Six questions with M. H. Callway

Madelaine Harris-Callway

Madeleine Harris-Callway is a traditionally published crime writer. Her debut novel, Windigo Fire, which has a northern Ontario setting, was published by Seraphim Editions in October 2014. It was warmly received by reviewers, including Margaret Cannon of The Globe and Mail. The Huffington Post Canada put it on their list of Books for Book Clubs. On April 23rd, she was thrilled to learn that Windigo Fire is a finalist for this year’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel.

Prior to writing Windigo Fire, Madeleine was a successful crime short story writer. Her stories have appeared in several anthologies and magazines and have also won awards.

She has moderated and participated on numerous panels at writing conferences. Most recently, she moderated a panel at Left Coast Crime on plot twists. Her favourite topic is “How to Get Published” and she regularly gives talks at public libraries on this subject.

In 2013, Madeleine founded The Mesdames of Mayhem, a collective of 16 Canadian women crime writers.

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I was introduced to Madeleine through a mutual friend, author Dorothy McIntosh (D.J. McIntosh), last year. She mentioned that she would be interested in coming up to Sudbury to promote Windigo Fire, and we started a correspondence that culminated with the organization of a writing workshop and her participation in this year’s Wordstock literary festival.

I’m so pleased to welcome Madeleine to Writerly Goodness 🙂

WG: When did you first come to writing, and, as it’s always seemed to be your thing, what drew you to crime writing specifically?

MHC: I have been writing since I was a child. I co-opted my mother’s portable electric typewriter and banged out plays for my friends to perform with mixed results! I forgot my dream to be a writer between studying science and business at university, earning a living and raising a family though I returned to it from time to time. In 2002, I decided it was now or never and committed to writing full time.

While I worked at the Ministry of Health, I was assigned to work on the scientific investigation of the mysterious deaths at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto. The study, in parallel with the police investigation, was headed up by the Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta. The report concluded that deaths were indeed homicide.

It was a deeply disturbing experience that affected every one of us who worked on the study. My boss at the time ended up leaving the government and becoming a forensic psychiatrist! He and I would have many long discussions puzzling over the motivation of the person responsible. I began to read accounts of true crimes, trying to gain insight into the criminal mind and I continue to read such books to this day though I’ve come to believe that the reasons, at least to me, remain unknowable.

I turned instead to crime fiction, where the criminals, for the most part, are caught, punished and moral order is restored!

WG: You’re an avid cyclist, runner, and downhill skier. Does your physical activity play a role in your creative pursuits?

MHC: Physical activity and writing are intertwined my personal life. Windigo Fire is an outdoor survivalist thriller. I drew on my personal experiences with dehydration and fatigue to lend authenticity to the hardships my hero, Danny Bluestone, goes through. During long training runs and bicycle rides, I have the freedom to think up stories and to resolve plot problems. And on the way I always spot odd and fascinating people, buildings or incidents that give me ideas.

WG: What led you to found the Mesdames of Mayhem?

MHC: Sadly women crime writers still face an uphill battle to get equal recognition. Though we represent at least half of published crime writers, we aren’t reviewed as often as men and we don’t win as many awards. My friends and I feel we have greater power by banding together and supporting each other at our new book launches and through social media. Through the Mesdames of Mayhem website and Facebook page, we reach far more readers than we can as individuals. We’ve had great fun doing readings at libraries and other venues. It’s much easier for emerging and mid-list authors to get exposure when we approach libraries and literary events as a team.

WG: What was the idea that became Windigo Fire, and how did it evolve?

MHC: The first crime novel I wrote became my “learner novel”. Though it had interest from a few publishers and a New York agent, it never quite made it and it now lives in my filing cabinet. Windigo Fire was to be the second novel in the series, but Danny came to life and took over.

The story of Pasha, the tame bear at Logan’s zoo, was inspired by a bear we saw performing at Clark’s Trading Post, a roadside attraction in New Hampshire. I was inspired to write Windigo Fire after reading about Ted Nugent’s obsessive advocacy of hunting. At the same time, I ran across a sad story about canned bear hunts or fake hunts where the poor animal is chained down and shot by “hunters” who pay a fortune for this. Fortunately these occurrences are rare. Naturally, I asked what if the hunters become the hunted . . .

I spent a lot of time in Northern Ontario early on in my working career: my first job was with Lac Minerals, a gold mining company and later on, I ran health studies for the Ontario government. I heard many wild stories from my workmates, some of which, like the wild bear encounter, are true. The event “karaoke strip night” is an exaggeration, of course, though not by much!

WG: Windigo Fire is set in northern Ontario and features a native protagonist. What kinds of research did you conduct in the process of writing the novel?

MHC: I relied on a friend and fellow writer who was Native Canadian. She explained aspects of culture, such as sweat lodge ceremony and shared her life on and off the reserve. Sadly she passed away so she never knew that Windigo Fire was published.

I also did research at the Spadina Road Branch of the Toronto Public Library, which has a great collection of Native Canadian literature. Studying Cree legends, I ran across the story of the windigo, which proved to be the perfect theme for my novel. The windigo is the symbol of evil, a cannibal with a heart of ice that can only be destroyed by fire. I believe Native Canadians used this legendary character to explain the existence of psychopaths.

At a deeper level, my novel represents the struggle of the main characters against evil. Do they rise and become strong enough to fight it? Or do they succumb to it and let their hearts turn to ice?

For information about surviving in the north, I used the book, How to Survive in the Woods, and for details on uranium mining, I used the internet.

WG: Can you give us a hint about what’s coming up in the future for M.H. Callway, author?

MHC: Absolutely! I am hard at work on Danny’s next adventure, the second book in the series, called Windigo Ice. Danny survived forest fire season, but now he’s forced to battle the frigid northern winter and a rogue priest bent on bio-warfare.

In follow up to our successful first anthology, Thirteen, my group, the Mesdames of Mayhem, will be releasing a second anthology, Thirteen O’Clock. It contains twisted tales of time and crime and will be available on Amazon this fall on Kindle and in printed form.

Thank you for an insightful interview, Madeleine. It was a pleasure! Break a pencil in your creative pursuits 🙂

Many thanks, Mel. It was a pleasure to be interviewed!

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Danny Bluestone, a young Native Canadian, settles for a job at a children’s camp in his Northern Ontario hometown of Red Dog Lake. Local entrepreneur, Meredith Easter, offers Danny some easy money: play the role of native scout for his wealthy hunting buddies. Danny knows that Easter’s roadside attraction, Santa’s Fish Camp, is the front for the local grow-op, and probably more, but the money is his way out of Red Dog Lake. Danny flies the hunters to an island lodge deep in the wilderness. Once there, he learns that he’s part of an illegal bear hunt and is powerless to stop the men from shooting the helpless animal. The following morning, he awakes to find all the hunters but Ricky brutally murdered. Even though each of them believes the other is the killer, Danny and Ricky must team up to escape the forest fire started by the hunters. While his friends in Red Dog Lake struggle to rescue him, Danny falls back on the teachings of his shaman grandmother to survive the bush and the Windigo, the evil spirit that pursues him and Ricky.

Windigo Fire

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Mischief managed: The M2the5th Twitterview with Roz Morris, March 29, 2014

For my second Twitterview hosting experience, I got to quiz Roz Morris.

Squeeeeee!

For those of you who don’t know, Roz is the ghost writer for some 12 bestselling novels.
She is also an editor and book doctor (are the two the same? Read the Storify linked below to find out!), and in recent years she’s self-published two novels under her own name and the first two books in her Nail Your Novel series, all bestsellers. She also writes articles all over the internet, teaches writing and self-publishing classes … the woman is amazing.

And so gracious with her time! When we proposed the Twitterview as the culmination of a month-long Roz Morris spotlight on the M2the5th Google Plus community, little did we suspect how engaged Roz would be. Lori Sailiata, Amy Pabalan, and I may have shared her blogs, videos, and articles, but she commented on every one, and we had some interesting conversations.

If you visit her web site (linked above), you can find out all about Roz, her consultancy services, her books, and everything else.

You can also read the Storify of the Twitterview (put together by chief Tweet wrangler, Lori): https://storify.com/LaraBrittWrites/mto5-twitterview-roz-morris

#Mto5 Roz Morris Twitterview Storify

#Mto5 Roz Morris Twitterview Storify

Yesterday’s Twitterview was a great time. It’s really a matter of controlled chaos, or mischief managed, if you like the Harry Potter allusion.

Not only is Roz a great writer and writing coach, but she also, as Amy learned, owns a horse, which boosted Roz’s cool quotient in Amy’s eyes. And if that wasn’t enough, Roz attended circus classes and tried out everything from juggling to the trapeze.

New Twitter friend Mark was active throughout the hour-long session, but other participants, including Porter Anderson, retweeted and shared some of Roz’s gems during and after the Twitterview.

And that’s not all!

M2the5th (Mostly Multicultural, Mysteries, Memoir, and Myth) will be holding weekly Nail Your Novel Tweet chats followed by video hangout workshops on Saturdays throughout April (except for Easter weekend). Join the Google Plus community for more details as they emerge.

We want to keep the Roz-love going because her third Nail Your Novel will be coming out this spring!

Wheeeee!

My first twitterview as host (with Jamie Raintree, for @M2the5th)

Last night, I hosted an @M2the5th Twitterview with Jamie Raintree, author of women’s fiction.

I was a little nervous, but it was a blast!

For those of you who missed it, here’s the link to the Storify: http://storify.com/LaraBrittWrites/mto5-author-twitterview-jamie-raintree (lovingly created by Lori).

You can get an idea about what a twitterview involves and how much fun it can be.  The point of a twitterview? To help the twitterviewee engage her audience, promote her work, and develop her online platform. I hope we managed to do all of the above for Jamie last night.

I would never have survived without the support and assistance of Lori and Amy, the @M2the5th dream team. They have the twittervew down to a science. It’s awesome to have professionals on your side.

Here’s a little bit about Jamie:

She lives with her husband of 7 years and is a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) of two daughters.

She started writing fan fiction in middle school and finished her first novel length manuscript during NaNoWriMo 2008. She’s been hooked on writing since.

What interests Jamie: the strength and depth of the female spirit, who we fall in love with and why, what tears us apart, what little things can help make love last.

Jamie also has a YouTube channel and has produced two videos: one discusses balance in your day – how she balances her creative life and her family responsibilities; the other discusses happiness in the context of what inspires her to write. Jamie has promised there will be more to come.

Here’s how you can keep in touch with Jamie online:

Now that Jamie has an agent, we’ll be eagerly awaiting her first traditionally published novel! No pressure, dear 😉

Jamie Raintree

Six questions with Renny deGroot

I recently made Renny’s acquaintance (formally) at a meeting of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.

She let us know that she had recently published her first historical novel, Family Business.  Another Sudbury Writer? W00t! Of course, I had to ask for an interview 🙂

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Renny deGroot

Renny deGroot

Renny deGroot is a first generation Canadian of Dutch parents. She is a published poet and song lyricist, with Family Business being her debut novel. She studied English Literature at Trent University. Her strong Dutch roots continue to influence her while the love of her Canadian homeland with its beauty and freedom, flavours all that she does.

Renny lives in rural Ontario with her Great Pyrenees, Chocolate Lab and very old tabby cat.”

My parents were somewhat ‘citizens of the world’. My mother lived in England for a period after the war, before moving to Indonesia where she met my father (who was there with the Dutch military). They immigrated to Nova Scotia (where I was born) before settling in Ontario. This spirit of adventure influenced their three children (of whom I am the youngest). I’ve lived in Ireland, hung out in the south of France for a bit and  go ‘back’ to the Netherlands regularly to spend time with family and soak up my heritage, before always coming back with a sigh of relief, to the best and most beautiful place in the world – Canada.

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WG: Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Renny!

RdG: Thank you! I’m really pleased and honoured that you’ve invited me to participate.

WG: How did you come to the writing life? Give us the origin story of Renny deGroot, author 🙂

RdG: I’ve always felt artistic pulls. While my sister was sent to Brownies and my brother to Navy cadets, I was sent to art classes. Unfortunately my drawing skill set didn’t live up to my desire, so I turned to writing as an outlet. As a teenager I wrote the usual angst-ridden poetry, some of which found their way into community newsletters and school yearbooks (my mother was a faithful ‘sender-outer’ of my pieces J ). Lots of encouragement at home and from great English teachers drove me to take creative writing classes and work on my degree in English Literature.

WG: What inspired Family Business?

RdG: Well, simply put – family stories. One evening a couple of years ago I was visiting my family in the Netherlands. My uncle Jan (the youngest of my father’s six siblings) and his wife, Marja, were telling me of a certain situation with my great grandmother, and when he finished I said: ‘wow – there’s a book in that.’ My uncle looked sceptical, but they are such a great support and when I really started writing the story they did everything they could to help me with background, details and encouragement. Of course, it isn’t at all intended to accurately represent the family thing – it just was the starting point – as you say – the inspiration.

The end result is a story about a young man who struggles to learn the meaning of freedom amidst family conflict during the depression years and World War II German occupation in the Netherlands. The notion of freedom on a macro level (for a nation, race, community) and a micro level (our own individual right to choose and determine our path) is timeless and a topic that I’m passionate about. When I’m not writing, I manage an Irish tenor (http://jimmycartonband.com). Being so immersed in the Irish culture and music has been a huge contributing influence on my interest in the topic of freedom.

I’ve read that every writer could come up with ten stories based on family stuff, and I believe it. I don’t know if I just happen to have a quirky family, but I know that there’s inspiration for a few more still sitting there waiting to be harvested.

WG: And what about your new work in progress?

RdG: The working title is After Paris and it opens in spring of 1916 in Paris. World War I changed the world forever and, like Family Business, it isn’t a war story, but I’m interested in how people manage the massive changes that come into their lives both during and after these huge events. The role of women changed with WWI, for some more than others. I’m also very interested in personal development – emotional vs. intellectual. These are some of the things I want to look at, but of course rolled up into a great story.

WG: I love when writers talk about their process 🙂 Would you care to share a part of yours?

RdG: I can get pretty distracted so I need to set targets for myself – generally a page count per session and I tell myself I won’t finish for the day until I’ve done three pages or five pages, or whatever is realistic based on where I am. The beginning is the hardest so if I can get two pages done, I’m satisfied. I generally go through several pots of tea before the day is done.

After that, I love writing outside. I have a large screened-in deck and a pond with a waterfall. I’m surrounded by trees – so I am most productive when I sit out there with the sound of the wind in the trees and the music of the waterfall in the background. I’m afraid I’m less productive in winter, but do enjoy being by the fire, either reading for background, or doing a bit of writing.

When I’m in the groove, I don’t worry about grammar or phrasing too much. I want to get the story down and then I go back to start the revisions and editing. With Family Business I edited the finished story several times before hiring a professional editor and then we worked together for three full rounds. It was a great learning experience and of course I’ll incorporate those lessons into the writing of After Paris.

WG: You have a lovely Web page. Are you active on social media? What role has “platform” played in getting your work published?

RdG: I’m afraid I’m not great with the technology side of things and am learning as I go along. I guess I have to admit that I’ve only just set up a Facebook page – on the tenth anniversary of Facebook, I accept it’s here to stay, so I’ve climbed aboard, albeit somewhat reluctantly. I am more comfortable with the website for sure. That gives me the opportunity to give reign to my creativity and I see it as a spot , not just to provide information for fans, but to really interact in a virtual ‘book club’ environment. My book is for sale via my website, so it’s handy for that as well of course. Publishing and book buying/selling is a whole different world than it was, even five years ago. Amazon.com and other on-line retailers have opened up the world to make it accessible to writers like myself, who probably wouldn’t get the attention of large traditional publishing houses, and have done a great service to the reading world – as people can choose for themselves what grabs them versus having their tastes steered by the large publishers.

WG: What’s coming up for Renny deGroot and Family Business?

RdG: I am really excited about the next few months. It’s such a long process to get a book published that I feel like I’ve stepped away from Family Business for a while as I’ve become more involved with the outlining, research (including a trip to Paris last summer!) and writing of After Paris. It means putting Paris on hold for a bit, but I’m happy to be ‘back with the Meijer family.’ I have the official Book Launch in Toronto on March 1st at a wonderful downtown spot called The Hothouse Café. It’ll be an afternoon of wine, food, music and of course a reading and book signing. After that I’ll be doing a launch tour which I’m still firming up, but will certainly include Sudbury in early April, and various other spots in Ontario (looking at Port Perry, Bowmanville, and Mississauga, with more spots in Toronto, Brampton and Brantford to start with.) Then, in the summer I’ll be looking at the Maritimes – definitely Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and probably Newfoundland.

I’ll be updating my website regularly on the ‘Events’ tab, as well as Facebook – so I hope that your readers will join me, and even suggest other places that might like to host a book signing. I’m open to ideas. One idea that I really like is participating in small ‘house-readings’. I’ve been to a couple of house concerts (I first saw/heard the Good Lovelies at a house concert) and I think it’s a perfect setting for a book reading/signing/discussion. I’m really excited about these events as I get to travel, meet people and share some opportunities for storytelling.

WG: Thanks for a wonderful interview, Renny. Break a pencil in your future writing endeavours!

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Family Business

Family Business

About Family Business:

Set in the Netherlands against the backdrop of the Great Depression and through World War II, Family Business follows the story of Agatha Meijer and her sons, André and Johan, as they build their textile business, a business Agatha is determined her sons will carry on, regardless of their own desires. Family tension comes to a head when the boys each take a stand, sending all their lives spinning in directions none of them would have ever anticipated, and making each of them question the true meaning of loyalty, love, and freedom.

For sale at:

http://rennydegroot.com (Canadian customers who would like a print copy)

http://www.amazon.com/Family-Business-Renny-deGroot/dp/1494233231/ (U.S. customers who would like a print copy)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/401486 (eBook)

Various other Amazon affiliates also have the print copy available for international customers (.co, .UK, .fr, etc.).

Also – Amazon.com will sell to customers in Canada, but as it comes from the U.S., shipping is much more expensive – so better to buy through the rennydegroot.com website.

Six questions with Jane Ann McLachlan

I “met” Jane Ann through a wonderful online collective, Wordsmith Studio, following Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge of 2012.

Though I knew that many of us were writers, I had no idea Jane Ann was working on a science fiction novel. Last fall, she was even up in Sudbury, giving a reading at the Sudbury Public Library, which, because I was out of town, I had to miss.

I also had to miss her Twitterview with mutual friend Lori Sailiata for Hawaii Content Management (#HiCM), though I read the Storify afterward 🙂

Now that her novel is coming out in instalments, I decided I simply had to find out more about this virtual friend and fellow Canadian author.

Without further ado, here she is: Jane Ann McLachlan!

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Jane Ann McLachlan

Jane Ann McLachlan

Hi Melanie. We’ll have to meet when I’m in Sudbury in September for Cinefest. My parents were both originally northern Ontarians, although I was born in Toronto and grew up in Newmarket, a small town near Toronto, Canada. I taught at Conestoga College until a few years ago, when I decided to write full-time, although I still teach a couple of evening courses a year. I have written two college textbooks, published by Pearson/Prentice Hall, a science fiction e-book on Amazon called Walls of Wind http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HNXOG98 , and my collection of short stories, Connections, which came out last fall, published by Pandora Press.  My website is http://www.janeannmclachlan.com

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WG: Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Jane Ann!

You are a writer of diverse talents. You’ve written two textbooks on professional ethics, a collection of inspirational short stories, and now a science fiction novel. I also understand you write historical fiction as well. How do all of your writerly personae intermingle, or do they?

JAM: I read extensively and enjoy a lot of different genres, so writing in different genres feels natural to me. But it didn’t always. I had to learn to accept the genre a story idea came to me in. I started writing science fiction, which I have always read, when I heard of a medieval superstition that really grabbed my imagination. An editor at Tor loved the idea, and liked my writing, and seriously considered it. He didn’t buy the book, but he gave me some excellent advice—he told me to re-write it as a medieval novel. I had to do a lot of research and reading in that genre (at that time I’d only read a few historical fiction authors) before I felt qualified to write historical fiction, but I’m pleased with the result. The Sorrow Stone is currently on offer with my agent. I guess I’m not a quick learner, because about the same time, I went through a traumatic event, and I tried to write it up as fiction. But it just kept dying on the page, until I gave in and wrote it as memoir. Impact: A Memoir of PTSD is now also with my agent. Now, I listen to the story and let it tell me which genre it needs to be written in.

WG: What is the origin story of J.A. McLachlan, author?

JAM: When people ask me, what made you start writing? I say, “I learned to read.” The first story I remember writing was a picture book, way back when that’s what I was still reading. It was about a pony, and I remember practicing for months to learn how to draw a horse. After that, I switched to poetry. I have a number of poems about dogs and horses my mom saved. They rhyme and they scan, but I wasn’t into very deep themes at age 8. 🙂

WG: Focusing on your fiction, what attracts you to each of the genres you write in (inspirational, historical, and speculative)?

JAM: I like a good story, with intriguing characters that are changed by their experiences in the novel, and an interesting “high concept” theme. Moral and philosophical quandaries really interest me, as well as a plot that keeps me guessing. These elements can be found in many genres.

WG: I’m a total process geek. I love to find out how people work their art and craft. Would you care to share anything about your writing process?

JAM: I need complete silence when I write, and NO interruptions. I write best when I’m all alone at home for hours, and I write on a laptop that is not connected to the internet (I have a separate computer in another room for that.) I start with a rough outline and let the characters alter it as I go. I would like to be a total plotter—that’s how I wrote my textbooks, with a very detailed outline for every chapter—but fiction, like life, just doesn’t work that way.  Stuff happens, and you have to adapt. Fiction (and life) can be a pain that way. 🙂

WG: With respect to Walls of Wind, why have you opted for publication in instalments?

JAM: It’s all about knowing your market. E-books do better in novella form, at low prices, for a number of reasons. It seems most people who read e-books like something they can read fairly quickly. If they want more, they’ll buy the next one. And since I’m an unknown author, readers are more willing to try me out if it’s not going to cost them much in time or money— Walls of Wind Part I is 4 chapters long and sells for .99c. I want people to be able to try it, because Walls of Wind is the best thing I’ve written, and I’m pretty confident anyone who likes science fiction and reads Part I will want to read the rest. Oh, and the link is:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HNXOG98

But here’s an offer for your readers. Right now, book reviews of Walls of Wind are worth more to me than royalties, so anyone who will write a review on Amazon or GoodReads (or best of all, on both) for me—whatever they think of the book—I’d be happy to send them Part I for free. Just email me at:  jamclachlan@golden.net

WG: What’s next for you?

JAM: Right now, I’m editing Part III of Walls of Wind —Part II goes live on Feb. 1; Part III on March 1; and the complete trilogy, for those who want a longer read, in e-book form and in print, will be available on April 2. I’m also currently setting up a number of talks and readings in the US and Canada for Connections and will be doing the same for Walls of Wind when I have the print book. And while all that is going on, I have my next historical fiction novel—which takes place during the Third Crusade—AND a YA science fiction novel, both hollering around in my head trying to get out, so I’ll be writing them this year.

Thanks for a great interview and break a pencil in your future writing endeavours!

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About Walls of Wind:

Walls of Wind, Part II

Walls of Wind, Part II

What if males and females were completely different species from each other?

Walls of Wind explores this question and its ramifications on a world in which males and females are two different, equally intelligent species: Ghen and Bria. They are interdependent and reproductively symbiotic, although physically, emotionally and mentally they have little in common. Or so they believe, until their city-state is threatened by increasing internal conflict and a terrifying external predator that has invaded the forests beyond their walls. A handful of Ghen and Bria struggle desperately to find a solution before their civilization is destroyed.

Walls of Wind combines anthropological speculation with the tragedy, suspense and triumph of individual characters who struggle to overcome external threats as well as their own internal fears and prejudices.

Read Part I of Walls of Wind: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HNXOG98  Look for Part II on February 1st, 2014.

Six questions with Sarah Lashbrook

I met Sarah back in the summer at a book signing in the local Chapters. I immediately approached her about doing an interview, and of course, I bought her book!

The book signing at Chapters (Sarah’s on the left, chatting up some friends)

Without further ado:

Sarah Lashbrook has been writing since the early age of 12, when she wrote her first letter to the star of Days of Our Lives, inquiring about a writing career on the popular Soap Opera. Inspired by television, Sarah continued to pursue a life of writing, gaining her first recognition when she graduated high school with top English marks and won a National scholarship worth $15,000, from Global Television. Sarah chose the Journalism Program at Humber College, and after the three year course ended she furthered her education with a post-grad course in Writing, Directing, and Producing, for Television.

WG: You state that you started writing at the age of 12 with a letter to Days of Our Lives. Writing for television was clearly your inspiration, but what was it about television that drew you to writing?

SL: Hmmm good question. The idea of entertaining people always appealed to me. The thought that with a simple twist here and there to the English language – you could cause a reaction in someone that is very deep and personal. Whether it be laughter, tears, anger, or total joy…the appeal of causing the reaction was always one I wanted to be able to provoke. Back as a child, I had more access to television than books, so that is probably why my love started with that medium.

WG: What was your first published/aired piece and what did you learn from the experience?

SL: My first published piece – well I had two in one paper – the first was a newspaper profile article on Margaret Atwood, and the Second was an interview with Bobby Hull on fighting in the NHL. Both were in our school newspaper. My first aired piece was with CTV – I had written, filmed, and edited 6 family stories for the Easter Seals Telethon. Both times thrilled me to bits. I must admit – I still get quite giddy when I see my name attached to anything written – in print or on aired. It is a rush.

WG: How have your degree and experience in journalism contributed to writing Where the Stream and the Creek Collide?

SL: Well, I guess the quick answer is it helped me to formulate what I wanted to say in smaller doses. Which helps you be concise and to the point when needed. I can break down a large sentence into mere words if I need to. Besides that – it has helped me greatly in knowing how to research a topic. I am comfortable in searching for printed information as well as reading stats, which are two very handy skills to have. It also has helped me in regards to being able to find the people I need to interview, asking them the tough questions, and deciphering the information they give me. I have room for improvement on these skills of course but would not be as strong at them as I am now – if it weren’t for my background in journalism.

WG: Your protagonist, Sadie Coleman, is a paraplegic but her story seems very different from yours. Why did you decide to write a paraplegic protagonist, and what of your experience contributed to who Sadie is?

SL: I always wanted to write a book or books where my main character had a disability but the story wasn’t necessarily about that. I didn’t want it to be a service piece for those who aren’t in wheelchairs. I just wanted a related character for those who seem to lack just that in literary works. I know I have never read a fiction piece where a good main character was in a wheelchair…only non-fiction. I started out with a main character being paraplegic because that is what I know. I am paraplegic…I thought for this first book – I should make it a bit easier on myself.

Sadie has a lot of my qualities and experiences even though our stories are quite different. Those qualities and experiences though are mine. Maybe someday I will share but for now – they stay my secret with Sadie. I will tell you though – that after I wrote the book – I did find out that the name Sadie is a form of the name Sarah. Very strange coincidence.

WG: When you were ready to publish, did you query or seek an agent? What was that process like, and how did you end up with Spire Publishing?

SL: I did think about approaching an agent but from everything I read and from experiences of other writers around me – I decided that that wasn’t an approach I wanted to take at this time. It was advised to me to just get published. That once the first book was out there and published – all sorts of new doors would open up. And it was true.

Spire Publishing was the third place I approached. I felt strongly at first about staying true to my Northern Ontario roots and so approached a publisher in the Sault first – they said they would consider it with a few changes. I was too stubborn at the time to make those changes…and am still confortable with that decision.

The second place I approached was a publisher here in Sudbury – but unfortunately I sent it right when Canada Post had its strike – and I never heard back from them – only by email saying that they were not getting any posts. By the time the strike ended – I had already chosen Spire and was in the publishing process. I am very happy with my choice. Philip and his team have been fantastic to work with.

WG: What’s next for Sarah Lashbrook, author?

SL: Wow…what is next? A few things actually. I am working on my next novel – working title is Missing Link. It is a story of love, betrayal, pain, and happiness between two women but has a nice little organized crime twist – quite fun to write.

Also, very recently, I was approached by the fabulous director Shirley Cheechoo, who read my book, and asked if I would write a screenplay off of Where The Stream And Creek Collide. She said she would like to direct it as a film. I am so blown away and honoured with this. I have chills. So, before I finish my novel, I will be writing a screenplay from the last book.

Thanks for a fabulous interview, Sarah!  Break a pencil in your future writing endeavours!

Where the Stream and the Creek Collide

Where the Stream and the Creek Collide

For 23 year old Sadie Coleman, the last year of college will be anything but kind. Not long after arriving at College to begin her last year as a Resident Assistant, Sadie finds out that she will be spending the entire employment with the assiduous task of monitoring last year’s rogue, Jack DeGraff. But Jack may not be Sadie’s only problem. She may also be forced to come to terms with her past. Six years prior, Sadie was involved in a terrible attack that killed her mother and left her a paraplegic. When Jack’s antics become too much to handle, her endless efforts to set up her father fail, her boyfriend bails, and her friend and boss become a little too close to her and the situation, things start to unravel. Sadie realizes just how damaged she is. That she has injury far beyond the physical.

Six questions with J.R. Cameron

John Cameron

John Cameron

I’ve never understood why it’s become common practice to write the author bio in the 3rd person. John R. Cameron lives in Sudbury, Ontario. If you’re taking the time to read my bio, isn’t it because you’re essentially interviewing me for a chance to be a part of your life for a short while?

Hi. I’m John.

I have a wife and a kid. They often drive me to the brink of madness; not a difficult thing to do, considering how close to the edge I already am. My daughter is a hellion. At the age of six, she’s both bright and bold, obstinate, and pushes every button I have. My wife blames my genetics: “I was never like that,” she claims. I deny it, despite knowing that I was also an uncontrollable child.

I’m thirty, and a teacher. I’m very worried about the current state of education. I’m concerned about the future, in general. I don’t think we all necessarily need to be alarmists, though I do believe that if you look at the world around you and aren’t a little worried, you and I probably aren’t going to agree on much. (Don’t worry, I’ll pretend not to look while you navigate elsewhere. There’s plenty of other entertainment online. Crushing Candy, and so forth…)

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WG: When did writing first come into your life (or vice versa)?  Give us the origin story of John Cameron, Superhero Writer.

JRC:        I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. I was one of those people who sat around saying, “I’m going to write a book one day,” but just never got around to it. I can’t claim that I couldn’t have found the time. I’d be lying if I did. I’ve pissed away a solid three decades of my life. Over the past few years, it’s like the thoughts running through my mind have turned into a constant third person narrative. We’ll call it the ‘itch’, I suppose. I realized the day was coming when I’d open a Word file, and start typing. I just didn’t know when that day would come, or what I’d be writing about. Until this past winter, I’d never made any attempt at a serious literary endeavour.

WG: What was the idea that became The Second Lives of Honest Men and how did it occur to you?

JRC:        In December of 2011, I walked away from a terrible car crash. This was only because of blind luck, or fate, or whatever you’d like to call it. I slammed into a guard rail doing 100 kilometres an hour, backwards. I was pushing it – trying to get home on the first snowy day of winter, before the roads got worse. I rounded a bend, and low and behold, that stretch of road was worse. I fishtailed back and forth over the slush, trying to correct my course. It was a hopeless effort, and I quickly lost control. I clutched the steering wheel and braced myself against the seat, preparing for the inevitable. I blew out seven posts of the short, twenty post rail, coming to a dead stop in the middle of the highway. It was the only guard rail on that side of the kilometre long stretch.

I could have hit one of the many rock cuts, or been flung into the deep, stony valley between the East and Westbound lanes. Instead, I momentarily laughed off my good fortune while I waited for a tow truck. I even went bowling that night. When you walk away from an accident like that, the implications of ‘what if?’ begin encroaching on your soul. The harder you try not to think about it, the more the darkness grips you. I eventually came to terms with what mortality really is, and what it really means. I spent the better part of 2012 in a deep apathy, as I began seeing a lot of things in an entirely new light. I questioned how I’d been interpreting the world around me, and what my role was in it. In October of 2012, I was watching television with a good friend while we discussed the problems of society; how the moral compass seemed to be broken. An advertisement for Spielberg’s Lincoln came on during a commercial break. I made an off-hand remark, something to the effect of, “Maybe that’s what we need – Honest Abe to travel through time, and come fix things.” The idea was one I simply couldn’t shake. A premise, characters, and a rough plot formed in my head over the next few weeks. When I had enough pieces of the puzzle, I opened up the Word file and set to work.

WG: How long has it taken to take The Second Lives of Honest Men from idea to finished manuscript?  Can you give us some idea of your drafting or revision process in your response?

JRC:        My first draft took me seven weeks, working on it 8-10 hours a day, often more. I think the word is ‘obsessed.’ Once I felt that it was reasonably polished, I printed ten copies, and brought it to my first group of beta-readers. A month later, I met with each of the readers, gathering honest, critical feedback. After this process, I had a pretty good feel for what the book was lacking, and had some ideas how to improve it. I made several major changes to a couple of characters, altered some aspects of the plot, and narrative… It was a fairly extensive edit, that added about 6,000 words to the manuscript. I brought the second draft to a Philosophy professor and a History professor, both of whom were very encouraging, and willing to offer more great feedback. The third draft was a less exhausting revision than my second one was, and it saw its way to several more professors (three English professors and another History professor), and to many other people in my life. Again, all the feedback was extremely positive, and the additional advice was also great. One of the English professors convinced me to do two things: Write a fourth draft to fix a few lingering problems, and hire a professional editor. I’d hoped to avoid the latter. He made the case that no matter how good the book was, ‘Even Stephen King has an editor.’ That’s a rather humbling statement if ever there was one. So, I wrote the fourth draft, and had it professionally edited.

WG: When you mentioned your genre to me, you admitted that it sounded convoluted.

Writerly Goodness challenge time!

Imagine I am a high-powered literary agent, like Kristin Nelson, Janet Reid, or Donald Maass.  If I told you I could negotiate you a six-figure advance if you could nail down your genre, what would you say?

JRC: I always try to explain it like this: If you asked George Orwell what genre 1984 fell into, I seriously doubt the answer he would have given is “Science Fiction.” (Or, like me, he simply cringed whenever he was asked the question.) That’s the genre we typically associate with his novel, however; that is, the genre that our culture has branded it with through the passing of time. My book (should anyone ever care enough to define it) will undoubtedly be classified as science fiction. Like 1984, it’s set in an urban dystopia. I tried to use only as much science fiction as necessary to carry the plot, and have been relentless in making that aspect of the book accessible to readers of all genres. Personally? I think of The Second Lives of Honest Men as a character driven, philosophical odyssey that touches on technology, truth, freedom, hope, and redemption.

*Sigh.* I’m not getting that advance, am I?

WG: All kidding aside, you’ve opted for self-publishing over a traditional publishing deal.  Why have you chosen that route?

JRC:        Several reasons. I feel that my book is very relevant to today’s world, and the problems which we’re facing as a society. I’ve seen so many authors who try to go the traditional route, and they often end up disappointed, jaded with the system, and their hard work sits on a shelf (or in a file) for years. Eventually, they simply give up on it, the moment of ‘now’ having passed them by. I can only imagine how many great books have been written by authors who never saw their work get published. I don’t want to be one of them.

Over the past five years, the traditional publishing model has been flipped upside down. E-book sales represent about 30% of the market, a number that’s sure to climb as people continue to shun paper, using digital formats instead. The big traditional publishers won’t look at newcomers, and the small ones often don’t have the push to establish a new author. Big or small, traditional publishers expect authors to do most of their own promoting, then thank you for your hard work by taking the lion’s share of the profit. I don’t blame them for the business model: Most books don’t do well, and they ride out the losers by standing on the backs of their best authors. By self publishing a well crafted e-book at a modest price on all the major e-sellers, and having Print on Demand paperbacks available through Amazon, I can access a world-wide market. There are many successful authors using this business platform, bypassing traditional publishing routes to put food on their tables. Being able to take care of my family while I do what I love – I think that’s the dream of every author, no?

WG: What’s next for you and The Second Lives of Honest Men?

JRC:        I’ve heard people say something to the effect of, “Writing the book is easy. The hard part comes after.” Let me tell you something: Writing the book wasn’t easy. My first draft may have only taken two months to complete, but they were also two of the most emotionally draining months I’ve ever been through. Still, the parable isn’t wrong in the sense that the harder part does come after. The editing process required a vast amount of work. The biggest obstacle was learning to put my faith in other people’s opinions. I only gave the book to people that I trusted to tell me the things I didn’t want to hear. And they did. It was always painful, as I listened to their advice over a hot drink (or a cold beer.) I’d scowl, counter-argue, and on some points I’d simply hold my tongue. After a number of days, (or weeks), a smattering of what they’d said would start sinking in. I’d be haunted by their voices as I tried, in vain, to sleep. I worked hard on the manuscript, mollifying the voices one by one, and repeating this process through each new draft (and each new round of well meant criticism), until I could finally rest. I passed the manuscript off to my editor the next day, and sent her a cheque. I struggled with the decision of what to write in the memo field. I finally settled on, ‘In Editor We Trust.’

Navigating the world of self-publishing has been an ordeal of its own. The Internet brings you a lot of information, but almost all of it conflicts. I made mistakes along the way – none fatal, but some costly. The good thing is that while I was waiting for my different rounds of beta readers to give me feedback, it left me plenty of time to prepare the other aspects of the book that a publisher normally takes care of: conceptualizing the cover, finding an artist, an editor, the best places to list the e-book, to promote the e-book, hiring (and working with) a website designer, finding a company to convert the book into slick, multi device / multi client formatted .epub, .mobi , and Print on Demand files…

Anyway, long story short… It’s finally all come together. The book is now for sale on all major e-sellers, and available in paperback through Amazon.

The Second Lives of Honest Men - cover

The Second Lives of Honest Men – cover

The website is up, and I’ll be using it as a platform to coordinate my Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter accounts. You can visit at www.johnrcameron.com , www.thesecondlivesofhonestmen.com , or www.embracetheirony.com. (All three domains lead to the same website.)  I have a well crafted, fun short story that I’ve made available on the website for free: Moonshine Perfume. I’ll also be writing short essays (I think they call them blogs, now) to accompany any more short stories that I find the time to write.

I’ll have a table at the Paranormal Show in Sudbury, Ontario, on November 30th, where I’ll be premiering the book and signing copies. The Paranormal Show itself is “a spectacular assortment of Supernatural feats that will make you question everything you thought you understood about REALITY.” – For more info, check out the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/events/590105517693380/

Come for the stage show, stay to check out the great work of local artists and authors.

I’ll be having signings at some of the more traditional outlets early in the new year: dates to be announced.

You can also find me on Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/664867.John_R_Cameron , on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/embracetheirony , and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/EmbraceTheIrony .

Thanks for a great interview, John, and all the best with your future authorial adventures!

Six questions with Jennifer J. Chow

Jennifer is one of many online friends I’ve made through Wordsmith Studio.  I’m happy that her novel, The 228 Legacy, is published and that she’s agreed to this interview.

Jennifer J. Chow

Jennifer J. Chow
photo credit Julie Daniels

Jennifer J. Chow, a Chinese-American, married into the Taiwanese culture. The 228 Legacy was inspired by the family stories she heard after viewing photos of a two-million-person human chain commemorating 228. She has traveled multiple times to Taiwan and visited places dedicated to the incident. Her experience with the elderly comes from a gerontology specialization at Cornell University and her geriatric social work experience. You can visit her online at www.jenniferjchow.com, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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WG: Welcome, Jennifer!

Your new website’s tagline is “Asian-American fiction with a geriatric twist.” Your old blog’s was “Fortune cookie wisdom meets an Asian American writer’s life.” How does this change in tagline reflect your evolution as a writer?

JJC: The blog continues to reflect my fortune cookie life and how I’m twisted into the dual selves of my Asian-American identity. Plus, my posts still start off with a Chinese proverb, and the saying is woven into the content. When I evaluated my fiction writing, though, I discovered certain themes coming through. I enjoyed exploring various aspects of the Asian-American experience. Also, many of my stories contained older adult characters as key figures and examined the interplay between different generations, so I added in the “geriatric twist” to my tagline.

WG: How has your work in the geriatric field influenced your writing?

JJC: I’ve heard so many unique and interesting tales from my previous clients. They shared with me their life journeys and provided a lot of inspiration in my own stories. Additionally, I have a strong desire to shed light on the inner workings of people as they age. I also wanted to highlight older characters, individuals who are often caricatured in the arts—or not mentioned at all.

WG: When did the writing bug first bite you? Tell us the origin story of Jennifer J. Chow, author 🙂

JJC: I always wrote as a child, starting with a pencil on lined paper. During a field trip to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, I dropped a journal entry without realizing it. Later on, one of my schoolmates picked it up, asking, “What’s this? It reads like a story.” When I grew older, I borrowed my father’s typewriter for writing. I even remember him taking my childhood manuscripts and showing them to his colleagues at work.

WG: When I saw your book, I immediately thought of Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club). Not that it’s a poor comparison to beg, but how is The 228 Legacy different?

JJC: I would be ecstatic to have my work compared to Amy Tan’s amazing novel. I’d like to defer this answer to a Goodreads member who summed it very well: “When I first described this book to someone (it spanning several generations, the historical context, mother/daughter relationships, immigrant and second-generation Asian American experience) I realized it sounded like I was describing an Amy Tan novel but in fact this book has a unique, American voice – It doesn’t indulge in magical realism of ancient lore or fortune cookie wisdom. Rather, the voice of the characters are immediately recognizable – maybe not extraordinary but are surviving the sometimes extraordinary circumstances surrounding them (whether it be a suffering spouse or parent, or a teenager witnessing abuse, or a military massacre). I learned about some Taiwanese history which as far as I know has never been touched upon in American fiction. But to me this book is fundamentally about caring – our innate need to care and be cared for. There was so much that resonated and that I recognized in these character’s stories. Just a wonderful book that I enjoyed very much.”

WG: How did your experience in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition contribute to your success as a novelist?

JJC: I think entering the competition gave me more confidence. When I realized that I had made it to the second round, I understood that other people might really be interested in this story. When the contest passed and I started submitting the manuscript to publishers, it also didn’t hurt to mention my experience with the ABNA competition.

WG: What’s next for you and The 228 Legacy?

JJC: I’m hoping that more people will become aware of my book and that readers of all cultural backgrounds will be able to relate to and learn from the book. A specific event I’m looking forward to is my book launch party on Sunday, September 15 at 4pm at Pages bookstore in Manhattan Beach, California. It’ll be a fun celebration of the book’s release, complete with an excerpt, reader testimonials, a raffle, and delicious Taiwanese snacks!

Thanks for a great interview, Jennifer! All the best with your future writing endeavours.

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The 228 Legacy

The 228 Legacy

Three generations in an all-female Taiwanese family living near Los Angeles in 1980 are each guarding personal secrets. Grandmother Silk finds out that she has breast cancer, as daughter Lisa loses her job, while pre-teen granddaughter Abbey struggles with a school bully. When Silk’s mysterious past comes out—revealing a shocking historical event that left her widowed—the truth forces the family to reconnect emotionally and battle their problems together.

A novel of cultural identity and long-standing secrets, The 228 Legacy weaves together multigenerational viewpoints, showing how heritage and history can influence individual behavior and family bonds.

“An impressive debut!  Moving, hopeful and triumphant.  A compelling read.” -Jane Porter, national bestselling author of The Good Daughter

Six questions with Anthony Armstrong

Tony Armstrong

Photo by Jana Armstrong (used with permission)

Find out more about Tony by visiting his web site: www.anthonyarmstrong.ca

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I first met Tony through our mutual friend, Kim Fahner.  He’d been one of her teachers, and she credited Tony for setting her on the writer’s path.

Tony is an award-winning author of short stories, a published poet, spoken word performer, and photographer.  I may have missed a few things in there.  This man does a lot of creative work, all of it excellent.

Now he’s published his first horror novel Penage.

Welcome, Tony!

WG: When did you first start writing, and when did you know that you were a writer?

AA: I realized the power of words when I was a boy and my father would tell us marvellous fantasy adventure stories at bedtime. In elementary school, I could amuse people with silly verse. My grade seven teacher read a poem I wrote and called me a communist. In high school I began writing for personal solace and satisfaction. But it was not until I was about twenty that I wrote anything that contained a poetic perception.

WG: You work in different genres and forms. How is each different, and what do you like best about each?

AA: Poems and short stories exist as completed entities before I record them. They seem to be whole when I bump into them, but I will do some mental editing before writing them down. The novel Penage was different in the sense that it was in progress for a long time, but it did seem to have its own existence. It flowed out of itself. Things I wrote down one night had a significance that became clear to me nights later as the story revealed itself.

WG: You were a teacher for many years.  How has that part of your career played into your writing, or was it the other way around?

AA: Sometimes my enthusiasm for literature was evident when I was in the classroom, but schools are the antithesis of a creative environment. Teachers and students are carried along by institutional inertia.

WG: When and how did the idea for Penage first strike you and how long did it take to bring your project to fruition?

AA: Judy and I have a small piece of land on the shore of Lake Penage. It was given to us by Judy’s parents. My father-in-law told me about a plane crash near our camp. He also told me about retrieving a frustrated fisherman’s lost gear. I was disappointed when electricity came to our area of the lake. All these events and a what if perspective blended together in my mind without much effort from me, and a horror novel was born. I wrote the story at camp over twenty years ago. During June and half of July, I would write for two or three hours beneath a propane light after everyone else went to bed. In the morning I would read the results to Judy. In July, my brother-in-law, who also had a camp on Lake Penage, died suddenly. I was staggered by his passing and can’t remember exactly when I got back to writing the story. Some time later, I did get back to my routine and finished Penage. It was not until this year that the original work got a serious editing by Ignatius Fay and me. The ebook is the final product.

WG: I’m a big process geek.  Would you mind sharing something about your process as a writer?

AA: I am not a process geek. I am even reluctant to emphasize the role of the writer. I feel more like a recording secretary. I bump into ideas and record them. I think this is especially true of my poetry. I perceive something and write it down. I am not responsible for what I perceive any more than I am responsible for what I hear or smell.

WG: What’s coming up next for you?

AA: A print version of Penage is in the works. I am toying with the idea of a short story collection. When I bump into poetic perceptions of godless spirituality (I hate the word spirituality), I record them. I may look for an opportunity to present them publicly in the future.

Thanks for this opportunity.

Thanks for a great interview, Tony.  Best wishes for your future creative endeavours.

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Penage is the story of Madison Green, a man with a violent, possessive personality. His distrust of others leads to his having too many x-rays. He pilots a plane that is struck by lightning—twice. The lightning and the overdose of radiation transform him into a physical and psychological beast. The plane crashes into Lake Penage, and the beast lives secretly in its waters for many years. The remains of the plane are his prized possessions, and when they are disturbed and displaced, unwanted contact with human beings becomes inevitable.

As the beast searches for its possessions, its anger increases. It secretes an ooze that

Penage Cover

Photo by Anthony Armstrong (used with permission) Graphics by Ignatius Fay

protects what is his but destroys almost anything else it makes contact with. As the beast reacquires his possessions he comes to see himself as master of the lake; he comes to think of himself as Penage.

Even some of those who encounter the beast doubt its existence, and any public suggestion of its presence brings ridicule. A drunk, a school teacher, a widow, a marina owner, and a truck driver are forced to deal with the beast. Facing the beast means facing danger, terror, and death.

Penage is available at Kobo, the itunes bookstore, Smashwords, the Sony ebook store, and most major ebook sellers. Smashwords will have the lowest price:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/318759

Six questions with Barbara Kyle

Barbara KyleBarbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed “Thornleigh” novels Blood Between Queens, The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady which follow a rising middle-class English family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. She also writes contemporary thrillers, including B.R.A.G. Medallion winner Entrapped. Over 425,000 copies of her books have been sold in seven countries. Barbara has taught writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S. Visit www.barbarakyle.com

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I met Barbara a couple of years ago at the Canadian Authors Association’s CanWrite! Conference.  Not only was she an excellent presenter and full of writerly goodness, but she was also generous with her time.  Her critique of what was then my first 20 pages was an eye-opener and she sent me off with a new direction for my novel (which has shifted twice more since, but we don’t need to talk about that here).

Then I started reading her Thornleigh saga and became a fan.

We met up again at the Algonkian conference in Niagara Falls last year, and I’m thrilled Barbara accepted my proposal for an interview.

Her latest novel in the Thornleigh saga, Blood Between Queens is available now.  I would, of course, suggest that you read the rest of the series too.  You’ll be hooked before the end of the first chapter of The Queen’s Lady, I promise.

Welcome, Barbara!

BK: Thanks for inviting me, Melanie, and for your very kind words.

WG: Before The Queen’s Lady was published, you wrote and published three thrillers under a pseudonym.  More recently, your novel entrapped, another thriller, was honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion.  You’ve also written screen plays.  What do you enjoy most about writing each genre or form?

BK: The glory of the novel is that the author can get inside a character’s head and heart, can write exactly what the character is thinking and feeling, so the reader gets that precise, deeply-felt emotion, whereas in writing a screenplay you’re limited to just action and dialogue; you’re totally dependent on the actor to convey the layers of emotion. So that’s a huge difference. The wise screenwriter resists the urge to overburden the dialogue with these layers, and leave room for the actor to supply them. (It’s why we pray to have fine actors cast!) On the other hand, when it comes to describing a setting or a character’s appearance, the screenwriter doesn’t have to do a thing, because one second of screen time shows what the novelist must work painstakingly to convey, slaving over paragraphs of description that film shows in a blink. As for what I enjoy about writing historical novels and thrillers respectively, my historicals actually are thrillers. If we define the thriller as having life-and-death stakes, a ticking clock (a crucial deadline), and the protagonist pitted against a powerful antagonist, then all my Thornleigh Saga books are thrillers. Seem it’s my métier.

WG: You are meticulous in your research, something I admire greatly.  When you begin to work on a new novel, do you start with an idea and plot firmly in mind and fill in the blanks with your research, or is your idea/plot general to begin with and informed and shaped by the research you do?

BK: When I start a book I have no plot firmly in mind; usually I have just a character who’s bent on doing something. My new release Blood Between Queens is Book #5 in my Thornleigh Saga, which follows a middle-class family through three Tudor reigns. My plots in these novels are quite complex, and I develop them through several drafts of an outline, which I work on for several months while concurrently doing research,  before I start writing the first draft of the book. When I talk to writers I call the outline a “storyline” because as writers we must never forget that we’re telling a story. For me, the outline is where all the heavy lifting of creation gets done: creating the characters and plot. As for research, I appreciate your compliment about mine being meticulous, because it’s so important to get the bedrock facts right, whether it’s the gate at the Tower of London through which Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) entered when her half-sister Queen Mary imprisoned her in The Queen’s Captive, or the technical aspects of an Alberta oil company drilling for “sour gas” in Entrapped. Readers love learning when they read fiction, and I love giving them the details.

WG: Owing in part to your extensive research, you’re considered an expert on the Tudors.  You’ve spoken at the University of Toronto and will appear at the Stratford Festival this summer speaking on the subject of the rival queens.  How did these opportunities emerge for you and how are you enjoying this evolution of your career?

BK: I developed my talk “Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens: Leadership Lost and Won” for the University of Toronto Lecture Series last winter. It’s about Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, whom Elizabeth beheaded. They are the focus of my new release, Blood Between Queens. I told Vida Engstrand, the wonderful publicist with my publisher, Kensington Books in New York, about the U of T lecture, and she immediately contacted the Stratford Festival, because they were scheduling a production of Schiller’s play “Mary Stuart,” which is about these two famous queens, for their 2013 season. They loved the idea of my talk and invited me to give it as part of their Forum, and to also do a book signing of Blood Between Queens. So, I’ll be doing that on July 10th. I really enjoy speaking about these two queens, whose lives are the stuff of opera. Admission to the talk is free, so if any of your readers would like to attend I’d love to see them. Here’s the link:  https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/forum/speakers.aspx?id=20473

WG: You also conduct workshops and master classes on writing at various conferences and other venues as well as making time for manuscript evaluations.  How do you structure your professional life to make room for everything and still have time to write?

BK: Very carefully! It’s a juggling act. Mostly, I do manuscript evaluations when I’m between books – but that window doesn’t last long because my current three-book contract with Kensington requires me to deliver a new book each year. Still, I truly enjoy teaching emerging writers. Having been one myself, I know how hungry new writers are for guidance from someone who has helpful knowledge about the process. And I love seeing a writer experience a “light bulb” moment from something I’ve taught. That satisfaction is priceless.

WG: You’ve just completed a blog tour in celebration of Blood Between Queens.  How do you find social media has changed the way books are published and promoted?

BK: Social media has become crucial. For one thing, publishers want and expect their authors to be fully engaged with readers and potential readers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. and even to blog, if they’re good at it (as you are, Melanie). Readers expect it too. For the author, it requires another chunk of time to maintain these networks, but most of us enjoy doing it. I love Twitter and have “met” many fascinating people there. My Twitter handle, if your readers would like to connect with me there, is @BKyleAuthor. I’ve learned three important lessons about using social media: 1) be yourself; 2) don’t constantly sell your book; 3) give: that is, share information that people truly want and can use, such as writing tips or links to author interviews. The blog tour I’ve just done with Blood Between Queens was beautifully organized by Amy Bruno of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. Here’s the link: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/bloodbetweenqueensvirtualtour/

Amy lined up fifteen blog hosts who asked for guest posts from me and/or interviews. Several of them also offered a giveaway of the book. The tour lasted three weeks and was a great success, with over 700 people entering one of the giveaways.

WG: Now that the blog tour is over, what is next for you and Blood Between Queens?

BK: Well, it’s only been out for five weeks, so I hope many more readers will be intrigued to pick it up! And I’ve just finished writing the next book in the Thornleigh Saga (Book #6) which carries on Adam Thornleigh’s story where Blood Between Queens left it. I won’t give any spoilers, but I can say that it’s set in 1572 and Adam joins the Dutch rebels who called themselves the Sea Beggars in their real-life fight against their Spanish occupiers. (I liken them to the Resistance in World War II fighting the Nazis.) Now, I’m deep into the research for Book #7. So there are lots more adventures of the Thornleigh family ahead. By the way, each “Thornleigh” story stands alone. To enjoy one book, a reader doesn’t have to have read any of the previous ones.

Thank you for a fascinating interview, Barbara!  All the best in your future writing endeavours 🙂

BK: Thank you, Melanie. I sincerely wish you the same.

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Blood Between Queens Synopsis:Blood Between Queens by Barbara Kyle

Following her perilous fall from a throne she’d scarcely owned to begin with, Mary, Queen of Scots, has fled to England, hoping her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, will grant her asylum. But now Mary has her sights on the English crown, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects to protect it.

Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. To Justine’s surprise, the Thornleighs appoint her to serve as a spy in Mary’s court. But bearing the guise of a lady-in-waiting is not Justine’s only secret. The weight of her task is doubled by fears of revealing to her fiancé that she is in truth the daughter of his family’s greatest enemy.

Duty-bound, Justine must sacrifice love as she navigates a deadly labyrinth of betrayal that could lead to the end of Elizabeth’s fledgling reign . . .

Praise for Blood Between Queens:

“Fact and fiction are expertly interwoven in this fast-paced saga…exudes authenticity.” – Historical Novel Society

Kyle illuminates the world of queens Mary and Elizabeth, exploring their rivalry from its beginning through the eyes of a young woman torn between loyalty to her queen and a growing friendship with the enemy . . .Kyle knows what historical fiction readers crave.” RT Book Reviews

“A  beautifully written and compelling novel. Again, Barbara Kyle reigns!” – New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper.