Tag Archives: author interviews

I couldn’t resist seeing you again.

Miss you IIHey folks. I know I said that the last post was the last post, but I’ve got good reasons for stopping by here again. One, a few readers recently subscribed here, while all the action is happening at the new place over there; and two, a few old subscribers have yet to click on the new site and re-subscribe.

I’m not much of a self-promoter, so really, I wanted to send out this quick post because what you’re missing by not clicking over at the new site is – specifically – an excellent interview with Megan Stielstra, author of Everyone Remain Calm. She’s a writer, the Literary Director and a performer with Chicago’s 2nd Story, a teacher at Columbia College and the University of Chicago, and a mother. All I did was ask a few questions, but what she’s done is share a wealth of writing experience and give readers what feels like a mini-writing workshop.

Really. Go there. Read Part 1 of the interview, where she talks about digital publication and the courage it takes to write – and tell – our stories. Then, study Part 2, because that’s where the mini-workshop happens, where she discusses good days and bad days and what to do with your writer’s block.

I’d hate for you to miss it.

And, if you decide to subscribe to the new site while you’re there, all the more fun!

An interview with author, Linda Cassidy Lewis, on her novel, The Brevity of Roses

“It was time to stop looking backward. . . . He opened the new journal and its blankness sent a ripple of fear through him.”
~ from The Brevity of Roses

The middle ground, I’ve been there: hesitant to let go of the past (if I let go, will I forget? And, then what?), unable to embrace the future (so many possibilities…too many possibilities!). It is only when I am completely present in the moment – when I throw caution to  the wind and ignore logic and follow my gut – that I wind up moving in the exact direction meant for me.

Linda Cassidy Lewis spins a tale of redemption from the middle ground for the characters in her debut novel, The Brevity of Roses. Jalal, Meredith, and Renee have little in common, except that each is tethered to the weight of a painful past. Incidental decisions, like a left turn instead of a right, bring the characters together. Unexplained connections urge them forward, to new life and to healing. Linda gives her readers a well-designed book and a story with unforgettable characters.

I’m honored to host Linda here today for an interview, where she talks about turning a short story into a novel and about coincidences in writing and life. At the end of the interview, leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway: a soft-cover copy of The Brevity of Roses. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, July 19th, at noon.

CC: Linda, in your interview with Kasie West, you say that THE BREVITY OF ROSES grew from a short story. As you worked to expand the story into novel length, did the rest of the plot and additional characters unfold with ease?

Linda Cassidy Lewis

LCL: I wrote Brevity in total panster mode. The original short story was a skeletal version of chapters 2-7 in the novel. Before I finished polishing that story, I saw a mental picture of Jalal, despondent and alone in his house. I knew I had to explore that. At the end of writing the second story, I wrote a long letter to Jalal from Kirsten, the younger woman in his story (a character 180 degrees from Renee).

Soon after, I revised that letter into a separate third short-short. At that point, I viewed Brevity as a novella, a trilogy of sequential stories. I set it aside, for later revision, but I couldn’t quit thinking about it. Additional scenes for each story played out in my head. Meredith “told” me I had misunderstood her feelings about her first husband. I “heard” Jalal’s father explain the cause of their conflict. Renee appeared, revealing Kirsten as imposter. I started revisions and ended up with a novel.

CC: In your novel, the story of Jalal and Meredith reflects a philosophy that there are no coincidences in life. Chance encounters are often the catalyst for change, if we, like Jalal and Meredith, embrace those moments. Have you experienced coincidences in your own life that later proved to be much more pivotal in your journey?

LCL: I believe we only see “coincidences” in our lives because, most of the time, we live on an underground level, like ants. If our view were from above it all—the Eye of God view—we would see life from beginning to end and recognize the interweaving, the synchronicity of it all. Since you mentioned Kasie West, I’ll share how my “chance encounter” with her has been pivotal to my writing journey. In 2008, I attended my first critique group. That same night, Kasie also attended for the first time. I don’t remember that we spoke directly for the first couple of meetings, but I loved her critique comments to everyone in the group. Eventually, she became my chief go-to person when I needed another pair of eyes. And she became my lead cheerleader. She never let me give up on Brevity—and I wanted to do that many times. In my acknowledgments, I thank her for the “pushes and pulls that took me to the finish line.”

CC: You published this novel on your own (creating the artwork for the cover as well!). Since publication, what has been the best part, and the most challenging aspect, of being an Indie Author?

LCL: The best part, of course, is when a reader tells me they loved the book. That will never get old. The biggest challenge is finding ways to connect with more of those readers … and developing the patience to wait until that happens. Promotion is not something I have a natural affinity for, so the whole process after publication has been a challenge.

CC: What are you reading these days?

LCL: I’m reading Dancing in the Shadows of Love by Judy Croome, a writer from South Africa. It’s beautifully written, poetic, delicious. Next on my list is David Malasarn’s The Wild Grass And Other Stories. I’ve read a couple of excellent stories from it and can’t wait to read more.

CC: What advice would you offer an emerging writer?

LCL: In the past, I’ve glibly said, “Don’t listen to advice.” I apologize. Certainly, there is good writing advice out there. The trick is not to be a slave to it. If you try something, but it doesn’t work, it’s the wrong advice for you. I suppose my best advice is to write from your heart. If you don’t love what you’ve written, neither will anyone else.

~

Linda Cassidy Lewis was born and raised in Indiana and now lives with her husband in California where she writes versions of the stories she only held in her head during the years their four sons were growing up. At Out of My Mind, she blogs about her writing experience—typos and all. THE BREVITY OF ROSES is her debut novel. You can follow Linda on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

DON’T FORGET: leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of The Brevity of Roses!

Interview with Author, Kaira Rouda, on Her Debut Novel Here, Home, Hope

Yesterday, I posted a review on Kaira Rouda’s debut novel, Here, Home, Hope. Today, I’m honored to host Kaira on my blog, where she talks about writing the novel, balancing life as Mother and Author, and taking note of the most important tip for success.

After the interview, leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway: a free copy of Here, Home, Hope. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, July 5th, at high noon.

CC: While HERE, HOME, HOPE is your first novel, you were already a successful entrepreneur and published author (your nonfiction book, REAL YOU INCORPORATED, received great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads). How was the process of writing and publishing a novel different from your other endeavors?

Kaira Rouda

KR: Writing a novel is completely different than writing anything else. You’re right!  I think I have written in every type of format from radio and television commercials, to product catalogs, to press releases and web copy, newspaper and magazine pieces and a nonfiction book. Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs was to me a celebration and culmination to an amazing career building a company as a woman entrepreneur. I had so many lessons to share, so many women I had learned from that I wanted to profile. In nonfiction, it’s pretty much that: here’s what I know, here’s how I did it, and here’s what I hope will work for you. Straightforward, but I hope, too, inspiring. The response to that book continues to be amazing and I love hearing from women across the country who have taken that book to heart.

And now, I’ve finally donned my fiction writer hat – a hat I’ve dreamed of wearing since 4th grade. After we sold our company and I became a consultant I said to myself, now is the time.  In Real You Incorporated I had helped other women articulate and go for their dream. I knew what mine was. It was time to try, again. You see, I’ve been trying to be a published novelist, off and on, for 15 years – and that’s a lot of rejection slips, as you can imagine. For me, the process of writing is a pure joy. I love it – and writing books has been my escape for years. I decided to give it one more chance and fortunately, this time, the timing was right.  Seeing my novel on the shelf in a bookstore is one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Truly.

CC: I love the book trailer for HERE, HOME, HOPE! The music is a perfect match for a book that’s upbeat and “genuinely hopeful” (as quoted in Jenna Blum’s blurb). I imagine much of this book was a joy to write. Do you have a favorite scene or chapter?

KR: Thank you! I love the book trailer, too! An old friend, Pete Howland, and his firm Edge Creative produced it for me and it was their first book trailer. His wife, Heidi, is the lovely voice in the trailer and I chose the music! It makes me smile that you enjoyed it. Here, Home, Hope was a joy to write. I had a great time creating the characters and they’re all close to my heart.  So, picking a scene is tough, but I’ll tell you one of the hardest  scenes to write was Chapter 16, Bob and Kelly’s encounter in his empty house. I wanted to capture the tension, the threat, the possibility of violence,  without  going over the edge.  Because, as you and the wonderful Jenna Blum noted, the book is “genuinely hopeful”.

CC: I know you are mother to four teenagers (let me just say — wow). I’m raising two young children, and there are days when two feels like four. How do you balance life and writing?

KR: I learned a long time ago that balance is something you swing through on the way to something else. What we all need to remember, especially us moms, is that what our kids really want is a happy mom. If you’re happy, they’re happy, so we need to define lives and careers that work for us as individuals. My “balance” won’t be the same as yours, or anyone else’s, but if it’s right for me, that’s what’s important. And, we need to value and support each other’s choices. Once we begin to do that, genuinely, as women, we’ll be unstoppable. And I have to say, I do have an amazing partner in my husband, Harley, but no – he is not as perfect as Patrick, Kelly’s husband, in Here, Home, Hope.

CC: What are you reading these days?

KR: I am a voracious reader. At any one time, I’ll have two or more books going. I recently finished VIOLETS OF MARCH by Sarah Jio (loved it),  was lucky enough to read the ARC for BEST STAGED PLANS by Claire Cook (loved it), and I’m diving into WATER FOR ELEPHANTS right  now (I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet!). This month another special book is released, Amy Hatvany’s touching novel, BEST KEPT SECRET. I had a chance to read it as an ARC, too, and highly recommend it. Do you want me to keep going?

CC: Do you have any advice for writers on the rise?

KR: Aside from writing, I’d recommend reading. Voraciously. The best writers I know are readers. They love books, their own and others’. They celebrate the written word and they see the publishing industry as a world of new possibilities today. Stick up for other authors, too. Be supportive. That’s your job as a part (or hopeful part) of this industry. One of the most amazing outcomes of publishing my first novel has been to become friends with wonderful authors across the country. Women such as Eleanor Brown, Caroline Leavitt, Sarah Pekkanen, Katrina Kittle, Jenna Blum, Amy Hatvany, Claire Cook, Robyn Harding, Talli Roland and many more. These women embraced me, and my dream, and I hope to return the favor. That’s the power of sticking together.

It’s an exciting time to be in this industry and it has been an amazing journey for me. The most important point: don’t give up.

~

You can find more information about Kaira Rouda, her novel and her nonfiction books, on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter or Like her on Facebook. And, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of HERE, HOME, HOPE!

Interview with Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling Author of Pictures of You

“Squinting, she tries to see more than a few feet ahead of her, but the fog’s enveloping her, making her increasingly uneasy. She flicks the parking lights on and off to try to slice through the darkness and then the fog moves again and she sees, almost like pieces of a torn photo, patches of what’s there.”
~from Pictures of You

You know that feeling. The fog is so dense you think your windows are dirty. You flick the windshield wipers onto the highest speed. They cut across and back, again and again, but your vision is still blurred. You use your sleeve to wipe off the inside of the window. Nothing. Then, you panic.

Caroline Leavitt’s first chapter in her bestselling novel, Pictures of You, evokes that same frantic emotion in the reader, from the opening sentence to the last few words. The quote above suggests that fog can be blamed for changing the courses of two families’ lives. But, that moment described, just before the accident, also becomes a metaphor for the rest of the story: how does one recover and reassemble the pieces of a life broken by one event or another?

The book trailer for Pictures of You is haunting like the novel, and I could rave about several fantastic moments in the story. But instead, I’ve invited Caroline to share about her novel, and about writing, and I’m offering a free copy of Pictures of You. Just leave a comment below, and your name will be entered into the drawing.

~

CC: The first line of Chapter One (“There’s a hornet in the car.”) set me on edge immediately. By the end of the chapter, I was deep into that breathless moment when cars collide and lives change. You’ve written an amazing first chapter! Are you a writer who fine tunes chapter one before moving on to the rest of the story? Or, do you plow through a draft and then return to the beginning?

Caroline Leavitt

CL: I fine tune chapter one. It’s my lifeline.  If I have a good first chapter, then I know, when I get to the middle of the novel and I feel like chucking it all and going back to school to be a dentist, that that first chapter will call to me. It will say, “You can’t give up. What about me?” The first chapter is always proof to me that I can do this, that I have to push on. It’s like an act of faith to me. Plus, the first chapter really has the seeds of everything that follows.

CC: One of my favorite scenes in PICTURES OF YOU is when Luke returns home to care for Isabelle after the accident, despite her insistence that he leave her alone. You never once write about how either character feels, but the emotion presents itself through strong, natural dialogue and simple, yet powerful, descriptions. That scene cut right through me. Is there a certain scene or chapter in your novel that was your favorite to write?

CL: Ah, that comes from studying screenwriting, where everything is shown or expressed through dialogue, and not spelled out.  And thank you, so much. (It also comes through 16 drafts!) I loved writing the last chapter, that leap ahead in time. I was so relieved to get everyone out of that time period, and I was so curious to see what everyone would be like so many years in the future. Plus, it was something I’d never done before and I was really happy that it seemed to be working for me. As soon as I made Sam in his thirties, I stopped worrying so hard about him, too, which was quite a relief for me!

CC: On the Reading Group Choices blog, you talk with Heidi Durrow about audience and say, “…if I think about an audience at all, it smothers the work somehow. Readers respond when you’re able to show the dark or hidden places that maybe they have been afraid or unable or unwilling to.” PICTURES OF YOU touches on several core conflicts found in life and in relationships. Has your audience responded to or connected with your story in ways that you anticipated or were surprising to you?

CL: Another great question.It’s always surprising to hear what readers say.  I’ve found that people connect depending on what’s going on in their own lives.  There were a lot of people who were upset at the way the book ended. They had an idea in their mind of how it should go.  Some people were furious with April–I happened to love and understand her, though I certainly wouldn’t want her as a close friend.

CC: What are you reading these days?

CL: Everything I can get my hands on.  I really loved Tayari Jone’s Silver Sparrow. I review for People and the Boston Globe, so there are always books coming into the house and I’m always, always reading.

CC: Do you have any advice for writers on the rise?

CL: Yes.  Never give up.  Pictures of You is my 9th novel, and before this one, I never had any sales to speak of, and it was rejected by my old publisher as not being special enough. With Algonquin, it went on to become a NYT bestseller, a NAIBA bestseller, and it’s now in 4 printings and sold to six countries! You have to sit down and write everyday, and always help other writers. We’re all in this together!

Caroline Leavitt has a host of amazing credits to her name (including nine novels and essays or articles in places like New York Magazine and The Washington Post!), all of which you can learn about by perusing her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter or look her up on Facebook.

Don’t forget to leave a comment, so that you’re entered into the book giveaway. Random.org chooses the winner on Tuesday, June 14th.

Stories that Stick

I know I’ve read a great story when, as I come to The End and close the cover, I can’t let go. The characters take root in my mind, and memories of them, like those of an old friend, surface some time later.

I experienced a moment like that, recollecting characters from a story I’d finished months ago, as I read through a new book with my daughter recently.

Yona Zeldis McDonough wrote a children’s book, Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott, a brief biography, which highlights important events that molded Alcott into a woman devoted to her writing, as well as to her family. All of the facts are there, but as I read through the book, I kept searching for more.

What about that magical time in 1855, I wondered, when the Alcotts spent the summer in Walpole, New Hampshire? I flipped through the pages hoping to find mention of a man named Joseph Singer or to read about a silver comb lost, then found and treasured.

But, those details aren’t mentioned in this biography by McDonough. They do, however, come together in a different story, in Kelly O’Connor McNees’ beautiful historical fiction, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. In The Lost Summer, McNees weaves an imagined but believable tale about a love between Alcott and a man named Singer, an attraction that was difficult to turn away from, difficult for the main characters and for the readers. McNees’s novel is well written and memorable, and that’s the story that stuck out in my mind as I read to my daughter.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott was released in April 2010, and the paperback edition hits the shelves this May.

The new cover of the paperback (with its vivid colors and that dress!) makes me want to buy the book all over again. A quote from the Washington post reminds me why this book is one I’ll read it again:

The Lost Summer is the kind of romantic tale to which Alcott herself was partial, one in which love is important but not a solution to life’s difficulties.

I had the honor of interviewing Kelly back in August about her novel and about writing. You can read the interview here. You can also visit Kelly O’Connor McNees’ website for details on upcoming events related to her paperback release and check out her blog for news and for interviews with  other great authors.

Better yet, you can pre-order her paperback on Amazon or on Indiebound.org.

What about you? What stories stick in your mind, with characters who stay with you long after the cover is closed?

Soccer Moms, Indie Publishing, and a Kindle: An Interview with Author, Cathryn Grant

“…[A]ll the beautiful yards and parks make it look so peaceful and quiet.
That can make you feel safe and it’s not always safe.”
~The Demise of the Soccer Moms

~

People often leave behind the city life and take up residence on a quiet cul-de-sac in the suburbs. They expect to find the camaraderie of neighbors, and they brag about a low crime rate. But, under every silver lining there’s a dark side. And, maybe even a killer.

In Cathryn Grant’s debut novel, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, Grant takes readers through the niceties of small town life and into the dark corners of a suburban mind or two. What we discover is a group of women desperate to fit in, if only to distance themselves from their own skeletons in the closet.

Full of tension – so much so that I wasn’t sure which Soccer mom would unravel first – Grant’s novel shows us that when one woman refuses to follow the rules, the picture perfect world of Suburbia falls apart.

I’m honored to interview Cathryn Grant here, where she talks about her novel, indie publishing, and writing. At the end of the interview, read how you can enter to win a Kindle, fully loaded with The Demise of the Soccer Moms.

*****

CC: The Demise of the Soccer Moms paints a vivid picture of life in suburbia, with its illusions of perfection and grandeur. How much of the story comes from real life observations? If you run into someone with the same demeanor as Amy Lewis in your novel, do you get the chills (or do you grab your notebook)?

CG: I’ve lived in suburbia all my life, so I think my sense of its positive and negative sides is part of who I am and I don’t think of myself as observing it. I am always taking notes, and not just on suburbia. People fascinate me, and one of the themes that’s always knocking around my head is what would drive a normal person to commit homicide? (or any crime). When I see the mental and emotional suffering that some people endure, I wonder how people keep going, how they still manage to cope with life. (That sounds really, dark, but I’m not saying it in a negative way, I’m saying it because some people have had to endure so much.) I guess I have sympathy for people who go off the rails.

CC: In your novel, each of your main characters has a significant insecurity that leads her to commit a crime of one sort or another, but it’s the unraveling of one of your characters, in particular, towards the end that is especially chilling. In writing suspense, do you outline much before you type out your first draft? Or, do you let the characters’ lives (and secrets) unfold as you go?

CG: I tend to let it unfold. These characters came to me after a line of dialogue floated through my mind one day: “That woman’s not wearing a bra.” I saw these women sitting outside their children’s classrooms, and I wondered what what kind of person would come unhinged over another woman’s clothing choices. I wondered what would have happened in her life to make her so concerned about this stranger who walked onto the playground. I usually have a list of possible scenes, what might happen, and I work from that, adding scenes that come to me as I write through the first draft. I usually don’t know the ending, and one of my novels still in the virtual drawer doesn’t have an ending that satisfies me. I hope it comes to me some day.

CC: You spent a great deal of time considering and researching the idea of becoming an Indie Author. Now that your first book is published and in the hands of so many readers, how do you feel? Also, I know that you have a second book in the works; can you give us a little teaser?

CG: The publishing landscape changed enough, even from the time I started considering the Indie route, so that it helped cement my decision. Right now, I mostly feel relief because I worked on this novel for a very long time. A ridiculously long time. Some of the feedback from my early readers derailed me and I started to question the stories I wanted to tell. So right now, I feel relief that I’m done with this novel. But I’m also happy that even when I was making the final edits, I still got caught up in the story, still enjoyed my characters.

The working title for the next novel is DEBT. I’m working on the 2nd draft and expect to publish it in November 2011. It’s about a young couple that both work in high paying jobs but have still managed to get deeply into debt. As they try to hide their debt from their friends, their situation gets worse, and the conflict among the three couples leads to murder. (Wow, I can tell I need to get to work on that log line!)

CC: What are you reading these days?

CG: I’m reading a novel by an Indie crime writer, Darcia Helle, called THE CUTTING EDGE, and PORTOBELLO, by one of my favorite authors: Ruth Rendell.

CC: Do you have any thoughts or advice for writers on the rise?

CG: Two things inspired me. Years ago I read a quote from James Michener that said you would be a competent writer after you’d written a million words. Then recently I heard a quote from the book, OUTLIERS, that said people who put 10,000 hours into developing their craft or sport became successful. I actually tracked the 1,000,000 words in a spreadsheet. I’m still working on the 10,000 hours. (If you want to link to this … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_%28book%29 )

*****

Enter the Suburban Noir contest for the chance to win a copy of “The Demise Of The Soccer Moms”. The grand prize is a Wi-Fi Kindle. Here’s how you do it:

Between February 4 and midnight PST, February 11, comment here or on any other OR ALL of the participating blogs (listed below) to get one entry per comment. Limit of one comment per blog for a possible total of 7 entries.

  1. Cathryn Grant’s very own blog
  2. Linda Cassidy Lewis at Out of My Mind
  3. Natasha at Nancy Drew Too
  4. Shelli Howells at A*Musings
  5. Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen at DJ’s Krimiblog
  6. And, on Feb. 10th, Amy Rose Davis at  A Modicum of Talent

Between February 4 and midnight PST, February 11, tweet any one OR ALL of the participating blogs. Limit of one tweet per blog for a possible total of 7 entries. Tweets must include @CathrynGrant for tracking purposes.

Participants can have a total of 14 entries between commenting on blogs and tweeting.

Winners will be announced on Cathryn’s blog on February 11th.

Ten people will win their choice of an eBook or paperback copy of Cathryn Grant’s Suburban Noir Thriller, “The Demise Of The Soccer Moms”. One additional person will win a Wi-Fi Graphite Kindle (valued at $139) pre-loaded with a copy of “The Demise Of The Soccer Moms”. Please note the paperback copy will not be available until March. Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.

Now go – read, comment, and tweet. And, while you’re waiting for the winner to be announced, read more of Cathryn’s words on her website, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

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Buckle up and put on your thinking cap.

The beginning of the new year brought me writer’s angst, flashes of hope here and there, and news of a very busy work schedule.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Sign Language Interpreter in real life. One of the challenges in my line of work is that I can’t interpret what I don’t know. That means, for the next several months, my brain will be steeped in outside reading materials to help carry me through my schedule. What that doesn’t mean is a full stop on writing.

I am, however, taking a brief hiatus from my Wednesday’s Word of the Day challenge.

I love that writing exercise (and maybe I’ll jump back into it sooner than I anticipate), but I also love my day job…for obvious reasons (that monthly paycheck and, oh yeah, health insurance). So, here’s where you come in. You keep this blog alive just by reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on what types of posts will keep you coming back :

I can’t make you take the poll, but it is anonymous. And, even if you say “Thank god for the hiatus,” I’ll still love you.

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