A Chat With Dan Lombard

Dan Lombard

For as many years as I lived in Northern California – and even the coincidence of penning advertising copy – my path had never crossed that of fellow wordsmith and publisher Dan Lombard.* It was through some of his well-crafted political posts on Facebook that our cyber-paths not only began to cross regularly but soon segued to chats about our joint fondness for fabulous food and travel. When I learned that Death Panel, Dan’s debut novel in 2012, had been followed in rapid succession by several more, I just knew I had to put this prolific author in the global spotlight.

*A mirthful bit of disclosure here is that I’d once had a government coworker of the same name. When I encountered that name again decades later, I couldn’t help but think the passage of time had made DL much more accomplished and interesting. A closer look at his head shot, however, also explained why he never mentioned he remembered me. Because, in fact, we’ve never met.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: If we were to time-travel and take a peek in the bedroom of your 10-year-old self, what clues might give us an indication of what you thought you wanted to be when you grew up?

A: Probably more riddles than clues. I haven’t figured them out yet. Or maybe I just did. Yes, that is it, I was always seeking adventure in the unknown, and back in those days entertainment was very participatory and required imagination, unlike today’s passive entertainment. It was a different place and a different time though. I mean, today I’m reluctant to allow my high school children to go into our local Target store alone. But when I was 15, back in the early 70’s, my buddy and I bought Eurail Passes and toured Europe for a month with nothing but that pass, a few hundred dollars and whatever we could fit in our backpacks. I need to keep that in mind when considering a contemporary audience; their experiences today are completely unlike anything I experienced. Perhaps that is why ageism is prevalent in Hollywood and on 5th Avenue.

Q: Did you have favorite authors/books at that young age?

A: Tolkein of course, the Harry Potter of my generation. Then, not long after it was Ian Fleming, I enjoyed reading about James Bond’s adventures as much as seeing them on screen. It was not until much later in life that I became aware that a favorite childhood movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was written and directed by the same duo, Ian Fleming and Albert Broccoli, who gave us Bond in print and on film. Of course, that made complete sense.

Then it was Leon Uris and above all James Michener (notably The Source) and his ability to draw you into a tale that featured far off places and spanned centuries. At one point I also found an unfortunately misplaced copy of a Henry Miller book, I can’t even remember now if it was Tropic of Cancer or Capricorn. Needless to say, it ruined me. But little did I know it would give me a taste of what would, far in my future, (today) be the model for bestselling novels. At the time I was living in Stockholm, Sweden, a very permissive society in that regard, and on my way home from school every day (yes, in 7th grade) my buddies and I would pass by a number of sex shops. Nobody would ever bat an eye when we’d stop in for a little ogling of the picture books, furthering my youthful debauchery.

Q: And who are your favorites now?

A: I do not read near enough fiction today, either in reprint from generations ago or contemporary. My preference in writing and reading is for books with an (accurate and believable) historic context, Dan Brown being a good example. I do have one peculiarity that I will share. At the age of 25 I read the entire 6-volume set of Winston Churchill’s recounting of World War II. I reread it 25 years later at the age of 50, and expect to do so one more time at 75. However, in between those readings, I do read volume one, The Gathering Storm, alone. That volume contains the instructions on how to avoid reliving the subsequent volumes. History is fascinating, a great teacher and, unfortunately, widely ignored.

Q: What experiences – travel, work, relationships – would you say have/had the most influence on your approach and discipline toward the craft of putting a story together from start to finish?

A: It’s not so much the experiences, but my approach to them. Everything I say, do, hear, think or see is tucked away for future use, whether simply in life, at work, or perhaps to form a plot or subplot in a good story. And in dreams and nightmares, the observations do show there frequently, as well.

Q: Which is more challenging for you as an author – writing a book or writing a short story?

A: If writing was a challenge I would not be writing. Okay, that was snide. A book is more difficult but has less regret. A short story is easier, but I am always left wondering why I didn’t expand that wonderful plot into a more complete work.

Q: Catharsis often factors into the development of works that are deeply personal and/or painful. Your first book, Death Panel, addressed the failure of the medical system during the last four months of your wife’s life following a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. What governed your choice to pen this as a novel told in third-person through fictional characters rather than as a first-person memoir?

A: It was not to shield myself from pain, or to serve as an outlet for the pain. I wanted to be completely honest in recounting my experience, which included some emotions from which I felt I could derive no pride. A reader can tell, though, that the third person is merely a front, so it was not an attempt at deception. But rather to deceive myself, and thinking that, since I had signed a confidentiality agreement with Kaiser when they paid me off, that this was a defense should they decide to come after me for violating that confidence. In retrospect, the best thing possible would’ve been for them to do exactly that, to give me publicity you just can’t buy. And after that ordeal, there really wasn’t any blood for them to get in return.

Q: The reviews on Amazon reflect that the themes which underscore Death Panel have resonated with readers across the country. What was your reaction to the outpouring of vicarious support from total strangers?

A: The reviews were a tremendous reward in themselves, and were sufficient to justify the time spent writing the book. Which is fortunate since, well, there was no financial reward.

Q: Almost on the heels of your debut novel, you entered the self-publishing waters again, this time with a cat and mouse suspense thriller set against a backdrop of California’s high-speed rail system. How did Midnight Departure come about and can we draw from the plot’s prescient context that Dan Lombard is secretly psychic?

A: I actually had been against the bullet train back when it was first proposed at the turn of the century, and even financed a website called StopTheBullet.com. That measure failed, I patted myself on the back for the small part I played, and assumed that was gone. Then it came back, and I thought what a great context in which to place a cat and mouse suspense thriller. Much of what I wrote is happening, not that greed, corruption and government planning are such a novel premise.

Q: Other than flowing prose and compelling dialog, what is the most important consideration as you write?

A: I like to bring together larger concepts and figure out how to work them in together. In the case of Midnight Departure pairing the project to build a $100,000,000,000 high-speed rail system with greed and corruption might have been kind of obvious. In my screenplay Prime Time Crime I chose to pair the notion of seeking fifteen minutes of fame (and the hoped for fortune that follows) with the evolving idea that just about everything we do is, or has the potential to be, surreptitiously recorded. In Last Writes, a short story, I chose to pair a Faustian deal with unforeseen consequences, especially when the devil is the author of those consequences. In the short story Red Ringer I paired the concept of identity theft with the Wild West of the 1880’s. And in Serum 6 I chose a device that is, I think, unusual if not unique. In this medical thriller I create a situation whereby the two protagonists do not realize they are brother and sister (though the reader does) as they get closer to consummating their relationship. Later in the novel, when this knowledge makes all the difference, the roles are reversed: they believe they are brother and sister but the reader now knows they are not.

And finally, most important, as I write, I think, how will this novel translate to the big screen? And, in so doing, how can I avoid stretching credibility?  Not only do I feel compelled to research anything I write for accuracy, but timelines as well. I absolutely detest faulty timelines in writing or in movies. The notion that, in the space of five minutes (five minutes to other characters in the work, not necessarily for the reader), the protagonist can board a plan, fly halfway around the world and confront his nemesis for the final battle, just bothers me.  And bathroom breaks. How can someone live an entire life, or even a month, or a year, in a novel or a movie, and never have to relieve themselves?

Q: When and where are you the most creative at the keyboard?

A: At the strangest of times.

Q: What’s the most unusual object that occupies a space on your desk or the walls of your home office?

A: Perhaps not so much unusual as special. Many years ago I had been publishing a local advertorial magazine and for one issue I featured an artist’s work on the cover. She later confided that had done more than anything to boost her career. I soon began doing this for a different artist on each issue, though no longer as a favor. I am the proud owner of a very nice collection of art by the local art community. In one case I commissioned a piece through this arrangement, bringing the artist two very different historical renditions of William Shakespeare and had her meld them into one. He looks over my shoulder whenever I sit down to write.

Which brings me to the one thing for which I am most grateful. While the Italian language may be wonderful for soaring operatic aria, and French as a musical spoken language lacking hard edges, as a writer, I most grateful that I am an English speaker. It is an incredible language with great depth that allows nuance and poetry within prose. Rules that I can break with abandon; though recognizing the need to avoid the banality of one cliché too many. The downside? A rapidly increasing English speaking population that believes a vocabulary of under one thousand words is sufficient to see one through a lifetime of communicating.

Q: If your writing career came with its own soundtrack, what would it be and why?

A: Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf, one of my ten top favorite tunes of all time, and because if its title.  Any good read should take you on a ride like that, as should the writing itself.

Q: Anticipation or the real thing: which is better?

A: If it is alright I will direct you to the answer to next question as I see them as intertwined. Anticipation is the future, the real thing is history

Q: If someone gave you a crystal ball, would you look into it?

A:  Yes, though I would likely question what I saw.

Q: What are your thoughts on modern literature and the direction it’s taking in the 21st century?

A: The greatest let down was not long after I published my first two novels. First was, after finding my book as one of an estimated 30,000 titles self-published every month, as lost in the wilderness, oblivion, that I would try giving my books away for free on Smashwords.com.  After three months of promoting myself vigorously and watching my rankings inch upwards I found I just could not compete with the porn that was also being given away.  So–no I did not decide to write my own porn–but I did download and read one. We are not talking soft core here, folks.

The second instance was shortly after publishing Midnight Departure I was on a flight back East to visit my parents and struck up a conversation with the fellow on the other side of the vacant seat between us. I gave him a free copy of Midnight Departure, for which he thanked me profusely. Thirty minutes into the flight he pulled Fifty Shades of Grey from his carry-o and was immersed for the rest of the flight. So immersed that he forgot to pack the copy of my book which was left on the vacant seat as we deplaned.

Q: Do you let anyone read your projects while they’re still in progress or do you make everyone wait until after you’ve typed “The End”? What about that method works for you?

A: I don’t really have anyone around me right now that would be particularly interested or have the time to critic a lengthy manuscript, so pretty much rely on myself.

Q: What piece of technology could you not go an entire week without using?

A: The Internet.

Q: What makes writing a joy for you?

A:  As previously stated, the fact that I get to write in English. An amazing language.

Q: What is currently gathering dust in your footlocker or (to channel Hemingway) in your mind ready to bleed from your forehead?

A: Since I have already, in bits and pieces, described the work I have completed, what lies ahead? I have a drama in the works, Jack Rabbit, a story of an accidental con man, which unfortunately will not be completed until long after Danny DeVito has stopped performing in lead roles; I pictured him firmly in my mind’s eye every time I sit down to write a chapter there. I have a great American Novel in the works, in fact in the works for fifteen years now, and largely untouched for the last seven. A paranormal novel that involves time travel, though without the intention or ability to change history.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

A: The books are on Amazon, or drop me an e-mail at dan@mailprose.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A:  The most important part of writing, and the one which can cause the most serious hang-ups (writer’s block) is the segue. It is necessary if you want to weave your tale. Loose ends are to be avoided and ideally, you don’t give your reader a resting place where they can set the book down and resume it later!  Perfectly good, and acceptable, to fool your reader. But if you do fool them, it is best to do so with a V8-style forehead-slapper: leave clever clues.

Humor is always a useful tool in writing. I see humor as having three flavors:

Situational, where you juxtapose two or more unlikely-paired conditions in one scene.

Slapstick, where simply falling down is funny.

Wit, where you use the tool at your disposal, language, to bring a smile.  This is my favorite flavor.

So, to tie it all together, and before I lose my audience, I repeat my favorite quote by my favorite author and conclude the interview:

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

 

 

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A Chat With Steph Young

No Plus One cover.jpg

In the sort of “perfect” world the mothers of an earlier generation envisioned for their daughters, every “meet cute” that transpired in a laundromat would magically end up in a fairy tale wedding, every blind date set up by well intentioned friends would be Hugh Grant and not Eddie Munster, and every man who ever whispered all the right words would actually fulfill them. In the wackily imperfect world of the 21st century, however, finding “Mr. Right” has more likely become a quest for “Mr. Right For Now” or a reluctant acceptance that maybe matrimony just isn’t in the cards one has been dealt.

In her new book, No One Plus One: What To Do When Life Isn’t a Romantic Comedy, author Steph Young embraces a mirthful message of female empowerment – that instead of lamenting you’re seated at a table for one, you should be happy that you neither have to share your dessert nor be chided about whether you’re cheating on your diet.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Why do you feel the message of your book is important, especially in an era where we’re constantly bombarded with messaging that we’re not meant to live our lives as singletons?

A: My friend Jill Dickman and I dated a lot and we were single all the time. Though we were still working through our own disappointments, our friends would always come to us for advice when they were newly single. The common themes were boredom and loneliness. The loneliness seemed to stem from a lack of self-confidence. They wanted reassurance that they were desirable – don’t we all?

Predominately media makes a fairytale ending seem like the norm, which becomes the ultimate success for women. Try to think of a movie – even those with strong female lead characters – that doesn’t end with a love connection. So when your life isn’t turning out like the movies, women tend to assume something is wrong with us. Jill and I recognized this and set out to tell women that it’s okay to be single. And while we are single, whether for 2 weeks or 10 years, we should still enjoy life, not pine away for a perfect relationship, which seems to be up to chance or luck anyway. We promote the idea of feeling complete as is.

Q: If you could time-travel, what would you most like to go back and tell your younger self about romance, sex and happily ever after?

A: I probably did tell myself this, or somebody did…But really, just stop worrying, analyzing, fretting. Time will take care of everything. We are all on the right path to where we need to go. Single or taken, life is to be lived so don’t waste time analyzing if somebody likes you back or not. Just keep it moving and do what makes you happiest. Another huge piece of advice that finally clicked for me recently is to stop beating myself up. So much energy is spent feeling bad for what’s not going right. This is the biggest time waste/energy suck there is. It has absolutely no positive value. It doesn’t make you feel better; it doesn’t motivate or inspire. It just makes you feel like shit. It was a hard shift to stop doing this, but once I got some mastery of it, my life changed.

Q: What’s the stupidest thing you ever did in the name of love?

A: I haven’t done many stupid things in the name of love, but when you fall sometimes insecurity seeps in and gets the best of us. One time I was fearful that a guy I was dating was sleeping with other girls, so one night I waited outside his house in my car to see if I could catch a girl coming in or out of his place. Now as an older, wiser me, I would handle this insecurity with good communication and getting up the guts to talk to him about it. Or if I felt he wasn’t showing me the kind of love that made me feel secure, I’d probably just stop seeing him. I really admire a friend of mine who moved to Europe in the name of love. She left her whole life and started over for a really, really nice guy. It’s been working out so far. They are now married and have lived together for four years. We all have different paths; we can’t judge our own life on somebody else’s. I don’t know if I would be able to take a leap like that but I love that she did. It’s all part of the adventure.

Q: What inspired you to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) and turn your perspectives about living an unapologetic single life into a book?

A: The book started on a whim. It happened one day when Jill and I were sitting in our living room (we were roommates at the time) and going through old journals and cracking up at our ridiculous dating stories. Then we said out loud, “We should write a book” and so it was. We put together an outline and some ideas that afternoon and picked it up every so often. The slow process lasted for years until we got serious about it last year and set the goal to complete and publish No Plus One.

I had no idea what writing a book would entail, and I really didn’t think it was going to be so hard. I don’t think all messages make for good books, but we agreed the story + “how-to” nature along with the homework would warrant a short and snackable book.

Q: What governed the decision to write a book from two people as one?

A: We initially started writing the book as a fictional story from one character’s point of view, however it wasn’t really coming together, so we decided to switch to a non-fiction, how-to / self-help style. Our stories were so similar, we felt it would be less confusing to the reader for us to seam our stories together rather than following two separate narratives. We also wanted to get to the heart of the issues rather than drag the reader through backstory and set up.

Q: Tell us a bit about how the day-to-day development process worked for both of you.

A: We worked really well over Google docs. When one of us would get stuck, we would hit the other up and say, “Can you pick this up?”  Since we knew each other so well, we could essentially fill in the missing pieces. We were friends for a long time and we had both lived through a lot of the stories together.

Another tactic that worked was when we’d jump on the phone while both of us were in the live Google doc and talk and write. That was really efficient because by working together we didn’t let writers block settle in for too long. Either the other person would pick up and write, or we could talk through what we were really trying to say. Talking out loud often helped us find the right words to write down.

Q: How do you manage to stay away from envy, ego or jealousy from getting in the way of your friendship/partnership?

A; It can be an easy to fall into the trap of wanting individual success or feeling resentful if you feel like you’re contributing more than another person. When we decided to finish the book, Jill and I clearly outlined our individual goals, desires, and expectations on how we wanted to contribute to the project and what we wanted to get out of it. We agreed that our number one goal was to get our message out. We weren’t using this platform to turn a huge profit or grow our personal platforms, though either of those would be an added bonus. We really believed in our message and wanted to help women. We also outlined a partnership contract that identified how we would split everything should we turn a huge profit. The important part of that process wasn’t necessarily having a signed contract, but rather working through the contract together. It gave us a forum to communicate. It can be awkward approaching a friend about a contract. It can seem insulting, like you don’t trust the other person, but I’ve been on the loosing end of a friendship agreement before, so I was happy to go through any awkwardness if it meant saving our friendship in the end.

Q: What was the greatest challenge during the creative process?

A: The biggest challenge was writer’s block. It’s really hard to make a streamlined and cohesive story, especially sustained over nine chapters. Getting the words on the page was difficult, editing and re-writing parts that didn’t make sense was even more painful. Being persistent was also really hard. It took over a year of intense and consistent writing and editing. I have a full time job so the time I would write was at five o’clock in the morning. Getting up and doing this everyday was a challenge but it soon became habit.

Q: What do you know now that you didn’t know when this journey toward publication began?

A: I didn’t know how long the marketing process would be. Books are different than other products because the word of mouth is much slower. People need to read the book before they pass it along. So after a year of marketing we are still gaining interest and audience, we haven’t reached a tipping point yet, but I know with consistency of messaging we will find the right fans. With a traditional publisher, they will typically do a big marketing/PR push for you at the beginning. I talked to people who had gone the traditional route and still were not satisfied even though they had a big publisher behind them. They also had less control of the outcome. The decision to self-publish meant we had to do all the work, but we also control all the profit as well. We also can continue hitting new audiences and trying new marketing tactics long after the launch.

Q: Did you ever encounter writer’s block along the way? If so, how did you get past it?

A: All the time. Writer’s block, frankly, sucks. One tactic we used was to talk through it. I would call Jill or she me, and we’d say what we were trying to say. By the time we had talked for five minutes, we had formulated the words and could continue writing. Another tactic is free-form writing. When you can’t find the right words, sometimes just writing any words, even if they don’t make any sense, can get you past writer’s block. The last part is to read. When I run out of inspiration I remember to look outward. Sometimes I’d find the nugget I was missing while exploring other articles, books, artwork, etc. Also, the same goes for getting out of your house to experience the real world. Our life experiences give us insights that we use, so it’s important to take time out to go get some new material and perspective.

Q: Tell us about the decisions you made regarding a publisher once the book was done.

A: We made the decision to self-publish before we completed the book. Often when pitching to a traditional publisher, you don’t need the final manuscript, you need a pitch. Early on we pitched our project to literary agents and got a few bites, but after a year of this we grew impatient of the process. We decided that getting the message out was far more important than signing with a publisher so we set on self-publishing. It’s a much more involved process, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody who doesn’t have an interest in anything business minded. If you only enjoy the writing process, I would suggest trying to find a publisher (even a small one) who can help with the publishing details. I personally love business and new projects, so it was something I wanted to dive into. There is a huge learning curve, so it was important to give myself time and do a ton of research throughout the process.

Q: What has been the response by your readers?

A: The response has been more fulfilling than either of us imagined. While I feared scrutiny, mostly I just wanted to make sure people “got it.”  It was really important to have the message land. We wanted women, and especially single women, to feel good. We designed the book from the format to the length to do just that. When I see comments or reviews and women say that single or not, they’ve gained a sense of empowerment or self-confidence, it fills my heart. It means a lot that our message and experiences can directly connect with somebody and impact their life. I believe in paying it forward and in the power of positivity, so I feel good knowing that I’m spreading positive messaging around in the world.

Q: What are you doing to promote this title and which methods have yielded the most success for you?

A: We’ve run the gamut to promote No Plus One. The biggest goal is awareness, so all marketing is done with that in mind. I’ve got a great PR person who continuously reaches out to get placements and features. I worked on an influencer seeding strategy using my personal relationships. I also write articles to promote my book along with other articles that are a cut down of the book to help find and hook potential new readers. The most effective network I have are my Facebook friends and family. They are the most supportive and engaged audience. I’ve also tried paid tactics like FB and Twitter ads as well as iAds, but these aren’t my favorite methods. All the tactics should be done in tandem to be really effective. Writing for platforms, like Thought Catalog or Mogul, plus PR and influencer seeding have been the most effective.

Q: What do you feel sets your book apart from similar self-help titles about relationships?

A: Most other self-help focused was on how to change your behavior to remedy being single (i.e. find a relationship). Our book focuses on discovering the beauty in being single and feeling confident in yourself so that you are comfortable being single. It neither promotes finding a relationship or being single, it just recognizes that being single is a special phase that we can all benefit from.

Q: Are you currently writing full-time or does another career absorb a lot of your waking hours?

A: I have a full-time, well, more than full-time job in marketing. All my writing happens early in the morning. It was a huge commitment to get this book done while working the hours my day job requires. I bordered on the verge of obsession. I needed to set a really aggressive goal in order to finish. For about a year I woke up at 5 a.m. to write for as long as I could before I needed to get ready for work. Other times, I’d spend all weekend writing. I don’t write the best at night, but even sometimes, I pined over chapters just to stay on my self-imposed schedule.

Q: When and where do you do your best and most energizing creative thinking?

A: I love writing first thing in the morning. I pour some coffee and sit in front of my windows and just write. The Internet is a really distracting place, though, so I do my best not to get sucked into mindless surfing while on my computer. I also found that putting on vibey, calming music was really effective. I loved the idea of working before the rest of the world was up.

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

A: That I am actually quite good at my day job in marketing, which has little to do with writing self-help. I’ve become somewhat of an industry expert in digital marketing based on the portfolio I’ve built with the brand I work for.

Also, I didn’t really start writing before I wrote my book. The extent of my writing was journaling or the occasional blog post. Writing the book made me feel comfortable enough to call myself a writer.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I’m starting a new job in brand marketing in a few weeks. I’ll be heading up a team so that will be an entirely new challenge in leadership. I’ve been taking a breather from writing so I hope to start up again in a really authentic, no-filter style for a new project. I am also working on a screenplay – which I have no idea how to do.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: Following me on Twitter or Snapchat (@StephYoungMC) is a really quick and unfiltered look at who I am as a person. I also write a lot of articles on onMogul.com; I can be reached on any of those platforms if anybody has questions. I’m always happy to help other writers / entrepreneurs.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Don’t ever be afraid to go after your dreams.

 

 

A Chat with Ann Royal (aka Anna) Nicholas

Ann Royal

In the world of show business, a person who can sing, dance and act is often referred to as a “triple threat”. But what do you get when you mix equal parts of writing, acting, horseback riding, mediating, book publishing, cocktail blogging and an unabashed stash of wicked wit, creativity and compassion? The delightful result is Ann Royal (aka Anna) Nicholas – a woman with so many talents to her credit that I don’t know if even a “centuple threat” label would quite cover everything. Nevertheless, it’s an honorary title we’re happy to bestow on this week’s spotlight guest.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: At what age did you first realize you were a wildly creative being?

A:  At about the age of ten. Something compelled me to create a pair of large crewelwork lips on the derriere of my jeans. I took some heat for it, but I wore those jeans until the lips fell off.

Q: Who (or what) encouraged you to explore every possible avenue of expression?

A: I did a lot wild things in my youth—jumping off the 2nd story of our house so I could ride my bike to the nearest bar that would accept fake I.D.s and that sort of thing. I wonder now how many of those early escapades, including the artistic pursuits—e.g., the “plays” I used to direct in which my younger brothers and sister would star—naked—were spawned by a need for approval and attention from my parents who divorced when I was young. None of us got a lot of attention but I did some rather antic things to try and earn it.

Q: Writing is one of many venues in which you excel. Do you believe that great writers are born or that they must be nurtured to become great?

A: I think anyone, ANYone, can become a better writer through practice, reading and self-discipline; tedious and unremarkable a claim as that is. There’s certainly no pill for it. I also think there are few writers whom all of us believe are truly great. That said, I think most of our “greatest” artists—whether they be singers, dancers, composers, actors, writers—seem to just have something extra.

Q: If you were hosting a posh dinner party to which some of the authors whose work you most admire were invited, who would be on that guest list and which two would you like on either side of you?

A: I’d want an animated conversation so even if I admired an author’s work, I would want to know they’d contribute to a lively evening. On that basis, and without benefit of knowing their verbal skills, I’d prepare a round table for five and invite Kurt Vonnegut because he was so funny and smart and political. I’d seat Jane Austen next to him, because they’d have fun comparing notes on social commentary in fiction. Joan Didion would need to be there because she writes to find out how she feels about things (a reason I write) and I could ask her what she’s discovered. I’d also want JK Rowling next to me because she has done the most amazing job of creating a literary empire and the rest of us could benefit from hearing how she did it. But I don’t know whom I’d choose to sit next to. In fact I think I’d need to switch seats with every course served.

Q: You’ve published the first two books in The Muffia series, a series which you describe as Sex and the City Meets Jane Austen. How did this premise come about and who is your intended audience for it?

A: I am a member of The Muffia—not the group calling itself The Muffia, which represents militant mothers in the UK, women who attack other mothers for poor parenting skills in grocery stores. Nor am I part of the group of lesbian sex workers who absconded with the name. My Muffia is a real-life, Los Angeles-based women’s book club that’s been in existence since 2001. We came together after 9/11, when a lot of us needed our friends. All of us work or have worked, some are mothers, and all of us love to read, have adventures and tell stories.  When one Muff had a torrid affair with a Mossad agent, I could no longer keep myself from writing us down in a book. My readers would feel perfectly at home in my book club, and their husbands, who are curious about what goes on at “book club,” might find The Muffia illuminating.

Q: Which is more challenging for you – to write a stand-alone title in which all (or most) questions are tidily wrapped up or to write a series with sustaining characters that are constantly posing new questions?

A: As a viewer/reader, I don’t like things tied up perfectly because life is never tied up perfectly; unless you’ve successfully gotten through all the steps necessary for a dental implant. But I think in a series, each book has to achieve some sort of finality, otherwise when does it end? I don’t know that either one is more difficult. The genre and story dictate.

Q; Plotter or pantser? And why does your choice best accommodate the way you approach a new project?

A: A little of each. I have a general idea for a story and I put together a rough outline. With each of the Muffia books, there’s a light mystery involved and mysteries need some plotting. If you have a dead body on the first page, and the body belongs to someone important to one of the characters in your book, your reader needs to find out who that person was, how he died and how your living characters deal with it. And you need to have clues appear at critical intervals to heighten or lessen tension because there are always those nagging questions. Literary fiction also needs a plot but it may not need to be quite so driving as in a mystery. Having an outline, with whatever I write—plays included– keeps me headed in a direction even if I take detours. On those days when inspiration isn’t getting me into a chair to write, having a map gets me going.

Q: Like many authors today you’ve sought to maintain more control over your intellectual property by launching Bournos, your own self-publishing imprint. What governed that decision and what has proven to be the biggest challenge in wearing multiple hats?

A: Wearing multiple hats was not my first choice. There was a time I imagined myself typing away in a bathtub (the image of Clifton Webb in Laura comes to mind). My publisher, who was waiting anxiously for my manuscript, would then turn it into a bestseller. Such are the dreams of the unpublished. Like a romance novel whose hero rescues the damsel, or the Calgon slogan “Take me away….” But no, that’s not the way it works these days. When the small publishing house that said it would publish my series not only selected a cover I didn’t like but did less to promote it than I was, I thought I could do a better job myself and wouldn’t owe them anything. It seemed like the best move, even if it took me away from writing. And therein is the biggest challenge, having my attention taken from what I want to do, in order to deal with the business part of selling books.

Q: Is Bournos strictly a platform for your own work or do you publish stories by others?

A; It’s set up to publish the work of others as well, should I ever read a manuscript I feel I can become a champion of. I’ve laid the groundwork in terms of staffing and outsourcing of some tasks, to accommodate other people’s books.

Q: What do you advise fellow authors thinking of going the self-publishing route?

A: First, make sure your book is ready. Beta test it with trusted friends and relations who will tell you the truth. Find editor(s) to polish it. You may need a content editor and/or a copy editor and there’s lots of help online to find these people. Go to writers’ conferences and sit in on the sessions related to self-publishing. You’ll meet other authors, editors and publishers who can give you recommendations. When your book is ready (or concurrently with the editing process), find out what is happening in self-publishing at that very moment. It’s a constantly changing landscape of cover design, formatting, Kindle unlimited vs. other outlets, book blogs, etc., and it can be overwhelming. If you can afford to hire an author’s assistant to help you through it, they are out there too. But get recommendations. As with most people one contracts with, the best people are often the busiest, so make sure you talk timelines.

Q: What are some of the things you’re currently doing to promote your work?

A:  The main thing is to keep writing. Without new content coming out regularly, a writer can die in this marketplace. You can’t really keep saying “Buy my book” when you haven’t written anything new since 1997. These days a writer can’t promote just a book, she needs to promote herself and build a following. It’s what they call branding and it takes time and energy to do. Like a lot of people—women particularly—I don’t enjoy promoting myself, even if I’m great at promoting others. But I’ve become comfortable with tweeting about writing, theatre, horses, cocktails, wine and other things that interest me and the characters in The Muffia.

Q: When you’re not writing or acting, you’re using your law degree as a mediator. Has wordsmithing enabled you to be a better mediator and/or has your legal background influenced your craft as an author?

A: I completely believe we are made up of our corporeal selves and the totality of our experiences, so they feed each other. The narrator of book one in the Muffia series is based on me insofar as she’s an ex-lawyer and underemployed mediator. The contradiction with mediating and writing is that mediation involves reducing conflict, whereas dramatic writing requires it. So when I write, I have to be vigilant not to step in and mediate my characters’ conflicts!

Q: As if your plate weren’t already overflowing, you also manage to squeeze in some horseback riding. Tell us about it.

A: There is no other thing I do that takes me out of my head like being with horses. They don’t let you multi-task, which is a joy, given that the rest of my life requires it. Horses are big, potentially dangerous, and you have to be ready for the unexpected─thinking about plot development when you’re riding isn’t wise. A snake might slither onto the trail causing your horse to rear and dump you before bolting back to the barn. I own a Thoroughbred rescue named Will—aka Wilbur, William, Guillermo and various other endearments. I have been working with him for three years, and yes, I have fallen off in the course of training him to be an Event horse. He and I have recently had a bit of success after overcoming many obstacles involving Will’s sensitive nature, early abuse and health issues. He’s my four-legged partner.

Q: You recently appeared onstage opposite David Selby. For those of us who swooned over his dreamy looks as Quentin, the conflicted werewolf, in Dark Shadows or his turn as Richard Channing, Jane Wyman’s dashing adversary in Falcon Crest, did you ever watch either show? (Just curious.)

A: I was not an aficionado of either show but David is still very handsome. He’s also very kind and a complete professional who is conscientious about his work. And one thing you may not know about David, he is also a published author.

Q: Speaking of things theatrical, you also pen plays. Which do you prefer – writing lines of dialogue that will be read silently or those that will be spoken by actors?

A: That’s a hard one. A writer of novels doesn’t often get to hear how a reader makes sense of the words on the pages she writes, while it’s the actor’s job to do so. I just want people receiving the words to understand and be moved by the character speaking them, even if it’s only in one’s head.

Q: Dream role you’d love to play?

A: It’s changed over time, of course. I did once want to play Juliet. Now I’d most like to originate a role in a fabulous new play, like Jayne Houdyshell in the Tony-nominated The Humans by Stephen Karam. Or Sigourney Weaver’s turn in Durang’s Vanya, Sonya, Masha and Spike.

Q: Many of the best writers I’ve ever known actually got their start treading the boards. What influence did your own acting experience have insofar as developing characters, planning structure and creating conversations amongst personalities in a book?

A: A trained actor needs to understand her character’s motivations. The question of “Why am I saying this now?” comes up a lot in rehearsals. This is a question that needs to be in the mind of the author of novels, too.

Q: Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you get over it?

A: I write notes to myself constantly and I also record voice memos telling myself what to do. Like having an outline, as mentioned above, giving my brain a job on a given project gives me that opening I need to sit down and begin writing. It’s like giving myself a writing prompt and usually when I do that, I’m off and running. I have, however, read notes I’ve awakened to write in the middle of the night only to find they make no sense for the project I’m working on, nor for anything else. The other day I found a note-to-self that said, “Make Tamra a bat” and I have no idea what that’s about.

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

A: I eat donuts, my skin is too big for my frame, I don’t write every day, I feel guilty about not showing up for more fundraisers, I take naps, I sometimes have to drag myself to public functions, I like sentimental films, I still have a Cinderella complex and dream of galloping off on a white horse even if I know that’s ridiculous.

Q: What is the oldest, weirdest or most nostalgic item in your closet?

A: I will not part with a Pucci dress that my mother wore in the late 1960s. It still fits me and I absolutely love it. I hope my son has a girlfriend one day whom I can give it to.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: Too much! I’m writing the third book in The Muffia series entitled Muff Stuff , writing a new play about nosy neighbors and editing a couple of other plays. Unrepresented playwrights usually must submit their own work to fellowships and workshops, so that requires writing too. This year it’s been worth it as two of my plays have been finalists at Sundance, Lila Acheson, Centenary Stages and Playwrights Center.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: My website, I guess, which is annanicholas.com and if you’re on Facebook I am facebook.com/theannanicholas and facebook.com/annroyalnicholas. I’m on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram @aroyaln and I blog (where I regularly post cocktails) at themuffia.us.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Ten percent of Muffia profits are given to charitable organizations benefitting women and girls. We have contributed to Girls Inc., Step Up and we (the real life Muffia) are always looking to help more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chat With Jeffrey G. Roberts

The Healer - Cover Art

What happens when a 22nd century doctor working on Mars is suddenly stranded 168 years in the past on a violent and primitive world – ours! Such is the premise of author Jeffrey G. Roberts’ SciFi novel, The Healer. With an inventive muse that regularly zips around at the speed of light and an imagination that constantly asks “What if…,” the fun of landing Jeffrey for a feature interview this week is a treat for anyone who has ever wanted to (1) understand how time-travel works and (2) appreciate the therapeutic value of chocolate cream pie.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: When you were growing up back in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, what is the weirdest, oldest or most sentimental item we might have found in the bedroom of your younger self?

A: I guess the oldest would have been two particular books I bought – Stoddard’s Practical Arithmetic, copyright 1853, and Appletons School Reader, copyright 1886. And the most sentimental: my aircraft books! I’m an airplane freak!

Q: What did you dream of growing up to be?

A: My Mom liked to recall a story about how my Dad once went on a business trip. I was about five and he told me I was now man of the house until he got back. And I burst into tears. When asked why, I told him I didn’t want to be man of the house – I wanted to be a horse! Luckily, I have no recollection of this bizarre incident. This is a good thing. But as I got older, and had given up the dream of changing species, I believe I wanted to be a test pilot. Never happened, but I did solo in 1968, and my Mom, Dad, my dog, and I had many happy times flying all over the country in my Dad’s plane. He was a great influence on me, as he was a decorated Spitfire fighter pilot in the R.A.F. during the Battle of Britain.

Q: Were you a good student in school?

A: I was a fair student in High School – because I hated it. I was an excellent student at Northern Arizona University – because I loved it. No brainer.

Q: Your current repertoire includes SciFi, Horror, Fantasy and Comedy. Among the authors who pen works in these popular genres, who do you most admire and what influence have they had on your own style of storytelling?

A: Probably Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Douglas Adams, and Kenneth Grahame have inspired me most. And, of course, my Dad, who wrote radio drama after WW II.

Q: With a degree in American History from Northern Arizona University, you’ve no doubt spent a lot of time pondering how even the slightest nudge of Fate (including “outside” intervention) could have rewritten the outcome of major events. Were it left up to you, what single historical event would you like to have seen come out differently so as to impact future generations in a profound way?

A: I would have hoped General Douglas MacArthur could have gotten the green light from President Truman, to rid the world of the scourge of Russian and Chinese Communism, when the “infection” was small and weak, thus saving tens of millions of lives.

Q: In 1978 you decided to get serious about your writing career. Was there something significant about that year which fueled your enthusiasm to put your stories in front of an audience?

A: The work I had put into my undergraduate degree in writing, the fact that I wasn’t getting any younger, and my Dad telling me to get a job!

Q: What genre is the most fun for you to write?

A: Probably fantasy/comedy.

Q: Do you typically work from an outline or let the thoughts come naturally as your fingers fly around the keyboard?

A: I work from an outline, hand writing my stories in a black and white composition book, like our parents used. Then, after I’ve “bled” all over it, I put it into the computer.

Q: Does anyone get to read your chapters in progress or do you make them wait until you’ve typed “The End”?

A: Only my two closest friends.

Q: Favorite SciFi movie or TV series?

A: Sleepy Hollow, and the original Star Trek movie. Sleepy Hollow, because even though its premise diverged widely from the original story, I love Washington Irving. And Star Trek because its original premise was based on hard theoretical scientific principles. And many of its devices are actually in use today, not 200 years from now! It also showed a world where global problems have been solved.

Q: In both The Healer and Cherries in Winter, your respective protagonists find themselves thrust into another time period. Speaking for yourself and as an accomplished man of the 21st century, would you rather time-travel to the distant past or the distant future? Why? And what do you feel would be the greatest challenge to deal with?

A: I would prefer to visit the distant future; say, 2100; because I want to experience interstellar travel. I suppose my greatest challenge would be assimilation and understanding of the world of the 22nd century.

Q: If you had to live permanently in whatever time period you suddenly found yourself transported to, when and where would it be?

A: I suppose, as above, the 22nd century. I cannot know if the world will have changed for the better or worse, but that’s the chance you take in the world of time travel!

Q: Time-travel plots often emphasize the dire risks of changing the future through even the most minor acts. (In Back to the Future, for instance, Marty rushing to push his father out of the path of a car delayed his parents’ meeting and required the rest of the movie to get them together by the night of the prom.) What’s your own theory on this; specifically, how can one not change the future by going to the past?

A: It has been postulated that the universe has a governing mechanism to prevent such horror: what I call the Reality Tree, where an infinite number of branches represent all possible realities. If you tamper with one, it vanishes, to be replaced with an alternate, thus preventing reality from exploding!

Q: Speaking of theories, who is your favorite or most annoying “ancient astronaut theorist” on Ancient Aliens?

A: My most annoying – even though he is a Facebook friend – is Giorgio Tsoukalos.  And my favorite is John Greenwald – but not because he published my article on “The Face on Mars Controversy”. No, of course not.

Q: Who or what inspires you to come up with your storylines?

A: Basically what you’re asking me is – what is the nature of creativity? And I haven’t the slightest idea, to tell you the truth!

Q: When and where do you get your best writing done?

A: At my desk, right here. And when? When an idea, or the muse hits me.

Q: Like many authors, you’ve gone the self-publishing route. What is the most challenging aspect of wearing so many hats in order to get your work into circulation?

A: Marketing and promotion, without a doubt. It’s brutal. In comparison, the art of writing itself is a piece of cake, easy as pie. Now I’m hungry!

Q: What are you doing to promote your books?

A: I’m on Facebook, and have a Facebook fan page – A Talespinner – and I’m on Goodreads, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, about 300 Facebook book promotion group pages; I have a website (http://Atalespinner.weebly.com),  and I also promote my books on dozens of book promotion websites, such as Story Cartel, Reader’s Favorite.com, Promocave, Reader’s Gazette, and many others.

Q: In a perfect world, there’d be no such thing as bad reviews. Alas, but they’re a fact of life, even for writers that are seasoned. When someone leaves a snarky critique about your own work, how do you react to it?

A: Thus far, aside from story rejections, which every writer gets, I’ve gotten good reviews, for the most part. What do I do when I get a bad one? I go in my bathroom, put my face in a pillow, and scream obscenities in three different languages. Then I find the biggest piece of chocolate cream pie, and a glass of cold milk. Works for me!

Q: Best advice to aspiring authors?

A: Never accept the opinions of naysayers or dream breakers. There are always going to be people, who for whatever reason, take perverse delight in skewering your most sacred hopes and dreams. Ignore them, and press on! Individuals like that are attempting to blow out your candle, to make theirs appear to burn brighter. Carpe diem!

Q: What do you know now that you wish you had known much earlier?

A: If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: A horror novel, The Horror on the H.M.S. Cottingly.

Q: Where can readers find your books and learn more about you?

A: For Cherries in Winter:

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1LEdUSh

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1NpBvU8

Kellan Publishing – http://bit.ly/1nPHRp1

For The Healer:

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1uw2YbA

Amazon – http://amzn.to/ZDv24p

Booklocker – http://Booklocker.com/books/7244.html

Also i-tunes and Kobo. And to find out more about me, you can read my bio at http://Kellan-publishing.selz.com or

http://Booklocker.com/books/7244.html.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Nothing, other than this has been a very enjoyable exercise.

 

 

A Chat with Morrie Warshawski

Morrie Warshawski

When first reviewing Morrie Warshawski’s (www.warshawski.com) online profile and many interviews, I came away wondering, “Who is this man?” Trained as a poet in his earlier years, Morrie has become one of the most sought after fundraising consultants/facilitators in his field. Specializing in working with non-profit organizations, he has managed to stay true to his own core values. His eclectic words of poetry lay on the page, inviting the reader to make of them what they will. This is clearly a thinking, feeling, man who values life and humanity in equal measure, and I’m pleased to introduce him to you. Welcome Morrie.

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Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q         The poems you’ve written in your latest book, This Afternoon (http://warshawski.com/index.html), seem strange and meandering, with snippets of words ripe with imagery cobbled together. What is the message or meaning you are hoping to convey to the reader?

A         I’m hoping that readers will not look for meaning! When you stand in front of a painting by Jackson Pollock it doesn’t help to ask “what does this mean?” My poems are a bit like those paintings. I’d love for the reader to approach each poem as if it were its own little universe, to delve into it and experience what delight they can from the involvement with language and images.

Q         What happened in your life that prompted you to write this particular book of poems now?

A         I had not been writing regularly for years. Then my wife got a job in Southern California and I found myself commuting part time between our home in Napa and our temporary apartment in Santa Clarita. I had afternoons with nothing else to do, so I started writing again. I decided I wanted to focus on the moment, and on apprehending raw experiences taken directly from my life in the disjointed way that the mind works.

Q         In a previous interview by our host, Christina Hamlett (https://fromtheauthors.wordpress.com/category/morrie-warshawski/), you mention that you trained     as a poet, but later became the Executive Director for three nonprofit arts organizations. That’s quite a leap. Could you explain exactly how that significant life change came about and why you took such a divergent path from the one you started out on?

A         It’s a crazy story that involves my favorite word – “serendipity”! I was teaching Interdisciplinary Arts at the Univ. of Southern California when I applied to be an intern with the Literature Program of the then new National Endowment for the Arts. It turns out that they already had an intern selected for Literature, but they asked if I would accept an internship with the Dance Program of Artists in the Schools! I said yes, and that summer in Washington, DC changed my life. I had to take dance classes three days a week, and attend dance performances every weekend. That experience made me want to leave the University world and work with non-profit arts organizations. The rest is history!

Q         As a facilitator for non-profit organizations, you are a strategist and planner. Would you say planning and strategizing are part of your natural personality traits, or something you’ve developed over time?

A         I would say that “thoughtfulness” is a part of my natural personality. Planning and strategy are notions that I adopted slowly and at first unwillingly. What I learned is that they work and are powerful tools for moving organizations and individuals forward toward their objectives. The first time I was tasked with creating a strategic plan – when I was Executive Director of Bay Area Video Coalition – I went kicking and screaming into the process thinking it would be a big waste of my time. By the time we were through, I became a born again strategic planning devotee!

Q         You’ve worked with an impressive array of clients over the years; from high to low profile nonprofit and for-profit companies and organizations throughout America. What have you learned about yourself and others along the way?

A         Too much to write about briefly! I’ve learned a lot about patience, about what motivators are effective with what types of personalities, about the limits of being consultative and the benefits of being faciliative – and especially that I can’t solve every problem!

Q         Most people have an innate fear of approaching others for funding for any project, believing they aren’t up to the challenge. Can anyone learn to do it effectively, i.e. by reading a book on the subject, or does it take a certain personality type to successfully achieve the set goals?

A         There are so many different paths to fundraising (grants, houseparties, crowdfunding, individual asks, donation letters) and each one is more appropriate for a different set of talents and skills. Some people (introverts) prefer to write a letter or a grant, and others are more extroverted and have no trouble making a personal ask for support. I know that anyone can learn how to be successful in any of these paths through reading, taking workshops, and role playing I also know that some paths (especially the one-on-one in person ask) are much more difficult to pursue and that overcoming the impediments and fears to that path takes a tremendous amount of will power and the right motivation.

Q         You’ve also written Shaking The Money Tree: The Art of Getting Grants and Donations for Film and Video Productions , The Fundraising Houseparty, and co-wrote A State Arts Strategic Planning Toolkit, (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_17?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=morrie+warshawski&sprefix=morrie+warshawski%2Caps%2C189) with Kelly J. Barsdate and Jonathan Katz. What does writing books about your business do for you personally or in a business sense, and why?

A         Personally, it’s a great learning experience. Doing the research involved forces me to go out into the world and discover new trends, meet new people, and learn new skills. Professionally, the books have been a tremendous calling card for consulting contracts and requests to teach workshops. Published books help give me credibility, as well. And, they are a modest source of income.

Q         You have chosen to self-publish This Afternoon and offer it for individual sale via your website (www.warshawski.com). Can you tell us why you chose this method of publication for this particular project?

A         It often takes years to find a publisher for a book of poems. This particular book is very short, and very quirky. I knew from the start that I wanted the poems to be a very limited edition, and that I wanted it done “old school” – hand set type, letterpress printing, handmade paper covers, hand sewn binding – and I wanted control of the design – all things that are expensive to have and that you can’t get from a publisher. The book is a little work of art in and of itself. I was lucky to work with a great designer and letterpress printer, Lisa Rappoport (http://littoralpress.com).

Q         Who has been your greatest life or career mentor, and why?

A         I stand on the shoulders of many people who have made a significant difference to my life. Like many people, there were two high school teachers to whom I will always be indebted – Bob Richmond and Harry Klutz of Paseo High School in Kansas City, Missouri. They showed me that there was a wider world out there, and that I had special talents I could use to make the world a better place.

Q         You specialize in working with the nonprofit sector. What is it about nonprofits that excites and energizes you?

A         You have to love the non-profit sector! Its values are my values. Nonprofits want to improve the human condition, to make communities better, to serve those in need, and enhance quality of life. I’m especially drawn to working with arts and culture organizations because of my commitment to the role that art plays in our lives.

Q         What has been your greatest personal life-lesson thus far, and why?

A         Identify, clarify, and stay true to your core values. They are inescapable and are the key to your “comportment” – how you travel through life with authenticity, with a sense of mission, and with energy.

Q         What’s next for you, Morrie?

A         More yoga, more reading, more chocolate!

You can learn more about and connect with Morrie here:

Twitter: @morriew

Facebook: www.facebook.com/morrie.warshawski

Website: www.warshawski.com

LinkedIn: Morrie Warshawski

 

A Chat with Rachel McGrath

Rachel McGrath

Interviewing Rachel McGrath (http://rachelmcgrath.net/) has truly been a pleasure. Deeply introspective, Rachel isn’t afraid to share the most difficult moments of her life with her readers. Not only does she write for herself, but she writes in order to connect with others who share her experiences. Then there are her children’s books, which are delightful romps that will enchant children of various ages. A talented storyteller with a formidable heart, I’m pleased to welcome Rachel and introduce her to our global village of readers!

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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Q: In Finding The Rainbow ( http://www.amazon.ca/Finding-Rainbow-Rachel-McGrath/dp/1784650447/ref=sr_1_2?tag=geolinkerca-20&ie=UTF8), you talk about the heartache and trials of dealing with infertility and miscarriage. What feedback from readers have you received that has resonated the most with you?

A: The best feedback has been around the core message within Finding the Rainbow; the prevalence of hope.  I have had feedback from people who have had similar challenges, and those who have never had to face such struggles, and it has been wonderful to hear that it is a story that many felt they could connect with and understand, regardless of their own experiences.  That is truly what I had hoped. I did not want this to be a story of misery and pain, but to give a message of courage and strength; of always looking to the future to a new day, a new rainbow.

Q: What is the message you most want to convey to readers of Finding The Rainbow?

A: Many women have had to deal with miscarriage or infertility, and it is a really lonely place when you are going through that pain. I wanted to convey that it should not be a lonely place, and that there are so many people who can help, love and support you through the pain. Above it all, whilst it is an all-consuming journey, there is a path we all must follow, and that path is never clear. Some of us will reach our destination, others will need to find a different route, but we choose the path that defines our happy ending, regardless of whether it was the ending we had first hoped for.

Q: Rachel, you’ve also written several children’s books, including Mud On Your Face (http://www.amazon.ca/Mud-your-Face-Rachel-McGrath-ebook/dp/B015JPAIZ2/ref=sr_1_1?tag=geolinkerca-20&ie=UTF8), which is very different from the non-fiction genre of some of your other works. Which do you find more difficult to write and why?

A: Great question! I actually wrote Mud on your Face a few years ago, and I’ve always enjoyed writing fantasy and fiction. That is where my true storytelling nature comes into play. However, Finding the Rainbow, my memoir, was the book that made me a writer! I truly enjoyed writing it, but it was tough letting it go, opening it up to the public and exposing myself. I guess the fiction and fantasy stories are easier, as you can hide yourself behind them, rather than throwing yourself out for all to read.  I don’t regret either, but I’m certainly more comfortable with fiction.

Q: There are many challenges to indie (independent), or self-publishing. What has been the most difficult thing to learn and implement in your own journey to becoming a published writer?

A: Kindle!  Uploading onto Kindle and especially children’s books with illustrations. This in itself took longer than actually writing the book! It was completely frustrating for a very long time, and I could have paid someone to do it, but the stubborn side of me wanted to learn the process myself, and I wanted to get it right.

Q: You aren’t afraid to go deep inside yourself and share your struggles and sorrows with readers. What have you learned about yourself since beginning this journey of writing?

A: Getting my book published has given me confidence in my writing, and it has also provided some amazing new connections through a community of writers that I never knew had existed. I have always dreamed of being published, and whilst the topic of my first book is not one I would wish on anyone, it has given me a different path. I guess what I am saying, is that out of one challenge, I have found a way of channelling the pain and frustration into something that hopefully connects with people. I had to be honest, open and completely transparent in my book, Finding the Rainbow, and through that, and it has re-inspired my passion to write.

Q: What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the business of writing since you began?

A: I’ve learned that the writing industry and the talent across the independent author network is incredibly vast. It has truly amazed me. On top of that, in the world of writing itself, the connections I have made and the pure generosity and friendship I have found in so many authors I have met through different social media groups, yet have never met has amazed me.

Q: Who has been your greatest mentor, either in life or in writing, and why?

A: I have many mentors in my life, but I would like to say that it is my parents who have always stood behind my dreams, no matter what. They have never stopped believing in my abilities and ambitions, and even when it meant leaving the country and living on the other side of the world, they have always supported me.

Q: What advice would you give to new writers who are considering self-publishing their work?

A: Self-publishing is easy, but getting your product right is really difficult. There is editing, cover design, formatting, pricing and then marketing!  My advice is do your research and spend the time getting the formatting and editing right, because reviews are everything and readers can be tough critics (as they ought to be). Cover design is so very important; it needs to be catchy, relevant and professional. I’m no expert but I love to read, and when something is not formatted, has bad editing or an unappealing cover, it really throws me off, despite everything else. Whilst it is frustrating and sometimes if you don’t have the expertise, costly, it is worth it in the long run to make the investment in your pride and joy.

Q: What mistakes have you made along the way that you’d like to help other writers avoid?

A: My biggest piece of advice is don’t get impatient. As a writer you get so excited about your work, and getting it out there, and with the mediums available for self publishing it is so easy to publish something on Amazon.  My biggest mistake was with my first children’s storybook – Wonderful World of Willow (http://www.amazon.com/Wonderful-World-Willow-Coco-Book-ebook/dp/B016J6WVH8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1449850911&sr=8-2&keywords=rachel+mcgrath).  I had not yet navigated the Kindle format for children’s books, and unfortunately when it did release, the layout was terrible!  I had to quickly take it offline, and then I must have spent at least a few weeks struggling with the technology and technical specification before it was ready again. Whilst I was lucky and not many had purchased it in those few hours it was live, it is still embarrassing.  I have learned through this to just stop, slow down, and make sure that it is perfect to your own standards, before giving it to your audience.  A week or two wait will save you so much embarrassment in the long run!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in addition to writing?

A: I still work full time in a busy Human Resources role with a global company. I have always wanted to write, but I’m a realist, too. Writing is not a ‘money making’ business, it is a passion and an art, and whilst I would love to just focus on writing, I never want to depend on it, feel like I have to do it. I want to always love it!

Q: Was there anything you’ve done career-wise that prepared you for taking on the massive learning curve and realities of writing?

A: I think life has lent me much of the learning I needed. I always wanted to write from my early teens, but had I finished a project back then, I know it would not have been the same work that I produce today. I now have life experiences, I have travelled, been hurt, I have hurt, and I have learned so much along the way.  Everything I put into my writing is me and my emotions, and whilst it is not all a memoir, it is how I view the world today.

The other piece to writing is knowing yourself, and being confident to share who you are. Again, it is the fact that I am entirely comfortable with who I am today, which I know was not the case in my twenties.  Readers want to know the writer behind the book, and I feel that today, I am able to provide that transparency.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of e-books or print?

A: To be honest, I have only just converted to Kindle. I still love the paperback, and I love the fact that you can have a bookcase filled with your favourite books, on display for all to see. Having said that, having a Kindle is so much better if you are travelling and for the general convenience of having your book on hand at any times you need it.  This question is a tough one for me, as I still buy a paperback when I really love the book.  I guess it is a symbol or trophy of having read something that truly touched my heart!

Q: In Unfinished Chapters ( http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Chapters-Christina-Hamlett/dp/1517317975/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1449851381&sr=8-5&keywords=rachel+mcgrath_) you wrote about an event that happened wherein you reflect upon a friendship that ended poorly. What did you learn from that experience, and why did you want to share it with readers?

A: This friendship was a very important one for me. I was quite shy as a child, and my holidays were always quiet, as I didn’t often have a large social network when I was very young. But my friend who came every holiday was something I looked forward to, and our friendship was genuine, despite our differences. Whilst perhaps I knew our differences may one day push us apart, when it did happen, I felt it was more my own insecurities than the friendship itself. That stuck with me. I learned from it with future friendships, but I could never change that one experience. Writing about it was perhaps my way of closing that chapter, something that has felt unfinished for a very long time.

Q: What’s next for you, Rachel?

A: I have just finished and published a book of short stories – Dark & Twisty ( http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Twisty-Anthology-Rachel-McGrath-ebook/dp/B017ZIA5UE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1449851381&sr=8-3&keywords=rachel+mcgrath), of which all profits are being donated to Worldwide Cancer Research (http://www.worldwidecancerresearch.org).  This was a project from the heart, and I wanted to dedicate something to  my father and my aunty who are both fighting cancer.

Other than that, I hope to have a children’s novel finished in early 2016, another story aimed at the seven to eleven year old age group.

I truly enjoy writing and I have so many stories inside me, so I will continue to work on new stories and hopefully they will reach the audience I am hoping for.

Thank you again for this great opportunity!

You can find out more about Rachel and connect with her here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RJG27

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rachelmcgrathauthor/?ref=hl

Website: www.rachelmcgrath.net

Blog: www.findingtherainbow.net (the site linked to my memoir)

GooglePlus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RachelMcGrathAuthor/posts

 

 

 

 

The Gen Delacourt Mystery Series

Molly Greene

Author Molly Greene does more than just write books; although to date she’s written seven! When starting her career in writing, she began blogging about her experiences and sharing what she was learning about the mechanics of blogging and self-publishing with other up-and-coming writers. This has garnered a substantial following for her books and her blog, but it hasn’t been an easy road. Her generosity in sharing what she’s learned has helped others, but of course it’s the books in her mystery series that hold the key to her heart. Read on to learn more about this fascinating writer, her work, and what drives her.

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

********

Q How did your career in real estate prepare you for your writing life?

A I’m not sure it prepared me so much as it made me realize how badly I wanted to be done with having a boss! Seriously, though, my last twenty years of full-time real estate-related work was as a Marketing Manager for various wholesale mortgage companies. That meant cultivating diverse skills such as flyers created in InDesign and (limited) Photoshop, and lots and lots of copy writing and editing. I use all those skills now as an author, as well as the self-discipline I’ve honed over the years.

Q You’ve written six books in your Gen Delacourt mystery series. What do you find is a) the easiest and b) the most difficult part of writing a series?

A The easiest and most fabulous part is getting to know characters so well that you understand what they would do and say in almost any situation. The hardest part – eventually – will be coming up with plausible cases/situations for them to react to. So far I’ve had great good fortune in thinking up plots, but I fear by the time I get to Book 12, the well may run a little dry.

Q I discovered your blog via an internet search, but was immediately impressed with your “give-back” attitude toward indie writers. What inspired you to take this tactic with your blog?

A When I fired up my website in early 2011, I made an error common to new authors on social media: I began to share what I’d learned as I learned it, and as a result, I wrote blog posts almost exclusively for writers – not readers. I didn’t have a book out yet, I didn’t have readers or fans, so at the time it just made sense to share my self-publishing education with my peers.

Over time, my posts became popular among other authors who were also trying to navigate the learning curve. So my blog’s “give-back” philosophy was a natural offshoot to what I was doing. People helped me, so in turn I reached back to try and make the road easier for those coming behind.

Q What advice would you most like to give to new writers as they begin their journey?

A Great question! Here’s my advice:

* Read heavily in your chosen genre

* Watch what other successful self-published authors do to market themselves and their books

* Follow blogs of authors who share their experiences – it will cut the learning curve time in half

* Try on beta readers until you find two or three fabulous people who will give you good, credible, honest advice about your writing and your plots and characters

* Invest in (at the very least) a great cover and a proof reader

Q Who have been your greatest mentors, either in life or in writing, and why?

A My own poor decisions and errors have provided the greatest growth vehicle in my life, especially once I passed forty and really paid attention to the mistakes I was making, then tried to learn the lessons inherent in them.

In writing/craft, my most important learning vehicle has come from my favorite trad-published authors, Robert Crais, Janet Evanovich’s first few Stephanie Plum novels, and Susanna Kearsley (each at opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to writing style). They create fabulous characters and make me laugh and cry and never want to put their books down.

In the self-publishing industry, it’s been authors like Toby Neal, who I’ve watched closely as she’s worked her butt off and gained great success. That success helped me feel that if she could do it, I could too.

Q What has been the most difficult personal lesson for you to learn, and why?

A Not every person in the world is going to love or value me the way I want to be valued; not every reader is going to like my books and review them the way I’d hope to be reviewed; not every scenario, project, or life situation I develop and nurture will work out the way I plan. Why these have been difficult personal lessons is obvious.

Q If you could sit down at a roundtable of writers either living or dead, who would they be and why would you choose them?

A I’d love to sit at a roundtable of successful self-published authors and listen to a discussion about what they’ve done that’s worked as far as writing, collaboration, budget, diversification of sales platforms, print vs. ebooks, marketing, and promotion, including what has and has not worked, what they would do again, what they’ve heard and seen other successful authors do that they would like to try. THAT would be an interesting couple of hours!

Q What is it about mystery stories that draws you in and holds you?

A I read to be entertained and to learn, so I like mysteries because I can get the feel for characters as they grow through their experiences. I love the page-turning suspense of waiting to see what happens in a well-written plot.

Q What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about being an indie writer?

A 1) How generous most other self-pubbers are, and 2) how challenging the learning curve is when you first begin, how much there is to do: blogging, social media, writing, publishing, marketing, interviews, promotions … accck!

Q You’ve also written a nonfiction title aimed at self-publishing writers, Blog It. What is the underlying message you are hoping to convey with this book and your blog?

A Blog It evolved from the period of time I was setting up, figuring out, and achieving initial success with my blog. It was tough! There wasn’t a lot of info out there to use as a guide. So I compiled what I’d learned into a book in hopes it would help other authors navigate a little more easily. The message with my book and blog is simple, and exactly what I’ve learned from watching others: “if I can do it, so can you.”

Q Writers, like other artists, struggle with huge amounts of rejection, questioning from well-meaning friends and family, and their own doubts about their writing talent. What would you advise writers in dealing with these issues?

A I might question all the time and effort I put into something when it’s slow to pan out, but I don’t question myself, and no one has questioned me because I never shared my plans to become an author. I just did it. I had three books published before my mother found out!

I believe the greatest rejection-type challenge for authors comes from negative reviews. My advice would be to put it in perspective: Readers come in all types and expectations and desires. Just as I do not necessarily like certain authors’ writing styles and stories, some readers will not like mine. It’s the way it works.

I have the great good fortune – and the life experience – to not pay much attention to what people I don’t know think of me, and I don’t surround myself with people who feel compelled to hand out unsolicited advice. That would be another bit of guidance I’d pass on: take great care about who you hang out with and confide in.

Q I still encounter many writers who aren’t comfortable using social media to connect with other writers and/or readers. Why should they bother with these outlets?

A Connecting with readers is a blast, and one of the most fun elements of being an author, so I have trouble relating to discomfort with that! But if I were a new author starting today, I’d focus on writing a slew of really good books, maintaining accounts on two or three social media platforms that they enjoy using, and building an email subscriber list via a great website. These things, over time, do provide great exposure and will help authors connect and sell books.

When I started blogging and using Twitter in 2011, it was great fun and introduced me to a horde of fabulous writers who remain friends. Sharing and collaboration is valuable and important, just keep it simple. Don’t try to be everywhere at once. I question the value of authors spreading themselves too thin trying to be active on and managing a slew of social media accounts.

Q What’s next for you, Molly?

A The Gen Delacourt Mystery Series Books 7 – 12. That’s it in a nutshell!

Discover more about Molly and connect with her at the links below:

Website: www.molly-greene.com

Twitter: @mollygreene https://twitter.com/mollygreene

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5561802.Molly_Greene

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molly.greene.7

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/116507548651091841772/posts