“Wednesday Writer” – Cindy C. Bennett

I woke up at 4 am for some odd reason this morning, so I’m about ready to keel over right about now (it being 3 in the afternoon). But I cannot give in to a nap, not when that was brought up in my very first question to YA author, Cindy C. Bennett, who has written and published 8 novels, among doing many other things.

Author Photo 2012 smallME:  I have to say that, having read your bio on your blog, I am now completely worn out and need a nap. With all that you have going on (several writing projects, critique partners, a new writing business venture, a podcast here and there, etc.), do you ever have time for a nap? Or are you not the napping kind?

CINDY:  Nap? What’s that? LOL. I do work a lot, so it’s a good thing I love what I do so much. I usually sleep from around 4-6 am until noon or 1 pm. (Talk about a night owl!) So depending on what time I go to bed I might get my full eight, or I might only get five or six hours of sleep. So far it seems to work for me, though.

(I sense an Energizer Bunny…)

ME:  In fact, did you nap as a kid? Please tell us what your childhood was like and the kinds of activities you enjoyed most. Did anything hint of a writing future? (I’d love a picture of you as a child.)

Cindy Bennett age 7(Cindy at 7…Is that a dragon claw she’s sculpting at the beach?)

CINDY:  When I was a kid, I played Barbie’s almost obsessively. Looking back now, I can see that it was nothing more than a precursor for writing fiction, as I was making up fictional stories using my dolls. It was my favorite activity until I was deemed “too old” and then I switched my passion to reading. I could read a book a day, especially during the summer when I was out of school. 

Cindy Bennett age 9

(And here she is at 9…with a teddy bear instead of a Barbie)

ME:  You’ve written about how much your high school English teacher, Mr. Bickmore, influenced you with his 10-minute writing assignments. Can you give us the gist of your most memorable piece created from one of those assignments? (Also, I’d love a picture of you in high school, preferably a shot that includes Mr. Bickmore.)

CINDY:  I wish I had kept those writing assignments. I didn’t keep any of my schoolwork, other than a story my mom found recently that I wrote when I was 12. It’s so horrible; there’s nothing in it that would indicate any talent for writing, so maybe it’s good I no longer have any of those assignments. I wish I had a picture of me with him as well. I was extremely shy in high school, so it would never have occurred to me to ask him to be in a picture with me. That would be too far outside my comfort zone of the time. He now is a professor at LSU and an editor for The ALAN Review, and I’m in contact with him through the wonderful world of Facebook.

steven_bickmore-78_600(I used my researching skills to find Mr. Bickmore as he looks today.)

Cindy Bennett age 16(And here’s Cindy at 16 with a Mountain Man for a date…who ended up marrying her.)

The one of me at age 16 is with my then-boyfriend-now-husband at one of those horrible old fashioned photo places that, I admit, I love. In fact, I made my kids do those almost yearly when they were younger, and which they absolutely hated. Not sure why I like them because, let’s face it, they’re never a good photo.

(Not sure I agree. I think she looks pretty good!)

ME:  Did you go to college or go straight into marriage? And since you’re into YA and romance, just exactly how did you meet and fall in love with your husband? Make us swoon, please. :D (Also, a wedding photo would be greatly appreciated.)

CINDY:  My husband is my high school sweetheart. We met when I was a freshman and he a sophomore. He’d been dating one of my friends, and she hooked us up because she wanted to date his friend. Sounds like a soap opera, huh? It’s amazing he liked me since I was so severely shy and didn’t talk much. He played football and wrestled and wasn’t at all like the kind of guy I thought I’d fall in love with. But he was sweet, and funny, and fun to be around—and had great arms and a really nice chest (remember, football and wrestling). (It must have been all that bear rasslin’.) We dated all through high school and married a year after I graduated, and we’re still together all these years later.

Cindy Bennett wedding photo(The promised wedding photo, which she claims reveals a hideous 80s hairdo and a “ragged” look from crying…Say what? Anyway, here’s her preferred engagement photo.)

Cindy Bennett engagement photo

Because I was so silly-in-love with him, I couldn’t wait to be his wife, so rather than go to college, I attended tech school to become a medical assistant. That’s a career pretty distant from writing, other than I did gather a lot of character ideas. I chose that because I’d had major surgery right after high school, and nearly died because of a pulmonary embolism. It was a nurse paying attention to her instincts that saved my life. I wanted to give back the same kind of care, so chose the medical field. I no longer work in the medical field but I miss taking care of patients on a regular basis. There’s something very satisfying in that.

(Okay, the high drama made up for the missing romantic details.)

ME:  Please tell us about what impelled you to write your first novel (and provide a cover photo).

Cover New Final smallCINDY:  There was a girl who lived near our house who was always outside on her swing set. It didn’t matter if it was 100°F outside, or 5°F with a blizzard, she’d be out swinging. In fact, anytime any of us came home we’d report on whether or not she was out. I’d been thinking about her a lot, and wondering what drove her to that swing set. My teen daughter had apparently been thinking along the same lines, so we decided to write a book together. I didn’t admit, even then, that it was my lifelong heart’s desire to be an author. I’d always been afraid of admitting it—and to this day, I don’t know why. Maybe just because it was something I wanted so bad I was afraid if I admitted it I’d have to do something about it and face possible rejection. Anyway, this was a safe way for me to actually complete a manuscript (I’d secretly begun many but never finished one). I wrote the first chapter then handed it off to my daughter to write the second. She liked the first so much she told me to write the second, which I did then gave it back to her. This same pattern continued until she told me just to write the whole thing, which I did. It became HEART ON A CHAIN, which to this day is my bestselling novel.

(I hope you dedicated the book to her!)

ME:  What is your writing process and where do you write? (I must have a photo of your writing space.)

CINDY:  It’s odd, I know, but I like to write in my family room, in the middle of life happening around me. That way I don’t feel as guilty spending so much time working because I’m still part of conversations that are happening, still part of the family. I bought a lap desk, and my husband converted it to make it work better for my laptop. I work from the time I get up until I go to bed if I don’t have anything else going on (and my house shows it! I wish I had some mice and/or birds to clean it up for me like Cinderella and Snow White). I do most of my marketing during the day, and then write at night until somewhere between 4-6 am as I mentioned above.

Cindy Bennett workspace(Her lapdesk…and you’re not going to believe this, but…)


(I have practically the same sofa set in our family room. Comfy, isn’t it, Cindy?)

ME:  You have tried both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Which do you prefer and why?

CINDY:  There’s something to be said about having an editor who books signings and other events for you, and who can get your book onto shelves at book stores. There’s also something to be said about having complete creative control over your work, and making much higher profits by doing it yourself. I suppose overall I prefer self-publishing because I’m a bit of a control freak, so I do like keeping control over the cover, the book layout, and how and where I can give my books away. And, let’s face it; earning 70% on an eBook is always going to trump 15%. Since you do the same amount of marketing whether you’re traditionally or self-published, it makes the higher profits that much nicer.

ME:  What other books have you either published or have waiting in the wings? (I’ll want those cover photos, as well.)

CINDY:  After HEART ON A CHAIN came GEEK GIRL, then IMMORTAL MINE. Then I wrote a short vampire story for Noble YA, and they published it as RELUCTANCE.

Geek Girl CoverImmortal Mine Cover Final 1200 x 1800RELUCTANCE_200x300I then published short stories for a couple of anthologies through my company, Prose by Design. Those are IN THE BEGINNING and WATCHED.

Find Me smallerwatched smaller(That cover’s scary!)

While writing RAPUNZEL UNTANGLED, which is a modern-day retelling of the story, I published five novellas that are fairytale retellings that now make up ENCHANTED FAIRYTALES, which I recently released. (She’s obviously making up for all those years she shied away from writing.)

Rapunzel UntangledEnchanted Fairytales Cover smallerI have upcoming a book I wrote with Jeffery Moore, as yet untitled, but the working title is RAZARI. It’s a sic-fi, which is outside my usual genre, though it’s still a YA. It should be released within the next month. I’m also writing a book, again with Jeffrey Moore and also Sherry Gammon, which we call THE COLLABORATIVE, though that may change as well.

(Are you as impressed reading this as I am just writing it all down?)

It’s kind of cool. The story is about triplets born illegally into a world that only allows a single child per family, so their parents abscond with them to a planet called Senca One, which is where the overpopulated earth has started a new colonization. There, their parents are kidnapped and the triplets search for them, discovering along the way they have hidden abilities.

We are each taking a chapter and writing it from one of the triplets’ POV, so we each have one character to move the story forward. It’s been interesting and fun to write, requiring a lot of talking about how we want things to be and where the story should go.

(I’ll have to keep this in mind for a future posting about writing a series.)

I’m also over halfway finished with another contemporary YA book that’s more like my first few novels. It doesn’t have a title either—I’m really bad at titles so my books usually get them last minute. (Hey, I’d be happy just to match half of your annual output!)

ME:  Finally, tell us more about your new writing business and what you offer.

CINDY:  Prose by Design is a company I started with Sherry Gammon about a year-and-a-half ago. We’ve recently changed the way we do things. Our intent when we began was to help those who have no idea how to self-publish and market because we were spending so much time helping others anyway. We wanted to do some of the things they might not have the ability to do, such as editing, covers, formatting and layout, and show them the best ways we know how to market.

As it turned out, we were really sort of crippling those authors because we weren’t showing them how to do anything, just doing it for them. So we decided rather than publishing their books and keeping a chunk of the profits, we will instead offer individual services such as those mentioned above. If they want to have to lay out less money in the beginning, we’ll still publish their book and keep a portion of the profits until they’ve paid off their purchased services, at which time ALL rights revert back to them.

We’re also writing a detailed, cohesive book with step-by-step help from writing, to publishing (both self and traditional), including formatting, editing, layout, where to sell your books, how to have a book signing, how to do giveaways, etc. We also have an entire section on marketing which is detailed and will be updatable to those who purchase the book and have signed up for updates. That way, as we discover more marketing strategies, or as things change (as they constantly do), we can keep our readers updated. We’re hoping to have this published by the end of the summer. We’ll also continue to hold writing contests and publish the winners in anthologies. Currently we have a contest for stories for a Christmas themed anthology.

If you haven’t yet checked out Prose by Design, you might want to click on the link. Also, if you want to learn still more about Cindy, check out her website. There, you can find her bio, social media links, and purchasing links for all her books.

Now, I think I’ll take that nap! I need to rest up for next week’s interview with Childrens’ Books author and illustrator, Mikey Brooks.

Mikey Pic 1

Originally posted 2013-06-05 06:00:59.

“Wednesday Writer” – Susan Dayley

I’m back in the chair for another interview after a two-month hiatus and I’m already booked up into August with some great writers. Today, I’m talking with Susan Dayley, author of REDEMPTION: THE STORY OF JONAH and the soon-to-be-published COLD PURSUIT. One highlight of her new novel is its interactiveness. So we decided to try to make this interview as equally interactive as possible. Click on the links for a few extras, revealing some of Susan’s favorite things. Hope you enjoy it!

Susan DayleyLet’s get right to it, shall we?

ME:  What was your most formative childhood memory in terms of where you are now as a writer, and how old were you?


Growing up, the second of nine children, life seemed meant to be fun. We lived outdoors in the summer and when the tried and true games wore through, we improvised new ones. One time when I was about 12, I invented a game that had a fairly long run. It was based on a witch capturing people when they left the safety of their “homes” (corners of the back yard). The captives were placed in her “dungeon” (usually the front steps). The object of the game was to free others while not getting caught; however, to do so, a “spell” would have to be broken. The captive was told what was needed (such as a pinecone, a smooth stone and a leaf), and they relayed the information to their rescuers. In the meantime, those in the backyard, who were not out freeing someone, carried on, making berry soups or visiting each other. It was a combination of playing house, tag, and scavenger hunt. When I use my imagination, I’m rarely content with simplicity, and I like to try innovative ways of doing things. Like my latest book. Chips and Hummus.

(Sorry we don’t have a cover to share yet, but these are recipes I’m going to have to try, since I grew up with hummus. Yummy!)

ME:  Describe the circumstances that led to your first piece of creative writing, and, if you can recall, the gist of the story or poem.

SUSAN:  I began writing simple verses early. My third grade teacher, years later, recalled the social studies report I did set to rhyme. But it was in Junior High that I received the confidence to pursue writing. The highlight came one day at a school assembly that featured 5-6 students reading papers they had written on the theme of America. Mine was about George Washington. All of the other students were chosen from the advanced creative writing class. I was the only one from the introduction class. Sitting in a chair on the stage, blinded by the spot light, I realized that someone besides my mom thought I could write. The Piano Guys.

(Okay, whether you’re a LOTR fan or not, this is great.)

ME:  How has your family background affected your writing, if it has? (And I’d love a picture of you with the family you grew up in.)

SUSAN: My grandparents often gave us books as gifts. One child at a time, one birthday at a time, a library of classic children’s literature was built. I read them all from Joe’s Boys to Robin Hood. My tomboy tendencies were reflected in my preferences (I also read all of my brothers’ Hardy Boys Mysteries). (Me too! Hardy Boys and Tom Swift.) Later my granddad introduced me to Last of the Mohicans and other classic works. I was a copious reader. Because our little house was bursting with children, I had few places to read. My standbys were at night under the covers with a flashlight, and up the backyard willow tree, where I’d climb with my book in my teeth. Spudnuts(I imagine they played a large part in her growing up years.)

Hatch_Family(Susan’s the tall one in back to the right.)

ME:  Okay, what gave you the nerve to attempt your first novel, and can you describe it?


SUSAN: I was teaching kindergarten at a private school and one of the literary selections was the story of Jonah from the Bible. After researching it (far beyond what the children would receive—including Ships of Tarshish, trade routes, Nineveh, other ancient cities along the way, Jewish traditions, etc.), I recognized there was a story there that hadn’t been told. It was my first novel and far more narrative in style than I now do, but the ancient details and legends are fascinating. (Did you know that in the Mishnah, Jonah is presented as the son of the widow of Zerephath, the one Elijah raised from the dead?) My working title had been: The Terrible City, the Reluctant Prophet, and a Second Chance. Obviously, too long. It ended up as, RedemptionThe Lord of the Rings

(Hmmm…I think she’s a LOTR fan.)

ME:  Can you describe the process it took for you to get published? Also, if you’ve published any others since, please tell us about them.

SUSAN: Submit, submit, submit. Pace and drum fingers. Finally, an acceptance! wahoo! Since I’m late to this process, this is only my second published book. [I don’t mind if we skip this question. Lol] (Sorry, no skips. All writers have to struggle. It’s part of the process.) Bugs—they make my nose itch.

(How can they be a favorite if they make her nose itch? Also, I can’t help wondering if she’s comparing publishers to bugs.)

ME:  Please describe your writing process and where you do your best work. (I must have a photo of your writing space.)

SUSAN: For lack of a sturdy willow tree, I’ve had to retreat to practical.  My desk is in the kitchen. When I need a break, I can quickly unload the dishwasher or fold a batch of clothes etc. Since we’re empty nesters, I have the luxury of writing in the center of where I spend most of my time.

where I write

There I begin with outlining. With Cold Pursuit and the sequel this was the most difficult part. Not only is it a mystery, with clues popping through and events accumulating, but with four different endings, I had to keep track of what was being developed for which option. Victor, Idaho where my great-great grandpa homesteaded.

(I forgot to ask if this is the area she lives in today. Or maybe she just likes visiting.)

ME:  As I understand it, you are about to publish a novel in a genre entirely different from historical fiction. Why the change, and what else will be different about this novel?

SUSAN: I still love historical fiction. I have the story of Hezekiah sitting on the cyber shelf and “yoohooing” at me once in a while. I’ve invested a year in that project, and I absolutely am in love with his story. Someday I’m going to pull him out again, but I’m turning it into a history—he’s too epic to be a simple novel.

Cold Pursuit was the result of accepting that the eBook industry was striding forward, and asking how I could embrace the new technology. I decided to create an interactive eBook—or my take on one. Not just the multiple endings, but links to online resources are throughout the book. Now how cool is that? (Remember, I don’t do “simple”.)

Plus I like romance. I admit, to my husband’s delight, I’m a great fan of kissing and such.

Mark & Susan wedding(Susan’s romantic interest, Mark, THEN…)


(And NOW)

Summer thunderstorms from the front porch.

(Let’s see. We’ve gone from recipes to LOTR to bugs to Grandpa’s homestead and now a drenching thunderstorm. I guess it’s a feast for our senses.)

ME:  Please give us a brief rundown of the plot of COLD PURSUIT.

SUSAN: How often, when you read a book, or watch a movie, do you feel like the story is predictable? Or you don’t like the way it ended? With Cold Pursuit, you can’t be sure where it’s going and if you aren’t happy with the ending, you can try a different one. Cold Pursuit is a multiple ending story: the reader can choose which direction the story goes at two different junctions. Kennady and Atticus team up to figure out what is missing from the lab of Dr. Takishida. In one option it is the professor himself, in another it is his files. Both of those options divide into two endings for a total of 4 different mysteries and romantic twists. And one of them leads to Hot Pursuit. (INTRIGUING!) Tree houses.

(I love tree houses! Except for the bugs. But these are some great ones!)

ME:  Are there any other ambitions you’d care to share with us?

SUSAN:  Traveling to amazing places, reading timeless stories, gathering in dozens of grandchildren (I may have to start adopting some), and never serving deviled eggs again. (Why not? I love deviled eggs and bless the hands that take the time to prepare them.) Chuck Mangione. (Yes!!!)

ME:  Finally, why have you been taking math classes at this point in your life?

SUSAN:  Because when I raise my hand, someone calls on me. Seriously, I’m finishing a long-lost degree, and since my transferred credits are counting mostly as electives after 30 years, I still have some generals to knock out. That means, though I’m an English major, I take algebra. Arrgh! (However, I’m rather proud of my “A” I got last semester).

(You should be!)

And her last favorite thing was this picture of her and her mom standing in the South China Sea at sunset:


It looks like she’s already begun some of her traveling adventures. Once you stop feeling a little jealous, check out Susan’s blog or her books on Amazon.

Next Wednesday I’ll be chatting with YA author, Cindy C. Bennett.

Cindy C. Bennett

Originally posted 2013-05-29 13:51:41.


More than the Whitneys and a writing conference took me off course over the past two months. But now that all of that is over and family difficulties seem to have eased, I feel ready to plunge back in, renewed and reoriented.

First, some thoughts about the Whitney Awards Gala. I loved it. I was honored to have been a finalist this year in a category that was particularly strong. The presenters did a marvelous job and were often quite creative. Sarah Eden was an inspiration! So, in the end, I didn’t mind eating the traditional “Losers Cheesecake.”


IMG_1737And here I am with my editor, Linda Prince


And two from my writer’s group–Liz Adair and Christine Thackeray

The conference was as terrific as ever, but I must admit that I took things easy (after Publication Primer, that is . . . and I had a great group) this year because, given the situation with my daughter, it was hard to keep my focus.

IMG_1732The 3 “L”adies — Liz Adair, Linda Adams, and Laurie Lewis


Me and the brilliant Michelle Wilson

Still, I came away with some valuable insights from Traci Hunter Abramson on writing a series, Michael Young on recording audio books (yes, I do have plans in that direction), and most of all, our keynote speaker, the NYT bestselling novelist, Anne Perry, put juice back into my writer’s veins. (Liz and I lucked out Friday morning and got to eat breakfast with her.)

Anne Perry

I had begun to despair that my daughter’s difficulties had sapped all my inspiration. But Perry made it very clear that, regardless of genre, theme is all important. If we overlook it and take the easy path, our writing will wilt. I suppose you could say she gave me the courage to pick my brain up again and begin to prod at my view of life for its obvious and not-so-obvious truths. Whether I’m writing for youth or adults, and no matter the genre, the message is key.

The best part of the conference was getting a request for the full manuscript of my middle grade fantasy from Dystel & Goderich Literary Agent Michael Bourret. That gave me the energy to drive on down to Kanab, Utah with fellow “Writeminded” author, Christine Thackeray, and take full advantage of a writing retreat in Liz Adair’s guest bunkhouse for four days and five nights to do a final revision of THE ACADEMY OF THE ANCIENTS: THE HEYMAN LEGACY.

IMG_1740The bunkhouse sleeps 8 — here’s one half


And there’s shelves and closet space too!

Tip #1: If Liz happens to extend such an invitation to you, do not pass it up! You’ll get clean air, quiet, a beautiful setting, homemade whole wheat blueberry pancakes with sausage or bacon each morning, and an ATV outing or two to work the kinks out. If everything were just right at this moment in our family’s life, I’d move down there in a second.

IMG_1878The ATV I rode up to the top of Antennae Mountain


Liz pointing to her neighborhood in Kanab


I’m following Christine into Peekaboo Canyon–Gorgeous!

Tip #2: Liz is putting on the Kanab Writer’s Conference at the end of October (evening of Oct. 25th and all day the 26th), so I’ll be returning to make a couple of presentations. And one of the keynote speakers is Janette Rallison. It only costs $40 (including lunch) for 20 breakout classes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (I foresee another great time in the bunkhouse.)

Mark your calendars now and go ahead and register.

In the meantime, I’ve got some writing to get back to. I’m all reoriented and raring to go.

Originally posted 2013-05-20 21:37:41.

“Wednesday Writer” – Carole Thayne Warburton

(NOTE:  I’m afraid my postings may be a bit sparse for the next couple of months since I’m in the throes of reading Whitney Finalists, but if you’re a writer and would like to be interviewed as part of my “Wednesday Writer” series, please let me know in a comment below.)

I’ve wanted to get to know Carole better for some time now because I could sense she was a kindred spirit through some of her blog posts and comments in the LDStorymakers email loop. The fact that she has a new book out–POACHING DAISIES–gave me the perfect opportunity. I’m happy to say she provided me with lots of great pictures, too!

Carole Thayne WarburtonME:  What were some of the most formative events from your childhood, the ones that made you the person and writer you are today? (And I’d love a picture of you as a child to share with readers.)

CAROLE:  It’s easy for me to look back and see the turning points that sparked my interest in writing. My mother took a creative writing course through the mail and I remember her typing her stories and reading them to us. She also was a reporter for the Orem Geneva Times. She was a member of the League of Utah Writers and attended Round-up several times. She took me with her to hear Louis L’Amour when I was in junior high (What a wonderful opportunity!) and I took third place in the youth division for fiction.

hp_scanDS_811261412028(That’s Carole with her mother and brother. She says that for most of her childhood, she thought the table arrangement behind her was her hair. :D)

Several of my teachers through the years told me I was a good writer. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer. It wasn’t until I was in high school that the creative dream expanded to include pottery. I was the youngest of five and the only girl in our family. Life at our house was chaotic. I would often seek a quiet spot in the house or my room to read or to write. My imagination was always huge and when I played with my friends, I was the one who was constantly coming up with the pretend scenarios.  In college, I took creative writing classes along with my art classes. I never could choose one over the other, so years after graduating in art, I went back to college and got a degree in English. (Congratulations and good for you!)

ME:  If you had to choose between pottery and writing, which would you choose and why?

CAROLE:  That is a really hard question. (Sorry…) I honestly can’t imagine having to give up either one. I used to tell people that giving up pottery would be like cutting off my arm. It’s so much fun. Writing is a different kind of outlet and a different kind of energy. I go through phases where one has to take over and become more important. In the summer, it’s all pottery. But when I’m editing and re-writing, I have little time for pottery.

Since you insist on choosing, I will go with pottery, mainly because it never lets me down. There is rejection in the process of getting in shows and things, but the rejection doesn’t feel as personal or as painful as getting a rejection on a book. Writing is a great way to work through problems, but it often leaves me feeling raw and sometimes drained of energy when I write about a difficult situation in my life. The pottery energizes my soul and doesn’t leave me feeling depleted. I feel happier when I’m making pottery. On the other hand, I only have a couple of good potter friends, but I’ve made dozens of friends through my writing. I would never want to give up the friendships I’ve made. So what a hard choice!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(And we can understand why when we see the fruits of her gift…I’d love a dinner set!)

ME:  Why do you write? What are you striving for with each book or story, and what are you hoping the reader comes away with?

CAROLE:  So far, my books have been for fun. I like to tell stories. I like to listen to stories. I like to read stories. I’m the one who is listening in on conversations in restaurants hoping to glean a nugget I can use in a story. (So that was you the other night, eh?) I am a great observer.. So what I hope is that I’m successful in getting the reader to escape, to laugh, and to think.

A recurring theme (hopefully not too overt) in all my novels is that people aren’t always what they seem. The kindest person in town may not be the most successful. I love small towns and I think that’s reflected in all my stories too. Other than my novels, I do write a lot of personal reflection essays. Some of these have made their way to blogs, but some are too personal even for that. That kind of writing is the way I deal with the more difficult aspects of life and religion. I used to be a great “letter to the editor” writer, but ever since blogging came along, I’ve found I can get most of what I need to say out and only contribute to the newspaper occasionally.

ME:  What are the similarities and differences between creating a good ceramic piece and creating a good story? (And I’d love a picture of you at work doing each.)

CAROLE:  Creating something that wasn’t there before. Always doing your best, whether or not you are creating an essay, blog post, novel, bowl, mug, or vase. The first idea that comes is often cliché, so take that idea and make it better. The ideas come similarly. For writing, an idea will come and it develops in the process. In pottery, the ideas come more quickly because the process is so much faster from start to finish–unless it’s a short writing piece.

at work on potphoto

There is art and crafting in each skill. There is something about continuing to learn and develop. Both arts need a consumer for the process to be complete. Writing can be just for the person, but it’s so much better if the writing can be shared and experienced by many.

vase on potters wheel

The differences are in the product and function. I can sell a book to someone I will never see and often never hear from. But usually when I sell pottery, I will have some personal contact with the person. I often can see them hold my pottery and I can imagine them using it. I get to see how my work affects them. But each piece is usually only enjoyed by one person or family. With writing, it may be enjoyed by thousands of people, but I only occasionally get feedback from the reader. My writing can convey ideas. My pottery is meant for function and beauty.

(Very well put.)

ME:  Okay, this next line of questioning is a little out there so let’s see if I can phrase it well enough to get my meaning across. As one “liberal” to another, how much of a struggle is it to keep politics and social views out of your fiction, or do you throw caution to the wind and risk alienating half of your readers by letting it all in? Do you even feel that tension as you write, and how does it affect what you write and the way you write?

CAROLE:  I don’t know how much people notice the liberal themes in my books. No one has complained to me personally yet. I don’t like anything that is hard sell myself, so I try to be subtle. There are always liberal characters in my books; environmentalists, being the easiest to write about comfortably, are generally the main characters. I like to pair this character with one who makes a living doing something counter to the more liberal person’s point of view. Usually these two opposing characters find a way to compromise and get along. (If only our Congress could follow suit!)

I try to show the humor in extreme views. I did have one reader/writer take offense to Iris, an extreme environmentalist, in POACHING DAISIES. I said, you are supposed to think she’s over-the-top. Once she knew that, she was okay with Iris’s view. Another character is a gun-toting conservative and the two of them have some pretty humorous arguments. In other words, I don’t keep politics out of it, but I want people to lighten up and try to work together.

There are other social views I have that I haven’t included in my fiction. Someday! I do worry about alienating my readers, but also realize that some of the best fiction is not always comfortable. (True.) Think of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. That story creeped me out. (Good example.)

ME:  Tell us more about your recently released novel, POACHING DAISIES, and what led you to write it.

Poaching Daisies CAROLE:  I write about places where I have a very strong connection. The setting is very important in each of my novels. POACHING DAISIES was set in the small tourist town of Silver Gate where my grandma and grandpa built a cabin in 1960. The town is one mile outside of Yellowstone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Here’s a picture of the town)

Several years ago, when we were visiting, they had a town meeting about eradicating the oxeye daisy, an invasive species. At the time, it was very popular to plant this flower in your summer yard. The problem is the problem-free flower would take over native grasses. The “environmentalists” took the task of eradicating it very seriously. A story began to brew in my mind. Then I brought in another problem that had been in the news and that was poaching bears and harvesting certain organs for “medicinal” purposes. I found the two a pretty fun match for a suspense novel set in the park. (It does sound fun!)

ME:  I have to be honest and say that I’ve been struck by the seriousness of some of your blog postings of late. It makes me wonder if you might have a deeper, more serious novel working its way up in you–something beyond genre fiction. How do you respond to that?

CAROLE:  I wondered if anyone noticed the seriousness of my posts. I’ve had a difficult year emotionally. Just when we start to feel comfortable, things shift–beliefs shift–leaving us feeling wobbly at times. Issues and difficulties in life literally keep me awake at night. I’ve found that if I can write about it, I can go to sleep. For me, writing in a journal doesn’t work. I like the idea that someone else might benefit, relate, or think about something I have to say.

I was raised in a home of strongly opinionated people. We didn’t discuss, we argued. (Me too!) As I grew up and developed my own beliefs, I found those clashing with my family and with many of my friends and neighbors in Utah. Something I’ve grown to feel passionate about is that, as a society and as a church, we’ve left some people without options. Four years ago I witnessed the tragic death of a young man. Since that time, my heart has felt more deeply than it ever had before. I never stop thinking about the fragility of life. I ache with the thought of the mother and father whose son never came home again. And yet I’ve heard of some parents turning their backs on a child because he or she is gay or because they left their faith. I don’t know how anyone recovers from losing a child, but choosing to lose a child because they aren’t what you think they should be breaks my heart.

I do know that, as writers, we take all of the stuff around us and it will come out in some way in our writing. But letting ourselves feel, really feel what’s happening or could happen is painful. I’ve been helping a friend to write her story. She came out as a Lesbian to her husband of sixteen years and that is one of the biggest reasons her marriage ended. She has a story to tell and I’d like to help her get it out. The seriousness of the subject is something that requires a lot of skill and grace. I hope to be up to the challenge. Creative non-fiction is my favorite kind of writing.

ME:  I know you’re a hiker. Looking back on all the hiking/camping trips you’ve taken, which has been your favorite and why? (And please provide pictures, if possible.) Also, have you ever gotten a good idea for a novel out of one of your hikes?

CAROLE:  Choosing a favorite hike might be as hard as choosing a favorite novel or child. When I was in high school I had a good friend who lived up Provo Canyon. She really got me into hiking. We hiked lots of trails in the canyon and hiked to the top of Mount Timpanogas several times every summer. It’s about a 15-mile roundtrip hike and has a lot of wildflowers. I was lucky enough to marry a man who loves to hike as much as I do. Together we hike all the trails in Logan canyon and around us. One of our favorites is to Jardine Juniper, a barely alive gnarly tree that is 3200 years old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Carole with her husband above on a hike near Silver Gate–setting of POACHING DAISIES…and with her daughter below on the Crimson Trail in Logan Canyon)



(With members of her writing group at Jardine Juniper for a birthday hike)

In Yellowstone, we like to do several hikes each trip and always try to find one we haven’t done yet. Our children and grandchildren all hike. It’s part of being in our family. Everyone knows I do an annual birthday hike. Anyone can come and it’s a way I’ve learned to deal with growing older. (Sounds like a terrific tradition, as long as you stay in shape.)

I haven’t gotten a specific idea for a novel, but Poaching Daisies includes several of the hikes I’ve done in the Yellowstone area. The opening scene with a dead bear and gunshot takes place on a hike that I have done several times.

ME:  Please describe your writing space and what makes it uniquely fit with you.

CAROLE:  My friend, whose story I want to write, gave me a lovely desk to thank me for the efforts I’d made in helping her. The desk fits perfectly in our new upstairs. I take turns writing at the desk with the spectacular view behind me, or I sit on a recliner and write on my laptop and look out at another mountain view.


(Riding her bike near her home in Avon, Utah)


(Springtime in Avon)

I love to write outside on our wrap-around porch, but can’t deal with the glare, so I usually end up coming inside. I wrote most of my novels in the house we lived in in Paradise at the kitchen table. I love the flexibility of a laptop and honestly don’t think I would enjoy writing a novel on a desktop again.

ME:  Finally, what are you working on now both in pottery and writing, and how would you describe your writing process?

CAROLE:  I’m not actively writing anything right now. I’ve started my memoirs, which are mostly just for fun, although I hope, at some point, some part of it can become marketable. I am trying to get back with my friend and help her write her story. I keep thinking about novel ideas and love some of my characters that I would like to meet up with again. I keep thinking about how Sunny Day from my book FALSE PRETENSES of a decade ago would love to meet Iris MacAfee from POACHING DAISIES. I hear new stories from friends in Grouse Creek, and that makes me want to write another novel set there. The town is down to only about 70 people and the school has only about seven students. That is a lot smaller than when my husband and I taught there twenty years ago. It’s such a unique setting that the story ideas are easily mined.

As far as my pottery, I love functional pottery. I love that small pieces of art are gracing the homes of typical families. Because it’s such an affordable art to own, so many more people can enjoy it. I’m working at building and marketing my business. And of course ideas are always coming to change designs and styles.

If you’d like to read more from Carole or see more examples of her pottery, check out her blog. POACHING DAISIES is currently available on Amazon.

Originally posted 2013-03-13 06:00:33.

“Wednesday Writer” – Marlene Bateman Sullivan


An author of both fiction and nonfiction, Marlene Bateman Sullivan has recently had yet another book published. GAZE INTO HEAVEN is a compilation of fifty documented near-death experiences of life beyond the veil, drawn from the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As part of her two-week blog tour for the book, I’m interviewing her here today.

Banner for Blog Tour

ME:  What made you always want to be a writer, and what was the plot of the first story you ever wrote?

MARLENE:  Part of my wanting to be a writer had to do with reading so much. I was a voracious reader as a child and have remained so. For three years in a row in elementary school, I won the award for reading the most books. And the prize was: A book! I was delighted, of course and still have those books. 

I almost wonder if writers are born, because I always wanted to write. I don’t remember the plot of the first story I wrote, but I do remember one day when I stayed home from school.  There was a storm, and I watched the amazing clouds and wrote page after page about the clouds. I guess it would be boring to read, but it was exciting for me to write about! I also remember writing a little story about my brother’s blue car, which he parked in the back yard when he went on his mission. I was about ten, and wrote about how sad the car was to be alone, and how birds came and sat on it, and so on. My mother read it and thought it was so “precious” that she shared it with other people, which embarrassed me to death.

ME:  Tell me about the junior high teacher who encouraged you in your writing. And was there also a particular teacher in high school who influenced you?

MARLENE:  I feel bad I can’t remember her name, but she was a student teacher and was so encouraging. She was so supportive of me that when I had written a story, I asked her to read it. She praised me and said my writing style was like John Steinbeck, which thrilled me to death. There wasn’t a particular teacher in high school that helped me, but some teacher asked us all to write down a goal a year for the next ten years. I put down to go to college, write and publish a book, get married, write another book, have children, write another book, etc.  Didn’t happen—I didn’t foresee how much time raising children would take. So I wrote for magazines instead while my children were small. When the kids were older, I was able to start writing books. (But it all started with those goals!)

ME:  What was Sandy, Utah like when you were growing up there, and how has it changed?

MARLENE:  Sandy was the boondocks back then, although 700 East had started to become a very busy street. My parents had 1 ½  acres and I loved the country feel of it all.  My father raised mink, gladiolus, and later, large pumpkins. We had fruit trees, raspberry bushes, and when I was little, chickens.  Now, Sandy is mostly an intermittent strip mall! (Not unlike most of the I-15 corridor from SLC down through Utah County) The house I grew up in was torn down and now a large office building sits where we used to light sparklers, irrigate the crops, weed the corn, and have barbecues.

(That kind of makes me sad.)

ME:  How would you, as the former owner of a floral shop, compare writing to making floral arrangements?

MARLENE:  I think arranging flowers and writing are both very creative endeavors. I’m very thankful to have this talent and have tried to use it to please customers and my readers. I loved working with flowers. Each arrangement was different and you got to pick whether to put snapdragons in, or carnations, or alstroemeria. It was just fun to create something beautiful. I especially loved school dances and helping the boys pick out colors and flowers. But then I gave it up and turned to writing full time, another creative endeavor that is very fulfilling and satisfying, just in a different way!

ME:  What made you finally sell the shop and pursue writing full time?

MARLENE:  I had a health scare. I went in for a routine mammogram and was told to return another day for another one. During that one, a doctor said I would probably need a biopsy for a lump they had found. I had a few days to think. At times like that, you look back on your life, and I asked myself, “If I had something to do differently with my life, what would it be?”

I could only think of one thing—that I had always wanted to be a writer. And while I had written numerous magazine and newspaper articles, and one book—I had hoped to do so much more. When the test results came back that the lump was just a massive cyst and all was well, I was relieved but determined to live my live without regrets. I talked with my husband and we decided to close the shop so that I could have more time to write. My husband, Kelly, has always been extremely supportive and I would not have gotten to where I am without him.

(I think spouses of writers are born that way, too.)

ME:  You began by writing nonfiction–LATTER-DAY SAINT HEROES AND HEROINES (VOLUMES ONE AND TWO), followed by a 3-book series about true angelic experiences, and then BRIGHAM’S BOYS. What made you turn to fiction?

MARLENE:  I wrote nonfiction because I was afraid I couldn’t write fiction. I longed to write fiction, but didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t realize that nonfiction writers must also write well. I didn’t believe in myself. Writing fiction was something I really wanted to do and so I decided to try. It was hard, but I kept working and re-writing it until I felt I had a great book, Light on Fire Island and it turned out to be a bestseller. Yay! (I’ll say. Congratulations!)


ME:  Now you’re back to nonfiction with GAZE INTO HEAVEN, your latest. Please tell us about it and how you decided which stories to include and which to leave out?

A Gaze Into HeavenMARLENE:  I was amazed when I started researching to find out there were so many near-death experiences! I snapped up each one, but soon had to set some parameters. First, I decided to use only experiences in early church history. Plenty of people had written about modern-day experiences but I wanted to provide something new and different.

Second, I came across a lot of experiences where people had visited the spirit world, but had seen it through a vision or dream. Their experiences were almost identical to those who had near-death experiences, but I had to leave them out of this book. In the future, I hope to do a sequel so people can read the rest of these amazing experiences about visiting the spirit world.

ME:  Are you working on any more fiction and, if so, what? Also, which do you find more difficult–fiction or nonfiction? And why?

MARLENE:  Right now, I’m working on a light-hearted, romance novel that is set at Christmas time. It’s been quite a change for me, since I’ve been writing mysteries for a while. My second novel, Motive for Murder, will be out this June. It’s a great mystery with a quirky private eye, Erica Coleman, who has OCD. It has a very surprising twist at the end!

I also have another non-fiction book, Heroes of Faith, coming out in July. This is a collection of stories about people in early Church history who actually risked their life in defense of the gospel.

As for which is easier to write, I would say nonfiction.  However, nonfiction does require a lot of researching, and you have to be extremely accurate. But I love to research.

With fiction, I like to write mysteries and it’s a lot of work to plot them. Plot is everything in a mystery and you have to have a good, solid foundation, or else the book is not going to work. I love it, but I find it is harder to write than non-fiction.

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space (and provide a picture or two) and your process.

MARLENE:  I dearly love my writing space. We remodeled our house four years ago and my writing area is perfect now. I’ve included a couple of pictures. About ten years ago, I splurged and bought a really nice L-shaped desk that came in three pieces. The left part of my desk is about 4’ long and it has 3 cupboards and two shelves. My two monitors sit on the middle piece, which is about 2 1/2 feet across in front. Years ago, my dear son, Ryan, a computer genius, insisted that I get a second monitor, and now, I could not live without it.

Desk view 1Desk view 2(Check out the comfy chair, too…and that looks like some kind of plotting board)

To my right, is another section that is about 4’ long, and holds my computer, router, print server, etc. plus printer.  Behind it is another small table for a second, color printer. I have a beautiful bay window where I can look out across my lovely yard and my two dogs huddle under my desk by my feet to keep me company. I’ve included a picture of them, too.

My friends(Too cute!)

Outside, is my second ‘office’—my gazebo. It’s my writing oasis in the late spring, summer, and early fall. We have half an acre, with bushes, trees, gardens, and lawn so I’m surrounded by nature. I love it! I had my husband put up blinds on two sides of the gazebo to cut down on the glare on my laptop. I put a little fountain in one corner, and have a cushioned swing to sit on. My two dogs and one cat come out and lounge around, keeping me company as I write. (Okay, is someone spoiled here or not?)


I’ve written so much; I’d best leave out my writing process, which could go on for another full page. But I will say that my daily schedule is to do housework, yard work, grocery shopping, visiting teaching, etc. etc. until 10:30. (Although it’s often past that time when I begin writing.) I write until 12:30, then take an hour break to eat lunch and to read. I also take a 15-minute power nap.  I then resume writing until 7:00 p.m. when I stop to make dinner. Most afternoons, I take a short break and go for a walk with my dogs.

If you want to learn more about Marlene, check out her website. Her newest book, GAZE INTO HEAVEN, is available on the shelves at Deseret and Seagull Bookstores, or you can order a copy right now on Amazon, Deseret Book, and Seagull Book.

Next Wednesday I’ll be interviewing a fellow free thinking writer, Carole Thayne Warburton.

Carole Thayne Warburton

Originally posted 2013-03-06 06:00:41.

My Interview on “The Good Word” With Nick Galieti is Live

Last weekend I drove all the way down to Utah to be interviewed in person by Nick Galieti for his podcast series, “The Good Word.” He’s trying to feature a different LDS writer each week (something like what I’m doing here, only he works live…either in the studio or over the phone), and I must say I was impressed by his preparation and his questions.


Have a listen to my interview and judge for yourself here.

I talked about both of my books, with a little more emphasis on the more recent publication. If you’re a fan of A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, you’ll want to give this interview a listen. And please feel free to leave a comment.

I encourage all of my writer friends to contact Nick and sign up for an interview at their convenience. And thanks to Trina Boice for bringing his podcast to my attention in the first place!

Originally posted 2013-03-05 13:58:08.

Sometimes I Just Want to Go Waaay Back in Time

By the time Jason gets through college, I think I’m going to feel like I’ve earned a brand new Bachelor of Arts degree . . . in Empowerment. Or at least I’d better feel that way.

This Introduction to Writing class that he’s taking this semester in Pathway is unbelievable! I mean, hey, I’m a writer and even I think it’s challenging. When I read his first assignment, this is how I looked (and felt):

IMG_1363(Yes, I wanted to run . . . either that or attack the teacher)

One thing the class is NOT is an introduction. Jason had to dive right in on his first essay the first week and learn to debate in order to prepare to write an argumentative essay.

Now arguing doesn’t come naturally to my sweet, nonconfrontational son (except in choir when members were not paying attention or getting their notes right…he’s even tough with our ward choir). He tends to believe most anything anyone tells him because he doesn’t expect people to say anything but the truth. So I had to acquaint him with the nuances of political opinion as opposed to fact before he could take a stand one way or the other on gun control–his chosen topic.

By the time he wrote the paper, he seemed to have gotten the hang of it, though. He had argued back and forth with two different online classmates on the message board (and pretty much handed them their hat, in my unbiased opinion) and that helped him solidify his position.

IMG_1340(He always writes his papers on my computer)

Actually, the hardest part about writing his first paper was having to cite sources for EVERYTHING! The paper was supposed to be 2-3 pages long double-spaced. His was 4 and a half, so he emailed the professor and asked if that would be okay. The teacher responded affirmatively, as long as provided a source for every piece of information he brought up that he didn’t know before working on the paper. Jason ended up with 2 pages of sources!

This week’s paper wasn’t quite as demanding. It was supposed to be a problem/solution essay, so Jason wrote about the growing unemployment problem among those with autism and proposed a solution at the end. Only 3 pages long plus 1 page of sources.

He’s learning a lot, but sometimes I wonder if he and I wouldn’t have been happier living in the days before school was invented . . . say, back in the Cretaceous Period with that Dromaeosaurid up there in the first picture.

Originally posted 2013-03-01 06:00:45.

“Wednesday Writer” – Maria Hoagland

Maria Hoagland “nailed the whole church society thing” according to one reviewer of her first LDS novel, NOURISH & STRENGTHEN, and now she has another out titled FAMILY SIZE.

Family Size Cover Final 72 dpiHere’s the synopsis:

Jessica loves being the mom of an ever-expanding family, but when an ultrasound throws her a curve, can she adapt with grace?

Dragged away from home, Maya feels deserted by her workaholic husband in a land of confusing accents and church cliques. What will it take to acclimate and save her marriage—or does she even want to?

Sloane is an algebra teacher and runner who would give up both to be a mom, but no matter what she does, pregnancy remains elusive. Can she adjust her thinking and find purpose in her life?

As their lives intertwine, can friendship and faith help these women hurdle expectations of an ideal family size?


Family Size blog tour bannerAs you can see from the above banner, Maria’s offering a free signed copy. Just click on the first link below for a shot at the prize, or click on one of the next three links to buy your own copy today:

Blog post with rafflecopter: http://mariahoagland.blogspot.com/2013/02/family-size-giveaway.html

Amazon (Kindle, but paperback on same page, too): http://www.amazon.com/Family-Size-ebook/dp/B00BFVJGG2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1361675099&sr=8-2&keywords=maria+hoagland

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/family-size-maria-hoagland/1114578255?ean=2940044315266

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/283339


Now, let’s get to know Maria a good deal better!

Maria Hoagland

ME:  How is it you became a big fan of Annie Dillard and why? (And you might want to explain who she is for those of us who might be a bit less literate . . . otherwise, we’d have to go scurrying to Wikipedia. :D)

MARIA:  LOL! I forgot I said that at one time, but she is one of the originals who inspired me–though our styles are nothing alike. What especially spoke to me about Annie Dillard’s writings when I was introduced to them by an amazing grad student/teacher in college were Annie’s nonfiction essays about nature and the application she made to her life. I realized you can write (and read) what you are passionate about and it’s that passion that will communicate to others.

I write LDS women’s fiction because that’s what I like to read. It covers ideas, issues, and feelings that are important to me. If I were to write something else just because that’s the trend readers are looking for, I wouldn’t be true to myself and get the same enjoyment and fulfillment I get out of writing what speaks to me. (Good for you!)

ME:  Please describe your development as a writer, from the beginning until now. And if you had to couch it in playwriting terms, what would you title Acts 1, 2 and 3? (And I’d love a picture to go with each act.)


Act 1: Education–In high school and college, I dabbled in writing short stories and poems while I worked on my English degree, but it was a way to pass time, not something I thought would develop into anything serious. I took all the creative writing and editing classes that were available at the time (which weren’t many), but it was what I read that fueled my writing and I just didn’t have much to say.

When my children were small, there was a huge intermission in my writing. I didn’t feel a desire to write; instead, I channeled my creativity through raising children and scrapbooking.

Act 2: Apprenticeship–When my youngest started kindergarten, all of a sudden I found myself with a strong desire to write that coincided perfectly with my new influx of ime available to do it. By this time, I felt I had some life experience and something to say that I really didn’t have a dozen years before. It took me about nine months to write my first draft of a novel, but several years to edit, re-edit, and re-re-edit that novel. I had a lot to learn about the craft and the writing process. In addition, I had to research the publishing process and find the confidence to query. It was during that time I attended my first writing conference.

That writing conference led me into . . .

Act 3: Where I am today, practicing my craft–I am writing and editing on a much faster timetable now, though still not as quickly as some. I’ve made connections with other writers, which helps me improve and make writing fun. Honestly, I know I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I hadn’t gone to that first writing conference or signed up for writing groups and taken part in critique groups as opportunities arose.

(Very nice play structure, with the end yet to be determined.)

ME:  Like you, I majored in communications at BYU to be more practical, but I stuck with it. What exactly was it about writing for The Daily Universe that made you realize you weren’t cut out to be a journalist?

MARIA:  It shows that you stuck with journalism–you’re asking some difficult questions.

(Thanks…I dream of taking part in a presidential press conference some day…just kidding!)

Honestly, the worst part about writing for The Daily Universe for me was calling people. (Oh, yes! Me too!) I don’t know why it is–maybe it’s the introvert in me–but I HATE calling people I don’t know. It was that, and when I went to my very first real interview and left in tears. (Oh, no…that bad?) I think I’d be better at it now–I’ve toughened up a little in twenty-some years–but anything slightly confrontational is just not my thing. I didn’t want to force myself to work at something I dreaded; I wanted to do something I loved. (Smart girl!)

ME:  How does your husband feel about your writing, particularly when he finds you working on it while preparing dinner? For that matter, how does your whole family feel about it?

MARIA:  I’d like to say I’ve gotten better about cooking and writing, though I’m still not the best. Often, I realize I forgot to thaw something or get the crock pot started at the right time, and then we’re scrambling last minute to figure out something different. Even with my lapses, my husband is very supportive of my writing, even to the detriment of his stomach! (Now that’s true love.) The kids rarely complain, but if they happen to marry someone who likes to cook, it will open up a whole new world to them!

(I got lucky–my husband does the cooking.)

ME:  You’ve said that your first book, NOURISH & STRENGTHEN, came out of a journal entry about your family cat, and then you ended up axing the cat part of the story. I want to know what the journal entry was about.

MARIA:  I’m trying to remember exactly what that one was about and what parts stayed in the final draft. The gist was the idea of an indoor cat teasing the outdoor cat–a false feeling of safety because they were separated by glass. (She was scared to death of him “in person.”)

Sometimes we have to go out of our comfort zone to grow as a person–yeah, something I didn’t embrace at The Daily Universe, I suppose–but as far as it relates to NOURISH & STRENGTHEN, there’s a balance to learning to accept ourselves for who we are and loving ourselves even when we’re not perfect, but then there’s also expanding our talents, improving our relationships, and doing our very best.

ME:  Please talk about your particular writing process. Is there a particular time every day that you’ve carved out for writing–a time respected by your friends and family?

MARIA:  My writing schedule is a work in progress even still. I try to make every snatch of time productive–and that means carrying my Kindle and netbook with me as much as possible for when I’m waiting in the car. I don’t do much writing during family time and never on Sunday, but with all my kids in school, I’ve got most of the day to write (my other job is only part time during the school day). Because I enjoy writing, I find the time and tend to put off things like grocery shopping or Costco runs so I can sit in Barnes & Noble or a park with a netbook.

ME:  Do any of your other activities serve to better your writing? If so, please describe how.

MARIA:  Most of the time, running helps me clear my head and gives me time to think through whatever blocks or issues I have with my WIP. I’ve been known to stop running, pull out my phone to make a note, and then go on.

Also, I find that hanging out with friends, working, volunteering, and spending time with family gives me more ideas. You can’t write about life without living it.

ME:  Please describe your writing space and what makes it special. (And I must have a picture.)

MARIA:  I have a new writing space that I love–one all my own for the first time ever. My oldest child went off to BYU and will be leaving for a mission in April (Congratulations!), so when I realized that he wasn’t going to be home for two-and-a-half years and there was no reason to keep it “his” room, I transformed it into my own. I brought in everything I love that I didn’t have room for elsewhere in the house: a huge bookshelf, a love seat, a place for the cat to sit under the window, a desk that looks out the window . . . all very important to my creative process, especially when the weather’s not nice enough to write outdoors. I hated to make my son feel like he was being kicked out of his own home, but I think he knows it’s temporary–I’ll happily relinquish control when he ever has need of the room. Until then, it’s MINE!


(Here’s the love seat . . . check out the drawings!)


(And here’s the desk and window, plus what looks like a plotting board)

ME:  Finally, what are you working on now, and do you ever think about trying anything besides fiction (like Annie Dillard)?

MARIA:  I don’t think I’ll ever write anything but fiction. I have a couple more novel ideas running around in my head–one more persistently and prominently than the others–but I’m still in the idea-gathering, research-scouring, outline-producing stage, so I think I’ll keep mum at the moment until I know my idea will work.

(I understand, but if you were the President, I’d be more persistent :D.)

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Tanya! Congratulations on being named a Whitney Finalist. I’m hoping some day to make it to that stage, as well. Best of luck in May!

(Aw, thanks. And I have no doubt you will achieve that dream . . . and more.)

If you want to know more about Maria and her writing, you can check out her website or her blog.

Next week I’ll be interviewing bestselling author, Marlene Bateman Sullivan. She has a new book out!

By the way, if you’re a writer and would like to be interviewed as part of my “Wednesday Writer” series, please leave me a shout out here in the Comments section.


Originally posted 2013-02-27 06:00:47.

“Wednesday Writer” – Jennie Hansen

Jennie Hansen

Everyone in the LDS publishing community knows who Jennie Hansen is. Besides having penned many of her own novels in several different genres, she reviews regularly for Meridian Magazine. And now she has a new novel out–WHERE THE RIVER ONCE FLOWED.

WheretheRiverOnceFlowed_COVER_COMP(Great cover!)

Here’s a brief synopsis:

New Mexico, 1879—The Sebastian Hacienda is a lucrative and coveted ranch deep in the fertile wilderness of New Mexico, a property held for generations by the powerful Sebastian family. After the death of his son and heir, proud and formidable Don Sebastian has only one hope for the preservation of his land: his beautiful young granddaughter, Iliana. Desperate, he makes a shocking deal—the property will be sold to Ross Adams, an American cowboy, on the condition that he marry the stunning young Iliana and bequeath the land to her sons. A bargain is struck, but not everyone is pleased with the outcome. Neighboring rancher Ben Purdy has his eye on pretty Iliana—and on ownership of the Sebastian Ranch. In his ruthlessness, Purdy is willing to go to terrible lengths to acquire them both, even if it means destroying everything in his path . . . Utah Territory, 1891—Travis Telford was born to be a cowboy. He left his family to chase the dream of someday owning his own ranch, but years of nomadic living as a ranch hand have proven taxing. After several seasons of horse trading with the American owner of the Sebastian Ranch, Travis finds his life dramatically altered by a routine stop at the property. He finds the ranch in chaos and the rancher’s beautiful widow Iliana in the midst of a turbulent land battle. His instinct to protect Iliana is undeniable, and as the danger mounts, only their reliance upon each other has the power to save them.

For those of you intrigued by the story, here’s the link to purchase Jennie’s latest in ebook form.

Now let’s get to know her a bit better.

ME:  As I understand it, you were first published at age seven in a farm magazine. You said that you’d read an article about a cat in that magazine, and that you were certain your cat was much smarter, so you wrote about her. Being a cat person, myself, my question is, why were you so certain your cat was smarter? (Also, I’d love to share a picture of you with your cat at that age.)

JENNIE:  I don’t remember anything about the cat in the article I read, but my cat, Streaker, could run really fast, jump from the treehouse to the next tree, catch mice and gophers, wiggle out of any doll clothes I put on her, sneak past KC the gander, and she found a hidden spot inside the barn to have her kittens where the coyotes couldn’t get them. (Okay, I’m duly impressed!)

My mother didn’t often get out her old box camera, and most of the few pictures she had were ruined in a flood when I was eight. I have only a couple of pictures of me at that age, but my cat isn’t in either one. One is of me in my blue satin Sunday dress…


…and the other is of my cousin, Colleen, and I riding my brother’s horse.

Jennie and Colleen(There’s Jennie in back)

ME:  Like you, I moved around a lot as I was growing up, so I can identify with your sentiment about your siblings being among your closest friends. Do you still get together frequently, and have any of them made it into your novels as characters? (I’d love a picture of the whole family when you were young.)

JENNIE:  My siblings and I are still close and we get together as often as possible, which isn’t as often as we’d like, but we live in three different states. Cancer took one brother and one sister not long ago. I’ve never put any of my siblings in any of my books. My characters are always entirely products of my imagination, but I suppose there are bits and pieces of real people in my head that creep into those imaginary characters’ makeup. (I wouldn’t be surprised.)

Smith Family with G.Shepard(Jennie in the front row, far left, with her family)

ME:  As you moved between Idaho and Montana, which state did you come to prefer and why? Or was there no real difference between them? And how does Utah now compare?

JENNIE:  I found a great deal to love about each state, and I associate Idaho with my early childhood and later teens, while Montana holds my memories of those “tween” years from eleven to thirteen. I found the most enduring friendships in Idaho, but Montana can’t be beat for fishing, hiking, and outdoor fun. I love living in Utah now with its mixture of indoor and outdoor opportunities. It’s where we raised our children and holds the best of my adult memories.

ME:  I can understand how an early bout of rheumatic fever gave you the time to really develop your love of reading, but who or what got you interested in politics at an early age?

JENNIE:  My dad had strong political views, which he shared with us kids. I also had a history and civics teacher in high school who encouraged us to learn political analysis, as did a college economics professor. My years as a newspaper reporter honed my interest in politics, as well, since it brought me in close contact with many political figures and, in a way, led me to run for the town council, work as a page for the legislature, and hold various party offices.

ME:  Of all your awards in journalism and writing, which means the most to you and why?

JENNIE:  That’s hard to answer. Offhand, I’d say the national award I received for editing from the National Federation of Press Women, yet awards for various individual articles I wrote mean a lot to me too. This award matters to me because it was my first big award and because journalism played such a strong part in my life.

I felt extremely honored to be one of the first recipients of LDStorymakers’ Lifetime Achievement Award (as part of the Whitney Awards). And the Silver Trumpet Award from my publisher holds a lot of personal meaning for me. I really can’t say one means more to me than another. They both touched me deeply because they’re a tangible symbol of something I worked so hard to achieve.

ME:  Please tell us how your diagnosis of cancer affected your writing. And how do you maintain the kind of inspiration needed to keep producing novels at the rate you do–24 now (particularly since you also regularly review books for Meridian)?

JENNIE:  I was diagnosed with cancer four weeks after my first novel was released which kept me from an active role in marketing it. I gained some insights from my experience fighting cancer that affected subsequent books, but I never really wrote about cancer other than a brief bit in JOURNEY HOME a few years later. I did help a couple of other writers who were writing about cancer with their research. 

I always thought I’d write more extensively about cancer or have a character fight cancer in one of my books, but having lost two siblings to it, struggled through four bouts of the nasty C with a couple of my children, and recently undergone a pancreatectomy to keep it from destroying me in the near future, I find I can’t do it–at least not yet. (Wow…I’m not surprised.)

As far as the inspiration to keep writing goes, I’m presently taking a break from novel writing. I don’t have another novel started yet; I’m simply concentrating on getting well and focusing on my Meridian reviews. However, Covenant is putting out a Mothers’ Day book this spring that will have a short story by me concerning my two miracle granddaughters which I actually wrote while at the rehab center. I’ll always write–I have ink in my veins–but it might be awhile before I write another novel.

ME:  What gave you the idea for your latest novel, WHERE THE RIVER ONCE FLOWED, and what are you working on next?

JENNIE:  WHERE THE RIVER ONCE FLOWED has a convoluted history. I was in the middle of a six book historical series (The Bracelet series) when Covenant, my publisher, was purchased by the Church and fell under the same umbrella as Deseret Book. The new management decided my series and another series by another well-known author should switch from hardbound to soft cover and be only four books instead of six.

High Country

I already had Diamond completely written and was well into Sapphire. I hurriedly changed both books to leave out the jewels. Sapphire became HIGH COUNTRY with a different ending than originally planned. My publisher decided Diamond was much too long, and I wrote two other books, SHUDDER and IF I SHOULD DIE, while I figured out how to break up Diamond. As you’ve probably guessed, those two books became THE HEIRS OF SOUTHBRIDGE and WHERE THE RIVER ONCE FLOWED.

The Heirs of Southbridge

As for my next book? I don’t know; I’m not ready yet to undertake a task as large as writing a book. (I think you deserve a rest, too.)

ME:  As the first Whitney Awards Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, I think you’re in an excellent position to measure the growth of this particular awards program. How has it been successful, and what ways do you imagine it might expand in the future?

JENNIE:  It has brought a lot of attention to LDS fiction and educated readers to the fact that LDS fiction is not one-size-fits-all but represents every genre. In the future, I’d like to see these awards move away from peer awards and better represent the views of readers, but I’ve no idea how that might be accomplished. 

I support the concept of awarding and acknowledging quality writing in the LDS market and hope to see the  program grow. I’m not fond of the Best Book of the year part of the awards since I don’t think it is possible to  compare apples and oranges and determine a speculative book is somehow better than a Mystery/Suspense. It is my hope that, in the future, these awards will highlight better and better professionalism in LDS novels and perhaps even include nonfiction and novellas categories.

(I’d even suggest short story anthologies, since that seems to be a growing segment.)

ME:  And how about the state of LDS fiction? You probably read more of it than any of us. Are LDS writers getting better? Does it help that some are getting national exposure, or are there inherent dangers in going national?

JENNIE:  LDS fiction covers a wide quality range. We still have a lot of cheesy, poorly written novels. We also have many novels that can hold their own in any measure of professionalism. I see supposedly LDS novels that exhibit no adherence to Church standards or doctrinal accuracy and others that are so preachy I wonder why they consider their sermons to be novels. There are those that bend over backward to make sure there are no references to the Church and others that read like missionary tracts. 

I don’t know whether LDS writers are getting better or not. Some are; some aren’t. Editing is becoming more sloppy and I’m not sure if that is because of the large number of amateur editors offering their services (note I said amateur, not freelance. Some of the freelance editors are very good.), colleges aren’t producing as many qualified editors, the economy has made hiring and maintaining good editors more difficult, our general reliance on electronics instead of real people, or the fact that some small publishers and self-publishing for e-readers do no editing at all. There are plenty of well-written, well-edited books by LDS authors, but sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which until you’ve spent your money.

I’m pleased to see LDS writers succeeding in the general market, but most are really no better writers than those who are sticking to the LDS market. Most of that success seems to be in the teen market and is heavy on the supernatural, sensationalism, dystopia, science fiction, or some type of fantasy. Though those genres are all represented to some extent in the LDS market, there isn’t as much demand for them. Those writers are writing what they enjoy and the general market is where the demand for their type of writing is.  Equally good writers are staying within the LDS market to write what they enjoy and know.  I don’t think LDS writers succeeding in the general market is good or bad, and I believe it is a fallacy to think general is somehow better. I think it’s great that LDS writers are succeeding and making a difference no matter where they find their audience.

(Very well put.)

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space in the voice of one of your favorite protagonists (your choice, but tell us who and from which novel, okay?). (Also, please provide a picture of said space.)

JENNIE:  This isn’t going to work for me. Once I finish a book and it is published, I really can’t get back in a character’s head. Almost half of my books are historical and my protagonists in those books would have no idea what my phones, printer, computers, cameras, Kindle, paper cutter, etc. are.

Kallene in IF I SHOULD DIE would probably wonder why I don’t upgrade my laptop and do more cleanup on my desk computer. She’d probably wonder, too, why I have a printer with more features than I need and is more suitable for a business office than a home office.

The mother-in-law, Barbara, in THE RIVER PATH, would likely tell me I need to dust more often, shred instead of stack papers I don’t need, and clean out my files better.

Macady from MACADY wouldn’t care one way or another what my office looks like, but would be more interested in meeting my family and checking to see if I have a horse or two.

(I think that gives us a pretty good idea of your space.)

My office 001(And here are a couple of views)

My office 002 (The business model printer must be hiding in the corner. :D)

If you’d like to get to know Jennie even better, be sure and check out her blog.

By the way, Monique Bucheger won the copy of Craig Everett’s Toby Gold and the Secret Treasure in last week’s Rafflecopter giveaway.

Come back next Wednesday when I’ll be interviewing Maria Hoagland about her new book, Family Size, and how she has developed as a writer.

Maria Hoagland

Originally posted 2013-02-20 06:00:38.

One Thing at a Time

Back before Christmas, Jason was thinking about meeting with our new Stake President (who oversees some ten congregations) some time in January to set in motion his full-time, local service mission. As the holidays came and went, he seemed to get more and more nervous.

Finally, we sat down with him and explained that this was going to be his choice. We weren’t forcing him to do anything. Don’t misunderstand. Jason wants to serve a mission. He was simply nervous about the idea of doing it at the same time as he was focusing on completing the Pathway Program. As with many on the autism spectrum, the idea of multi-tasking is a bit daunting. One thing at a time works best.


I have to admit now that his reservation may have been inspired, given the challenge of his current online Language Arts class (more about that next time). In any case, he did finally meet with President Powell and, together, they agreed that it would be best for him to complete Pathway first then begin his mission in August.

It looks like he’ll be meeting with President Powell again in May to work out more specifics, but he’ll likely begin at the Family History Library, where the need is apparently greatest. Personally, I think that will be great experience given his academic interest in library science. By serving there, he’ll get a firmer idea of whether he really enjoys library work or not. Of course, an LDS Family History Library isn’t quite like a regular library, but he’ll learn about cataloguing documents and he’ll be working with computers.

Our next goal: Getting him to take Driver’s Ed and get a license by August!

Originally posted 2013-02-15 12:21:22.