D. J. (Don) Stephens

I am pleased to introduce Don Stephens, who says he has never had a bad day in his life – some just turn out better than others.

Shelagh: Please tell everyone about yourself, Don.

Don: I was born on a small farm in Nebraska; my Dad sold the farm and moved us to Chicago so I could go to the Shiner’s Crippled Children’s Hospital to have my club feet corrected.  I spent nine months a year for my first five years in the hospital undergoing surgery.  I spent the first two years of high school in the seminary before deciding the priesthood was not for me.  Joined the Army right out of high school and spent nearly ten years (nine years, ten months and eight days) in the service.  While on active duty in the Army, I competed nationally for a Division Rifle Team and was also a member of a Post Skydiving Team.  I’ve made 1,400 Parachute jumps; over 1,100 of those jumps were free-falls from over 12,000 feet and 21 of the jumps were HALO jumps (HALO is a military acronym for High Altitude, Low Opening) meaning the jumper exits the aircraft from over 20,000 feet and is under 1,000 feet when the chute is deployed.  I live in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago with my wife of forty-one years.

Shelagh: When did the writing bug bite?

Don: I got the writing “bug” back in the mid-eighties.  A very dear friend of mine had a book published and we were talking one day and I told him I had an idea for a book that I had gotten while hunting in the Rockies.  I told him I would give it to him if he wanted to write it.  He said, “Write it yourself, everyone has at least one good book in them.”  So I did.  I wrote Bearkiller.  I wrote it in long hand on legal pads, then bought a word processer and transposed the entire manuscript.

Shelagh: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Don: The only goal I really had when I started was to be able to hold my book in my hand and say, “I did it!”  It took me ten years and a shoebox full of rejections to get it published.  When I held the finished book in my hands, there is no describing the tremendous feeling of pride.

I’m not trying to give the reader any message…I just want them to get swept up in the story and not want to put it down until it’s over.  I want them completely exhausted when they finish.

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Don: Tarnished Halo

This is a sequel to Halo – The year is 1965 Jeff Barkil leads a six man team of highly trained special service operatives on a mission – Code Name “Tarnished Halo” – to terminate two of the Golden Triangles top drug lords.  The problem, the drug lords are to be attending a meeting across the Burmese border in China.  The team’s radio is destroyed during a river crossing early in the mission leaving them with no contact to the outside world.  The team has to fight their way across the jungles of Laos and North Vietnam to reach their objective.  Then they must rely solely on their small arms and combat expertise to fight their way back home.  There is to be no option of capture or surrender and there will be no rescue operation.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

Don: I hope it would be the non-stop action.

Shelagh: How do you develop characters and setting?

Don: I relied heavily on my military background for Halo and Tarnished Halo.  For Bearkiller it was my Native American Heritage and a whole lot of research.

Shelagh: Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?

Don: I would have to say the most unusual character would be Bearkiller and the most likeable would be Kelly, the CIA control officer in Halo and Tarnished Halo.

Shelagh: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Don: Not sure this is the right answer for this question, but I like to create an outline when I get a story idea.  If I need to research an outline point, I ad the notes for that point to the outline.  As I develop an outline point into the story I check it off, often as I’m writing I will get another idea to add to the outline,  The outline gives me an overall idea of where the story is going and keeps me on track.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style?

Don: I write like I like to read.  I don’t take two or three pages to set a scene when I can do it with a paragraph.  I want the action to keep flowing.  When I read, I hate having to go through three pages describing the scene before I can get back to the action.  I love James Michener stories, but I truly believe his stories could be told in three hundred pages instead of six hundred.

Shelagh: How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Don: I have to say environment/upbringing most definitely color my writing, as I mentioned before…my Native American heritage and my military and parachuting background have a profound impact on my writing.

Shelagh: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Don: I think this is the best review:

Story Telling At It’s Best:

D.J. Stephens has done an excellent job of pulling the reader right into the story with the characters! The author has given very close attention to details and has an uncanny ability to entwine accuracy within his story telling. Bearkiller is an adventure that caught my attention on the first page and drew me so deeply into the story I could not stop reading. I was one with the characters, experiencing the Native American life page after page. The story is at times raw and rough as life was in the days the Native Americans roamed free in the Montana Mountains. I held my breath through gruesome battles that were handled with delicacy for all who read. I experienced great hunts and felt the thrill of the kill! This book is full of action and adventure yet involves love and caring. Throughout the entire book I appreciated the respect the author displayed to the Native American and their beliefs. This was brought out in such a clear and tender way. I was captivated from the first page and the pace of the book remained true to the end. This is by far one of the best by a new author that I have had read. D.J. Stephens proved to be an artist with words. He took the tiniest details and made them become real to my eyes. If I were to recommend just one book from Publish America as a must read, Bearkiller would be my choice. The only disappointment I felt with this book was the fact that I came to the end and there was no more to read! When I did read the end, D.J. Stephens did not disappoint me. The story ended as well as it began and as well as it read all the way through. I walked away from this book feeling I had been blessed with a very up close and personal glimpse into the life of my ancestors. I knew when I put this book down I had just read the work or a real professional!

This was my favorite review: (From a soldier)

From Kuwait

I have to say, up front, I am not a big reader. I picked up your book Bearkiller and I could not put it down. From start to finish it kept me reading, I even wanted to miss work just to see what Bearkiller would do next, but duty and soldiers come first, so I put the book down the first day just long enough to work and I had to finish reading it that night. The adventures were adventurous to say the least but close to realistic, the romance was relatable to the romance we pursue in our daily life, and the honor and valor in which he fought every battle is one that every soldier hopes to achieve in that split second of fate.

Thank you, for sending us a piece of your work and taking the time to sign every copy. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

Eric D Honeycutt
Platoon Sgt

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Don: Working on a sequel to Death Rider

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Don: Either on my website or Authors Den:



Shelagh: Thanks for joining us today, Don.

Don: Thank you for this opportunity.

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How to Find an Agent

Linton Robinson, an American expatriate who has spun off several different writing careers, is published as a novelist, essayist, poet, journalist, foreign correspondent, and copywriter.

On his blog, Lin gives advice on how to find an agent. Key points include:

  • Find out who represents the writers whose work is most like yours or appeals to your target audience.
  • Search Google intelligently to try to find the agent who represented the book or author.
  • Cruise those books in the bookstore or library — often writers, especially in their first book, will have dedications to their wonderful agents in the front or back of the book.
  • Find the agents online.
  • Follow the guidelines: most agency sites have guidelines for querying them.

Looking for agent databases? Check out Lin’s list:

SEARCHING FOR YOUR AGENT (When he doesn’t want to be found)

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Conrad Larson

Historical fiction writer, Conrad Larson, has joined us today to talk about his books.

Shelagh: Please tell us a little about yourself, Conrad.

Conrad: I am a former teacher, coach, farmer, entrepreneur and truck driver. I worked in corporate sales, corporate management, lay ministry, and have an everyday enthusiast of life. My book, a historical fiction mystery novel, The Overcoat, is based on the World War I soldier from this book. I am the father of five sons, five grandchildren and hopefully many more.

Shelagh: When did you begin to write and why?

Conrad: My mother passed away six years ago and I and my sister had no relatives left in that generation and older so I thought I needed to start writing for my sons and nephews.

Shelagh: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish?

Conrad: My first was a need to have a family history. The reason for writing was personal to begin with but, as the project grew, the want to have an impact in what was written grew also. The story developed over time and the storyline was both impacting and inspirational to me. The original was meant to be a biography, but the emotions became so hard for me that I redid it in historical fiction style.

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book.

Conrad: Swede is a revisionist history due out early fall 2010. A story about a soldier that makes an impact based on revised information about the war.

Shelagh: Is this book part of a series or stand-alone?

Conrad: This will be a series and the second book is a third done.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

Conrad: The mind set in America is that the Vietnam war should have been won and this book, Swede, wins the war.

Shelagh: How do you develop characters and setting?

Conrad: I see characters all around me and develop a story for them.  My life story has given me a wonderful memory of settings and history and it just seems to come naturally to place the setting once the character is developed.

Shelagh: Who’s the most unusual character?

Conrad: In my book, The Overcoat, Charlene is the character that has gotten me calls from a reader of my book from the State of Virginia wanting to know about that character. The point of my writing was to be able to talk about courage, character, life issues and my book has brought people to me.

Shelagh: Who is your favorite character?

Conrad: In Carry On Pvt Dahlgren,  Pvt Dahlgren is my favorite.

Shelagh: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Conrad: My techniques are rough and untested but working well so far. My Amazon book review shows an exciting fresh style which was a surprise to get.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style?

Conrad: I am a new author and my style is rough and probably out of the box but it is working.  My style is PG as I want my books to be acceptable to the Christian Community as well as the general market.

Shelagh: How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Conrad: The colors are like the brightest rainbow you have ever seen. My life stories are a big influence in my writing and I can write out of the box as well.

Shelagh: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Conrad: Author Conrad Larson pays tribute to the veterans of the war with a gripping account of one man’s war adventure. In Carry On Private Dahlgren: World War I Runner, a book released through Xlibris, he makes sure that as the hundredth anniversary of the First World War is nearing, tales from this remarkable moment in history will not go fading.

The war that was supposed to stop all wars was cruel and brutal to all civilians and even soldiers. The sacrifices made by the men who stepped up to represent and protect their motherland should be remembered and be given the honor that they deserve.  Reflecting the greatest on American character and courage, Carry On Private Dahlgren: World War I Runner presents the nostalgic, personal journals of Pvt. Oscar Dahlgren of World War I. The journals, as found by the author’s family, were handwritten with notes written in margins at a later date by Dahlgren. It fascinatingly documents names of peers, superiors, dignitaries, and others. In detail, it chronicles Dahlgren’s exploits during the upsetting era, including names of places, some which have different names today. It is an untainted piece of history for unless changes were made for clarity, the style of writing, spelling and grammar were left the way Pvt. Oscar Dahlgren wrote it.

Reliving history, Carry On Private Dahlgren: World War I Runner provides readers a fascinating account of one man’s life filled with courage, hope, brotherhood, and patriotism.

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Conrad: My new projects are more than an idea, The first book in a revisionist history series, Swede, is done, the second book in the Swede series is a third done, The next project is a book about depression and it’s deadly duo. The name of the book is The Deadly Duo; a how to understand living in a world where friends, family and co-workers struggle with stresses beyond most of our comprehension on depression. The following project is a World War I collection of stories about the soldiers from that era for the hundreth anniversary of the War to End All Wars. Another challenging project is a three hundred page autobiography called The Farm Boy, but I’m reluctant to move forward at this time.

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Conrad: I have a website for the first book called http://www.myovercoat.com. I have a blogging site http://www.loveforbookwriting.com that has a lot of good stuff. My second book, Carry On Pvt Dahlgren, has two websites:



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Maggie Stevens

Today’s guest is Maggie Stevens, author of Parent Fix.

Shelagh: Hi Maggie, please tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Maggie: I graduated from Brigham Young University with my BS/CA degree in Youth Leadership. Professionally, I work with youth groups, parent groups and educators offering parenting help in today’s world. The health of any society lies in the strength of its families. Thus, strengthening families will strengthen communities and nations.
Currently, I am partnered with Borders Book Stores presenting parenting workshops across the country. In addition to Borders, I regularly visit The King’s English Book Shop, Barnes & Noble book stores, Frost’s Book Stores and Sam Wellers Books. I will be presenting parenting segments on KUTV news and KJZZ morning news program. In San Diego, I work with the San Diego Unified School District and present parenting segments on XETV Bay City Television. Coming soon: A talk radio show with KFNX 1100 in Phoenix. I am the proud mother of five grown children.

Shelagh:When did the writing bug bite?

Maggie: I have always enjoyed writing and I began my writing career writing travel articles for the travel sections of local newspapers. Ten years ago, a dear friend of my son who spent most of his growing up years in our home, asked me if I wouldn’t write down my philosophy on parenting. He was expecting his first child and wanted to be the best dad. I was thrilled he would ask. As my notes came together, chapters formed and ParentFix became a book.

Shelagh: Please tell us about your latest book.

Maggie: When parents change … kids change

The majority of parenting books on the market are about changing the child’s behavior. After raising 5 children, I can vouch for the fact that it is impossible to change another person, especially your child. Parent Fix focuses on understanding a child’s needs and why certain behaviors occur. A child’s behavior should be used to teach parents about the needs of their child. When you help your child meet his needs, the bad behaviors disappear. This approach to parenting works so much better than the everyday battles that are occurring between parent and child. Currently, the most common reaction parents have to their child’s bad behavior, is to get angry about the behavior and then punish them. This destroys relationships. As parents we need a strong relationship with our child when they hit the teenage years. It is possible to avoid teenage rebellion and have an enjoyable life with a teenager!

Shelagh: Is there a message in your book?

Maggie: Most definitely yes. We are all watching the moral decline of our nation. The family, which is the basic unit of our society is under attack. We are failing in our homes. Drug and alcohol abuse is rampant with our youth. Eating disorders, teen pregnancies,trouble with the law are just a few of the challenges parents face with their teens. It is sad that our most important relationships end up being the most painful part of our lives. It is time to change the way we do things. When parents open their hearts and their minds and try the methods in Parent Fix, they find success.

Shelagh: What can parents learn from this book?


    How to create a Safe Haven
    How to motivate your child
    How to improve your child’s education
    Constructive ways to deal with anger
    How dangerous control is and how to stop using it
    How to teach by example
    How to help your kids make their own decisions
    Why you should not punish kids for behavior
    How to help creativity flourish
    How to live with teenagers
    How to build a strong relationship with your child
    How to relax and enjoy your kids
    How to understand your child’s behavior

Shelagh: Share the best review you ever had.


In today’s day and age of troubled youth, broken families, and a slew of mixed messages from the media, the Internet, self-help books, and talk shows, this book is a breath of fresh air in its honest and down-to-earth approach to helping parents be the best parents they can be, while making clear that mistakes will be made and that there is no quick fix for dysfunctional family, unruly teens, and family fights. It is also refreshing to hear the author speak from her own experiences and explain how parents need to be open to change in order for their children to change. Stevens, additionally, offers sound advice for approaching their teens’ “odd” interests (hobbies, haircuts, styles), by not dismissing them altogether, but by getting to understand them and finding ways to compromise, something that takes an open mind and an ability to let go of some control over their children’s lives. Stevens’ advice is very practical, very doable, and can create a peaceful home, a good relationship between parents and kids, and aid in the formation of responsible, educated, happy young adults.

Writers Digest Magazine

Shelagh: What current projects are you working on?

Maggie: I love being in the zone of writing. When ideas hit and I sit down at my computer, hours fly by. Because of that, I have decided to stay with book writing instead of any other type of writing I could do. I am currently working on another self help book entitled Stuck. As I have traveled promoting my book and presenting parenting workshops, I have found many mothers who love the ideas in my book, but they are unable to implement them. These moms feel such guilt because they know they are failing. Hopefully this new book will help them move forward.
I am also working on a novel. It is a slow go with all the promoting, writing and just living life, but hopefully there will be more to tell in the next few months.

Where can people learn more?

Maggie: At my website:  www.parentfix.com We have it set up with a question and answer page, a blog page, my speaking engagements and you can even book me for a parenting workshop.
My book is in local bookstores, Amazon.com and at www.parentfix.com

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Erma Odrach

Today’s guest, Erma Odrach, has now completed a translation of her father’s  novel, Wave of Terror, and has begun work on another, tentatively titled On the Road.

Shelagh: Erma, please give us a little information about yourself and your work.

Erma: I am a writer/ translator living in Toronto, Canada. At present I am focusing my attention on translating the works of my father, Theodore Odrach (1912-1964). My father wrote novels and short stories in the Ukrainian language, and his works were published in Buenos Aires, New York and Toronto. Wave of Terror, recently published by Academy Chicago Publishers, is his first novel to appear in English.

Shelagh: What is Wave of Terror about?

Erma: Well, I think one has to take a brief look at my father’s life to really understand what Wave of Terror is about. My father was born in Belarus (then a part of Czarist Russia), and in 1939 he became caught up in Stalin’s world. Studying at the university in Vilnius and watching the Soviet tanks roll in, he decided to head south, back to his native Belarus (by then a part of eastern Poland). Securing a teaching position just outside the town of Pinsk, it is really during this time that Wave of Terror began to take root. There he witnessed first-hand unspeakable atrocities committed by the Soviet regime, where innocent men, women and children were routinely persecuted, tortured and slain. Deemed an “enemy of the people” himself, my father became a man on the run, changing his name from Sholomitsky to Odrach in the hopes of protecting the family he left behind. Eventually, my father managed to escape into Slovakia by way of the Carpathian Mountains. After roaming around Europe, marrying, and living in Manchester, England for 5 years, in 1953, together with my mother, he settled in Toronto Canada.

Wave of Terror is about the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939, as seen through the eyes of Ivan Kulik, a young schoolteacher. People are randomly deported to the gulags, tortured in Zovty Prison, or murdered. It loosely follows the life of my father, and many of the events are eye-witness accounts. But the novel is not all doom and gloom. There’s a fair amount of humor (though dark), and at some level it’s also a love story, as Ivan has eyes for Marusia, a green-eyed, whimsical young woman.

Shelagh: When Wave of Terror was started, what goals did your father want to accomplish? Is there a message he wanted readers to grasp?

Erma: When my father wrote Wave of Terror, he meant it as an exposé on Soviet oppression. He wanted to make known the horrors in his part of the world during that awful time. But he ended up an expatriate writer living in Canada, and, unfortunately, his readership was limited to a very small number of Ukrainian-speaking immigrants. In addition, his books were banned in the Soviet Union. So, as you can understand, as a writer, he became literally trapped within his own language. Completely cut off from the English reading public around him, he lived his life in relative obscurity and his work remained forever in limbo. My father knew his only way to be heard was through translation. But during his lifetime that was a very remote possibility.

Shelagh: Wave of Terror was written in the early sixties. It’s now 2009. Where has the book been for almost fifty years?

Erma: Actually, it was published posthumously in Ukrainian in Toronto in 1972. My father barely finished it before his death and he left numerous loose ends. Since 1972 it’s been floating around a few places here and there, however, mostly it’s been sitting on the bookshelf in my living room, but not forgotten, at least not by me. When I started translating it a number of years ago, I sent excerpts to literary magazines as a trial, and reception was great. A chapter appeared in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change in Madison, WI and another in Flipside (California Univ. of Penn). In 2008 the novel got picked up by Academy Chicago Publishers.

Shelagh: How did your father develop his characters and setting?

Erma: As far as setting is concerned, history provided that for him; he found himself thrust in the heart of WWII, and there was drama at every turn. He was a keen observer of people and events. Most of his characters are actual, though fictionalized to some extent. For example, Dounia, who is an oversized, oversexed fishmonger, in reality sold trinkets in the marketplace and was later promoted by the regime to schoolteacher, even though she was illiterate. My father loved people, he loved studying them and interpreting them. His prose style is spare but quite controlled with touches of irony and humor thrown in for good measure. Wave of Terror could easily be read as a document to his turbulent heritage.

Shelagh: Who is the most unusual or most likeable character?

Erma: The book is really filled with ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Ivan Kulik, Headmaster of School Number 7, is the eyes, ears and heart of the novel, and it is through him that the reader experiences and witnesses much of everything that is happening. Ivan Kulik in many ways could be seen as the author himself, as both are caught in a world turned upside down and both have to learn the politics of survival. Fishmonger Dounia, however, remains my favorite character because she proves the most resourceful and most equipped to deal with all that comes her way: she is the ultimate “new Soviet woman”. But her character is also functional in that it provides much-needed comic relief. My father loved to observe women as much as men. In the introduction to Wave of Terror T.F. Rigelhof writes:

“Odrach has much to tell us that hasn’t been reported in this way by anyone else about how the coming of the Soviets affected the sexual identities of women along the outer edges of the USSR …”

Shelagh: Share the best review (or portion) that Theodore Odrach had.

Erma: The best one came from the Times Literary Supplement:

Theodore Odrach is that rare thing, a political novelist who is also an artist of the first rank.

For my father, politics and writing always went hand in hand. He needed to write about politics but he also wanted his words to endure. Had he read all the wonderful reviews written about Wave of Terror thus far, and after so many years, he would have been truly overwhelmed.

This is a review of the translated version:

The novel begins with the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939. Ivan Kulik is the newly appointed headmaster of School Number 7 in Hlaby, a rural village in the Pinsk marshes. Through Ivan’s eyes, the reader experiences the impact and effect of Stalinist domination, including the capricious seemingly random acts of cruelty by those in power. Ivan struggles to make sense of this new world and of his personal life.

This is a powerful novel: both the setting and the characters make it so. Mr Odrach’s characters are human rather than suprahuman or subhuman with all of humanity’s concomitant strengths and weaknesses. During the story, I could feel individual hope being extinguished as grinding reality overcame fragile optimism. The changes wrought on individual and community life by the emergence of the Belarusian Soviet Social Republic make very uncomfortable reading. In many cases, authority was vested in individuals whose capacity to misuse such power was only exceeded by their inability to realise the dehumanising effects extended to them as well as to their victims. It would be easy to illustrate this by the use of good and bad stereotypes but Mr Odrach manages to avoid doing this.

At the end of this novel, I wanted more. I would like to think that the story of Ivan was the story of Mr Ordrach himself and that he managed to escape from an uncertain place to make a better life for himself. Whether this is true or not, this is a novel that will no doubt remain with me for a very long time.

I thank Ms Odrach for bringing this novel to life by interpreting her father’s work into English and pursuing publication. I hope to read more of Mr Odrach’s writing.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

Shelagh: Did your father live to see you translate at least some of his works?

Erma: No, because he died in 1964 when I was a child. I never really knew him. And Ukrainian was and still is a difficult language for me. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started tackling his books. Using a Ukrainian-English dictionary, I literally had to look up every second word, and still it sometimes didn’t make sense. Luckily, my mother knew his work inside out because he had read her all his manuscripts. In short, it was a very laborious process. And somehow slowly but surely his pages started to come to life — there were people living inside them, there were great panoramas, history was in the making.

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Erma: I’m working on more of my father’s books – short stories and novels. I’m just finishing up a novel that takes place right after the Yalta Conference, when Eastern Europe is being handed over to Stalin. There are feelings of betrayal and abandonment among the characters. Another moment in history is captured.

Also, on another note, I’m happy to say with the fall of communism, my father’s books are finding their way into Ukraine and Belarus, and there is growing interest in his life and works. I have also secured a publisher in Ukraine, and they are set on reissuing all his works there.

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about Theodore Odrach and Wave of Terror?

Erma: You can learn more about my father at:



Wikipedia: www.theodoreodrach.com

Leave a comment and you could win a FREE copy of this wonderful book!

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Book Giveaway Preview

Erma Odrach has translated one of the works of her father, Theodore Odrach. Wave of Terror is his first novel to appear in English. A review of the book in the Times Literary Supplement said:

Theodore Odrach is that rare thing, a political novelist who is also an artist of the first rank.”

Erma will be giving an interview here on February 21st. One lucky commenter will receive a free copy of the novel:

Theodore Odrach was born in Belarus (then a part of Czarist Russia), and in 1939 he became caught up in Stalin’s world. Studying at the university in Vilnius and watching the Soviet tanks roll in, he decided to head south, back to his native Belarus (by then a part of eastern Poland). Securing a teaching position just outside the town of Pinsk, it is really during this time that Wave of Terror began to take root. There he witnessed first-hand unspeakable atrocities committed by the Soviet regime, where innocent men, women and children were routinely persecuted, tortured and slain. Deemed an “enemy of the people” himself, he became a man on the run, changing his name from Sholomitsky to Odrach in the hopes of protecting the family he left behind.

Read the interview this Sunday and leave a comment. You could be the winner of this fascinating book!

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Kaylin McFarren

Kaylin McFarren is a member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers. She received her AA in Literature at Highline Community College, which originally sparked her passion for writing. In her free time, she also enjoys giving back to the community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

Shelagh: Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Kaylin

Kaylin: For the past twenty years, I’ve worked in PR and marketing for my family-owned conglomerate, the Yoshida Group, which consists of eighteen diverse corporations. I was appointed as one of nine commissioners to the Oregon Arts Commission by Governor Kitzhaber while working as the director of a nationally-acclaimed art gallery in Portland, Oregon. I’ve also served on numerous college and charity foundation boards, and continue my commitment to hospitals and children’s causes. For most of my life, I’ve written poems and short stories, and along with novels, currently write articles for a syndicated travel magazine. Although Flaherty’s Crossing is my début novel, it has already garnered numerous awards and received recognition as a 2008 Golden Heart® Finalist.

Shelagh: How long have you been writing?

Kaylin: Most of my life. I honestly remember writing poems when I was five years old. I got into short stories when I was in junior high and eventually some of them ended up in my high school newspaper. My interest in writing continued for years but was limited to public relations with an emphasis on press releases and daily correspondence. In regard to novels, although I’ve contemplated penning one for some time now, I’ve actually been writing manuscripts for a relatively short period of time.

Shelagh: What, or who, inspired you to write?

Kaylin: I had a great English teacher in sixth grade, Mrs. Tuttle. I remember her telling the class that we could create a magical world with words. She gave everyone a journal and instructed us to write something in it everyday. To this day, I still fill up journals with my thoughts, poems, and short stories.

Shelagh: Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Kaylin: When I started Flaherty’s Crossing, it was based on my personal experience – the death of my dad and my emotional journey to acceptance. But after opening myself up to an amazing literary world – reading extensively, doing writing exercises, taking workshops – the door to my imagination was opened. Now days, I literally “dream up” my stories from beginning to end and have had to resort to keeping a notebook on my bedside table.

Shelagh: What genres do you write and which is your favorite genre to write?

Kaylin: When I first started writing Flaherty’s Crossing, I had no idea how to define this story. After completing and entering contests, I learned to categorize it as mainstream fiction, involving all kinds of elements: suspense, drama, romance …you name it. But with my second book, I’ve become a bit wiser and made a conscience decision to write action/adventure romance. I believe this is rapidly becoming my forte. I can’t wait to get to the next chapter and to fish my characters out of shark-infested seas.

Shelagh: Can you tell us about your favorite hero and/or heroine in one of your stories?

Kaylin: Drew Coleman in Flaherty’s Crossing is one of my favorite characters. He’s an attractive, middle-aged divorce attorney who has spent most of his life trying to live up to his father’s expectations. In the midst of struggling with his obligations and job responsibilities, Drew’s marriage to Kate Flaherty explodes over trust issues and is left in total disrepair. However, when he learns his wife’s life is at risk, his priorities quickly shift and he discovers where his love and loyalties truly lie.

Shelagh: When you write about a hero/heroine, are there parts of your characters that you take from your own experiences in your life?

Kaylin: I suppose there are. Most definitely in regard to conversations, careers, and relationships. I guess that’s what makes them more believable –three dimensional, you might say.

Shelagh: Do you have favorite props that you use to bolster a story? Why do you use them?

Kaylin: Well, when I was writing Flaherty’s Crossing, I kept my father’s picture close by to remind myself of the kind of person he was. But aside from that, I’d probably say no. That is, if you don’t consider a periodic glass of wine a prop.

Shelagh: When you are writing a book, do the characters become a part of your everyday life? How do you deal with it if they take over your everyday world?

Kaylin: When my characters interact, encounter grave situations, and express their emotions, they become more real to me. I don’t think I’ve had to deal with them taking over my life; although, I do worry about getting them out of trouble if they’re cornered and I’m detained and not able to write for a while.

Shelagh: Do your families encourage you to write?

Kaylin: Absolutely! I think my husband believes I’ve somehow found my identity and purpose in life. As for my children, they’re awesome – asking me all the time how my writing’s going. My oldest daughter is an author as well and she’s constantly spurring me to stay focused and on track.

Shelagh: You have a busy life with a career and family. How do you find time to write? Do you have a schedule?

Kaylin: My children are grown, my husband travels extensively, and I have a great library with lots of peace and quite. This affords me the luxury of writing as much as I like, which could easily involve working from 10am – 10pm. However, my family finds ways to drag me away on family vacations, to movies, and to restaurants just so I don’t completely alienate myself.

Shelagh: If for some reason you could not write anymore, how would you creatively express yourself?

Kaylin: I actually studied visual arts in college and love to oil paint. Guess that’s why I ran an art gallery for seven years. I suppose if I couldn’t write any longer, I’d dig up my old supplies and find a way to paint my stories on canvas.

Shelagh: You have a special project for all of the proceeds from your book, Flaherty’s Crossing. Can you tell us about this?

Kaylin: I’m donating 100% of my proceeds to the cancer research center at Providence Medical Center in my father’s name. There’s information all about the research project I’m funding on my new website: http://www.flahertyscrossing.com

Shelagh: Why did you decide to give all of your proceeds to cancer research?

Kaylin: After witnessing my father’s relentless battle with terminal cancer and his passing at the young age of 64, my emotions were in complete turmoil. I was angry at him for leaving, at God for the suffering he endured, at the world in general for not taking notice. I searched for an outlet – a way to vent my feelings, and was fortunate in finding the resolution I needed by writing Flaherty’s Crossing. In the course of creating this story, I had the opportunity to speak to various individuals who have lost loved ones and came to realize that everyone is somehow affected by this non-discriminating disease. This novel became more than a fictional account. It evolved into a personal journey – one that my father has traveled on right beside me, inspiring and encouraging me all along the way. In order to honor his memory and to do my part to bring an end to this terrible disease in our lifetime, I have chosen to donate all the proceeds from the sale of this book to the cancer research center at Providence Medical Center, and strongly urge anyone who enjoys reading to purchase a copy of Flaherty’s Crossing.

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and upcoming events?

Kaylin: My websites: http://www.kaylinmcfarren.com http://www.flahertyscrossing.com

Shelagh: Thank you for joining us today, Kaylin.

Kaylin: Thanks, Shelagh!

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