, who regales her with the many interesting aspects of her job.  Linda’s publishing job fails to materialize and Carol dies in a suspicious auto accident, but not before sending Linda information on how to apply for the next training class of probation officers.  Linda is determined to stay in California, but her job hunting is not successful. She begins to think about Carol’s suggestion that she look into probation.  In the meantime, Carol’s brother Gregory has contacted Linda to voice his concerns that Carol’s accident might have been foul play, and he thinks someone in the court system is responsible. If Linda is able to become a probation officer, she might be able to uncover the truth and put Gregory’s mind at ease.  She applies and is accepted.  Thus begins her journey through the system and her discovery of the truth about Carol.

Q: As a long-time Southern California resident yourself, are some of the settings depicted in your two books favorite hang-outs of your own?

A:  I’ve definitely never hung out at the Swallows Inn, but I live near Laguna Beach and have visited the Laguna Hotel many times for dinner or lunch on their terrace.  Streets I mention are streets I’ve traveled.  The location of the probation offices is accurate as well.

Q: What traits do you and the fictional Linda have in common? In what ways are you radically dissimilar?

A:  Linda and I are similar in that we both came from Detroit, loved to visit the library with our dads, and or course, became probation officers.  We’re dissimilar in that she’s an only child, I’m not; she was a teacher, I never was: my dad was not an accountant; and Linda came to California alone while I came with my husband and two children due to my husband’s job opportunity.

Q: Probation departments aren’t a typical aspect of law enforcement that people read about. Why did you choose to give it an audience?

A: For two reasons. When I worked, I realized that few outside the field really understood what probation officers do (much more than just supervising people).  Also, mystery writers rarely write about probation, yet it’s an important component of the criminal justice system. When they infrequently mention it, they usually get it wrong, mixing it up with parole. In California, probation (county) and parole (state or federal) are separate functions.  I knew the system intimately and decided it was time probation had its own exposure via mystery novels.

Q: Any plans to make Linda’s adventures a full-fledged series?

A:  Possibly. Many readers of my second book are asking me when a third will be available. I’ve been busy promoting No Good Deed so it will be a while before I can concentrate on a plot for #3.

Q: Like many authors, you’ve gone the route of self-publishing. What were some of the considerations that went into your decision to ultimately choose Outskirts Press?

A:  Initially I planned to be traditionally published, period. But after endless queries, and an agent who wanted to represent me but turned out to be unscrupulous, I decided that what I really wanted was to see my book in print. I began researching self-publishing and talking to writers who had done so.  Outskirts Press had a good reputation, we had a comfortable fit, and the cost was fairly reasonable. It has worked out well.

Q: What is a typical day of writing like for you?

A:  If I’m working on a book, I usually set aside a day or two just for writing. When I know I don’t have to write every day I don’t obsess about it.  I make notes as ideas come to me, but my main focus will be on my writing days.  I’ve tried the “write a few lines every day” that other authors do, but it didn’t work for me.  If I wasn’t writing something, I felt guilty.

Q: You’re also passionate about volunteering your time to adult literacy. What brought this interest about?

A:  My love of reading and the desire to volunteer in the community in a helpful way. It’s amazing how many adults are unable to read, or read very poorly. I’ve been with READ/Orange County for over thirteen years and have had various assignments. For the last several years I’ve been the site supervisor for the literacy office at the Aliso Viejo library.  READ has a wonderful free program and many adults have learned to read through the efforts of their volunteers.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about you?

A:  Let’s see, I have two adult children, three grandchildren, speak Spanish, and love to travel with my husband.  I’m also a graduate of CaliforniaStateUniversity, Fullerton (B.A. and M.A.). In my probation career I held many titles, starting as a probation officer. By the time I retired, I had been a division director for many years. My husband and I like to keep fit and over the years have taken pilates, yoga, and strength training classes, not all at the same time. I’m currently doing Zumba once a week, and working out with a personal trainer on two other days. I guess I believe in the saying, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” and I’d like to “keep it” for as long as I can. Regarding my writing, in 2011 and 2012 I was one of the winners in a Writer’s Digest competition, in the categories of short story, feature article, and essay.  I’ve also been published in three anthologies in the past two years,  She Writes, The Write Balance, and Royal Flush.  I have a short story entered in a current Writer’s Digest short story competition, but winners have yet to be announced.

Love Redeems (A Redcliffe Novel)

Author_Catherine_Green

Witches and werewolves and ghouls – oh my! What accounts for the longstanding obsession that mortals have with all those mysterious denizens of the supernatural? Psychology studies suggest that our vicarious flirtations with immortal beings through stage, page and cinema are a cathartic way of dealing with that which we fear most: death. Throw a little sizzle into the mix – as Catherine Green has done in her new release Love Redeems (A Redcliffe Novel) – and you have the makings of a paranormal romance that will transport readers to the delicious depths of dark fantasy.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: So what inspired you to put your bewitching heroine, Jessica Stone, in the company of unworldly companions such as vampires and werewolves?

A: Jessica has her own secrets, and she was destined to join the hidden world in which she truly belongs. I knew she was never going to be a ‘normal’ human, but I also did not expect the story to turn out as it did! I think my inspiration came from a childhood of feeling like I never quite belonged. I would look up at the sky and wonder what was out there, and I knew there were whole new worlds and mystical places just waiting to be discovered.

Q: Where and when does this paranormal romance unfold? What elements governed these choices for you?

A: The setting is a quaint seaside town in Cornwall, near the Devon border. I have family friends who ran a hotel in the real town of Looe for several years, and it was this place that inspired my location. I would wander through the town and envision Jessica and Elizabeth’s bookshop in place of the real ones I saw, and the coastline is just breathtaking. I mixed my fictional town of Redcliffe with Looe and Polperro, two very traditional English fishing towns that are steeped in history and legend. I had to bring in some magic and mystery, and I always loved the stories of smugglers and pirates in Cornwall, so these helped inspire my setting. The Redcliffe story is contemporary, and luxuriates in wild British heritage.

Q: If Hollywood came calling to make a movie of Love Redeems, who would your dream cast be and why?

A: Ooh, that’s a tough one. I have actually spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I am still none the wiser! Ideally I would like to find identical twin brothers from Ireland to play Jack and Danny Mason. They have to be identical because it is crucial to the story. If anyone can suggest appropriate actors, please let me know! Otherwise, I see the Mason brothers as a mixture between the Hollywood actor Michael Fassbender and Aidan Turner, who played the vampire Mitchell in BBC’s popular television series Being Human. Jessica Stone is another confusing character to place. I want her to be played by an English actress, preferably from the North West for authenticity. I think it’s time I watched the popular soap operas so I can find my actors! Now I think about it, I quite like the actress Rosie Marcel, who plays the consultant Jac Naylor in the BBC medical drama Holby City. She would make a convincing Jessica Stone I think. Staying with actors from Holby City, I quite fancy James Anderson to play the vampire Marcus Scott. He plays the trainee surgeon Oliver Valentine, but I could see him switching into playboy vampire mode if he was interested! Similarly I could see Marcus being played by Joseph Morgan, who is currently popular as the evil vampire Klaus in The Vampire Diaries… I think Jemima Rooper could be Jessica’s best friend Elizabeth Gormond. She played Thelma Bates alongside Michael Fassbender in the television series Hex. For the remaining cast, I really don’t know.

Q: Personally speaking, what do you suppose accounts for this longstanding fascination we have for things that go bump – or snarl – in the night?

A: I think ultimately we know there are things out there that cannot be explained. Our society has been obsessed with science and mechanics for such a long time that we have managed to make it socially taboo to believe in things we cannot see, touch or explain. However, there has always been an undercurrent of belief fuelled by legends, mythology and folklore, largely passed down through religious channels over the years. Humans are arrogant creatures, but we also fear the thought that we may not be alone in our ego driven lives! Therefore we turn legend into horror, and scare our children into behaving in the way that we find acceptable and manageable, to keep things even and controlled.

Q: What scares you? And how do you use that fear to send a chill down your readers’ spines?

A: Hmm, lots of things! I’m a bit of a wimp, and I don’t like stepping out of my comfort zone, like so many people in this world. For now I am exploring the human fears of manipulation and control. I suppose it is largely connected to my passion for female independence and equal rights. I constantly battle with myself over whether I am being weak and dependent on the men in my life, and I want to be a strong and positive role model for my daughter and my younger sister. These fears are played out through my heroine Jessica Stone and her best friend Elizabeth Gormond, who are both so very different in their personalities, but so similar in their ideals and morals.

Q: Do you primarily write in one genre or are you an adventurous dabbler?

A: I seem to gravitate towards paranormal romance. I would like to dabble in horror and historical fiction, but I am a sucker for a love story, and they just seem to seep into my tales! I do intend to write at least one historical novel, although it will be paranormal. It will take some research to make sure it is accurate, so I have put it on the backburner until I have more time to devote to it. My stories will always include some aspect of the paranormal, whether it be vampires, shape shifters, witches, ghosts or other mythical and magical creatures.

Q: Were you a voracious reader when you were growing up and, if so, did dark fantasy find a home on your bookshelves?

A: Oh yes! Our town library was only very small, but I must have read pretty much every children’s book in the place, and then as I got older I was able to buy my own books when I found them in the right places. As a child my favourite authors were Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton, not exactly dark fantasy writers, but a good starting point for inspiration. My first foray into dark fantasy was really with the author L.J. Smith when I was a teenager. I read her Nightworld Young Adult vampire series, and that is really where the Redcliffe novels had their origins. I then discovered Anne Rice and Laurell K Hamilton, and now I find new and exciting authors every day. It is wonderful!

Q: If you could sit down for lunch with any famous author whose forte revolved around vampires, werewolves, witches or monsters, who would it be and what would you most like to ask him or her?

A: It would have to be Laurell K Hamilton. I would have so many questions for her! I know her journey to becoming published was a fairly long one, and I have seen how her novels have developed through reading the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. I would probably ask if she became bolder in her story content as she received greater interest from her fan base. The books have definitely become more fantastical and very taboo as they have developed, and I can’t help but feel like she was tentatively trying it out with her first few books. Now, she simply writes what she wants, and she knows her audience will adore it.

Q: When did you first decide that being a writer was what you wanted to do?

A: I decided officially back in 2009. At the time I had finally told my younger sister about the story in my head, and she insisted that I write it down and show her. Once I started, things progressed naturally. I was bombarded with ideas for new stories, I found places to submit to competitions, and I got myself published. That was when I knew I could turn a fleeting childhood fantasy into a real adult career.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started?

A: I could have done this sooner! I mean, I am only now 31, so I’m not exactly old. But, I could have written my stories way back in the beginning, when I was still a teenager, and who knows what might have happened? That said, I understand that many of my life experiences up to this point have contributed to the Redcliffe novels, and so they may not have been as good if I had written them back then.

Q: Did you have mentors who assisted in that journey?

A: Probably my younger sister. She was the one who gave me a proverbial kick up the backside and gave me the confidence to follow my dream. Other than that, I have found lots of support and assistance from fellow authors and writing professionals in the online social networks I am a member of.

Q: The publishing industry continues to reinvent itself. The combined effects of downsizing at traditional publishers and the desire by authors to have more control over their intellectual property and pricing structure has led to an escalation in self-publishing endeavors. What are your thoughts on this issue, particularly the debate as to whether a self-published title is as “real” as one produced through traditional channels?

A: I don’t like it when people react snobbishly to those who self-publish. When you make the decision to publish your novel or short story, it becomes a huge learning process when you discover just how complex the industry truly is. While I admire people who are published traditionally because they somehow managed to get themselves seen by the ‘right people,’ I am all for encouraging people to self-publish. I would simply advise that they remember to get professional help in producing their manuscripts to the highest possible standard, do not skimp on the artwork for the front cover, and make sure everything is completed to the highest standard of presentation that they can provide.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges for authors attempting to break in?

A: Being seen and heard. The platform is so huge, and is still growing at such an alarming rate, that if you want to be known as a serious professional writer, you have a lot of work to do when it comes to promotion and marketing. I am still learning and developing my own fan base, and I have a long way to go. Getting published isn’t the problem. Getting people to see and read your books is. We have to become small businesses as well as being authors.

Q: Any advice you’d like to share with them?

A: Never give up. If you truly want to finish writing your book, get it published and share it with the world, then you will. If you submit it to agents and publishers and they keep rejecting you, then ask why. Find out what needs to be improved, if anything, and simply alter your search criteria. Always remember that you can make it happen, no matter how long that takes.

Q: How do the changes in today’s publishing industry impact – if at all – your own perceptions regarding the role of literary agents?

A: I think many people don’t see a need for literary agents any more. Personally I would still like to find an agent, because I appreciate that they will have the industry experience, and the contacts to help launch my novels on the right platform. Agents can’t always land you the dream contract with a big publisher, but I’m sure they can offer a lot of help and influence in places that will grow your audience and your brand name.

Q: As a reader, what’s your preference – hardback, paperback or ebooks?

A: Ooh, that’s a tough one! I am currently reading one of each, and I love them all for different reasons. My hardback just smells and feels so good. I love the texture, the weight of it in my hands, the smell of the pages, and it makes me smile every time I look at it. It is definitely a sensory attraction. The paperbacks are easier to handle, easier to transport, and they still carry the smell and texture of good old-fashioned books. I love battered old paperbacks from second-hand bookshops, because they tell their own stories even alongside the novels they contain. But, my ereader is very easy to transport, I can read it one-handed while I am eating or nursing my child, and it is convenient. It will never replace proper books though.

Q: Libraries and bookstores across the country are cutting back their hours and closing their doors. What do you feel the future holds insofar as the vitality and longevity of these two entities?

A: I am saddened to see the decline of our high street bookshops. There are so few of them in my local area that I make special daytrips just to visit the one or two second-hand bookshops I know of that are within travelling distance. Unfortunately it seems they simply cannot cope with the Internet sales revolution, alongside so many other shops. I don’t think they will ever die out completely, because lots of people like myself will continue to visit them and keep them afloat. I do think that perhaps they might begin to diversify in order to stay open and trading. In my opinion, their future is uncertain but by no means is it coming to an end.

Q: How do you balance the demands of your writing schedule with the demands of family/domestic life?

A: It has been a struggle. I have a 2 year old daughter who has just started at pre-school, and so I am settling into a routine where I can work properly for three days a week, and the rest I do in the evenings or when she takes a nap. That said, I am pregnant with my second child, so it will all change again later this year! My husband works long hours, so for the most part I entertain our daughter and make use of friends and family for babysitting. We make it work, somehow.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I am soon to release my third Redcliffe novel, Love Redeems (A Redcliffe Novel). I am in the middle of a final edit of the manuscript, and then it will go to print. I anticipate its release early in March, and am very excited! That will conclude the initial trilogy of the Redcliffe novels, but I will soon begin writing book 4 in the series. I am also writing a separate novel about a vampire hunter who discovers she is a fallen angel, and I have another vampire novel waiting to be edited and prepared for publishing. Alongside this I am setting up a freelance business offering professional writing services for copy editing, proofreading, critique and ghost writing. My intention is to use that to subsidize my author career, and also to work on that female independence I mentioned earlier.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Yes please! I am very active on social networks, and you can find me in the following places: Author website: http://www.catherine-green.co.uk

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

Author blog: http://www.catherinegreenauthor.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SpookyMrsGreen

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2545995.Catherine_Green

Thank you very much for having me!