Susan Whitfield

Award-winning, multi-genre author Susan Whitfield is the author of five published mysteries and Killer Recipes, a real cookbook with mysterious names featuring recipes from mystery writers across the country. Her first women’s fiction novel, Slightly Cracked, was published in 2012.

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Susan.

SusanWhitfieldSusan: A life-long native of North Carolina, I’ve lived in both the eastern and western parts of the state. I taught high school English for thirteen years before moving in high school administration for the remainder of my career. I retired and began my second career, writing. I have five published mystery novels: Genesis Beach, set along NC’s Crystal Coast;  Just North of Luck, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hell Swamp, set along Black River in Pender County, Sin Creek in Wilmington, and Sticking Point in Beaufort. I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Coastal Carolina Mystery Writers, and North Carolina Writers Network. My husband and I live in Wayne County just a few miles from our two sons and their families.

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

slightlycrackedSusan: I’ve been writing the Logan Hunter Mysteries, publishing the first novel back in 2007. As much as I have loved Logan, I knew as an author I wanted to write other stories and perhaps other genres. When I wrote Slightly Cracked, women’s fiction, I knew I wanted to write more in that genre, so I ended the Logan Hunter Mysteries with Sticking Point, published in February of this year. I think I left Logan in a good place after putting her through some horrible ordeals in Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck, Hell Swamp, and especially Sin Creek. While I did enjoy the series, I also have a fondness for stand-alones like Slightly Cracked. I am currently trying my hand at historical fiction. More on that later.

What’s the hook for the book?

Susan: Tying this into the last question, in Sticking Point, Logan investigates the death of a fifteen-year-old bully whose death was ruled natural causes.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

sticking pointSusan: In Sticking Point, Logan must work with another investigator whom she thinks she despises. They are uncomfortable and it shows, but as the investigations rolls along, they begin to understand and appreciate how the tragic past has affected each of them. My favorite character in this book is the bed and breakfast owner, a British lady with strict rules and secrets of her own, but the novel moves from a mystery into a love story that I’m quite proud to have written.

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

Susan: I hate outlines so I start without one and then at some point I reach a roadblock and build an outline to get me straightened out. As much as I hate them, I have to admit they’ve fixed a multitude of problems for me.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Susan: I call my own writing “elementary” because I don’t use big words. It’s just easy everyday writing. I prefer first person but I wrote the women’s fiction in third person because it’s important for the reader to get into the heads of four characters.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Susan: I grew up in North Carolina and have lived here all my life. It makes sense to set the books here. While I don’t exaggerate my Southern background, I try to use local and regional dialects and showcase different areas of the state. Setting is almost always a feature in my books.

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

Susan: 

“Sin Creek by Susan Whitfield, is an eye-opener and a heart-breaker, but with the sweetest redeeming ending.

Having had a long-standing friendship with a detective, when reading Sin Creek, I felt a sense of déjà vu about events I know to be true. These foul crimes do exist and are proliferating all over the world, both promoted by and brought to law enforcement attention by the Internet. Whitfield portrays the underpinnings of one man’s vile world of pornography with researched accuracy.

Though this story is fiction, the very same types of exploitation continue to happen and escalate. If you never understood how lewd and dangerous the world of porn is, read Sin Creek. It’s fiction but true to life. It’ll make you shudder.”

What are your current projects?

Susan: I am currently writing an historical mystery, titled Sprig of Broom, about an ancestor who was a Knight of the Bath. This is by far the most challenging project I’ve ever done because I’m traveling back to medieval times. Research is on-going and I want to represent my ancestor as accurately as possible while filling in the gaps with fiction that seems to be true. It’s a slow process and I anticipate a lengthy amount of time before it’s complete.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Susan:  I blog at www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com
My web site is www.susanwhitfieldonline.com
I’m also on Facebook and a member of Booktown at www.booktown.ning.

Thanks for joining us today, Susan.

Susan: Thank you for the interview.

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Anamika Mishra

The young author, Anamika Mishra, was born and raised in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh (known as the Manchester of North India). She is presently working as a writer for several communities and websites.  Her debut novel, Too Hard to Handle, was released in July this year.

Hi Anamika, please tell everyone a little about yourself.

AnamikaAnamika: My name is Anamika Mishra. Writing is my first love, second is travelling and photography. I have done Bachelors in Computer Applications and Masters in Journalism & Mass Communication. Too Hard to Handle is my debut novel. I am highly spiritual and believe in miracles. I am an animal-lover too, especially dogs. I am an active member of ‘People For Animals’ NGO, in India. I love interacting with people from all across the world and inspire them to live with a positive perception.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Anamika: Well, I remember when I was in class six while reading Heide by Johanna Spyri, I went near my mom and said that I want to write a novel just like this one. I think that was the time when I was being bitten by a writing bug. General fiction and fantasy are my kind of genres.

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

Anamika: I have a dream to write at least one novel of each genre. Readers, please keep on supporting my goal and I promise I won’t let anyone’s expectations down.

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

Too Hard to HandleAnamika: Too Hard to Handle is a stand-alone novel. It is about a girl named Anushree, who is happy-go-lucky in nature. It is about what a common girl faces during her college and school life, series of misunderstandings, betrayal from friends, innocent crushes, stupid decisions etc. till she finds the love of her life. It is also about how fate turns up out of the blue and changes one’s life forever.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Anamika: I first try to decide how the lead character would be and then I create the plot and other characters accordingly.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Anamika: Vivaan. He is a ‘Mr. Perfect’ kind of a guy. People, especially girls, would love him for his small, lovely and romantic surprises, his behavior and his personality.

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

Anamika: No. I don’t have any specific technique to maintain the course of the plot. I like keeping it simple and try to maintain the interest by adding some ‘wow’ and ‘aww’ moments in it.

Share the best review that you’ve ever had.

Anamika: Best review was given to me by my mother, she said “this story is really inspiring and she never thought that I would be able to write such a deep and intriguing story. I am really proud of you.” And she hugged me tightly.

What are your current projects?

Anamika: I am presently working on my second novel.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Anamika: All folks can directly connect with me on twitter ( www.twitter.com/anamikawrites ) which I think is the easiest way or on facebook ( www.facebook.com/anamika.mishraa ) or they can get in touch by sending an e-mail to me on mail@anamikamishra.com . I shall be highly obliged in hearing something from all the readers.

Thank you for joining us today, Anamika.

Anamika: Thanks for the questions.

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Karen Schwind

Karen Schwind is a proponent of current trends in publishing, including e-books and self-publishing, and has started her own micro-publishing house, which published her début novel, Her Life as She Knew It.

Hi Karen, please tell everyone a little about yourself.

Karen: I grew up in a small town in Georgia and have lived in Georgia most of my life. I graduated from the University of Georgia and taught English in a private high school and then Truett-McConnell college for a number of years. Over the years, I would write and at one time helped edit and write for The Conspirator, a small magazine that turned out to be more than the sum of its parts: at least five people who worked on it have now been published. I kept writing over the years despite working full time, and when I saw what was going on in indie publishing, I said, “This is it!” and jumped in.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Karen: I suspect that, like most writers, reading wonderful books throughout my childhood created my desire to write. I wanted to move others as I had been moved. Unlike some of my friends, I didn’t read adult classics at the young age of ten or eleven—or so they claim! Instead, I read the very best age-appropriate novels—The Hobbit in seventh grade, for example. Maybe that’s why my first desire was to write YA fiction, which I did. I wrote a horrible fantasy novel and then another that wasn’t quite so bad. I moved into adult fiction while I was in graduate school and deeply influenced by early twentieth-century writers, especially Fitzgerald and Eliot.

All art forms can be deeply moving. Films have certainly contributed to my being bitten by the writing bug, though their contribution came later than that of books. I loved going to the movies when I was a child, of course, but I was probably eighteen when I began to see film as a literary art form. Over the years, I noticed that the films I see over and over all have the theme of redemption: To Live and the Lives of Others come to mind. Characters being redeemed does not ensure a happy ending in the sense that comedies do. The difference is that works that focus on redemption take into account the suffering from which redemption emerges. But I do think that films have contributed to and fed my desire to write.

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

Karen: When I started writing the first time, I think my only goal was to write something that moved people. Young and unfocused, I look back and realize that I didn’t have that much to say. Now, I do have something to say and worry that I’ll say the same thing in every piece I write.

The younger me often dreamed of disappearing into other worlds where I could become anything I wanted to be. Of course, what I wanted to become depended on the book or movie I was in love with at the time. For a while I wanted to live in the Upper West Side of New York City so that I could join the Jets and dance like Natalie Wood (West Side Story).

I think my ability to completely lose myself in both books and films led to one of my major themes, characters’ desires to find a new world where they could reinvent themselves. This theme is really an American theme—it’s the idea that the entire nation is founded on in some ways and can be found in Huck Finn and The Great Gatsby, to name only two works.

I always manage to turn the theme back around, though, for as the cartoon character Ziggy says, wherever you go, there you are. Part of what feeds my version of the theme is the discovery of me and many of my friends that as we get older, we come to cherish many of the very things we wanted to run away from. It may also emerge from the Southern idea of place, a meme if you will, found in Southern literature and storytelling as far back as you would care to go. I guess one of my major themes is more about returning than running away and the belief that we don’t invent ourselves completely because we are products of our childhood, as well as the times in which we live.

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

Karen: Unveiled Faces, as I’m now calling it, is about a young married couple and their friends struggling to make it through 1932, the toughest year of the Great Depression. One thing many people don’t know about this period of history is how many Americans emigrated to Soviet Russia, as they called it. At that time, America seemed to be falling apart, while reporters and writers traveling to Russia told grand stories about the Soviet Government and its five-year plan. Henry Ford built a plant in Leningrad and Americans who moved there played baseball in GorkyPark. In my novel, Peter and his best friend Jake are convinced that Soviet Russia is on the right side of history, while Peter’s wife, Vermilion, a Southern woman from Georgia, is aghast at the idea of leaving America. Meanwhile, another desperate young couple, Dan and Nancy, get mixed up with gangsters who deliver bootleg to the Village. Peter and Vermilion—their struggles and decisions—are at the heart of the novel, but the narrative also follows Jake and Dan and Nancy.

I hope Unveiled Faces will be a series. Having finished the first draft a couple of weeks ago, I’m working on the rewrite. When I complete this novel, I think I’m going to write some shorter works to complement it and then perhaps work on another novel about the same people, maybe a sequel to show what happens to Peter and Vermilion.

What’s the hook for the book?

Karen: In Her Life as She Knew It, Caroline walks to town against he father’s wishes (remember that it’s 1919 in the Southern United States) and gets a job working for Billy Taylor, a young man who has just returned from World War I and who used to be engaged to Caroline’s now-deceased best friend. The newspaper he opens becomes the catalyst for trouble as Caroline uses her column to spread gossip and dig up town secrets.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Karen:  Caroline is the narrator and protagonist. Many readers mention Billy, however, Caroline’s partner in crime so to speak. He grew up on what we in the South used to call the wrong side of the tracks and yet managed to win the heart of the most popular girl in town, Jenny. When Jenny dies of the Spanish flu, Billy loses his place in society. He doesn’t return to his former position at the lowest rung on the ladder because he flew planes in WWI and so gained respect, but he  no longer gets invited to the best homes, if you know what I mean. He’s kind of dark and mysterious. I think people sympathize with him.

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

Karen: I’ve been focusing more in plot, really working to write short stories and my latest novel with tight plots. Julie Cannon, a friend of mine and fellow writer, recommended The Weekend Novelist but Robert J. Ray and Bret Norris. Not one to follow systems slavishly, I’ve jumped around in it but have found many of their techniques and ideas to be very helpful. One question they and others ask is, “What does the character want?” The answer to that question drives the plot even in non-genre fiction. The first thing I had to do when I began the rewrite for my work in progress is clarify what my characters wanted. I thought I knew and did in part. But I had to dig deeper and pinpoint the exact desire that drives them and creates the conflict.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Karen: I want to grow with each of my works. I wrote Her Life in first person because Augusta Trobaugh told me it was easier than third person, in which I had written a novel that I liked but couldn’t quite make work. It’s in a closet somewhere. For my current novel, I’ve moved to 3rd person because I think you can do more with it. I want to show several perspectives, so I’m using limited omniscient. The challenge is moving between perspectives while maintaining the narrative voice. Reading an interview by Ann Patchett in which she discusses her own movement from 1st to 3rd person made me feel better about my early attempt at 3rd. I thought, well if Patchett has to work her way into it, then I certainly feel no shame.

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

Karen: I’ll share the one I put on the cover of Her Life.

Her Life as She Knew It is a beautiful and heartfelt Southern story about the ways in which the past we hide from ourselves emerges no matter what we do to stop it. Debut novelist Karen Schwind takes us deep into the thoughts and feelings of a young woman in 1919 who deals with betrayal on several fronts. Crafting a memorable setting that feels historically authentic, Schwind portrays Caroline McKee’s longing for an idealized childhood, as well as her response to betrayal, in tender, nostalgic ways. Schwind knows this world/this memorable time in America’s history, she understands why we need to keep secrets from ourselves, and she shares it all in her lyrical language.”

-Julie L. Cannon, author of Truelove & Homegrown Tomatoes

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Karen: Readers can learn more about my books by checking out Amazon, where they’ll see reviews and can read part of Her Life as She Knew It. To be honest, if they want to read Vermilion Wanted to Go to the Movies, a short story that’s kind of a character study I wrote to develop the protagonists for my current novel, they should go to Smashwords if they have Kindle or any other ereader site. Amazon won’t let me give the story away, so I sell it for .99 there, but it’s free everywhere else.

To get information on other works and events, including a couple of sections from my work in progress, they can go to skoobpress.com.

Links:
Her Life as She Knew It:
Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/her-life-as-she-knew-it/id419795853?mt=11&ls=1
Kindle: http://amzn.to/P5RdKJ
Nook: http://bit.ly/TsFCkd
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/34591
Vermilion Wanted to Go to the Movies: FREE at http://bit.ly/qGRAVB
Twitter: @Skoob_Press
Blogwww.skoobpress.com
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/mRUP0E

Thank you for joining us today, Karen.

Karen: Thank you for allowing me to participate.

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Philip Spires

In 2009, Philip Spires collaborated with the sporting legend, Martin Offiah, to produce a book, Martin Offiah’s 50 Of The Best, celebrating the skills and thrills of rugby league.

Hi Philip, Welcome to Literature & Fiction!  Please tell everyone a little about yourself.   

Philip: I was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, in 1952 and was brought up in Sharlston, then a mining village. I did grammar school in Normanton, took a chemical engineering degree from Imperial College, London, and then decided to teach, after a PGCE at King’s. I then went to Kenya for two years as a  volunteer. On returning to Britain, I did sixteen years in London education. But the travel bug was with me, and in 1992, my wife and I decided to move to Brunei, where we lived for almost seven years. Three years in Zayed University, Abu Dhabi,  followed and then semi-retirement beckoned and we moved to Spain. Since 2003, I have done some part-time teaching, we run a small tourist rental business and I have completed a PhD, as well as five books.  

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?  

Philip: The only time I have ever suffered travel sickness was when I was very young indeed. I insisted on writing out the story of The Three Little Pigs in an old desk diary while on the back seat of a Standard Eight – and I was very, very sick. I write better than that these days, I hope. So I must have enjoyed creative writing as a child. I even tried to write a couple of novels when I was a student. Thankfully, they are both lost. I even wrote poetry. Unfortunately, I still have it. I have kept a commonplace book since 1973. It’s a work-book, not a diary, full of random jottings, book reviews, concert reviews, travel writing, research notes and trivia.  In 1978, when I set about the first of my Kenyan novels, I used material I had written in the commonplace book while I lived in Kenya. The second Kenyan novel, Mission, arose out of issues that A Fool’s Knot could only skirt. The common-place book remains an idea bank that bears interest. There’s a wealth of material in it. Nowadays, it’s almost exclusively just book reviews, however.

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

Philip: I have always been fascinated by politics, not only in the ideological sense, but also at the level of relationships between individuals and groups. It was Karl Marx’s  wonderful writing on the links between individual identity and roles within economic systems – means of production, if you like – that prompted me to revisit my own background. My home area, once proudly socialist and comprising miners and families who worked hard, played hard, but always fairly, and then died young, is now transformed into a shadow of its former dignity, populated by apparently compliant servants of consumerism, most of whom can’t afford to consume. In Kenya, I was fascinated by people’s  relationship with the poverty that dominated their lives. In Brunei and the Emirates, it was wealth and its pursuit that endowed respect, fed aspiration and moulded attitudes towards the poorer rest of the planet. How characters are formed by their nurture, how lives are sculpted by their social context, and how their presumptions generate interests that determine action continues to fascinate me. My writing explores these ideas and relationships – at least I hope it does! I write about ordinary people, because every life is extra-ordinary. Kings, queens, princesses, spies, celebrities, those famous by virtue of mere fame are, for me, smaller than life, their identities often a product of someone  else’s  marking concept rather than their own even canalised experience. I thus find such folk less than interesting. But the characters that populate the novels of writers such as Graham Greene, William Boyd, Julian Barnes or Pat Barker – to name but a few – are fascinating in every detail.  So, it is this process of nurture within nature that underpins what I write. Individual journeys through life are unique and intrinsically  interesting. There’ll  always be the odd issue to confront along the way!  

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

Philip: My latest book, Voyagers, examines several strands related to individual and group identity. It’s a set of short stories loosely based on the experience of travel. It is thus not travel writing, as such, but it may be writing about travellers. It opens with a novella, Discoverers. This is set inBrunei and tells how a college teacher sets out on a routine assignment that would be anything but routine for someone who did not live in primary rain forest. But the teacher’s time is up. His supervisors want him out, though he only becomes aware of the threat after its effects have already begun to bite. He is bright enough to counter and to outwit, but has he forgotten something? Maybe it has something to do with a political campaign he is running? Eventually, if we want our own way, who cares about the facts? In other stories, a little-travelled retiree is rudely intro-duced to the potential threat of the matriarchal. A young art student, apparently liberal, even revolutionary in taste and style, reverts to a new-found middle-class safety when confronted with a choice. In a distant future, a tele-transported man fails to be reunited with his own identity. Australian travellers feel threatened by the claims and connections of a casual acquaintance, but would you believe him? A young couple visit an idyllic village where local lives are anything but idyllic. Things are what they seem and simultaneously they are not. Things agree and contradict; it’s the interpreter that adds meaning and consequence. Reality is often merely neutral.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Philip: The settings for the Voyagers stories are all real, culled from my own observations and descriptions of trips that I faithfully recorded over the years in my commonplace book. The stories visit some well-known tourist sites – Ephesus and Bodrum, Florence and Venice, the Vietnam coast, a Devon village. The Brunei rain forest is more out of the way, and I doubt many tourists visit the green room in Westminster Central Hall. Sometimes the events and the people are based on those encountered in my travels. The Australians were in Dubrovnik and they were talking to a spiv in a bar. There really was a field trip up the Belalong River into Temburong’s forest. The pub in Devon did exist. Some of the people in the stories were also there, but the characters are amalgams, constructs and juxtapositions to highlight relationships, habits, opportunities, threats. The child abuser I place inVietnam was quite real, but I encountered him inIndonesia. The writer and the politician who meet in Protesters are both real people, though the story does not name them. I know they met in that place because I was in the audience to hear both of them speak. I imagined what might have transpired between them behind the scenes, however. The characters in my Kenyan books also draw on real people, but real people conjoined, merged to create a narrative. There really was a man killed by his father as a result of a family disagreement based on cultural conflict. I never met either of them, but I knew the issue over which they disagreed, and that substance became the plot.

Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?

Philip: In Voyagers I like the central character in Assessors, the science fiction story, despite the fact that we never actually meet him. He is an engineer, a specialist in the maintenance of the urban domes in which people now live. He has been to a conference and has been – as usual – tele-transported back home. His problem arises out of his apparent re-classification at his destination. His body arrives intact, but his intellect has been down-graded, his knowledge and skill-base stripped out and replaced with only basic functions. He writes, apparently, an email asking for his case to be reassessed. If the downgrade was intended, then what motivated it? If it was not intended, then could he have his old intellect back, please? The fawning, grovelling style he adopts, however, might not necessarily be him. The story was inspired by a report of BBC Radio 4´s Today programme in which an American-Japanese physics professor predicted the imminent realisation of an ability to tele-transport large molecules by virtue of our intricate knowledge of genetic sequences. The very next report featured the opening of  Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five, where travellers and their luggage could not be reunited.

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

Philip: Here are a few excerpts from Amazon reviews of Mission.

 A tragic accident is seen through the eyes of five different characters, including the victim. Unforgettable – I became totally absorbed. I will remember my time spent in Phil Spires’ African community for a long, long time.  Highly recommended.  (Maureen Moss)

 … Despite the events being trodden over by several people, there’s always something fresh to discover, a new insight into a character, a shocking revelation, and even though you think you know everything already, you read on, wanting to understand the individuals and their inner worlds, and still learn more. The narrative is coloured by the sights and smells of a small town in Africa, the petty tribal disagree-ments and the long-lasting resentment of past ignominies under colonial rule. It is not a light read, but it is rewarding. It’s obvious that these characters lived with Spires for several years, he knows them so well, and by the end of the book, we do too.  A memorable and quite remarkable book.  (Nik Morton)  

 The plot is centred round the lives of five characters who are more or less implicated in the death of Munyasya a derelict ex Kenyan army officer. Although the `accident’ occurred more than thirty years ago this tragedy is still playing out its dramatic consequences in their lives.  In reading the novel I was constantly reminded of Lawrence Darrell’s great work `The Alexandria Quartet’. In “Mission” the sense of place is not so poetically depicted but there is no doubt that we are in Africa its vibrancy and heat pervades each chapter and as in the Quartet we see one event or set of circumstances from the varying points of view of the main characters.  How differently each views those same events! (Michael Elsmere)  

 A fine story set in beautiful Kenya, colorful and filled with mystery, intrigue, and twists. The characters are real as is their perceptions when seen through their eyes. A  magnificent  story set in magnificent locale. (Bill Copeland)

 What are your current projects?

Philip: My next project is already finished in that the text is written. What I am doing at the moment is precisely nothing, however, except reflect on the ideas it contains. A couple of people have read the book and I am waiting a while before re-reading it myself. I might change some aspects of it. Who knows? It’s called A Search for Donald Cottee. Don, also known as Donkey because of a thicker than usual lower lip, has retired early after years on sickness benefit, having once been an electrician in a coal mine. He and his wife, Suzie, have driven to Spain in a Swift Sundance and have parked permanently on a Benidorm caravan site. Suzie, who prefers to hide a motor-accident scar on her left arm under a suitable garment, long ago adopted the nickname Poncho. So Donkey Cottee and Poncho Suzie seek a new and restful life in Spain. Don continues to campaign on environmental issues, being passionately against wind-farms. Via an old flame who threatens to reignite, Suzie takes on the management of a cabaret bar. Don meets women of his dreams, is disowned by the daughter he has, is captivated by the one he perhaps never had, falls into caves and gets mixed up with politics. Suzie makes a ripping success of a bar that the owners wanted to fail so they could demolish it. My parody of Don Quixote is a comedy that turns suddenly and devastatingly tragic. I hope to publish later this year.  

How does your environment/upbringing colour your writing?

Philip: From the material of A Search For Donald Cottee it will be clear that the experience of Yorkshire mining areas over the last four decades is an important element in the book. As youngsters, fired with the late 1950s and early 1960s myths of mobility, betterment and opportunity, Don and Suzie strove to realise their personal and shared dreams. Their daughter got everything she wanted only to reject it. They got their bigger house and a mortgage to match. When the strike of the 1980s began, Don continued to work because, as an electrician, he was “maintenance”. But he was duly ostracised, labelled a traitor by his colleagues, labelled at home perhaps in the same way that the rest of ThatcheriteBritain labelled the strikers as traitors. Don was thus doubly an outcast, damned for being and damned for not being… And then, after years on the “club”, Don retires to find he is still a little man in others’ bigger schemes, despite the film-set location of the Med, sunshine and cheap beer. But in the end we are still not sure what happened to Don or Suzie. He might just have had the last laugh, if there was one…

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Philip: I have a website at www.philipspires.co.uk where you can find some extracts from the books. A new page devoted to Donald Cottee will appear soon. Voyagers, my travel stories, have their own page at http://www.philipspires.co.uk/voyagers.htm.  Please do have a look at the material, but please do remember that all I want to do is write the kind of book that I would want to read. If you would like to share that experience, I would be at least flattered. The books are available now in Kindle and other ebook editions, though Voyagers can also be bought as paperback. Here’s the Amazon links for my work:

Amazon.co.uk  

Amazon.com

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D.K. Christi

D.K. Christi’s debut novel Arirang, a romantic adventure that spans seven continents, conveys an underlying theme that “life happens when you are planning something else.” In Christi’s shorter works such as Chalk, The Magic Box, and The Valentine , exclusive to Amazon Shorts , themes of friendship surviving tragedy, love conquering adversity, and the triumph of the human spirit over the hardships of life serve to uplift and inspire. Discover a new voice in fiction and through her stories, perhaps discover something new about yourself.

Shelagh: Welcome D. K., please tell everyone a little about yourself:

D.K.: My roots are in Michigan where my family lives and I visit each year, preferring to drive so I can stop in the Georgia mountains and hike a little. I also spent significant youthful years in California, the dream land for a midwestern girl trying to get out of the snow and become a “surfer girl.” Once I started traveling, I didn’t stop, living an average of 3 years wherever I landed, job or home. These travels included international work in Europe and Asia and blue water sailing in the Caribbean. Experiences in foreign cultures and living “on the economy” provide insights that I try to share with readers. I have had a profession as an editor and writer for state departments of education and even a stint as a political intern in Washington, D. C. Right now, I live in Florida where I enjoy the Gulf and the Everglades for contrast, but miss hills.

Shelagh: When did you first start writing?

D.K.: I started writing in my youth, keeping meticulous diaries under lock and key that were as much fantasy thought as reality. I basically write essays, commenting on life. Recently, I have turned those comments into fiction.

Shelagh: What goals did you set yourself? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

D.K.: “LIfe is what happens when you plan for something else.” Amazon.com actually said it best when their editor described my stories as characters rising above adversity, overcoming life’s traumas and ecking out a new beginning. That’s the thought I wish to convey. Every challenge has a gift; we just need the capacity to recognize when it comes. I want readers to recognize their own selves in the characters, their agonies and their ecstasies, and perhaps find comfort in the resolution of their challenges.

Shelagh: Is your latest book part of a series or stand alone?

D.K.: At the moment, Ghost Orchid seems to stand alone; however, the ending begs for a sequel. Neev is the main character whose life is examined and changed through the magic of the ghost orchid; yet, the ending leaves the reader with the desire to know more about the characters who shaped her destiny, one in particular. She begins that story as hers ends. One family’s loves, lies and redemption are woven through the fabric of the Everglades as photographers search for the perfect subject in the perfect light and find themselves. Neev’s search unfolds as a mystery, one coincidence at a time, under the mystical magic of the ethereal ghost orchid. Recently, I also have  short stories published in several anthologies: “Rose’s Question” in The World Outside My Window; “The Ice Storm” in Romance of My Dreams, and “The View From the Balcony” in Romance of My Dreams II.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

D.K.: Death is the end. Or is it? A tragic accident opens Ghost Orchid and sets the stage to search for an answer to that age old question: Is love eternal? A mystical and exotic ghost orchid watches from its perch high in the cypress canopy as a mystery unfolds, one coincidence at a time.

Shelagh: How do you develop characters and create the settings?

D.K.: Their traits fit the circumstances in which they dwell. They are borrowed and reworked from all the people I have know, about whom I have read, and those I’ve imagined. Neev is the daughter I never had, molded from the clay of men and women whose personalities left an impression.

Settings come from the places where I have lived and traveled. They are real to me in every respect though they sometimes require adjusting with research to make up for imperfect memories or documentation.

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

D.K: Since I have already given away my secret that I always wanted a daughter, I vote for Neev. However, Roger has his charm and Mel has depth worth examining and loving.

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

D.K.: I’ll use the word processing outline features to give me skeletons of the manuscript and check for anomolies.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV?

D.K.: My preferred POV is first person and in the present tense. Publishers do not like either, especially in new authors. Therefore, I have switched to third person, past tense. When I am famous, I will return to first person, present tense.

Shelagh: How does your upbringing affect your writing?

D.K.: I have a very eclectic personal history with many twists and turns, traumas and joyful events. Therefore, I give my characters a strong dose of emotional appeal; readers have expressed great dislike for a character or been stunned by a stupid decision. One reader said she actually shouted out loud while reading Arirang: The Bamboo Connection, “no, don’t be so stupid!”- Another reader complained that a short story could not possibly be a romance because, “He walked away at the end. How could he do that to her? How could he just walk away?” As though I was supposed to give her some release for her pain at his behavior.

Shelagh: Please share the best review  that you’ve ever had.

D.K.: I think I hold onto the Amazon.com review because it says so much in such a few words:

D.K. Christi’s debut novel Arirang, a romantic adventure that spans seven continents, conveys an underlying theme that “life happens when you are planning something else.” In Christi’s shorter works such as Chalk, The Magic Box, and The Valentine , exclusive to Amazon Shorts , themes of friendship surviving tragedy, love conquering adversity, and the triumph of the human spirit over the hardships of life serve to uplift and inspire. Discover a new voice in fiction and through her stories, perhaps discover something new about yourself.”

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

D.K.: I am working on a short story anthology, a major work, The Virgin Odyssey, about blue water sailors with stories in each craft that are shared in ports along their journey, a sequel to Ghost Orchid, and a special story about the Civil War inspired by my great grandfather’s escape from a prison camp.

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

D.K.: website: http://www.dkchristi.com

twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dkchristi

Publisher: http://www.lldreamspell.com

I blog at www.redroom.com and www.amazon.com

Booktour.com includes events and there’s always Google.

ebook versions of Ghost Orchid are found at Mobipocket, Fictionwise and Kindle; print coming soon.

Arirang: The Bamboo Connection is in print and Kindle at Amazon.com where several short stories are also found in Amazon Shorts. The anthologies are also at Amazon.com in print and Kindle. All online bookstores carry my books, and anthologies containing my short stories.

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Erin O’Briant

Today’s guest is Erin O’Briant, author of Glitter Girl.

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

Erin: I’m a San Francisco Bay Area writer and the author of the novel Glitter Girl. I’m a former glitter spray salesgirl turned college writing instructor; I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College as well as a bachelor’s in Religion from Emory University.

Shelagh: When did the writing bug bite and in what genre?

Erin: I first started writing when I was a senior in college, when it occurred to me that I’d need to get a job soon but my religion major had left me with few practical skills. I heard that writers got to work from home sometimes, and that was good enough for me. I apprenticed myself to a local weekly magazine, and was there bitten by the bug. I was a journalist for about 10 years, and I got involved in spoken word in Atlanta and then later in San Francisco; I ran a show called Oral Fixation for a while in SF. Eventually it became clear that I needed to move into writing fiction, but I didn’t know how, so I went to grad school.

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

Erin: When I started writing Glitter Girl, my goals were nearly nonexistent, but I wanted to be a better writer. I had been doing spoken word readings for a while, and had written up a short piece about my miserable four months selling glitter spray. Then when I started my MFA, I began to develop the main character (later Gloria) into someone other than me and made up a story for her and her family. I’ve noticed that people seem to take “messages” from Glitter Girl, but that actually wasn’t my intention. Still, the book deals with big political issues – abortion and gay rights, in particular – and I hope it makes readers think about the ways we ostracize each other, often in the name of our own political or religious cause.

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book.

Erin: Glitter Girl is about a family that splintered because one daughter converted to Christianity – the conservative kind. The other daughter, Gloria, is a happily out lesbian and glitter spray salesgirl who sets out to make up with her sister. Easier said than done.

Shelagh: How do you develop characters and settings?

Erin: Since this was my first book, I went with “write what you know.” The things that happen in the novel are completely made up, but I set it mostly in familiar locations – Atlanta and San Francisco, both cities I’ve lived in for years at different times – and gave the characters situations that I could relate to. I sold glitter spray for a while, I studied religion in college, I’m gay, I’ve been part of the San Francisco writers’ scene – so all those things were easy for me to imagine and then develop scenes and characters from there. Also, I once worked for an LGBT newspaper in Atlanta where I was on the “church lady” beat: I wrote a lot of articles about Christian views of gay rights, and that gave me really useful material. Gloria and I probably have the most in common, though I’m not a liar, like she is. But how can you believe anyone who says that, right?

Shelagh: Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Erin: I think the most likeable character might be Gloria’s best friend, Max, who falls in love during the course of the novel with a guy he meets in Atlanta. He’s a painfully honest New Yorker and a deeply loyal friend: a good guy with bodacious vocabulary. If I met him, I’d love him.

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

Erin: I had to send in 30 pages every three weeks to avoid being kicked out of school. So I just made up the plot as I went along, thinking: what could I write that would take up 30 pages? My dear friend Carolyn and I would sit up late, drinking beer and plotting schemes for the characters. And then I did a lot of plot revision afterwards to pull it all together. Mainly, though, my technique was to just keep writing. Also, I was in an awesome and encouraging writing group, which every writer needs.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Erin: I try to keep my writing simple. My grad school mentor, Rebecca Brown, has a beautifully streamlined style, and I tried to learn as much as I could from her. She taught me about taking out the unnecessary words so the meaning can shine. I also use humor, because I like to read funny books, especially when the humor is part of the story and doesn’t distract from the plot. In Glitter Girl, I write from two POV’s: Gloria’s and Angie’s. I don’t prefer one over the other, but Gloria’s POV was easier for me.

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Erin: Currently I’m writing a second novel, which in a nebulous state and hard to talk about yet. It’s tentatively titled Reading Orlando. The novel is something of a homage to Virginia Woolf, and the three main characters are all survivors of childhood abuse, who heal together while reading Orlando. This one has no autobiographical elements so far, though it is set in Georgia, where I grew up. (It helps to know your location.) So it’s a big challenge and will certainly stretch my imagination, but I’m up for it. Now that I’ve written one novel, I know I can do it again.

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

Erin: My book, Glitter Girl, is easy to find, and it’s free! Just visit
http://www.podiobooks.com/title/glitter-girl/. You can listen through iTunes or sign up to get episodes by email. The final episode will be published on Sunday, January 3, 2010. If you enjoy listening, please leave a comment – it makes my day.

My website: http://www.erinobriant.com/

Shelagh: Thank you for joining us today, Erin.

Erin: Thanks Shelagh! I’m truly grateful.

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Marilyn Jenkins

Today’s guest, poet and fiction writer Marilyn Jenkins, is a member of the Welsh Academy. Marilyn’s work has been published in magazines such as: The Anglo Welsh Review, The New Welsh Review, Paris Atlantic, Envoi and prize-winning anthologies.

Shelagh: Hi Marilyn, please tell us a little about yourself.

Marilyn: I was raised in post-war Wales, one of a privileged generation: NHS; free grammar school education; university grants. I went through to university. I taught and lectured in English and carried on after marriage and children. Later, I travelled widely because of my husband’s (academic) career. I’m grateful because I experienced other cultures. This, together with my Welsh background, has greatly influenced my writing.

Shelagh: When did you first begin to write and in what genre(s)?

Marilyn: I was always hooked on words. A good book to read is an essential for me. Because story, fiction, was the big draw; from primary school days I wanted to write my own. I remember sitting on the back steps at home trying to work out a knotty problem of how to get my characters out of an impossible fix in The Mystery of the Moated Grange (thanks for the inspiration Enid Blyton).  While the novel was my first love, – fiction with a dark mystery underlying it – I also had a poetry reading bug.

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

Marilyn: It took some time before I could imagine myself as a ‘writer’. I stepped out of teaching for a while when I had small children and that’s when I began to draft novels. I say novels because my life is littered with unfinished novels. Completing one and getting it published was my secret goal.  Poems, short stories were less challenging to complete in a peripatetic existence. The way life panned out meant I was having these published long before my novel finally appeared. But the novel was the big thing.

Shelagh: Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Marilyn: I don’t have a message, as such, in anything I write. I think it was Alice (Lewis Carroll’s) who said: “How do I know what I mean till I see what I’ve said.” Working in longer fiction has told me quite a lot about myself, in fact.

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book.

Marilyn: My novel, The Legacy of Alice Waters, finally appeared this year (2009). It is, as expected, fiction with a dark mystery: a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

Marilyn: Poisoners are not easy to like or understand – how different is Alice Waters?

Shelagh:. How do you develop characters and settings?

Marilyn: My characters develop in relation to the settings. I place a character in a situation and then probe the way in which removing them from their comfort (or discomfort zone) affects what happens. Each change becomes a test. Alice moves from her unhappy home in Wales to find love in wartime London. A return to post war Wales brings disaster. This is also true of her best friend Emily who comes home to die and who led an extraordinary life as a lawyer.

Shelagh: Do you have a favourite character?

Marilyn: I admire the character of Emily: a lesbian who hid from Alice that she was the love of her life. She is an intelligent woman who faces death with courage and finally carries out Alice’s last request: to tell her ‘lost’ daughter the truth.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Marilyn: Writing my second novel has shown me how ingrained my method is: I don’t tell the story through a single point of view. In my first, there are 2 primary third person POVs told in discrete sections: Emily’s and Madeleine’s (Maddie, Alice’s daughter).  Alice’s story is told in first person through her journals and her granddaughter, Daisy (Dessie), keeps a first person account when she visits Wales with her mother in pursuit of the truth.

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

Marilyn: I start with a character and what happened to him/her. That gives me the skeleton. I don’t work particularly economically. I throw away a great deal but by the time of the final draft, I pretty much know who I’m dealing with and how it ends up. I know my characters – their strengths and weaknesses and, most of all, what they want.

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

Marilyn: My core environment is Wales. Like so many of my generation I left Wales to pursue a career. It was a kind of Welsh diaspora.  I have experienced so many different environments that they inevitably colour my fiction. But I am now back home and writing; Wales is always there but so are other parts of the world. How can I be insular with the multitude of addresses I’ve had? My current novel begins in Saskatoon, Canada, which I loved.

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

Marilyn: You can read some reviews on my website (below) but the ones I treasure are the unsolicited, unexpected.  Early on Boxing Day, I received this in as part of an e-mail from Maddison, Wisconsin:

“I so enjoyed your book, which was beautifully written.  It kept me riveted all Christmas Eve after I played Santa for my daughter and Christmas Day after cooking the roast.  I loved the suspense and the wonderful female characters: Dessie, Maddie, Emily, Harriet.   It was tragic on the one hand, but triumphant on the other; I loved that Maddie walked out on her deadbeat cheating husband (none of the married men seem to have understood the meaning of fidelity) and that the truth really did set her free in so many ways.”

I love this because the writer has engaged in the book and the fact that she loved the female characters was a real plus. I came across a similar comment from a review pasted on Google. On Google Books, you can open and read a goodly portion of the novel (as well as Amazon).

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Marilyn: The novel I’m working on is: Shadow of the Black Mountains, set in Saskatoon and the mysterious Welsh Border country.  If you’ve visited the Hay Festival you’ll know the area; the nearby mountains and valleys have exerted a mysterious, spiritual  fascination for centuries.  You can read the opening chapters and links to all my work on my website:

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

Marilyn: www.marilynjenkins.books.officelive.com

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