Saturday, March 29, 2008

[Interview] Bernadette Steele

Mystery author Bernadette Steele has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master of Science degree in Technical Communication and Information Design from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

Currently, she is pursuing a PhD in Technical Communication at IIT.

The Poetry of Murder (Oak Tree Press, 2008) is her first novel.

In this interview, Bernadette Steele talks about how she made the transition from wanting to write to becoming a published author.

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was in college. I took a creative writing course and I wrote some short stories for the class. I also had another class in college where I wrote a play.

After college, I did not do any writing. Instead, I spent fifteen years, reading books about writing and publishing, but I did not write. I collected story ideas, articles and pieces of information that inspired various story ideas.

In 2004, I thought that I wanted to go to law school. But, law school did not work out. So, in December 2004, I decided that I should pursue something that I really, really like doing and enjoyed. I always had story ideas and I enjoy writing. Thus, in January 2005, I started writing my first novel, The Poetry of Murder.

How did you make the transition from wanting to write to becoming a published author?

I enjoy reading fiction, and I enjoy the writing process. I decided in January 2005 that I wanted to be a published author, and I started writing my novel. Even though I had spent the past fifteen years reading about how to write, I read very little about the actual process of writing. So I read a book that described how to approach a writing project. I read, The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall.

Based upon Marshall’s method, I created my own method for starting a novel. My method basically includes creating a very detailed outline of the book from beginning to end. This outline is scene-by-scene and includes items such as dialogue or how a scene would begin.

I also read a book about how to submit your novel to agents and publishers. This book was entitled, Your Novel Proposal from Creation to Contract by Blythe Cameson and Marshall I. Cook. It describes the process of creating a query letter, synopsis and the format for the manuscript. This book provided good examples of what the submission documents look like.

Finally, I used the 2006 edition of Jeff Herman’s book entitled, Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents to develop my submission list. This book was invaluable because it details what types of books the publishers and agents are interested in and their submission guidelines.

Who has influenced you most?

I have been influenced the most by Agatha Christie and Walter Mosley.

Christie’s books provide an example of what a good mystery featuring an amateur sleuth should be like. Mosley’s clear and concise prose inspires me to reach his level.

I have also been extremely inspired by John Steinbeck’s, Journal of a Novel. Steinbeck kept a journal when he wrote East of Eden. In his journal, he describes his own anxiety and self-doubt about his writing and career. It makes me feel good to know that someone like Steinbeck felt the same way that I feel.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I have always been very unsatisfied with the jobs that I have had in the past and that I currently have. Thus, I find refuge in my writing.

Writing provides me with enjoyment and relief from the stress of my job. It provides the creative outlet that I need to deal with the stress and dissatisfaction that I have with the world of employment.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I have two main concerns.

First, I want to write good fiction. I address this concern by working to hone my skills, seeking feedback from readers and editors, and by being open to criticism and the advice of others.

My second concern is to have people actually read my writing. I address this by working to gain exposure for my writing. I write because I want people to read and enjoy my writing. I do not write for myself.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Like most writers who also have a regular job, my first big challenge is finding the time to write. I schedule a two-hour appointment with myself to write. I also use my vacation time to write.

My second biggest challenge is figuring out cost-effective ways to market my novel. I handle this challenge by simply researching different alternatives as much as possible.

Do you write everyday?

I write every day.

My writing session starts at lunchtime when I write in my journal about what I will write about later on in the evening, any story ideas or anything going on in my life that impacts my writing.

When I get home from work, I write for two hours. The session starts with me looking at my outline and then briefly reviewing the previous evening's work.

How would you describe your debut novel?

The Poetry of Murder is a murder mystery about an aspiring African American poet named Geneva Anderson who inherits a fortune from her aunt and who is later accused of her aunt’s murder. As a result, Geneva starts to investigate the murder of her aunt and must navigate her way through a web of revenge, deceit, and blackmail.

It took me a year and half to write the novel. It was published in February 2008 by Oak Tree Press.

Who is your target audience?

My audience consists of mystery readers, females between the ages of 25 and up and African Americans.

I was motivated to start writing for this audience because the audience demographic matches my personal demographic. I am a 38 year old, African American woman. The market is not over saturated with African American amateur sleuths.

How did you find a publisher for the book?

After sending out over eighty query letters, Oak Tree Press was the first publisher to accept my novel. Oak Tree Press is a small independent publisher.

The major disadvantage of being with a small press is that there is no advance and a lot of the marketing activities are my responsibility.

What did you find most difficult when you were working on The Poetry of Murder?

I think the most difficult aspect was the editing process. For example, I had to fix a lot of the numbers used in the text. This was a painful process. I think this situation was caused by lack of experience.

I enjoyed the plotting of the story. I enjoyed figuring out which characters did what and when and who the killer turned out to be.

What will your next book be about?

My next novel will be a historical romance about the first African emperor of Rome, Septimius Severus.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

My most significant achievement as a writer as that I finished my novel and got it published.

Many people dream of writing a novel, some start writing but most don’t finish and even fewer actually get published. Therefore, it is a great achievement for me and anyone else to finish and publish a novel.

How did you get there?

I never gave up. I kept writing. I kept submitting to agents and publishers. I knew that it was numbers game and that eventually someone would have enough confidence in my novel to publish it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

[Interview] Ed Lynskey

Ed Lynskey writes crime fiction stories and novels.

His books feature Private Investigator Frank Johnson and include the collection of short stories, Out of Town a Few Days (BooksForABuck, 2004) and the novels, The Dirt-Brown Derby (Mundania, 2006) and The Blue Cheer (Point Blank/Wildside Press, 2007).

Two more P.I. Frank Johnson titles, Pelham Fell Here (Mundania) and Troglodytes (Mundania) will be published in mid-2008 and 2009 respectively.

Lynskey is also the author of A Clear Path to Cross (Ramble House, 2008), a collection of P.I. Sharon Knowles short stories about the female private detective’s adventures; and The Quetzal Motel (Mundania, 2008), a science fiction novel featuring a family-run motel that has a pair of peculiar guests staying over, and how they rock a small town.

In this interview, Ed Lynskey talks about his concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

My writing long fiction seriously kicked off shortly after the Y2K scare in 2001. I’m not sure if there’s any correlation with the timing. Before the novels, I’d written short stuff like poems and stories for about twenty years and established a good “in-print” track record.

I made a bet with myself that I could evolve from writing poems and tackle something meatier like novels. To discover what venue of fiction I had any aptitude for, I wrote stories in several genres, including science fiction, literary, fantasy, horror, and mystery. Based on my sales and personal preferences, I then narrowed my scope to concentrate efforts on mystery with occasional forays into literary and science fiction. I’ve been satisfied with this approach.

Ninety-five percent of my creative fiction now is focused on mystery or crime fiction. John Lescroart has described my P.I. books as “Appalachian Noir”, though my recent settings have been rooted to Washington, D.C. and its environs.

Who is your target audience?

I try to incorporate the elements in my fiction that appeal to both male and female readers.

My motivation is pretty straightforward: to reach a broad-based readership since what I write is mainly commercial fiction.

Who has influenced you most?

I draw on different writers for different aspects I seek to fuse in my fiction.

For the noirish undertones, I admire such meisters as Ken Bruen, Allan Guthrie, and Megan Abbott. The literary voice I strive for is best exemplified by Ed Gorman, Ed Dee, and Steve Hamilton. Exemplary uses of modern rural people and atmosphere are offered by J.D. Rhoades, William Kent Krueger, and Bill Crider. The perfect-pitch ears for writing dialogue include Charlie Stella, Barbara D’Amato, Anne Frasier, and Jerry Healy. For exciting courtroom drama, I read John Lescroart and Linda Fairstein. Finally, for their sheer clarity of expression I cite Bill Pronzini and John Lutz.

That’s a bunch of names, but it defines the writing models I use to create my own long narratives.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I grew up in a small town in the rural foothills of Virginia, the singlemost factor influencing my early novels in terms of setting. Almost a decade ago, we relocated to live in a Virginia suburb outside Washington, D.C. and an urban/suburban setting has seeped into my latest projects. Why? I suppose we use whatever is at hand to create the fabric of fiction.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

One thing that obsesses me is “getting it right”, and I probably over-research different aspects, especially in my four detective books. The challenge is to weave the details and “local color” into a seamless narrative -- never an easy task. I strive to avoid information dumps.

Remember Ed Deming and his quality excellence issues so big at one time? He always stressed to improve your manufacturing processes. Writing fiction is like that to me. I’m not big on reading books on how to write, but I do like to see what other authors, past and present, are doing in their crime fiction and what areas I can improve in.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

For me, this is a two-bladed question.

On the one side, there’s the challenge to write a good book. Then the other side is selling, marketing, and promoting that book. Of the two, I’d say the promotional side is by far the most challenging.

Dealing with promotions, I use a day-to-day approach and don’t set unrealistic expectations.

Do you write everyday?

I’m sure everybody has their own rituals. Mine are pretty mundane and low-keyed.

I like to get an early jump in the morning before the sun even hits the streets. I use a spare bedroom and a bare-bones computer. First drafts are the most fun -- I get on the paddlewheel of days and finish the narrative.

My revision cycles take the longest to complete. The bloodletting goes on then -- when material gets added or cut.

I can tell I’m near the end when I begin to print out the drafts in hard copy to revise. By then, I’m pretty sick of the characters and the plot. I have to let them go.

How long did it take you to write Pelham Fell Here?

My currently published title is Pelham Fell Here (out from Mundania Press in June ’08).

Researching Pelham’s history, I see it took me six years to bring out. I also recall it’s the second book I ever wrote. The publisher, Mundania Press, published the first title, The Dirt-Brown Derby in the series which has found a niche market of readers.

The biggest difficulty I encountered was having to revise Pelham to bring it up to my current level of writing. My writing has evolved, especially over the past three years, and I wasn’t happy with the original manuscript. The revision took a ton of work, but I was happier with the final product.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

Pelham was a gas to write.

Creating a fictitious town called Pelham populated by characters made up from whole cloth was a liberating experience. It was like writing a biography of the town and lying through your teeth.

What sets the book apart from the others you've written?

Pelham is another title in the P.I. Frank Johnson series. What sets it apart from other P.I. books I’ve read is that the protagonist isn’t yet a professional detective. Frank gets involved in a murder and, out of necessity, is forced into the role of a detective to save his bacon.

By the end of Pelham, Frank Johnson comes to realize he’s a competent enough detective to make it into a professional career. I’d say Frank actually enjoys (if he ever cared to admit it) doing detective work and this exuberance is carried forward into the subsequent books covering his other cases.

What will your next book be about?

My work-in-progress, Skin the Game, is an urban noir set in Washington, D.C. that features a modern loan shark out to collect his money from a dodgy rocket engineer. The narrative is told from three points of view of different characters involved in the hustle.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Two things continue to amaze me, both from a personal standpoint. First, that I was ever able to sit down and write a novel. Second, that anybody wants or enjoys reading the books I’ve written. It’s been a thrilling and humbling experience.

Monday, March 24, 2008

[Interview] Dana Littlejohn

Romance novelist Dana Littlejohn was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and has been living in Indianapolis, In. for the past 10 years.

She has been writing since childhood.

The work she has published so far includes the novel, The Yin/Yang Effect; the three novellas which make up The Dioni Chronicles series, Mikhail's Hunt, Jonathan's Bite of the Apple and Sebastian's Surrender; as well as the short stories, "Hot Chocolate on a Cold Day", "The Lover and the Firefly" and "Lover's Brew".

In this interview, Dana Littlejohn talks about her concerns as a writer.*

How would you describe your writing?

I write romances that happen now, in modern day. I have touched on several sub-genres like urban lit, fantasy and shifter, but basically its sensual/erotic contemporary.

I hope to target woman between 18 and over. Some of the love scenes in a few of my books might be a little inappropriate for anyone under 18.

What motivated you to start writing?

I was waking up in the middle of the night driving my husband crazy with the craziness I was dreaming. He suggested that I write it down because if I was going crazy he did not want to go with me. (Laughs.) True story! Since writing was still in my heart I took his advice.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

I love the writing of Bertrice Small and Jackie Collins. I’d like to be a combination of them.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I have done stories on topics that I feel strongly about, not necessarily that has happened to me, but I still feel strongly.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I have always wanted to be a writer, as far back as I can remember, but I let people and life get in the way of my dreams.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

That I don’t repeat myself. I want each one of my books to be unique.

The biggest challenge is to keep going, keep writing quality, unique work.

How do you deal with these concerns?

I try to stay fresh, do something that no one has done before or take a new look at something that has been done.

Do you write everyday?

Yes, I try to write everyday. The amount of time just depends on what’s going on that day. I work full time so during the week I can only do three maybe four hours and on the weekend a little more.

How long does it take you to start and finish a book?

[One of] my latest books, The House, was released in 2007 by Ocean’s Mist Press. It took me about four months to get it from head to paper.

One of the things I found most difficult about the book was I had to ask a few people a lot of questions so that the house would be realistic.

Which did you enjoy most?

The part I liked the most was checking out Atlanta.

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

I don’t know. I just wanted to show that true friends are friends through thick and thin even when they get caught up in stuff they have no business doing.

In what way is it similar?

It’s still a romance and everyone’s happy in the end.

What will your next book be about?

I’m working on an urban lit I call The Lover and the Angel. It’s about a member of the Latin Lovers gang who falls in love with a college student and starts to want more from his life. It is still in the works.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I feel really good when someone contacts me and asks me to do something for them. That feels good and I know they like my work.

How did you get there?

(Laughs.) I have no clue, I’m just happy its happening.

*This article is based on an email interview with Dana Littlejohn which took place in March 2007.

Friday, March 21, 2008

[Interview_2] Judy Gregerson

Judy Gregerson has published two books -- a memoir, Save Me! A Young Woman’s Journey Through Schizophrenia to Health (Doubleday, 1980) and a novel, Bad Girls Club (Blooming Tree Press, 2007).

She says her books draw heavily on things she has experienced in her own life.

In this interview, she speaks about her writing and how she got published.

Do you write everyday?

No, I don’t write every day. I work in chunks of months, very intensely. I get up, start writing, take breaks to think, go back to it, get up and vacuum, go back to it, get up and clean the bathroom, go back to it. Then I think some more.

I can write for about 12 hours at a time when I get going but four months on a book is as long as I can take and then I need time off to reflect, think, and get away from it. I may abandon a book for another four or six months while I digest what I’ve done or maybe even longer, before I get back to it. It ends when it has that “complete” feeling to it and the character has resolved her problem and learned something.

How many books have you written so far?

I’ve had two published. The first was put out by Doubleday in 1980, Save Me! A Young Woman’s Journey Through Schizophrenia to Health, which is self-explanatory. And Bad Girls Club was my next, published by Blooming Tree Press, July 2007, a small independent press in Austin, Texas. This is the story of a girl who has taken on the role of the parent in her house and who cares for her sister, her mother, and her father, while her mother spirals into madness and her father refuses to do anything about it.

I have about five or six other unpublished novels. I’m trying to find an agent now for Cracking Normal, a coming of age (young adult) story about a girl whose family moves into a trailer park and the problems that this creates in her life.

How did long did it take you to come up with your latest novel?

Bad Girls Club took me about seven years to write and finish and went through about 21 revisions.

Blooming Tree Press published it last summer. I didn’t choose them, they chose me. I sent the book in, expecting a rejection, and was shocked when they wanted to buy it. BTP is a small press, so there have been challenges in promotion and marketing, but I decided to take a year off to market the book which has helped tremendously and B&N and Borders have both just picked up the book. The nice thing is that my book is the lead title for this publisher, so it’s gotten a lot of attention, but it still requires (as do all publishing houses) that I get out there, make myself known, and sell books.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

The most difficult part of the work was finding the voice. This story is about a dark subject, so I had to ride just on the border of madness to write it. That was a real dance sometimes.

If you go too far, you lose the reader, so how do you stay just this side of the fence and make a book readable for a wide audience? This troubled me the most while writing. If it was too dark, I felt it wouldn’t capture its audience.

It took all of those seven years to get that right.

What did you enjoy most?

I really enjoyed getting into the head of my character and becoming her as I wrote. I enjoyed my conversations with her and the things she told me about herself, especially as she revealed who she was and how she felt. Transferring that into words on paper was a lot of fun and I discovered that getting into the soul of a character is the best part of writing for me.

Bad Girls Club has a certain sadness to it and a longing that pulls the reader along and none of my other books have that.

I think that narrative drive is important but I discovered in this book a way to really take the reader into the character’s head and ride along with her as the story developed. I’m not sure I could do it again, but it was very important to this character that the reader fully understand everything she thought.

What will your next book be about?

My next book is about a girl whose mother drops her off at the grocery store when she’s ten and never returns for her. She’s left with her very eccentric extended family and struggles with why her mother left, why she hasn’t come back and how she can go on without her.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I think my most significant achievement as a writer has been receiving emails from people who read Bad Girls Club and told me that they so fully experienced the main character’s life that they felt they were a part of her family.

I’ve also had people tell me that although they’ve never been abused, they felt so familiar in the territory of my story that they couldn’t put the book down. One reader even took it in the bathtub with her because she didn’t want to leave the character alone. I’ve received phone calls from crying women, thanking me for writing the book.

All I wanted to do with this book was touch people. I believe I’ve done that.

How did you get there?

You tell the truth. You tell it as fully and completely as you can and you tell it in a way that people will say, “I’ve been there! I know how that feels.”

Maybe a part of it is finding the universal human emotions that speak to anyone when they read your book.

When I started this book, it was my belief that everyone has suffered some kind of loss and it didn’t matter what kind they’d suffered, because we recognize ourselves in the emotions of other people and their experience. I wanted my book to have a “universal” appeal and it seemed the only way to do that was to capture the human experience and make it available for all to feel in my story. I think I did that. At least my readers tell me I did.

Related article:

Judy Gregerson [Interview_1], Conversations with Writers, March 20, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

[Interview_1] Judy Gregerson

Judy Gregerson has worked as a copy editor at a newspaper, in the marketing department of a publisher, as an account executive at an advertising agency, and then in various positions in promotion and marketing.

She has written and published a memoir, Save Me! A Young Woman’s Journey Through Schizophrenia to Health (Doubleday, 1980) and a novel, Bad Girls Club (Blooming Tree Press, 2007).

Currently she works as a freelance book editor and a marketing consultant while she finishes her degree in Human Development.

In this interview, she speaks about the factors which pulled her into writing.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I first tried my hand at writing when I was in about the seventh grade, but I didn’t fully understand what made a story work. It frustrated me no end, so I gave it up.

I started writing again when I was in my mid-twenties. I had an idea for a memoir that I thought was very compelling, so I began making tapes of the story and eventually typing them all out on an old Selectric typewriter. After a few months of that, I had an outline and a first draft.

How did you make the transition from wanting to write to becoming a published author?

I decided when I was eight that I wanted to be a published writer. It came as my third grade teacher was reading Charlotte’s Web to the class. I thought that there could be no finer profession than writing and decided I’d do the same.

A few years later, I met a married couple who were writers and I was just mesmerized by them. They seemed so important and so special. It only strengthened my determination to be a writer. But at the time, it seemed like a pipe dream, something that a kid wishes for but doesn’t know if it will ever happen. I had no encouragement at home, everyone just smiled at me and patted me on the head and because they didn’t take it seriously, I didn’t either. But after college, I lived in [New York City] NYC. I was working in advertising and had become a copywriter, which I really enjoyed. That was when I discovered that I had that spark and I also learned that writing was a lot of fun!

I was around writers and theater people and I had a very good friend who was very encouraging to me about writing. And it struck me that if I didn’t start, I’d never get a book published, so I took the leap and started writing. Up to this point, I had read no books on writing. I just jumped in and started, going on pure instinct. And back then, there was no internet, no computers, and no writing community to turn to for help. It was just me and the white blank piece of paper.

How would you describe your writing?

I call it coming of age literary fiction. But literary fiction seems to have a bad name these days, so I’ll call it mainstream fiction.

I call my writing literary because I use a lot of symbolism and images and I use setting as a character. I also like to write “deep” which seems to be associated with literary fiction. I write about characters who have suffered some kind of loss and who are struggling to understand who they are and where they’re going. My characters are usually fairly wounded and they make a lot of big mistakes. They all have deep longing for something and they usually satisfy that longing, but not in the way they expected.

Who is your target audience?

My audience is mixed. I have many adult reader fans who have emailed or called me to talk about my book. But my book is marketed as young adult, so I also have teen readers.

My target audience, as I see them, are people who have suffered loss in a very deep way (to them at least, even if it doesn’t look huge to anyone else) and they’re people who feel very deeply. They’re also thinkers and they’re people who care about other people. I write for this audience because they’re like me!

In the writing you are doing, who has influenced you most?

I have been greatly influenced by Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway. I read The Bell Jar every summer, for my birthday, and I studied it extensively when I was writing Bad Girls Club.

Sylvia could go into four levels of back story and then back out in one transition. It totally amazes me how she can keep the narrative going without breaking it when she does that. She also has that voice that sounds so clear to me when I read her story. It’s as if I am sitting there and she is personally telling me the story. It has an intimacy that few books have.

Hemingway speaks to me in another way.

He has an economy of words that puzzles me. I studied The Old Man and the Sea when I was writing Bad Girls Club and I learned the circular path of a story from him. I truly didn’t get that until I studied that book and it helped me so much with my own writing.

I also like Kathryn Harrison. She is an honest writer. You know you’re getting the truth.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

My books are all based on things that I’ve experienced in life, so I’d have to say that they have really directed my writing. In fact, I tend to write about the same themes, over and over, in new and different ways.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My biggest concern has been that I am not terribly prolific.

I write about things that really touch me and things I personally care deeply about. I can’t crank out a book a year or even every two years. For a long time, that really bothered me. I felt that would make me a failure as a writer, because what agent wants a writer who cranks out a book every three or four years? Then I realized that this is my life, my career. I can do it any way I want. I don’t have to be like everyone else. I can write what and when I want and write as many or few books as I’d like.

I have writer friends who want to sell a book a year. I’m amazed by that. I just could not crank out words like that.

Related article:

Judy Gregerson [Interview_2], Conversations with Writers, March 21, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

[Interview] Greg Bauder

Greg Bauder has written and published two novels, The Temptress Ariel (Publish America, 2004) and Selene's Guiding Light (Publish America, 2005), both of which explore life from the point of view of a schizophrenic man.

Currently, Bauder is working on a third novel.

In a recent interview, he spoke about some of the factors that compelled him to start writing.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I started writing in college but I didn't publish until I was in my early 40's. I'm 51 now.

There was a hiatus when I became schizophrenic for about 20 years between leaving college and finishing my BA in English. It took 20 years to recover from my illness.

I wanted to become a writer to help erase the stigma of schizophrenia so I took Creative Writing courses at the University of British Columbia. I had some wonderful professors there and the students were supportive and we learned a lot from each other's feedback. I found the UBC staff and students friendly and they encouraged me to publish.

I began writing diligently and it wasn't long before I published in literary magazines as well as pagan ones.

How would you describe your writing?

Most of my writings deal with schizophrenia and I have a very direct style although some of my metaphors are mystical. I write about spirituality and try to understand where mysticism and schizophrenia meet.

My audience is anyone interested in learning that schizophrenic people are not a threat but people longing for love, hope and acceptance.

I also write about eclectic ideas which have helped me out of delusions and despair. I think dogmatic religious views are unhealthy for people.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

Writers like Milton, William Blake and Margaret Atwood have influenced me a lot but my style is probably closer to Kafka's. Albeit on a much smaller scale.

Schizophrenia has influenced the direction of my writing because I have been ill for 30 years. But, I have musical heroes like The Who, Pete Townshend in particular, who said:" Sickness will surely take the mind where minds can't usually go." He, too, believes in trying to comprehend mystical ideas, make the world more just and he has written a lot about mental illness.

Medications for my illness have also allowed me to cope as well as doctors and nurses who helped me with therapy. And, of course, the love from my family.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concerns about being a writer is to be honest and show the pain as well as the triumphs in life.

Everyone hurts and the person with schizophrenia suffers a great deal due to stigma so I try to portray the illness in a way people can relate to. I deal with my illness by being an advocate for understanding of mental illnesses.

The biggest challenges I face are socializing instead of isolating and simply leading a healthy lifestyle. It is difficult to confront the challenges of schizophrenia so I focus on writing and maintaining relationships.

Do you write everyday?

I write most days usually when I have spare time. I also like going to different websites but I usually don't write after midnight.

My latest book, Selene's Guiding Light, took about four months to write and it is about a fantasy world loosely based on my own schizophrenic symptoms as well as mysticism. It was published by Publish America who were so supportive of my first novel I was glad to publish with them again.

What were some of the challenges you faced when you were working on the book?

The most difficult part of my second book was creating a poetic prose style and keeping the metaphors from becoming too obscure. There are also many mythological references which may be a little too much for some readers.

I enjoyed using a lot of freedom in my second book since it was a fantasy work. The main character was a man like myself, searching for identity, love and discernment. I had a lot of fun writing about mystical ideas as well as some political satire.

This book is about the delusional, mystical dilemma of schizophrenia. It is similar to The Temptress Ariel because they both deal with schizophrenia.

What will your next book be about?

My next book will combine similar ideas from the first two but will have a lot more humor. Again, it will touch on schizophrenia. It will also contain experimental styles.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement?

My main success as a writer to me was getting my first novel published.

How did you get there?

I published these books through hard work. Lots of reading and writing and perseverance.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

[Interview_2] Carol Thistlethwaite

Carol Thistlethwaite is a poet, a book reviewer and the author of three books for adults who are learning to read.

Her poems and reviews have been published in magazines that include Envoi, Orbis, Fire, Poetry Cornwall and The Journal.

Her latest collection of poems, from the field book, is going to be launched on March 20 and 21, to coincide with Earth Day, World Poetry Day, the First Day of Spring and World Forestry Day.

In this, the last of a two-part interview, Carol Thistlethwaite talks about how she got published.

How many books have you written so far?

I've had three books published by Avanti Press (2006) for adults who are learning to read. I wrote Red Paint, Painting the Bedroom and The Birthday Present for some of the adult learners I work with because I found there was a shortage of appropriate books for adults who are just learning to read.

The books appear simple but the writing of them is complex. Basically it's about creating adult stories from high frequency and phonetic words. Also the text (often one line) has to be written so that it can be illustrated. The repetition of key words and spelling patterns has to be considered and the subject matter should be relevant -- and preferably be fun.

Hannah Barton was the illustrator and I think we made an effective team.

Did you already have a publisher in mind when you were writing the books?

I looked at a selection of adult literacy books and picked Avanti as the most appropriate. I telephoned them, pitched the texts and was invited to submit them.

And how did you link up with the illustrator?

That was difficult and the budget made it more so. I kept mentioning to people that I was looking for an illustrator and found Hannah Barton via a friend.

I asked her to make the characters likable and to inject some humour into the illustrations. I negotiated a few changes and think Hannah did an excellent job. I think it's important that illustrator and writer work co-operatively in these kinds of books because the pictures are very much used as reading cues.

Do you write everyday?

No. As far poetry is concerned I write best when words and rhythms flow unhindered in my head -- which is usually when I'm out walking. Often I have a pencil and notebook with me so I scribble down phrases, images or whole poems. I edit them later. I sometimes think I should take a dictaphone so I can speak the word-flow as I walk.

How long did it take you to put the poetry collection together?

from the field book is a collection of poems about British bird species. The poems have been written over the last four years (2003 - 2007). I'd been sending poems out to small presses during this time, preferring to be published in print.

After attending a talk by Chris Hamilton-Emery (Salt Publishing), who said that writers need to develop an online presence, I realised I'd have to overcome my aversion to online publishing. So I sent some poems to Sam Smith's Select Six site and to my delight he accepted them and asked how many more I had... and recommended the collection to BeWrite Books who, I am pleased to say, accepted it for publication.

Sam recognised me from the small press world and at this point I’d like to say a huge thank you to the editors of small magazines who provide opportunities for writers to get their work and names out in the public domain -- to readers, writers and potential publishers.

What other advantages or disadvantages have arisen because of your association with this publisher?

Sam has an interest in bird watching and understands what many of these poems are doing: articulating the inexpressible jizz of different bird species. Having an editor who understands the concepts that underpin the collection has been an advantage.

Having a publisher (Cait Myers) whom I trust is also important. I’ve worked with Sam and Cait and contributed to decisions so I feel this is very much my collection.

Who is your target audience?

Initially from the field book began as my MA dissertation so the audience was me and whoever was grading it. After that I let the collection evolve to what it is today.

I hope that poetry readers will enjoy its use of language and that bird watchers will recognise the perceptions and think, 'Yes, it is like that, isn't it...?'

What did you find most difficult when you were writing the poems that make up from the field book?

I decided a long time ago that I didn't want to repeat myself across any of my poems. I didn't want to repeat images, metaphors or perceptions. Finding different ways of describing similar landscapes and presenting each encounter as a different perception can sometimes be challenging -- but it's one that I relish. Sometimes I have to let my mind go out of focus so I can move laterally and away from the obvious.

The most difficult species to write about are those that are very familiar. It is because I am no longer at the ‘learning to recognise’ stage so I don't now know the mental connections I made to aid recognition. I find that the best approach to these species is oblique such as focusing on an aspect of their behaviour or comparing them with other species.

What did you enjoy most?

I love being out in open spaces, wearing my scuffed and faithful boots, listening and watching out for wildlife, with binoculars round my neck, noticing something new, there’s always something new...

Related article:

Carol Thistlethwaite [Interview_1], Conversations with Writers, March 10, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

[Interview_1] Carol Thistlethwaite

Carol Thistlethwaite is a poet, a book reviewer and the author of Red Paint (Avanti Books, 2006), Painting the Bedroom (Avanti Books, 2006) and The Birthday Present (Avanti Books, 2006) which she wrote for adults who are learning to read.

Her latest book, from the field book, is a collection of poems about British bird species. The collection was written over a four year period and is going to be launched on March 20 and 21, to coincide with Earth Day, World Poetry Day, the First Day of Spring and World Forestry Day.

In this, the first of a two-part interview, Carol Thistlethwaite speaks, among other things, about the challenges she faces as a writer and about how she deals with those challenges.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

It wasn't so much a decision as an epiphany. A college lecturer suggested that I should be doing Writing Studies. I instinctively knew I was hearing something important -- something I hadn’t previously considered. I'd just passed the second year of my BA and consequently changed course to include writing studies. I went on to gain an MA in Writing Studies. I began sending material out to magazines shortly after starting the Writing Studies modules encouraged by my tutor, Robert Sheppard, and other poets such as Alan Corkish.

I've been published in many small magazines such as Envoi and Orbis. I send different subject matters and styles to different editors depending on what I think their preferences are. Fire, Poetry Cornwall and The Journal have been supportive in publishing my bird poems.

How would you describe your writing?

It's in the style that best suits the purpose. from the field book, for example, is exploratory. I enjoy testing the boundaries of language to express the inexpressible -- and still be understood.

The mental leaps we make are accomplished without words but I try to represent them by ordering word-thoughts and by using lexical groupings and multi-layered vocabulary to represent concentric ideas. I position words on pages and use their sounds to represent sensory experiences such as physical and eye movements and the sounds the birds make.

Who has influenced you most?

Hopkins for the way he distorts words to bring out multiple meanings. Heaney for the way he creates layers of meaning by using lexical groupings. Hughes and Pound for selecting words for their associations. Cris Cheek and others for their positioning of words on the page. And Hughes (again) for remembering to place creatures in their habitats.

I admire Colin Simms for his precise images of wildlife movement, innovative use of language, his joy of sound and the sheer excitement and enthusiasm which pervades his work.

Also there's a host of contemporary women writers who are feeding into what I might do next.

How have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?

As a 3 year old, I used to fill pages of paper with lines of squiggles and ask what they said. Always the optimist, when told, 'Rubbish,' I excitedly asked, 'Which bit of it says "rubbish"?' I enjoyed learning to read and loved writing: stories, poems and later diaries and letters. It wasn't until I was a mature undergraduate that I began writing for a wider audience.

I have always lived in Lancashire (in fact I've always lived in the same village) and many of the poems are written from sightings in my local area. There's so much on our doorstep if we only look, listen and cherish it.

I have a deep appreciation for wildlife and wild places. I celebrate wildlife as something 'other' and at the same time part of the 'oneness' of the universe.

I don't consider myself a birding expert. I couldn't have written many of these poems if I was. Some of them articulate that rush of thoughts and mental leaps that occur in the instant between information-in and recognition. Others are about the bird watching experience: the thoughts I have and the imaginative leaps my mind makes.

As a learning support tutor, I'm interested in how people learn -- and that includes me. For example, the first time I saw a green woodpecker flying off I was struck by how colourful (bright yellow) it appears compared to when it's feeding on the ground. My memory scaffolded it to a cabinet unfolding (dark on the outside but still bright on the inside). Quite a lot of the poems share this personal journey as I anchor the unfamiliar to something familiar until it becomes a familiar.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Time management. Juggling work and family commitments with making time for walking, writing and keeping an eye on what's happening in the poetry world.

I've developed the habit of making little pockets of time for myself such as taking a couple of minutes to enjoy the flexing necks of the siskin on my bird feeders while I'm having my breakfast coffee or refusing to think about work as I enjoy listening to a song thrush on my way to college. I get up early at weekends to fit in local walks.

Being a reviewer helps because it makes me take time to read and re-read contemporary collections carefully.

What sort of material do you review?

I've been the resident reviewer for Carillon for three and a half years and review mainly poetry. The number of reviews varies depending on what Graham Rippon (the editor) receives and the space available. I reviewed eight books and booklets for the last issue.

The biggest challenge is setting aside the time required to read the books thoroughly -- which means several times. I set personal preferences aside and write a response that is both honest and fair. I do this by switching into analytical mode. That said, I still find humorous books difficult. (Maybe that's because I have a strange sense of humour!) I dislike reading reviews that promote the reviewer rather than the book, and consider it a betrayal of the trust that author and publisher invest in the reviewer. It's stealing someone else's space.

Related article:

Carol Thistlethwaite [Interview_2], Conversations with Writers, March 11, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

[Interview_2] Chris Hoare

Christopher Hoare is the author of a science fiction adventure series which revolves around the lives of the people of the stranded starship, Iskander.

The series is set in a 17th century alternate world and is made up of three books, so far: Deadly Enterprise (Double Dragon Publishing, 2007), The Wildcat’s Victory (Double Dragon Publishing, 2008) and Arrival (Double Dragon Publishing, 2008).

In this, the last of a two-part interview, Chris Hoare speaks about The Wildcat's Victory, the process behind its creation and publication as well as the advantages and disadvantages of publishing e-books.

How long did it take you to write The Wildcat’s Victory?

The Wildcat’s Victory is about war, loyalty, true love, greed, and ambition -- all the classic ingredients. The Iskander stories concern the forces one sets against one’s self by trying to change or create new things -- I just bring the pot to a boil by having this group of modern people attempt to run an Industrial Revolution in a world not ready for it.

I believe this novel took about a year to write and was accepted in 2006 by Double Dragon Publishing as the sequel to Deadly Enterprise, that they had already accepted.

What did you find most difficult when you were working on The Wildcat’s Victory?

The novel actually blends two simultaneous actions, a spy story and a military action.

I think the hardest part was to keep both parts progressing to a satisfactory conclusion while retaining some degree of unity. The two threads were not unique to this novel in the series, but grew from events set in motion by the previous novel, so I could not drop one in favour of the other. While I mostly followed my protagonist Gisel Matah, I also had to show people around her performing actions which she either guided or inspired to reach a closure in the action she initiated and was then called away from. I don't think the procedure is advised by any writing schools, but I think it works.

What did you enjoy most?

To tell you the truth, I found the military action -- dashing about in dangerous cavalry action -- much more fun than looking for the murderer of an agent and finding a replacement for him. I believe keeping that part of the novel going with proxies who were challenged was more interesting than having Gisel do it, and meanwhile I could indulge myself in the military what-if of using modern tactics against a huge enemy force trained and equipped as a 17th century army.

What sets The Wildcat’s Victory apart from the other things you've written?

It follows Deadly Enterprise, but where Gisel was a fugitive for much of that action, trying to evade enemies while accomplishing her mission, here she begins in a position of authority and encounters ever more dangerous situations to cap every success. The plot flows are reversed.

Arrival, the prequel, will have another different plot scheme -- this time the classic coming of age, when during the first hectic five months of the Iskanders' arrival on Gaia, she grows from a cheeky starship brat into a valued warrior. I'd hate to be expected to write novels to a constant plot structure.

In all my novels I prefer to set up my characters and the situation and let them resolve their problems in the way real life plays out, as the result of a mutual interplay between unpredictable forces.

How did you find a publisher for the book?

I had originally found the publisher while looking for a small, independent publisher who would consider handling novels that were significantly cross-genre. Double Dragon has the largest list of any e-publisher today, which draws more readers to its imprint, and its authors and publisher make a fine community of helpful and cooperative brothers and sisters.

E-publishing in itself has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is being able to maintain titles on sale to the reading public without running the gauntlet of the deadly ‘return’ syndrome of paper printing. I have a small interest in an indie publisher that was crippled by the cost of returns.

The only sensible way for a new author to establish a place in the writing world is by having a growing list of titles for the public to encounter, and this is only possible electronically.

The disadvantages are generally in the direction of having paper books available as well. While the quality of POD printing is the equal of anything in the marketplace, the books are derided as being some form of self-publishing -- implying lower quality. While I agree that most self-published fiction I've read fails through having no competent editing, those POD titles put out by royalty-paying publishers are very often of the same standard as anything from New York.

Which leaves the cost of moving a smaller quantity of print books for the author’s own readings and signings as the biggest financial disincentive for continuing to use dead trees to read on. I look forward to the day when reading from actual paper is regarded as being as out of step with the world as reading electronically is today. Meanwhile, I strive for the best in both worlds.

What will your next book be about?

The next novel in the Iskander series has Gisel married and expecting her first child, while simultaneously fulfilling the position of military governor of the most dangerous city in the world. This time, in a complete break from the classic plot, of character acting to solve a problem that hits them, Gisel is at ground zero with room to use only her wits and her integrity to defeat a host of different enemies. I think it's going to be difficult to hold it together, I'm barely beyond the first crisis, but am looking forward to the process of keeping the pace moving and bringing everything to a single, climactic, fitting conclusion.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I think finding a way to write fiction from inside myself that touches others in a way that has them say, “I'd read another of these stories.”

The objective is not just to weave words together on the page, but to have them span the gap between one being and another.

How did you get there?

Via a few million words -- most tossed away as mere practice. Whole stories laboured over, loved, and then let go. Cherished opinions tested, found wanting and discarded. Being an author is not the ending of a process, it is the process -- every moment of it. Unless a writer writes to become, and becomes to write, the whole journey is wasted.

Related article:

Chris Hoare [Interview_1], Conversations with Writers, March 6, 2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008

[Interview_1] Chris Hoare

Fantasy and science fiction author, Christopher Hoare’s three novels, Deadly Enterprise (Double Dragon Publishing, 2007), The Wildcat's Victory (Double Dragon Publishing, 2008) and Arrival (Double Dragon Publishing, 2008), are set in a 17th century alternative world and revolve around the lives of the people of the stranded starship, Iskander.

Currently he is working on another book in the the Iskander series.

In this, the first of a two-part interview, Chris Hoare speaks about his concerns as a writer.

How would you describe your writing?

While I also write fantasy and supernatural humour, most of my work now is on an Alternate History/Science Fiction adventure series about the people of the stranded starship Iskander on a 17th century alternate world. It combines sociology (the science) with some anachronistic additions to sword and gunpowder swashbuckling.

Since the early 1980s, I have never got far with any project that draws on my own experience in various areas of the oil business, including exploration in N. African desert and the Arctic. It seems that I've not yet managed to negotiate the narrow path between real events and fiction that Rudy Wiebe pointed out to me.

Who is your target audience?

I think I write primarily for women of active imagination. Since older women buy most of the fiction published today, I'm glad that my fascination with the daring and clever Security Officer, Gisel Matah (from the Iskander), ties in with their reading habits.

I am always torn between writing stories that appeal on a pleasure level and ones that point up the illusions of life.

I prefer to write the kinds of stories that I enjoy. On the other hand, I would hope to have some aspects buried in the writing that would one day be considered a contribution to literature.

I work on varied projects with the aim that every area of the craft I learn will add something to the next project I venture.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I think a writer's greatest concern is securing a place in the crowd.

Today, the writing isn't enough. While we may have sweated blood over our portrayals of our fictional realities, no one will see them unless the finished novel reaches the attention of potential readers.

I'm disappointed that the big corporate publishers are widely accepted to be the arbiters of quality when in reality they pander to every public whim and launch huge volumes of dross into the world in the hopes that some of it may return them a profit. I wish they really were purveyors of the very best quality and concentrated on that, but I realize that is foreign to everything our economic system stands for. I mourn for a better world where books were published because someone believed in their message or content.

Do you write everyday?

Before I became embroiled in weeks of promotion, I used to write most days. When revising chapters, I may write a paragraph or a couple of pages; when writing a first draft I might get 3,000 words down once I know where the scenes are going.

I generally start with some housekeeping, saving completed work to a storage site or into a thumb drive, making new notes in my scenario or plot files. Usually I write in complete scenes and only end when I reach the final actions. These may also require revising in order to keep up the pace and tension before I write on into the next scene.

Who would you say has influenced you most?

Most has been influence in a negative direction -- pointing out things I avoid. I find TV drama to be terribly flawed, and novelists who write from such a perspective to be mistaken. I avoid following all the writers who portray women in action roles as damsels in distress. The one that sticks in my craw most was a Brit TV series about a young woman bequeathed a detective agency, who, in peril, in a deserted summerhouse with an enemy possibly breaking in, walks around investigating with a revolver delicately held between thumb and forefinger as if it were a dead mouse. How patronizing!

Then there are the scads of 'funny face' science fiction. These green humans with pointed ears might be acceptable as fantasy, or if they were the product of a deeper exploration of a natural system that might logically produce them, but by and large they are simple parroting of what has been done before. I’d rather fill my writing with people like ourselves, instead of clichés.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I like to think that my own experience shapes the stories I tell without having myself intruding into them.

Throughout my life I have never fitted easily into the societies and positions I found myself in, and rather than change to conform, I have looked with outsider's eyes to see the cracks in the edifices. I like to think my novels take place within some of those cracks, and show readers something they might never have noticed.

When did you start writing?

I completed my first novel around 1974, a huge historical epic about the arrival of the Anglo Saxons in Roman Britain, entitled Wyrd's Harvest. I started it in 1967 in Libya, researched details in the British Museum Library, wrote the first attempt from a truck camper travelling across the States, and finished the last draft on night shifts at the old Calgary Refinery. It was never published.

How did you make the transition from wanting to write to becoming a published writer?

After finding out I could plug away through several hundred thousand words and keep my spirits up to complete a novel, I decided to learn more of the craft with short stories and eventually produce a publishable novel. I soon came to hate the short stories I worked on.

I started the next novel (about the workers trying to buy the Calgary Refinery) in the late 70s and took the first draft to Rudy Wiebe, then writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary. I found out that I needed to learn better control of my imagination and prose when he laughed through all the dramatic bits.

I have attended other writing functions, the last with Guy Vanderhaeghe who won the Governor General's prize for The Englishman's Boy, now a TV drama. He taught me the importance of every detail -- such as what would or would not be in the POV character's sight in every scene. After that I joined the best of the online writing groups, NovelPro, and have had every novel thoroughly critiqued until they were worthy of showing to the world. NovelPro is as valuable as most MFA programs.

How many books have you written so far?

The three Iskander novels published or contracted are Deadly Enterprise (July 2007), The Wildcat's Victory (January 2008), and Arrival (July 2008). They are all published by Double Dragon e-Books. They all feature my courageous and clever female Security Officer, Gisel Matah, who works to protect the interests of a group of modern people marooned on a 17th century world. When the moderns work to introduce technology we might relish, established power elites attack them to maintain the status quo.

My fantasy, Rast, is due out from Zumaya in January 2009. It takes the side of a small magical kingdom, Rast, invaded by an imperialist power whose mechanistic philosophy denies the existence of things that cannot be touched. Rast is maintained by the magic of its succession of sorcerer kings, who must eventually meet their end under the power of the forces they wield. The Prince must succeed his doomed father while fighting many enemies; meanwhile his sweetheart has her own struggles against a rule of succession that says she cannot bear his heirs.

Related article:

Chris Hoare [Interview_2], Conversations with Writers, March 7, 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

[Interview] Dahlia Rose

Dahlia Rose made her debut as an author with the publication of Love and Lights (Mardi Gras Publishing, 2006).

Love and Lights was followed by The Soul Mate's Curse (Star Dust Press, 2007); When Angels Fall (Star Dust Press, 2007); Caribbean Blue (Phaze, 2007) and Velvet, Leather and Roses (Amira Press, 2007) and Paradise Found (Amira Press, 2008).

Dahlia Rose spoke about her writing:

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I decided to be a writer when I was around eleven years old. By then I was already writing short stories and poems at school and a few on my poems won contests.

My mom always used to say I was blessed with a gift and that I could use words and make people want to read more.

Even though I wanted to take it up as a career, I had to put off writing because my kids and family came first. But the love of it always remained in my heart.

How would you describe the writing you are doing now?

I write multi-cultural, contemporary erotica and suspense. That is the only way I can explain it.

I take my characters, whether it is a soldier or a dancer or a werewolf or a vampire, and I set them in this time period.

I love the thought of magic and the what-ifs of life brought into the here-and-now. I mix suspense with romance and love and blend in some spicy erotica.

I try to mix in real life emotionalism into my books because I want the reader to feel the situation my characters are in... to be able to say, "Hey I can feel what [this character] is feeling!"

Have you ever listened to a song that gets to your heart every time you hear it? That’s what I want readers to feel when they look into one of my books.

What motivated you to start writing in this genre?

It was actually not by choice. I started writing one day and the characters and story just ended up in this genre. I found my niche in contemporary erotica/romance. Every time I sit down in front of my laptop to write, my stories just twist into this reality.

I generally don’t write out plots or outlines for a new book. I get up one morning and there is a new idea in my head and it runs from there. Those little characters in my head take over and tell me where they are going to be, not where I should put them. They are very outspoken when they get a voice.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

The work that I am doing is so very important to me and I know a lot of people do not consider romance a very big part of the writing world. But to me and all of us who write it, it is one of the most important things in our lives. We are not just for bored housewives and mothers. That is the biggest misconception out there we have to deal with. We give love a voice.

I am a true romantic at heart. I love the thought of being in love and all the challenges a relationship can face. We all know that it can’t be perfect all the time. And I let my books reflect that. They are not just sweet and happy from one chapter to the next. I try to put up some barriers and walls that my characters have to climb over before they can find true happiness.

I use a lot of my own emotions when I write and I draw on past experiences and conflicts to help me capture what I want to portray in a particular scene.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

My biggest challenges are trying to balance everything in my life. I have four kids ranging from sixteen to four. From going to soccer practice or Gymboree or football practice plus my own kickboxing classes -- there never seems to be enough hours in the day. Focusing on my writing as a career now has become my goal. I quit my job so I could have more hours in the day to write. In the past, by the time I had a few hours at night to open up my laptop, I was so exhausted I fell asleep. I now have the schedule worked out and everyone in my family is so supportive it is going well.

My kids are great and so is my fiancée. They let mom have her peace and quiet -- so I can write. And when I have promotional items or contest items I need to get done, you can see them all sitting helping me get bookmarks and business cards made up. They all do their part to help and encourage me.

With the promise that when I get on the New York Times bestseller list I buy them a boat. (Laugh.)

Do you write everyday?

I try to at least spend three to six hours a day writing. I like to work on two books simultaneously and get at least two chapters done a day on each book. But there are some days when I tend to procrastinate and end up spending the day in the park with my kids.

The Lover’s Diary sounds intriguing. What is it about?

The Lover’s Diary is my baby. It was the first book that ever got accepted. It looks into the relationship of a pair of lovers who write their thoughts and feeling into the pages of a journal they share. Their love and sexuality is directly tied together. There is nothing they don't share because they are very open and honest. The heroine, however, has been hurt so badly that she has a hard time accepting that this relationship is real. The hero, who loves her deeply, sets out to prove to her he's not going anywhere and this is a forever deal with him.

Paradise Found, on the other hand is a suspense thriller about a stalker who kills his victims to find immortality. It is my first full length novel and it takes you from North Carolina to the lush beauty of Barbados.

Which aspects of the work did you find most difficult?

I would have to say conflict or danger. I get so caught up in the fear or anger of the moment when I create it that sometimes I have to stop and just give myself a breather.

For instance, in Paradise Found, my killer scared the heck out of me when I came to writing his scenes and his victim's fear became my own for a little bit. There were certain parts in The Soul Mate’s Curse that are so sad I felt like crying myself.

Which parts of the novella did you enjoy writing most?

Love scenes. Well, who can blame me?

I think every writer has a fondness for the romance they can create between characters. For me, I love erotica and sensuality, in general, so it is very easy for me to write it in my books.

I wrote The Soul Mate’s Curse book in three weeks, around the Christmas holiday. I did it between shopping and other things. I started the editing process in January of 2007 so that it would be ready for release just before Valentines Day.

It's a Valentines story with a twist, with a werewolf, true love and a curse. How could I go wrong?

What sets the novella apart from the other things you've written?

It's the first book I've written which centres on a werewolf.

I knew I wanted the wolf to be scary, yes… but not like you see in the movies... where they are slimy and disgusting when they change. I wanted him to be actually a wolf and the whole concept of him being cursed to be a wolf and not bitten blended in very well with that idea.

The novella's similarity to my other books is that it is cantered around my belief in soul mates that last a life-time. I believe in happily-ever-after and even if one of my books does not have a happy ending, it will have a love that will last from one life to the next. That's one of my strongest beliefs... that even if a love is lost in this life, it will be found in another life.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer

You mean besides getting my foot in the door and being published? (Laugh.) I would say being nominated for a few awards in the Romance Erotica Connection awards. I was nominated Best New Author of 2006 for my book, Love and Light, and even though I did not win, I felt good knowing that at least a few people out there read my book and liked it. I did not even know I was nominated until I scheduled a chat with the owner/moderator of the group and she told me. Then a few other authors I know told me the same thing. I was pleasantly surprised.