interview by Lynne Hinkey
Please welcome Rox Baxter, author of Fish Out of Water, to Underground Book Reviews!
LYNNE: Please tell us about your book, Fish Out of Water
ROS: Hmmm…where to start? Fish is a mermaid story with a difference – I call it a hip mermaid mystery. It’s about a small town deputy sheriff, Rania, whose mermaid mother fled the magical underwater kingdom of Aegira thirty years earlier under mysterious circumstances, and hooked up with her father – a small town gangster.
Three weeks out from her thirtieth birthday, Rania finds a mysterious dead blonde on Main Street, a gorgeous naked merman in her shower and a bunch of other clues that lead her back to Aegira. Rania’s been avoiding going home for thirteen years, even since a dolphin Seer told her she was going to die on her thirtieth birthday unless she could “change the course of destiny and save the world entire”. Now not only does she have to face her own end-of-days prophesy head-on, but she has to find a missing choirgirl, do battle with a megalomaniac Aegiran priest and work out who’s trying to kill her.
LYNNE: Tell us about your publishing experience. Is this your debut novel?
ROS: It’s my solo debut. I published a tandem novel, Sister Pact, with my sister Ali Ahearn (known to Harlequin readers as Amy Andrews), last year. Its sequel, is due for release at the end of this year.
Escape Publishing published Fish Out of Water
in April 2013 and its sequel, Beached, will come out early in 2014. I’ve also written a stand-alone contemporary romantic comedy, Lingerie for Felons, which will is scheduled for release by Escape in March 2014.
I also enjoy writing short stories. I contributed to URL Love, a Harper Collins anthology about love in the digital age, and have two Christmas short stories coming out soon – one a sci-fi erotic romance (with Escape Publishing), and one a contemporary small-town erotic romance. I also have two anthologies of short stories releasing soon – one pulling together contemporary romance stories, and one focused on erotic romance.
Right now I’m writing a reunion story, about an over-achiever whose best friend talks her into going back to her small-town home for a school reunion. She ends up hooking up with the baddest boy from school and getting entangled in a series of family and community disasters. And I’m also plotting a dark, gritty urban story that’s been scratching at my brain for years.
LYNNE: Fish Out of Water has been described as "Stephanie Plum meets Splash." The main character, Rania, is quite a different version from most mermaids in that she was raised and lives not only on land, but in a very desolate and arid place, Dirtwater. How did you come up with the idea?
ROS: Rania came to me fully formed – the anti-mermaid. Not soft and sweet, but an ass-kicking, heat-packing, nicotine-patching tough chick. The first few lines of the book dropped into my head:
Mermaids don’t wear nicotine patches. They don’t drink Southern Comfort from a hip flask, inhale twinkies or watch Dr Phil. Mermaids don’t pack heat. And mermaids definitely don’t get their hearts broken by tattooed guys who look like pirates.
And those lines pretty much stayed the same through all the revisions.
LYNNE: Are any of the characters in Fish Out of Water
based on real people and if not, how do you develop them?
ROS: Not really. Like all characters, I may have borrowed some traits from people here or there, but nothing specific. For me, the main thing about Rania was that she was the anti-me. The character I had written immediately prior to writing Rania (Lola from Lingerie for Felons) was much more autobiographical. With this book, I wanted to write someone completely different. I am a total wuss, not physically competent at all. Rania, while she is actually sensitive, vulnerable and intensely loyal, is a brawler. And she has to be – because I really put her up against it!
LYNNE: You're Australian, so I was surprised that Dirtwater is in the US, not Australia. Is Dirtwater based on an actual place? Where and why?
ROS: Dirtwater is fictitious, but it’s the product of all the frontier towns I’ve ever known, and quite a few of those have been in Australia. When Rania starting talking to me, she was always American. I’ve travelled quite extensively in the US, including a period studying there when I was finishing my law degree, so that’s where I had to set her story.
LYNNE: How long have you been writing, and when did you find out you loved to write?
ROS: My mother encouraged all of us to write – stories, diaries, anything. And I always loved it. For me, it was a matter of getting to a place where I realised I could make the shift from “writer” to ‘author”. My sister was wonderfully encouraging – she made me believe it was possible.
LYNNE: Tell us about your writing method. Do you start with a story idea, a scene, a cast of characters? Are you a "plotter" or "pantster"?
ROS: A bit like Rania, I’m a hybrid. I always start with the kernel of an idea, and plot out a chapter outline and characters, but the journey is pretty organic. I’m impressed and amazed by authors who can write by scene – jumping around in the book. I’m a “go to woe” kinda girl – the story is linear and I can usually see most of it in my mind.
LYNNE: Who is/are your favorite author(s)?
ROS: Gah, too hard! I’m an absolute omnivore. The first book that made me want to be a writer was AS Byatt’s Possession, and I still love beautifully written lit. But I also love commercial fiction – especially Charlaine Harris, Ken Follett, Nora Roberts and (of course) George R.R. Martin. As you can tell, I love fantasy as well as real-life stories. I also love a bit of grit – The Slap (a recent Australian hit) and Gone Girl. I also get to read all my sister’s stuff – she writes for Harlequin, Entangled and Momentum – and I love her voice. Lately, I’ve been reading some of my Escape stable-mates, and love Ainslie Paton and Sandra Antonelli – they both write unique, real stories.
LYNNE: Besides writing, do you have any other interests or hobbies? If you have time for them:-)
ROS: Ha – great question, Lynne! I like to read, and sleep, but I don’t do enough of either. I do try to make some time to see my girlfriends and I love really good high production values TV. I also recently started an initiative that’s really close to my heart. It’s a short story competition for Indigenous girls in remote Australian communities www.tomorrowgirl.com.au
. I’m a firm believer women can change the world – and the way we do it is through sharing stories.
LYNNE: When can we expect to see your next book, and can you tell us a bit about it?
ROS: My March 2014 release, Lingerie for Felons, follows hapless New Yorker Lola through fifteen years, three arrests, a succession of bad underwear and her search for love and the meaning of life. And it ends up in the most unexpected place on earth.
Lola’s parents told her that everyone can make a difference. And she believed them. She’s been championing lost causes since she was eleven. But at 23 Lola falls hard for an Australian stockbroker who thinks Doctors Without Borders is a porno and Joni Mitchell sounds like a harp seal being battered to death. For her part, Lola thinks stockbrokers taste like dirty money and Crocodile Dundee was a freaky redneck. She cuts him loose, believing she needs to find her soul mate. But over the next fifteen years their lives and paths continue to converge, as her sense of justice and bad temper land her in one excruciating predicament after another.
Along the way, Lola learns a few important life lessons. Never wear a red lace thong to a strip search. Take motion sickness pills if you’re going to the Southern Ocean to save the whales. And sometimes Mr Right can be all wrong, and Mr Wrong just needs time to marinate.
Lingerie for Felons is a funny, sad, touching take on looking for love and meaning, and the capacity of everyone to make a difference. Helen Fielding meets Al Gore.
Buy Fish Out of Water
Like Fish Out of Water
Visit Ros Baxter's Website
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWERLynne Hinkey is a writer by passion, a marine scientist by training, and a curmudgeon by nature. Her first novel,
Marina Melee, is a tropical-island misadventure available through Casperian Books. Her second novel, Ye Gods! A Tale of Dogs and Demons, comes out in spring 2014. Visit her at www.lynnehinkey.com
Marilyn Gottlieb started her writing career as a columnist for Dan’s Papers on Long Island. Since 1993, she has been president of The Crescendo Group, a small, full-service public relations firm. Prior to starting her own company, Gottlieb was senior vice president/ director of public relations for Lintas, a $1.8 billion advertising agency. Previously, she was with Ogilvy & Mather and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. A past member of the Board of Advertising Women of New York and an inductee into the YWCA’s prestigious Academy of Women Achievers, she taught Public Relations at the New School University for 18 years. In 2012, Gottlieb received an MFA in Writing and Literature from Stony Brook Southampton. Welcome, Marilyn!
Yvonne: In the Prologue you write, "Frank's life has always been bigger than the whole." What was it like collaborating with your husband to tell his story? Marilyn:
At first it was a chore, a favor I was doing so he could have something to give to his grandchildren. As I delved into the assignment, I realized history would be a major part of the book. Suddenly, we were embarking on a much bigger project than a photo album with deep captions. Collaborating with Frank, capturing his memories, adding my thoughts and traveling to places I never would have visited helped me to understand him, which was odd because after 20 years of marriage I thought I already knew him. Yvonne:
I love that you discovered new things about someone you’ve lived with and loved for so long. Did you find writing any particular section of Life with an Accent
especially challenging? Marilyn:
The biggest problem was convincing my husband that he couldn’t include everything. There also were three sections that were very challenging.
The first was depicting the German people Frank met in Crivitz as friends. Before I married Frank, most of my knowledge about Germany and Germans centered on Nazis, and I carried a strong negative bias. I couldn't understand why Frank always felt warmth to his motherland especially since he left at such an early age. Our first visit to his ancestors' home in Crivitz was difficult for me and was a dramatic contrast to Frank's enthusiasm. As I listened to the life stories of some of the Germans––their hardships and feelings––I warmed up to individuals. The process was enlightening. In addition, I was touched that Dr. Fritz Rohde was willing to share segments of the memoir he wrote about being a teen in Germany during WWII. He helped me grasp the complexity of many peoples’ lives under different political regimes.
The second challenge was writing about Frank's wife whom I had never met. I wanted to be as inclusive as possible and to show her and their relationship in a positive light. It also was very important to me to capture Frank's despair when she passed.
The hardest piece, however, was how to incorporate history without interrupting the flow of the story. Placing relevant facts in the beginning of every chapter framed each phase of Frank's life and solved that problem. Did I mention that I was graced to have input from two history professors? Yvonne:
That’s fantastic. What was your creative routine while you were working on this book? Marilyn:
Once I realized Life with an Accent
would resonate with people of different religions and nationalities, I decided to make the book as professional as possible. First, I enrolled for a Masters in Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook Southampton.
I had not been a student since I earned my first Masters degree about 40 years ago at NYU, and I welcomed the discipline necessary to meet deadlines. Not only did I write about 20 pages a week, I had the most amazing mentor and the benefit of student feedback. I wrote at home during the day, but my head was constantly filled with changes. It was an obsession I couldn't turn off, which was a good thing because there were many
Did Frank read the book as you wrote it, or did you wait to share a completed draft with him? What was his reaction? Marilyn:
Frank would tell me stories. I wrote about them, researched events on the Internet and rewrote his stories. Then I rewrote again. Frank read every draft of every chapter. The reading prompted more details and more memories that I believe made the book stronger and helps others to see his life through his eyes at a young age. Is it out of line to tell you Frank was so happy with the first copy that he slept with it like he was hugging a teddy bear? Yvonne:
Absolutely not out of line! That vivid image says so much about the power of having your story told – and told well. Can you tell us why you chose to spend so much time and write in such detail about Frank's career, sustainability and his work in Prato? Marilyn:
I wanted to let readers know Life with an Accent
is a broader story than just Frank. It is a story of how outside events impact all our lives.
Since he was a little boy Frank has wanted to save the land. Working with recycling fit into his passion. Choosing to work with machinery was a natural evolution considering his education as an engineer. So you see, the past does follow us. Yvonne:
You write about dating and blending families in middle age. Do you think your experience was unique? Marilyn:
I think Frank might have had a tougher time connecting the second time because he carried such a full yet different background. It was his dedication to making our blended family a real family that guided many of our daily choices. I do believe it is possible for most blended families to succeed in creating new and positive emotional bonds.Yvonne:
What was the editing process like for you? Marilyn:
Gruesome. I wanted the prose to read like a novel so people who don't gravitate toward biographies or historical narratives would become emotionally vested in Frank's story. Keeping it simple despite the serious situations and complexity of his life was one of my goals. I
worked with a professional editor. Then I read each page out loud and I read each chapter again. Every word was evaluated line by line with a ruler. Of course, I checked for typos and rechecked for typos and rechecked again. Damn those typos. Yvonne:
You close the poignant Epilogue
with "I saw on many levels that the past matters." How has delving into and hearing Frank's history mattered to you as the "all-American woman Frank married," and as a writer? Marilyn:
Nobody is born in a vacuum. I never thought much about this before, but now I am more aware that we all carry pieces of our parents and grandparents as well as early parts of our lives. Traveling to meet people from Frank’s past who live around the world and writing this book, including the segments on Czechoslovakia and the textile industry broadened my understanding of how world events impact all our lives. It also gave me greater empathy for the many wonderful immigrants in this country. In fact, I recently realized I married one.Yvonne:
Are you writing — or do you plan to write — another book? Marilyn:
I am writing two other books.
The first draft of my novel entitled Dance Me Younger: A Frothy Romp Through Human Weakness
is complete. It explores the emotional turning point in the life of a middle-aged women faced with retirement, grown children and an aging face. To spice it up, the main character is married to a plastic surgeon. He sends her to Italy for a vacation. Advice from her deceased mom plays in her head and provides a balance to her fantasies.
The other book is a series of humorous columns in the creative non-fiction genre entitled Slightly Bad Blind Dates and Other Life Stories.
Segments range from dates to dogs; from marriage to motherhood and working in a glitzy industry. Dan’s Papers
published several of these columns in the mid-1970s, and others were recently featured in The Southampton Review
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWERYvonne Lieblein writes poetry and fiction from her seaside village home in Greenport, NY. She’s written a novel with a musical soundtrack,
The Wheelhouse Café, and is co-creator of theBOOKPROJECT, a novel night out where book lovers meet. Yvonne also brings two decades worth of high-octane experiences as an entrepreneur to her work as a catalyst, compass and champion who helps people define and achieve success on their own terms. You can find her at yvonnelieblein.com.
Please welcome author Gretchen Powell to the Underground. Half-Chinese and the daughter of a US diplomat, Gretchen Powell spent her childhood growing up in far-off places. She made it all the way to her mid-twenties whilst maintaining her deep-seated love for young adult novels, so she decided to write one of her own. Her creative process involves copious amounts of Sour Patch Kids and sleeping fitfully. Her many interests include anything with polka dots, Harry Potter, and playing the ukulele. When she isn't crafting devastated future worlds and fiery heroines, Gretchen also writes a healthy living blog, entitled "Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!" Welcome, Gretchen!Katie:
Your blog lists Terra
as your first book. What was your writing process like? How long did it take to from start to finish?Gretchen:
Writing a book was like a pipedream for many years. I always knew that I loved writing, as I loved reading, and wanted to turn that love into something tangible for others to share in. But before the advent of self-publishing and learning that I could do it all myself, I didn't think I had the patience (nor the stomach for rejection!) that the traditional publishing route entails. But, I couldn't quite shake the idea of it, and when the idea for Terra
came about, thanks to a few discussions with my brother, it started to become real. Terra
took almost exactly one year from concept to publication. Katie:
You also mention on your blog that the sequel to Terra
has been hard in coming. Have you made progress since then? Any advice on those working on a sequel? Gretchen:
Since writing is not my full-time gig, I've been finding that the sequel to Terra
has been much slower-going due to the fact that I started a new job back in April. I absolutely love my new day job, but I also am passionate about and dedicated to writing the sequel (and hopefully finishing out the series as a trilogy!) so it's been frustrating not feeling like I have a lot of time to devote to writing. I'm about 50% of the way through writing book two now, and I've just had to accept that I'm not going to be able to stick to a lightning-fast timeline on this.
Honestly, in a lot of ways I think writing a sequel is much more difficult because there are a lot more factors you have to consider. Rather than just crafting a world in your mind, you are suddenly committed to anything you stated in your first book, so as a writer I just need to be more thoughtful about my choices. Book two, titled "Underground" is still most definitely in the works, however, and I hope to have it completed in the not-too-distant future so that the story can continue!Katie:
On a personal note, you mention that you are the daughter of a US Diplomat. How did your childhood prepare you for life as a writer?Gretchen:
I have pretty much been on the move for my entire life. My father's job involved packing up and moving across the globe every 3 - 4 years, so there was a lot of transition and adapting to change involved in my childhood. I'm very close to my family as a result, and I am absolutely in love with the written word as another. When I was spending days of your life on planes, waiting for the internet connection to be hooked up, killing time before that first day of school when I didn't know anyone yet, books were (and are!) my very best friends. Not to mention that keeping in touch with friends the world over is MUCH easier when you can adapt to written communication (international phone calls are still kiiiiinda pricey, haha). So I definitely think that my childhood growing up overseas laid the foundation for me to naturally explore writing on a professional level.
I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview author Donald Dempsey after reading his fabulous memoir "Betty's Child." He is an exceptional writer and storyteller! Let's get right to the interview:
CANDI: What inspired you to sit down and write your story?
DONALD: That book/story always roiled around inside me. My childhood is an ingrained part of me. Understanding it was a necessity. I had to learn to deal with the anger and guilt as best I could in order to overcome it. Writing it and releasing it helped me to understand who I am and make some necessary changes.
CANDI: Did you have any concerns about your family's reaction to the book? How have they responded?
DONALD: Yes I did. My wife was very encouraging and supportive. My brothers are both good with it. My mother hasn't spoken to me since it was released. That bothers me sometimes, but we never had a real relationship anyway. I try not to dwell on it.
CANDI:: Were you surprised at any memories or feelings that came up as you immersed yourself back into your difficult childhood?
DONALD: I've often said the parts of this book readers seem to like the most actually wrote itself. The book didn't follow my original notes at all. I never planned on the language being so harsh. I cringed when I read how insensitive some of the words were. But it was as if I truly was that kid in the seventies for a while, and that was how I thought and acted. So I left it as it spilled out. Some parts of the book are tough for me to read, and I proofread the chapter where my brother is attacked just one time. I haven't read that chapter again, nor believe I ever will.
CANDI: As a kid, you instinctively understood the power of words. For example, when you found yourself in that perilous situation with the angry bikers, you managed to talk your way out of it. When did you discover you had this ability to use language to help you survive?
DONALD: Slinging words was a habit that probably landed me in more trouble than it saved me from! But, the love of words and the hunger to read about living differently, probably did save my life. I don't like to say I am lucky, but I will admit I have been blessed. I can remember telling anyone who would listen that I was never going to be this or that, and how I was going to grow up and get this and have that. Back then it was bluster that transformed into a misguided anger, but eventually I learned to talk less and listen more. I try to pick my words carefully now.
CANDI: You were an extremely street smart kid. How has this skill served you as an adult?
DONALD: I have pretty sharp instincts. I'm rarely conned and extremely slow to trust. It's difficult for some people to truly comprehend the evil that exists among us. For most, the closest they will be to rape or murder or serious crime is what they read about or see on television. Having escaped and survived my childhood I'm left with a few scars and I'm a bit pessimistic, but it's also granted me a clarity concerning human nature. I'm a fairly shrewd judge of character, and rarely wrong when it comes to sizing someone up.
CANDI: Your book was published by "Dream of Things." What has the publishing experience been like for you? Was it difficult having editors request changes in a story that's so personal to you?
DONALD: My publisher found me when I had all but given up on my book. So I gave him a lot of leeway. He told me going in that he was going to have to shorten it, which worried me. In the end he wound up adding another 10 pages or so and decided there was nothing he wanted to omit. Even though the book does run a bit long, it doesn't seem to bother the readers.
CANDI: You have so many glowing editorial reviews and reader reviews on Amazon! How does this feel? Were there any responses that surprised you?
DONALD: I am truly humbled by the glowing reviews. I still don't consider myself an author. I feel like I just told a story. And I am always surprised whenever an obviously intelligent and talented person takes the time to so eloquently and thoughtfully praise my book. Especially authors like yourself. I find myself reading some of the reviews again and again in a state of disbelief.
THE LINKSGet it on Amazon!Find it on Goodreads
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWERCandi Sary, author of
Black Crow White Lie, has made the finals in several writing competitions, including the William Faulkner William Wisdom Writing Competition and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. She lives in coastal Southern California with her husband (while her 2 kids are off at college), and can often be found surfing the waters of Newport Beach. You can find her at www.candisary.com
Born in Alaska, world-traveler and translator Michelle Granas is the ideal author for a romantic political thriller set in Poland. In Zaremba: or Love and the Rule of Law, Michelle’s worldliness and compassion shine through. She joins us today to ask us some questions about her sprawling novel. Amy:
In Zaremba: or, Love and the Rule of Law
, your main character,Cordelia, is a polio victim. In many ways, this disability highlights her inner strength, and makes her character even more likable. Why did you choose to write your novel in the point of view of a disabled woman, and why Polio?Michelle:
I'm not sure I made a conscious choice in the matter, as the story sprang into my mind fairly fully formed. There were perhaps some subconscious prompts, however. I have known a number of persons who suffered from polio. That's not surprising, really, since polio survivors are one of the largest groups of disabled persons in the world. In the neighborhood where I live now there is a lovely woman whom I see regularly coming and going from the shops, walking with a crutch and accompanied by a small dog.
I've always admired people who start with a handicap of any kind - physical, social, or financial - and who manage to overcome it to live more fully than many more advantaged people. On the other hand,
I know that society can sometimes be unthinkingly cruel to those who differ in the slightest from the average. Who has escaped childhood without being told "you're weird" at least once? It's easy to imagine that an introverted person with a disability might come to feel very sensitive about all contacts. Cordelia shrinks from the world but has the strength to face her fear.
At a glance, many aspects of your life resemble Cordelia. You were both born in America and now reside in Poland. You both work as translators. Is it presumptuous to guess that the shy but strong-minded Cordelia, in part, is a reflection of yourself?Michelle:
Ah no. Beyond those few details of birth and occupation, the resemblance between myself and a beautiful, competent, multi-lingual, thirty-year-old polio victim is really not, alas, striking. Well, maybe the shyness is a common trait. For the rest, Cordelia has many qualities that I value, like honesty and self-sacrifice, and some that are less positive, like a certain primness, caution, and reserve, which she needs to modify in order to progress as a human being.Amy: Zaremba: or Love and the Rule of Law
is one part romance and two parts political commentary. There is no doubt that the story has depth that goes deeper than the plotline. Tell us a little bit about what sort of message you hope to impart through your writing.Michelle:
Thank you very much for asking this question. I've found it quite interesting to see how different readers view my book. They seem to divide, and some - like yourself - see the political message as uppermost, while others see the love aspect as being the stronger element. I imagined it as a love story, interrupted.
In literature as in life, it is usual in the West that two characters with sufficient attractions will be ready, as Keats says, for "a breathing human passion" and "more happy, happy love." But I don't think we can take such a comfortable situation for granted.
Cordelia and her family live peacefully in Warsaw among books and lines of poetry; they have a garden and a daily routine. When they read about events in the outer world, such as the misuse of surveillance, or their government's extrajudicial proceedings, or the American torture of detainees in the Polish countryside and elsewhere, these no doubt seem like events that could never touch their own lives. Their love for one another - and later, Cordelia's love for Zaremba - is paramount for them, and so it should be. I hope that readers will enjoy my story above all for its characters and their relationships.
But I also hope readers will be reminded that however much we may wish to, we don't lead our lives in isolation from the injustices in our societies. Many people in interwar Central Europe, for instance, ignored what was going on around them until it was too late. The mechanisms are the same everywhere. When we hear that our government - it doesn’t matter which country or what party - is bending, breaking, or misapplying the law in order to "stop bad people" then we have to know that we too could be labelled a "bad" person and we too could be dealt with in a similar, sinister manner. Human rights abuses affect us all.Amy:
How did you come up with the idea for Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law
I wrote the incident where Cordelia is on her way to a job interview and has to rescue a stray puppy first, in the summer of 2007, but then the story didn't seem to go any further. That autumn, after a period of rather hard work, I fell ill and spent a lovely week in bed. During the week the story seemed to come to me complete. I knew what the characters were named and everything about them. I wrote two-thirds of the first part then. The issues of Polish politics and growing authoritarianism were very much on my mind at the time; but I had finished most of the first draft before the Polish elections took place. I thought I knew how they would turn out, and fortunately I was right. Otherwise, I would have had to go back and change the story. The second part I wrote the next summer. The story of the second half seemed to me a possible, even natural, consequence of certain policies. It's easier to achieve happy endings in literature than real life, though.Amy:
Tell me a little bit about your writing process. Are you an avid outliner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go kind of author?Michelle:
I generally start with an idea, and then I think the characters come next. They appear and acquire minds of their own. They walk and talk and I follow them about and take notes, but eventually they have to subordinate themselves to the idea. Amy:
The publishing process can be long and arduous. What made you decide to self-publish, and are you happy with your decision?Michelle:
I had agents for three previous novels, none of which found publishers. With Zaremba
I decided to carry on alone. I would have preferred a publisher - or, at least, I think I would. Publishers have far more reach and marketing possibilities. The necessity for self-promotion that comes with self-publishing is unnatural for me. Self-publishing does have its positive sides though. I had control of the whole process; I learned to do many new things; and I've come into contact with a lot of nice people - both readers and reviewers. I've been very pleasantly surprised by the openness of bookshop owners here in Poland and of bloggers around the world to considering a self-published work.Amy:
And finally, are you working on any new projects? When will your fans be able to read more?Michelle:
I have written three other books. I published Zaremba
, which was actually my fourth novel, first, because I thought it was particularly topical, but I hope to publish the others one by one. The next, which is also set in Poland, is called Swans Are Fat Too,
and should appear at the beginning of the coming year.
Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to talk about my writing.Links:
Find Zaremba on Smashwords
Read Zaremba on GoodreadsAbout the interviewer:Amy R. Biddle was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has since made a living on the great blue sea.
The Atheist's Prayer, her debut novel, will be published in the fall of 2013 by Perfect Edge Books. You can visit her at www.amyrbiddle.com.
Author. Soldier by day, Soldier by night - Writer in between. Knows war to write war. David Emrys, known as “D” to his friends, is a serving soldier and author. He has clearance to know more than he should, but not the sense to know better. Leaving education with no more than a fifteen year old’s understanding of English Literature, D’s storytelling craft is self-taught.
Growing up with the heroic tales written by authors such as David Gemmell and James Barclay, D was inspired to write stories of his own. After joining the army, D used his free time to focus on his dream of sharing shelf-space with his idols.
D testifies to the fact that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword – but swords make for better letter-openers. He lives where the army sends him, but home is in Chelmsford with his fiancée. They say that behind every great man there is a woman pulling the strings, but she lets him dance to his own song whilst being the perfect partner in step. D claims that his books would not have been written without her.
David Emrys is not his real name. Nor is D.
BRIAN: D, welcome to the Underground. Thanks for joining us. You’re writing under a pen name, so what’s your real name? Just kidding! (Unless you can really tell us, because that would be cool.) Seriously, what convinced you to write under a different name and why “D.E.M Emrys”?
D: Thank you for having me! My real name? Haha, that’s secret. With the nature of my job, I’m restricted as to what I can put ‘out there’ in the public domain. Not in a ‘if I tell you, I have to kill you’ sense, but let’s just say it’s safer for everyone involved!
Realistically, I could’ve used my own name and published/networked under a fake ‘background’(e.g. tinker, tailor… underwater wood welder) but I thought that bringing my military experience to the table was more intriguing to the potential reader.
And D. E. M. Emrys? A good few reasons. 1) D. E. M. Emrys is special to me. My father took his own life when I was sixteen, and left very little as a legacy. To put something of him down in history, I adopted his middle (Emrys) and first (David) names into my Author Persona. And so, D. E. M.
Emrys was born. 2) Again, the nature of the job required a measure of security. And 3) the most important to the author vying for a modicum of success. I needed a name that was searchable. If you put my real name into Google it pretty much crashes the search engine. So rather than being 1 in thousands of ‘John Doe’s, I give myself a unique ID.
BRIAN: As you know, I passed up From Man to Man on my first look several
months ago. However, I think what changed my mind was how well you developed
your lead character, Draven, in such a short time. Tell our readers a little
about what inspired Draven’s character.
D: Draven is a fighter. Pure and simple. He’s got the bruises, the scars (ones you can see, and ones you can’t), the memories and the nightmares. He’s not only been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt, but he can also point out the graves of those who didn’t make it back.
With a background in the military, needless to say I’ve met my own fair share of‘Draven’s’. Soldiers by nature are fighters – not just in the bang-bang, punch-punch sense, but in the very fact that when we do our job, the odds are stacked against us in a thousand and one different ways. But even up against all that adversity, soldiers push through, they get the job done, no matter how hard it might be. Soldiers don’t make the impossible, possible - soldiers just do it.
And on a personal level, Draven is very much based on my father. Yes, he took his life, and to many that may seem like giving up, but to the ever
glass-half-full me, I believe he did the opposite. He was mentally ill for a
very long time, and after losing so many battles against what he believed was his invincible enemy, he decided to win the war. Rather than continue his decline, he took a stand during a time that he thought was a ‘happy one’, and decided to go out on his feet, rather than live on his knees. I don’t condone what he did to anyone, and if you ever experience mental health issues please seek help, but to me my Dad was a hero.
Elizabeth Appell is an award-winning author, screen writer and playwright. She staged her first novel, LessonsFrom the Gypsy Camp in the Sacramento Valley of California, where she grew up. A world traveler and adventurer, Elizabeth has a wealth of life experiences to draw on for her stories. She is here today to answer some questions about her writing career. Welcome, Elizabeth!
AMY: Your novel, Lessons From the Gypsy Camp,
follows a young girl whose father is a lawyer, during an important court case. It has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird
, and although it does not address race, it does address stereotypes and class issues from the perspective of a young child. Did you have To Kill a Mockingbird
in mind when you wrote the story?
ELIZABETH: No. It came up when Mary Linn Roby reviewed the book. She made the comparison. Of course I was thrilled. I understand it, however. When children like Scout or Lolly muster the gumption to stand up for what they believe, they leave a wake of respect and inspiration.
AMY: Lolly, your main character, is sweet and tenacious. Since the novel was set in your hometown, it's easy to imagine that Lolly is based, in part, off of a younger version of yourself. But that may not be the case. Where did your inspiration for gentle Lolly come from?
ELIZABETH: Yes, I have to admit there's some of my early life in the book. There was a gypsy camp outside of my home town and they did have a cougar. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was never to cross the levee. One day I was wondering, what would happen if I had crossed and that was the beginning of the book.
AMY: Lessons From the Gypsy Camp
was published by Scribes Valley Press, which previously only published anthologies. Can you tell us a little bit about how you found them (or how they found you)?
ELIZABETH: I think this is how it happened. Scribes Valley Press put out a call for short stories and I answered. My story was included in the anthology. David Repsher, the editor and publisher, and I talked several times after that. He's a really smart, kind man. Somehow we talked about other things I'd written and Lessons came up. He asked to read it and then suggested maybe it should be published. We worked closely together since it was his first as well as mine.
AMY: I understand that Lessons From the Gypsy Camp
has been adapted into a screen play, and has won a few notable awards. Is there progress being made on filming it?
ELIZABETH: For a while there was a strong possibility it was going to be produced. But the movie business is extremely fickle. I met several times with the producer, but little by little the momentum faded. Lessons can be an expensive project. Having children as the leads, including animals, and setting the story in 1955 all increase the budget. I'm involved with producing a film at the moment. It's a huge effort. If I'm successful and survive the slog, maybe I'll get back to Lessons.
AMY: Your list of literary and film accomplishments is impressive. What drew you into the world of storytelling, and how did you manage to make it a career?
ELIZABETH: I've been writing plays and stories since I was really young. In the fifth grade I directed a play that I wrote. One of my actors (a fifth grade boy) wouldn't take his role seriously so he got cut. A zillion years later at our high school reunion I saw him. I wasn't sure he remembered the incident, but I brought it up and apologized. He turned the table and thanked me. He is now a working actor in New York. He said I taught him a lesson he's used all his life. I'm not sure I can call my storytelling a career. I've always had to have a job job, but it is my passion. As difficult as the craft is and how difficult it is to get my work recognized, I still do it. It feels like I don't have a choice.
AMY: As an experienced writer, do you have any advice for new authors as they enter the big, scary world of publishing?
ELIZABETH: WRITE! Don't allow excuses to take over so a month or several months pass without doing the work. Now there are so many opportunities to get your work out. There are hundreds of contests and self-publishing avenues. You may not hit the New York Times Bestseller List, but few do. And that's a whole other story. But you can see your work in print, virtual or otherwise. Don't EVER give up. NOT EVER! One more point. I read something not too long ago that I have pasted to my lamp. "Keep it new!"
AMY: And finally, I imagine you always have a project up your sleeve. Can you tell us what you're working on now?
ELIZABETH: I'm just finishing a novel, Elements of Betrayal
, a mainstream drama about a family who all crossed a man's path on the night he was murdered. I'm also producing a film, Trusted Friends
, a thriller with two female leads, about a rookie cop who discovers her new friend has her in the cross hairs since she was forced to kill her new friend's lover, a small time thug who had taken her training officer hostage her first night on duty.
Buy it on Amazon
Check it out on Goodreads
Follow @eappell Twitter
Find Elizabeth on Facebook
Visit Elizabeth's personal website
THE REVIEWERAmy R. Biddle, co-founder and senior editor at Underground Book Reviews, was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has since made a living on the great blue sea.
The Atheist's Prayer, her debut novel, will be published in the fall of 2013 by Perfect Edge Books. You can visit her at www.amyrbiddle.com.
Please welcome my writing buddy and steadfast critique partner, Ingrid Seymour. Her favorite genres are Young Adult and New Adult. The idea for her debut novel "The Guys Are Props Club" assaulted her one day, and she just had to commit it to paper. She wrote it in record time and had incredible fun doing it. Now, she's enjoying hearing from her readers. Welcome, Ingrid! Katie: The Guys are Props Club
happens to be your debut into New Adult literature. What made you venture into such a new genre?Ingrid:
First let me say hello. I’m excited to have an opportunity to reach your blog's readers! Let’s see, to answer your question, I've been writing for seven years now. In that time, I've worked on perfecting my craft and have dedicated myself entirely to my favorite genre which is speculative YA. I was actually in the middle of writing the 3rd book in one of my YA paranormal series, when I just had to stop to write The Guys Are Props Club.
Like most authors, I read all the time—normally two books at a time. And lately, I've been reading a lot of New Adult fiction. Its popularity has been growing and I was curious as to why. Next thing I know, I was enjoying myself reading those books and my writerly
brain started churning. Then suddenly one day, I was assaulted by an idea that demanded to become a novel. That idea was The G.A.P Club
. Pretty much it was decided for me.Katie: Being slightly older than your character Maddie, how did you dig yourself back into the role of a 19-year-old?Ingrid:
Would you believe me if I told you I've never grown up? I feel eighteen-years- old at heart—maybe younger. If I’m in a playground, I’m the one sliding and swinging with the kids, laughing like an idiot. There’s also the fact that my teen years were so crucial into shaping me and the relationships I forged and those memories are still fresh in my mind. I think of myself as a mixture of childhood, adolescence and adulthood. I think all of this helps me portray characters of any age in my work. I really enjoyed writing nine-year-old Hunter in this novel; he seems the favorite of many readers. Hopefully I'm doing a good job with all age groups.Katie:
How do you keep romance writing fresh? Ingrid:
In my opinion, to have a fresh romance you have to have a hook and great characters. There are a gazillion romance novels out there, all following the same formula: Girl meets boy, there’s a spark, there’s a conflict, reconciliation, happy ever after. So how do you stand out? I think you need a hook, something that intrigues the reader, something that makes your story a little different from the rest. The Club
is that element in this book. Add to that characters you can root for, and you have a story worth reading.Katie:
What's your secret for steamy love scenes and how do you know how far to go with sexual content in your books?Ingrid:
As for the steamy scenes, I try to stick to the requirements of the genre as well as respect the audience’s expectations. In YA, obviously, a steamy scene would be inappropriate. The young audience expects a heated romance, but anything more would be unfitting. In NA, on the other hand, the older audience expects a little more, so you have to provide it.
Once I’m writing the steamy scene, I try to be tactful. Personally, I don’t like anything too explicit, so I avoid using certain words or try to be subtle.Katie:
You decided to self-publish The Guys as Props Club (and I was happy you joined the ranks of us neurotic indies), though I know you are seeking a traditional deal for another of your titles. What made you take the leap?Ingrid: I guess impatience. The process of finding an agent/publisher is very time consuming and long. The problem is that I move at a fast pace and wish everyone else did too. I have several novels fit for publication, and though I've had great response from agents and publishers on my work, for some reason or another, the opportunity of being traditionally published hasn't become a reality. Nowadays, however, authors have options, and creating a diversified publication portfolio is smart. I just happened to start with self publishing ;) Katie:
What's next for you? Ingrid:
I’m currently working on the next book in The Guys Are Props Club
series. I plan to have that out before the end of the year. I also have a couple of requests from big publishers for my paranormal romance and hope this will create a traditional venue for my work *fingers crossed*
It really was as honor being here. Thank you so much for having me, Katie.Katie:
Thanks for joining us, Ingrid. You can find her at the links below.
Rob Rowntree, lives in Nottinghamshire, England, with his wife and two boys. He took up writing fiction over ten years ago and has had some success with short stories, notably, Armadillo, in issue two of the short-lived professional magazine, Farthing. More recently his work has appeared in the Transtories Anthology, from Aeon Press and the anthology Colinthology (in memory of the SF writer Colin Harvey), from Wizards Tower Press. Unbound Brothers is his first novel. He is currently working on his second, Refugium.
BRAN: Rob, welcome to the Underground. We are delighted to have you here. First question, what do you do when you’re not writing?
ROB: Where to start? I hold down a day job, working in local government. It’s dull, but pays the bills. When I find some spare time, I like to drag the family out on walks around Sherwood Forest. Luckily, we are blessed with some great countryside not too far from our door. Lot’s off rock-climbs, lakes to canoe on and bike trails. My friends will tell you I like to socialize (my misspent youth coming to the fore), and it’s true, I’m pretty outgoing. If one were to search hard enough, there’s a story out there regarding, I think it’s either the 2008 or 2009 British Fantasy Society Convention, that I’d like to delete from the internet. I recall that we had a good time though.
BRIAN: I was impressed with both the character development and dialogue in Unbound Brothers. How do you go about creating your characters?
ROB: Ha! Straight in with a difficult question. I’d like to say that I plan my characters, write little biographies for them all and design the arcs-of-change for them.
But that would be a lie. The truth is that I let them develop as I write. My stories often pop into being with a scene, or situation. At that point, I’ll pick a character to drop into the scene, giving them a problem to solve, or worry over. Name, build and demeanor will form quickly. I always use these questions: What’s happening? What does your protagonist want? What’s stopping her/him? How’s she/he going to achieve her or his goal? As the scene unfolds, I try and look for tone, or impose tone depending on the emotion I want the reader to experience. Other characters join and interact and here I try to steer the dialogue to propel the narrative forward. Dialogue is an extension of a person’s/character’s personality. All character’s have their own objectives, just as in life. So as I write I’m always thinking of where I want the narrative to go. To be honest, doing it this way does throw me to odd curve ball and I have to nip back in the text to fix things. But it also brings rewards in the form of unexpected developments. I’m a dedicated by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. Although that may be changing.
BRIAN: I follow several sci-fi blogs. The buzz word these days is “wet-ware”. Tell us a little about it and why you decided to use it in Unbound Brothers.
ROB: Wet-ware– my take is that the term refers to body-embedded software and technology. The variety of uses is almost endless and many SF writers have explored this idea.
Going back to character for a moment, I wanted my protagonist, Alan, to have faults, things that made him human. He was in a bad place and I wanted to make it harder. I toyed with the idea of drug addiction, but felt that I could push the envelope a little. I like the idea of wet-ware, the idea of embedded tech,‘machinery’, wires, docking ports or whatever. Then I got to thinking there might be drawbacks. That’s when it fell into place – What if you became dependent on the connection? What would your life be like if you no longer had access and had cravings? It’s not as extreme as Niven’s wire addicts, but in Alan’s case, his addiction puts a crimp in his swagger; another problem for him to deal with.
As it turned out, the wet-ware became pivotal to the plot. Also it’s an extension of current research, there are big changes coming in medicine, big changes on the horizon for smart products, nano technology and already we see advancement in technology helping blind people see, deaf people hear and so on. It’s rudimentary now, but wet-ware’s coming and it won’t be long.
E. J. Russell is the author of the lyrical and spellbinding novel, Return to the Aegean. Raised in Greece, she has spent her life traveling through Europe, Asia and America, chasing her dreams. With a lifetime of experiences, a degree in Art History and a masters in Publishing, E. J. Russel is an author to watch out for. Welcome to the Underground, EJ!Amy:
Your novel spends a healthy amount of time describing the language and cultures of Greece. I felt that I was being constantly educated, but it never felt academic. Your prose was heartfelt and genuine, and at times it was so raw that I felt as though I was from Greece myself. Such powerful writing can only come from someone with genuine feelings for a place, and I am dying to hear about your own personal upbringing. Where were you raised in Greece, and how did your childhood memories affect the telling of Return to the Aegean?EJ:
I was raised on the island of paros, in the kyklades. The way I was brought up was unique, with educated and yet hippy parents surrounded by the warmth of the Greek community and also a society of eccentric artists and foreigners.
The nature of Paros had a huge impact on me, how could I fail to be touched by the gorgeous surroundings of the island? I made a special connection with the sea and the Aegean and was happiest on the beach and by the water. That raw and larger than life illuminated nature of Greece touches your soul and of course it continues to resonate throughout my life.Amy:
The setting of your book is the Greek island of Katafigio. However, when I researched Katafigio, all I could find wass a mountain village in the middle mainland Greece. Tell us more about the setting of your novel. What does the island of Katafigio represent?EJ:
Katafigio is the Greek word for 'Sanctuary.' It is symbolic, Thalia has been searching for peace and sanctuary all her adult life. Paros where I grew up has also become a sanctuary for me, a place of astonishing beauty both in the winter and summer, a place where i can go to recharge my batteriesAmy:
Your main character, Thalia, is a deep sea diver, fisherwoman and captain. What made you choose this profession for her?EJ:
I am a diver and free diver myself and have a dayskipper license. I love being on boats and the open water. Everything about the lifestyle is empowering and opens up a world of freedom respecting the balance of nature. You never take the sea for granted. At one point I even thought about studying Marine Science at Woods Hole in the US.
Thalia's character is definately an extension of myself and it fitted her perfectly.Amy:
What kind of research did you have to do to truly get into Thalia's mindset and occupation?EJ:
I researched courses available, particularly marine archeology, diving methods, international diving laws and about old myths. The research was extensive and I so enjoyed it that I would often go off on tangents and read other marine info. There was so much material and I used maybe 10% of it in total.
In my experience, I have found that divers and 'sea folk' are highly competent and confident people, with a strong inner core. They dont mind the solitude of the sea which is important. Thalia had been wounded earlier in her life and needed a new focus and passion, I felt studying Marine Archeology would be perfect for her.Amy:
I understand that Return to the Aegean was nominated for an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Can you tell us a little bit about the achievement?EJ:
That was quite a surprise. One of my editors suggested the nomination and it was done in the blink of an eye. I think it is a great idea for new authors who believe they have a worthwhile book to offer readers.Amy:
It's hard for indie authors to get their name out. What have you done to promote your writing? What works, and what doesn't?
EJ: Time and research works. An author needs to totally understand the niche in the market for their book. Once you are sure, target blogs, magazines, newspapers, go international. Don't be afraid, but do be professional. It took about 6 months for results to come back about the book, for reviews and articles in magazines, so planning and investigating what reviewers and journalists want is vital.
Sending a vague spam mail to editors and reviewers doesn't work. Make an advance information sheet, make a video, capture their interest in the very first line of a letter or email and keep it short and simple. Keep going.Amy:
And finally, what can you tell us about the sequel, Aegean Abduction
Aegean abduction is a continuation of Thalia's family story and her bravery. It is a much shorter and faster paced 'middle' book but it is vital to the series. We see how Thalia has settled into the community and her refusal to doubt her instinct or strong characer resolve. The book wrote itself very fast and leads ultimately to the surprising conclusion to the series. The end wont be what readers expect but explains some of the mystery of the first book.
Read the review of Return to the Aegean
on Underground Book Reiviews
Check it out on Goodreads
Like EJ's Facebook pageAmy R. Biddle, co-founder and senior editor at Underground Book Reviews, was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has since made a living on the great blue sea.
The Atheist's Prayer, her debut novel, will be published in the fall of 2013 by Perfect Edge Books. You can visit her at www.amyrbiddle.com.