Tag Archives: author

Paula D. Ashe—Educator and Writer

 

 

I met Paula through a writerly friend on Facebook. One story of hers and I’m hooked. She graciously agreed to an interview. As a horror fan, I’m delighted to share her work.

 

 

Describe your writing process: schedule, medium, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations mental, emotional, and material.

So, I used to be one of those writers who thought she had the luxury of waiting until she was in a certain setting, in a certain mood, with the certainty of uninterrupted hours available, before she could write anything. Then that writer never wrote anything, so now I write whenever I can, provided I’m mentally able to do so. My most recent short story publication was “Exile in Extremis” in the anthology Visions from the Void by Burdizzo Books. I wrote the bulk of the first draft of that story on my phone.

I wish I could tell you I have a schedule, I really do. I will someday.

It’s sweet that you think I have strategies and techniques. I mean, I’m sure I have them, I just am not self-reflective enough as a writer to know what they are.

Inspirations are abundant. I never run out of story ideas, I run out of the energy to tell them. I tend to write about the worst of humanity so, never a paucity of material, you know? Emotionally, I’m inspired by real-life stories that make me hurt. And like any sensitive/damaged person, I experience a pleasurable frisson from exploring that pain. So…a story like “All the Hellish Cruelties of Heaven,” which is about an immortal witch who falls in love with a serial killer (the story is much cooler than I’m making it sound), gave me the chance to play around with figuring out why people—or at least I—have such a fascination with humans who wantonly destroy other humans. It also gave me the opportunity to incrementally articulate the belief system / mythology that has been pocketed in most of my fiction without much fanfare.

Talk me through the publishing process from final draft to final product and selling—who’s involved, what they do, and how much you contribute, especially to marketing.

So the process is basically like this (a flowchart would work exceptionally well here):

– An editor invites me to sub something.

– I review the guidelines, especially the deadline, because I am the slowest writer on planet Earth.

– I scan my ‘stories in progress’ folder, to see if there’s anything I’m working in that fits the anthology’s theme. Rarely do things match up.

– I cogitate.

– I write. I’m sure this is supposed to be more exciting, but it’s just not. But it’s also the most exciting part.

– I inevitably miss the deadline because I’m me.

– I ask for an extension and am usually granted one (read: several).

– I submit the final draft, knowing it’s the final draft only because I’ve prodded that exposed nerve of a tale until it’s a bloodied pulp. All that’s left is the thrill of knowing the story will (likely) go on to intrigue and/or hurt other people. I honestly have no idea why I’m like this and I don’t want to know.

– Rarely, edits are requested. When they are, I generally comply. It’s the only benefit of being the slowest writer on Earth; I tend to do a thorough job of proofreading.

– Publication day! I post about it on social media, predominately Facebook. I’m really terrible at marketing.

– I let the editors ask for reviews because I feel weird asking people to review my work. If they want to read it and review it, they will. This is also why no one knows who I am..????‍♀️

Who’s your support system, online and IRL? Does it shift as you progress from writing to publishing to marketing?

First of all, my wife is amazingly supportive throughout the process. I’m in several FB writing groups that offer support—Colors in Darkness and Ladies of Horror, and individually: Chris Ropes, Brian Barr, Crystal Connor, Suzi Madron, Eden Royce, and Christine Sutton, to name a dear few (I’m forgetting so many people and I’m sorry).

How does your writing influence your life and vice versa? Did this change when you became a mother?

So, I am a maudlin MF (I don’t know if I can curse in this interview…). I have…a multitude of mental illnesses—have had them since adolescence. My worldview is reflective of that. I write terrible stories about terrible people doing terrible things because…that’s how I have (by degrees) experienced the world. Now it’s not all been horrible, but the stuff that lingers…skews towards the dark. So, I love horror. I write horror, I read horror, I watch horror movies, I listen to true horror and true crime podcasts, I listen to dark and violent music (I listen to all sorts of music but there’s a theme here, yeah?).

I am a writer of the ‘nothing is off limits, provided there’s a reason’ variety. I’ve written about childhood sexual abuse, incest, necrophilia (all in one story!), serial killers, hate crimes, infanticide, mutilation, matricide, racism, patricide, ableism, religious cults, genocide, misogyny, xenophobia, etc. However, since my son was born, if I have a story where something…bad…happens to an infant or small child, my brain immediately substitutes him as that infant or small child. So, I have a sequel to “All the Hellish Cruelties of Heaven” in the works titled, “All the Heavenly Mercies of Hell” and something…bad…happens to an infant in that story, and although I’ve had most of the full story in my head for years, I just can’t bring myself to write it.

But I’ll have to.

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

I rarely meet an idea I don’t like. I mean, there are plenty of half-started stories that I’ve abandoned for one reason or another, but there’s always some part of it I can appreciate. For that reason I save everything I write, because it often will work its way into another, more promising tale.

Author Extra: Write a flash fiction piece right now! 50 words, ma’am!

Someday she’ll remember. Now there’s only waiting. For what, she also can’t remember. This dim, cold, aching place has no secrets. Others like her—more patient, smarter—hidden in apartments with devoted lovers. She dosed there in the hall. Alone. Paralyzing pain.

Now she sits. Forgotten and forgetting.

 

Connect with Paula:

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads Author page

Amazon Author page

 

 

A small selection showcasing her talent:

7Magpies anthology

The Witness

Aspects of Emptiness

David Gibbs—Award-Winning Author and Editor

I met David through Storyteller Magazine, for which he was Editor and I was a mere peon volunteer curator, both of us contributors of short stories. David’s tales live in the darkness—we won’t ask where David lives (his website says Cincinnati; seems dubious)…..

but his writing snatches you and drags you, wide-eyed and speechless, into the stories.

He, however, is a super friendly guy, so I wasn’t nervous about asking him for an interview. Links to connect with David come after the interview; check out his uber-user-friendly, gorgeous website, where anthology after anthology showcase David’s talent. The first book of his YA series “Mad Maggie Dupree” comes out June 26!

Tell me about your writing process, including schedule, environment, and inspirations. I love your blog post about the muse being a romantic notion. If you would, explain as well how you transitioned from this magical mythology to your prosaic philosophy of writing.

Well, as with most writers, my process has evolved over time. I used to like plotting and outlining everything before I even began writing my first word. When I’d get stuck plotting or writing, I’d blame my muse, the fickle little minx that she was. I honestly just thought that’s the way the writing process went. I’d have to wait for this mystical thing to whisper the next line or the key point I’d missed in my work.

That all changed a few years ago. I read about “pantsers” or those writers who didn’t plan anything and just wrote from the hip, so to speak. Honestly, I thought it was ridiculous. How could anyone write without planning, without plotting, without doing the leg work first?

Curious, I decided to give it a try and haven’t looked back. My output increased ten-fold and I enjoyed being surprised by the twists and turns the characters gave me. It’s made the process much more fulfilling.

Thought it may sound daunting to writers who are plotters and planners, I fully understand it. The thing is, now that I’m a “pantser” I don’t need a muse. I write. Period. I don’t have to wait for her to whisper to me. I trust myself as a storyteller and know I will come up with what needs to happen next as I’m writing the story. I no longer have writer’s block, because I merely write myself out of it. It helps me average over 2,000 words a day. Last year alone, I had my biggest output as a writer, finishing with 690,000 thousand words. That equated to eight novels and a dozen short stories.

Writers have to find what works for them, but they also need to be willing to try new things. Whether it’s a new spot in the house, writing at a coffee shop, or changing from pen and paper to a laptop or vice versa. Sometimes just making a small change can spark the most wonderful things.

Remember, writing is a superpower. Take a chance. Write some words. Make some magic.

My husband theorizes that people who suffered challenging childhoods prefer reading / writing horror. It happens to be true in my case. Although writing my debut novel was highly cathartic in healing some of that damage, I still love horror, so perhaps his theory is debatable. What draws you to the darkness?

I’m honestly not sure what’s drawn me to it. I’ve written in many different styles and different genres, but there’s always a touch of creepiness to everything I write.

 

While growing up, I enjoyed reading everything and anything I could my hands on. When we went to the library, in school, I always checked out books on UFO’s, Bigfoot, Loch Ness, Area 51, vampires, and werewolves. But when I read The Shining in middle school it was over. Horror hooked me.

Talk up your support system, from beta readers to reviewers, anyone and everyone who is your cheerleader, online and IRL.

My family and friends have been incredibly supportive of my writing. But I have to say one of the most rewarding parts of being a writer and an editor is the community of friends and colleagues I’ve met along the way. I talk daily with my writing group, made up of fellow writers from the ashes of Storyteller Magazine. I also talk with quite a few writers on Twitter as well. It’s always great to share experiences with other writers and editors.

Describe your publishing process from final draft to final product, from perspectives of self-publishing, and all that entails, and traditional publishing, including your publishing team.

I’ve enjoyed both self-publishing and traditional publishing. They have both been fulfilling and challenging at the same time. Both require a lot of work, but in the end the onus is definitely on the author to make them both as successful as possible.

I’ve found a wonderful home with Clean Reads Publishing, formerly Astraea Publishing. The owner, Stephanie Griffith, has been great. She has an impressive group of editors she works with who are thoughtful and thorough working through both Mad Maggie Dupree manuscripts they’ve accepted. This is my first foray into the middle grade arena and it’s been an awesome experience so far. They have their own art department which has done outstanding work bringing Mad Maggie Dupree to life.

What do you love most about your creativity?

That I can use it to escape at moment’s notice. No matter how good or how bad the day, writing is the gravy that makes it all worthwhile.

Author Extra: Write a flash fiction piece right now! 50 words, mister!

He heard the sound again, sharp and flinty, a bone poking his heart. He stared into the darkness, waiting for the knobby knuckled hand to clutch at his clothes, the chill bone deep. Then grandma appeared, withered and stooped, giving him a goodnight kiss, hands icy, breath from a crypt.

Connect with David:

David J. Gibbs website

David J. Gibbs Twitter

David J. Gibbs Amazon author page

Abby Fabiaschi—Author and Human Rights Advocate

 

I decided that I sincerely want my debut novel published by St. Martin’s Press, since most of my favorite authors are with them. This is how I came to read Abby Fabiaschi’s debut novel I Liked My Life and I loved it (see my review), so reached out to her to let her know. She is so friendly that I asked her for an interview for my little blogblogblog and she agreed!

 

 

Turns out she’s also an activist for survivors of human trafficking, which is amazing and will be addressed at the end of this interview. She is a survivor herself of a dog attack at a young age, which altered her life and perspective, as you can read below in the Author Extra.

 

 

Tell me your artistic / writing process, including schedule, environment, and inspirations.

Motherhood really changed the answer to this question. I use to be able to be much more picky! I put in a minimum of five hours a day—usually 3-4 while the kids are at school and 1-2 after they are asleep (or at least I think they are). I work in a home office at a desk…boring, I know. I’m inspired by whatever it is I’m exploring. I don’t start my stories with an end in mind, so characters’ experiences keep me vested and learning with them.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including your publishing team.

German translation

Right now I’m with St. Martin’s. When a first draft is complete, I send it to my agent and editor. They pile on constructive feedback and I make a plan for a round of revisions. That step repeats itself until we all say, “Yep. This works!” St. Martin’s decides on a release date at least a year out and designs a cover. From there, the assigned publicity team works on getting Advanced Reader Copies in the right hands while I get back to work on the next project. About six months before the launch, I get to review the final pass, which is when I add in acknowledgements.

 

Talk about your support system, including beta readers and all of your cheerleaders!

Italian translation

I am in awe of amazing people like you, who bring reading and writing communities together. Since my debut came out, I’ve also been grateful to establish friendships with many talented writers, including all the wonderful authors in The Tall Poppies. (If you are a reader on Facebook, follow Bloom with Tall Poppy Writers—great content and giveaways!)

I don’t have a writing group, nor do I leverage a ton of beta readers. Rather, I approach a couple people who I think would offer a valuable lens on the story to be first readers. There is one exception—my sister is always on the list!

 

How does life influence your art and vice versa?

Each story I write sets out to explore a component, a strand, of either something I’ve witnessed or  experienced. I get a moment in my head and my mind runs with it—what if this and what if that?—until a set of characters have lived through a moment worthy of readers’ time.

What do you love most about your creativity?

Slovakian translation

I love how I learn from my characters. With I Liked My Life, I came to believe that even life’s most antagonizing moments offer slivers of beauty once you rise above the fog and the haze of grief. There’s insight and clarity there for the taking. Now, it’s at the expense of whatever you lost and it will never be worth it, so you have to learn to digest the injustice of that. It’s a conclusion I never would have gotten to without diving into the Starling’s story.

 

 

Please share about your advocacy activism—I’m all for telling everyone the good you do in the world!

I’d love to! Twenty percent of all of my after tax proceeds go to an organization I co-founded called Empower Her Network. We collaborate with ready survivors of human trafficking who find themselves in the same vulnerable circumstance that led to their initial exploitation by removing housing barriers, financing education, and uncovering employment opportunities. To learn more or buy a Lulu Frost Empowerment bracelet, go to www.empowerhernetwork.org.

Follow Abby

Website

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Twitter

Facebook

Author Extra: The Inspiration for Abby Fabiaschi’s I Liked My Life

I was attacked by a Rottweiler when I was nine. The last stitch on either side of the wound was inside each eyelid. The dog, aptly named Gator, missed both my eyes by an amount so small as to be immeasurable. The ER doctor heralded this a miracle and I decided, right then, that no matter what I looked like the next day, I would focus on that piece of good fortune—I could still see.

What I didn’t understand in my then-scarred state was that what I would see was about to change. I became a person worthy of double-takes and gasps. I was forced to acknowledge a truth far younger than most; it doesn’t matter what you look like, at least to some. I got fifty-seven stitches that first night and eight reconstructive surgeries over the twelve years that followed, but his is not a sob story. Yes, bone from my rib is now on my nose, and skin from behind my ears and on my ass is now on my face, but I wouldn’t take back that night if I could.

Because here’s the thing—I don’t know who I would be without that experience. Those scars brought me perspective at a young age. They made me tough. They gave me loads of time to read where I could sop up the crazy mistakes people make without experiencing the consequences. They protected me from vanity and made me a keen observer, ultimately leading me to writing.

A friend recently commented that life has thrown enough complications my way to merit a memoir, but an exceptional memoir requires you to hand over the whole of your truth, along with your version of other peoples’ truth, and I’m too territorial for that. Still, I borrow here and there.

When I was fifteen, I lost one of my closest friends in a tragic car accident. I felt tremendous guilt because I hadn’t invited Elizabeth over that day. So stupid—we liked the same boy, so I excluded her. Introducing guilt and grief to my already raging teenage hormones and fierce desire for independence was a hugely defining moment in my life. I Liked My Life started with a desire to explore mourning at that tender age. I wrote it for me, and then went back to my demanding career in high-tech.

Four years later, at fifty-three years-of-age, my dad died of a heart attack. He was my father, but he was also my boss, mentor, and best friend. I didn’t write for years after his death, not even in a journal. The loss consumed all of me.

Then one day, I happened across I Liked My Life on my computer. The title popped from the screen; it felt enormously important to revisit it. Having then mourned as a teenager and a parent, I was better able to distinguish the nuances of grief experienced by each character. Tapping into those challenging life events is where the nonfiction ended and the storytelling began. I was inspired by a sentiment from Adrienne Rich’s poetry; If we could learn to learn from pain even as it grasps us. Isn’t that a powerful thought?

As I discovered after the dog bite, slivers of beauty exist in life’s most antagonizing moments, if only you know where to look. I set out with three characters—Madeline, Eve, and Brady—as they learn exactly that, each on their own timeline and in their own way. I wrote the book for me, unburdening my loss on unsuspecting characters. That their journey will find its way to living and breathing readers is wild.

Kerry Schafer / Kerry Anne King—Author and Creativity Coach

I follow Lake Union Authors on Facebook, where I met Kerry Schafer, who also publishes under the pen name of Kerry Anne King. She graciously agreed to share her writing life with us. I’ve read and reviewed her upcoming release “Whisper Me This.” It’s fantastic! I highly recommend this novel and this author. Pre-order on Amazon.

Elaborate upon your writing process—schedule, including how you mesh that time with family life, and how you measure progress, and your writing environment—whether you have a home office or work at another location, and what inspirations surround you that keep you writing.

I write at 4-of-dark in the morning most weekdays. Literally. I drag my poor, protesting carcass out of bed at 4 am, make coffee, and trudge up the stairs to my writing loft. This is the best way I’ve figured out to make sure I actually get my writing done, because if I wait until after work, I’m generally too tired and grumpy to be effective at writing. I also often write with a buddy—that way I have a scheduled time to show up and somebody to be accountable to. I also have an office away from home for my creativity coaching business, and I write there too sometimes, on weekends or evenings when I need a space away from the house to think and concentrate.

When I’m drafting, it works for me to set word count goals. That way, even when the writing isn’t going well, or I’m in one of those inevitable phases where it seems like the whole book sucks, I still feel like I’m making progress.

 

Shadow Valley Manor series

 

 

Explain why you use a pseudonym and the benefits of doing so…..also how you keep track of both authorships!

I use a pseudonym because Lake Union, the publisher for my women’s fiction titles, insisted that I have one. I resisted, in all honesty, but they were probably right to ask this of me. My two brands are very different and that can be off-putting to readers. As Kerry Schafer I write fantasy and paranormal thrillers. As Kerry Anne King I write contemporary family dramas (although the book I’m writing now does have a touch of magical realism that makes my fantasy-loving-heart happy). Keeping track is fairly straight forward—Kerry leans to the dark side; Kerry Anne leans toward relationships and emotions.

 

Describe your support system: beta readers, publishing team, Lake Union author collective, and any other cheerleaders.

I have an awesome group of support people, starting at home with my Viking. He is my biggest supporter and my first reader. After I’ve completed a draft and made a few revisions, he reads for continuity—he is forever shaking his head about my timelines, omissions, and the way my characters mishandle guns. I have several close writer friends who then read and critique for me.

The Between series

   

Walk me through the publishing process, from finishing the story to final product, as in who does what and how long it takes.

This process has been different at every publishing house I’ve been with. I love how it all works out at Lake Union. After my book is accepted and a contract is signed, I have a delivery date. On or before that date (I always aim for before—my motto is to under-promise and over-deliver whenever possible), I turn the manuscript in to my awesome editor. She gives it a read, usually within a week or two, and sends it back with some suggestions. Once those changes are implemented, the manuscript goes to my developmental editor. She reads and sends back revision notes. Typically I’ll have about three weeks for revisions. Then she reads again. There can be several rounds of this back and forth process during developmental edits.

Once the book is accepted by the developmental editor, the book goes to the copy editor. Within about a month it comes back to me and I have a couple of weeks to work through the copy editing process. From there it goes to production, and shortly thereafter I’ll get proof pages to review.

Somewhere in there other things happen. At Lake Union I get to review and give an opinion about cover concepts (this was not the case with other publishers). I also get to review and make revisions to back cover copy.

And then the magical elves turn the whole thing into a book and it gets published and people get to read it. Yay!!

The Dream Wars series

What do you love most about your creativity?

There is so much that I love—there really isn’t a “most.” I love ideas and the way they pop into my head randomly while I’m in the shower or mowing the lawn or driving to work. I love creating characters. I love putting words together in ways that sound like music to me. I guess what I love the very most are the unexpected surprises that happen in a book—the times where I think I know what I’m doing and what is going to happen, and then a character asks, “What about this?” and there’s a plot twist I never saw coming.

But there were far too many years of my life where I didn’t value my creativity or give it priority space. It used to come “after”—after work, after kids, after making my husband happy, after doing this, that, and everything in between, which meant that I didn’t do consistent writing. It also meant I was depressed, unfulfilled, and bitchy a lot. Recently, I’ve become a creativity coach on a mission to help other creatives get out of that trap. My business is called Swimming North: Where Creative Wellness Meets the Myers-Briggs. In short speak—”swimming north” is a metaphor for striking out in your own direction and going your own way. (There are penguins involved and you can read about it here) I believe that creativity is part of wellness, just as essential as mind, body, and spirit.

I’m a certified Kaizen-Muse coach, which means my coaching philosophy embraces the non-linear nature of the creative process, while using tools that are personally empowering, are not guilt inducing, and help clients learn to navigate the various things that get in the way of creativity (procrastination, harsh self talk, fear, doubt, and resistance are some of the usual suspects). I’m also a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner, and I find that knowing your Myers-Briggs type is incredibly helpful in understanding your creative process. I’m also an RN and happen to be a licensed mental health counselor, so those tools are always hanging around waiting to be useful.

Kerry Anne King website

Kerry Anne King Facebook

Kerry Anne King Twitter

Kerry Anne King Instagram

Kerry Schafer website

Kerry Schafer Facebook

Kerry Schafer Twitter

Kerry Schafer Instagram

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Ammar Habib—Award-Winning Author

Ammar asked for a reader on Twitter to review his novel Memories of My Future. Intrigued, I asked him questions, all of which he readily answered, before I agreed. The story he wrote with Dr. Anil Sinha is fantastic—read my review.

 

 

Ammar exudes friendliness and positivity in his online presence and digital communication, and I always feel cheerier after speaking with him. He has also written a vigilante series called Dark Guardian, and his latest book Ana Rocha: Shadows of Justice was co-authored with a detective.

 

 

 

Describe your writing process, including environment, schedule, strategies, and inspirations.

My writing process is somewhat structured and somewhat fluid. It always begins with a theme. I ask myself, “Why should readers read this? What do I hope they get out of it?” As entertaining as I hope my stories are, I want them to hold some sort of moral lesson or theme for the audience as well. At the same time, I don’t want to slap readers in the face with this theme. Instead, I want to show it in the characters and story arc. So I take a lot of time in figuring out who my character are. As far as pre-writing goes, I probably spend more time fleshing out the characters than I spend on any other aspect of pre-writing. Many times, putting in the effort to create three dimensional characters is the separator between good and great work.

However, with that said, my writing process is very fluid. I like to try and create an outline before I go into the actual writing. But many times I find myself starting the first draft before I’ve even finished my outline. The inspiration comes in bursts so I try to capitalize on those bursts as much as I can. I find that being too stringent on my writing process can actually become a hindrance.

As far as inspiration goes, I honestly draw inspiration from everywhere. I’ve possessed a huge imagination since I was a child, so that is usually my biggest source. I have a hard time switching my imagination off, which can be a problem when somebody is trying to talk to you and you’re imagining a battle scene in your head! The other place I really draw inspiration is from the world around me. I try to stay observant because sometimes the best inspiration passes by right in front of you!

My environment and schedule do change based on circumstances. I don’t have a set place where I do my writing and my schedule varies because I can honestly write any time of the day or night! There are some days where I spend hours writing or revising manuscripts, and there are other days when I may spend only thirty minutes.

I love Memories of My Future—tell how you built on historical events through folklore, and the history behind the book itself, working with Dr. Sinha to create an inspirational story.

Memories of My Future is definitely one of my personal favorites. It takes place in three time periods: 13th century India, 19th century India, and present day New York City. The project began when I got a phone call from Dr. Sinha, whom I somewhat knew beforehand, in September 2014. He had the seeds of an idea that he wanted to write a book about, which was very similar to something that I was wanting to write about, which is why we decided to partner together. The reason Dr. Sinha reached out to me was because he had just read my debut novel, Dark Guardian, and had really loved it.

From there, we grew a story with themes of coexistence and courage. When we were researching the events of the 13th Century, there honestly was not much to be found because the history of the Bihar province has not been as well kept as it should. However, along with some facts and dates that we were able to gather, there was plenty of local folklore and legends about the events that are described in the story, and those legends were the basis for that piece of the novel.

Explain how you work in so many genres, and the challenges and satisfactions of doing so.

Like you mentioned, I do write in multiple genres. Many authors do see this as a challenge. For me, I’ve found that spending a lot of time up front with my planning and taking the time to nail down a theme, tone, and characters on the front end helps me write the story within the parameters of the genre I am aiming for. As a writer, I never want to be limited to a specific genre because I’m one of those people that doesn’t like limitations in general. So the ability and freedom to write in multiple genres is a very liberating feeling!

Describe your research process, including how you find sources and what you choose to use.

For works like Memories Of My Future, where a lot of research is required, I definitely do take my time with it. Research is something that should never be rushed. I always try to use as many scholarly or peer-reviewed sources as I can. This is to ensure the authenticity of the material. Working at a college, I have access to the college’s databases, which have tons of articles over a variety of subjects, so that is a major help. If I am using a source that is not one that would be considered scholarly, I always try to verify its authenticity by cross-referencing it with something that is more academically purposed. I know everyone has their own methods for research, but that is the basis for mine.

What do you love most about your creativity?

For me, creativity is synonymous with freedom! It’s the freedom to create. The freedom to inspire. The freedom to affect lives. I always try to use my creativity positively, with the hopes of inspiring others. I view creativity as an asset and as a responsibility, just as I view any other talent or ability. Therefore, I try to use it in a good way. Thankfully, I can say that there are a few other authors I’ve met throughout my journey as a writer who have said that I have helped them along the way since I was further along the road than they were at the time, and honestly that’s the kind of thing that inspires me to keep moving forward!

Connect with Ammar and purchase his books:

Ammar Habib

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Laura Spinella—award-winning author of women’s fiction and paranormal romance

Laura Spinella gifted me a digital copy of Ghost Gifts and an autographed copy of Foretold in a giveaway, and I loved them! So I wanted to spread the book passion. I’m pretty excited that she agreed to be on my blooming little blog. She’s supportive of other writers, no matter where they are on their journey. Some of her besties are writers.

Laura and Barbara Claypole White

 

Laura works for her web developer, so her website is “very custom!” It’s like an amusement park, with fascinating rides around every corner and tons of visual fun. She’s also on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Instagram.

 

Describe your writing environment and process, including research.

Click on book cover to pre-order Echo Moon!

Most book writing occurs in my sunroom, which is…sunny! The room has a great vibe and it’s really where I do my best work. My desk faces the only wall in the room, so that provides a bit of built-in discipline. But the wall is covered in a collage of old postcards. They’re all of my hometown, Bayport, New York. The postcards provide a lot of inspiration. Interestingly, one card plays a pivotal role in my next book, Echo Moon.

Lots of writers like to work in coffee shops, libraries, or other people-oriented locations. That’s just not my style…or maybe I’m just lazy. I’m most comfortable in my own space, but I can and have worked in some unusual spots. When my middle daughter was a teenager, she was quite ill and spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospital in Boston. (She’s fine now!) I wrote most of my first novel, Beautiful Disaster, in various hospital rooms, sitting on linoleum floors, or in waiting rooms.

As for my research team? Mmm…that’d be the renowned team of Me, Myself & I. Naturally, I reach out to experts when necessary, but I do all the leg work. Last summer, I traveled to NYC to research early 20th century tenement housing, as well as making a trip to Coney Island. A portion of Echo Moon takes place in Luna Park, an incredible amusement arena that was a singular sight back in the day. Getting a place so rich in history right took a lot of research. Luckily, Coney Island’s museum curator couldn’t have been more helpful.

Talk about the publishing process.

My first novel was published in 2011—Beautiful Disaster. The book did well and went on to be a RITA finalist. I always say I wrote the first draft in about six weeks. From there it was about six years to publication. That included the learning curve of writing a novel, to securing a literary agent, to actually selling the book. The book was published on the cusp of e-books, so it was a very different world in terms of publishing.

Click on book cover to order Ghost Gifts!
Click on book cover to order Foretold!

Echo Moon, my latest, is due out May 22nd. It’s the last installment (after Foretold) of the Ghost Gifts Novels. Ghost Gifts was a Kindle First, which is an Amazon program that opens your book up to a huge audience. I really had no intention of writing any more “ghost stories.” Ghost Gifts did very well and Montlake, my publisher, asked me to continue with the main character, Aubrey, Ellis, for two more books. I hadn’t anticipated anything like this.

Contractually, my next book was slated to be a women’s fiction novel, Unstrung. Looking back, I wish we’d put Unstrung on hold; the book kind of got lost in the Ghost Gifts shuffle. But Montlake has a fantastic publishing team in place—I really couldn’t ask for more in terms of a team effort, particularly the editing folks. They are top shelf.

Click on book cover to order Unstrung!

As far as in the moment publishing, we’re just gearing up Echo Moon marketing. I have a brand new street team, accessed via Facebook. I’ve always loved visiting with book clubs, and I thought this would be as close as I could come to creating an environment like that—a place to chat and chill with readers.

Tell me about your support system and reciprocity.

Naturally, readers are everything. You start with two or three readers and hope your writing attracts a larger audience. It’s an ongoing process in an extremely competitive market. I have a small group of published authors who are also close friends. One of them is my critique partner, so we trade a lot of publishing stories and share the stressful moments.

Click on book cover to order Beautiful Disaster!

I had no author support when writing Beautiful Disaster—no real beta readers or other writers to share my work with. In fact, it’s kind of surprising I succeeded on any level! I learned, I think, from reading. I did end up with an extraordinary agent who gives incredible editorial advice. That said, I’m still a fairly private writer. I’ve grown in terms of a public persona, and I really do enjoy that part. But the writer in me is drawn to the solitude of the craft.

Elaborate upon life influencing writing and vice versa.

I’m not sure that my everyday life influences my writing all that much. When I go in that sunroom, it really feels like a whole other world. Writing, on the other hand, largely influences my everyday life. I’m fortunate to have an extremely supportive family. That’s code for they let me do my thing without a lot of fuss. Unless it’s crunch time, probably when I’m three months out from deadline, I try to keep to set writing hours. Those deadline months can get stressful because no matter how much time you have, it never feels like enough.

What pleases you the most about your chosen career?

Ha! Well, this would be easier to answer if I felt like I chose writing. I think writing chose me. It’s a strange life, a writing life. It’s isolating, exhilarating, frustrating, and fits into very few boxes. It can be difficult for other people to relate to, which is frustrating in an entirely different way. But that’s not what you asked, is it? Every time I finish a novel, there’s a brief moment where I sit back, look at the thing, and say, “Geez. How did that get there?” I like that moment a lot.

Laura and Auggie

Connect with Laura on social media:

Click on book cover to order Perfect Timing!

Twitter

Facebook, street team

Google+

Goodreads

Pinterest

Instagram

 

Carmen Baca—family / cultural historian, author, teacher, mother, New Mexican

I met Carmen Baca in the Facebook group Fiction Writing. She’s friendly, helpful, and interesting. Because she quietly soaks up information online the way I do, we didn’t have much interaction for some time. However, she definitely has a presence that stands out, and when I read her short stories, I loved her unique writing style and culturally influenced tales. She believes all writers should support each other, and she shares how another writer encouraged and assisted her in her short story submissions. Sometimes you meet someone who makes you feel as though you’ve found a treasure. Carmen makes me feel that way, so I wanted to share her story and her work.

Tell me about your writing style.

“My daily routine (when I don’t have meetings or major chores planned) is to check my social media platforms to see if I need to respond to any commenters, which usually takes about an hour. Then I write for the next 4 to 6 hours and finish in time for cooking supper. I have a study all to myself, but I’ve taken over a breakfast nook in one corner of our dining room due to the many windows. I can take a break from looking at the keyboard and look up and out to see the very places I describe in my works. The towering pines, the morada across the fields of alfalfa and clover, the mountains where my father and his cousins played in my book and where I used to play with my own cousins are all visible from my little spot, which makes it easy to portray in my writing.

For some reason, I start my long manuscripts in print, and when I’ve written sufficiently to have a couple of pages on my iPad, I revert to keyboarding since I can type (keyboard) so much faster than I write. My short pieces I do completely on my iPad before submission.”

“El Hermano” Facebook page

Goodreads Author page

Amazon Author page

Hometown Reads “El Hermano” page

What strategies do you use if you’re stalled?

“This happened to me for the first time a few months after my debut novel released. In the three months after my launch, I had a book tour, so I spent the time promoting on social media, being interviewed for a magazine and a live radio show, and making myself available for dedications to libraries, that sort of thing. When that was behind me, I suffered a bit of inactivity, a lack of inspiration. I have another book already started, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to proceed with that or work on a sequel when I realized my debut novel was turning out to be successful. One day a sudden inspiration arose from my book: I missed working on the initial story—the characters, the locations, etc. because they were my parents, the elders from my childhood, and the location, which is right where I live. So I started writing short stories based on them. Steven Carr, a member of Fiction Writing, is a prolific short story author, having produced and published over 100 this past year. I asked him about short story submissions and he provided a resource. I am having so much fun with my short stories, and I have published 7 in the last 4 months, thanks to Steven’s assistance. What I realized is that the majority of them are turning into a serial, as they’re all connected to one another and to my novel. I plan to publish them as a collection this year.”

“Behind the brotherhood: Author Carmen Baca on the Penitentes ” article by Casy Sanchez for Pasatiempo

Author interview by Henry Gonzales Raíces for KUNM radio

Author interview on Dr. Paul Reeves’ Family Talk Radio podcast

Describe incorporating your culture into your writing.

“It was a locked wooden box which inspired my first book. My father (like his own father and grandfather before him) was inducted into and rose to become leader of a fraternity of brothers whose goal was to provide religious services and community service to the remote village where they lived and where I live now. These men are known to this day as Los Hermanos de la Fraternidad de Nuestro Jesús Nazareno (the Brothers of the Fraternity of Our Jesus of Nazarene).Throughout my childhood, I was allowed to join my mother and the community women in acting as their helpmates; called Las Verónicas, we cleaned and prepared the church and their prayer house for their ceremonies, especially during the Lenten season.

After my father passed, we cleaned out the morada, the prayer house, and since I was the only one living in our little valley, the community members (all way older than I at the time) elected me to house the religious artifacts left behind from the brotherhood, as all the brothers had passed by that time. There was a wooden box I remembered had been in the morada throughout my childhood, but since it was always locked I never knew what was inside. One element of los Hermanos’ practices, which is sensationalized in the websites and in other literary works, is their devotion to Christ, which includes self-flagellation. My father never once disclosed whether he did this or not, and my only clue that he did was once when I was with him at a doctor visit. When the doctor exclaimed, “What happened to your back,” I knew.

So when we opened that box and I saw the handmade horsehair scourges, pieces of glass, and small bits of gravel, the blood-stained trousers, and the biggest confirmation of it all—their rulebook, which guided their membership all the way back to 1850, I knew that my father and those before him were the most devout men I would ever meet in my life. Their very existence and their humility and their piousness was something I wanted to share with the world. I had to tell my father’s story to dispel those other sources which focus on their self-harm instead of their altruism. My book was born of my father’s death.

Now my stories and future books will have the ability to educate, to inform, and to entertain those who know nothing about the New Mexico Hispanic culture which can be traced back to the 1300s. They will keep our cultural traditions, customs, superstitions, etc., alive for generations who will never have the opportunity to experience how wonderful it was to grow up among Los Hermanos in the 1920s to the 1980s.”

Carmen Baca website

Purchase “El Hermano” at Amazon here!

How does writing influence your life?

“Now that I’ve got my novel and several short pieces published, writing has given me a purpose, a new career as a story teller in my twilight years. All those decades I spent teaching the classics—short stories, poetry, novels, etc., by my own favorite authors—I am free to create my own literary works which other teachers can use in their own classes. That floors me! To know that my own literature will be taught in English, Spanish, Chicano Studies, and history courses in the same way I used to teach literature just amazes me.

My husband, sons, and many cousins are all thrilled for me. My husband and sons especially know what this means to me—that a manuscript I wrote 25 years ago is now a book and has made my lifelong dream come true. When I received the proofs in the mail and opened that package to reveal my book, my very own book, in my hands was the best feeling I’ve had in a long time. I burst into tears and made my husband blink away tears of his own. One of my sons followed in my footsteps and became a teacher; every teacher and student at his school knows every step of my publishing journey because of him, and I’m pretty sure most either received my book from him or bought their own. My other son, a computer whiz, manages my website, takes me to my readings and videotapes/photographs everything, and prints everything I need for such events. My husband, who works part time, leaves me to my writing for most of the day. Every time there’s a new news article or a short story gone live, they’re all just as giddy as I.

I have no siblings, my parents’ siblings are all gone, so all I have left of extended family are a multitude of cousins. Yes, several have contacted me out of the blue, since we either never met or met as children so long ago. But get this—one cousin is the coordinator for a national book club, so she immediately began promoting my book months before its release and has a place ready for me to go speak to her club in Denver whenever I wish. Another actually came from Denver to my book launch, and she also began promoting my book, since she works for a university up there.

My former colleagues, many of whom are my dearest and oldest friends, and my former students are some of my biggest fans. When I created my Facebook author page and invited everyone, I started with 290. Over the course of last year, my following grew to nearly 600 as more colleagues and students realized what I’d done and began supporting me as an author. I imagine at least half of my books are in the hands of former students, friends, and relatives, most of whom follow my page and read my short works. At least several hundred of these wonderful people knew I’d written a book, so when I finally published it, they were among the first to pre-order a copy directly from me. At first, I feared they might not like it, they might find it boring, they might throw it down without reading to the end; so when great reviews and comments on my page started appearing, I cried like a baby again. To think that I was capable of touching them so profoundly that they laughed and cried and remembered their own ancestors, or in some cases remembered elements of their own pasts they’d forgotten was something I didn’t know I’d accomplished until they told me. Now that’s the part of this publishing journey which always amazes me: the words my own readers use to convey to me how my book made them feel is both indescribable and still unbelievable.”

Tell me about your literary support system.

“I enjoy helping others in the writing groups I found after I published. My only regret is I wish I’d found them before I published, since so many are more experienced than I and offer great advice. I also have a blog where I post chapters of my WIPs for feedback, but unfortunately, not many people see them, which is why I began making them into short stories and publishing some in online literary magazines and two women’s blogs thus far.

I don’t use beta readers; my son, the one who manages my website and assists when I do readings, is my only proofreader. I sometimes run ideas through him, and he’s always got great advice to help move my plots along. He’s my only critique partner.”

You write articles, essays, novels, and short stories. Talk about this diversity in your work.

“When a prolific short story author began communicating with me and offered a few places where I could try my own hand at publishing my shorter pieces, I jumped at the opportunity to get my name out there even more, to establish more publishing credentials, and most importantly, to get my works read by others. Now, remember, I wrote my debut novel twenty-five years ago, and I hadn’t written anything of substance (other than literary analytical essays I used to write when I assigned them to my students) since. So when I decided to write short stories, which quickly became a serial, I tried my hand at third person omniscient. And I loved it! All the short stories, which are either based on folk tales or traditions/customs/superstitions from my culture, are written in that point of view. Part of my impetus for writing my stories is because so many of our traditions are dying out; I want to keep them alive, even if only in literature.

The non-fiction pieces I’ve written are essays based on my teaching experiences and how I learned to communicate effectively with adolescents. They’re written kind of like my short stories, since they’re comprised of anecdotes I put together. For example, my first essay called “Word Play” is based on several instances where puns and innuendos create embarrassing, humorous, awkward, and memorable moments. How we adults choose to deal with them affects the teacher/student relationships.

One other non-fiction essay highlights how I used my culture in creating the romance in my first novel.

There are three more on one of my blogs which I’m determined to rewrite and publish in a writer-type of resource, such as “Authors Talk About It” or others which accept manuscripts on the writing, publishing, or marketing process.”

“Word Play” essay in Prodigal’s Chair

“Baile de Diablo” story in Across the Margin

“Using Nuestra Cultura in Romance” essay as guest blogger on tartsweet.com

“El Serpiente del Cañón” story in LatinoLA

“La Lunática” story in Across the Margin

“Learning to Let Go” essay in The Same

“The Christmas Story” on Wattpad

“La Muerte” story in Boned

The more I connect with Carmen, the more fascinated I am by her story, which is so different from my own. She is authentic and grounded in her culture. Follow her progress on her Goodreads Author page, “El Hermano” Facebook page, Amazon Author page, and Carmen Baca website.

Purchase “El Hermano” at Amazon here! Look for her collection of stories coming soon!