Barkerville Beginnings

Astrid Cover

Faced with financial ruin and the loss of her good name, Rose Chadwick decides to make a new start for herself and her young daughter, Hannah, in the rough and tumble gold rush town of Barkerville, British Columbia, in 1867. However, making a new life is not so easy when it’s built on lies. And, long suppressed emotions within her are stirred when she meets a handsome young Englishman. Such is the premise of author A.M. Westerling’s new historical romance, Barkerville Beginnings.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Growing up in Alberta, both of your parents had an influence on your reading choices and the passion that eventually drove you to start writing books of your own. Tell us about that.

A: Both my parents were readers – books, the daily newspaper, Time and Life magazines. My dad would always buy me a comic book or book if I asked unlike, say, a toy or something else, especially if we were on vacation. All of my siblings read as well so obviously the apple(s) didn’t fall far from the tree. My mom introduced me to romance novels in my early teenage years and I read every single Harlequin romance in our local library. When I was a bit older, my dad started suggesting historical novels, particularly Catherine Cookson. Once I hit university, I started reading Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Bertrice Small and that was it – I was hooked on the historical romance genre.

Q: What titles might we have found on the nightstand of your teenage self and which ones stand out as fond favorites to this day?

A: Hmm, I really can’t remember. I do recall reading The White Mountains and the Tripods Series by John Christopher. I was pretty excited when my boys had to read it for English but they were like, meh. I was crushed, haha. I did read a fair bit of science fiction; i.e., Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.  My dad also introduced me to Alistair MacLean and I read every single one of his books.

As mentioned earlier, my older teenage self discovered historical romance. I think my favorites from that time were The Wolf and the Dove, and The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Plus I really enjoyed Rosemary Rogers` Sweet Savage Love and Wicked Loving Lies. Sigh, such titles, those were the good old days!

Q: I’m always intrigued by the day-jobs our authors have held prior to pursuing writing as a full-time career. What was yours and why did you choose it?

A: I have a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Calgary. I chose engineering because I wanted to graduate with a degree that would actually get me a job. I worked for a number of years in Alberta’s oil and gas industry and then my husband – a mechanical engineer – and I started our own engineering company. We specialized in heavy oil facilities and hit the market at the right time. Fifteen years later, we sold the company and now I’m retired. Too busy to work, thank you very much!

Q: What appeals the most to you about the historical romance genre?

A: I love history and I love romance. Win win.

Q: Obviously anything that transpires in a time period other than the present requires diligent research in order to feel “authentic” for one’s readership. Is it your preference to do all of the research first and then start writing or to look up details as you go along? Why does your chosen method work well for you and how does it correlate to working from an outline vs. listening to your muse?

A:  I do the research first because I need to become familiar with the time period before I can feel comfortable writing it. Of course, from time to time I will look up details as I go along. Also, research gives me story ideas so it helps with developing the plot.

Q: Too much research, though, can slot the pacing of the plot. How did you go about deciding what to keep and what to set aside (and possibly for another book)?

A: I always keep in mind that the romance between the main two characters is the focus of the story, and not the history. I only need to provide enough historical detail to make my readers feel as if they’re in that particular time period. Quite often, I’ll include an author’s note at the end of the manuscript to elaborate on the historical aspects of the work.

Q: The backdrop of your story, Barkerville, is a real place that dates back to Canada’s Gold Rush days. What did you learn about it that you didn’t know before you started writing the book?

A: That in the 1860s it was thought to be the largest town west of Chicago – estimates put the population in Barkerville and area as high as 10,000. Which is pretty amazing, considering how remote Barkerville was at the time. It still is, actually, as it’s in the interior of British Columbia and pretty far off the beaten track. Because of Barkerville and the Cariboo Gold Rush, the British Parliament put forward a bill making the area formerly known as New Caledonia into a crown colony, British Columbia.

Q: Surprises, of course, are inherent in the craft of writing. Do/did your characters ever nudge you to take a different route than the original journey you have/had planned for them?

A: Oh yes, all the time. That’s when I know I’m on the right track, when my characters take over the story. Makes my job a lot easier.

Q: What comes first for you—the characters or the plot?

A: Hmm, I suppose the characters. All of my books have started with a scene that pops into my mind and I take it from there. For example, in my Viking romance A Heart Enslaved, the scene I worked around was the scene in the slave market where the hero Thorvald is about to sell the heroine, Gisela. My challenge was to set up the story to get them there in a believable manner.

In Barkerville Beginnings, the scene that popped up was the opening scene, where Edmund, the father of Rose’s daughter Hannah and who up until now has had nothing to do with her, shows up at the rooming house in Victoria where Rose and Hannah live and threatens to take away Hannah. The only solution Rose can see to avoid that is to escape with her.

Q: Was “characters first” the case with Barkerville Beginnings? Please explain what it was that set this particular story in motion for you.

A: Further to my previous answer, Rose decides to make her way to Barkerville. She’s heard a lot about it from miners passing through Victoria and she thinks it’s the perfect place to hide from Edmund plus a big enough town to provide a living for her.

Q: So give us a teaser of what this novel is about and who the main characters are.

A: My heroine is Rose Chadwick, a single mom in a time when unwed mothers were frowned upon. As you already know, she’s on her way to Barkerville to make a new life for herself and her daughter. Her experience with Edmund has left her wary of men which will prove to be a challenge in a town full of lonely miners and very few women.

The hero, Harrison St. John, was expected to marry the daughter of a wealthy industrialist to bolster the family’s sagging finances. However, he is left standing at the altar and instead makes his way to Barkerville in search of the fortune which will save his family from financial ruin. Because of his wedding fiasco, he has no use for women in his life.

They meet on the Cariboo Road after Rose and Hannah have been tossed from the stage coach because of an altercation between Rose and the driver. Unable to afford passage on another coach, Rose grudgingly accepts Harrison’s offer of a ride for Hannah and her into Barkerville. Once there, she and Harrison part ways. Or maybe not…

Q: Are any of them modeled after people you know (including aspects of your own personality) or are they purely works of fiction summoned from the ether?

A: I’m sure my characters include some aspects of my own personality, after all, I created them. But yes, they are purely works of fiction summoned from the ether. I will sometimes include real people. If so, I will add a comment about them in my author’s note.

Q: Do you allow anyone to read your chapters while they are still a work in progress or do

 you make them wait until you have typed the final page?

A: I work with critique partners. That way, they can set me straight if something doesn’t make sense or isn’t true to the characters. If changes are needed, I prefer to do minor revisions as I go rather than one big revision at the end. It’s more manageable and not as intimidating.

Q: What are you doing insofar as marketing to get the word out about your titles? Of these efforts, what do you feel has been the most successful?

A: Gosh, I wish I knew. Of course, I have a presence on Facebook, Twitter  and Goodreads. I have used FB ads with some success and I’ll try running a contest on my FB page. I might also do a promo spot on Book Bub as I know other writers have had success with that. I’m also going to try my first Goodreads giveaway and I’m guesting on more blogs, which I really appreciate.

Finally, more book signings. I’ve done one already here in Calgary for Barkerville Beginnings and will be participating in another one in July, plus I hope to have a signing in Barkerville itself.

My publisher also does a bit of promotion for their authors, and that’s definitely been effective, particularly for Kobo books.

But I’ve heard many times not to focus too much on social media as the best promo is to write the next book.

Q: You have a lovely first name and yet your books are published under initials. What governed that choice?

A: I write under a pseudonym because my real name is distinctive and I wanted to stay as anonymous as I could. Although in this day of the Internet, I’m sure anyone could figure out who I really am. Hmm, I’ve been spelling both my first and last names my whole life so I wanted something a bit easier. A.M. are my initials, and Westerling was my mom’s maiden name. In hindsight, though, I would probably go with Astrid Westerling as it’s a bit odd to receive emails addressed to A.M.

Q: When and where do you feel you are at your most creative?

A: I like writing in my office, I’m comfortable there, my research books are close at hand and the window looks out to the western sky. No particular time although I do prefer having a quiet house so I love writing when my husband is out. I don’t have a day job so I am fortunate to be able to write when the whim strikes me.

Q: What’s the biggest distraction when you’re in your “writing zone”?

A: Email! Facebook! Laundry! Dust bunnies!

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I always buy fresh flowers when I’m grocery shopping for my dining room table.

Q: What do you do for fun and why does it bring you joy and/or recharge your batteries?

A: I really enjoy walking and I try and get out for a walk every day, even if it’s only for 15 or 20 minutes. In the spring and summer, I love working in my garden and better yet, enjoying the fruits of my labor with a cold beer in hand on the patio. I enjoy a good movie or TV series and yes, I will analyze the plot development, much to the annoyance of my husband. I don’t read nearly as much as I should but love it when I find a great book to immerse myself in. A recent read that comes to mind is Juliet Waldron’s Roan Rose.

We do a bit of traveling in March when spring refuses to come to Calgary and although I’ll bring my little laptop, I rarely sit down and use it. Vacations are for replenishing the well. And I totally love camping, especially in northern British Columbia. My idea of heaven on earth.

Q: As an insider tip to aspiring writers, what do you know now about the publishing industry that you wish you had known when this journey began?

A: Hop onto Google and find a local, or online, writing group. Writing is a lonely occupation so it’s nice to connect with others who share the same passion you do. I’ve found nobody is more willing to help a newbie author than other authors – the advice, shared experiences and support are invaluable.

Q: Where do you see the publishing industry going in the next 10-20 years, and do you think it will be harder or easier for authors to get their work in front of an audience?

A: Indie publishing is definitely here to stay and I think you’ll see more authors going that route if for no other reason than getting your work out and available a lot quicker.

Traditional publishing (i.e., finding a publishing house to publish you) will always be around, too, of course, and although in this day of indie publishing they’re crying for new authors, it will still be difficult to break into. For one thing, the big publishers are too afraid to take a risk. They’ll say they want something new and exciting but when push comes to shove, it’s the same old same old. Just take a look at the shelves at your local supermarket – you’ll always see the same names, particularly in the romance genre.

As far as getting your work in front of an audience, no matter if you’re indie or traditionally published, it’s hard enough already. Publishers expect authors to do their own promo work.

Q: Best personal cure for writer’s block?

A:  Go for a walk.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I’m working on another Viking romance, this time set in Vinland aka L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. I was working on it when I got the opportunity to participate in the Canadian Historical Brides series so I put it aside as I like to work on only one project at a time. Something about my attention span… ha ha.

I have a few ideas percolating for two more Regency set romances. Here’s the scene that’s popped into my head from one of them:

The brig.  His own crew – the mutinous scurvy bastards! – had tossed Captain YY in his own brig.  His ship. Therefore his brig.

He slammed a calloused palm against the rough planked wooden door then pressed his face to the small grated opening that passed for a sorry excuse of a window. The ship rolled and water sloshed around his ankles. The single lantern swung, casting erratic shadows on the wall and a rat swam by, its black eyes shiny in the feeble light.

With a muttered curse, he dropped down on the narrow bench and swung up his legs. He wedged his feet against the wall and leaned his head back.

Then he proceeded to think about how many enjoyable ways he could do away with the interfering Miss XX.

Because after all, it was her fault he was here.

 And from that will grow an entire book!

 

 

 

 

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A Conversation with Jamie Dare

Jamie Dare headshot

As one half of the dynamic duo, Hamlett & Dare, Jamie Dare takes no backseat in her co-writing endeavours. An outstanding writer, she dives right into new projects with gusto, and loves exploring new opportunities to write “outside the box”. Funny, quixotic, and down-to-earth, Jamie takes her writing seriously, and isn’t afraid to tell us a bit about her own insecurities, writing processes, and give us a small, behind-the scenes look at what goes into co-writing a book and comedic play that’s currently in the works. Welcome Jamie!

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure

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Q: What kind of research do you do when preparing for a new book project?

A: Read, read, Google like a maniac, read. I hadn’t read much chick lit before “While You Were Out” so to familiarize myself with the genre, I blazed through the entire Sophie Kinsella canon. I hadn’t planned on doing this, but after the first book, I couldn’t stop. Ms. Kinsella’s books are like rainbow Skittles. Can’t stop at one.

Q: What’s the most unusual thing you had to research online for your book?

A: Two words: stargazy pie. In “While You Were Out,” Henny’s mother isn’t known for her culinary prowess. So you can imagine what happens when she tries her hand at this rather unique dish. Someday I will work up the courage to make it myself.

Q: Do you work from an outline, or allow the plot to unfold as you go along?

A: The latter. I know you’re supposed to outline before writing. So I outline, but I never stick to it. I’m most definitely a pantser.

Q: Describe your writing process in five words or less.

A: Procrastinate, panic, write, rewrite, repeat. Were I allowed a sixth word, I’d probably put “procrastinate” in there twice.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the current project you’re working on?

A: Christina and I just wrapped up “Séance and Sensibility,” a comedic take on the Jane Austen classic. In the play, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood navigate Regency-era England’s stuffy social customs with assistance from a crystal ball. And some otherworldly friends, of course. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had writing a script. It’s also our third Austenesque spoof. “Cliffhanger Abbey” and “Hyde and Prejudice” can be found at Heartland Plays (https://heartlandplays.com/).

Q: Have you ever experienced “writer’s block”? If so, how do you overcome it?

A: I haven’t experienced writer’s block, I AM writer’s block. It should be my middle two names.

I have different methods for un-sticking myself. If I find myself staring at “At Rise” or “Chapter 1” for hours on end, I’ll force myself to write something. Anything. Even if it’s terrible. Even if it’s “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. (Although, this technique made me want to put an axe through a door, so I’ve sort of stopped using it). The next day the deficiencies are so glaring, I can’t wait to dive in and rewrite.

If I’m stuck in the middle of a chapter or scene and the words aren’t coming, it means I’m out of gas. So I’ll do something else to give my mind a break. Run, walk, bike, line dance. I always fear the words won’t come back, but they do. Usually when I don’t have a pen handy, but that’s beside the point.

Q: What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

A: Strength would be dialogue. I love writing dialogue, which is odd because in real life I can’t stand talking. I’m also a decent first-drafter.

Weaknesses? Where to begin. I’ve given myself bald spots trying to plot out stories. While we’ve all heard that “Good writing is rewriting,” I sometimes overdo this to the point I’m writing and erasing at the same time.

Q: What was your elevator pitch for the While You Were Out book?

A: It’s one thing for Henny Tinker to think her handsome and charismatic new boss, Geoffrey Bond, is way out of her league. The more she reflects on his secret trips and his uncanny ability to acquire never-before-seen artworks, the more she suspects he’s – quite literally – out of her time-zone.

Could it have something to do with the Scottish railway clock in his office that runs perfectly…in reverse? Is it his penchant for period outfits that supposedly coincide with the themed costume parties he attends? Or has Henny simply been watching too many time-travel movies and now sees evidence of its existence everywhere she looks?

Set against the backdrop of modern-day London, While You Were Out is just the right mix of romantic comedy, mystery, and a dash of wicked competition in the world of high-end art acquisitions. My stellar writing partner is the genius behind this pitch, by the way.

WYWO front cover

Q: What was the most difficult scene for you to write in While You Were Out?

A: Honestly? The restaurant scenes! Geoffrey and Henny dine at the finest establishments in London. I don’t eat out unless I have a coupon, so I have no idea what a five-star restaurant would serve. I burned up the Internet researching words like “vacherin” and “fribourgeois”.  To me, these sound like an ailment and its prescription. Henny notes this in the book as well.

Q: Tell us an interesting, fun fact about your book.

A: I had no idea how it would end — until the very end! Christina and I write by dividing up chapters or scenes; she’ll write a couple, then I will, and so on. For “While You Were Out,” she had the final chapters and kept me in the dark about the big reveal. Like Henny, I was left to develop my own theory about Geoffrey’s comings and goings, and his odd disappearances. The finale was even better than I could have ever imagined.

Q: What have you learned about yourself since you began writing?

A: I’ve learned I can stay awake until 3am on a consistent basis. I wouldn’t say I recommend this as a writing schedule, but that’s the way my mind works. It doesn’t matter if I staple myself to a computer from 9am to 5pm. The words that “stick” to the page are the ones that come in the wee hours of the night. I’ve learned to accept it. Embrace who you are, kids.

Q: What is the most difficult and easiest part of co-writing a book with another writer?

A: The easiest part is having another writer as a sounding board. Instant feedback from someone you trust… it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s also invaluable having a co-writer who is adept at story structure. Christina has plotted out entire novels in her sleep, no joke. You know what I do in my sleep? Sleep!

The only difficult part is trying to keep up with Christina’s prolificity. I’m the type who agonizes over every word, so whenever I send off new pages, it’s a big deal. I’ll go make myself a celebratory sandwich or whatever and by the time I’ve finished eating, Christina has sent me her new pages. I have no idea how she does it.

Q: What’s next for you, Jamie?

A: Lots of fun stuff on the horizon! The response to “While You Were Out” has been so overwhelming, we’re planning another chick-lit novel, “Saving Captain Cupid.” We’ve also broken ground on a romantic suspense novel, “Silent Knight.” Watch this space for more details.

And look for a new play, “Last Flight to Ithaca,” from Brooklyn Publishers in August 2017 (https://www.brookpub.com). Christina and I love adding a contemporary spin to the classics, and this comedy finds Ulysses (yes, the Greek hero) stuck in an airport as he tries desperately to get home for the holidays. Talk about an odyssey. Wow, that’s a lot in the pipeline! Time to go clean the house.

 

For more information about Jamie’s work, please visit https://hamlettanddare.wordpress.com/.

 

 

 

A Chat with Stephanie McKibben

 

Stephanie McKibben

Stephanie McKibben is one of the most generous, open publishers I’ve ever met. Her genuine desire to help other writers obtain their desires of becoming published authors is clearly evident in the audio message she’s recorded on her website at Troll River Publications (http://www.trollriverpub.com), and she welcomes readers with open arms. Her engaging personality comes through clearly, but she’s a stickler for ensuring that she and her writers are held to high standards in terms of the quality of the product they produce. Not just a body behind a desk, like many small presses, Stephanie does it all; editing, publishing, career development, and hand-holding aplenty. She cares deeply about writers and readers, and brings them together with joy and purpose. Welcome, Stephanie!

Interviewed by
Debbie A. McClure

Q: Stephanie, you are both an author and the small, independent publisher of Troll River Publications. Can you tell us how and why you decided to take on both of these extremely challenging roles?
A: I was always going to be an author, but it was Patricia A. Knight who convinced me to publish for other authors. When I was thinking about publishing I decided to go the indie route and create a separate company—a publishing company. That much I knew I was going to do. My crit partner, Patricia, didn’t want to be a self-published author and queried publishers to no avail. When she said she was going to put her manuscript in a drawer and forget about it, I freaked out. I told her I would publish it. I told her I would do the things she didn’t want to do – like convert the word document to an .epub, or do the technical side of things. I would help her through the process. I convinced Patricia that her story was too awesome to hide in darkness, so she became my very first signed author to Troll River Publications. That book is now the first of our most profitable series.

Q: How did you come up with the name Troll River Publications for your company? Does it hold any significant meaning?
A: When I was deciding between becoming a self-published author or going with a publishing company, I always came across people saying the Big 6 (“The Big 5” now) were trolls. They were the gatekeepers. Sometimes they were vilified. When I took the mantel of being a small press I decided that if I was going to become a “troll” that I might as well embrace the stigma.
But I also had a strange dream one night while trying to decide which way to go. A troll on the bridge of “publication” stood there, mean, ugly and not letting anyone through until a little girl handed him a book. He sat down and read the book, allowing all the little authors to dance over the bridge of publication and get their stories past the gatekeeper’s iron fence. And the troll was happy.
So I thought, why not? Because the bridge was over the river of writer’s tears, I called it Troll River Publications.

Q: You are the author of eight erotic fiction novels. How did you get started writing erotica, and what is it about this genre that fascinates you?
A: I guess there’s no other explanation than, I like sex. I like erotic romance the best, and I try to bring a certain amount of romance and story to each book.

Q: How do you decide which writers to work with and which ones to pass on?
A: I don’t really take queries. I talk to authors. I get to know them. If they like, I look at their work in progress and become an editor/critique partner for them. If they work well with me as an editor, I know I’d probably work well with them as a publisher.
Editing requires a bit of a thick skin. I don’t pull punches, but I don’t try to be mean. I just tell them my thoughts and if their feelings are hurt, I know they won’t be back. Writing takes so much more than just dealing with constructive criticism. You have to be strong. You have to be a marathon runner—I see a lot of writers slowing down and saying, I need to pace myself, after two years or about three to four books.
I also take referrals from TRP authors that have worked with the writer. But I still talk to the referred writer, tell them what we’re all about, and try to help them the best I can.

Q: What is Troll River Publications looking for in a writer and in books to publish?
A: In writers I’m looking for enthusiasm, willingness to work with me, drive to make the best book they can, have a thick skin, and love their audience.
As to what I’m looking for in books, I mainly go for romance. We have a few odd books out there in different genres because I believe in the author and what they have to say.

Q: What advice would you give to new writers just starting out on their publishing journey?
A: Finish the book. I understand you want to make that first one the best novel ever…but know this…the book you write today will never be the book you write tomorrow.
One day you’ll have twenty books out there (don’t balk—writers who complete the first one will go on to write more), you’ll pick up your first book and then proceed to rip apart your own work.
But you have to finish that first one. It’s also okay to spend more time on the first one. But if it’s taking so long that it’s been five years, set it aside and write the next. You don’t have to abandon the first, just make sure you finish something.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole traditional vs self-publishing options facing writers today?
A: There is no right or wrong. You must decide what you want to accomplish and whether you’re willing to split the work and the profit. Either way can leave you to die trying. Don’t think it’s better to go self-published or traditionally published. You can try one, then the other. In fact I think it works best if you do both.
(I’m sorry, I have to laugh for a moment. Originally “Traditional publishing” was self-publishing. There were no agents or publishers during the times of the first print press. An author purchased the time and materials for ink, a type-setter, parchment, renting the press —everything. So for me to say “traditional” publishing makes me roll my eyes. Personally, self-publishing is just bringing the industry back to what it was.)

Q: As a publisher who works closely with your writers to polish their work and get it ready for publication, what is the most common error you see new writers making?
A: Most of my writers hold onto their first manuscript so close to their chest and snarl at me that it’s “not ready” that I have to tell them to stop editing and rip the manuscript out of their hands. I wouldn’t say it’s an “error” but it’s the most common thing I see in first time authors. They want it “perfect” and they forget that “excellent” is not perfect. I have to tell them I only want the very best they can do at this time. After the second book, they realize they can have as many “babies” as they want and start getting excited again.
As for writing mistakes, each writer has been different. For some it’s too many occurrences of the same word in one paragraph. With others it’s writing in passive voice, or forgetting about the reader. But these things are pointed out as we work together.

Q: Writing is a craft, a personal journey, and a business venture. What have you learned about yourself since you began writing and publishing?
A: In writing I’ve learned that I have endless stories. I used to wonder if the first book was all I had, but the words kept coming. When I finished one, another would arise.
In publishing I’ve learned that spreadsheets are my friend. I’ve also learned that even smart marketing can’t be as good as an ultra-fan, and there are a lot of books out there. It has been a really fun road. The things I’ve learned before and after publishing have been too great to number. I’m still learning. I’m still drawing strength from those who believe in me.

Q: What has been your greatest life lesson so far?
A: That having a mentor to help me has made all the difference. No matter where you start out, always try to find a mentor and do what they tell you.

Q: What three things can you recommend writers do to move them closer to a “yes” from a publisher?
A: Well I don’t know about other publishers, but for me, if you’re dedicated, unemotional about edits and are willing to reach out to fans, then that moves you closer to being signed.

Q: What is more challenging for you, writing or publishing books for other writers?
A: I have to say writing books for other authors. I’m a ghostwriter as well. It can be hard to give them my best work and never receive recognition for it. Writing is fun. Publishing is fun. Neither are more challenging, only different.

Q: What do you feel Troll River Publications offers writers and readers that’s different from other publishers?
A: I tell every writer that they can do what I do. They don’t need me. You can do it! In fact, I’m an advocate for self-published writers. However, I get a lot of authors who don’t want to do this journey alone. They have questions. They’re unsure. They want or need someone to tell them to stop editing—and rip the manuscript out of their hands to publish the book. Some writers are so lost and don’t know where or how to start. I’m different in the way I help. I’ve encouraged several authors to do it themselves, and many have. Those that asked me for advice and responded to my help in a professional manner sometimes come on board with TRP. But Troll River is also different in the community. Our authors help each other. Even the ones that don’t run in the same sub-genre. I have were-wolves helping vampires. Cats helping dogs, and military guys holding out a hand to the geeks.

Q: What’s next for you, Stephanie?
A: In writing, I’ve got a stack of my own manuscripts to publish and clients who want my next story yesterday. (can you give me the name of your own latest release so I can link to it?)
In publishing, Troll River has two books coming out every month in 2016. Visit us at http://www.trollriverpub.com to see our new releases! We’ll be at the RT Conference (https://www.rtconvention.com/) in Las Vegas April 12-17, 2016, and are hoping to get all our writers to a personal retreat in June, 2016.

You can find out more about Stephanie and Troll River Publications here:
FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Troll-River-Publications/553065864724059?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TrollRiver
Web page: https://www.trollriverpub.com
Blog: https://www.trollriverpub.com/blog
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqJflEmvzQVB4e9uYne98rA
Email: stephanie@trollriverpub.com

Guessing at Normal

Guessing at Normal

When I was in high school, one of my closest friends had a mega-crush on Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders. “Isn’t he just to die for?!” she’d say, dramatically swooning. Despite my criticism that this guy was (gasp!) almost 30, she insisted that being married to him one day would be nothing less than perfect. Fast forward to 1994 and my friendship with a co-worker who had actually been married to a major rock icon. “It was complete Hell,” she declared. To come into the living room every morning and discover a bevy of drunken, stoned and semi-naked fans sprawled on the floor struck her as not a particularly healthy environment to be raising their toddler. Without looking back, she packed a suitcase of clothes, a few toys, and her wallet and went in search of a saner lifestyle. Accordingly, the themes of Gail Ward Olmsted’s second novel, Guessing at Normal, immediately resonated as the “star” of a new feature interview for You Read It Here First.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us about your journey from being a professor at a community college in Springfield, MA to becoming a rockin’ published author with two titles now on the market and a third book in the works.

A: When I was halfway through my first novel Jeep Tour, I finally shared with my family and friends that I was writing in my ‘spare time’. My oldest and dearest friend’s response was ‘well, it’s about f*cking time.’ Apparently writing a book had been one of my early life goals. Along the way, I had a wonderful career in the telecommunications industry. After my two children were born, I decided to teach marketing and put my years of real-world experience and MBA to good use. It’s definitely a full time job, but I get summers off and a one month break over the holidays. I love teaching and I love writing. All in all, it makes for a very satisfying life!!

Q: Accomplished writers tend to be voracious readers. Who are some of the authors that occupy a special place in your heart and on your bookshelves?

A: Dennis Lehane is my all time favorite author. His historical fiction trilogy- The Given Day, Live by Night and World Gone By is outstanding. He’s also written gems like Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island. I got to meet him twice and hardly any stalking on my part was required!! I also love Elin Hilderbrand, Stephen King, Claire Cook, Sue Grafton and Harlan Coben. Characters that stay with me long after the story ends…that’s what I look for in a novel.

Q: So tell us the inspiration behind Guessing at Normal.

A: I worked nights at a motel though out my undergrad years. I saw a lot of people come and go from my safe little perch behind the front desk. I just kept imagining this shy young woman watching and waiting for her life to happen. When rocker James Sheridan checks in, she is instantly drawn into his world of non-stop touring, eager groupies and the glare of the media.

Q: It’s a catchy title for sure! How did you come up with it?

A: I read an article years ago about how those who grow up in an alcoholic household have to guess at what ‘normal’ is all about and it stuck with me. With no reliable role model, Jill has to figure things out on her own regarding relationships, parenting, work-life balance and all that. I did too!

Q: The premise of Guessing at Normal revolves around a dreamy poet falling in love with – and yet largely living in the shadows of – a hard partying rock star. Is there a message about female empowerment that you’d like readers to come away with over the course of the story?

A: Jill is a strong and talented woman, but when she first meets James, she is pretty lost. As the story progresses, she learns to come to terms with the challenges of life with a famous partner and finds her own inner artist. She gets really savvy when it comes to negotiating for herself and establishing boundaries. I love Jill!!

Q: Each of the chapter titles is the name of a hit song from the last 20 years. Why did you choose to ‘name’ your chapters in this fashion?

A: We all have our own unique sound track or playlist. When you hear certain songs, you remember things that happened, people that you miss. Jill’s playlist captures all of the love, angst, joy and sorrow she experiences and each chapter title sets the tone for what’s to come: Baby, One More Time ~ I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing ~ Come As You Are ~ I’ll Be Missing You, just to name a few!!

Q: I’m the first to admit that every time I see a plot that utilizes the device of twins, I’m wary of reading it. Nearly every combination imaginable of good twins, bad twins and doppelgangers has manifested in classic literature, movies and television sitcoms – thus making it a challenge to deliver a fresh twist. Since your heroine Jill’s core conflict stems from her relationships with James and his brother Alex, what governed your decision to make them twins rather than having one of them slightly younger or older?

A: One of my dear friends has twin sons, now amazing young adults. I wanted to explore how two people can be very different, despite both their shared upbringing and all the physical similarities visible to the casual observer. I agree with you about the ‘twin thing’ being done to death, but in my mind, it was central in establishing the love triangle of Guessing.

Q: Are you Team James or Team Alex?

A: Team James, all the way!!

Q: There’s no question that what we experience with our families when we’re growing up has an impact on how we’ll view the world – and relationships – as adults. How did you apply this to the individual back stories of Jill, James and Alex?

A: Jill learned to live ‘under the radar’ in order to survive her turbulent family and to express herself through her poems and journal ramblings. She believed that if you don’t expect much, you won’t be disappointed and lacks (initially) the self-confidence needed to get out there and take chances James and Alex grew up in a household with affectionate and loving parents and they also had each other. Both men were confident enough to follow their dreams of becoming successful musicians, but both have their demons as well.

Q: Real life has shown us no shortage of wives and girlfriends that stay in unhealthy relationships (i.e., infidelity, alcoholism, verbal/physical abuse) because they don’t want to give up the glamorous lifestyle their partners represent (i.e., wealth, politics, sports). What do you see as Jill’s justification to stay faithful?

A: Jill is initially drawn to James in part because of the excitement of life on the road and his larger than life sex appeal. But she falls in love with the struggling musician, not the polished superstar. I truly believe she would give up all the money and trappings of fame in order to keep James sober and faithful. In her own words, “James was it for me. I haven’t strayed but it’s only because I don’t want anyone else.  Not in my bed and not in my heart.”

Q: If Hollywood came calling, who would comprise your dream cast for Guessing at Normal and why?

A: I can see Jill being played by Emma Watson, Elizabeth Olsen or Chloe Grace Moretz. All lovely young women with a lot of depth and range. James and Alex would be much tougher to cast. Assuming that one actor could play both roles (a la Hayley Mills/Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap) I could imagine Chace Crawford, Alex Petyfer or Taylor Kitsch playing the twins, assuming they could play guitar and rock out on stage. My inspiration for the Sheridan brothers was Billy Crudup, based on his role in my fave film Almost Famous. But he’s now old enough to play….yes, the twins’ dad!!

Q: If you weren’t already married to the love of your life, which rock star would you most likely choose for a husband?

A: Can I make up a composite rock star?? My ideal would have the moves of Mick Jagger, the voice of Michael Stipe (REM), the soul of Sting and the looks of Jon Bon Jovi. Not sure if that would make for ideal husband material, but can you imagine?

Q: Given the organizational skills you utilized throughout academia, do you start new projects from a formal outline or “wing it” as you go along?

A: I have an overall idea of the characters and their backgrounds, but the way they interact and what happens to them along the way is completely up in the air. Do I sound ridiculous if I admit that I was totally surprised at both the endings of Jeep Tour and Guessing at Normal?

Q: What’s a typical writing day like for you?

A: A ‘perfect’ writing day would be fueled by a trough of coffee, early exercise in the form of water aerobics, minimal distractions, relative solitude and my Mac Book Air on my lap. A ‘typical’ day is full of chores, errands, telemarketer’s phone calls and my family coming and going. Also a trough of coffee, but my computer time is frequently geared to email and social media. I try to seek out pockets of creative time whenever I can.

Q: Do you allow anyone to read your work in progress or make them wait until you’ve typed “The End.”

A:I have beta readers who give me lots of feedback, criticism and direction as I work. I have learned to count on them to keep me on track.

Q: Tell us about your path to publishing and what you learned along the way.

A: I self-published Jeep Tour through CreateSpace last year but I am thrilled to now be part of the Booktrope publishing community. Such a supportive group of talented writers, editors, designer and administrators! The inspiration, support, entertainment, advice and friendship I have received has been phenomenal.

Q: What would people be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I love to travel to other countries, stay active, go to movies and eat out, but I am happiest at home with my family and friends, books, cats and knitting.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I am working on a sequel to Jeep Tour, which will be based in Ireland. My daughter Hayley and I took a caravan tour there last year and the whole time I kept thinking about my characters and what they would be doing and saying. Oh, and a sexy Irish tour guide!! My characters are in different stages of their lives this time around, but I missed them and love hearing their voices again.

Q: Where can readers learn more about your work?

A: My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/gailolmstedauthor. You can also email me at gwolmsted@yahoo.com or find me on Twitter @gwolmsted

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Thank you for the opportunity to meet your readers, Christina!!

Love Alters

Love-Alters-Book-Cover-v1

Talk about living a life outside the box, Michelle Tupy, author of Love Alters, certainly accomplishes that on many fronts. What a pleasure it’s been to connect with Michelle and learn about her work and her unique lifestyle. A content writer, ghostwriter, and self-confessed lover of words, Michelle, her husband and two young children are currently travelling throughout South America on an adventure and learning experience of a lifetime.

Interviewer: Debbie McClure

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Q In your latest book, Love Alters, you write about the many ways people connect and fall in love. What inspired you to produce this book?

A In truth, it was my own love story which got the ball rolling. It was a story I had been meaning to write for quite a while but I didn’t have enough substance to pen a whole book. While browsing a second-hand bookstore in Canada I stumbled across a small anthology of stories based on friendship and had an aha moment. The rest is history.

Q Where did your love story take place?

A My love story took place in China over 11 years ago. I had travelled to China to teach English with my good friend, Sharon, and on our second teaching assignment we were headed to Jilin from our home base of Changchun to work in a school for the winter holidays. Standing at the train station, also heading to Jilin, was a Canadian man named Matt. We struck up a conversation immediately and over the course of the next few months we started our courtship amongst the snowy backdrop of the wintry city. Two kids and many continents later we are still travelling and still very much in love.

Q Were you amazed at the range of the stories you received?

A At the beginning of the process I must admit I felt a little nervous. What if no one wanted to contribute to my anthology? However not long after I had put the call out, the stories came in little by little, bit by bit until I had enough to fill an anthology. I was blown away. The stories were all so different and varied and the only thing connecting them in actual fact was the theme of love. I received stories of young love, reconnected love, love that connected couples until the day they died. I must admit I shed a tear or two when I was reading them – all moving and totally inspirational in their own way.

Q How did you choose who to feature as contributors for Love Alters?

A I didn’t want the book to have different versions of the same story – I wanted to represent the young, the middle aged, the elderly – different people from all walks of life. I wanted to show that love could come to us at any time, at any age and quite often presents us with a second chance at happiness or family that a previous relationship may not have provided. So I purposefully chose a mix to fulfill my general requirements.

Q Was there one story which stood out in particular? If so, why?

A Early on in the process, Maree Crosbie sent me a beautiful story about this woman she met in hospital many years ago. Over time she learned their amazing story.

Prior to the war, Nancy had been engaged to Dennis. George was Dennis’ best friend and during the course of the relationship, a strong friendship developed between the three of them. When the war broke out, Dennis and George were sent away to fight. Then the war ended and Nancy waited for her husband-to-be to return. But his friend George returned home alone. Dennis, she was told, was believed to be a prisoner of war and the official statement received was ‘whereabouts unknown’. Finally after several years, Dennis was formally declared missing in action and believed to be dead.

Over the years Nancy and George maintained their friendship, supporting one another through life and as time passed, this genuine affection blossomed into love. After a number of years, they eventually wed, grateful that they had one another to share their life with.

Then the unexpected happened. Dennis came home. All three parties found themselves in an unavoidable situation. Nancy and Dennis were still very much in love despite Nancy’s marriage to George, however, to honour their friendship and the marriage vow made between George and Nancy, they made a pact not to act on their love. Over the years all three remained great friends helping each other through good times and bad. Dennis never married and despite her undying love for him, Nancy remained faithful to her husband George, right up until the day she died.

In this age of break-ups and divorces, you just don’t hear many stories like that these days and as I told Maree, I had to feature their story. Great fiction cannot rival stories like this.

Q How long did the book take you to produce?

A For the first year I had it slowly simmering away while my family and I were working on a travel project of our own, but I had always had the date of February 2015 at the back of my mind. As that date approached, I started to firm up the stories and contributors and arrange for a designer to help with the cover. All told, it took me two years from start to finish.

Q You and your husband made the momentous decision to gather your two young children and head out on an incredible cross-country adventure; touring South and North America. What has been the greatest personal lesson you’ve learned so far, and why?

I am not the most patient person in the world, which my husband will happily attest to. Travelling, especially to foreign countries means you have to develop or at least get used to the fact that not everything (or hardly anything) will go your way. Time is indeed relative – half an hour in Peruvian time is a whole lot longer than in the time zone I usually operate in. I am getting better but I still find much of the situations I have to deal with extremely frustrating.

Q Can you share with our readers one of your funniest stories, or more difficult trials, about your cross-cultural and/or travel quest?

A My daughter has a huge desire to be famous – whether through her singing, dancing, modelling or otherwise she doesn’t mind – so bearing this in mind, I signed her up to participate in a beauty pageant in Arequipa to gain some modelling experience. As we don’t generally travel with a formal dress or two in hand, we were told that the organisers of the pageant would take care of our “Australian” cultural dress. On the day of the pageant when we went to collect the dress, our dress was far from the traditional “Australian” outfit we were expecting and instead turned out to be more Austrian than anything representing the Australasian continents. So we had to run around – just hours before the pageant in a city we didn’t know, trying to find something suitable. While we didn’t rival the creative costumes of the Brazilians with their huge feathers and boas, we did learn that not everyone has as good a knowledge of other cultures as we do. And I would like to add, my daughter totally rocked the pageant – and I just hope we never have to do it again!

Q How do your children feel about this massively altered life-style, and what would you say are their biggest challenges to date?

A This has always been their life – they know no different. My husband and I have always travelled and since we have had children, we continue to travel. Our lifestyle is a little different to many others but we make it work for the most part. Our daughter, who is turning 10 this year, has lived in China, Australia, Canada and Peru – that’s pretty great in my book. One of the biggest challenges we face is arranging play dates for the kids, although in reality I think we struggled with it more in Canada when we had a permanent base. We are very keen to meet with other travelling families on the roads and are always looking for opportunities for the kids to make real connections with others, however briefly.

Q What would you say are your children’s greatest take-aways?

A I think for the most part we are trying to encourage our kids to have a broad awareness of the world and the people in it. We want them to understand that people, regardless of where they are from, think the same, feel the same, and love the same, despite their cultural upbringings. We want our children to be citizens of the world rather than one nation and to know that they can go, do and see whatever they want. They are a little too young to understand it all right now, but I think it will hold them in good stead when they are older.

Q Who came up with this idea, you or your husband, and how did that conversation play out?

A It was a conversation which was carried out over many years. Before coming to Peru we joked about driving from Canada, although without having lived there we didn’t really know whether it was viable. But upon seeing and hearing other travel stories, especially those stories featuring kids, we thought we may be able to just pull it off. We talked about buying a vehicle and my husband managed to find us a 1982 Volkswagen Kombi in Cusco, Peru, which we painted in bright colours in preparation for the trip. Of course the conversation is still occurring as we work out our next destination and which country we will head to next. Tomorrow we leave for Puerto Maldonado in the Amazonian jungle in Peru to start the next leg of our world schooling adventure.

Q You and your husband ran a hostel, Casa Emilia, in Cusco, Peru for twelve months and lived among the locals. What was your greatest take-away from that experience, and why?

A Yes we did – it was a lot of work and the kids really enjoyed having their own “hostel” to call home for the year. We definitely learned that the process of setting a business up in another country is not as easy as one may think. We had a lot of people promise things which just did not materialise in terms of support and assistance and in reality, we quickly learned, it was just us and was always going to be us and we just had to find a way to make things work. And that patience thing I talked about earlier, well it was needed tenfold in these circumstances.

Q The next leg of your journey has the four of you packing up your old kit bag and heading out in a van to traverse across South and North America, back up to Niagara Falls, Canada. To help you accomplish this, you managed to gather some wonderful supporters. How were you able to do this, and how can our readers contribute if interested?

A We have had an amazing amount of support for our trip from all levels – we set up a fundraiser to help us out initially selling my writing services and we have received offers of free accommodation from great sponsors like The Meeting Place in Cusco (http://www.themeetingplacecusco.com/) , Percy’s Family Home in Pisac (www.percysfamilyhome) and Anaconda Lodge in Puerto Maldonado (www.anacondalodge.com). We don’t have a huge kitty to dip into in terms of our travel fund and are actually earning and volunteering on the road as we go to help make ends meet. So any form of help or assistance we get whether on or off the road is very welcome. We are open to support in terms of financial assistance, particularly as a little can go a long way in many countries in South and Central America, and we would love to receive more accommodation offers as we travel. My husband, Matt, is a hotel manager, so is happy to work with hotels en route in exchange for help or a review or two while I am happy to assist hotels and hostels with their social media side.

Q Do you plan to write a book about your travel adventures with your family? If so, when can we expect to see it?

A Most definitely. The love story anthology whet my appetite in terms of book publication and I am planning to write a book covering our travels entitled “And Off We Went” showing that it is possible to travel with young kids and still provide them with an amazing (yet slightly alternative) education on the road. We are going to show our trials and tribulations while featuring other families who are travelling and educating on the road as well. As we don’t know how long the trip is going to take us, I am aiming for a 2017 publication date. Although for those interested and who want to see more than the snippets, we post on our Facebook page and blog, we are pre-selling the book for $40 on our website, and this presale will also include special behind the scenes access to our trip.

Q Do you intend to do a follow up anthology?

A Absolutely. I am following up the love anthology with a kindness of strangers anthology – this will have a 2016 publication date so slightly earlier than our travel adventure book. If your readers, would like to contribute a story, they can contact me direct through the Love Alters website. I am looking for true to life stories approximately 1,500-2,500 in length.

Find Michelle here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Alters-All-Seasons-ebook/dp/B00SIEFHF8/

Website: www.lovealters.com

Website: www.andoffwewent.com

Website: http://www.andoffwewent.com/pre-order.html

Website: www.michelletupy.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Love-Alters-An-Anthology/363489527107413

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MKileyTupy

 

 

 

Shadows of the Keeper

KBrown

Coffee’s her vice, historical romances her weakness, and marriage to her boss’s son is but a month away – normal, everyday stuff, for a normal, everyday Texan gal. Except there’s hardly anything ‘normal’ about Emily Garrison. Little does Emily know, she’s the long awaited High Queen of a kingdom in a parallel universe . . . and the soul mate to Hades’ son, Prince Dezenial of the Lumynari. To start the new year, we’re chatting with Karey Brown, author of Shadows of the Keeper.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Aside from general plot, our characters are at the head of the class, pulling the reader into the story. What was the biggest challenge of developing your main characters?

Writing two different books until it felt right—until the main characters were in their correct roles. For example, in the first telling, I have Emily and Broc getting married; having them basically picking up where they left off 3,600 years earlier. Prince Dezenial was going to be the ‘bad guy’.

This kept me up for too many nights. When I changed the entire story, THIS time, the too-many-nights-up was because I couldn’t stop writing! It was as if I couldn’t type fast enough, their story flashing in my mind like a movie. The biggest challenge was convincing myself that it was okay to let go of the first story version, and rewrite all of it, no matter how long the blasted thing took!

In deciding on your characters’ backgrounds, how did you come up with your characters’ names?

Emily has been with me for years and years. Her story has always just kind of been there—a woman who is reincarnated over the ages, having lived several lives. I also subscribe to the whole soul mate thing—when we come around a corner, see someone, and have that weird déjà vu moment, is it really that we’ve seen that person before, or is that our soul instantly recognizes their soul as having been meaningful to us in a previous life? What if the love was so profound, no matter how many lifetimes they’re born into, they keep finding each other? Now consider, what if one of them was immortal? How would he/she know that the other existed again? Broc has been with me about as long as Emily, and though I tried to have them be the two ‘connected’ souls, it never felt right. After writing the first version, I realized why: they were together in a previous life, but it was never meant to be, though it will scar Broc for a very long time, and leave Emily with an anger towards him that she doesn’t understand—not at first.

Dezenial’s name, however, was a bloody nightmare to come up with. Nothing fit his persona, so, for a long time, I used XXX as a placeholder. A name generator finally helped, and taking the part of one name and adding it to another, I came up with Dezenial. It was so perfect, and so weird how the two parts connected, I stared at the monitor for a long time, wondering if I was tapping into some otherworldly event, or was I really making this story up?

Reignsfeugh and Inzyr’s names took playing with sounds and spelling. For the rest of the cast—and there are many—I hunted through Celtic/Gaelic names and their meanings. Again, they had to fit the character.

Do you have a favorite character?

I like the complication of Inzyr. The assassin’s story begs to be told, but it isn’t quite the right time yet. I keep trying to set him up with a love interest, but have had to accept there existed only one true love for him—something never suffered by Shadow Masters. They’re not interested in the emotional commitment; never succumb to the weakness.

Amidst the huge birth of a young adult craze, the competition is tough. What made you choose this particular genre?

As much as I LOVED Judy Bloom’s storytelling when I was a kid, I don’t possess the knack for writing YA. Historical romances, mythology, and paranormal grabbed hold of me, and never let go. I create fairytales, mythologies, languages, realms, and beings. Tossed into this mix are everyday normal people finding themselves connected to these otherwise unknown realms/parallel universes, and how their lives change; how they cope with discovering mythology/fantasy is fact.

Was there a particular scene that was the most difficult for you to write?

When Peter assaults Emily. It forced me to relive a personal experience involving violence. There aren’t exactly shelters for battered women in the year 1214 A.D. Also, when we suffer something so overwhelming, some of us are lucky enough to have a ‘hero’ rescue us, put us back on our feet, and send us back into the world of the living. I wanted this for Emily, but I didn’t want the rescue to be her ‘happily-ever-after’. The scene and the outcome needed to be both realistic, and show relationship-complication, regardless how much one person loves another. The answer isn’t always obvious to the two people caught up in a blossoming fondness.

Sometimes, things are running along smoothly and suddenly we might step back and re-think an entire chapter, even an ending. What there an unexpected decision you made about the plot?

There’s a particular plot that left me crying and incredibly sad for so many days, I realized I had to do SOMETHING to free myself of this funk. That’s when I realized said plot needed to end differently—and, WOW, did it change the entire story!! It was also a way to avoid seeking professional help—which would have probably resulted in my having been committed, since this sorrow was for an imaginary character. I can just see it now, sobbing, ‘But, he died…as in, d-e-a-d!’ *sob, sob, sob* Oh yeah, straightjackets would have been my permanent attire. Not a good look.

What atmosphere do you find to be the most productive, yet relaxing to keep those pages going?

A small dining room converted into an office and closed off from the rest of the house with an odd entry off the kitchen creates my ‘secret’ room. In here, I’m surrounded by hundreds of books lining dark wood bookcases. Tapestries depicting medieval scenes hang above my L-shaped desk, and covering the floor are rugs I acquired in Turkey. Low-lit lamps complete the Old World ambiance, while, in the background, BrunuhVille plays on the Bose.

What surprised you the most about the novel writing process along with self-publishing?

How much ‘self-published’ is such a dirty word. It’s like we’re the pariahs of the publishing/writing world. If our work isn’t published by a ‘real’ publisher, somehow, we’re hacks. You won’t find silicone between my pages. No fake ta-tas here. I DID submit my manuscript to several agents. And, bless their hearts, even though they rejected Shadows of the Keeper, they still took the time to write a quick sentence or two, on their form letters, that my writing was very good, I excelled at storytelling, but the overall story just wasn’t for them, or didn’t quite fit what they were looking for—to keep writing/submitting. Some even offered a reference to another agent that they thought might be interested in my type of work. When an agent/editor takes time from their crazy schedule, and the thousands of manuscripts being submitted, to write a personal blurb of encouragement, that’s HUGE! I was not, however, willing for Shadows to sit somewhere and collect dust. I just had this feeling about this particular story—that it had to be told.

Is there an author, past or present, who served as your inspiration?

Laurie McBain, who wrote Moonstruck Madness (1977), was my first historical romance. I began reading historicals with the same appetite I now have for cheesecake—get your eyes off my hips. Just because I don’t LOOK like a starving artist doesn’t mean I’m not hungry. Last Christmas, I discovered a hardcover copy of Moonstruck Madness. It now rests on my ‘treasures’ shelf.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve taken to heart when it comes to being an author?

Study your craft. FINISH what you start. Enjoy the journey. Dedicate yourself to the journey. And then, study it more. Feeeel what you’re writing, don’t just type words.

Lastly, can you provide any links that feature Shadows of the Keeper?

Amazon: http://goo.gl/R9M70N

iTunes/iBook: http://goo.gl/2mDvgu

Barnes & Noble—Nook: http://goo.gl/9VPjS5

Kobo books: http://goo.gl/H1F1JM

Scribd.com: http://goo.gl/yiETG6

Inktera.com: http://goo.gl/OJsxCe

 

 

Seeing Things

Nancy Young cover

“True love is like ghosts,” wrote Francois de La Rochefoucauld, ” which everyone talks about and few have seen.”

Over the years, film, television and fiction have given us a bounty of stories in which star-crossed soul mates discover themselves up against the greatest divider of all – that pesky line separating the living and the dead. Whether it’s the hero who longs to be reunited with a beloved bride that was snatched from his arms too soon or a wistful heroine who has reconciled herself to the belief that all the best men are married, gay or a possible figment of their imaginations, author Nancy Young delivers a fresh twist in her latest novel, Seeing Things.  When you’re out to debunk the existence of ghosts – as well as deny your own ability to see them– what’s a girl to do when the sexy techie whose attention she has attracted is, quite literally, out of this world?

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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 Q: So tell us a little about your journey as a writer and who (or what) was the greatest influence on your quest to become a published author?

A:        I was hooked on writing from the time the teacher posted my lion story outside our first grade classroom. Even my research reports in school tended to morph into narratives. In the college where I worked, a group of us met weekly for critiquing sessions, which helped me grow out of that awkward beginners’ stage, rife with poems about butterflies and roadkill.  Drafting up to 17 stories a week when I was a reporter gave me confidence as a writer. Once I quit teaching, I had the time to publish poems, short stories, and plays. I started the novel because everyone in my writing group was working on one, and I didn’t want to feel left out!

Q: Were you a voracious reader when you were growing up? If so, what book titles might we have found on your nightstand?

A:        I grew up in the local library—literally. My mother was a librarian, and after school I’d hang out, sometimes helping alphabetize cards, but most often working my way through the collection, graduating from the children’s floor to the adult section by the time I was in middle school. (It was a very small library.)

As a girl, I read and reread The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as well as Mary Stewart novels, Victoria Holt novels, Poe’s and Vonnegut’s short stories, and an assortment of folklore anthologies. My guilty pleasure was those Gothic paperbacks—the ones with a nightgown-clad woman running in terror from a brooding castle. My favorite of that genre still sleeps in my bedside table: Moura by Virginia Coffman. From the list, you can see that I’m drawn to a mix of supernatural/ fantasy elements, strong characters, and dark humor.

Q: You’ve described your newest release, Seeing Things, as a romance with paranormal elements. What’s your attraction to this particular genre?

A:        The two genres are a perfect balance of light and dark. I love the tensions of romance—the friction, the rising stress, and the eventual capitulation. With paranormal elements, I can introduce unpredictability—a plane where intelligence and logic have no impact. Since I prefer strong characters, the complications they face have to be out of their immediate control.

Q: What was the inspiration behind Seeing Things?

A:        This book started out to be anti-genre. The central character is neither innocent nor naïve. She doesn’t want to be rescued.  Her love interest isn’t a taciturn alpha male, either. I took a sly delight in having Mary Catherine reject the typical hero.

Q: Have you ever had any ghostly encounters similar to those experienced by your intrepid heroine?

A:        When I was a T.A. in grad school, I shared an office with a folklore expert. He was often called upon to investigate odd phenomena and invited me along on investigations. At a plumbing supply business in Northeast Philly one bright winter afternoon, I heard bells chime in a wall where there were no bells, saw a clock run backwards when its power source had been cut off, and looked over a strange arrangement of paper plates and a dead bird on a breakroom floor. Since the business owner was anxious to keep the investigation secret lest it hurt business, a hoax seemed unlikely. This scenario found its way, in a different form, into a chapter of Seeing Things.

Another example occurred when I lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse. In the attic (accessible through a trap door in my bedroom), hats, tools, and an old Royal typewriter had been left behind by the original owners. That typewriter would periodically have a new line of type on the tattered, yellowed sheet rolled into its platen. My kids were under five and couldn’t have accessed the attic without help—nor could they spell, for that matter.

Out of curiosity, I participated in an EVP study at Rhine Research Center, a parapsychology center that was originally part of Duke University.  Though most of what I heard in the controlled study was static, two voices sounded loud and clear. I have no idea if those were “control” sounds or actual examples of paranormal recordings.

Oddly enough, things like this fail to bother me. Put me in heavy traffic on the Beltline, though, and my palms will sweat.

Q: What governed the choice to pen this story in the first person? For instance, do you feel a special kinship with the narrator?

A:        I actually wrote the first few chapters of Seeing Things in third person before recasting it in first. The first-person POV won out with everyone who read both versions. So many of the great Gothic narratives are written in first person—Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” du Maurier’s Rebecca. First person narratives bring immediacy to a story and create a close bond between narrator and reader. Most importantly, this point of view allows for dramatic irony; the reader sees more than the narrator does. I loved playing with that notion with Mary Catherine, my protagonist.

Some readers hate first person novels, and I knew I was taking a risk. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s the easiest perspective to write in. When it’s done right, it’s amazingly challenging. For instance, readers want to know what a character looks like, but real people don’t describe themselves. Finding innovative ways to impart such information’s like a literary game.

Early on, I thought my narrator had little in common with me, but as the book progressed, I realized we suffer from some of the same issues. My local librarian even remarked that the woman on the book cover looks like me.

Q: Unlike typical romances that are formulaic in nature – as well as predictable – you opted to incorporate unexpected twists in character and plot. Why did you decide to go this route?

A:        When I was browsing the in the public library two years ago, I picked up book after book with the same basic plots, the same interchangeable, tiresome characters. When I started writing my own novel, I set out to create a book I’d like to read—one with a funny, complex central character, an atypical love interest, and a plot that pokes into unexpected places.

Q: Would you call yourself a plotter or a pantser and why does this your choice of development style work well for your personality?

A:        I’m a pantser for most of the writing process, at least until I write myself into a dilemma and have to type my way out of it. Even though I like to feel in control of the worlds I create, my characters develop minds of their own, veering off in unanticipated directions. A good writer, like a good director, has to be flexible. In the editing process, however, I’m meticulous.

Q: Have your characters ever surprised you?

A:        They often say things I didn’t expect, and then I have to rethink the plot line. My novel characters turn out to be every bit as complicated and contradictory as real people. Developing their arcs is like watching a child mature.

Q: Tell us about the title of the book and what it means to you.

A:        Seeing Things hints at much: questioning what is real, what is imagined, what is true. People constantly close their eyes to things they cannot face. I remember teaching Oedipus Rex to a class of students who thought that Oedipus should have closed his eyes (pre-poking them out) to the evidence of his guilt, remaining happy in his ignorance. I never understood how anyone could do that.

Q: What’s your favorite novel or movie about someone falling in love with a ghost?

A:        I watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison) when I was little, along with the old Dark Shadows TV show. And my husband and I still dance to “Unchained Melody” from the Ghost soundtrack.

Q: If, hypothetically, one day you return as a ghost yourself, where would you most likely be hanging out and why?

A:        I’d be in my office—the tower room of the Victorian house I live in. The current residents would hear the faint tapping of my keyboard late at night, and the cat would refuse to cross the threshold.

The writer might die, but the words live on.

Q: How did you go about finding a publisher for this project?

A:        I had submitted my novel to two or three big publishing houses, and it languished in the slush pile. After reading a NYT article, I aimed instead for a small publishing house and had my work accepted.

Q: “Home” for you is a small town in North Carolina. How has this influenced your life as a writer and the interactions with your non-writer neighbors?

A:        When you ask a question around here, you get a story in response. The South teems with unusual people who speak in colorful metaphors and act unpredictably. Many of my poems and short stories stem from local lore: the lost woman walking the streets twirling a hula hoop, the church organist who suffered a breakdown when faced with a new electronic keyboard, the raging diva displaced from a local singing group.

My close friends are writers and artists. To keep myself grounded, though, I joined my neighborhood book club. Most of the other members are literal people who work with computers. Unsurprisingly, we have different tastes.  I often think their book choices would benefit from the addition of a zombie, especially those dreary stories about the Episcopal priest. They find me quirky. I consider that a compliment.

Q: What would most people be surprised to learn about you?

A:        I like heavy metal.

Q: If you could summon the ghost of any famous person in history to have a chat with, who would it be and what question would you most like to ask?

A:        John Donne. As a young teen, I’d daydream about him while I studied his picture on the cover of the Norton Anthology. Donne was such a fascinating mixture of passion and intellect, and he gave up everything for love. I’d ask him if he thought it was worth it.

Q: What are you working on now?

A:        So many things—the third book in the novel series (the second’s awaiting publication) , another novel featuring a minor character from Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a scene for a Regency play, and a short story about a pregnant woman going quietly insane.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A:        My bio is published on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as on my publisher’s site http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com/author-nancy-young.html . I also have a Web site, http://nancymyoung.com.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A:        The sequel, Hearing Things, should be out in 2015.