Category Archives: Artist Interviews

Marcus Alexander Hart—Author, Screenwriter, Scientist (not really), and Your Old Pal

After reading my Goodreads giveaway win One Must Kill Another, I had a story hangover that prompted me to ask the author for an interview. This was a good move, as you’ll see below. He’s freaking hilarious! I’m gonna be his #2 fan (apparently, #1 is already taken; plus, my author heart belongs to Diane Chamberlain). Read on, my friends, and then click the links to read Hart’s books.


Tell me about your writing process—schedule, environment, strategies, and inspirations inside and outside your head: favorite writers, quotes, stars, moons, etc.

I am a total writing hermit. I don’t understand how some people can set up shop and write all day in a crowded Starbucks. I’m way too easily distracted for that. I can’t even listen to music. In fact, I got a pair of those hearing-protection earmuffs that leaf-blower guys wear that I use while I’m writing. It may be a little excessive, but it helps me focus.

There’s a meme by @adamjk with an inspirational quote that’s partially crossed out and amended that says, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life work super fucking hard all the time with no separation or any boundaries and also take everything extremely personally.” That is so true. There’s a culture around writing that says writing isn’t something you do, it’s something you are, and I think that’s dangerous. We get so caught up in “writer” as an identity that we sometimes forget there are other things in life and burn out, feeling like if we’re not always writing, we’re slacking off or cheating somehow. So when I’m lucky enough to be writing full-time, I try to keep normal business hours. Like, writing from 8 AM to 6 PM with an hour for lunch. Then I “go home,” even though I work at home (with the shades drawn and my earmuffs on).

My favorite living writer is David Wong. I find his writing to be hilarious, but also moving on a personal, emotional level. His John Dies at the End stories are a perfect blend of flawed, relatable characters and dick jokes. I like to think that readers of his particular brand of nonsense will also enjoy mine.

As far as stars and moons, I approve of both. In fact, I approve of everything up to purple horseshoes. Any marshmallows added to Lucky Charms after 1983 are bullshit.

Walk me through your publishing process with a small press—who does what, how much input from you, and what marketing you do. Do you plan to self-publish in the future?

To be honest, publishing with a very small press isn’t that much different from self-publishing. On the positive side, I get a lot of creative control I wouldn’t have at a large publisher, such as input on cover designs and final say on the edits to the text. On the negative side, most of the marketing and promotion responsibilities fall on me. And man, do I hate self-promoting. If I were gregarious and outgoing, I wouldn’t have chosen a job where I can work at home with the lights off!

I’ll definitely self-publish titles in the future. It’s great to have the freedom to write something too weird for traditional publishing and put it out there to see if it can find its audience. Because regardless of what publishers say, there’s an audience out there for everything. Internet Rule 34 is proof of that.

Describe your support system online and IRL—who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My biggest, best, and most important cheerleader is, of course, my wife Amanda. I’d have given up a thousand times without her constant support and belief in me. She is also the reason no hilarious chapter about explosive diarrhea has ever made it to a final draft of one of my books, no matter how many times I try to sneak one in. So my career thanks her for that.

There’s also my biggest fan, J.J. Walsh, who liked my first novel so much that he basically hunted me down and demanded we become friends. Ten years later we still are, and his support and kind words still mean the world to me. I often say that I just need to meet a hundred thousand more people like him and I’ll be set for life. I’m not even kidding. Where are you people? I know you’re out there.

How has your life prepared you to be a writer, how does your life influence your work and vice versa, and what brought you to the dark side?

Back in the early ’80s, the only “social media” that existed was my mom talking to her friends on the corded, rotary-dial phone in the dining room. As a child, I would listen to her chat with one friend, then hang up and call another to spread the gossip. With each call through the day, the story would slightly change, becoming ever more dramatic and juicy with each retelling. My mother inadvertently wired my young mind to understand that a good story is more important than a true story. Which is why I became a novelist and not a journalist.

It would be hard to write anything without infusing it with my personal life experience. That’s the fuel that runs the brain machine. The fun part is doing what Mom taught me and changing it from a straight retelling of true events and into an engaging narrative. For example, in my latest book One Must Kill Another, the protagonists are a Hollywood family, and their experiences draw on my time working in the Los Angeles entertainment industry. But deeper than that, their fears and insecurities are also rooted in my own and modified to fit the characters and the story. I think if the underlying emotion is real, the details can be changed and it all still works.

My next book is very different in content and tone, but it was based on the same experiences. Alexis vs the Afterlife is a Young Adult LGBT adventure-comedy about a burned-out, eighteen-year-old former child star who dies in a freak accident and becomes a rock-n-roll ghost who must save the world from a paranormal apocalypse. It’s completely batshit insane, but it still draws from my real-world experience in the entertainment industry and my lifelong fascination with the paranormal.

What do you love most about your creativity?

In a real world that too often seems completely out of control, it’s great to be able to create my own worlds that work the way I want them to—worlds where everyone has the snappy punch line at the right moment (and not five hours later when they’re in the shower), magic exists if you know how to use it, and the monsters always lose in the end.

Connect with Marcus and buy his books:

I.V. Olokita—Award-winning Israeli Author and Humanitarian

Ten Simple Rules

I.V. Olokita specializes in management of medical aid to disaster areas all over the world. He has a BA degree in logistics, and an MA degree in emergency and disaster situations management. He also volunteers to rescue missions in disaster areas all over the world. I. V. Olokita is a happily married father of two adolescents and a foster father of five cats and two dogs. By the way, he hardly ever sleeps. Instead, he spends his nights on writing.

Olokita’s first book (in Hebrew), Ten Simple Rules, was published in 2014. It won an Israeli literary prize, and immediately made an online bestseller. The following year, another book by Olokita, Reasons to Kill God, made a local bestseller in Israel. In May 2016, his third novel, Wicked Girl, was published, to make another great success, and soon presents in English. Olokita’s books are characterized by direct writing, Turns wiry and witty, requiring the reader to delve into and maintain vigilance from the beginning of the book to its surprising end.

Olokita contacted me to share an original short story on my blogblogblog (read here) and also graciously agreed to an interview. I liked his short story, so shared it as a Flash Fiction Friday guest author post. His books sound powerful; I look forward to English versions. Keep an eye open for this author’s work. Follow links at end of interview to connect with Olokita, and trailers to make you long for the books.

Describe your writing process. What is your writing schedule? Do you have an office in your home, or do you work at a remote location? What inspirations do you have for writing—people, places, or things? How do you choose your subject matter?

Since I’m almost out of the house because of my type of work, I do most of the writing in remote places and late at night. Sometimes there is no lighting, and usually, the electricity is minimal, so I don’t have many choices but improvise. Nevertheless, to this day I finished writing seven books, all of them I wrote on my cell phone, in my Gmail drafts. Sometimes my wife laughs at me in this matter. “Who writes books on a cell phone?” She asks me, and I don’t have the right answer, so I reply with a smile, “I do.”

Wicked Girls

Usually, my subjects begin with a dream or, more precisely, a nightmare. Since I have engaged in this profession of wounded and dying people for almost twenty-five years, it is tough for me to sleep, and when I do so, I have bad dreams. So, I wake up immediately and start writing the chapters, and the whole writing process from that moment takes about one to two months until the book is ready for my beta readers to have their mind of it. My inspiration probably comes from sights and stories that I see and hear during work. Over time all these are processed and changed, taking another form. My books deal with the difficult issues of life, not necessarily dark, humorless stories, but most subjects that people don’t openly talk about—the worldview from the eyes of a Nazi criminal or a pedophile, the point of view of our perfect enemy, or that of the most cunning deceiver who ever entered our lives. All these are presented to the reader as one piece, so at the end of the insights, the reader can agree or deny them. In every story I write, there are at least three layers and many plots that intersect each other into an entire story that moves on a past-present timeline. The reader will enjoy the first reading of what the eye views; during the story he will try to guess where this story leads him. In this context, I have not met anyone who has read my books and managed to think the end of the story during the reading, at least not until he finished the last word of the book. Mainly because what happens in it depends very much on the perspective of the reader at the same point he is at, and his willingness to penetrate the story’s guts, sometimes even finishing the book and immediately rereading it to find this time he is reading a completely different one.

Tell me about your publishing process and your publishing team. How much input are you allowed? How much marketing is expected by you as the author?

Every time someone asks me what is important to me in my books, I reply that I want my stories to be read by as many people as can be. It’s not a matter of money or profit and loss. I have important things to tell the world, and this is my real calling. In that aspect, I was fortunate to be a beginner in Israel. When I published my books in Hebrew, they immediately received considerable attention. As far as I am concerned, it was a complete surprise, mainly because I am an indie writer who corresponded with his readers on Facebook and did not invest too much in marketing. The decision to go on Amazon in another language was not easy for me. There are many aspects here, each of which can significantly reduce the quality of the books— mainly translation and editing, but in this case, marketing is also a significant factor.

Reasons to Kill God

So, after I finally made the decision, I made a great effort to find the right professionals, and I’m glad I did, despite the enormous financial cost to me. I believe that the readers who will be exposed to my books will enjoy a high language and a story that stretches and is tightly written, just like in the original language. As for marketing, I rely on the group of professionals who stand behind me and support me; it will allow me to keep in touch with my readers and write them new books instead of spending my time marketing activities. As long as it’s up to me, I’ll go on like this until I’ve run out of money and the last reader in the world will read what I have to say.

Talk about your support system. Whose praise motivates you? Who keeps you motivated?

This will be a concise answer; I write because I have to write. Otherwise, I’ll probably go crazy. The only prize that interests me is the one I already won many years ago, a fantastic wife who contains my obsessions of writing books and allows me to spend all our money on them and two amazing children who, despite their adolescence, are still very proud of their father.

As a humanitarian, how does your life influence your writing? Does your writing influence your life?

I think I’ve written all my life, just from a young age. It was a mechanism I had developed to relieve all my frustrations and disappointments over the years. Writing accompanied me at school and later in my adult life without even planning to publish it as a book. In this sense, my life always influences my writing and vice-versa; everything I experienced went into my books and I processed into a story. Therefore, that everything becomes a story never bothers me anymore. As someone who is responsible for managing a complete medical response to extreme humanitarian events, this system helps me deal with the main sights, smells, and sounds that remain in me. Writing too, like psychological therapy, for example, does not clean everything out of your system, but allows me to continue to function and live a completely normal life.

What do you love most about your creativity?

Only God Knows

After I published my third book, questions began to arise that intrigued many of my readers, “Why are all your heroes bad people in essence, and why is the end of the story never good?” I think the answer to these questions is that even though we want to, our world is not a right place to live. I try in my books to show the other side of life, but people argue that despite the controversial issues and controversial characters, my books provide a more optimistic view of the world, basically, that we all end up only human beings, and the change begins with our understanding of each other’s motivation. I think it’s a matter of perspective that my books and short stories provide to the reader.

As for that legitimate question regarding my sources of inspiration about my written heroes, I have never known a Nazi criminal nor a pedophile, and I have no idea how they feel like in real life. However, I certainly give my heroes fears and desires, punish and reward them when I am sad or happy, and they end up getting a slice of my own life.

Writing is a calling—it fills my colleagues and me with happiness and pours a smile on our faces every day anew. It’s an excellent reason to wake up in the morning, knowing that someone else reads your words and soon, he too will write you a response. So, if you wish to tell me about your reading experience, just put your review on the Amazon book page or email me at


Connect with Olokita:


Reasons to Kill God trailer

Wicked Girl trailer

website in Hebrew

Goodreads in Hebrew

Jenny Jaeckel—Author and Illustrator

Jenny Jaeckel is the author of House of Rougeaux, her debut novel, which made Bitch Media’s 25 Must Read Books of 2018 list. Her previous titles include For the Love of Meat: Nine Illustrated Stories and Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob. In 2016, Jaeckel published the graphic memoir Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU, which was the winner of the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and a 2016 finalist in the Foreword Indies Book Awards. She has worked as a translator, an editor, a Spanish teacher, a graphic arts teacher, and an illustrator. Jaeckel is currently working on her second novel, yet to be named, a continuation of the Rougeaux family epic.

And she agreed to be on my little blogblogblog! If you haven’t read House of Rougeaux, I recommend you remedy that as soon as possible—must be ready for the sequel. Links to connect with Jenny and purchase her books follow the interview.

Tell me about your writing process, the mechanics of it, schedule, strategies to keep you going, where you write, research procedures, and what inspirations surround you or motivate you.

Wow, where to start… All the aspects of the process, whether internal or external are quite varied. As a writer, I have to have a whole mental “team” going on: the passionate one, the researcher, the emotional digger/investigator, the critic, the cheerleader, the scheduler, etc. etc. My biggest inspirations are my favorite books, the ones I love with all my heart and soul, and have made me want to be a writer in the first place. I always aspire to those literary heroes. They function like my North Star. I may be down in my clunky little rowboat, with my one broken oar, paddling furiously and getting nowhere, but when I look up, at least I know where I’m trying to go. J.D. Salinger, Toni Morrison, Merce Rodoreda, Eduardo Galeano, and Edith Wharton are some that I return to again and again.

Tell me about the publishing process, including your publishing team, and your responsibilities as the author.

One of the most key parts of the process for me is working with my editor, Neesa Sonoquie. When I first showed her the manuscript for House of Rougeaux, I thought it was in pretty good shape. I’d already gotten some feedback from readers I trusted and done a lot of revising. But I had not worked with Neesa before. She absolutely demolished it. I’d sent off a book and got back confetti. It was humbling, but it turned out to be a transcendent moment. The revision process transformed the book and made me grow tremendously as a writer.

I am currently in such a moment again, because Neesa has just demolished a draft of my next book—a coming-of-age/love story that will be finished before the House of Rougeaux sequel (I’m still working on a first draft of the Rougeaux sequel.) What a good editor does is see the book you are trying to write inside the draft, which is full of wrong detours and other flaws. The demolition is all about cutting the crap so you can get to the true heart of the matter. It’s challenging but very exciting.

Describe your support system online and IRL—who are your biggest cheerleaders?

I don’t exactly have a cheerleading squad, but I have a small group of friends and acquaintances who have, at one time or another, said, or written some very wonderful things about how my work has touched them. When I get this in an email, for example, I print it out and put in on the wall by my bed, where I have a little collection, and when I get discouraged, I read them over and over. I also talk pretty regularly with three writer friends of mine. Though we all deal in different genres, the process and the struggle are the same, and being able to engage in that mutual support is essential. My lovely family is very supportive too. My partner and child give me regular feedback on my blog posts and written interviews (like right this second).

I know you’ve written about a difficult time in your life through a graphic memoir as part of coping and healing. In what other ways has your life influenced your art and vice versa? How do you choose your subject matter?

Art and life have a complete interface for me, like body and mind, or heads and tails sides of a coin. My first three books were all memoirs, the next two pure fiction, so while my relationships to all those topics varied, it was all deeply personal. When writing memoir, it has been much easier for me to see the therapeutic aspects of storytelling. Curiously though, putting key chunks of my life into these packages called books has made me identify with the stories less, as if these events happened to a human, and that human just happened to be me. It’s very liberating.

With fiction, though I’ve been exploring lives that couldn’t be more different from my own, every choice I make, and the ways I try to connect with my characters and get to know them, has everything to do with who I am. At the moment, working on this coming-of-age/love story, I am blending autobiography and fiction for the first time, and the process is extremely strange. I have to get to know the protagonist, for example, as the fictional person she is, but she is also so like a young version of myself that it’s a real mind-bender.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I am grateful to creativity for being the force that animates me. I think without it I’d be a lifeless hulk, a Frankenstein’s Monster pre-electrification, misshapen and covered in scars and moldy clothes (but smaller). I was lucky that as a child I was encouraged in art (so many are discouraged or even shamed for their efforts,) and lucky that since then I’ve had countless opportunities to grow creatively. Creativity takes infinite forms, I think it’s our birthright as human beings, and I think the more we can bring it to all aspects of our lives the better off we are. Once I heard the singer Krishna Das say in an interview that his music was how he stayed alive. He didn’t say music was his bliss and all that, he said it was how he literally stayed alive. I really appreciated that. It’s survival. Creativity is not the icing on the cake, it’s the cake itself.

Connect with Jenny:



Amazon author page



Brian Barnett—Multi-Media Artist and Designer

Brian Barnett is a Central Florida artist and designer who specializes in fine line abstract ink and pencil drawings, painting and other mediums. He is also  the SO of my high school friend, and though I only know him online, he’s friendly and interesting, and his work is astonishing. I have to share it. After learning about him, follow the links at the end to contact Brian, scope out more of his work, and purchase pieces.

Tell me about your artistic process, from ideation to finished product, including medium / material, schedule, environment, and inspirations tangible and abstract.

The process for my art can take a second or be meticulously planned for weeks months or even years. For example, if I’m working with pens, the process is almost instant. I don’t have a pre-planned route or image I am seeking when I create using the pens; it’s just free and letting the ink flow as it wants to create the images. But if I’m working on a sculpture, I may have thought and planned it for months, looking through the bins of mixed media for that certain piece that make it perfect. I don’t have a preferred medium. I tend to draw mostly as it is most accessibleof my mediums at any time. I prefer lately to work with my hands, sculpting or building creations, with my next step being woodcarving and the eventual goal of teaching myself and being able to carve my wife’s face out of wood or sculpt from clay. I’m constantly challenging myself with new mediums.

How do you find buyers—short-term and long-term strategies and venues; do you create art from your own vision and / or commission art?

When it comes to selling my art, it’s just not the goal. I do markets and online sales, hang in local galleries. and sometimes I post randoms for sale, but when I found this talent, I didn’t find it for fortune. I found it for sanity. I am always honored to sell a piece. To me, it means that person liked something that came from inside of me enough to spend money on it and hang it in their house. To me, that’s amazing. To me, it means I touched them; they connected with the image or the sculpture. That’s a priceless payday for an artist to see the viewer connect. I have done and am available for commissions—I love to work with a client to reach the perfect piece.


Describe your support system online and IRL—who are your biggest cheerleaders?

Support systems, hmm. That’s an interesting one. I have two support systems online and in real life. Earlier in the interview, I said I found art for my sanity—this is very true. I am a recovered addict and alcoholic for almost 14 years now. I found art as a great filler and escape from life, and the things that make the mind go astray. So, when it comes to my support, my art is my release that allows the people who support me to connect to me in a way they wouldn’t have been able to before. If it weren’t for the Orlando art community’s support, and that of my family and friends, I couldn’t have as much joy on this mission of art as I do.

How does your life influence your art and vice versa?

My art influences my life for sure,. My world and the people in it are filled with canvasses and sculptures and the artists that made them. I’m always in the mix of what’s going on in town, and art is truthfully my air. My art is influenced by the past lives I’ve lived, the people I’ve been, and the things I’ve seen n this 47-year mission around the sun. I hide imagery in my linework, with lots of little stories in many of those pieces. I find art a very healthy way to deal with life now and the recovery from the ones I lived.


What do you love most about your creativity?

The thing I love most about my creativity is where it has taken me, the people I’ve met. The things I get to do and be all because I choose to make art, its almost unfair to those that don’t. I found a community of people from all walks of life, and all races and orientations, with one common core bond—ART! These people are my people, and I hope that once you’ve finished this interview, and checked out my art, you’ll also become one of the amazing folks in my circle of life.

Connect with Brian:





Orlando Slice

Heather Webb—International Bestselling Author of Historical Fiction

Tall Poppy author Heather Webb’s works have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly and more, as well as received national starred reviews. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was selected as a Goodreads Top Pick, and in 2017, Last Christmas in Paris became a Globe & Mail bestseller and was also shortlisted for the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. When not writing, you may find Heather collecting cookbooks or looking for excuses to travel. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty rabbit.

Describe your writing process, including schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations abstract and material.

My daily process changes based on the needs of my household, but I try to sit down at least 3 (but hope for 6!) hours per day to write, edit, plot, or research. Sometimes that means I’m just picking at one paragraph and moving things around, if I’m feeling stuck that day. I do, however, try to aim for 1,000 words per day and 5,000 words per week if I’m in the drafting phase. If I’m editing, it depends entirely on the draft. If it’s a second or third draft, I’m still doing a lot of overhauling and layering, which means I move fairly slowly. Later drafts move much faster once the bigger elements of the story and characters are in place.

I tend to work at Starbucks, my kitchen table, or at my desk, but it’s in my bedroom due to space restrictions so I don’t have a devoted office space, unfortunately. One day! It’s on my bucket list.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, explaining who on your team does what, and what marketing you do as the author. Elaborate upon going international, winning awards, and public speaking, please.

Publishing is a tricky and dangerous process. Ha! Just kidding. Each of my books is very different, including many of the team members who work on them, so I’ll keep this simple. Each book is in process for about a year once it leaves your desk from multiple rounds of edits, to cover design, to marketing and sales materials so the book you read that hits the shelf has been finished for at least a year. If it took awhile to find a publishing home, it may be much older than that, and chances are, the author is either working on something else entirely or may even have another entire novel completed. In terms of marketing, authors do as much as they can to help promote, but at the end of the day, we don’t move the needle all that much unless we’re a very big name. It’s the incredible sales teams behind us, book placement in physical stores, and ads and promotions with online retailers.

Tell me about your support system—online and IRL—and how that may shift during the progress from idea to launch. Who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My biggest cheerleaders (beyond my family!) are my critique partners. They read early drafts and deliver feedback that is sometimes painful but always helpful. I can’t imagine where I’d be without them. I also happen to love them dearly as people. I have to give a shout out to some of my favorite organizations who have been incredibly supportive as well: the Writer Unboxed community, Tall Poppy Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Historical Novel Society, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. I feel incredibly blessed by my community. My colleagues are wonderfully talented, supportive people, and if I started listing names, I’d never finish. The writing community is truly special and unique that way.

Did I read that you had a dream about Josephine, inspiring you to change your career from high school teacher to author? I find that astonishing! How does your life influence your art / work and vice versa? Where does research fit in, and do you have assistance?

I did have a dream about her! It didn’t make me quit teaching, however. I resigned because I was expecting my second child and daycare would have eaten my entire teaching salary. (Pathetic, right?) So I made the choice to stay home with my babes. Before I resigned, however, I did have a persistent dream about Josephine, and I knew very little about her, so it was quite odd. I decided to check out a biography to learn about her and I fell in love instantly. I hadn’t even finished that first biography when I told my husband I was going to write a book. He looked at me like I was from another planet. So whether or not I resigned, I was going to write a book, damn it!

As for research and assistance, I wish I had an assistant! I’m on my own, but I do love it. I try as often as possible to visit locations in person, utilize primary source material, and when necessary, I reach out to experts in certain fields.

What do you love most about your creativity? (You may shamelessly plug your editorial services here as well!)

Indulging my creative side fills me with a kind of peace I can’t attain anywhere else. There’s something about going into your head and letting it riot with ideas and thoughts and dreams. I love the act of doing it as much as the end product, whether it be writing, cooking, or doing fun projects with my kids. Though at times, I have to admit writing can be frustrating when things aren’t working. But this is all part of the growing and expanding and trying new things. The challenge. We writers relish that part of the process on some level or why bother? Living a creative life feels like a gift and I definitely don’t want to waste it.

Hazel Gaynor, Heather Webb

Author Extra: What’s your next book?

Here’s a little blurb on my next book, Meet Me in Monaco, set to the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s wedding in 1956. It releases in July 2019, and I’ve co-written it with author Hazel Gaynor. We hope to have a cover soon!


Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and glamourous wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate and second-chances.


Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique, fending off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love and tragedy.

James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.

Connect with Heather:



Facebook (Heather Webb, Author)


Diane Chamberlain—New York Times, USA Today, and Sunday Times Bestselling Author

I met Diane in person at a book signing in Topsail Beach at Quarter Moon Books. In my overzealous fangirling, I crashed a book club photo and had to be gently shooed away. I’ve been her most awkward fan since, and she’s been the most gracious literary star. I show up for each new book’s signing / reading like a middle-aged stalker who looks so innocent (muahaha), and Diane keeps smiling and signing my new books. If only she could write super fast; I know I will love each new story. I was fortunate to receive an early copy of The Dream Daughtermy review—coming out October 2.

Tell me about your writing process—any tricks / nuances to keep you on track, inspirations material or abstract, where you write (Topsail!) and when.

I usually write either in my Raleigh area sunroom or at my condo on Topsail Island. I generally have a year to write a book. The first few months, I think about my idea and start doing research, often visiting the area where the story takes place. I begin picturing scenes and putting them on post it notes that I move around on a big presentation board until I like the arc of the story, thus creating an outline. At the same time, I think about my characters, specifically what type of person will have the hardest time dealing with whatever dilemma I’ve come up with for the story. If there is no personal struggle, there is no story. I think about which characters will have a point of view in the story and will they have a first person or third person point of view and will I write the story in present or past tense. I sometimes look on the internet for pictures of people who make me think of my characters. I find this a huge help in creating characters who feel very real to me and hopefully to my readers. These are all decisions I make before I start writing.

Finally, I start writing about 6 months before my deadline. I usually listen to movie soundtracks as I write because I like the emotional ups and downs of the music. I’m always doing research as I write. Also, I listen to my characters because they frequently go astray from my outline and I’ve learned to pay attention to them. I write three to five drafts. Finally, often a bit late, I turn in the book. That’s where my dynamite editor comes in. She reads the book, looking at the big picture. What works and what doesn’t? She makes many suggestions, sometimes requiring a big change in the book. I’ve learned to listen to her, and I rewrite. And perhaps rewrite yet again.

Lead me through your publishing process, as in who does what when, and your marketing responsibilities (book tours! What else?).

Here’s how it works. First I write a book. Then I have an agent who is responsible for finding the publisher she thinks will do the best job with that book. She is also responsible for negotiating the contract with that publisher. You can see in my answer above some of the work the editor does with regard to my book. The publisher then, of course, publishes the book. If the publisher feels strongly that they can make the book a bestseller, they will give it a lot of advertising and other support before and during publication. My publisher for the last six books, St. Martins Press, does a great deal of promotion for me. I try to hold up my end by keeping up with social media (which I enjoy), giving interviews, touring to speak to groups and do book signings, where I get to meet my readers, the best part of the process!

Before the Storm series

Describe your support system: groups online and IRL (MKA, another favorite author of mine)—your biggest cheerleaders…

My biggest supporter is my significant other, John. He’s a photographer and understands the creative process and doesn’t complain that once a year, as deadline nears, I disappear from real life into my imagination, 24/7. Aside from him, I have many local writer friends who I get together with often. And then I have my “official group.” We call ourselves The Weymouth Seven because we originally met up at the Weymouth mansion in Southern Pines, NC, where authors are invited to work for up to two weeks each year. Now we usually meet up on Topsail Island. You’re right that Mary Kay Andrews is a big part of our group. She’s our ringleader, the one who keeps us on track during the week that we meet. Other members are mystery writer Margaret Maron, historical mystery writer, Sarah Shaber, horror and thriller writer Alexandra Sokoloff, and mystery writers, Brenda Witchger and Katy Munger. We have fun but we work hard at the same time.

Keeper of the Light series

You’ve always had touches of history in your novels. Recently, you’ve opened up to historical fiction, and now sci-fi / fantasy with your latest book about time travel. How did this come about; in what ways do your life and work influence each other, and how did your previous profession prepare you for fiction writing? Also talk about secrets, their importance to you and your work, and what kind of secrets you like best to weave into your stories.

When I heard about the eugenics (forced sterilization) program in North Carolina, I knew I had to write about it. That meant setting the story during the years of the program, so I selected 1960 and thus wrote my first novel (Necessary Lies) with a totally historical setting and I found I really enjoyed it. Two books later, I decided I wanted to write about the 1944 polio outbreak in Hickory, NC during which the town built a functioning polio hospital in 54 hours (The Stolen Marriage). So I would say, if the idea that comes to me is historical, I will happily write it, but I am still perfectly happy writing contemporary books as well.

When it comes to The Dream Daughter, that is a whole different subject! For years, I had the idea that’s central in The Dream Daughter: a woman is told that her unborn baby will die, but she learns that if she’s willing to take a huge risk and travel to the future, her baby could very well live. I put this idea off for years because it is so unlike my other books, but finally, I talked to my editor and she gave me the go-ahead. The book was tremendous fun to write and the early reviews have been amazing. I’m grateful to readers who dislike time travel for giving this book a try because it’s still “vintage Diane Chamberlain” and people seem to be loving it.

I think your question about my previous profession (clinical social work) and secrets actually go together. I worked in hospitals and then in a private psychotherapy practice with adolescents and their families, and one thing I learned is how destructive secrets can be in a family. I was fascinated by that topic, so it often appears in my stories.



What do you love most about your creativity?

I’m very grateful for my imagination. It got me into tons of trouble as a kid, but now pays off. I might be stopped at a traffic light and see a woman pushing a baby carriage across the street and within 30 seconds, I imagine a car hitting them, and the police discover it was on purpose and there was a connection between the woman and the driver, or maybe even between the baby and the driver . . . it’s exhausting having a brain like this, but it often pays off in the end if it means I can entertain my readers.



Connect with Diane:






Book series in order of publication


Bill Roorbach—Award-winning Author, Educator, Musician, Father, and Naturalist

I met Bill on Facebook. He’s unique, pragmatic, wryly funny, and shares lots of mushroom pics amongst his politics. Oh yeah, he’s also a pretty talented writer. He’s always surprising me, in his books, online, and here in his interview. Read about his process and creativity; then read his books. You’re welcome.


Tell me about your writing process—schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, inspirations material and abstract—and if this process differs based on genre / format (I know you write fiction and non-fiction, novels and short stories, essays and memoirs). Also, I think you’re a pantser, yes?

My process shifts from project to project and even within projects. Right now I’m working on a new novel and just finding small blocks of time to operate in, sometimes five or six a day, at any time, like waiting for my daughter at ballet class, just out in the car with the laptop tapping away. I do have a studio and when things get serious I sit out there with the skunks. I do a lot of daydreaming and side reading and more and more social media, unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m not sure which. Politics has clouded my brain, as well, but we can’t sit idly by. I had to look up pantser. I am not a pantser, but draft multiply and give myself all the time in the world.


Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product, including who does what, how it differs for fiction and non-fiction, and what marketing you are expected to do as the author.

I hand in the draft, then start something new or return to something else in progress. Meanwhile, whatever editor reads it, usually too slowly for my taste, and comes back with notes. I attend to the notes fairly quickly when possible, send the pages back in and return to the new project. Usually at that point the old project is accepted. Next come copyedits, possibly a legal reading, then first-pass galleys, second-pass galleys, all while a cover is being designed at the publisher’s, and jacket copy being written, a publicity campaign designed, book tour scheduled, all that stuff, which I have little to do with except approval or disapproval. The book comes out, the tour starts, I go on TV and radio, all the while finding those little blocks of time to work on the new project.


Describe your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

I don’t know if I have such a support system. I use social media to announce a new book. That helps. But the publicity department at publisher or magazine has the job of cheerleading, though I do wave my pom-poms.



I too have an interesting background of employment (including llama care) giving me insight for specific storylines. How has your background prepared you for your writing career, and how does your life influence your art and vice versa?

Experience is probably nine-tenths of the game when it comes to fiction. Nonfiction is the experience. I remember consciously living an interesting life back there in my twenties, and forgiving myself all sorts of wasted hours. I find I still want my life to be my art, and vice versa. But so much of life is sleeping, and so much more doing stuff you’d rather not.

What do you love most about your creativity?

It’s nice to be able to do things, from building my houses to collecting mushrooms to napping properly. I want to be able to do everything I do reasonably well. This had led to a lot of hobbies, and as I get older, less and less time to pursue them. But in the end I’m hoping it all adds up to one big art project, my life.

Connect with Bill:









Chuck Amadori—Comic Book Creator


I met Chuck through Brian Barr, another natural storyteller, on Facebook. Ya really gotta know how to use Facebook to meet wonderful artists. Chuck has given a beautiful interview, and I’ve interspersed his brilliant work throughout his responses. Enjoy!



Tell me about your work process, including schedule, environment, materials, and inspirations, and walk me through a collaborative project—timeline and contributions—who does what when.

My work process varies project to project. With my creator owned titles, the front end of the project has me very involved with outlining, plotting, world-building and scripting. Then I hand the script off to the artist who then submits layouts/roughs, and finally the penciled/inked pages. The next step brings the page to a flatter who gets the page ready to send to the colorist. The final step is where I letter the page. I’m one of those writers who likes to letter my own creator owned titles. Lettering my own writing gives me the chance to improve the flow based on the nuances the art team brings to the project. Scheduling for such a project always depends on my finances, since every one of my creator owned titles is funded out of pocket from my day job (or shared expense if collaboration). No kickstarters. No patreon. And the unfortunate truth of Indie Comics is that sales will not pay for but a fraction of the money spent paying the art/coloring teams.

My collaborations have followed a similar process. For the Empress collaboration with the prolific AF Brian Barr, we alternated 4 issue arcs that each ended setting up the other writer’s arc. It’s been a real rewarding collaboration and we’re always on the same page creatively, which helps our separate ideas blend and mesh together seamlessly. My other major collaboration was the Western Trilogy (Snake, Bang Bang Lucita and Xibalba) with colorist Nimesh Morarji. Again, another great collaboration that if it we had the funds to continue, would have seen the release of 15 + issues between the three titles and a crossover title called Viperous Vixens (which have all already been scripted).


In what ways do you acquire work, and how do you come to collaborate? Talk about how a finished product comes together and becomes available for purchase.

When I decided to make comics, I just started making comics. It’s like they say, if you want to do it, then start doing it. However, I had a slight advantage over some other upstarts, because I had a background in filmmaking/screenwriting. Nevertheless, there are so many resources out there that if you’re really serious about making comics you can learn how to, and only by making them will you learn and hone you skill. You’ll always be your own worst critic. I know my first few scripts are so clunky compared to how I would write them now. Luckily, being my own letterer has allowed me to fix any of the issues. As a letterer, I found the best way to get experience was to letter other creator friends’ books and do some freelance lettering gigs. For one thing, it made me appreciate the importance of pith in comic book dialogue. Saying more with less words is essential. Let the image tell the story too!

To get a title released as an Indie Creator, you first need to put the book together using the professional standards (resolution, page size, safe zones etc). If you want to submit digitally to ComiXology, it’s essential to make sure there aren’t any errors. They will reject a book for an error or an unprofessional finish. Best thing about being alive today in the Indie Creator world—you don’t need a publisher to make your book available digitally… and there are ways to have it available in print. My books are all on a Print On Demand (POD) site called Indy Planet. They will accept submissions via the ka-blam printing service.

Describe your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

If there is anything I can say about the Indie Comic online community that I’ve associated with, it’s that they are amazing. I’ve never seen such a supportive community. And now with social media, there are ways to meet and collaborate with people all over the world.

My biggest cheerleaders seem to be fellow creators (shocking, I know). Some in particular have been very encouraging and supportive. There are places to meet other creators, like the ICC on Facebook. I have a nephew who is a HUGE fan. I mean really HUGE fan. He acts like I would if I met my favorite writer. He likes to have deep discussions about the characters and he notices the right things and even tries speculating where the story is going. Very cool to have that kind of engagement from a young reader.

How has your background prepared you for this career; how does your art influence your life and vice versa?

I’ve always been a storyteller at heart. Though the medium has varied (screenwriting, short stories, etc.), writing comics has been my favorite. With comics, you have the ability to bring anything you can imagine to life… unlike screenwriting, which limits you to budget and practicality.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I don’t really appreciate my own creativity on a project until I can see the finished product. And as I’m sure most comic creators will say, there’s nothing more satisfying than holding a print copy of your finished book. Then psychologically it becomes something real. I love working with my art teams. I’ve been lucky to have artists that can take the scripted elements and make them better on the page.

Connect with Chuck:








Julie Cantrell—Award-winning NYT & USA Today Bestselling Novelist, Literacy Advocate, and Public Speaker

I met Julie in Bloom, the readers group for Tall Poppy authors. She exudes positivity and encourages everyone to be their best selves, enlightening us with her expertise and wisdom. Listen to her TEDx talk: Know Thyself: Two Questions That Will Change Your Life. Julie is a ray of sunshine through the clouds. Her novels take on tough issues, focusing on relationships and communication, with unconditional compassion. If you’re Christian, you’ll appreciate that her faith is woven throughout her novels and her children’s books. I believe Julie lives her faith.


Elaborate upon your writing process.

My process has been different for each book. When my children were younger, I wrote while they were sleeping, never wanting to miss a moment of motherhood. I have had various stages of my writing life, usually squeezing the work into the wee hours of the morning before I would start my hectic day as mother, teacher, speech-language pathologist, organic farmer, etc. Now, I am grateful to be writing and editing full-time. My children are grown, and the entire process is much less intense. I tend to go with the flow and let the creative dance take me where it pleases.


Describe your publishing process, including your publishing team.

Oh, goodness. I could write an entire book explaining the countless people involved in getting a story from an author’s brain to a reader’s hands. It truly is an incredibly complex process, and I learn something new about it every day.


Tell me about your support system and how you came to be a Tall Poppy.

I’m incredibly honored to be a part of the Tall Poppy Writers. As female authors, we cheer one another through the many hurdles involved in publishing, always eager to elevate one another’s work and to lift our voices as a united tribe. Since daring to publish my first books, I have found most authors to be extremely supportive and encouraging at every turn. It’s been a wonderful career, and the best part about it has been the positive relationships I have been blessed to form with writers and readers alike. Fabulous people at every turn.

It’s wonderful how you use your author platform as a medium to serve others through education, disseminating information and raising awareness for social issues. Explain the intertwining of your life, advocacy, and writing.

Thank you, Lael. I do believe in the healing power of story, and I try to give voice to those whose truths have been silenced or shamed. I don’t shy away from difficult topics, but I also believe a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” and I try never to be voyeuristic or profane.

My work has tackled tricky issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault, mental illness, suicide, human trafficking, etc. I have been inspired by the many positive reader responses I have received through the years, the conversations my stories have sparked in book club meetings, and the impact these fictional tales have had on the lives of many.

I am passionate about encouraging others to live the life they were born to live, to establish healthy relationships, and to know the difference between “love” and abuse. If my stories help people heal, find freedom, or love one another, then I am grateful to play a small part of that process.



What do you love most about your creativity?

As a very young girl, I learned to rely on writing as my way of processing the world around me. I can’t imagine my life without a creative outlet. I spend hours every day reading and writing. It’s just part of my very being. Aside from writing, I also enjoy painting, gardening, creating music, and taking part in other creative activities. While I’m not very good at doing any of them, I never allow my limited abilities stop me from enjoying the creative process.

Honestly, I believe we have each been given creative tools to help guide our emotional and spiritual development. These tools help us manage anxiety, establish greater levels of empathy for others, and develop a broader understanding of our place in this miraculous universe.



I encourage everyone to create something every single day. Whether it’s a meal, a photograph, a song, a piece of furniture , a quilt, or a story… offer something new to this world that no one else can offer. Explore your talents and see where your gifts will take you. I dare you!



Connect with Julie:


Amazon Author Page

Barnes & Noble