About My Quasi-Digital Sabbatical…

I had thought about taking a quasi-digital sabbatical during the month of September, just so I could focus better (without interruptions) on my writing. Well, I’m going to have to take a one-year sabbatical from that kind of sabbatical, because today I was appointed the Publicity Director for LDStorymakers and it’s imperative that I stay very hooked in and online.

There is no way I could fulfill these new responsibilities without email, blogging, web design, tweeting, you name it! Wish me luck. And if any Storymaker out there would like to serve on my committee (I’m already blessed to have two–Marion Jensen and Deanne Blackhurst)…and if they’ll allow me to have more help…you’re more than welcome!

Originally posted 2010-08-31 19:26:45.

“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.

“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.

Pauline-Hansen-170x255

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.

“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)

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(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.

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

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(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” – Daron Fraley

Daron has so many interests that it’s hard to know where to begin. While he says his favorite things are teaching and writing (besides his family), he also loves computers, cooking, fishing, camping, music, art, the sciences, and especially religion.

However, I must say that the most impressive thing I read in his bio was that he once fixed a gas clothes dryer using photocopier parts! Talk about a handy, “Renaissance Man.” Let’s delve a bit deeper into this Wyoming-born writer.

Daron Fraley author

ME:  You say you don’t consider yourself a cowboy even though you grew up in Wyoming. Why not? What is a cowboy, anyway, and how are you not that kind of person? (Must have a picture of you as a small boy, with or without cowboy gear.)

DARON:  I’ve known some great cowboys in my time. And most of them are admirable people… good hard-working people. Some of my following descriptions are stereotypes, but true stereotypes nonetheless from my experience growing up in Wyoming.

Cowboys may have:

Boots. Sometimes plain leather work boots, and sometimes the fancy ones made of alligator skin or snake-skin.

A farmer’s tan.

A piece of straw in their teeth that they continually chew on.

A worn-out ring in their back pocket from carrying a can of snuff or chew.

Country music blaring in the cab of their rusted out pickup truck that’s been dented from hitting fence posts and farm equipment.

A bow-legged swagger from spending too many hours herding.

I’ve got none of that. Therefore, I’m not a true cowboy.

Daron_as_a_little_boy(And here’s the little boy picture to prove it. No trace of boots or snuff. Not even a tan.)

ME:  Okay, I’ll buy that. So which came first for you–writing, cooking, or computers? And how old were you when you tried your hand at each? (I’d really like a picture of you engaged in each of these activities…please.)

DARON:  Writing and cooking and computers happened at about the same time. I had my first computer programming class in high school, at the same time that I had creative writing. I discovered that I loved to write. I entered a contest at a community college young authors day, and took 2nd place in my genre. Every summer I worked at the Irma Hotel, there in Cody, Wyoming. First year as a bus-boy, second and third washing dishes, and then I spent my Senior year, spring and summer months as a line-cook. I really enjoyed that!

(You mentioned that you wanted pictures of me writing, cooking, or working on computers. How about one of me fishing! In my hat! In the Henry’s Fork wilderness area below Kings Peak?)

(That will do nicely.)

Daron_fishing

(Hmm…kind of has that cowboy tan, doesn’t he? Too bad we can’t see his back pocket.)

ME:  Did your two years as a missionary in France do more for your writing or your cooking, and how? (I’d love a picture from your mission.)

DARON:  I didn’t do much writing as a missionary. But my fellow Elders loved the fact that I could cook. :D (I’ll bet!)

Daron_missionary(Il était beau, n’est ce pas?)

ME:  Okay, I hate to keep harping about cowboys, but it seems to me that they’re simply rugged independent loner types, and doesn’t that fit with you since you’re taking the independent route to publishing?

DARON:  Sure. You can call me a cowboy author if you want. Not the kind that writes cowboy stories or poetry, but the kind that goes out and does his own thing out of pure stubbornness.

(Ornery, ain’t he?)

ME:  Let’s talk about LDS Indie Authors, a group you had a hand in getting going. What is its purpose and why is it needed? (Full disclosure: I’m a kind of lurking member, afraid to chime in because of my relative inexperience, but grateful for all the tips.)

DARON:  Authors have been excited about all the great opportunities available to them through the many venues of self-publishing for quite a few years now. I’m a member of LDStorymakers, and I started a discussion one day about how best to serve those who would choose to self-publish. The focus of Storymakers as an authors guild has been to assist writers on their path to publication with either publishing agents or directly with the editors of publishing houses, and then help them with all things pertaining to traditional publishing, including understanding contracts.

As a group, they felt there are enough differences between the publishing methods that a new group would better serve the need of self-publishing authors. Rachel Nunes was part of that discussion, and so when Liz Adair suggested we just do a new group, Rachel took the bull by the horns (note the cowboy motif) (Atta boy!), and started the list. I joined right away.

Why is it needed? Self-publishing is here to stay. And having been published both traditionally, and by self-publishing, I can attest to the fact that in many ways the processes are very different.

Authors want to produce a quality product. If you don’t have a publishing house with content editors, line editors, typesetters, cover designers, marketing professionals, etc., then you have to do all of that work on your own… preferably by acting more as a general contractor, and hiring experienced free-lancers to help you in the areas where you either don’t have the skills, or where it wouldn’t be wise to do it on your own. EVERYBODY needs an editor.

(AMEN! My dad didn’t believe it and asked me to do a post-publication edit of his latest self-published book. After he saw all the marks in the first five chapters, he saw the light.)

LDS Indie Authors provides a forum for authors to help each other to produce the best self-published product possible.

(And it’s well worth it!)

ME:  What changes do you think the Publishing Industry will go through in the next five years?

DARON:  Traditional publishing will probably shrink and consolidate, but it won’t disappear. They will start to offer other ways to publish with them… in fact, some already have made that change. And it’s looking like self-publishing is the new slush-pile. Great stories that make a splash with readers are getting noticed by traditional publishing houses. I look for that trend to increase.

Other than that, I really wish that ebook formats would become more standardized. It would be great if we could produce just one format and have every ebook reader be able to use it. But it probably won’t happen. Besides, a little competition between device manufacturers is a good thing. It keeps them at the top of their game.

ME:  What led you to become an author and why do you write religious science fiction and fantasy? What are you working on now?

DARON:  I felt driven to write. I don’t know how else to explain it. And as far as why I write religious speculative fiction… it’s because I want to write stories that have the ability to inspire. Many genres can do that, but I have the flexibility to talk about God and miracles if I wish.

To be very frank, I believe the stories in the scriptures. Even the fantastic stories from the Old Testament. I believe they really happened. I believe we live in a day when we will see those kinds of miracles again. I hope my stories will help readers to see that the scriptures are full of truth.

(Uh-oh…He forgot to tell us what he’s working on now. Or maybe it’s a secret.)

ME:  Tell us about your writing space (and please provide a picture) in the voice of Pekah from your first book, THE THORN: Book 1 of The Chronicles of Gan.

Thorn_front-cover_medium-200x300DARON: (as Pekah)

My desk is simple, and far too cluttered for my tastes. But I have other pressing matters to attend to, so the cleaning will have to wait for another day. I do have a second sheet of… I will call it light-paper… that is similar to my glow-stone, except that it has words written upon it. Like the light-paper which allows me to write my stories, the second larger one permits me to research the histories of ancient peoples so that I might use their legends to bring my tales to life. Course’ I also got me some Jack Link’s Beef Jerky right handy, in case I get a hungered. (Sorry… Cowboy Joe slipped in there.)

(LOVE IT!)

Daron_workdesk

(Ah, the light-paper…in two sizes! I spy the jerky, too.)

ME:  Tell us about your writing journey so far and what it’s taught you about the world and about yourself.

DARON:  My writing journey has been hard at times. My first publishing experience was not a very pleasant one. But I made some great friends, and gained some ardent supporters. They kept me going when I wanted to throw in the towel. That experience was invaluable in showing me the ropes of what editing, typesetting, design, printing, distribution, marketing, etc. was all about.

Over the past several years I have come to realize that the world needs books. Stories are powerful. They change lives. They educate. They cause people to have hope, to have their own dreams, and to work hard for things they believe in. I have also discovered that the scriptures are stories. Beautiful stories of how a loving God interacts with his children. Stories of people overcoming huge obstacles and finding happiness in this life.

I want my story to be like that. I hope the same for everyone.

One last thing… I included a bonus picture. And I’m not telling you what this is… You’ll have to read THIRTY-SIX. :D

(The mark of a true independent writer…always marketing! I’ve got your book, Daron, and promise to read it after I’m done with prior commitments. After all, I need to understand all the pictures I post here.)

Thirty-Six_bonus_picture(Curious bonus picture…click on pic for larger view.)

Okay, now that he’s hooked us all, you might want to check out Daron’s official website, or, better yet, his Thirty-Six website for more information on the series. Here’s a quick synopsis of the story in book 1:

When Aaron Cohen buys a souvenir from an antiques store in Lyon, France, and then sees the police raid the store right after he leaves, he has no idea that this is only the beginning of his troubles.

Back home in Chicago, Aaron is stalked by an old man from the antiques store. Mandie, a single mother in his apartment complex, has asked that they just be friends, but Aaron can’t help developing strong feelings for her, especially now that she is being harassed by her abusive ex-husband. And in the midst of all his emotional turmoil, the souvenir he purchased turns out to be an ancient holy relic that triggers shared dreams and prophetic visions.

A mysterious dream shared with a jewel smuggler whose arrest makes the nightly news. A nightmare of horrifying tornadoes shared with Ethan, Mandie’s eight-year-old son. A dream shared with Mandie that shows Aaron her true feelings for him.

And visions . . .

Visions of historical events, centuries in the past. Visions of the Lamed Vovniks. Visions of dangerous possibilities to come.

And if Aaron doesn’t get to her in time, Mandie will die.

Intriguing, eh?

Come back next week for my interview with C. Michelle Jefferies!

C Michelle Jefferies author pic2

Originally posted 2013-01-02 06:00:12.

“Wednesday Writer” – David Farland

I’m interviewing David Farland this week as part of a blog tour featuring his new YA fantasy novel, NIGHTINGALE.

First, a bit about the book and its author:

The multi-award winning novel, NIGHTINGALE, by best-selling author, David Farland, is available in hardback, ebook, and now in a special iPad enhanced version. This young-adult fantasy novel has already been turning heads.

Grand Prize Winner of the Hollywood Book Festival, placed first in all genres, all categories. 

Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year!

Finalist in the Global Ebook Awards.

Some people sing at night to drive back the darkness.  Others sing to summon it. . . .

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth. Thrown into foster care, he was rejected by one family after another, until he met Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognized him for what he really was–what her people call a “nightingale.”

But Bron isn’t ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know.  Bron’s secret may be the most dangerous of all.

In his remarkable young adult fantasy debut, David Farland shows why critics have called his work “compelling,” “engrossing,” “powerful,” “profound,” and “ultimately life-changing.”

“Superb worldbuilding, strong characters, and Dave’s characteristic excellent prose.” – (Brandon Sanderson, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author)

“A wonderful tale of a young man trying to find his humanity, even though he’s not quite human.  One of Farland’s very best!” – (#1 International Bestseller, Kevin J. Anderson)

The enhanced version creates an amazing reading experience complete with illustrations from several talented artists and a sample of a soundtrack that coincides with the story. Published by East India Press, a publishing company that takes e-books in a whole new direction with enhanced multimedia–soundtracks, movie clips, author interviews and more.

Farland has plans for three more books in the series: Dream Assassin, Draghoul, and Shadow Lord.

Now, let’s get to know the author a little better.

Me:  Do you recall any details about the first story you ever wrote, or at least the earliest one you can remember?

Dave:  Of course. It was called The Island of the Lost Dinosaur. I wrote it when I was five. I even drew a picture of the island and the dinosaur. I think that just about every child will do that. I also think that a disproportionate number of those stories are about lost dinosaurs. In my case, the entire title was inappropriate, since it wasn’t the dinosaur that was lost, but the island. Although, one could maintain that if the island is lost, then the dinosaur is, too. (True.) My mother just couldn’t quite understand my logic on that one.

Here is a picture of the budding author at age five, in his larvael pre-sentient state (Doesn’t that sound just like a science fiction/fantasy writer? :D), shortly before attempting his first story, a literary flop that even a mother couldn’t love.

(See those cheekbones? He hasn’t changed a bit.)

Me:  Where did you grow up and what was it about your childhood that most affected your fiction?

Dave:  I grew up in Oregon, in a little town called Monroe, population about 300 (each sign on different ends of the town had varying numbers). We had a nice river that ran near our home, 32 acres of fields and streams, and if you wanted, you could take off hiking up the creek and not cross a road for days as you traveled into forests of Douglas fir. We had lots of wildlife near our farm–deer, pheasants, ducks, cougars, beaver, and so on.

So I fell in love with nature when I was young. If you read my fiction looking for big, beautiful cities, you won’t find them.

(Okay, does anyone else feel like camping now? I do, and I don’t usually like to camp!)

Me:  Science fiction, as opposed to fantasy, generally requires a rudimentary understanding of the way the universe works, and it certainly requires a visionary kind of mindset. What kind of background, in terms of both education and books read, gave you the wherewithal to attempt science fiction from the outset?

Dave:  As a child, I only read science texts. I ran through all of our local libraries by the time  that I was about twelve. I didn’t read fiction at all, until I was forced to at about the age of thirteen.

As a teen, I wrote my first book–a text on the mustiledae family of mammals (weasels, minks, and so on). I followed it that same year with a book on the history of the development of nuclear weaponry in the United States. I also studied oceanography and forestry. That naturally led to a love for the biological sciences, including medicine, and most of my stories revolve around ideas that deal with biology in one way or another.

The first science fiction novel that I read felt rather like an Aesop’s fable–a little heavy on the moralization. From it, though, I recognized that fiction could have some intellectual value, and I began to read a little of it. I didn’t really learn to love science fiction, though, until I read Dune(Hear, hear!) Between that, Star Wars and a few other choice novels, I began really getting interested in science fiction.

But as I said, when I was young, I loved science. Once, when I was a child of about eight or nine, a neighbor asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I knew that our genome designated what kind of organism we would be, and I knew that I loved paleontology, so I said, “I want to be a paleo . . . genetic . . . engineer!”

(Talk about precocious!)

“Oh,” she said, “those are very big words. And what do those people do?”

“Build dinosaurs,” I told her. “Of course we can’t do it now, but someday we will.” (You see? He had that visionary thing going even then.)

So I went to college initially and majored in premedical microbiology, with an eye toward research in genetic engineering.

But I kept finding that I wanted to write, and paint. I imagined that I would be a doctor who wrote on the side. Then one day I realized that the desire to write was too strong–so I decided to be a writer who doctored on the side.

Me:  Which is harder? Science fiction or fantasy?

Dave:  They’re the same. Let me put it this way: you learn to write best what you love best. If you love both equally, you’ll write both with the same enthusiasm.

Never convince yourself that writing in an unfamiliar genre is easy. A couple of years ago, I thought that I would “dash off” a historical novel in a few weeks. After all, since it was based on historical accounts, it would be easy, right? That book, In the Company of Angels, was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. (And it’s great! You can take my word for it.) I won an award for it (Whitney Award: Best Novel of the Year), and it did well in sales, but it taught me a lesson. Writing anything well is hard work.

Me:  Where did you set the Guinness Record for the world’s largest book signing and for what book? And how surprised were you at the turnout? (If you happen to have a picture from that event, I’d love to post it.)

Dave:  I wrote a comic science fiction novel called A Very Strange Trip back in 1999. It was based on a screenplay by L. Ron Hubbard, and involved a moonshiner from West Virginia who has to carry a time machine across the country. The problem is, every time his truck hits a bump, the machine goes off. On his first stop, he goes back in time and meets up with a beautiful Cherokee squaw, and they keep moving further back with each trip.

Since my grandfather was a moonshiner from West Virginia, and since my grandmother was Cherokee, and since I loved paleontology, I thought it would be a hoot write. (And it sounds like a hoot to read, too.)

In any case, my publisher held a huge party down in Hollywood, with movie stars, a band, and free root beer floats. There are a lot of Scientologists in the area, so I wasn’t at all surprised that we drew a nice crowd. 

I’m thinking that next time, we’ll just use beer in the floats. That will bring in the crowds!

(Dave is the little bald guy in the center, slaving under the hot lights while thousands line up for the book signing on July 3, 1999. Note: His description, not mine. If you click on the picture, you can see a slightly larger version and make out Dave in the middle.)

Me:  Do you have plans to try any more historical fiction like IN THE COMPANY OF ANGELS?

Dave:  I don’t know. I’m fascinated by history, and I think I’d like to write another. I have an ancestor, a German boy of 12 named George Johann Wunderlicht, who was sold into slavery back in the 1700s. I’ve often thought that his family saga was worth a novel. George worked for a ship’s captain, and there is speculation that the captain became a privateer for a while, and then went to Africa to transport slaves. Though, as a Quaker, George was committed to a life of nonviolence, it’s said that he went to battle in the Civil War, even though he was in his 80s, and got shot something like three days after enlistment. So he died to help put an end to slavery. (You’re right. That would make for a fascinating story.)

I’ve often felt that a book about his life would be a great memorial, but there’s so little that I know, it would have to be more fiction than fact. (And, speaking for readers, I think we’d be okay with that.)

Me:  Tell us about your new publishing company and your current novel, NIGHTINGALE.

Dave:  East India Press is a company that I started with Miles Romney, a cousin to Mitt Romney. We hope to publish novels in multiple formats: as hardcovers, audiobooks, e-books, and most importantly as enhanced novels.

So we’ve put out NIGHTINGALE in each of those formats. Back in 1989, I was hired by IBM to work for a think-tank that would develop novels for reading on the computer. We were too far ahead of our time.

But I’ve been thinking about the possibilities for decades, and with NIGHTINGALE, we wanted to make it an experience. With the enhanced novel, we combined graphics, text, animations, and our own soundtrack with a few other features–such as author interviews.

I think that we’re closing in on what I’d like, but it can be so much better. For example, our soundtrack is really great, but it deserves to be heard in high-fidelity, and most people who read it aren’t going to bother putting on headphones when they’re reading from their iPad.

Still, I think that we created a much more immersive experience for the book.

In any case, NIGHTINGALE is a young adult novel about a young man, Bron Jones, who is abandoned at birth. He’s raised in foster care and kicked from home to home because his families find him to be “too strange.” Finally, at the age of sixteen, he meets a teacher who recognizes that he’s not even human. He’s what she calls a “nightingale,” a member of an ancient species that only looks human.

So Bron begins a remarkable journey to discover where he came from, what he is, and who he is.

(Excuse me a moment while I go order something on my iPad.)

The novel has won four awards so far this year, including the Hollywood Book Festival for Best Book of the Year, and the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year.

(I thought I’d post the cover again in case you’ve forgotten what it looks like.)

Me:  What prompted this particular story? Did this book start with a dream like your first work, On My Way to Paradise, or was it something else?

Dave:  Something else. When I was young, I was well aware that humans and Neanderthals had existed together for hundreds of thousands of years before the Neanderthals became extinct. I used to imagine how cool it would be if we found a tribe of them living in Siberia or the mountains of Tibet.

So that was one idea for a novel. But of course we know now that even a hundred thousand years ago, there were at least four humanoid species living together, and I’ve wondered about some of our lesser-known cousins.

Then there is a strange thing in the New Testament. It tells us that “Wise Men” came to visit Jesus at his birth and that they showered gifts on him. The word used for “wise men” or “wizards” (chakam) probably denoted a caste of court magicians similar to the ones that Moses battled with in Pharaoh’s Court. Most likely, these wise men came searching for the new “King of the Jews” because they were looking for jobs. (Okay, I’ll have to admit I haven’t heard that assumption before. Interesting.)

In any case, one day I got to fantasizing about what they might be. Could it be that they were something more than astrologers and soothsayers? Could they be something outside of humanity, creatures with real super intelligence? And so the ideas for NIGHTINGALE were born.

A couple of years later, I was talking to one of my writing students about how to approach a contemporary fantasy, and realized that I really did want to put this one on the front burner. But I had so many novels to write for the Runelords series, I had to put it on the back. The student–Stephenie Meyer–went on to do well, and I kept thinking, “I really need to get that novel out.” It’s taken a while.

Me:  I have a thing for writer’s spaces or work areas. How would you describe yours and could you provide a picture?

Dave:  My top-secret writing space (Oh, well . . . I guess that means no picture) is an over-stuffed recliner that we keep in a quiet corner of our master bedroom. My advice to writers is: make yourself as comfortable as possible. It makes it easy to write for 14 hours a day if you’re comfortable. So avoid dirty, cramped, uncomfortable, unhealthy, and nasty spaces. Also avoid places with evil vibes, war zones, or places cursed by ancient shamans. (Gotcha! And my office is in my master bedroom, too. Now I just need to talk to my husband about a nice, comfy recliner. :D)

I sometimes go to write in Mexico. I like to greet the dawn on the beach down in Baja, sitting out while the sun rises in shades of pink over the sand. (Hmmm…something else to discuss with my husband.)

Me:  Finally, how on earth do you manage to produce “David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants” every day and STILL have time for your own writing?

Dave:  I did it every day, mostly, for the first couple of years. Now I only write the advice column a couple of times a week. Originally, I thought that the column might run for a year or so, and that I would use the ideas for my book on writing. That hasn’t worked out very well. My book, Storytelling as a Fine Art, could probably be finished in a month if I pulled all of my material together. Right now, I have thousands of pages of Daily Kicks.

But the truth is, I enjoy writing the articles, and every so often I look at my ideas for new articles and realize that there is just more that needs to be said.

Well, as you’ve read here, Dave is a veritable fountain of knowledge and I love that he’s so good about sharing all he knows, whether it’s here on blogs like mine or at writers conferences like the one put on each spring by LDStorymakers, or at his own Writer’s Death Camp (which I am bound and determined to attend next year). If the Death Camp isn’t your style, he offers plenty of other workshops, as well.

Besides buying his latest book, I urge you to check out his website where you, too, can sign up to receive his Daily Kick! 

Originally posted 2012-10-24 06:00:11.

Contest Author Interview – Heather B. Moore

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

Heather B. Moore (aka H.B. Moore, for those of you more acquainted with her historical fiction) is not only a successful, award-winning author, but is the founder and manager of Precision Editing Group. Only this past weekend, she was awarded the Golden Quill Award from the League of Utah Writers for her latest historical novel, DAUGHTERS OF JARED (a copy of which is being offered as a prize in my contest). She also currently serves on the board of directors for LDStorymakers, as chair of the Whitney Awards.

Me:  What are your favorite memories of the Middle East, and what were your most favorite and least favorite smells there? (If you’ve got a picture of yourself as a child in the Middle East, I’d love to post it.)

Heather:  I was seven years old when we first lived in Israel. I remember collecting wildflowers to press into bookmarks and also living on a kibbutz.  

This is in Egypt where I attended 2nd grade at the Cairo American College. I’m on the back row, in the pink sundress:

(Notice how diplomatic she’s being in not mentioning the smells at all? Hmm. Maybe she should think about entering the Foreign Service. Well, since I’m not diplomatic, I can tell you from my own experience that few things smell as bad as water buffalo dung and a camel’s breath . . . but, for mouth-watering cooking smells, nothing beats the aroma of a full Arabic meal! Hummus, tabbouleh, shish taouk . . . okay, I haven’t had lunch and it’s showing.)

Me:  How on earth did you go from fashion merchandising to writing novels? And have you been tempted to write a novel set in the world of fashion, or is fashion no longer an interest?

Heather:  In high school I thought about majoring in English when I got to college. But I failed the essay portion of the AP college exam, so I decided to major in Fashion Merchandising. I worked at a clothing store, and it was something I was interested in—becoming a manager or retail owner.

I haven’t yet been tempted to write about the world of fashion. I used to follow it quite carefully and had done several research papers on different designers. I also ran the BYU Fashion show one year. But once the kids started coming and the money started disappearing, staying fashion-forward became a much lower priority. (Me: No trips to Mood’s, eh?)

Me:  Tell me about the first story you ever wrote. How old were you, what prompted it, and have you kept a copy?

Heather:  I’m sure I wrote stories in elementary school, etc. for assignments, but I wasn’t necessarily writing stories on my own for fun. I was a huge reader and I’d devour multiple books a week during the summer. My first story I wrote independent of any class or assignment was a novel. I was 30. I had been helping my grandmother write her biography and an idea popped into my head—set during my grandmother’s era of WWII—and that’s when I dove in.

(She still got a head start on me.)

Me:  So much of your fiction up to this point has been historical. What percentage of your time is spent researching as opposed to writing, and which process do you find more enjoyable?

Heather:  The writing part is the most enjoyable, but the research makes it a rich and exciting experience. I love to read historical and learn about anything in history, so that’s what I’ve focused on for the most part. Even when I’ve written contemporary, it’s usually been tied to something about history. In my earlier novels, I spent at least half of the time in research. Now, I probably spend about 10-20% of the time researching versus writing. I have a lot of the research books that I need now and the Internet also saves a lot of time.

Me:  Which parent has influenced you most as a writer and how?

Heather:  That’s a tough one. My mom loves to read fiction and that’s what I write for the most part. She’s even dabbled in some fiction writing, and has had a couple of non-fiction pieces published.

 My dad is a noted writer—of non-fiction—and a professor, so he is very involved in academics. (Me: That’s Professor S. Kent Brown . . . I was fortunate enough to hear one of his lectures in college.) He probably had the most influence on me as far as interest in writing and publishing. He’s also a religious scholar, so that has been a big part of my research—email or call my dad! (Me: Lucky!)

Me:  Tell us how you got Precision Editing Group started, and how on earth you manage to keep writing while you run the company.

Heather:  Precision Editing started in response to two things. First, once I was published and met other aspiring writers, they’d ask if I could read their book. If I said yes, I quickly realized it took 3-4 days out of my schedule to edit their book. That was a tough thing to swallow when I was putting aside my own writing to do so. Second, my husband had been laid off, and we’d gone through enough financial ups and downs, that I thought it would be nice if I had something on the side that could soften the blow for those types of situations.

Another motivation was that I knew several great authors who were great editors as well. This gave me the confidence that I could create a business and contract with other editors depending on the genre that was submitted. 

Time wise, I don’t do a lot of edit jobs. Maybe 3-4 a year, and the rest I assign out to my contract editors. (Me: Smart. A delegator.) That way, I do have time to spend on my writing as well as running the company. I probably devote an average of an hour a day to Precision Editing, handling emails, phone calls, billing, promotion, etc. (Me: And I highly recommend them!)

Me:  What were some of your favorite books as a teenager, and how have your reading tastes changed since then (if they have)?

Heather:  I read everything that was scary, from Stephen King to VC Andrews to John Saul to Mary Higgins Clark. I also read whatever was on the basement shelves, such as Tom Clancy or Louis L’Amour. My grandmother got me started on Victoria Holt books and I read quite a few of those.  Ironically, I didn’t read any YA books as a teen, unless it was a Newbury assigned for school.

Now, I read quite a bit of YA comparatively. Otherwise, I read historicals (Eric Larsen), cultural books (Amy Tan), thrillers (Harlan Coben), contemporary (Jodi Picolt, Maeve Binchy), and plenty of LDS books because I know so many authors and I like to support their work.

Me:  Okay, I have to see a picture of your writing space. I’m guessing you’ve got to have some artifacts from the Middle East or Mesoamerica on your desk or shelves to keep you focused on the time period for your historicals. If not, why not?

Heather:  A couple of years ago, I was demoted, (Me: What? How does an award-winning author get demoted?) and had to move my office into my sewing room. So there are no windows and I frequently sit in other places in the house, or sometimes I go to the library. The best part of my office is a massive Book of Mormon timeline that I had mounted and framed. Otherwise, my office is really a place of stacks of books and paper.

(Okay, if I ever have any questions about what happened in the Book of Mormon and when, I’m calling Heather!)

Me:  Finally, please share your writing process and tell us what you’re working on now.

Heather:  This has been a very busy year, writing-wise. I wrote RUBY (Newport Ladies Book Club series) in the winter/spring. Then I worked on a co-authored manuscript with my dad, THE DIVINITY OF WOMEN. In the summer, I wrote a short historical romance novella for the anthology: A Timeless Romance Anthology. In July I found out that a novel I’d turned into my publisher was “not” going to be published, so I was given a September deadline to turn in another historical novel. I wrote QUEEN ESTHER in two months. So now . . . I have two upcoming projects that I’m starting soon, a contemporary romance novella for another anthology, and a historical novel on the history of my 10th great-grandmother, who was accused of witchcraft and hanged in Salem, Massachusetts. (Me: I’m excited to read this one. Heather and I share connections to that piece of history.)

(But Heather, you’re making us all look lazy! All that AND manage the Precision Group? I’m going to suggest you give my presentation on balancing it all at ANWA’s Northwest Writer’s Retreat in November. . . Oh wait, you’re the keynote speaker there and already have several presentations to give. Maybe I should just change my topic.)

Seriously, this is one busy lady, but if you want to know more about her and her writing, check out her website and her blog. And if you need professional editing, take a look at Precision Editing Group.

Remember, there’s only one more week before my contest closes. Leave a comment here for another entry.

 

Originally posted 2012-09-18 14:04:24.

Contest Author Interview – Danyelle Ferguson

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the 50 different prizes and entry details and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

Not only is Danyelle a talented writer, but she’s a brave organizer. Along with her husband, she founded a non-profit organization (more about that later) and is helping the LDStorymakers group better serve more of its members by taking the lead in instituting a second conference in a week and a half, located in the Midwest in a place called Olathe, Kansas (a place I’ve just finished reading about in one of my thrillers–Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood…as it turns out one of the two real-life killers in the book holed up in Olathe before they committed their crimes). But I’ll give my review of that story in a few weeks once my contest is over. Now, on with my interview!

Me:  Tell us about the first article you had published when you were in 6th grade. Do you still have a copy of it?

Danyelle:  I do have a copy of it! My mom saved it in a manila envelope along with other articles about me from the time I was young until I graduated high school.

I was lucky enough to have an incredible 6th grade teacher–Mrs. Seasholtz–who encouraged my love of reading. One book was about a boy named Charlie, the poor crime-filled neighborhood he grew up in, and his relationship with the city sheriff. Rather than write a book report, my teacher suggested I invite our city sheriff to visit our class. I met with the sheriff, then he came to talk to my class about our city, crime, and how we could help with crime prevention. Afterwards, Mrs. Seasholtz sat me down at her computer and had me write my very first newspaper article. She included a picture of me and the sheriff. It was the neatest thing ever to see my article appear in our city newspaper. It made an even bigger impression on me when lots of people started calling, stopped me at the store or in the school hallways to congratulate me and ask more questions about the book or presentation. It definitely hooked me into not only writing, but being brave enough to share what I wrote with others.

(Now that’s the kind of teacher we all want our kids to have, isn’t it?)

Me:  I see that you’ve written everything from poems to short stories, not to mention your nonfiction. Which form of creative writing do you enjoy the most and why? On the other hand, which is the most challenging?

Danyelle:  Short stories are definitely the most challenging. It’s hard to fit in a beginning, middle, and end, as well as character development, in a small limited amount of words! I admire writers who specialize in short stories.

My poetry is very special to me. I only write poems when I’m dealing with really emotional situations. I started writing them when my mom was first diagnosed with cancer then continued through two more diagnoses. When she passed away just after my high school graduation, I wrote one final poem for her and tucked it into her casket. I’m honestly not the best poet – not even a really good one – but it’s the creative expression that fills my mind when life is swirling around me.

Me:  As my book includes a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome, I’m particularly interested in hearing about your oldest son who is autistic. Could you share briefly the journey you and your husband had in discovering and coming to terms with his autism?

Danyelle:  Oh wow. I don’t know how to briefly describe that. =) Actually, we thought our son just had speech delay. Looking back now, we had a rather typical experience. From birth, our son always tested early in all of his childhood developments. He started walking and talking at seven months old. He laughed, played with our friends’ kids. All the normal things you expect from a baby. Then somewhere between 12-18 months, he gradually stopped talking. We talked to our doctor about it, but he said that just happened sometimes and to wait until he was two years old. We took him back when he turned two – at which time he didn’t speak at all. The doctor said to wait another six months and we said no way. So he referred us to the local early intervention center. The center sent out someone to evaluate our son for speech delay. A few days later, they called to ask if they could come back for another visit with one of their specialists. This time after the observation, the specialist asked us if we had ever heard of autism. Neither my husband nor I knew anything about it. Little did we know that question would lead to a life-changing journey for our whole family. We made an appointment for our son to be evaluated at our local Children’s Hospital. He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. (Me: That stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified…which really doesn’t tell you much.) All of his results came back in the severe range, except for his motor skills, which were incredibly advanced.

During the first four to six months after our son was diagnosed, I couldn’t handle reading anything about autism. I was so overwhelmed, wondering what kind of future my son would have. Instead, I dived into training sessions with our Early Intervention therapist. I attended a parent/child group therapy class twice a week. The parents in the class were incredible, helped me through those rough beginning months, and are still some of my closest friends today. Meeting families who had older kids with special needs, seeing the progress they made, helped me to have hope for my son, as well. In my opinion, coming to terms with autism–or any other special needs–is a lifelong process. We never know what challenges we will need to face as our kids become older, teens, and eventually adults. It takes patience, a commitment to learning new techniques, a sense of humor, and lots of prayer.

(Amen to all of that!)

Me:  How did that journey help to bring about your recent book, (dis)Abilities and the Gospel, co-written with Lynn Parsons?

Danyelle:  During my son’s preschool years, my husband and I were the head of the school’s parent support group. Families often asked me to help them figure out how to help their child attend church or help their church leaders understand and love their child. As I researched on the Internet, I realized there were very few resources available about disabilities and church. Over the following four years, I spent quite a lot of time working with a variety of individuals, families, specialists, and church leaders to create the resources and information found in (dis)Abilities and the Gospel. Four years is a long time to work on just one project. But my son, my friends’ children, and people I met at conferences were a constant reminder of why the book was needed. It was truly an inspiring project to work on.

Me:  Tell us about the non-profit organization you and your husband founded in relation to autism and how my readers might contribute, if they so choose?

Danyelle:  Our son attended a private autism preschool called GIANT Steps. During our time there, my husband, myself and Karen Fairchild (one of the original founders of the school) created a Friends of GIANT Steps (501c3) to raise funds to supplement the school and its curriculum. We have put on sensory-friendly Christmas concerts, benefit concerts, held auctions, and a variety of other fundraisers. Thus far, we’ve been able to add a Kindermusik program (teacher training, equipment and materials) to help the kids with sensory issues and motor skills, bought playground equipment, sent teachers and paras to specialized trainings, and brought in speakers to help parents learn tips for raising their children and developing strong family relationships. Our goal is for the kids to have the best learning experience available and for families to have the resources they need. You can learn more about FOGS or donate through their website.

Me:  My son has Asperger’s and I know it was difficult, at first, for his older sister to deal with the social ramifications. How have your other children responded to your son’s autism?

Danyelle:  My son is our oldest child. So for a long time, our younger kids didn’t think anything about him being different. Even now, for the most part, they just think of him as Isaac and that’s the way he is. But as they have gotten older (3rd grade and above), they have asked more and more questions. We are very open about Isaac’s abilities and quirks. I’ve talked to the munchkins about how sensory issues or comprehension difficulties can frustrate Isaac and signs to look for so they know when to back off and let him decompress. One thing I want my kids to understand is that it’s okay to sometimes feel embarrassed or frustrated by things their brother says or does. It’s a natural human feeling, but I ask them that when they feel that way to remember he’s their brother and they are his best friends. So it’s okay to need a break, but they should always remember that they love him too.

My oldest daughter is especially empathetic to kids who are different from their peers (no matter if it’s a disability, language difference, etc.). She’s also in our school’s gifted program and pretty analytical–a trait she completely gets from her dad. last year for her big project, she chose to write a book about various disabilities, their causes, and spotlight examples of how people who have those disabilities made an impact on their community (whether through work, service, or challenges they overcame). I was impressed with how she took a personal challenge and turned it into a way to learn, grow, and find positive uplifting outcomes too.

(Sounds like her mother too, right?)

Me:  As I’ve noted before, I’m curious about authors’ writing spaces. How would you describe yours at present as if you were putting it into a novel?

Danyelle:

Danyelle scooted her wooden chair up to her desk, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine streaming through the bay windows. She sighed as she looked over at the pile of dishes that needed to be washed. Should she do them first? She calculated how many plates she needed for dinner that night before finally deciding she could safely ignore the ones in the sink. This was definitely one of the drawbacks of having her writing space in a nook off the kitchen. She quickly stacked her kids’ school papers into a pile and set them off to the side of her desk.

As she waited for the computer to boot up, she looked around at her little office space. She loved the trendy dark green walls with lime and white accents. Her favorite part was the white wall shelves filled with girly stuff – glass purses, Raine designer decorative shoes, and funky picture frames. She pulled out a sticky note and wrote a reminder to re-hang one of the shelves that came loose when the roof was repaired last fall. Maybe she’d actually get it done some time in the next year. She replaced her sticky note and pen back in the sparkly crystal crown that held her business cards, stamps and other office supply odds and ends that only writers loved and obsessed about. A variety of colored paper clips, cute binder clips, and multi-colored pens.

The computer chimed, signaling that it was ready for her to login and begin work. Danyelle nabbed a piece of chocolate out of her clear glass candy dish, popped the delicious treat into her mouth, then got ready to dive back into her current work-in-progress.

(And here’s the picture to show how well she described it!)

Me:  What are you working on at present?

Danyelle:  Right now, I’m working on one of the awesomest projects ever. The very first Storymakers Midwest Writers Conference! It’s Saturday, September 15th and in my backyard (well, almost)–Olathe, KS. Of course, that’s because I’m the one organizing it. We have an incredible line-up of authors coming to present. I’m honored to have Lisa Mangum (Deseret Book Editor & best-selling YA author), as well as Josi Kilpack (award-winning culinary mystery author) as our Keynote Speakers.

Along with the conference, we’re having a huge Authorpalooza. So if you’re in the Kansas City area, please stop by!

Friday, September 14th; 7-9 pm 

Authorpalooza Book Signing (Oak Park Mall Barnes & Noble, 11323 W. 95th Street, Overland Park, KS)

Authors include:  Lisa Mangum, Josi Kilpack, Heather Justesen, Don Carey, Karen Hoover, Traci Hunter Abramson, L.C. Lewis, STeve Westover, Danyelle Ferguson, Lynn Parsons, Tamara Hart Heiner, and more!

Me:  Finally, what are some of your favorite songs to sing while in the kitchen and how do your children react when you start belting them out?

Danyelle:  I have very eclectic musical tastes. I love everything from Natalie Cole to Bon Jovi to Katy Perry, with a healthy mix of my kids’ favorites–Justin Beiber, Hannah Montana, and Taylor Swift. I have a Kitchen Music playlist and sing along with whatever comes on. My favorite moment is when my big band music comes on and my hubby and I teach the kids our favorite swing dancing moves.

What do my kids think? They’re just as nutty as me. They dance around in the nook where my office desk is (also where the music is streaming from) and sing right along with me.

If you want to know more about Danyelle and her writing, take a moment to check out her website or her blog. Right now, she’s donating $5 from every sale of her disabilities book from her website to one of two worthy disability-related causes.

Originally posted 2012-09-05 06:00:35.

Contest Author Interview – Julie Coulter Bellon

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the 50 different prizes and entry details and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

I came to know Julie while working under her on the board of directors of LDStorymakers. She was chair that first year I was a member of the group and very open and supportive of  my ideas for the new website. Both of us share an expatriate kind of background and appreciation, therefore, for international thrillers. All of her novels are now available as ebooks.

Me:  Let’s see . . . Eight books, eight children. Which was harder? And do you get any rewrites on your parenting?

Julie:  Well, since my children are so unpredictable and my characters generally do what I tell them to, I’d say that raising children is harder. Parenting is so rewarding, though, and I get to laugh a lot, so I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I wish you all could be at our dinner table each night. It’s so fun to have a big family. As for rewrites on my parenting, thankfully my children are pretty forgiving and give me lots of chances when I mess up.

Me:  Personally, I have a thing for the number 9, but why do you prefer 8? Does it have any significance beyond your children and books?

Julie:  Eight has been my lucky number my entire life. Good things always happen to me when I’m having an “8” birthday like 8, 18, 28, etc. I can always count on my lucky number eight.

(Hmmm. As it just so happens, I only prepared eight questions to ask you, so I guess this is your lucky interview!)

Me:  What is the biggest difference between a Canadian and an American? Please tell us about where you grew up and whether you return to Canada often to visit.

Julie:  For me, there’s subtle differences between being Canadian and American. My critique group tells me all the time that my Canadian comes through in my writing because I’m too polite. Canadians are pretty laid-back, but that’s probably because they have the best food in the world to eat. Canadian chocolate and cereal are to die-for. Thankfully my mom sends me care packages in the mail so I don’t have to go too long without them. Our family also gets to have two Thanksgivings because I celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with them in October and we also celebrate American Thanksgiving with my husband and his family. I’d say we’re pretty lucky!

I grew up in Alberta and I don’t get home as often as I’d like. My entire family still lives there and I miss them terribly.

(Now I’ve heard of–and tasted–Swiss chocolate, and I’ve even heard of the wonders of New Zealand chocolate…but Canadian chocolate? Who knew?)

Me:  Are you still practicing the bagpipes and why?

Julie:  Sadly, I haven’t practiced them recently. I only know one song (Amazing Grace) and so I obviously need to expand my repertoire and practice a little more. I plan to start up again as soon as the baby’s a little older and I can explain to him why he needs to wear earplugs. Ha!

Me:  How did you get acquainted with Ms. Shreditor? Please tell my readers what they can do to avail themselves of her services.

Julie:  I have this wonderful feature on my blog called First Page Friday where I have my national editor friends, Ms. Shreditor and Angela Eschler (president of Eschler Editing), critique aspiring authors/published authors’ first pages. Two years ago when I was listening to a panel of agents and editors talk about the fact that if the first page doesn’t grab them, they usually reject it, I thought I would use editing contacts I had to help authors polish those important first pages. It has been such a learning experience both for me and my readers. I’m so grateful for Ms. Shreditor and to Angela who put in so much work to give back to the writing community.

(Here’s an example of what she’s talking about.)

Me:  What exotic locale are you planning on taking your readers to next, and what’s the basic storyline (if you’re that far into it)?

Julie:  Well, I have a book coming out in a few weeks, ALL FALL DOWN, that is set in Connecticut and Afghanistan. It’s about a hostage negotiator, Claire Michaels, who ends up in the middle of an international incident with a Navy SEAL and his brother. I loved writing this story!

(Let’s interrupt the interview for a moment to share the cover of Julie’s new novel, as well as the back cover copy. After all, it comes out at the end of September!)

Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies,

ashes, ashes we all fall down . . .

That simple rhyme turns negotiator Claire Michaels’ current hostage situation into an international incident. Claire just wants to help get everyone out safely, but as the crisis escalates she realizes she’s dealing with an al-Qaeda operative who has the means to become another bin Laden–with the potential to attack America. Claire has her own personal reasons for wanting to stop al-Qaeda, but time is slipping away as negotiations break down. Can she overcome her scars of the past in order to get the hostage out alive and possibly stop an assault on U.S. national security?

Navy SEAL Rafe Kelly is on leave to recover from a knee injury he suffered during his tour in Afghanistan and he doesn’t expect to be fighting terrorists on his home turf. But when he is taken hostage and his brother is kidnapped, Rafe teams up with a hostage negotiator in order to stay alive and get his brother back. The terrorist is always one step ahead of them, however, and the situation quickly turns from desperate to deadly. Will Rafe be able to save himself and his country without anyone he loves getting caught in the crossfire?

(Okay, back to the interview)

I’m working on a sequel to my novel, RIBBON OF DARKNESS, and it will be set in Greece. I loved visiting Athens and the island of Crete and I can’t wait to make the setting come alive for my readers. Basically, it’s Kennedy’s story (from RIBBON OF DARKNESS), and she’s still trying to solve her sister’s murder, but as an international journalist, she’s also covering some of the chaos going on in Greece. She gets caught up in a volatile situation with a Greek terrorist group and it will take everything she has to come out of it alive. That one should be released next spring.

Me:  As a former chair of LDStorymakers, can you tell us how that position impacted your writing, if at all?

Julie:  Being the chairman of LDStorymakers gave me the opportunity to work closely with a committee of incredible authors I admire and I loved getting to know them better. I’m glad we have organizations that support writers and help inspire us to become better at out craft. It was a lot of hard work because in addition to my responsibilities to the board, I also had a baby during my tenure, and released a book. But it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade because of the friendships I made.

Me:  Finally, would you please describe your office or workspace in the point of view of a spy who has broken into your home to find an important document.

Julie:  Well, my workspace is in between my family room and kitchen, so if they were looking for a document, they could expect to find it fairly easily (well, they’d have to go through my pile of permission slips, emergency contact forms, and disclosure documents from the schools that I got this week). Since I have so many kids it would probably have a food stain of some sort or be wrinkly from a drink spilled on it, though. (Okay, okay, it’s not all the kids’ fault. I do like to eat at my desk. So, the spy would probably be able to see some clues as to what I ate for lunch.)

Thank you so much for interviewing me. This was one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done.

Me:  My pleasure. (Blush)

You can find out more about Julie and her books on her blog or her website, and you can follow her on Twitter (@juliebellon). Feel free to “like” her on Facebook, as well.

Originally posted 2012-09-03 02:05:36.

Contest Author Interview – Liz Adair

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see all the prizes and details and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you another entry!)

Full disclosure: Liz and I have become very good friends since we got together to form a small critique group a couple of years ago, so if I come off as a bit irreverent during this interview, please understand that I can’t help myself. That’s why I’m grateful to have Liz in my life. She is always a lady and sets the example I try to follow. She has led a varied and interesting life, as you will learn below.

Liz has been writing seriously since 1989–mostly mysteries and romantic suspense–but we’re all grateful that she heeded the inner call to pursue a story from her own family history and penned COUNTING THE COST (more about that later). Not only did it win her the 2009 Whitney Award for Romance, but it was a finalist for the Willa Award and Arizona Publisher Association’s Glyph Award! She recently became chair of the board of directors for LDStorymakers. Her latest novel, COLD RIVER, is on our prize list.

Me:  Of all the places you’ve lived–New Mexico, Wyoming, Alaska, Utah, Arizona, Washington, etc.–which do you return to most in your dreams? Or are your dreams in entirely different places? Or do you even remember your dreams?

Liz:  I don’t remember my dreams, much. I dream in narrative, though, and sometimes I’ll wake up after a particularly riveting story and think, “Dang, I’m good.”

Me:  I happen to know you’ve held a variety of jobs throughout your life. Could you give us a quick rundown? And which provided the best fodder for your writing?

Liz:  My first job was in Alaska when I was 14. I worked at the Knik Drive In, Home of the Huskyburger. Later, I did the clerk-typist thing for the Bureau of Reclamation and kept books at an auto parts store during college, and then taught school for several years. I had a small wholesale bakery that the kids and I ran, and I’ve worked in construction management for the last fifteen years. It’s all fodder. I used my teaching experience for COLD RIVER, but my construction experience informed Spider Latham’s character. He was a man who worked with his hands.

Me:  Tell us about your writing process in the voice of either Heck Benham, the handsome cowhand, or Ruth Reynolds, beautiful city girl, in your Whitney Award-winning novel COUNTING THE COST. (I’m just trying to help you along in your current writing…consider this a writing prompt.)

Liz:  Well, my writin’ process is kinda like punchin’ cows. You gotta stick in that saddle, and rope and hog tie those phrases that come trottin’ outa your imagination. It’s long, lonely, dusty work, and sometimes at the end of the day you’ve just got a hole in your jeans where your backside hit the chair to show for your work. But you keep on, ’cause that’s what you do.

(Well done, Heck!)

Me:  Tell us which moniker you prefer privately–Just Liz, Mother Earth, Business Mogul, or Literary Lady–and why. (I’m not making this easy for you, am I? But hey, I left out Storymakers Queen Bee, so you should feel fortunate.)

Liz:  I guess ‘Just Tudy’ would suit me fine. It’s a nickname, the name I grew up with and preferred. (Elizabeth was soooo stuffy.) But in college we had 2 Judys in our apartment, and adding a Tudy made for more confusion. My roommates declared that I MUST become Liz. So I did. I have to admit that once I finally grew up, I kinda liked my given name.

Me:  Of all the characters in your books, which most closely resembles the love of your life, your husband, Derrill? Details please. (You may never want to do an interview with me again. LOL.)

Liz:  Oh, I freely admit that Spider Latham is Derrill. I’ve had men that read the book wonder how I could write so convincingly from the male point of view, and I can’t count the women who have said to me, “I just love Spider latham.” I had one say so just the other night. How are they alike? Hmmm. Derrill is a problem solver. So is Spider. Spider’s a deep thinker–so is Derrill, but both can poke fun at themselves. Growing up in a small town where generations of family have been reared has grounded them both. They know who they are, and it gives them an inner strength.

Me:  I’d ask about your writing space, but that wouldn’t be fair since you’ve only just moved into a new house in Southern Utah. So, instead, please describe your car and how well it might serve (or not) as a temporary office. (Also, please provide a picture, because if you don’t, I’ll post the one of you on the ATV.)

Liz:  My car is hugely impractical, I know. I drive a Mazda Miata and love it. It keeps my life interesting and helps on the budget because my Costco trips are limited to what I can carry home. As far as using it as an office–I do carry my Alphasmart with me in my purse in case I find time to write.

Liz, or “Tudy,” in her bright red Miata

Me:  What are you working on now in terms of your writing (whether in the house, your car, an internet café, or on the ATV)?

Liz:  I’m rewriting COUNTING THE COST. Christine Thackeray worked with me on a screenplay for it and said that it wasn’t really Heck’s story, it was Ruth’s, and it needed to start with Ruth, before she came to New Mexico. So that’s what I’ve been doing lately. I’m also working on a romantic suspense that has illegal aliens, flying cars, dynamite, and a terrific car chase.

(Hmmm. No doubt she’s conducting some actual research on the car chase in her Miata. I wonder how tough the cops are there in Kanab?)

Me:  Finally, as the new chair of LDStorymakers, how would you describe the organization and your vision for its future?

Liz:  I am so excited about LDStorymakers and what is happening there. The organization is peopled with writers dedicated to helping those who have a literary bent learn the craft. I believe that as we help good writers become better, more and more LDS writers will find themselves in the national–and world–market. My vision is that LDS writers will tip the scales towards good in the eternal ‘good vs evil’ scenario.

I tend to agree. If you want to learn more about Liz and her books, please check out her blog. And if you’re down around Kanab, Utah, watch out for a bright red Mazda Miata. ZOOM, ZOOM!

Originally posted 2012-08-27 06:00:29.