My Husband’s Sin

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Even from beyond the grave, there are no limits to the havoc a vengeful family member can inflict on his or her mourners. Such is the premise of Irish debut novelist Mary Bradford’s new release, My Husband’s Sin. Like many an aspiring author, she took to heart the encouragement of family and friends who told her she should seriously seek out publishing opportunities for the stories she was writing. We’re glad she did … and happier still that we can introduce her work to our global readership.

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Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

Q: Tell us about your journey as a writer and, in particular, what led to the decision to write your debut novel.

A: My writing life began many years ago when my four children were small. I wrote down all the mischief and antics they got up to. People read them and said I should think about writing other stories. I started with short stories and the buzz of seeing my work in print was wonderful. I never thought about writing a novel, but one day, a short story I was writing just kept growing and hey, I had my first novel.

Q: Having penned short stories prior to My Husband’s Sin, which do you feel upon reflection is the greater challenge – writing a full-length work or stand-alone vignettes?

A: Oh good question! I think a novel proved the greatest challenge for me. I can spin off short stories and enjoy it. But now that I have completed a novel, I know I can do it, so it is not the daunting prospect I once thought, but yes it’s still a challenge.

Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser (and why does your choice suit your personality)?

A: I am a pantser. When I get an idea, it percolates in my head for a while and I talk to myself, asking, okay I know how it starts but how does it end? Once I have a vague idea of the ending, I am happy. I sit then and write. As the story goes along, I find all these channels open up and the characters bring me along with them. I do not make outlines or plot ideas or writing boards etc. I trust my story idea to run on its own legs.

Q: Who are some of the writers that not only fueled your passion for storytelling but may have also influenced your own writing style?

A: I have been reading since a young child. Enid Blyton was my favourite as a child. I became a member of my local library at four years old and devoured all I could get. I never saw myself as a writer when growing up. I don’t have a favourite author as an adult as I read a lot of different genres. Regarding my style, I seem to write like I speak when chatting with someone, so I’m told. Maybe I can be bold and say Maeve Binchy’s warm easy going style appealed to me.

Q: If you could sit down for dinner with one of them, who would it be and what question would you most like to ask?

A: I think it would be Enid Blyton. I would love to learn more about her life as a writer. The question would be, who influenced her?

Q: Where (and when) is your favorite place to be creative?

A: I go to my local library each morning for three hours. Then if I am on a deadline, I continue at home. But I prefer to write outside of my home as there are less distractions. When I am really being creative, I try to get away on my own for a few days and enjoy the solitude of having uninterrupted days to write and think about new projects.

Q: You live in Ireland, one of the loveliest countries on the planet. How does it feel to be in the spiritual company of Oscar Wilde, C.S. Lewis, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Maeve Binchy, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce and Jonathan Swift? (Seriously, is it something in the water that makes all of you such savvy and prolific wordsmiths?)

A: Honestly I don’t think of it. All these wonderful authors you mention and hundreds more are just people who write. I think it is like a lot of things in life, when it is on your own doorstep, you can take it for granted. Now that you have brought it up though, it’s great to be an Irish writer, J

Q: Has there been a defining “Aha!” moment in your career that affirmed your dream of being a writer had come true?

A: Yes, when I got offered a contract. I was thrilled, there was someone else out there who believed in me. So thank you, Tirgearr Publishing for making my dream come true.

Q: There’s no shortage of people who make wishes for a second chance to reset their lives, make amends, and reconnect with family and friends that have fallen by the wayside. In your own case, you underwent the risks of open heart surgery. Upon successfully emerging from this experience, how did it affect the way you look at life, relationships and the world in general?

A: I was so ill before the operation I did not think about what was involved, I was so glad to be given a chance to become better again. But after the op, I thought how precious good health is. It is everything. Without it, how can one enjoy life? I don’t worry about tomorrow anymore, I take each day as it arrives and I do not plan days ahead. I live for now and I have found I have more peace of mind living like this.

Q: Tell us a little about the premise of your new book and the inspiration to open with the unsettling reading of a matriarch’s final will and testament.

A: The idea for My Husband’s Sin came to me while at a funeral. I looked around at the other graves and wondered what secrets were buried there. Then I thought, what if someone spilled a secret deliberately to cause hurt and harm? So working with this, I picked on Lillian, the mother, because for most people, the heart of a home is their mother, the person who loves you unconditionally, who will always hold you close to comfort and listen to you. So to have the mother shatter the family intentionally is unbelievable and disastrous for Lacey, the youngest in the Taylor family.

Q: If Hollywood came calling to adapt this novel to a feature film, who would comprise your dream cast for it?

A: Gosh I have not thought about something as wonderful as this happening, honestly. Right now I don’t know, so I shall have to get back to you on this one.

Q: How did you go about finding the right publisher for your work once the book was complete?

A: I googled publishers and made a list. I sent My Husband’s Sin off to many and got the rejections which is part and parcel of writing life. When I was going through my list of publishers, I saw that I had not sent it to Tirgearr Publishing Ireland, and for some odd reason, I kept putting it off. Then when I did eventually get my ass in gear and approached them, they very promptly got back to me with the offer of a contract.

Q: What do you know about publishing now that you didn’t know when you started?

A: I have learnt that whether you are traditionally published or self-published, the author has a ton of promoting and marketing to do. Publishing houses no longer promote their authors with massive media coverage, especially new writers. So a big part of my day is finding new ways to promote and get my work out there before new readers.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Since, My Husband’s Sin has been published, as an Ebook and in paperback, I have signed a new contract with Tirgearr for their City Night’s series in erotic romance. My novella titled, One Night in Barcelona, is number 13 in the series. I have also being contracted to write two novellas under the auspices of Writers of the West. My first, The Runaway, set in America’s 1800’s, is a story about a young lad who leaves home to better his life, but unfortunately his past catches up with him. My second, a romance, Destiny, again set in Americas 1800’s is due out before Christmas. All are available on Amazon, Nook Kobo, etc. I am also at present writing my second full length novel, a paranormal. I like to stretch myself as a writer so I am writing across genres at present before settling on a favourite.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A:

On Amazon US at the following link http://amzn.to/1PAW9l2

On Amazon UK at the following link http://amzn.to/1PPBfOX

Tirgearr Publishing http://tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Bradford_MaryT/

Readers can find out more at my blog, http://marytbradford-author.blogspot.ie/

Four Letters

Four Letters

“Family quarrels are bitter things,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. “They don’t go by any rules. They’re not like aches or wounds; they’re more like splits in the skin that won’t heal because there’s not enough material.” In her recently released family saga, Four Letters, author Diane Kasulis makes her publishing debut with a bittersweet story certain to resonate with anyone who has ever experienced estrangement with parents, siblings or their own children.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Your journey to become a published author undertook quite a circuitous route, starting with a college major in pharmacy and followed by stints in photography, sign painting, milking goats, and driving semi-tractor trailers from one coast to the other. Which of these pursuits do you feel was the biggest influence on your vision as a storyteller and the discipline it takes to stay with a project from start to finish?

A: Everything I have done has had some impact on me as a storyteller. I have always tucked away experiences and emotions that might fit into a story one day. The biggest influence, however, has been from any job involving driving either over the road in a big truck or school bus driving. The reason for this choice is because when you are driving for hours, it gives you a lot of time to think, and construct a story. When writing Four Letters, I was able to visualize the chapter I was writing that day, in my mind as if I was watching a movie. Once I had the scene perfected, I went home and just wrote it down. As the story progressed in my mind, it became easier to record it from chapter to chapter and scene to scene. The hardest thing was just beginning.

Q: Were you an avid reader when you were growing up?

A: I remember doing a fair amount of reading growing up, mostly the classics such as Charles Dickens. I was too preoccupied with art, drawing and painting, however, and that  took precedence.

Q: What are you reading now?

A: I am currently reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. She is my favorite author and truly a master at what she does. I am learning from reading her. For example I have learned that I need to up my game and provide more plot twists and turns.

Q: What was the inspiration to write Four Letters?

A: Unfortunately, the inspiration for Four Letters was a wedding in my own family, where my youngest daughter got left out. I have five children, and after that wedding, two of my children didn’t speak to me for a while.  I was driving school bus at the time with too much time to think. I started a journal but that didn’t help. Then I concocted this storyline, took it to extremes, and started writing this story. By writing a story about other characters, it kept my mind off of my own issues, and gave me something to focus on. Fortunately, after a short time, my family did come around, and everything worked itself out. But I decided to tell this tale to the extreme that I did as I wanted to get my message across about the importance of family. I suppose this message was one that I wanted to impress upon my own children at first. Needless to say, they are proud that I published a book, and for now, wish to avoid reading it like the plague needless to say!

Q: Did you start with a detailed outline or simply make things up as you went along?

A: I had an outline of sorts in my head. I knew the beginning and the ending of the story. I knew just what I needed to tell of Ella’s story. The rest was made up as I went along.:

Q: Your choice of narrator for this story – Ella’s caregiver, Janis, rather than Ella herself – was an interesting one. What governed this particular decision?

A: From the beginning I pictured the opening scene where Janis is writing the letters for Ella. If I just told Ella’s story, it would not only make for a sad story, but a short one as well. Because Ella was the age she was, I felt I needed some young characters to weave a story around, as well as to lend some lighter moments to the story. So at times, it was very much like writing two stories in one. Perhaps, because of my own experiences, I needed to just get Ella’s story and feelings out in the open; however, I found that by telling Janis’s story and her up-and-down relationship with her only sister, my message about the importance of family would get across.

In my own life, I felt that this message wasn’t received by my own family, so I was in a position to put that in a book and maybe influence others, just as Ella’s message wasn’t received by two of her own children, yet she was able to influence another family, namely Janis’. I felt that narrating this story from Ella herself would be too limiting, too sad and too concentrated upon the family rift. At the same time I wanted to get a message across. I felt that by having a secondary character, Janis, through her eyes, the reader would, like Janis, learn a lesson, one taught by an older, wiser generation.

Q: How might this story have been different if told from the perspective of Ella or, for that matter, her offspring?

A: This story would probably not take place in today’s world, but instead it would a story centered around the family rift as it happened in the seventies. There would be no other family to advise, however it would concentrate more on Ella herself as well as her children directly. Being told through Janis, the message of family is clear. Being told through Ella, the message of family would be too intense, like beating a dead horse, perhaps. This is a tragic story that I lightened by telling it through a stranger’s eyes.

Q: What were some of the challenges of interweaving the two women’s respective family issues?

A: Presenting two different families and their issues was complicated. In a sense there were two protagonists, with the emphasis on Janis vs. Ella. I had to be able to relate to a younger, twenty-something and thirty-something generation, with the issues that they would face today. I had to do this side by side with Ella, who grew up in a different world, and portray her values from that time period, which differs from today’s.

Q: How much of the plot and characterizations in Four Letters are drawn from your own life or those of people you know?

A: There is probably more plot and characterizations drawn from my own life and people that I know than I would care to admit to. The wedding scenario was based on my own experiences, the rest is fiction. I did, however, draw on some experiences in my own life. For example, the ice cream run was something that my father would sometimes do when I was little. I remember past summers, being young, going to bed, and being woken up to be taken out for ice cream in my pj’s. As far as drawing from people I know for some of my characters, I did picture someone for the role of Charlie, as the fishing buddy of Janis’ dad. It brought this character to life. The fishing stories he tells, however, are pure fiction…then again, aren’t fishing stories always fiction?

Q: The premise of Ella’s story – the estrangement from her children and her desire to reunite with them – seems awfully sad. Won’t readers think that this is too much of a downer tragedy to add to their book list?

A: Ella’s story of estrangement is really sad, which is another reason why I chose to narrate it from Janis’s perspective – a younger woman with her own family, including all the happiness, love and laughter one would expect to see, along with some hilarious situations at work, to balance the tragedy.

Q: What are some of the lighter moments of the story?

A: The break room scene in chapter three is a hoot. It is a lively discussion about bridezillas. You just have to read it. The antics of some of the residents where Janis works will make you chuckle.

Q: What, ultimately, is the takeaway value you want readers to have by the final chapter?

A: Bottom line, the message that I have been trying to impart is that all you really have in this world is family. It seems that in today’s society, everything is fast-paced, and based on instant, Internet communication, losing the personal touch, and family bonds seem to become more strained.

Q: If Hollywood came calling to make a movie adaptation of Four Letters, who would comprise your dream cast for it?

A: If this book were to be made into a Hollywood production, then I would love to see it directed by Clint Eastwood. I think it would be right down his alley as they say. I would trust him to come up with a killer cast. There was a movie called In Her Shoes, about two sisters. That casting would work here. And Betty White could be Ella! And by the way, my oldest daughter, Krystal, who is also on the cover, would most likely love to do some acting as well. She majored in theater in college.

Q: Despite the popularity of e-publishing and the artistic control it affords today’s authors, why did you opt to go the traditional route?

A: I did my homework regarding the publishing field. The general consensus was that there was more credibility publishing traditionally through a publisher as opposed to self-publishing. Here someone, in this case North Star Press, was willing to take a chance on this book, as opposed to my paying someone just to print it.

Q: How did you go about finding a publisher?

A: I found North Star Press by taking a couple of publishing and writing courses that were offered through them. Each publisher seems to have something that they are looking for. North Star likes to publish new authors that have written about Minnesota, or the upper mid-west, which is why I set my story locally.

Q: What surprised you the most about the publishing process that you didn’t know before?

A: I expected to receive a little more advice and guidance from my publisher. I was surprised at how much editing and such that I was able to do.

Q:  What’s next on your plate?

A: I had an idea in mind, and then I decided to use Janis and Joyce in this story. Originally, I wrote Four Letters as a stand-alone book. However, I am taking the story further (Ella’s is done) and concentrating on Joyce. This story is narrated by Joyce, and follows her through her shaky college experience, as well as her bitter, almost violent relationship with her ex-boyfriend Ty from the first book.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Yes, I wish that the original synopsis for the back cover was what got placed there. It is on my website http://www.authordianek.com and went into the relationship between Ella and Janis. I was asked to also provide something short and snappy. This short paragraph only focuses on Ella. By reading this, one would assume this story may be a bit different than what it actually is. I think this also sells the story a bit short. There is a lot more to this story than what the back cover portrays, and is worth an extra look, or checking out my webpage.