Interviews

An Interview with Indie Author Katherine Girsch

Katherine Girsch holds an MA in Spanish Literature from the University of Oregon. In 2018 she self-published Coming to Terms: A Novel under the name K.D. Girsch, and she completed TransAtlantic Ties, a collection of interconnected short stories, in 2021. She is currently at work on My Own Heart’s Song. She lives and writes in a renovated nineteenth-century cottage in Oregon.

Will: Kathy, words like “luminous,” “elegant,” “transcendent,” come to mind when I try to describe your prose. Can you give us a glimpse into your writing process? How do you do it?

Kathy: Thank you. I appreciate your lovely description of my prose. Writing is a delight for me, an opportunity to express who I am in a voice that doesn’t always make itself heard in my day-to-day conversations. I imagine people and let their experiences, thoughts, and voices take up residence in my mind. They evolve, and a substantial part of each character’s life is waiting for me when I start to write. Individual personalities continue to develop and deepen as they respond to events and interactions on the page. The characters I create teach me something and inspire the words I choose to tell their stories.

Will: When and how did you discover you were a writer?

Kathy: I never thought of myself as a writer of fiction until I’d finished the first pages of my first book in the fall of 2016. Nonetheless, the characters of the story I started writing that September day had lived with me for months. Throughout my life, characters as diverse as Heidi, Peter Pan, Anne Frank, Hamlet, Jude of Jude the Obscure, Scout of To Kill a Mockingbird, and Thomas Cromwell of Wolf Hall have brought literature to life for me, and they inspired me as I envisioned characters of a story that eventually became Coming to Terms: A Novel. I shared the story I was imagining with my husband, who encouraged me to actually write it down. The first few hours of that process did not go well. I hadn’t expected my characters to shine like those written by literary greats, but my total lack of success at transporting the beauty in my head to the written page was demoralizing. Not about to abandon the characters I loved, I persevered. Before the day was up, I was a writer.

Will: What about “nuts and bolts?” Do you have dedicated time and space for writing? Do you develop an outline before you begin?

Kathy: When I was writing my first book, I wrote any place I could carry a laptop—the coffee shop, airplane seats, my bed—but I control myself these days and, depending on the season, confine my writing to a spare room next to my bedroom or the garden room at the back of the house. I start writing while I drink my first cup of coffee. The session might last as little as forty-five minutes, but most often goes on for three or more hours. I write for a couple of hours in the evening, and if I awake with an idea in the middle of the night, I slip out of bed and head for my laptop. I don’t use a written outline, but I do have a loose plan in my head. I start out by writing spontaneously, letting the thoughts that have accumulated in my subconscious flow freely. I’m not at all organized in those first moments. Later I carefully re-read passages I’ve written and begin making nuanced changes. I follow up with another spontaneous burst of writing. And so it goes. I write, refine, and move on. Although I have a plan, I tend to write sections out of order. That makes for a lot of revision as chapters fall into place, but I don’t mind. It’s a joy.

Will: You write primarily about relationships, and you’re gifted with articulating very deep emotions—grief, despair, joy, love. If it’s not too personal, may I ask the source of your inspiration?

Kathy: Thank you for asking. My dad, who grew up in a rough and tumble Chicago neighborhood and, along with my mom, raised six kids in a small Iowa town, was an extrovert who could talk to anyone. A fountain of stories and songs, he laughed at jokes—including his own—until tears ran down his cheeks. He swam with a mighty crawl stroke, hunted, fished, and took up power-walking before the term had come into being. This vigorous man was stricken with multiple sclerosis at forty-five years of age. He found it impossible to conceive of happiness without the physical activity he loved and succumbed to a deep despair that lasted for a number of years. Ultimately, his exuberant way of being triumphed, and he reimagined himself. Bought a CB radio, chose the handle “Seagull,” and began to soar. He talked to truckers he’d never met, invited new friends into his life, and told stories from his wheelchair. Unable to hold a pencil, he learned to type, and transformed a lifetime of memories into poetry. He made me laugh each time I saw him. When he died at age sixty, I cried for a year, and I’ll grieve him for the rest of my life. On painful occasions and joyous ones, my siblings and I still sing his songs, read his poems, laugh through our tears as we repeat the jokes of the resilient man who’ll always inspire us.

Will: What has the process of indie publishing been like for you?

Kathy: I loved every aspect of writing my first book, Coming to Terms: A Novel—the free flowing, off the top of my head bursts of energy, the creative revision and sentence crafting, the nit-picky proofreading. But the rigors of formatting for print were beyond what I wanted to take on. I hired BookBaby, a company whose staff members were always ready to answer my questions and receive my input. They executed the formatting process and made my book available for sale to a network of booksellers. Every aspect of publishing proceeded flawlessly, but when I used the same company for self-publishing my second book, TransAtlantic Ties, there was a glitch in connecting with Amazon that stalled production of print books. If I use BookBaby again, I’ll opt for a newly available hybrid between that company and Kindle Direct Publishing.

Will: Would you be willing to tease us with a behind-the-scenes look at your current project?

Kathy: I’ve completed a draft of My Own Heart’s Song, and I’m presently following the advice of various renowned authors: “Kill your darlings.” (It’s painful.) I remove sentences and passages, then rethink and rewrite. I’ll carry out the process again after completing the second draft. For the most part, I’m having fun as I reread and revise this novel in which Laura Weber, an unconventional twenty-six-year-old New Yorker, shares her coming of age story in a voice that sparkles with passion. Her frank, tender first-person observations alternate with narratives presented from the points of view of her friends, lovers, and family members. Optimistic and big-hearted, Laura carries readers along on an emotional, intellectual, and physical journey that began as a search for the romantic love she believed her parents had lost.

Will: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors who may be daunted by the tasks before them?

Kathy: Firstly, begin by writing what you love, exactly the way you want to write it. You can—and will—make changes later, but don’t cheat yourself out of the fun of watching your words flow together in a unique way, of learning about yourself when you read what you’ve written. Secondly, make time for reading, the kind of works you’ve always loved, as well as new authors and genres. Carry your newfound writer’s outlook to everything you read; enjoy and employ the viewpoints you take away.

Will: Kathy, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us. To my readers–here are links to Kathy’s books.

An Interview with Indie Author April Aasheim

This month, I am interviewing USA Today Best-Selling Author April Aasheim. Her Amazon page describes her as an avid reader and researcher, an amateur ghost hunter, an author of witchy things, and a believer in all things magick. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family and her familiar, Boots the Cat.

Will: April, you are arguably one of the most successful indie authors on the West Coast, if not in the country. If I’ve counted correctly, you have five series out there, with more on the way, I presume. The first book of your juggernaut series, The Daughters of Dark Root, has 1123 reviews on Amazon the last time I looked. What’s the secret to your success?

April: Thank you for that kind introduction.

As for my success, I used to think it was just marketing, and then nurturing your readership. Get eyes on your book and it will be read. But I now know that’s not entirely true. That’s only a few pieces of the puzzle. My Dark Root series do sell well. But when I wrote my Alchemy of a Witch series, which took place in another time with different characters, my readers didn’t all follow. (Even though I love this series).

So, I think the real secret to success is to just write. Write from the heart. Connect with people. Bring them into your world. My first book took 18 months to write, and I put my heart and soul in it. People responded. I still get emails and messages telling me how much my books meant to them. If you can get a reader to feel something, they’re going to remember you. The marketing only works if you have a product people want to buy.

Will: When did you first realize you were a writer? Can you give us a glimpse of your process?

April: I knew in first grade. I just knew. The teachers would always ask what we wanted to be and I’d always say, a novelist.

As for my process, the first thing is to sit down and write. I dedicate most every day, 9-11:30, Monday through Friday, to writing, rain or shine. This has taken a toll on my personal relationships at times, but it was important to me, and if something is important you find a way to do it. I also write most nights for an hour. One thing I am working on in 2022 is more balance. I’ve written 18 books now, and I think I’m ready to try other things too.

When I sit down to write, I first close my eyes and decide what must come in the scene. Then I just let my imagination go and it usually comes to me. Once you shut your brain off, your imagination can run wild. As soon as I’ve ‘seen’ the scene, I open my laptop and write it out as quick as I can, then fix it later. I notice when I don’t meditate first, it’s much harder to work out the scene.

Will:  Not long after I started to read The Daughters of Dark Root, it occurred to me that although there’s plenty of paranormal stuff going on, that just serves as the backdrop or context for a saga of family relationships—mother/daughter, sister/sister—as well as a story of the growing independence and empowerment of a young woman. What was your inspiration for that series?

April: I had moved from Arizona to Portland, and was missing my siblings at the time, and I was nostalgic for our childhood. When you have siblings, especially as many as I have (5!) there is going to be drama. But through everything, love. So, a lot of the characters were drawn from my own sisters—at least pieces of them. And of course, a lot of the main character, Maggie, was drawn from my own tempestuous youth.

Miss Sasha, the matriarch and coven leader of the council, was based on my own mom. I’ve always had a complex relationship with my mother—who was a free-spirited, witchy woman who read tarot cards and removed curses. She was mostly ‘love and light,’ but had a dark side, too. One of the scenes in The Witches of Dark Root finds Maggie trapped in a dark room with a spirit, and Maggie is terrified. That came directly from childhood. I was afraid of ghosts and my mom thought the best way to get me over it was to put me in a dark room until I wasn’t afraid. It backfired. And to this day, I sleep with a nightlight. Writers often put their trauma into stories. That’s how we cope. Still, I loved and admired my mother until the day she died last fall. And she gave me plenty of writing material.

Will: Can you tell us about some of your other books? Do you have any favorites?

April: I absolutely love the Alchemy of a Witch series. I decided spontaneously to write a medieval witchy series set during the plague and witch hunts. As luck, or misfortune would have it, a few weeks after I started writing the first book, COVID hit. And so, I was experiencing the world of fear and suspicion, right along with my main character.

The story is an epic tale of a woman fleeing her village when the Witch Hunter General accuses her and her mother of starting the plague. During her travels, she meets an alchemist, who teaches her the ways of magick and transmutation. Later, she meets a priestess, a hedge witch, and a shapeshifter. And through these encounters learns more about magick and herself.

The research for this series was intense. I learned that alchemists were not only real, but there were many of them, including Paracelsus and Isaac Newton. Some even worked for kings. They worked to turn lead into gold, and to find eternal life. Most had to labor in secret, and write their recipes in code, for fear of being labeled a heretic or a sorcerer, and hung.

The book became bigger as the research grew, and one book turned into four. I love how the story turned out, and I adore the characters. Now, I’m obsessed with alchemy.

Will: You’ve told us you recently lost your mother. If it’s not too personal, can you share how that has impacted your creativity?

April: Thank you for that thoughtful question.

Well, my mom did provide me lots of writing material. She took me on adventures as a kid not many others got to experience. We were on the carnival circuit for several years, lived in a ghost town, and even a taco truck. And now that she’s gone the world seems a bit less colorful.

Luckily, I take my pain and write through it, and that’s where some of my best scenes come. And also understanding. I miss her every day, but she was my biggest fan, and I know she’d want me to keep writing. As a final gift to me, she left a review on my book The Good Girl’s Guide to Being a Demon, just a few weeks before she passed. And I didn’t find out until afterwards.

I believe my mom is here with me, and though I would give anything to have one more day with her, her presence is too big to be doused by her death. And now I feel freer to write my memoire, which I’ve always wanted to do, but wasn’t sure I could without hurting her.

Will: Marketing books well requires a whole different set of skills from writing good books, and for an indie author, that can be quite daunting. What methods of promoting your works have you found to be the most successful?

April: It changes yearly, if not weekly, haha.

Social media of course. I’m trying TikTok now, but it’s a challenge for me to keep up. Facebook worked for a while, and Twitter does sometime. There are also places you can promote your books for a fee, but I recommend waiting until you have a few books before you pay for that.

Network with other authors in similar genres. Do projects with them, like anthologies or signings. Do newsletter swaps and giveaways with them. Other writers are not your rivals. A book may take a week to read but a year to write, so your readers will need something else to keep them occupied until your next book comes out.

Will: Do you have any advice you would like to share with other indie writers?

April: Write from your heart. Invest in nice covers. Network with fellow writers. Develop a thick skin. Take feedback from bad reviews, but don’t let them cripple you. Savor the good reviews. This is a world of ups and downs. Some days you sell, others you may not. Love your books, whether others do or not. They are a piece of yourself.

Will: April, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences with us. You’ve given us a lot to think about!

For my readers who would like to know more about April and her books, click here to go to her website.

An Interview with Indie Author Ginger Bensman

Ginger Bensman was awarded a Ph.D. in Human Development from the University of Maine in Orono in 1993 and spent 25 years directing programs for at-risk children and their struggling families. But she was always a writer, too, and now she writes whenever she’s not reading or gardening or watching her grandsons grow. She lives with her husband here in Salem.

Will: Ginger, tell me how you discovered that you were a writer?

Ginger: Every night at bedtime, my father read fairytales, or would make up adventure stories about my brother and me. I loved those stories! But mostly, as far as written materials and books were concerned, my family would rather be physically active outdoors than reading. We hiked, and camped, and fished. My father hunted and my mother loved gardening, canning, picnics and huge extended family get togethers. In our house, we had children’s books, our local newspaper, a subscription to Readers Digest Condensed Books, and a set of encyclopedias my parents bought for my brother and me. Otherwise, there weren’t a lot of books. I didn’t discover the public library until my sophomore year in high school, during a stretch when I was moody and sad, and having a tough time. The library was a place I could go to be alone, sequestered among the stacks. Books became my refuge. Through them, I could venture out of myself. I discovered David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, Silas Marner, The Count of Monte Cristo, Green Mansions, Gone with the Wind, the novels of John Steinbeck, D.H. Lawrence, Jane Austen. It seemed to me then, and still does, that those writers achieved an almost impossible kind of magic—and I wanted to do it too.


Will: Can you give us a glimpse into your writing process? Do you have a special time
and place for writing? Do you write every day?

Ginger: Before Covid, I would take a notebook or my laptop to a coffee shop or restaurant mid-morning or after the lunch rush when there were lots of empty tables and the waitstaff was happy to bring me a cup of tea or a latte and leave me to my work. It was an environment where I could slip into a sense of space and detachment, and escape into my own head with the characters on the page and the rhythm of words. I miss those times, and that open sense of possibility.

Now, most days, I spend a couple hours writing in my study. I know how lucky I am to have such a pleasant place to work, but I’m anxious to get back to my table at the coffee shop.

Will: Do you work from an outline?

Ginger: I don’t use an outline, but I do have a plan when I begin a writing project. I start with a character, the rough arc of a story, and an image of how the story will end. And then I sit, and walk, think, and put in time staring at the page. Sometimes, listening to music that evokes the mood of a scene helps. I am a painstaking writer. I ponder each sentence, and I don’t do rough drafts. For me, writing is like laying brick, one solid, intentional layer at a time.    


Will: When I read your novel, To Swim Beneath the Earth, I was struck by how poetic
your prose is, by your uncanny ability to find precisely the right word for your descriptions, elevating the ordinary to the sublime. It seems magical. How do you do that?

Ginger: What a kind thing to say! Thank you. Finding the perfect word, or phrase, or cadence, is the thing I love most about writing. I do a lot of research with a special focus on elemental things, those experiences encountered so often they tend to happen below awareness. I use Google images and YouTube videos to help me be more present with the thing I plan to write about. I like to visualize actions in slow-motion, to notice the nuances. When it’s possible, I duplicate an experience myself. And, of course, I’m a huge fan of the thesaurus. If I can render something mundane in a way that makes it sensory and vivid, I’m happy.


Will: I see you’ve used some professional review services to promote your novel,
including Kirkus Reviews and The San Francisco Book Review. Is that something you’d
recommend to other indie authors?

Ginger: Recommend—that depends. Getting a professional review is certainly something for an indie author to consider. I did it for two reasons: First, because I wanted an objective professional assessment of my novel from a recognized source—a sort of “seal of approval” (or disapproval) before going public as an indie author. Second, if the reviews were positive, I could use quotable excerpts on my novel’s back cover and in promotional materials. The downside is that getting a professional review is expensive, and an indie author would have to sell a lot of copies to recoup the cost. Would I do it again? Yes, those “esteemed” encouraging words gave me the confidence to self-publish.


Will:
Please tell us about your short story, “When the Heat’s Off.” What was the inspiration for that?

Ginger: “When the Heat’s Off” is about Ella, an elderly widowed, shut-in, and the two young punks who break into her house with a plan to take her for all she’s worth. Trouble is, Ella may not be as docile as she seems.

This story was so much fun to write! The character of Ella is a tip-of-the-hat to the beautiful silver-haired Ella MacHolland who lived next door to my family when I was growing up. She was a feisty widow who told stories about how Confederate Soldiers commandeered the animals from her family’s farm and stole the clothes right off the clothesline.  


Will:
What are your thoughts about “novel versus short story?”

Ginger: A short story needs to be tightly organized, there’s less room for digression. A novel, on the other hand, gives the author broad latitude, and that can be daunting. A short story is like a close-up photograph of a single flower, while a novel is more akin to a landscape. I love them both.


Will: I understand you have a new project in the works. Would you open the curtain a bit
and tell us about it?

Ginger: My current project is a novel titled Minor Insults about two sisters in the second half of their lives confronting past differences and the pitfalls of aging. In our Western culture, aging often comes with a loss of autonomy and a host of social and institutional indignities. Many of the most egregious indignities are heaped on the aging with, what amounts to, a scolding finger and a “for your own good” kind of parental arrogance. If we live long enough, age comes for all of us. In the end, it’s how we respond.

  
Will: Do you have any advice you would share with other new authors, especially those
who may be on the fence about whether to pursue traditional publishing or go independent?

Ginger: Traditional publishing is not always a choice. I wanted an agent and a traditional publishing contract for To Swim. I spent several years submitting to agents via conferences and mail-in submissions before I decided to self-publish. These days, a whole industry has evolved to guide and support independent authors, but promoting an independent book takes resources, persistence, and an astonishing set of skills (many that don’t come easily if you are an introverted author like me). Most indie authors I know do it for love, not money. But, make no mistake, seeing your book in print is a heady beautiful thing.

Will: Ginger, thank you so much for your time and your insights. I am anxiously awaiting your new novel!

For more about Ginger and her writing, click here to be taken to her website.

An Interview With Indie Author Samantha Henthorn

From her Author Central Page on Amazon: ” Samantha Henthorn was born in1970something in Bury, England. She used to be a nurse, now she is a disabled author… After a diagnosis of MS in 2005, Samantha eventually accepted early retirement in 2014. Looking for an occupation where she can work at her own pace, Samantha drew on her observation skills and imagination to start writing. Samantha often feels as though she is living in a sitcom and this is reflected in her style.

Will:  When did you first realize you were a writer? Do you have a particular schedule for writing, a special place for doing it, some kind of routine?

Samantha: I have to think about this one! I have a memory of owning a Matchbox Doll; I called her Maude and wrote the word ‘AUTHOR’ on her cardboard bed-slash-coffin. I was about five or six years old, and already searching for a pseudonym to deflect responsibility from myself (the doll was the author, not me). Many years later, the final post of my nursing career was community-based. We would train student nurses regularly. I would tell them that I was a bestselling author but gave it all up to pursue a nursing career, and my colleague would tell them he used to be in a band (also not true). It wasn’t until I eventually accepted early retirement for health reasons in 2014 that I started writing full time. I enrolled for a non-accredited creative writing course at the local library. Eight years later, I’m in the final year of my creative writing degree and have published twelve books.

Yes, I do have a routine, physiotherapy first thing in the morning, then I have a rest, then I write (getting dressed, looking on social media, eating and drinking are included in that time).

I have a few different places I like to write in my house but I do have an ambition to be ‘one of those writers’ who turns up at a pub and spends the day writing and possibly drinking – I know I wouldn’t get anything done though.

Will: The humor of your Curmudgeon Avenue series has really helped me get through this seemingly unending pandemic. Please tell us about the series. What was your original inspiration for it?

Samantha: Nice one Will! Curmudgeon Avenue actually started out as a short story. The tutor of the library course mentioned above tasked us with writing a five-hundred-word piece titled ‘Winter’. It was October at the time and as I drove home, not only was I greeted by falling leaves and autumn sun, I was reminded of the four-storey Victorian houses on the main road in Whitefield (North Manchester). I used to get stuck in traffic here on my way home from work and would often see lights on in the front rooms of those houses; people already at home enjoying their evenings. I wondered what was going on in their lives, and so I wrote the fictional version. The reason I used the word ‘Curmudgeon’ was that during the week, Mr Henthorn and I went to the supermarket. I hadn’t regained confidence in walking and was still using rollator wheelchair. A man pulled up beside us in the car park and started waving his fist at us – we had parked in the last disabled bay but he wanted the space. ‘What a curmudgeon’ I thought – and there was my title.

Will: In the throes of the pandemic, you participated with some other authors in a charity project, What We Did During Lockdown. Can you share with us what that experience was like for you?

Samantha: The pamphlet? What We Did During Lockdown is just four stories and one poem. How it came about was my response to suggestions of ‘what you should write is…’ During the pandemic, there were several charity endeavours here in the UK; 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore walking up and down his garden and so on. I posted to Facebook ‘now is your chance to put all those ideas to good use’. The friends who came forward weren’t the busybodies who had tried to tell me what to write. It was great fun, and everyone we collectively knew bought a copy. The money raised was (not much) donated to Bury Hospice. I still donate monthly, just in case anyone orders a copy. The next collaboration I have planned is with the multi-talented voice actor Lindsay McKinnon (more of this later).

Will: You’ve recently published a new novel, My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister. Can you give us an inside look at it?

Samantha: I wanted to write a story about witches for as long as I can remember (I am named after one!) My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is set mostly in a pub near Pendle (notorious for the 1612 witch trials). Protagonist Epiphany hates her name and everything about herself. She is struggling to cope after the lockdown ends and just as she reaches her lowest point she is visited by Sadie, her half-sister’s half-sister. Sadie becomes the supporter that Epiphany (Pippa for short) never had; she eases all her woes and convinces her that her mother and sister are witches (and therefore left her out of the coven).

Things don’t add up with Sadie, for a start, Pippa is the only person to have seen her and soon, secrets are revealed and twists are turned. Pippa is shown to be immature for her age, and making little progress in life. Without giving anything away, one Goodreads reviewer wrote: ‘We are left to guess at what is real and what is not real.’ 

Pippa struggles with her mental health throughout the book, but it turns out to be more serious than first thought with scenes of heavy drinking and hospital admission. Pippa has a positive outcome from seeking help, which is the real reason I wrote this book. I am a retired RMN and I know how difficult it is for people to take the first step to recovery.

Will: What do you think about the writing of short stories? Your two collections, Quirky Tales to Make Your Day and The Queen’s Speech come to mind. Can you tell us about them?

Samantha: I think short stories are a great way to convey a seed that would be better suited to a quick read than a full-length novel. When I wrote Quirky Tales to Make Your Day, I had entered a few writing competitions, and eventually was longlisted a few times in the now defunct 1000 Word Challenge. Those stories ended up in the collection. The Queen’s Speech arose from the research I did for my 2017 novel 1962: (An uplifting tale of 1960s Lancashire). Not only did I read information, I spoke to my parents. Mum could not remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, but Dad told me he was petrified. They also spoke to their counterparts and fed any information about that year back to me. I also met a former school dinner lady who told me she had been trained to cut deep into the meat (in the event of nuclear fallout) to prevent poisoning children with radiation. ‘What difference will it make?’ she told me.

I have another short story collection planned with my talented colleague and wonderful friend Lindsay McKinnon. We met almost three years ago when Lindsay started narrating Curmudgeon Avenue.

Will: In your newsletter, you’ve spoken about the process of making your novels into audiobooks and the narrator with whom you’ve been working. What’s that been like for you?

Samantha: Audiobooks are a game changer. When I received the email from ACX to let me know that someone had auditioned to narrate Curmudgeon Avenue, I was overwhelmed. More so when I heard Lindsay’s voice. Lindsay McKinnon is multi talented, she can do any accent and she is hilarious. When I heard the first few sentences of Curmudgeon Avenue I nearly cried – the only thing that prevented me exploding with tears of joy was that I tried to place the voice. She sounded FAMOUS. She sounded like Joanna Lumley doing the Galaxy Chocolate advert (I hope that translates to the US – basically, the most gorgeous voice you’ll ever hear). Lindsay came to meet me, and I was even more astounded – she could have been from anywhere in the world, but Lindsay lives just up the road from me! We have become firm friends and as already mentioned plan to write a short story collection together. Lindsay has shared a few of her stories with me already. The world is in for a treat. This woman can make getting her gas boiler fixed into a hilarious and thought-provoking three-part drama. I’ll be adding my story about a woman who thinks Gene Simmons is her daddy and a few more. We did our first author event two years ago at Radcliffe Library just before the lockdown started, and the librarian commented in all her years in the book business she had never met a narrator and an author who got along so well. Obviously, Lindsay and I are meant to be the next big writing team to hail from the UK… and if you need any proof of that listen to the audiobook of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister when it is published soon. It is the most delightful thing I have exposed my ears to in a long time. I have invited Lindsay along to help me answer this question by sharing her bio:

Lindsay McKinnon wrote performed and staged her first performances in the backyard of her Liverpool home at the age of seven. Following three years at Drama College, her career has included work as an actor, singer, writer and stand-up comedian. Lindsay continued to perform as a singer after returning from ten years living in Canada. In recent years, Lindsay has built a small studio and followed a long-held dream of being a voice artist/ narrator. This is how Lindsay first made contact with the brilliantly funny author, Samantha Henthorn. Lindsay and Samantha are a match made in heaven (or at the very least, North West England).

Will: Are you working on a new project that you might give us a glimpse into?

Samantha: Of course! I’m always having story ideas. At the moment I have a few poems on the go for the MS society and am in the final year of my degree meaning I will produce three pieces of fiction before May this year. After the course, I plan to write these narratives as novels. They will all be quirky contemporary fiction, two of which will be psychological thrillers.

Will: Do you have any advice you’d like to give to other indie authors?

Samantha: Yes I do. GO FOR IT, and KEEP AT IT. Remember to take your own advice before the overwhelming amount of instruction you’ll find on the internet. If you are looking for books on the craft (and I’m sure you’ve heard this), Stephen King’s On Writing and Joanne Harris’s Ten Things About Writing are superb books. The only other thing I’ll say is that reading, reviewing and networking with other indie authors is worth its weight in gold.

Thank you, William.

Will: Thank you so much, Samantha. I really appreciate your taking the time to share highlights from your author’s journey.

To learn more about Samantha and her books, click here.

An Interview With Indie Author L. Wade Powers

I’d like to introduce you to a favorite indie author of mine. From the bio on his website: “L. Wade Powers is the pen name for fiction written by Lawrence Wade Powers, a retired academic dean and professor emeritus of natural sciences. He’s the author of a textbook and several papers on hematology, monographs and papers on marine biology and animal behavior, and articles on the history of the Pacific Northwest, especially the Klamath Basin of eastern Oregon. Larry lives in Eastern Oregon with a beautiful wife, a very strange cat, and surrounded by four seasons of glorious nature, except for the damned midges.” 

Will: Tell us about your craft. How do you approach writing? Do you write every day? Do you develop an outline or are you what some call a “pantser?” How long have you been at it?

Larry: I write when I feel like it, which means on some days, or weeks, not at all. It might be morning after coffee and breakfast, late afternoon, or late at night when I get strange looks from our cat. I don’t use time or word quotas for measures of productivity. It’s not that these approaches are wrong, but I just have too much fun being sporadic and lazy. Some novels may start with an outline, subject to extensive revision, but most short stories start with an idea or an opening paragraph, what I call the “Ray Bradbury approach.” I fooled around with some ideas and put them away about fifteen years ago, but didn’t start writing fiction until I retired in 2013. It is only since 2017, however, that it has been a truly active pastime.

Will: Your first novel, The Home: One Year in a Children’s Institution, is a different take on the coming-of-age story. What was your inspiration for it?

Larry: Like many beginning writers, I began with what I know best, a hybrid of my real life experiences combined with flights of fancy. I spent six months in the Sacramento Children’s Home in 1956–57. Many of the characters are based on real people (most but not all of the names are changed). About half of the incidents happened (social doings at the junior high, the snake men, the rec hall parties, the flirtations and sexual encounters). Other events are figments of an overindulged imagination.

Will: You have two amazing volumes of short stories, Falling in Love and Other Misadventures, and Confronting the Boundaries: short stories real and unreal. Unlike many “post-modern” stories, yours have plot, as well as a beginning, a middle, and an end, not to mention a cast of extraordinary characters. Tell us about them. What are your thoughts on the “genre” of the short story?

Larry: Some of the stories follow real life occurrences faithfully (e.g., “The Trove”), others are mostly real (“Lawnmower Ted”), others completely off of my inner wall (“The Shroud”). Diverse characters have always fascinated me, in addition to the growing and learning scenarios we all experience. I was a nature nerd and slow to arrive at the threshold of sexual awareness. I also didn’t get a driver’s license until I was twenty, an unforgiveable crime in California. The awkwardness of confronting maturity and its myriad obligations and expectations runs through a number of my musings (“Odometer Moments,” “The Omaha Two-Step,” “Fig Newton”).

      I believe that depicting character is a challenge in short stories because the need for brevity restricts the development of back story. The best short story writers get right to it, bang, and you’re immersed in the tale. Choose words carefully, waste no space. Some of my favorite writers are Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Karen Russell, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Will: I think I’m still chuckling after reading The Party House: Texas Gulf Coast Schemes and Dreams. How autobiographical is the tale of a graduate student studying fiddler crabs for his doctoral dissertation?

Larry: The Party House is based on my time as a graduate student at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas. The setting, including the community bar and social club were real, as were some of the characters, but as with The Home, I added fictional elements. I did study fiddler crabs (thus, the cover with a crab and a glass of beer), received my doctorate, and took my first jobs in New York City as a professor at City College and a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History. The craziest events depicted in the novel actually happened.

Will: You’ve recently ventured into historical fiction with your book, New Albion Sunset: Drake’s Lost English Outpost in North America, 1579. While it is a novel, I understand you did extensive research and present an interesting hypothesis about Drake and the Golden Hinde. Give us the juicy details!

Larry: The reason for placing Drake in the Pacific Northwest, specifically British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, rests on the studies and publications of several people: Bob Ward of Newport, Oregon, Garry Gitzen of Wheeler, Oregon, and Melissa Darby (Thunder Go North). They and many others have recently presented evidence that Drake’s long lost Novo Albion occurred well north of California, despite commercial interests during the twentieth century to place his anchorage in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am convinced the current scholars and investigators are correct and the appendix to the novel includes supporting materials: maps, references, and historical chronologies that support the theme of a northern landing, a missing ship, a fortune in silver, and the fates of about two dozen men left behind as the Golden Hinde returned to England. I now have an extensive library on Drake and the Elizabethan times, but we won’t know the truth of these competing claims until hard archeological evidence is uncovered. The location of that evidence is described in the appendix.

Will: Your latest novel, The Sagebrush Hotel Tontine: A Tale of Treasure and Treachery, is a character study of a group of poker players who come upon a trove of gold they can’t dispose of right away. They make a survivors’ agreement—a tontine—that later morphs into a “dead pool”—last one standing takes it all. Where did that story come from?

Larry: I play poker, small stakes, live, not online. My dad taught me the game when I was twelve and I like the action, the fun, the mystery of the competition around the table. There are a lot of metaphors for real life situations, and I trotted out a few of those for the novel. The novel started as the story of a drifter returning to a small town to reclaim a shared treasure. I focused on the old hotel and the memories it invoked in Johnny, my male protagonist. I set it aside for over two years before creating the prologue about the gold bullion. The idea of a tontine has always fascinated me. As explained in the author notes following the novel, tontines started as insurance and investment mechanisms in Europe a few hundred years ago. Relating a tontine to a dead pool provides the mystery for a group of characters, not all of whom have good intentions. The woman pictured on the cover represents Brandy, my female protagonist, so there is a bit of romantic intrigue also thrown into the pot.

Will: Can you give us a sneak peek at your current project?

Larry: I am currently working on a novel with the manuscript name of SurrogaCity. It stands for Surrogate City, a future community (former San Francisco) in a world-wide gynocracy, a global cooperative governed by women. Most men (98%) thirty years from now are sterile and the ones who aren’t are maintained in reverse harems to protect them and the future of the human race. Conflicts abound as women try to decide whether to rely on artificial insemination and long-term sperm storage. There are rebels, men and women, outside of the domed cities who oppose the new order, but climate change is being addressed and there hasn’t been a war since women have assumed command.

Will: Wow! Sounds fascinating! Do you have any more comments about your craft or your road to publishing? Is there any advice you’d like to give to new indie writers?

Larry: Writing as an indie author is challenging in many ways, but the advantages of control and full royalty payment, in my opinion, compensate for the loss of commercial marketing associated with a traditional publisher. I can still receive full and competent design and editing services, which I pay for, but have the book out in stores and on the Internet in four months, instead of a couple of years. My advice? Explore the possibilities, compare costs (financial and labor effort), and believe that in this publishing era, you can be successful. There is a tremendous community of indie authors to help, offer advice, and provide encouragement. Of course, the best advice for any would-be writer is always, READ!

Will: Larry, thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with us. It’s such fun to get a glimpse of how a writer creates the books we come to enjoy so much. To my readers, click here to zip over to Larry’s website and check out his whole bibliography. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find your next favorite book there!

An Interview With Indie Author Michael Gardner

Michael Gardner, whom I interviewed for my December newsletter, is an indie author from New Zealand. I’d like to introduce him to you by reprinting the bio he’s posted on Goodreads.

1.Why do I write? I write because I have an obsession with writing which borders on a mental disorder. I’ve often wondered if I can get medicated for this condition, but it’s much cheaper and easier to spend time at a keyboard.

2. How long have I been at it? I’d love to tell you I had some magical writing awakening, but the truth is I’ve been writing since I could combine a noun and a verb to form a sentence. Not sure when that was or what I used. Probably the red crayon on the kitchen wall incident. It was a good story, but not well-received.

3. What is my inspiration? I’m inspired to write so I don’t have to find another pastime. I’ve tried stamp collecting, golf and other forms of self-harm, and writing seems to be the least destructive to my mental well-being and the environment. I also have an allergy to churning out books in a specific genre, which makes me a difficult author to follow. Sorry about that.

4. Do I have a pet, is it cute and what’s its name? I do have a pet. My wife thinks it’s cute. It’s actually the embodiment of evil with a soft coat. Amongst other names, I call it the Anti-Bob. If you’d like to know why, read The End and Other Stories.

Will: As a fan, I was delighted when you gathered eight of your separately published stories into one volume, Outside Inside. Do you have some “back story” about that process and those stories in particular that you can share with us? What do you believe are the elements of a good short story?

Michael: They all come from completely different places, which sounds contradictory considering they all came out of me. For example, Henry & Isa started as a dream. Goddammit, Larry! was inspired by a glitch in a video game I love to play. And Alexander Rollins Must Die came to me fully formed as I was going to the supermarket. Don’t ask me what grocery shopping has to do with a black comedy metafiction story.

I guess the point is that inspiration strikes us in unusual and unexpected ways. We have to tune in to those moments and embrace them. Or find a really good therapist. Short stories are an interesting beast. For years, I had the ridiculous notion that a short story was what people wrote if they weren’t good enough to craft a novel. It’s absolute nonsense. In many ways short stories are easier than novels, but in many ways they’re much harder.

With a novel, you have time to explore the story in depth, chase various ghosts, sidetrack down mysterious pathways. With a short story, you have to leap into the deep end of the pool and hope you can swim, or that the pool isn’t filled with hydrochloric acid. It demands finding the protagonist’s voice, conflict and goals as quickly as possible, then chasing them relentlessly to a conclusion in the most compressed form of storytelling you can muster.

Will: Your novel Rescue One is a page-turning thrill ride. Please tell us about how you created that.

Michael: I always wanted to be a writer. But for many years, I had a bee in my bonnet about it. Writers felt like mystical, elusive creatures, and I couldn’t quite see myself in that role. The early moral of the story is: follow your dreams, don’t listen to that voice.

Anyway, cutting a long story short, I spent five of my best working years (before becoming a self-employed writer) at my local rescue helicopter service. I flew a desk, not the chopper. But the rescue crew were an inspiring group of men and women who have left a mark on me for life.

One year, I was asked to run the strategy meeting. I never take a conventional approach to anything, so as a warm-up, I made everyone play a party game called ‘And the consequence was…’ You give each person a sheet of paper and a pen. Each person writes a line from a predetermined set of story ideas. You fold the paper over so each line is hidden and pass it to the next person in the circle. I changed the story ideas to imagining what the rescue helicopter service would be like one hundred years into the future. At the end of the session, you unravel the paper and read the story. Everyone was weeping with laughter.

And so I decided to ignore that voice and start writing a book, which became Rescue One.

Will: Your droll sense of humor is practically a trademark of your writing. Does that humor come easily for you? Does it have roots in your family?

Michael: My family are a very sensible bunch of people. I’m the one with the droll sense of humour. I like to laugh and give other people a good laugh too. From a writing perspective, you can create very powerful moments if you write funny scenes and deliver them deadpan. It’s simple juxtaposition really, layering contrasting ideas into scenes to give the story different nuances.

Will: You are a master at developing quirky characters to inhabit your stories. Are there some “tricks of the trade” you might share with us about how you do that?

Michael: I’m a big fan of the antihero. All my protagonists are antiheroes, even the high-achieving ones. For me, flawed characters are more human, relatable and interesting to write. I think it’s important to love all your characters, including the villains. If you enjoy writing them, that enthusiasm comes through on the page for the reader.

Will: Do you have any advice for other indie authors, things you’ve learned along your own creative journey?

Michael: Write because you want to tell other people your story. Do it for no other reason than that. If you write with pure determination to produce a good book, with no expectation of getting anything in return, you’ll do your best work.

And, as above, don’t listen to the voice.

Will: Thank you, Michael. My readers and I appreciate your taking the time to speak with us.
Catch up with Michael and all his books by clicking on his picture above.

An Interview With Indie Author Connie Lacy

Connie worked for many years as a radio reporter and news anchor, with a couple of brief forays into TV news along the way. Her experience as a journalist shows up in some of her novels. She also dabbled in acting in college and community theater. She uses those experiences in some of her books as well.

Her novels are fast-paced stories featuring young women facing serious challenges set against the backdrop of some thorny issues. She writes time travel, magical realism, historical fiction and climate fiction – all with a dollop of romance.​

Bill: Connie, how and why did you become a writer, and can you tell us about your creative process?

Connie: When I was in 5th grade, I read The Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I decided I should be a writer too. I started with my biography. After filling a page and a half, I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Ha!  I transitioned into writing angsty, teenaged poetry, then switched to short stories at 15, tried writing children’s books, YA novels, and eventually settled on writing adult novels. My creative process involves channeling my concerns about a variety of issues, including social injustice, personal failures and climate change. To shine a light on a topic, I use it as a backdrop for my story. Racial injustice is featured in several of my books—A Daffodil for Angie (Young Adult) The Time Capsule,and The Going Back Portal. Then I work on building a main character to inhabit that world. I get to know her first, then outline a story arc for her. That changes sometimes as she interacts with other characters. But I always know how the story will end before I begin writing. My first draft always stinks. It’s messy, inconsistent and redundant. I go through many, many re-writes. The revision process always generates better ideas for scenes, and in my forthcoming novel, created a different ending. That’s the first time that’s happened.

Bill: Time travel figures in several of your novels, but not in a science fiction kind of way. Talk about that.

Connie: I’ve always liked time travel stories. Ideas pop into my mind. The Time Telephone grew out of this exact thought: what if you could call someone in the past on a time telephone? The novel also grew out of a situation within my extended family where a parent abandoned their child. So I combined the two—writing about a teenage girl grieving her mother’s death, lamenting the fact that even when her mother was alive, they never had a real mother-daughter relationship. There’s that element of fantasy, but it also deals with the very real-world issue of child abandonment. In The Going Back Portal, a young woman’s grandmother appears to be descending into Alzheimer’s disease, talking about a Cherokee Indian woman living in the woods behind her country cottage. But it turns out there’s actually a time gate that leads the protagonist to 1840 where a Cherokee woman is struggling to survive the brute who’s taken control of her land and her life. The novel delves into the wrongs perpetrated against Native Americans. That’s what appeals to me – not the sci-fi type of time travel story.

Bill: Would you describe several other of your books?

Connie: My concern about climate change prompted me to write a trilogy set a hundred years in the future against a backdrop of runaway global warming. I wanted the story to be romantic and exciting. So I mixed all of that together to produce The Shade Ring TrilogyThe Shade Ring, Albedo Effect, and Aerosol Sky. My novel, VisionSight,        is about a young woman who can see the future, including the unexpected challenges that “gift” brings. The novel I’m publishing this fall is another time travel story. This one is set in the 1850s and features a suffragette living with an abolitionist family in the Philadelphia area.

Bill: You just finished producing your own audiobook version of The Time Capsule. What was that like for you?

Connie: In a word: EXHAUSTING! I worked in radio news for many years. With all my experience in front of the mic and my experience editing, I foolishly thought “How hard can it be?” I was humbled by how hard it can be. Delivering the news is nothing like narrating a novel. There are character voices to do. Even if you don’t want to get too carried away, you still have to differentiate between characters. Of course, the sheer length of the novel is a big factor. The audiobook version of The Time Capsule is 9 hours and 21 minutes! Agh! Then there’s mouth noise to deal with. Multiple takes of every paragraph to hopefully get a usable take, often editing a sentence from one take into another paragraph take. The editing was a fulltime job. And don’t forget the technical issues, including hiss and extraneous noises (airplanes flying overhead,

barking dogs, etc.) I had to get up at 4:00 a.m., go down to the basement to my makeshift recording booth so I could record for a couple of hours before all the noise started. Will I ever do another audiobook? I’m still pondering that question.

Bill: What advice would you give to other indie authors?

Connie: There are lots of blog posts and newsletters out there with specific advice on publishing, plotting, character development, pacing, etc. I don’t want to get into all of that. I think a good piece of advice is to read a lot. Read the kinds of books you want to write. Notice what the good authors do—how they transition, how they handle dialog, how they develop character. Think about those things when you notice them and imagine how you might adapt those techniques in your own writing. It can also be educational to read poorly written books, although not as enjoyable. In that case, you might notice things you, yourself, never want to do—like using a character’s name

over and over and over and over when he/she, him/her would be better.

Thanks for having me, Bill. BTW—here’s my website.

A note to my readers: My interview with Connie first appeared in my October Newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed yet, here’s the link. I promise it’s spam-free, and I will not clutter your inbox!

An Interview With Indie Author Shawna Reppert

Shawna Reppert, an award-winning author of fantasy and steampunk, is proud of keeping readers up all night and making them miss work deadlines. In addition to the Ravensblood series and the Werewolves and Gaslight series, she has written several stand-alone novels.

Bill: Shawna, please tell us how and why you became a writer and how your creative process works.

Shawna: I became a writer because I couldn’t imagine not being a writer. As soon as I realized that someone wrote the stories in my Little Golden picture books, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. One of my earliest memories before I could even block-print my name was insisting that my mother write down a story I was telling her.

As far as process, I started out as a pantser, as I think a lot of us do. I had some idea of story arcs and character arcs and how to put a story together. I knew the character I wanted to write about and generally how the book or story would end, and off I went. But repeatedly writing yourself into corners isn’t fun.

Then I took a seminar with the amazing teacher, Eric M Witchy. Eric insisted he didn’t make me write an outline. (He kinda did.) But in the process of writing the outline, I realized that if I had pantsed that novel, I would’ve ended up in a world of hurt when I reached the last chapter. I would’ve had to do a substantial rewrite of the entire book to weave in a character that made the resolution possible. I took to outlining with the fervor of a convert.

I tend to use the hero’s journey as outlined in Vogler’s book The Writer’s Journey as the outline to my outline, if you will. I feel the universal archetypes and story patterns slip past the conscious mind to speak to the soul of the reader.

For a while, I had a complex system of index cards, color-coded for POV and labeled with the part of the journey that each scene represented. I’m now 10 novels in and I’ve internalized the structure of story and character enough that I no longer need quite such a formal process. But if I find myself bogging down in a chapter, I’ll outline the section to get a better idea of what needs to happen and in what order to make the novel work.

A lot of writers, especially beginning writers, think that outlines are dull and that outlining takes the joy of discovery out of the creative process. For me, it’s just the opposite. It’s like stepping back from the painting to see the whole picture more clearly. When I outline, I can make connections between characters, events, back-story, etc. that I didn’t see before. I can then strengthen those connections for a deeper and more powerful story. Maybe because I’m a story geek, I find the whole thing very exciting.

Bill: I’m a big fan of “walking the streets and alleyways of Alternative Portland” in your Ravensblood series. Can you tell us about the books and what gave you the inspiration for them?

Shawna: Ravensblood is a dark urban fantasy with a strong redemption arc. My protagonist is a powerful dark mage seeking redemption by becoming essentially a double agent for the Guardians (The division of the police to handle magic crimes in my alternate universe). He is spying on his master William, whose ambition to rule threatens the Three Communities, perhaps even the world. To keep his cover, he has to commit acts that threaten to pull him even further down into darkness.

In later books Raven, having won his pardon, has to learn to accept his dark past, redefining himself and reintegrating into a society that isn’t always ready to accept a reformed dark mage into its midst, all while helping the Guardians with new (and old) threats.

I lived in Portland for a little over a decade and still live just under an hour away. I love the Pacific Northwest, and so wanted to use it as a background. Some of the places mentioned exist in the real world, some are purely fictional. Some are a little of both—for example, in Ravensblood, OMSI has an extra ‘M’. (It’s the Oregon Museum of Magic, Science, and Industry.) The bullet-nosed Stude that makes a cameo in the first book of the series actually was parked for years in a SE Portland neighborhood very similar to the one in which that particular ambush took place. I particularly like putting in those quirky little spots that make Portland so…Portland.

My late editor said that various McMenamins pubs show up so much that the company should give me free beer for life (I prefer hard cider, if anyone has a connection…)

I think it makes it fun for readers. I’ve been putting little notes in the front or back matter about some of the places of interest that are real-world so readers can do their own exploring.

Bill: When I started reading your Werewolves and Gaslight series, I thought “Sherlock Holmes and werewolves—cool!” But then the lightbulb went on, and I realized there was a deeper meaning there. Can you tell us about that?

Shawna: For me, it’s not enough to write a gripping whodunit without a rich, vivid backdrop to help it come to life. And while it’s lovely to read about (and to write about) splendid balls and fine dresses, and all of the beautiful things the Victorian era had to offer, it’s dishonest to do that without facing the dark underbelly of that time. There were a lot of people living in abject poverty in conditions you can barely imagine, and this is a dichotomy we are starting to see more and more in our own times, with an economy that seems designed to channel resources ever upward, so that more and more of the wealth is in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

Among other things, what drew me to writing steampunk were the parallels between the Victorian times and our own. The stereotype of Victorian times as being very frozen and set in their very strict morals and social code overlooks that it was actually a time of great flux.

Women, at least those of means, were able to accomplish a lot more than they ever had before. They were able to travel to Egypt and ride camels to pyramids. Women were even able to get higher education at Oxford. (Of course, they couldn’t actually earn a degree because, you know, let’s not go crazy.) They were starting to do things that were making the male establishment pretty uneasy. The whole image of woman as domestic goddess, unable to comprehend things like finance and politics and too delicate to be troubled by anything going on in the outside world, fit only to make the home a lovely sanctuary for their hard-working men, that was a pushback against the advances women were making towards being something other than helpmeet to men.

Social mobility was becoming a possibility. Not a probability, mind you, but the very notion that one could rise above the station one was born to was pretty revolutionary. It challenged the notion that one’s place in the world was decreed by God.

In Victorian times, people of the working class could get an education. Benevolent religious organizations were holding free schools, where even an absolutely dirt-poor beggar kid could learn to read and write. There was a lot of concern among the upper classes that working people would start “getting above themselves.” They were feeling threatened and pushed back by trying to make certain the rigid social lines that protected their privilege were kept in place.

We see the same sort of dynamic in our own times. There have been great strides toward justice and equality. We had a black President. We have a marriage equality act. These are all things I never thought I would see in my lifetime, and I am very, very glad to have been wrong. And now we are facing rapidly escalating push-back by people who are vested in preserving the former status-quo.

The London of my steampunk world faces the social inequalities of the real Victorian London, plus it has werewolves, the very bottom rung of the social ladder. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about hot-button issues by moving the discussion into another time and (slightly fantastical) place.

Bill: You’ve written several other books besides these series. Would you care to highlight some of them?

Shawna: I’ve published three stand-alone novels with a more traditional fantasy feel. The most recent of my stand-alones, Brother to the Wolf, is sort of a passion-project. I didn’t want to do another version of Robin Hood. There’s plenty of those out there already, some good, some great, some that…er, don’t add a lot of merit to the subgenre. But since I love the Robin Hood legend, and especially the older, more pagan versions of the tale, I created an alternate world with similar history and conflicts and wrote an original tale with similar themes.

Where Light Meets Shadow is a male/male fantasy romance with elves, healers, and bardic magic. I definitely wanted a plot that encompassed more than just a romance. There are two races of elves in an uneasy détente following a bloody war in which neither side was entirely right or wrong. The two lovers will either help heal the divide between their two peoples, or be torn apart in a second war. Because the main protagonist is a harper, I also got to geek out over Celtic music and ask my Irish musician friends a ton of questions.

The Stolen Luck was my debut novel, another male/male fantasy romance. I actually didn’t set out to write it as a romance. I was interested in exploring what would make a good man go against his own beliefs and values, and I wanted to make that reason compelling enough that the reader could feel like, in the same set of circumstances, they might make that same choice. The romance came up as I followed that age-old advice to writers: put your protagonist in a tough situation, and then make it harder.

Bill: Shawna, thank you so much for your time. I think I can speak for all of your fans in wishing you every success with your latest project.

Would you like to learn more about Shawna and her books? Please visit her at https://www.shawna-reppert.com/. Sign up for her newsletter and get a free gift!

Also check out the Northwest Independent Writers Association at https://www.niwawriters.com/.

An Interview with James M. McCracken, President of the Northwest Independent Writers Association

—How did you get started writing?

I guess you could say I was intimidated into writing. I’ll explain.

During a high school basketball game, I sat in the bleachers drawing a picture. The older sister of a schoolmate sat down beside me and asked me what I was drawing. I showed her and she wanted to know the story behind the picture. I told her there wasn’t a story. It’s just a picture. She said there had to be a story otherwise I couldn’t draw it. So, to get her to leave me alone, I made up a story and told her. She said, write it down. The next time I come to visit my brother, I want to read it. I said I would but had no intention of actually doing it.

A month later, I heard she was back and looking for me! I stayed in the dorm and didn’t leave until I heard she was gone. As I walked out of the building a van stopped in front of me. It was HER. She motioned me over and asked to see the story. I told her I hadn’t finished it yet. She said I had a month and she’d be back. She was bigger and stronger than me and a bit intimidating.

Once she left, I bought a ream of typing paper and 450 pages later, I still wasn’t finished with the story. I had figured out the ending and couldn’t finish it. My schoolmate’s sister never did read the story, but I was hooked.

I continued to write shorter stories but never let anyone read them because I was afraid they would think the story was dumb.

I love disaster movies and in 1975 I wrote a story about a 747 that crashed into the ocean and managed to stay intact, but sank. The story followed the typical disaster storyline – survivors trying to escape. I tucked it away with the rest of my stories and forgot about it.

Two years later, in 1977, I was walking past the bulletin board and noticed the movie ads. My jaw dropped when I saw the ad for Airport ’77. I thought if someone else could come up with the same premise as me, maybe my stories aren’t so dumb after all.

So, I began to take my writing more seriously. But I still wouldn’t let anyone read any.

—Tell us a bit about your craft. How do you begin a new book? 

I am what some people have described as a pantster, I don’t use an outline.

Most of my stories start out as a dream. When I wake up, I begin writing down the dream. Depending on the story, in order to keep the characters straight, I search the internet for pictures of people and use the pictures to keep my descriptions consistent.

I research the details in the story as they come up.

I try not to think too far in advance because I know myself and once I figure out the ending, it becomes more difficult if not impossible for me to finish. So, I am sometimes as surprised by the ending as you, the reader, are.  

—What would you most like your readers to take away from your writing?

Many of my stories deal with family and life, I would want people to take away that in life there is no such thing as “happily ever after.”  Life is a complex timeline filled with moments, some good, some not-so-great, some we cause by the choices we make and some that are unexpected. It’s those moments that collectively shape us into the people we are.     

—Can you give us a sneak peek at your latest work-in-progress?

I’m currently working on a new series tentatively titled, In My Mother’s House. It’s a soap opera inspired by a true-life family. The series covers eight years in the lives of the Holts beginning with an unexpected death and ending when the last of the Holt children moves out of her parents’ house.

The synopsis:

Life is finally starting to turn around for
Robert and Abigail Holt and their seven children.
Robert is working a steady job.
Abigail’s business is thriving.
The family is settling into their new home.
The future is looking bright.
Then one phone call sends them on a roller coaster ride
no one could have predicted. . .
or did he?

MURDER – HEARTBREAK – HOPE – JOY – LOVE – DREAMS

—Thank you so much for you time, Jamie. And for my readers, here’s the link to his website, where you can check out all of his books and more! James M. McCracken