“Wednesday Writer” – Susan Aylworth

Besides being the author of 11 published novels (her 12th will be out in June), Susan Aylworth is a wife and mother, owner of a “devoted old dog and two quirky cats,” and grandmother to 21 grandchildren (with two more expected this spring). But you can find all that information on her blog. I like to dig a bit deeper.

Susan AylworthME:  Where did you grow up and what, in your young mind, set your family apart from others? (I’d love a picture of you as a child to share with my readers.)

SUSAN:  Other families on our block were very much like us. If something set us apart, it was probably me–always organizing the neighborhood, staging skits and plays and parades, driving my neighbors half-crazy. A neighbor named Jane Hawes declared she was grateful when I was finally going to school; now she could throw away her oatmeal boxes. Hey! They made great marching drums.

(Already into storytelling in a big way, I see.)

DSCN3496(Susan as a 3rd Grader when she attempted her first novel)

ME:  Which parent did you take after most, and how are you similar? (Please provide a picture of you with your parents)

SUSAN:  Dad was the hard-working, easy-going guy who just settled in and got things done, Mom the fretful worrier albeit equally hard-working. I’m a good mix of both of them, although I’m probably more like Dad. I’m the worrier in our family, although I try not to fuss as much as Mom, but I got Dad’s imagination. He was the family story-teller.

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(Susan and her husband with her parents)

ME:  I understand you started your first novel at age 9. What was the storyline, if you can recall? And how old were you when you finished your first complete novel? What was it about?

SUSAN:  That first novel was a shameless rip-off of Black Beauty, which was then my favorite book. Told entirely from the horse’s point of view, it documented the story of a romantic wild stallion from his birth. (Notice how she described him as “romantic”? Even then, she was thinking romance.) I wrote nine whole pages on a big yellow legal pad before I exhausted my enthusiasm.

The first book I finished was a romance called The Flaming Phoenix. I’d barely completed it before I knew it was a seriously flawed experiment. My second eventually became BENEATH SIERRA SKIES, Silhouette Romance #702, my first published book. The story was a recasting of a real-life plane crash in the snow that killed a high school girlfriend. In this version, the hero and heroine survive for weeks in the high mountains alone and rescue each other, meanwhile falling in love. It was therapy for me, romance for the reader, and a big win for my longed-for entry into publishing. (Yay! Therapy AND a publishing contract. Can’t get much better.)

Beneath Sierra Skies

ME:  Please tell us about your degrees in English and how they helped or shaped your writing and your life.

SUSAN:  I started college as a journalism major with newspapers in mind. Half-way through undergraduate school, I married a competitive journalist (he has worked in newspapers for forty years) and knew my plan was unworkable. I loved my English classes, so the natural switch was into an English major. Since I was going to be a full-time mommy, it didn’t matter where I got my degree, did it?

But it did. When it turned out we needed my income, as well, and I was being offered secretarial jobs, I went back for the graduate degree, taught my first college class as a grad assistant and just kept teaching. I prepared more classes, learned to teach in different areas, and developed a thirty-year teaching career at California State University, Chico.

Anyone who has taken literature courses can tell you how academics sneer at “commercial fiction,” and I absorbed the attitude through my skin while a student. Later as I met people who were earning a living writing commercial fiction and began reading their work, I knew this was the kind of story I had always loved and the career I had always wanted. I endured my share of snide remarks from colleagues when I began publishing, but I was also approached by several of them on the quiet, people who wanted to know the secret for writing a successful romance. I found joy in telling them there is no secret, simply write a good book.

ME:  Which genre of fiction do you enjoy most, as both reader and writer, and why?

SUSAN:  I always come back to romance, but I love books—all kinds of books. Good stories of almost any kind intrigue me, although I have to admit I’m getting tired of the male revenge plot. I guess that’s fair since my husband is weary of romances.

ME:  Please compare your first published book with your latest. Is there any common theme or thread that unites all your writing?

Maggie Rising

SUSAN:  My first book was a romance and most books since are also romances. Even the paranormal mystery MAGGIE RISING and the family saga ZUCCHINI PIE have some romantic elements. It’s a cliché, but I believe the one unifying element in my stories is the healing power of love—romantic love of course, but also family love, closeness between friends who support one another, all forms of love.

Zucchini Pie

ME:  Having taught at the university level for decades, what new directions do you see fiction going, and are those changes positive or negative in your view? (I would love to post a picture of you teaching in a classroom, if available.)

SUSAN:  The past couple of decades have led to many experiments in literary forms. Graphic novels and serialized novels, often told in tweets of 140 characters at a time, are two examples of experimental styles that may or may not hold into the future. Flash fiction is a major trend that will probably stay with us as long as our society is still heavily dependent on social media; it adapts so well to these platforms.

One trend that’s been big for the past several decades and which is likely to continue is the tendency to refute anything as literature if it does not have a tragic or even nihilistic ending. Stories that end well are considered sentimental and unrealistic. To me that always begs the question of why we bother to read “literature.” I do read it and some of the books I love, but a steady diet of tragic endings is hard to stomach. Give me the rebellious, well-written serious novel that ends with joy and hope.

(I agree. Life is difficult enough. I’m all for happy, or at least hopeful, endings as long as they don’t seem forced and they make sense.)

ME:  Tell us the storyline of your latest book, and how different was it from what you envisioned when you first sat down to write it?

SUSAN:  Just last week I sent a book off to my editor and beta readers. It’s book #8 in the Rainbow Rock Romances, so I had expected it to be fairly easy. I knew where it was going when I started it, but DANNY’S GIRL turned out to be a harder story than I had expected to write, hard in terms of the threat of violence, the emotional issues, the depth of the psychology involved. I knew I’d be dealing with domestic abuse. I hadn’t realized I’d be getting into some shady criminal behaviors and questions of co-dependency. The story made me stretch, sometimes in uncomfortable ways, but I’m pleased with the end product. (Sounds interesting.)

Rainbow Rock Romances

ME:  What are you working on now, and how would you describe your writing process?

SUSAN:  My new work in progress is another romance but in a hospital setting in an updated Gold Rush town in the Sierra Nevada. She is an orthopedic surgeon and trauma intern (an extremely rare specialty for a woman to pursue) and he is a field rep for a company that sells orthopedic devices. The difference in their places in the hospital hierarchy and the goals they’ve set in their careers are working to keep them apart while Cupid is busy trying to put them together. I’m having fun with it.

(It also sounds like you’ve had to do a fair amount of research regarding the way hospitals work.)

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space in the voice of one of your favorite characters from one of your books. (And I must have a picture of that space.)

SUSAN:  Danny Sherwood, from DANNY’S GIRL:

Frankly Susan’s work space would drive me nuts. Here at the Highway Patrol sub-station where I file reports, there is a place for everything and everything is always kept in place. The rest of Susan’s house is pretty much like that, but her office is a mess: it’s where she keeps all the half-done projects, all the bits and pieces waiting their turn for her to get to them, all the reminders of other commitments. It’s pretty chaotic, although she seems to know where to find everything. She has a laptop and could choose to work anywhere, but she comes back to that messy corner instead, partly because that’s where she goes into ‘work’ mode and partly because of the windows that look out on her rose garden. All I can say is I’m glad it’s her work space, not mine. 

(:D)

 DSCN3491

(And here’s the proof)

You can learn more about Susan and her work by visiting her website. All of her books are available in both print and ebook form on Amazon. Most of her paperbacks can also be ordered through her own online store.

I’ll be back next Wednesday for a chat with Theresa Sneed, author of the No Angel series built around an angel with an attitude.

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Originally posted 2014-03-26 06:00:50.

“Monday Mystery” – TO SLEEP NO MORE

Dalton&Dalton_ARERonda Hinrichsen has a new novella out (under the pseudonym Kathleen Marks) entitled TO SLEEP NO MORE. If you look at the subtitle, you’ll note the term “preternatural mystery.” I recently interviewed Ronda and she briefly discussed that term, so if you’re puzzled, click here. But enough splitting terms. Here’s a quick glimpse of TO SLEEP NO MORE:

Synopsis

Preternatural scientist Alexandra Dalton is near Yellowstone National Park, searching for preternatural mushrooms she hopes will help her find who kidnapped and murdered her young daughter, when she receives a telegram from her uncle’s lawyer. Her beloved uncle is dead, it says, and she must return to Massachusetts ASAP. There, she is thrown together with her estranged husband, Richard Dalton, to unravel two mysterious “Night Hag” murders.

Excerpt

Alex pinched her cheeks to give them a hint of color and opened the door.

Her smile disappeared. Worse, her breath, her thoughts, and her pulse stopped. She stared into a man’s hazel eyes the color of a stormy Atlantic sea surrounded by long, thick lashes lightly tipped with the same color as his blonde, wavy hair. The man was tall, straight, and had well-defined muscles. He was a man to be reckoned with—Richard Edward Dalton, her estranged husband.

“Hello, Alex,” he said.

Alex clenched the door handle. What is he doing here? “Rick.”

He quirked a tentative smile. “Can I come in?”

“Why?”

“I’ve been invited.”

Author

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Kathleen Marks is a pen name for Ronda Hinrichsen, author of romantic suspense and speculative novels as well as the Heroes of the Highest Order chapter book series. She loves history and frequently travels throughout the world with her husband in search of intriguing settings, characters, and stories.

TO SLEEP NO MORE is available on Amazon and CreateSpace. You can also learn a bit more about the story and series on Ronda’s website AND read all of Chapter One.

Originally posted 2014-03-24 06:00:51.

“Wednesday Writer” – Rebecca Talley

I got to know Rebecca Talley when I served under her on the board on LDStorymakers, a guild for LDS published authors that puts on a terrific writer’s conference every spring. She’s published several other books since then and I thought it was about time I interviewed her here.

Rebecca12-profileME:  Your childhood in Santa Barbara, California near the beach sounds idyllic, but how is it you and your sister came to be raised by your maternal grandparents? And has any of that background worked its way into your fiction writing? (I’d love a picture of you at the beach.)

REBECCA:  Our parents died when my sister and I were quite young. Our maternal grandparents, in their sixties, took on the responsibility of raising a second family. Thankfully, they were willing to raise us so we didn’t have to be separated or sent to foster homes. (What a blessing! Grandparents are so important.)

DaddyandMeatBeach(Rebecca with her daddy at the beach)

Beach3

(Another great picture of her with her father)

Beach

(And here’s one of her and her sister on the beach)

My first novel, “Heaven Scent,” was inspired by my mother, who wore a very specific perfume. During particularly difficult times in my life, I have been able to smell her perfume and feel her so close to me I could almost reach out and touch her. I included this in “Heaven Scent,” as the main character loses her mother and searches for understanding about life after death.

Heaven ScentME:  What made you take up flamenco dancing as a teenager? (And I must have a picture of you performing…please.)

REBECCA:  Santa Barbara has a very strong Spanish influence in both its architecture and its history. Every year in August, SB celebrates Old Spanish Days or “Fiesta” as the locals call it, which is a huge celebration that includes horse events, flamenco dancing and traditional mariachi bands at the Court House and the Old Mission, parades, parties, and outdoor markets.

Fiesta(Rebecca and her sister all dressed up to perform in Fiesta)

As a kid, I took ballet and tap then moved on to flamenco. I loved to dance and play my castanets. I once danced for five miles along the parade route and ended up with lots of blisters. I also once danced for a large group and fell off the stage. That was embarrassing. (I’ll bet! :D)

Flamenco(And there she is ready to dance flamenco)

ME:  How did your years at BYU, and your degree in Communications, prepare you for the kind of fiction writing you do?

REBECCA:  My experience at BYU was the basis for my second novel, “Altared Plans.”

Altared Plans

I now wish I had majored in English, as I had planned when I was in high school. Communications was a good major, but I don’t think it prepared me much to be a novelist. (Hmmm…as a Communications major myself, I might argue with you on that one. It taught me to write sparely.) However, all life experiences are great fodder for writing. (I couldn’t agree more!)

ME:  Okay, you’ve lived in Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado (and did I hear you’ve now moved to Texas?). What are the best and worst things about each of those places, and which has proven to be the most inspirational in terms of your writing, and why? (I’d love to post a picture of you with your family, plus a picture of you with your llama.)

REBECCA:  I lived in Utah while going to school and I loved the college life in Provo. I had a blast there. I didn’t like the pollution in the winter and I wasn’t a big fan of the snow.

BYU Days(Rebecca in jeans with some of her BYU friends)

We lived in Provo for a few years after we got married then moved to NM for a job. I had a great experience in Farmington, NM. I loved the people and the small town feel. I had to get used to the dry desert and the lack of services and goods offered because it was such a small town, but I loved living there.

We decided to move to Colorado to purchase land and live a more rural lifestyle. I loved the peace and quiet and the beauty of living in a rural area. The mountains in Colorado are gorgeous and there’s an abundance of wildlife.

CO(Rebecca and her husband in Colorado not far from their house)

The best part was that my sister and her family (now 12 kids) lived right across the street from us. (Are you two competing for largest family or something?) We had lots and lots of great fun together. I didn’t love the very cold temperatures in the winter (in January it hovered at zero degrees) and I didn’t love when the snow made it impossible to get out of my driveway. It was also hard living on a well with so many kids, especially in the dry years. Most years in August we had to start choosing between doing dishes, taking showers, or doing laundry. But I loved the wide open spaces and having horses, cows, dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, sheep, and pigs. Actually, I didn’t love having pigs. (How come you didn’t mention the llama?)

Talley Family

(Rebecca’s large gorgeous family)

We now live in a suburb of Houston, Texas and love it. There are some wonderful people here and we love where we live. We are so close to everything and the kids especially love having a pool. For me, each place has been its own inspiration and has been a great place for me at that time of my life. I think you can find inspiration anywhere. I just love to be with my family, so wherever they are, I am happy and can find inspiration.

Beach2(Rebecca and her family at the beach)

Courthouse

(The author with her daughters and daughter-in-law in front of the courthouse in Santa Barbara where she used to perform)

ME:  What are some of the common themes in all of your fiction, or are no two books alike? Why or why not?

REBECCA:  I think some of the common themes are that you can’t plan everything. You have to let go and trust God that things will work out. I am such a control freak and I’ve had to realize that I can’t control everything—well, actually, I really can’t control anything, except how I react to what happens. I make my characters struggle with hard questions, some of which have no real answers.

(That makes for good fiction.)

ME:  How would you define LDS fiction as opposed to fiction written by LDS authors, or is there a difference?

REBECCA:  I think LDS fiction deals directly with LDS themes, while fiction written by LDS authors deal with more general themes. LDS fiction generally has LDS subjects and characters within the story and doesn’t include profanity, sex scenes, or explicit violence. Fiction written by LDS authors for a general audience may have sex scenes, violence, profanity, and very mature themes.

There is currently a group of LDS authors who are writing for a general audience but with LDS standards—clean fiction, if you will. These books can range from light romance to fantasy to serious drama, but don’t include much profanity, if any, no sex scenes and no graphic violence. (I’m glad you mentioned that.)

I think there are three categories for readers: if they want to read a story with LDS characters dealing with LDS subjects, or if they want to read general stories that have LDS standards but not LDS characters or themes, or if they are simply looking for a story without LDS characters, themes, or standards.

Books

(Rebecca and a few of her author friends displaying some of her books)

ME:  Tell us about the first novel you ever wrote and compare it with your latest, IMPERFECT LOVE. What have you noticed in terms of your progression as a writer?

Imperfect LoveREBECCA:  My first novel was pretty rough. I didn’t understand the evolution of a story, or the structure, as well as I (hopefully) do now. I just had a story I wanted to tell and that was it. Now, I understand that there are certain elements of story that must be present and a framework underneath the prose. I think I understand the mechanics better and, hopefully, my language use is better. (I’m sure it is. Practice can’t help but make you better.)

ME:  What was the most difficult novel you ever wrote, and why? And which was the most personal?

REBECCA:  My YA paranormal, AURA, was the most difficult for me to write because it’s an urban fantasy with some magic in it. I’m not much into fantasy, so it was difficult for me to get this one right. I learned after writing that book that I’m much more comfortable writing realistic fiction.

Aura

My first three books all had personal ties. HEAVEN SCENT was inspired by my mom and losing her. ALTARED PLANS was inspired by my courtship with my husband and has some true experiences in it. THE UPSIDE OF DOWN was probably the most personal because it delved into a woman learning she has a child with Down syndrome, and I wrote it while my own feelings about having a child with Down syndrome were still very raw. I felt like part of my soul was on those pages.

The Upside of Down

ME:  What are you working on now and how would you describe your writing process?

REBECCA:  I am currently in the brainstorming phase for several novel ideas. I’m going to see which one grabs me the most and work on that next.

I generally do some pre-writing, like outlining some scenes, writing character sketches, finding photos of my characters, freewriting. After I feel like I know enough, I write a rough draft in a month or so. After I let it sit, I go back and rewrite and work on it for a few months then turn it over to my critique partners to shred it. After I rewrite it with their suggestions, I let other readers go through it. I have hired professional editors to also go through my books.

(Never a bad choice.)

ME:  Finally, with such a large household, where do you retreat to write? If you have a favorite writing space, please detail five things about it that makes it different from every other author’s writing space. (And I must have a picture.)

REBECCA:  My writing place isn’t anything special. It’s a big recliner in the corner of my bedroom. It is my own space, and my kids know not to get into my “writing stuff.” I’d love to say I have a large walnut desk overlooking the ocean, but I don’t. My bedroom window does look out to the pool, if that counts.

(Hey, pools always count in my book…literally, if you’ve read A Night on Moon Hill. :D)

WritingArea(And here’s Rebecca’s comfy chair)

If you want to learn more about Rebecca and her books, or even just follow her blog, check out her website. Her books are all available on Amazon.

I’ll be talking with romance author Susan Aylworth next week, so be sure to check back!

Susan Aylworth

Originally posted 2014-03-19 06:00:53.

“Monday Mystery” – A DEATH IN THE FAMILY

A Banner for Blog TourAs part of Marlene’s blog tour, I’m featuring her new Erica Coleman mystery here today. It’s available for purchase online at Amazon, Deseret Book, and Seagull Book, as well as in  LDS bookstores, including Deseret Book and Seagull Book.

Here’s a quick look:

Synopsis

Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.

A Cover for A Death in the Family

In A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, the second in the Erica Coleman series, private eye Erica Coleman and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche’s eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, suspects wrongdoing and asks Erica to investigate her company, things get sticky.

Before the investigation can even begin, Blanche’s unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it is soon clear Grandma’s passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When another relative becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues.

Erica’s OCD either helps or hinders her—depending on who you talk to—but it’s those same obsessive and compulsive traits than enable Erica to see clues that others miss. When she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case.

Excerpt

“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” Kristen said dolefully. “When I moved here, I thought I’d have years with Grandma. She was always so active—I thought she’d keep going for years.”

“And all the time, her heart was getting weaker,” Trent said glumly.

Walter commented, “The last time I saw her, Blanche said the doctor told her she had the constitution of a mule.”

There were a few smiles at this, but Martha’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But Mom’s death didn’t have anything to do with how healthy she was.”

“What are you talking about?” Trent’s impatient voice billowed out and filled the small room.

Martha squirmed but fluttered on, “Well, after what Mom said when she came to visit me, you know—about how something wrong was going on in the company—I worried that something might happen.”

Her response reverberated around the room. Everyone went very still—as if they were holding their breath. 

Martha’s eyes went from one to another. “I didn’t mean—oh, I shouldn’t have said anything,” she stammered. Her voice was pure distress. “It’s just that . . . well, we’re all family here, so it’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, no one else knows.”

“No one else knows what?” Trent said brusquely.

Visibly flustered, Martha’s hands twisted in her lap. “And . . . and Mother was very old and—and the police haven’t even come, have they?”

Erica wondered what Martha could be getting at. Everyone darted quizzical looks at each other, trying to make sense out of Martha’s confused chirruping.

After meeting blank looks all around, Martha blurted, “I mean, that’s good . . . isn’t it? For the family?”

The room remained deadly silent as Martha’s cheeks flamed red.

There was a rumble as Walter cleared his throat. “Why would the police come?”

“Why, to arrest someone.” Martha sounded surprised—as if he had asked something that was completely and absolutely self-evident. She stared at Walter, as if he and he alone could straighten everything out. “Isn’t that why they’re doing an autopsy? I mean, don’t they always do an autopsy when someone has been murdered?” 

Author

A picture of Marlene Bateman

Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children.

Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading.  Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including:  Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith.  Her latest book is Gaze Into Heaven; Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints.

Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman.

A Cover for Motive for Murder You can learn more about what Marlene is up to as an author from her website.

Originally posted 2014-03-17 08:11:21.

“Wednesday Writer” – Pauline Hansen

If you were happily married but gradually your family became hostage to the growing paranoid schizophrenia of your husband, would you stay married? And would you write about it?

Pauline Hansen chose to do both, telling her story in her memoir, A PATCHWORK REALITY: HAPPILY MARRIED TO A SCHIZOPHRENIC.

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ME:  You say you grew up in a small town, one to which you’ve now returned, but exactly how tiny is it? Please give us a clear picture of what your childhood and youth was like there (plus a picture or two of you growing up). And is it any different for your own kids, or are they all grown up?

PAULINE:  The town I grew up in and have now returned to is indeed tiny. It has remained, throughout the years, at about 150 people. We like to joke that there are probably more dogs than people : )

Life growing up in my hometown was typical of country life. We weren’t farmers or ranchers, so we didn’t have cattle or fields of hay, but other than that, we did many of the other things well known to country life: in the warm months, we grew a massive garden, played in the ditch as children, ran everywhere barefoot, climbed the surrounding rocks and mountains, went on picnics and went camping, then in the winter, we’d build snowmen, go sledding and snowmobiling, and hunt for a fresh Christmas tree every year.

Pauline age 10(Pauline at 10)

My own children, two of which were still school-aged when we moved here, do some of the same things – mostly the climbing and hiking and such, but they were 13 and 15 years old, so they didn’t have near the country life experience that I did while growing up.

Pauline 1985

(Pauline as a senior)

ME:  How old were you when you first dreamed to one day become an author, and which book exactly prompted that dream?

PAULINE:  I remember when I’d read as a youth, sometimes a book a day, I would be in awe of anyone that could actually write a book. It was something of a miracle to me back then. I remember wishing that maybe someday, I could write a book, but that’s all it was – a fanciful wish.

(So, it sounds as if it was no particular book, just books in general.)

ME:  What kind of book did you imagine yourself writing when you grew up and how did that differ from what you ended up producing?

PAULINE:  As a youth, when I dreamed of writing a book someday, I always wanted to write a romance, and I planned to include every spine-tingling, heart-racing, breath-taking romantic thing I could think of. I have, in fact, written a romance, but as it stands, it needs a lot of work, so when the thought occurred to me that I should write my memoir and publish it, I figured that was the best idea to go with first. I’m still revising the romance, though!

(Great! Then we know what to expect next.)

ME:  Since your book, PATCHWORK REALITY: HAPPILY MARRIED TO A SCHIZOPHRENIC, details your husband’s descent into paranoid schizophrenia in his mid-thirties and its effect on you and the children, please tell us how you met and what your relationship with him was like before those nine years of extreme psychological stress. (I’d love to post a picture of you and the family from those earlier years.)

PAULINE:  Curtis and I met at a dance at Dixie College. My roommate was the girlfriend of Curtis’s best friend, so that helped to bring us together, but once we did meet, there was no turning back. Although I had had numerous boyfriends in the past, I knew my relationship with Curtis was special and lasting, almost from the start. It didn’t take us long to want to date exclusively, then we were engaged after only 4 months, and married 3 months after that.

The book describes what the first fourteen years of our marriage were like, and in a nutshell, we had it all–laughter, babies, vacations, and ball games. Life was good, with your typical ups and downs, arguments over disciplining the kids and the finances, lots of expenses that come with raising five children, and lots of love and good times.

Hansens 1997(Pauline, Curtis, and the kids in the good times)

ME:  How did you come to the decision to write your story?

PAULINE:  One day in February of 2012, I felt the greatest urge to write something. It was a desire I couldn’t shake, but everything I attempted to write just didn’t feel quite right. Then one morning as I lay in bed contemplating, it occurred to me that I had a story to tell, one that would be different than anything anyone had ever read. And maybe, just maybe, someone would gain some insight when they read it, or realize there’s hope amidst difficult trials, or as my husband so eloquently put it, realize that marriage is worth fighting for.

patchwork-reality-happily-married-to-a-schizophrenic-pauline-hansen-9781462113644cover-360x540

ME:  How did your husband and children feel about the book?

PAULINE:  I admit at first I worried that my husband wouldn’t want me to write our story, since it would be so personal and put him in an awkward light. But all he kept repeating whenever I would ask him if he was SURE he was okay with me writing it was, “Of course I’m sure. After what I put you through, I have to let you do what you feel you need to.”

He must have known it would be rather therapeutic for me to write, plus I think he feels, too, that shedding some light on such a mysterious illness would be a good thing in the long run.

As far as the children go, they’ve been immensely supportive throughout the process of having me write and publish our experience. They knew very little of what went on, and yet even when they read the nitty gritty parts, not one of them has judged me or their dad for it.

ME:  What prompted your move back to your tiny hometown, and did it have anything to do with your husband’s condition?

PAULINE:  My husband’s condition had everything to do with moving back to my tiny hometown. He was jobless and did not play to look for a job anytime soon, which was very rare for him. He had always been a very hard worker and very dedicated to his job. We were at our rope’s end and needed a place to go, so we moved in with my parents temporarily until we could decide what our next move was.

We loved it here so much we decided to stay, and it’s a good thing, because the lower stress, slower pace of life, no traffic, and very few people have been a huge factor in my husband’s recovery.

Cannonville UTaerialview(An aerial view of their isolated town in Utah)

ME:  Tell us about the writing process you followed in creating this book, including beta readers and/or critique groups. And did you seek out any experts in schizophrenia?

PAULINE:  I had already been attending writer’s conferences before I even knew of my husband’s condition (and decided to write about it), and once I knew I wanted to write our story, I went to even more conferences with the intention of finding other authors that I could connect with and ask advice of. I only used one beta reader, and her advice was invaluable. (That’s a big YES for beta readers!)

I joined ANWA, American Night Writers Association, where I could post any question I had about the writing or publishing process on their Yahoo group sites. They’ve been a huge help and I’ve made some wonderful friends! (That’s a big YES for ANWA too!)

As far as seeking experts on schizophrenia, my intention was never to write a book as a resource for those seeking help about mental illness. The Internet is a wealth of knowledge for that, and I would just muddy the waters if I attempted to give any advice.

ME:  What are you working on now, or what do you plan to write next, and why?

PAULINE:  I am once again attempting to work on the first novel I wrote, a romance based in my own little hometown. We’ll see if it ends up publish-worthy. :D I also have a rough outline and quite a few pages of ideas for a dramatic romance I would love to write some time, plus I have a children’s book series in mind that begs to be written, but that concept is definitely in its infancy.

I don’t always feel an extreme urge to write, but when that urge hits, I obey. I love to read, and I love the written word, and the stories in my head will, at the right time, break free and land on the page.

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space—the room or place you used most in writing PATCHWORK REALITY—and tell us what makes it your own. (And I must have a picture.)

PAULINE:  Our home is small, but still, I claim a lot of our overcrowded space as my own when I’m in the middle of a project. When I wrote PATCHWORK REALITY, we only had one computer that the whole family shared, but if I needed it everyone else knew they had to let me use it. It is centrally located, in the living room, so although I was often engrossed in my work, I was still out amongst the family if they needed me.

At the time, my husband rarely got on the computer. He was just learning how to use one back then. Now, though, he’s on the family computer a lot more, so it was a huge blessing when my children gave me a laptop for Christmas last year.

My Writing Space(Pauline’s work space)

family close

(And here’s Pauline, Curtis, and their kids today)

Pauline’s memoir is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at Books & Things. If you want to learn more about the author and her work, check out her website.

On tap for next Wednesday is Rebecca Talley, a former president of LDStorymakers and author of two LDS novels and a children’s picture book.

Rebecca12-profile

Originally posted 2014-03-12 06:00:46.

“Saturday Suspense” – THE DARK EAGLES: WELLS IN DESOLATION

Wells in Desolation Book Cover

David R. Smith’s sequel, THE DARK EAGLES – WELLS IN DESOLATION, is now out and available on Amazon in hardback or Kindle version. Here’s a quick look:

Synopsis

With his faithful friends and mystical stone, Kief sets out on his greatest adventure yet, to seek passage across the dangerous seas in search of the dreaded Wells in Desolation. But there is more to fear than enemy soldiers and the pillaging rogues of the sea as others seek the power of the stone.

Kief encounters new friends that help him along his journey and reveal secrets about his past and destiny. But one truth threatens to doom the fate of The Dark Eagles…

Excerpt

The wind howled, the long pine branches bending and pitching in the darkness. The streets were empty save the dancing shadows from the flickering lampposts.

“Who is that?” Tarc whispered above the whistling wind.

“I have no idea,” Kief replied, taking cover behind the tree.

The figure mounted a black horse; the great animal dressed on its head and chest with tarnished steel plates of armor that cast dull reflections in the lamplight. On the horse’s bridle were long decorative tassels; behind him he carried heavy saddlebags, as if he’d journeyed from afar. Swift as the winds that blew, the mysterious stranger galloped past Kief and Tarc…

Author

David was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and spent most of his childhood on a farm in Heber City, located in the Wasatch Mountains. He loved exploring the mountains on his horse looking for adventures to follow. Growing up, he wanted to be a movie director and used his own Super 8 camera to make silent movies with his friends and brothers and sister. Instead, he earned a Bachelors in Engineering at the University of Utah. While there, he met the love of his life, Jenelle, and they were blessed with three amazing sons: Josh, Tate, and Porter.

David later earned his Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University and pursued a path in the corporate world. But his creative side continued to tug at him for years until finally, through the encouragement of his wife and boys, he realized that it’s never too late to follow your dream. So David set off to write an epic adventure of a boy and his horse and created a story of freedom, adventure, love, courage and sacrifice. When he’s not writing, David enjoys outdoor activities with his family, and especially loves surfing with his three boys in Southern California where he resides.

David Smith Ocean PhotoYou can learn more about David and his writing by checking out his website. And if you’re interested in the first book in the series, THE DARK EAGLES – FIRST FLIGHT, read my interview with the author or click here.

Originally posted 2014-03-08 06:00:40.

“Wednesday Writer” – Ronda Hinrichsen

Ronda Hinrichsen writes romantic suspense as Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen and THE HEROES OF THE HIGHEST ORDER Chapter Book series as R.K. Hinrichsen. Her next romantic suspense novel, BETRAYED, will be released in June. I was lucky enough to get this interview in with her before her eye surgery. (Don’t worry…she’s fine.)

Ronda Gibb HinrichsenME:  You’ve said you first knew you wanted to be a writer when you were in sixth grade and listening to your teacher read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. But my question is, when did you first realize you could be a writer, and what had you written (or what had someone said) that convinced you of that? (That said, I would love to post a picture of you from sixth grade, as well as another when you were a teenager.)

RONDA:  That’s a hard question to answer. While I remember fearing I might never succeed at having a book published, I think I always thought it was possible for me to be a writer, I just had to figure out how to do it. In fact, I still have those same fears now as I submit and/or self publish. Fear and self-doubt is always there, but because being an author is important to me, I keep pushing through those things. For me, it’s not trying that equals true regret.

(Very well said, and she’s right…the fear and self-doubt never goes away.)

6th grade scan0001(Ronda as a sixth grader)

graduation pic scan0001

(Ronda’s high school graduation picture)

ME:  Are there any other writers in your lineage? If so, how did they inspire you? (And please include a picture, if possible.) If not, which writer(s) inspire you the most and why?

RONDA:  I have an ancestor who crossed the plains as a child and later wrote for the church publications. In fact, I have written some of his stories for The Friend. His name is William Palmer. There are other writers too. My uncle wrote for a newspaper in Canada, and my Grandmother and aunts enjoyed writing poetry. (Ah, it runs in the blood, eh?)

ME:  Having grown up in Rexburg, Idaho, what gave you the urge to travel? What have been some of your favorite or most interesting destinations, and why? (And I’d love a picture or two of you and your husband en route.)

RONDA:  I did not travel much as a child, except to the occasional family reunion in Canada, but my husband loves to travel and has the desire to see every part of the world. I have the privilege of going along for the ride. So far, my favorite scenic places have been Austria and New Zealand. The place that deeply affected me, was visiting Auschwitz in Krakow, Poland. (That, I can well understand after having visited another concentration camp–Mauthausen–in Austria.)

Rolin and Ronda in Snowy Mountains Australia(Ronda and Rolin in Australia)

2011 April 6 to 21 Europe 1021(Ronda at Auschwitz)

Ronda in Krakow, Poland(In Krakow, Poland)

ME:  I know you began by writing short stories and magazine articles as you were raising your young family. Now that the short story form seems to be taking off again, have you given any thought to writing more of those?

RONDA:  I haven’t thought of short stories too much, but I have self-published three children’s chapter books under the series name of HEROES OF THE HIGHEST ORDER and I will soon release a preternatural mystery novella under the pen name Kathleen Marks. It is the first of a series.

(Okay, am I the only one confused about the difference between paranormal and preternatural? Here’s an interesting posting that might shed a little light.)

ME:  Tell us about your first two novels, MISSING and TRAPPED. How are they different, and how are they alike? And which was easier to write?

RONDA:  MISSING and TRAPPED are similar in that they are both adventurous, romantic suspense novels. However, MISSING is a contemporary, realisitic novel with LDS characters, and TRAPPED is a contemporary, paranormal novel with a curse surrounding the “Kuhati,” the elixir of life.

Missing

I suppose TRAPPED was easier to write since it was my second novel and MISSING was my first—not only first published, but also the first I’d ever written. It was my novel writing learning ground vs, as you mentioned earlier, short story writing.

Trapped ME:  You’ve also begun a middle grade series, HEROES OF THE HIGHEST ORDER, in which your young protagonists kind of follow in the footsteps of different heroes in their quest to destroy the enemy of “The Hidden Kingdom.” What criteria are you following when it comes to selecting those particular heroes?

RONDA:  HEROES OF THE HIGHEST ORDER is a chapter book series similar to The Magic Tree House. The heroes I choose for that series are those who are compassionate to all people and are brave in the face of difficult circumstances.

HEROES Book 1

The first tells the story of a young pioneer woman who found peace with the Indians.

HEROES Book 2

The second speaks of Mother Teresa, and the third teaches of Tadeusz Pankiewicz who helped save the lives of many Jews during WWII.

HEROES Book 3

(You can learn more about the books and the series here.)

ME:  What are you working on now, and how would you describe your writing process?

RONDA:  My writing process is a juggling act. I gather ideas for a new book in a notebook while I’m writing another and perhaps editing or doing other writing/publication chores with another.

I just finished final edits on BETRAYED, a historical romantic suspense novel that comes out with Covenant Communications in June 2014. I have another novel under submission, I am preparing my preternatural novella for publication, and I am editing a YA fantasy novel I intend to submit to the national market. I’m also starting to have a few ideas for future books.

(One cook in the kitchen with a lot of pots stewing.)

ME:  How would you describe your writing space, and what five objects there differentiate it from that of any other writer? (You must include a picture or two.)

RONDA:  My writing space is a desk with a laptop, a second screen, a bookshelf, a wall board with various notes and lists, and separate piles of info from different books.

(Okay, that takes the record for the shortest answer to this question ever!)

IMG_0036(I think this was the neatest part of her writing space. :D)

ME:  What has been your experience with both traditional publishing and self-publishing, which do you prefer, and why?

RONDA:  I believe there are strengths and challenges for each venue. Self-publishing gives me the power to bring whatever story I want to the world in whatever format I want. It also gives me the ability to earn money on a more “regular” basis, for I don’t have to wait for the six month intervals of a traditional publisher. (Hear, hear!)

Traditional publishing provides support, experienced editors and cover artists/marketers, and the ability to distribute to markets that are not always available to self-published books. Traditional publishing also seems to have a better ability to help me build my name and to speak/teach in various venues.

(So it really comes down to which you prefer–support or control.)

ME:  Finally, how important is a critique group and what strengths does yours bring to your writing?

RONDA:  My critique group is VITAL to me. Each person has strengths that help me create a more viable, well-developed product. Different from many groups, we do not print out our weekly writing—yes, we meet weekly. Instead, we read what we’ve written to the group. The others listen, and then we comment on what is or isn’t working or what needs a bit more strengthening. Our group focuses more on structure, rather than grammar, but some of us do have an ear for grammar, and we bring those things up.

(Excellent! With some exceptions, a writer is generally only as good as his/her critique group.)

Check out Ronda’s website for more information about her and many projects. Her suspense novels are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can check out her chapter books at B&N and Books-a-Million.

Get ready for a serious interview next Wednesday with Pauline Hansen, author of a compelling memoir or her marriage to a schizophrenic.

Pauline-Hansen-170x255

Originally posted 2014-03-05 06:00:16.

“Wednesday Writer” – Anna del C. Dye

Anna del C. Dye writes fantasy fiction, focusing almost entirely on elves.

Anna5B

This interview is part of a blog tour by Anna, in which she is doing a Book Giveaway from February 24th to March 8th. You have a chance to win one e-book of her latest fantasy novel, THE ROILDEN STONE OF ELF MOUNTAIN. It will be given for each stop in this tour and international entries are welcome. To enter, simply “like” the book trailer below and leave a comment after the interview, including your e-mail address.

ME:  What was your childhood like growing up in Valparaiso, Chile? And did you and your twin sister, Elena, stay there throughout your youth and adolescence, or did you move to other places. If so, please describe them.

ANNA:  It was a bit lonesome. My mother died when we were six years old and our father took care of the two of us and my other three siblings. He was quite hard to please and we weren’t allowed to have friends. We moved to the country and spent ten years there, but we were still in Valparaiso (the “county” versus the “city”), just not on the coast anymore.

Anna and sister(Anna is the shorter one on the left)

ME:  I was aware of your mother’s death and that you’re uncomfortable looking back on your childhood, but I’m convinced that what we write cannot help but reflect our roots in some way. How is your writing a reflection or commentary on your past?

ANNA:  I was never told I was loved while growing up. Yet now, I have had many readers comment on how deeply my characters love. One even said that I knew what love was all about. I suppose that my growing up like that had a lot to do with how I perceive love.

(That’s the beauty of fiction. We can insert everything we’ve ever wanted.)

ME:  When did you first begin making up stories of your own, and can you share the gist of the first story you ever wrote?

ANNA:  My husband suggested that I write children’s books because he thought I would be good at it. I tried a few times, but it never took off. Many years later, I traveled to Florida with him and, while he participated in his work conference, I sat under a Magnolia tree and wrote “Princess Magnolia.” Magnolia’s two ladies-in-waiting also have names of flowers. It is complete, but needs a lot of work.

(Most first efforts do. :D)

I will work on that story one of these days and publish it. We were staying at the Dolphin–a Walt Disney hotel–when that happened.

ME:  What circumstances led to your move to the United States at age 21? And how did you meet your husband?

ANNA:  I met my husband while he served a mission in my country. Two years later he brought me here, and two weeks later we were married in the Salt Lake Temple. That was thirty some odd years ago. Ours is a conversion story and is published in the anthology Angels Around Us by Judy C. Olson, published by Covenant, and entitled Why Him?

Anna and husband(Anna and her husband in front of the Salt Lake Temple)

ME:  Okay, why elves, and when did you first begin to focus on them?

ANNA:  My son introduced me to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings many years ago, and I fell in love with it. I was so curious to know more about all the characters, especially the elfs (elves), that my husband got tired of my questions and he cried, “Make your own answers.” So I did. Two days later, I had THE ELF AND THE PRINCESS drafted—all in my head.

Trilogy Book 1ME:  Tell us about your elf series and any other books you’ve published. Is there a common theme in each book?

ANNA:  The Silent Warrior Trilogy is about a princess whose kingdom is destroyed while she is learning to sword fight. We follow her life as the warrior and as the woman for about seven years within the three books. However they are stand-alone.

Trilogy Book 2(Book 2: TROUBLE IN THE ELF CITY)

Trilogy Book 3

(Book 3: ELFS IN A CONQUERED REALM)

The rest of the books in the series are totally stand-alone stories with different characters, situations, and different times than the Trilogy. They all take place in one of the two elf kingdoms in the world I created.

Curse of the ElvesA Royal Elf of AbalonShahira & the Flying ElfsThe Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain(This is the one being offered in the giveaway)

I also wrote an elementary age book named EMERINE’S NIGHTMARE. It is about a twelve-year-old boy on a dangerous journey to a mysterious place full of magic and magic creatures that want him, and he doesn’t know why. This particular story is an electronic book only.

Emerine's NightmareME:  In your latest, THE ROILDEN STONES OF ELF MOUNTAIN, which concludes your series, what challenges does your main character face?

ANNA:  Actually, THE ROILDEN STONES OF ELF MOUNTAIN is the prequel to my elf series. I just never felt that it should be the book that I should publish first. So, in this book you will see the elfs after they first move to this new land and how they try to change their culture to fit in, and how ultimately they find themselves and grow into the race they become in all my other books. So their beliefs and reasons to be who they are now come from lessons learned in the story of this book.

Arland is the main character, and he and his people live in exile from the main elf city where they opposed monarchy. His hope is to unite their people once more and have the council of houses be restored. When he visited the Gold elfs in the main city, however, he found a bigger problem. The queen and her only daughter had disappeared, and with them The Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain.

These stones are the sole component that keeps Andoriah’s weather pattern balance. When they were removed, the land stopped having rain and the heat rose to dangerous levels. Arland wants to find and return the stones, and he hopes that this act will ensure the return of his elfs to the main city and from there to a change in their government. His two elf friends and three gnomes unite to save all of Andoriah’s races from a fiery furnace.

(Sounds good!)

ME:  Which fantasy author do you admire the most, and why?

ANNA:  Tolkien, for he opened my mind to a world I never knew existed—a world that gives me the very air I breathe.

ME:  Do you follow a daily writing routine, and how would you describe it? Please include your process and whether or not you outline.

ANNA:  I write by inspiration. Usually all is in my head before I start a new story.

I have a lot of promotion to do, my blog, and helping other authors; so I write my books when I have time. Usually when my two girls (granddaughters) are having a nap. There were times when I wrote for six hours straight and I could produce a book draft every three months, but today is not that time. Today is my time to love and care for my family. I enjoy my grandma role very much.

(And I’m sure you will reap greater returns from that role than any publishing you may do.)

ME:  Finally, I’d love it if you could describe your favorite writing space in the voice of one of your favorite elves.

ANNA:  I am Tadren, son of Somir of Lothia.

Tadren

My study nestles between the colorful walls of my memory. There you will find the most fertile ground for my imagination in contrast to my past. Seated in the comfort of a daybed, I enjoy the pleasant days in company of my dreams. My heart flies on the wings of adventure to a higher realm where the heroes await my return every day. My ancestors’ likenesses rest upon the walls of this room. Their wisdom is passed on in the many parchments that rest their dusty pages on my shelves. The tree branches, swung by the breeze outside my window, bring a lullaby to set my mind at peace and that is when I go on.

(Very peaceful. :D)

Check out more about Anna and her books on her website. You can purchase her latest, THE ROILDEN STONES OF ELF MOUNTAIN either there or on Amazon.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be interviewing romantic suspense author, Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen.

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

Originally posted 2014-02-26 11:35:49.

I’m BACK!

Okay, so I’m about 2 weeks later than expected. That’s because I hadn’t known at the time that my father would pass away at the beginning of January (it was a blessing that he lived to 90 and the memorial service was really wonderful)…and that I would need to stay on with my mother in Southern California for two and a half weeks to help see her through cataract surgery and the change in her circumstances.

In any case, we’re all moved in here in Saint George, and I finally took a walk today on one of the trails among the pink cliffs behind our house in Paradise Canyon. The skies were clear (as you can see in the photos) and the temperature hovered around 55, though now it’s 67. Jealous all you northerners? Well, come on down!

Near the trail head

 Near the start of the trail

Looking back at our neighborhood

Looking back on our neighborhood

Coming up on a nice ravine

Coming up on a cool ravine

I spotted a rabbit!

I spied a rabbit at the opening to the cave!

End of the trail looking back

At the end of the trail, looking back

I’m gearing up now for the annual ANWA Writer’s Conference next week in Mesa, AZ. I’ll be pitching “The Heyman Legacy” (the first in a middle grade fantasy series) there, so wish me luck!

I’m also scheduled to attend the LDStorymakers Conference at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, UT in April, and then present a class on dialogue at the first annual Indie Author Hub Writing & Publishing Conference on Saturday, June 7th, at the Courtyard Marriott in Provo, UT. (More on that next week!)

Busy times! I’d better get writing.

In the meantime, I’m looking to continue my “Wednesday Writer” and “Thursday Thriller” series beginning in March, so if you’re an author I haven’t yet interviewed, or you have a new suspense novel recently out (or coming out soon), please contact me.

Originally posted 2014-02-13 15:52:12.