Category Archives: Storyteller Showcase

Jack Rollins—Author

Jack Rollins was born and raised among the twisting cobbled streets and lanes, ruined forts and rolling moors of rural Northumberland, England in 1980. He is the author of the horror novel The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing, the novella The Séance and a range of short , dark fiction tales. Jack lives in Newcastle, England.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magick spells, etc.

I have no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing. I’m not one of those 1,000 words a day writers. I wish I was, but life gets in the way. I have bills to pay and my writing won’t yet cover them, and I have children, who wait for nobody and nothing. I think, in fact, hearing some writers talk about their daily word counts actually puts me off writing in some ways—as though I needed to wait until I was in a position to hit that target before I could consider myself a ‘proper writer.’ The truth is, that perfect set of circumstances may never land for me.

So I write whenever and wherever I can. Lately I have been feeling really inspired and energized, and working in my shop enables me plenty of time between customers, to plan, plot, prepare, and ultimately piece together my current work-in-progress. And yes, it can be annoying if I get on a roll and have to stop because a delivery of new stock has to be checked and merchandised, but I have to get on with it and come back to the story because by the time my working day has finished, you can guarantee I’ll be sprawled across my couch, not in any fit state to write another word.

Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing strategies.

I have a few trusted individuals, who are writers, to whom I send my work. One of these writers has known me almost twenty years as I sit here. He knows my style, knows how I say what I want to say, and he especially can help me get to the core of what I’m looking to bring out for the reader.

Once it looks as though we can’t thrash anything more out of the book, then it’s time to put it together. In the case of physical copies of the book, I have learned a great deal over the years about typesetting and formatting a novel properly to ensure a quality product—well laid out and comfortable on the eyes—is produced. The story could be the best thing ever written, but if the typesetting is awful, then who will take the time to read it?

In terms of marketing, I’ve enjoyed some online book launch parties. I found them effective ways of engaging with some readers, but right now, my aim is to be more prolific. I need more stories out there now. I need to reward the loyalty of the readers who have stayed with me, and if I’m able to do that, then hopefully, new readers will join the fold.

I’m not foolish enough to believe it’s some Field of Dreams’ “Write it and they will come” situation. But right now at this stage of my career, with the lengthy break I’ve had between finished projects, I feel the important thing is to look after the readers I’ve already gained. They are, after all, looking out for me.

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

In real life, I know I have the support of my brothers and parents. They like to know that I’m being creative even if what I write doesn’t always appeal to them.

And I need to be honest here, Lael. I haven’t needed a lot of support with the creativity because up until recently, I’ve been fighting battles that completely took me away from my writing. So when I decided enough was enough, and I needed to get back to my old self now that life is settling down again, the first thing I did was write a blog post, almost a letter of apology to the readers who had enjoyed what I’d written previously. And the response I got from that post, in terms of comments, Facebook messages, text messages and all the rest of it, was really uplifting in one sense, and a kick in the balls in another. Uplifting because it was great to know that people are out there rooting for me, and will still get excited when I produce the next piece of work. A kick in the balls because I knew I had to live up to them. That, as a writer, if I do nothing to entertain these loyal readers, then I don’t deserve to have them in my corner. All of that reinforced the positive changes I had made in my life, and I resolved to make creativity a major part of my life once more. Those readers, some of them are individuals I’ve met, or exchanged messages and emails with over time, and that means something to me. My creative output is what connects me to them and because I want to keep that connection to these people who are important to me, I’d better create something to refresh and strengthen our bond.

Beyond that, there is one particular writer in the horror field, and I don’t know if I should name him here. He’s carved out a reputation and persona as one who just doesn’t give a fiddler’s fuck about anything, a bit of a Monster, a bit of a Sick Bastard. But what I came to know about him is, he really is a very caring person, he just doesn’t make a big show of doing it publicly. In my darkest times, periodically I’d get a message from him like, “You said this on Facebook, but I can tell something’s not right.” And I didn’t know how the hell he could read the situation, given I had only met him twice at that time he first called it. But he got it and it turns out he can spot your dark thoughts from 500 miles away, because he’s had them all. All of them and more. And deeper, and for longer. And so every now and then we drop each other a message or a quick call, and I just hope some of those times I give him even one percent of the courage and support he gives me.

What brought you to horror, and how does life influence your writing and vice versa?

As a teenager, when I discovered that I wanted to write fiction, it wasn’t necessarily horror that I wanted to write. I knocked out childish Tarantino-influenced gangster stories and a couple of futuristic tales that did really have their roots in horror. There were just stories and characters swimming around in my head; one of those stories is in fact being reconstructed in my current work-in -progress, and it wasn’t until I read some James Herbert novels that I realized what I was writing would sit in the horror section at W. H. Smith’s. Now I suppose we would think of that particular story more as urban fantasy, but it opened my mind to the fact that the horror genre was vast and has many alleys and corners with a million different types of story scattered throughout.

The horror that I try to capture for my readers is a deep feeling of unease. I remember my ex-partner’s mother reading Doctor Blessing’s Curse (the first part of The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing) and she said she had to put it down. There was nothing gory in there to offend her—not really, anyway. But what she described to me as being her issue was something else entirely. Doctor Blessing’s reaction to the creature he discovers, his almost paternal protection of it, made the most profound impression on her and left her really quite unnerved. Job done then. That’s a real reaction, triggered by something completely fictional and weird. So I think to take those fantastical elements, and handle them with real emotion, can elicit the best response from a reader. I’m not so much frightened by things in life, but I can find myself with a deep sense of unease about this situation, that person, this area, that mindset, or whatever. And we’re all built with very similar instincts hardwired into our bodies, aren’t we? The old fight-or-flight survival instinct. So if I can pluck the strings that set my nerves off just right, there’s a fair to good chance it could get a reaction from you.

Then on the other hand, there is one fun way that my fiction has influenced my life. I opened a business with one of my brothers a few years ago, selling geek merch and comics and all that. We called the business Carsun’s Bazaar, which is the name of the main character’s geek merch and headshop in my current work-in-progress. Carsun’s Bazaar in real life is almost entirely gone now, but I can see a way to bring some part of it back, yet that’s something for the future.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I have a vivid and active imagination, and that creative nature comes in handy, especially as I have two young sons. When we break out the action figures and play together, we get to play out these blockbuster plots that would put those DC movies to shame. If we’re drawing or painting, I can help set a little idea off that the boys can run away with and make their own. And then, for myself, creativity is I suppose an emotional outlet. Right now, the outlet feels great; I’m processing the vast changes I’ve undergone in my life over the past year or so, and now I get to hopefully take all the emotional experience and redirect it into something satisfying that will hopefully entertain others. Problem is, the pendulum swings both ways and the creative, productive heights never last as long as I would love for them to… and then comes the sickening feeling as I hit the apex and feel all that potential energy shift right before I swing in the opposite direction…

Connect with Jack:




Facebook Author Page


Amy Impellizzeri—Award-winning Author

Amy Impellizzeri is a reformed corporate litigator, former start-up executive, and award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. Amy’s novels have won accolades including INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, National Indie Excellence Awards, and she has made the Finalist list for the STAR Award for Published Women’s Fiction. Amy’s fourth novel, Why We Lie, released March 5, 2019, and has been featured in Publisher’s Weekly and lauded by early reviewers as “timely” and “thought-provoking.”

She is a past President of the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association, a 2018 Writer-In-Residence at, and a frequently invited speaker at legal conferences and writing workshops across the country.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.

My writing process is, in a word, fluid. I spend as much time thinking about my current work in progress as I do writing. I try to write every day and as deadlines approach, I try to write 5,000-7,500 words per week. But mostly, I try to live with my characters and my scenes so that the words on the page will be organic and cohesive. At least that’s the goal!

My inspirations come from everywhere. I like to imagine the story behind every news article I read and person I meet. I am also a big people watcher! I love to observe interactions around me and imagine what came before and what comes next.

Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.

My “final” draft is usually the result of several years of drafting, workshopping, and editing by a developmental editor, a few trusted beta readers, and agent input.

After my publisher reads, we go through a few more rounds of edits, including copy edits, and then we start submitting for trade reviews and early blogger / reviewer reads.

The head of my publishing house, Nancy Cleary, of Wyatt-MacKenzie, is extremely hands-on when it comes to early / industry marketing, and has taught me so much about how to get my books into the hands of early and enthusiastic readers. The more buzz you can generate as your pub day approaches, the better!

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders and about being a Tall Poppy.

Transitioning from litigator to novelist, the sisterhood of support I’ve received from fellow writers has been invaluable. I assure you there were no Tall Poppy lawyers! Seriously, though, without the Tall Poppy sisterhood, I’d still be traveling in the dark in this industry. So much is shrouded in secrecy and is just simply unknown. The generosity and shared experience among the Tall Poppies is amazing.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

For me, there is tremendous synergy between real life and the stories I tell. My books usually explore questions I’m grappling with in real life. The writing helps me answer those questions and usually leads to many more!

What do you love most about your creativity?

Well, like all writers, it’s a multi-layered thing. Not always accessible and beloved! But I love the writing process, and the creation of a full story from only an idea still excites me. I’d write even if no one was reading, but I’m grateful that my stories have found enthusiastic readers so far!

Connect with Amy:




Carla Vergot—Author, Poker of Campfires, and Firm Believer in Acts of Kindness

Carla has been writing a long time but was given the greatest gift by her husband in 2016 when he encouraged her to take a sabbatical from teaching special education in order to write her first book, Lily Barlow: The Mystery of Jane Dough. She enjoyed the experience so much, she resigned from teaching to start the second book in the series, Lily Barlow: The Mystery in the Mangroves. She also contributes an amusing, garden-themed column to a local magazine called The Piedmont Virginian. Word on the street is she writes a pretty funny FB post on occasion.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc. Does it differ for a novel versus essay?

If there was a gold medal for waking up early, I’d be on the podium. I get up between 4-5am, even on the weekends, even on vacation. I take the first dog out, and fix a cup of coffee. At that point, I sprinkle the fairy dust and the magic happens (meaning I open my computer). First I check to see if anyone left a review for Lily Barlow: The Mystery of Jane Dough on Amazon. It’s shocking the rush of adrenaline I get when I see that number tick up. I’ve been holding at 60 for the longest time, but I know #61 is out there!

After that, I delete all the junk mail from my inbox and fiddle around catching up on social media. I do check that stuff throughout the day, but it’s easier to get caught up first thing. I try to post something fresh for my Facebook friends who follow me there.

Then, I shift into the project of the day, which is generally either writing, editing, or promoting. It’s hard for me to multi-task. If I’m involved in an author takeover, I can’t write in between takeover posts. I try to interact with everyone who leaves a comment, and I like those days to include lots of threads so by the end a person has a sense of who I am both as a human being and as a writer. It takes my full attention to do that. So on those days, not much else gets done.

There’s no set schedule. I don’t know ahead of time that I’m writing on M/W/F. I let each week have a natural ebb and flow, and I just do what needs to get done on a day-to-day basis. So, some weeks I may write every single day, other weeks, not at all.

When the weather is cool, spring and fall, I love to write on the back porch. For a while, I worked on the kitchen table. Now I’m usually on the couch, with one dog laying behind my head and the other in the space beside me. When we travel, my husband sleeps a little later than I do, so I get up and write. I wrote large chunks of Book 1 in the lobby of a hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the living room of a rental home in Moab, Utah.

When I’m struggling with inspiration, I have to ask myself a tough question — Am I truly uninspired or just lazy? Sometimes the inspiration wears thin, and I need to charge it up with a hike, a camping trip, a visit with friends. Other times it really is the trap of laziness. I may be in a scene that’s taking a long time to write, and I say I’m not inspired, but what I mean is that the scene is kicking my butt and I’m getting tired. Those times I just have to power through and get words on the page.

This is true for all the things I’m writing now—novels, essays, blog entries, articles. And interestingly, when I find myself in the middle muddle of whatever Lily Barlow book I’m working on, it’s a real temptation to put the story down to write essays. I think it’s because the essay is short and there’s an end in sight. When I’m writing, and writing, and writing, sometimes it’s just a relief to finish something.

Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author. I’m especially interested in how you chose your hybrid publisher, their responsiblities, and the cost.

My publishing process starts when I hand the final draft over to my publisher, Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press. I work closely with an editor I adore because she does not sterilize the voice of my characters, even when their grammar is questionable. Funny story about the editing process…with a degree in language arts, writing and editing, I was quite full of myself when I made the statement to the publisher that they wouldn’t need to spend much time cleaning up my manuscript. HA! We probably found over 200 errors that were missed by me, my husband, and a rack of beta readers.

While we’re editing, the publisher has an artist working on the cover. I have pretty specific ideas when it comes to the visual representation, but my ability to explain it is sometimes lacking. The artist who did the first cover also did the second cover. Both are awesome. He listened very carefully to what I was trying to say and captured the feeling so incredibly well.

While all that’s going on, I work on blurbs and info for distributors, and eventually I start recording the audio version of the book. That was hilarious. I recorded the first book in our teardrop camper because it was the only place in the house that was quiet enough—no dog collars jangling, no phones ringing, no air conditioner clicking on and off. I padded the camper walls with yoga mats, and each morning I’d head out before the sun was up to record a chapter. That’s about all I could do before it got too hot to work in there.

Eventually, the publishing team and I shift gears and start prepping for the book launch. I reach out to people to encourage them to buy an introductory copy of the book and leave a review. Reviews are really important, and they’re surprisingly hard to get. I think people feel like they have to write some critical PhD thesis, but really a few simple sentences is all it takes. (As my husband is famous for saying, he only reads the short ones anyways!)

I have support from the publishing team, but I do a lot of marketing on my own. I’m out there pounding the pavement, working to get indie bookshops to carry the book. I try to get myself invited to author events where I can sign books. I look for opportunities to do interviews (like this one) and author takeovers. The next goal is to get on somebody’s podcast. My publisher turns up bigger opportunities like the chance to sign books at Book Expo in 2018 or the American Library Association in 2019. Those were both incredible opportunities for a new author with a debut novel.

Like everybody, I have a story of how I went from an unpublished writer to a published author. First I tried the traditional path, but I couldn’t get a press interested in my story. Then I approached agents but had the same problem. Not interested. That left me with self publishing as my only option, but I was as interested in that process as I am in understanding the physics of inter-orbital space flight. In other words…well, you get it.

I found a hybrid publisher—basically I hired a company to be the “self” in my self-publishing initiative. I interviewed a series of candidates before I settled on Lifestyle Entrepreneurs. They offered the most complete package of services, but it came at the highest price. It was, however, an investment I was willing to make in building my brand as an author. I can say that not every author will realize a return on investment if you go this route. And it remains to be seen if I’ll fall into that category or not. But I am prepared to follow through because I believe in the Lily Barlow series.

Before I committed to LEP, I hired a literary attorney to review the contract, which is just good business sense. He asked that several small changes be made to protect my interests, and the company agreed.

What do I get for my investment? The publisher provides formatting and art. They print ARCs. They distribute to all outlets including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the independents so I don’t have to store or ship books. They produce the e-book and master the audio. They create opportunities for exposure. If I’m trying to reach a blogger or some other influencer but just can’t get in, they’ll take a swing at it. We’re working on a marketing plan now to help Book 1 gain traction and create a foundation for the release of Book 2. They created a “landing page” and are connecting it to my website.

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

I’m fortunate that I have a lot of friends and family who cheer me on. My husband leads the parade with his love, praise and check book (let’s face it, this initiative has definitely been a considerable financial investment up to this point). In addition to Ricky, there are a few very close friends who always pick up when I call or text. I use these three or four people as sounding boards to keep me grounded on multiple fronts. First, since I’m my own biggest fan, I sometimes need a voice of reason who can tell me straight out “Nope, that’s not gonna work.” Secondly, while the writing part is definitely my specialty, all the other parts are most definitely not my specialties. That means the contracts and the sales and the promotion and the social platforms and the technology. My support team rises to the occasion where all this stuff is concerned.

I love learning about your life through your essays and the inspirations for your novel. How does your writing influence your life?

Like a lot of people, I write what I see and hear. Sure, I might tweak it, or jazz it up, but it all comes from a source out in the world. I spend a lot of energy gathering these tidbits, so, I’m kind of on safari all the time, hunting for the next thing I can incorporate. Sometimes these safaris take me to exotic destinations, like when we drive Jeeps off road in Moab, Utah or hike the Escalante Staircase, but sometimes they’re way more ordinary than that. It could be a greasy spoon on a road trip somewhere, or a market where I have a few minutes to talk with a farmer, or that six seconds of silent eye contact when I connect with a complete stranger pumping gas.

Since I’m always in search of these moments, I like to go places, even if it’s just up the street. My fear is that my next great idea is happening somewhere right now, and I’m not there to memorize it.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I like the freedom it gives me to explore. I’m a pantster, so I write from the seat of my pants. This is different from a plotter, who outlines a storyline and knows where it’s going from the first word. I like following the characters down rabbit holes, and I like being surprised when they do something I wasn’t expecting.

Connect with Carla:




Instagram @carla_vergot


Gab Halasz—Author, Essayist, Humorist

Describe your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations, etc.

I’d love to tell you that my writing process involves copious amounts of cocaine while riding a yak naked through the Appalachian Mountains, but sadly it doesn’t. It also doesn’t involve sloths, sasquatch, lube, or the pit pat of tortillas being made all over Mexico. My schedule (please note that I am being fast and loose with the term schedule) revolves around my life. Damn it! If shit is going down, then my writing goes out the door, along with the dogs, old shoes, dead plants, and dust bunnies. It kills me to admit it. I want to be all, “Oh, look at me, I get up every morning at five and write seventy pages of amazing prose before I have my first cup of coffee.” Instead I am, “Give me coffee and leave me the f**k alone for at least an hour. I will be busy checking the weather network, creating astonishing words like GAS, PET and BOOBS in Words With Friends, and perusing Facebook to see if someone (my daughter) has organized an event for me today that will make me want to stab myself in the eye (i.e.: kids birthday parties, socializing with people I don’t know, socializing with people I do know, leaving the ranch, etc.)

I live in the boonies, far away from civilization—on purpose. I am an introvert who is easily exhausted by small talk that involves the weather, babies, cauliflower recipes, and the latest fashion choices. I either write at my kitchen table, or in my art studio, which I christened The Wookie Cave. And, unlike the majority of authors, I have to have my shit together before I can sit down and write. The dishes have to be done, the three inch thick layer of dog hair has to be swept up, and my laundry folded and put away. It’s a sickness. I used to drive my boss around the bend at work with my morning routine of tidying my already spotless office. A real perk of the job if you ask me.

But when I write, I write. When the fever grabs me and the world leaves me alone, I can crank out a couple hundred pages without breaking a sweat. The last five years I’ve been walking every day, and because I live on an acreage, I walk a lot—and think a lot. I work out my stories in my head. Which, truth be told, is probably a good place to keep most of them. After all, jail sounds too peopley. The very first novel I wrote I was training for a marathon and spent countless hours working it out. (Believe me, it was a lot better than focusing on my poor suffering body.) After I finished the race, it took me less than two weeks to type it up, afterwards I threw it into a drawer for fifteen years hoping that it would fall into a singularity that would magically allow it to be seen by a publisher. That hasn’t happened, singularities suck, but I have managed to edit it a few dozen times and sent it out into the world.

“How’s this? Me in a hurricane.”

Tell me about getting your work published, how you find venues, and steps from acceptance to publication.

As of today, most of my published works have been short stories. Mostly I am published online, but I do have a few tales in printed anthologies. At one time I was a zealot and a regular contributor to many zines, but sadly I have been neglecting them while working on a novel, and now another one. However, on occasion, between bouts of self-doubt and loathing, I still manage to write a few short stories. Mostly because little images pop into my head and make my brain itchy until I have to get them out of my system. Then if I feel they deserve to be seen by others, I will look for a publication that is in the market for such a tale.

I belong to a couple of writing groups on Facebook and find them to be very helpful in locating a home for my scratchings. I also do research for publications in between Googling for information about 9mm glocks, EMPs and how to raise honey bees.

Of course, over the years I’ve collected a quantity of “Thanks, but no thanks,” rejections. Initially they traumatized me and I still have the lash scars across my back as proof, but eventually, I came to find them to be part of the process. Now when someone is kind enough to add a few lines beyond the standard “You Suck” boilerplate, I am tickled pink. However, when a magazine accepts me, the yak and I get naked and do a little happy dance to the god of all things small and furry.

Talk to me about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My husband is one of my biggest supporters, even though he doesn’t understand me at all and can’t believe I go for walks with no destination in mind, and scowls at me when I tell him that we need to get a goat. “That’s a great story,” he says, “But we are NOT getting a goat!” For some reason, even though we come from different planets that are located in different parts of the galaxy, he likes the stuff I write, even when the story involves him trying to fix a spline-winder in a linkage drainage tube. Which he says doesn’t exist, but I totally remember him yammering away about something like that while I was busy ignoring him.

My daughter is my other cheerleader, mainly because she owes me big for squeezing her out into the world and getting me involved in mind-numbingly boring activities like throwing themed birthday parties for babies.

I also belong to the Gallows Hill Writers group in beautiful Lunenburg; we meet every Friday. They are a talented bunch who make me blush when they tell me my stuff is wonderful, but they also kick my ass to do better when they say it sucks and, “You’re better than this codswallop—get crackin’ on the editing or we’ll pull out the cat-o-nine tails.” Maritime writers can be real pirates some days.

How does your writing influence your life and vice versa?

I am never not-writing, even when I am specifically not writing. I jot notes when I come across something that makes me laugh, or cry, or get angry, or even if it just makes me feel exhausted. I highlight stuff in books (the library hates me). Sometimes when I read something that is incredible, I rail against the world with the knowledge that if I wrote every second of every day for a hundred years I would never be that good. But then I pull up my big girl panties and keep on writing my codswallop and dream about baby goats.

What do you love most about your creativity?

For many years I used to run. Mostly it sucked juniper berries. Either my back hurt, my knees ached, or my breath felt as if it would burn my chest into a tiny charred cinder. My running partner and I would whine and complain as we slogged out the kilometers. “This bites, we must be stupid,” we would tell each other. But then would come a day when all the planets aligned. When you had enough sleep, when you’d eaten the right amount of carbs, and when your body felt as light as a dandelion fluff. They were the best runs of my life. I felt like I could fly. Like I was on the top of the world. Like I was high on cocaine, naked on the back of a yak and hurtling through the mountains. That’s how it feels when I write, or paint, or work on a story while wandering through my Nova Scotian wilds.

Connect with Gab:


Life as a Human:



Kelly Harms—Novelist

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations, etc.

Calling what I do a process makes it sound far more organized than it actually is. What I really do that creates success for me is a two step process: I meditate, and I write a small amount every day. Reality means I’m usually writing a lot most days, but the trick is I promise myself I can quit any time after the first, say, five hundred words. I never want to quit after five hundred words.

As for environment, I used to be finicky and say it had to be a certain level of quiet or comfort, or there had to be this and that to write. Now I write wherever I am, so long as there’s no one talking to me. I can edit with a room full of children cavorting around me and begging for bananas on toast, but for the writing itself, I still need to be left alone.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.

I don’t have a final draft. I have the best I can do in the time I have, and that is what goes to the publisher, and that is what they copyedit and proof and eventually print. But I am still editing in my mind for all eternity. When I read aloud from my work at events, I edit it as I go. So readers are hearing the best version of the book for that day in that moment. I guess I could never be my own audio narrator!

As for marketing, I try to be very flexible about this. My real job is writing and that’s how I prioritize, but I am proud of my work and want to share it. As such, I spend most of my “marketing” time chatting with excellent and active readers. I try to be open about my successes and my foibles in the world with anyone who asks, and I talk about my favorite books in the moment so that the readers who follow me never run out of good books.

Describe your support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders—and how did you become a Tall Poppy?

When I talk about authorial support (outside my immediate family and dear friends who support me because they love me, books or no,) I am talking almost exclusively about the Tall Poppies. This is a marketing collective in the main, but the side effect is a network of professional colleagues who believe in the same principles as I do. Namely, we all believe, with grace and gratitude, that there is room at the top, and we mean to get everyone there together. We only see each other in real life once a year, so the rest of the time, we are connecting virtually, and I think that is probably one of the only reasons I don’t throw my phone off a cliff.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa?

They are inextricable. This is the difference between my job and most other professions. I cannot leave my writing behind when I “come home” from work, and I do not pretend that what is happening in my life doesn’t shape my writing. When I have a problem to work out, or a question about life, or a hearts desire, I write it into a book. That said, I don’t write about people I know. Even if I tried, my characters wouldn’t stand for it. They are utterly themselves.

What do you love most about your creativity?

While I’m very very grateful to be able to write books for a living, I do not quite understand how it came to pass that the creative life won out over my pragmatism. I did well in my physics and calc classes in college and probably would have been just as happy in any creative problem solving profession. The thought of a vested retirement plan makes my heart sing. Also, I always thought it would be great to be a mail carrier.

But here I am writing away, and my favorite thing about it is that even though I am a comic writer, according to my reviews, I have no concept of what it is that I write that is so funny. I just write the most emotionally honest stories I can manage, and then my editors come back to me with all these LOL comments and I think, oh, ok, great. In real life this is very weird because when I say something that comes out funny, I get really excited and say stuff like, “Oh! That was funny!” or laugh at my own jokes.

That anyone hangs out with me at all is the real comedy.

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Erica Bauermeister—Novelist

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations, etc.

My writing process has changed over the years. When my kids were younger and I had a full-time job, writing happened during whatever moments I could give to it. Now that my kids are fledged, my writing day starts at 7:30, when I go down to my writing shed, an 8by8 studio we built a few years back. There’s no internet, no email, no social media. Just me and the words for 3 solid hours, and often more.

If I get stuck, I’ve learned not to force the characters just to hit a word count. The characters just go quiet then and I’m really in trouble. So I go for a walk, or a swim. I’ll even clean the house. Repetitive physical exercise tends to shake the ideas lose.

As for inspiration, it almost always starts with an image, and often of a character in a situation. For The Scent Keeper it was the image of a young girl in an isolated cabin. All the walls were lined with drawers, and inside each drawer was a scent. Who was she? Why was she there? Who would she be when she grew up? Those questions kept me working on the novel for 6 years.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.

My agent has an in-house editor who goes over everything I write, even before it gets to my publisher—and this is after early readers, my writing group, and some of my family have all read early drafts, which can number in the dozens. Once the publisher has the manuscript, it can go through one to several revisions, depending on the input of the editor. After content editing comes copyediting, then lay-out and cover design (it’s part of my contract that I get consult, if not veto power). Then sales and marketing take over and get the book into the sales channel and start the drumbeat of reviews and early giveaways to get the word out.

About 4 months before the book comes out is when I kick in. I don’t use Twitter, but I’m on Facebook and Instagram. I do my own giveaways, encourage book clubs (I’ve talked with over 150 of them by phone or Skype). For The Scent Keeper I’ve even got a virtual book club ( I write essays for on-line and print publications. I send out email newsletters to everyone on my email lists. I make sure all my favorite bookstores have an early copy of the book and I set up bookstore events (if the publicist has not already done this). Anything I can do to work as a team member and help the process, I do.

For those who want more detailed suggestions, I recommend MJ Rose and Randy Sue Meyers’ book What To Do Before Your Book Launch.

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

Booksellers. Readers. Book Clubs. It’s the community that makes a book.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa?

I never write about my life specifically, but I often find that in writing I answer personal questions I didn’t know I had. For example, The Scent Keeper began as the image of the young girl, and the question of what it might be like to be raised with smell as your predominant sense. I explored those things, but in the end, I also explored the development of a person’s relationship with their parents, and the growth we need to go through in order to see them as human beings, separate from us.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love the feeling of sinking into a character. It feels like the best part of being pregnant, living with this other. nascent being, helping to grow them into real life.

I love losing track of the real world and entering into an imaginary one. The islands of The Scent Keeper and the restaurant of The School of Essential Ingredients became some of my favorite places to live in my imagination, and time spent there was always joyous.

I love the way it keeps me alive to the real world. When I visit a new place, my mind is always searching for new scenes to describe, but also new insights into how people interact. When I’m somewhere I already know, looking at it through a writer’s eyes can make it fresh.

And I’d like to say to all the aspiring writers that THIS is what makes you a writer. It’s not whether or not you are published. It’s how you see the world. You own that, no matter how many books you might have on a bookstore’s shelves. That’s what’s important.

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Barbara Taylor Sissel—Novelist

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations, etc.

I almost always write first thing. The to-do list, errands, even gardening, which is also a passion, waits until I get pages done. I think routine and persistence are my strategies. Where I write is a gift, a special place. It’s also my potting shed. I designed it, and my son and a few others built it using a lot of salvage. It overlooks my garden and down a kind of meadow. My garden is a big source of inspiration to me, along with reading.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.

With Lake Union, when I finish a draft, I send it to my editor who does a read-through and then returns it with suggestions. Once I’ve gone through and made changes, I send it to a developmental editor to whom the book has been assigned. We go through anywhere from 2-4 rounds of extensive edits. I think here is where the book is really made, if that makes sense. I both love and hate the process, but I’m always pretty thrilled with the result. Next the draft goes to the copy editors, possibly as many as three different ones, for final polishing. After all their changes are incorporated into the manuscript, the book goes into production.

As for marketing, I have a street team of early reviewers who are kind enough to read and review advance copies of my books. I also have a website and a Facebook author page where I try and post news regularly. I run regular Amazon and Goodreads giveaways of my books and publish a quarterly newsletter too. Marketing doesn’t come easy for me, so compared to other authors, what I do is pretty minimal!

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

I have a few author friends with whom I chat back and forth, and then there are my street team members, some of whom have been readers of my books since I self published my first one back in 2011. Along with my two sons, who are terrific supporters, these are the folks who keep me going!

In your bio on your website, you share how your background laid the foundation for your writing career. I’m interested in how your life and work intertwine today.

I still draw on my experience of life past and present, and on the experiences of others as well, even total strangers. I’ll find myself listening (sometimes it’s hard not to!), standing in the grocery line or sitting in a restaurant, to others telling stories, talking to each other or to their children. Snippets of conversation can set my imagination off. I’m a total ID TV addict, so crime and how it affects families remains an interest … one I’ve had since I lived on prison grounds. Story is just a huge part of my life … how I work things out or work things through, you know? Writing stories is contemplative and thoughtful for me, which is kind of how my life is, so it’s all sort of this one fluid thing, like a long rippling wave with a little foam at the curl.

What do you love most about your creativity?

Oh, what a wonderful question. That I have it? Is that an answer? It’s what pops into my mind. That it’s a gift I’ve been given, one that’s different every day. One that keeps on surprising me and that leads me to places I’ve never been, or would think to go if it weren’t for that spark of interest, of desire. It’s just a source of fascination to me and a delight.

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Alessia Murphy—Digital Artist and Growth Marketing Entrepreneur

What is your artistic process: when do you work on it; what program(s) do you use; how long does a piece take; and what happens to the pieces when they’re finished?

In the normal case I have an idea, sit down at my illustrator, and start drawing. With more complex pictures it can happen that I brood over the idea for a few days, and then look at other artists and their implementation. That brings additional inspiration.

Now it depends on whether the drawing is an order for tattoo, a wall, an exhibition, etc. Basically, all my pictures are for sale at any time, except the custom-made paintings.

Do you sell your art, or is it a creative outlet just for you?

Yes, I sell my art over Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and I will also launch soon a website.

Who are your biggest cheerleaders in your art, your work, and your life?

I don’t know many of my fans—I already have built up a pretty big fan community; of course, my partner in crime.

How does your art influence your life and vice versa?

All I do is somehow creative—the only difference is emotional creativity or (at work) a logical creativity, but everything I do has to do with creativity. I always have some art projects where I work with different artists, or I also did some work for a nonprofit organization, etc.

What do you love most about your creativity?

Being myself, expressing myself.

I couldn’t live without being creative. It’s what I am. If I sing, draw, or play an instrument, I feel art floating through my body. If I dress in the morning or work as a Growth Hacker, it doesn’t matter what I do; I believe art is everywhere around us.

Artist Extra:

Tell me about your work as a Growth Hacker.

Growth Hacking is data driven creative marketing. It’s the thing I love most after doing art.

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Greg Anderson Elysee—Writer, Educator, Filmmaker, and Model

Describe your creative process: schedule, materials, environment, and inspiration (including African folktales).

Well, I don’t have a general schedule for when I’m writing. Although I should give myself one; it may be more productive. But for the most part, I’d write in my notebook: ideas, scenes, dialogue, or whatever, whenever I’m on a bus or train. Over time, I’d fill a majority of what I want to put down on the computer. Or I’d write the general story beats and then find time to sit in front of the computer and go to town writing. I try my best to write a little something every day. If I haven’t written, my mind is probably developing some sort of idea and churning to make sense of it and figuring out the time line and so on. Before typing the final script, I also tend to write all the scenes out of order. It keeps me from being bored and helps me figure out the pacing and structure of the story. I usually write three drafts before I’m satisfied to send to the artist. Before that third draft, I’ve probably sent it to some people whose opinions I trust to let them read and critique and give me thoughts and feedback. Depending on certain critiques, and if they fit my narrative or strengthen my themes, I’d fine tune accordingly into that final or third draft—or fourth.

Walk me through the publishing process from final draft to final product and talk about your marketing strategies.

Well, after I finish a couple of drafts of the script, I send it to the artist. He or she begins to lay out the art, usually with thumbnails, and we go over it together, which is followed by my approval or any changes. From there, the artist would pencil and ink the script, and there are a few occasions where this process leads to another draft of the script. Sometimes the artist and I would shoot some ideas back and forth to make a scene stronger or visually more appealing. Then I’d make an edit of a new draft, which I would have ready for the letterer. After the pencil and line work are done, we move to the colorist, and after that the letterer, who will put the dialogue and sound effects into the pages. The production designer, who is usually the letterer, will begin to finalize the pages to prepare it for print. We send to the printers and they start to proof, and soon enough receive my approval to print. After a few weeks, or a month or two, depending on where it was printed, I get a final product in my hands ready to sell.

In terms of marketing, I sell a lot at conventions and online. I have a pretty strong Facebook presence that allows a lot of interactions and fan base building. My fans and supporters are great people and can sometimes go above and beyond to help me financially by buying and sharing my work. Kickstarter also helps me with marketing, pushing to another and usually wider audience. I try to do at least two conventions or events a month to push the product. Some cons are more profitable than others, but as long as I got a good bit of new readers, I’m usually happy. I also get messages from retailers, schools, and sometimes libraries for copies.

Tell me about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

Well, as stated above, I have a lot of great supporters online, many of them from Facebook and Kickstarter. In real life, I have a good couple of friends who are always down to support my dream, especially having watched me develop my craft since I was a kid to now. My partner is also very supportive. My family also pushes and support as much as they can, especially if things aren’t going too well for me financially, even though most of them don’t really read my work—haha. But my parents get super hyped when the see me on TV, see a feature on me, or when I win awards. They’ve always encouraged and pushed me with my writing, so they’re happy seeing the success of my books thus far.

How does your art / work influence your life and vice versa? Here you can share about your journey of bringing your creative endeavor to fruition.

Well, my work is my life for the most part. There’s not a day that passes where I’m not thinking about my work. I would be miserable if I didn’t have my writing and my books as my outlet. In just a few short years I’ve achieved a lot, met wonderful people, and have gotten wonderful opportunities. And with each new release, I gather more of a following and come closer to financial stability. I teach on the side and do other odd and side gigs. I’d love to get to the point where I can just live off my work, do shows, and not do anything else. That may take some time, but I’m glad my work is a part of my life, and seeing it grow and prosper has helped me a lot, especially with my own mental health.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love the fact that people take to my work. I’ve always felt like an oddball growing up and books were always a source of escape for me. I felt at peace with books. So the fact that I now have my own work and people are finding it as a form of escape is one thing I love most. I love that I’m writing what I want and that I’m trying to showcase types of people I feel aren’t always showcased or represented the way I feel they should and people, other oddballs like myself, take to it, support, and ask for more.

I am also very grateful of how my mind works. I do hear that many people have trouble writing or coming up with ideas or being inspired. My head continues to be a well of sorts and I can’t turn it off. I always have something churning and I love problem solving my ideas in my head to make them work. I have a lot of fun with that. So whoever blessed me with that, thank you.

Connect with Greg and purchase Isnana:


Webway Comics

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Barbara Claypole White—Novelist

Describe your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.

Where to begin with my horrible process? I don’t find my ideas easily, and I have many false starts. Often the story seed is buried in a different idea, one I’ve already abandoned. I guess the gardener in me needs to keep digging. Either that or I’m a masochist.

My writing radar is always switched on, and when something makes my gut tingle, I pay attention. For example, after a summer of freaking out about funky issues with my heart, a guy collapsed three rows ahead of me on a transatlantic flight. Add a family history of heart failure, and you have the opening for THE PERFECT SON (my heroine has a major heart attack—at 47—on a plane).

Once an idea sticks, I write, research, and rewrite. My favorite method of research is the one-on-one interview with people who understand the experiences I want to explore. Those interviews shape my first and second drafts, and I amble down every detour until I’ve excavated the story’s heartbeat. At some point I create a story board written to movie beats, but I don’t hit my groove until the third draft, which is when I pull in beta readers.

I’m an early morning writer, and my prime hours are 6:30—8:30 a.m. Even when I fly back to England to see my mother, I guard that early morning routine. It’s my anchor.

My alarm goes off at six, I grab coffee and a banana, and head upstairs to my desk. The first thing I do after booting up my computer is turn off the Internet. I break around 8:30 a.m. for breakfast and to check email, and then I go back to writing until noon, when I shower and get dressed. In the afternoon I switch to research, blog posts, or anything with a ticking deadline. I keep the daily business of being an author—social media, answering emails, etc. for the evening.

That’s the goal, but family life and self-doubt intrude constantly. Family always comes first, that’s never up for debate, and fortunately I can write anywhere and through just about any crisis. All I need is a laptop, a charger, and an iPod. When I’m on an airplane, a glass of wine is also involved. 

Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product, including who does what when, and what marketing you do.

My last three books have been with Lake Union, and the press has a specific way of handling edits. I submit the manuscript to my acquiring editor and do one round of big picture edits for her. That normally takes about a month. Then the manuscript is officially accepted, we start on the cover and back copy, and slam into a tight editing timetable. It goes back and forth between me and my developmental editor for first and second pass edits (normally he has it for two weeks, I have it for two weeks, we repeat). Then I get the copy edits and normally have ten days to turn those around, and after that we go to page proofs. In addition, I hire a freelance editor as an extra pair of eyes for copy edits.

Marketing is a gray area for me, because I hate book launches and would happily hibernate through them. About six months before my pub. date, I create a marketing plan and establish what my publisher will handle. I book local events, including a catered launch at the library, reach out to local press and local book clubs, and pay for a blog tour. That’s pretty much it, but I try to be authentic on social media, because my main marketing tool is me.

Tell me about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My husband and son are amazing. They are always available for brainstorming and feedback, and our son, an award-winning, published poet, is one of my beta readers. I trust his feedback implicitly, and since much of my fiction steals from family life, he has the right of veto. My BFF is also an essential part of my process. She’s a voracious reader—not a writer—and has given brutally honest feedback on every manuscript, including the one that ended up in a drawer. My sister, an artist back in England, is another cheerleader.

I’m blessed to have family who have encouraged me to be a dreamer, friends who understand the bizarre nature of the writing life, and an agent who is sympathetic to my weird levels of stress (a double dose of OCD + an aging parent in another time zone). I’ve also been incredibly fortunate with my editors at MIRA and Lake Union. A good editor is everything.

And, of course, there’s the writing community. I have terrific support from other authors online and locally, but I’ve worked hard to establish those connections. You can’t survive this industry without the camaraderie of other writers, and that has to be earned. Network like you mean it, people!

Talk about how your life influences your work and vice versa.

Writing is my therapy, my escape, and the way that I process the world. On some level it’s about crafting a better story for myself and people I love. When you live in the trenches with mental illness, you need to believe that bad days end, each day brings a fresh start, and in-between there are people who understand. That’s why hope and a sense of community are important elements in all my stories. As a mental health advocate, I pray that my characters do their bit to chip away at the stigma, shame, and stereotypes—especially with OCD, a chronic illness that has no cure and demands constant management.

My son has battled OCD for most of his life. When he was little, I was terrified that he would never grow up to be loved for the incredible person he is, but would always be judged by his anxiety. Which is crazy, because my husband of thirty years also has OCD. (For the record, our son has been in a serious relationship for the last four years.)

But that maternal fear gave birth to my first hero, James Nealy. He appeared in my head when I was several drafts into the manuscript that would become my debut, THE UNFINISHED GARDEN, and refused to leave. James is brilliant, sexy, wealthy, and locked in a private war with obsessive-compulsive-disorder. He’s a romantic hero who struggles with an invisible disability, but exhibits incredible compassion, empathy, and courage.

Those are the qualities that I see in my son, even as he negotiates the relentless horrors of intrusive, unwanted, repetitive, obsessive thoughts. He is my muse, my inspiration, and the reason I’m passionate about creating characters who are successful in life and love despite messed-up brain chemistry.

What do you love most about your creativity?

Not sure I can answer that one, but I love hanging out in my garret with my imaginary friends. I talk to them all the time. As I said, they help me process my life. They keep me sane, and they keep me laughing.


Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Born in England, she works and gardens in the forests of North Carolina and is an OCD advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes advocacy over adversity. Her novels include: The Unfinished Garden, which won the Golden Quill for Best First Book; The In-Between Hour, a SIBA Okra Pick; The Perfect Son, a Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist; Echoes of Family, a WFWA Star Award Finalist; and The Promise Between Us, a 2018 Nautilus Award Winner. She is currently working hard on novel six, The Gin Club, and is excited about the July 2019 release of The Unfinished Garden audiobook.

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