Posts Tagged ‘Author Interviews’

WGR is excited to welcome author, educator, and talk show host, Fran Lewis.

WGR: Fran, welcome to Working Girl Reviews. I understand you were a New York City teacher for many years. Tell us about that.

Fran: I taught in the NYC public schools for over 30 years. Working with students in grades one through six for the first part of my career. My Principal felt that I had a special skill and expertise when working with students with learning difficulties and encouraged me to go back to school for my second Master’s Degree in Reading and Learning Disabilities. I am glad that I did. As the reading and writing specialist and later Staff Developer I was able to reach many of the students who came from other countries and help them to read, understand and speak our language and excel in school. Before leaving, when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I was the Dean of Discipline and helped create a Peer Mediation program that worked in our school.

The arts and music are two of my greatest passions. I play the piano and the violin and directed and created all of the holiday shows for the school including the ones on Black History and Women’s History. For many years I directed the orchestra and choral groups at Graduation.

I mentored many of the new teachers, was test coordinator for the school and eventually went back for my degree in Administration.

WGR: Tell us a little about Bertha. Did your experience as a teacher inspire your Bertha stories or was it more from personal experience?

Fran: I based my stories and my titles in my own experiences growing up in the South Bronx. I was always the outcast when it came to sports, dancing and was overweight. I spent my life battling with my weight and got ridiculed a lot in dancing school and when participating in many activities. I did however excel at punch ball and can still knock one out of the park. Bertha is me. Everything that I wrote in all three books if true. Many children in the schools today are subjected to the abuse caused by bullies in their schools or being overweight as I was all my life. Having difficulty walking up the stairs or not being able to participate in activities in the gym made it difficult for me to fit in with many of the other kids.

As an educator and a teacher who did spend time working with the gym teacher when my time was requested to assist him, I learned that this issue was still front and center and I refused to allow it to continue.

My Bertha stories are all true. Every one of the stories in My Name is Bertha and Bertha Speaks Out are true. The third book, Bertha Fights Back deals with September 11 and is dedicated to one of my students who died in the first tower. I wrote these stories to help teachers, parents and children of all ages learn to embrace their differences and understand that it is not what you look like on the outside that makes the person, it is the inner you and your kindness and understanding of others.

WGR: Do you have any books other than the Bertha series?

Fran: I wrote two other books dealing with Alzheimer’s. The first is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey: Ruth’s Story. It is my mom’s story and her words when she was diagnosed with this dreaded and horrific illness. It is also a resource for anyone that needs home care, senior care or wants to really understand the illness. It has family memories, author’s memories and pictures to help bring the book and the stories to light.

My second book is titled Sharp as a Tack or Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? This book will help the coach potato in everyone and give you ways to keep your mind and body active and alert.

WGR: You’ve been writing for a while now. Tell us what you like least about the writing process and what you like most.

Fran: I really do not like editing my work. I love when someone else reads my stories or my novels and gives me the feedback that I need. I have trouble reading on my computer because I get eyestrain. I often wonder at times what I am going to write and where my plots are going.

The best part is completing that manuscript and seeing your book in print and of course having tons of people buy it. The Alzheimer’s books were written to raise funds for research and a cure.

WGR: I know you review books for several review sites. What types of books do you enjoy reading most and who are some of your favorite authors?

Fran: I love reading a well-written mystery, thriller and historical fiction novel. A novel that grabs my attention from the first word forcing me to complete the book in a day. I love reading Paranormal and fantasy too. Children’s books are my favorite. Giving positive and great reviews to a new author and having them tell me they love my review is the best payment and way to say thank you in the world to a reviewer.

WGR: As well as being a writer and reviewer, you host a radio talk show. Please tell us more about that.

Fran: I now host two radio shows. The first is Book Discussion With Fran Lewis, which is the third Wed. of every month at 1 Eastern on Red River Radio. Authors throughout the world, usually two on each show are featured. I read their books and create questions to ask them along with my book club members who have to read the books too. The author tells our listeners about his/her writing career, short bio, answers our questions and can promote their sites, next projects and tell us where we can purchase their books.

The second show if for children’s authors and will focus on books geared for all levels. The primary focus of the show is to have authors whose books teach a positive lesson and will help children and teachers in the character education programs. These are books that should be in classroom and school libraries. There are five authors on my first show and I will ask the questions that I have created and we will discuss the books as a group. This show is the fifth Tuesday of August and November 30th so far. 

WGR: For those readers interested in being a guest on your radio show, where would they find information about that?

Fran: If anyone would like to join me on my November children’s show they can email me at riffyone@optonline.net. That show will be devoted to YA authors and books for teens. The show in August will be for early learners.

WGR: When you aren’t busy writing, reviewing, and doing your radio show, what would we find Fran Lewis doing for fun?

Fran: I love to walk, go to museums, and play basketball with my nephews even if I lose, go shopping, go to the Bronx Zoo and make people laugh with my wild sense of humor.

WGR: Fran, thank you so much for spending time with us today. Please tell all our readers where they can find more information about you and your work.

Fran: My website for anyone that would like me to review their books:



http://gabina49.wordpress.com you can read my blogs and my reviews

I review books for http://Ijustfinished.com under the name Gabina

I review for book pleasures and manic readers too.

Thank you so much for interviewing me.

Coming soon: Wrongly Accused and Bertha’s Revenge

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Coming June 3, 2010 :  Maria Schneider will have a poll to choose a cover for Executive Retention–her sequel to Executive Lunch, which we reviewed here at WGR a while back. Voters will have an opportunity to pick their favorite cover, so be sure to check back on June 3 to get all the info.

June 5,2010: Author Carrie Lofty will be guest blogging to about her newest release Song of Seduction.

Also for June, we’ll be interviewing author, book reviewer, and radio host Fran Lewis.

Beginning in June and running through July 10, we’ll be giving away free print books.

And of course we’ll have new reviews of some great books for all you avid readers to check out.

Lastly, review submissions will reopen on June 10.

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The girls at WGR are thrilled to welcome author Carrie Lofty to our site today. Carrie, thanks so much for granting us an interview.

1.) Please tell us a little bit about your upcoming release, Scoundrel’s Kiss.

Scoundrel’s Kiss is the stand-alone sequel to my Robin Hood-themed debut, What a Scoundrel Wants. When last we saw Ada of Keyworth, she’d just been rescued from the Sheriff of Nottingham and had seriously burnt bridges with her family. She and a young admirer, Jacob ben Asher, head off to Spain together. But she’s haunted by the unlawful and sickening torture she endured and turns to opium for relief…

Gavriel de Marqueda is a warrior on the verge of taking his vows with the Order of Santiago. Before he can do so, he must pass one final test: save Ada from herself. He’s vowed obedience, nonviolence, and chastity, but Ada refuses to be held against her will, even for her own good, and vows to use every possible resource to thwart Gavriel’s offer of aid.

2.) Tell us, do you ever base your characters on real people?

My inspiration for the villainous characters is Scoundrel’s Kiss was Pedro Fernandez de Castro, a Leonese nobleman who, because of a grudge against his two royal cousins—both of whom were kings—sided with the Moors at a pivotal battle called Alarcos. He was exiled to North Africa and died there in 1214. But everyone else in this particular romance came from my own imagination!

3.) When writing a novel, what comes first for you, characters, setting, or plot?

I always begin with the setting. I get an idea of where I want the tale to take place—somewhere cold, warm, exotic, familiar. From there I learn my characters. Are the foreigners to this setting I’ve chosen? Raised there? Just passing through? Once I feel that I know them inside and out, the plot comes last. When I arrive at that stage in the process of telling the story, I’m a complete panster!

4.) What is the most challenging part of novel writing? The most rewarding part?

The most challenging part for me is the first draft. I have to get the characters and their romance out of my head and onto the page. The stamina required to trudge through the messy, hideous first attempt is immense. After that, it’s all about revisions and making it shiny and pretty. I love that part! Revisions are very rewarding because it’s the time when I really get to see—on the page—the story that’s been in my head for ages!

5.) Describe for us your favorite place to write.

It changes, actually. I wrote Scoundrel’s Kiss in a local coffee shop that has since closed. I’m also quite fond of my local library’s upstairs reading section, which overlooks a lovely park. And after a recent procedure on my foot, I’ve spent a great deal of time working from my couch. The only place I rarely sit down to write is my computer! Too many distractions!

6.) Say Scoundrel’s Kiss was scheduled to be made into a major motion picture. Who would play the parts of Ada and Gavriel?

I don’t know his name, but Gavriel has always been the model I used in my web trailer–and he sounds like Richard Armitage from “North and South”! Ada would definitely be played by Eva Green, who played Vespa Lind in Casino Royale. She’s smart, brittle, aggressive, sexy, and a little unhinged.

7.) What is your favorite season and why?

Winter. Absolutely. I love the days growing shorter, the holidays, and even the snow. That probably has something to do with the fact that I live in a condo and someone else shovels the snow!

8.) I noticed on your website that you have two small daughters. How do you balance motherhood and writing?

It was harder a few years ago when they were at home or in pre-school. Now that they’re both in school fulltime, I have a good 5-6 hours a day to work. Funny, though, that I still have trouble finding time for mopping…

9.) I also noticed you spent some time in England. What was that like?

I lived in England for roughly ten months, during my junior year of college. It was a fantastic, transformative experience. Not only did I get to really dig deep into English culture by spending so many months there, visiting everything from tourist attractions and historical landmarks to nightclubs and family-run pubs, but I met my husband too. His family took me in as one of their own, and now we return every other year with our daughters.

10.) Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

I recently had some fantastic news. The trilogy of apocalyptic paranormal romances I’ve co-written with Ann Aguirre will be published by Penguin. We’re writing under the pseudonym Ellen Connor, and you can read more about our books here: http://ellenconnor.com

11.) Thanks again for joining us today, Carrie. Before we let you go, please tell our readers where they can find out all the latest CL news! 

Website: http://www.carrielofty.com

Blog: http://lovelysalome.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/carrielofty

Unusual Historicals, the blog I founded in 2006 and managed: http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com


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marsha-casper-cookThe girls at WGR are pleased to welcome multi-published author Marsha Casper Cook to our website today. Marsha, thanks so much for granting us an interview!

1.)   Marsha, it looks like you are a very accomplished author with experience in writing screenplays, children’s books, romance novels, and memoirs. What is your favorite area of writing and why?

I enjoy writing so much that it doesn’t matter what project I’m working on at any particular time. I do however have a problem that I’m sure most writers at one time or another go through. Whatever project I’m working on is probably not going to be as good as my next project. I think for me that might be a form of writers block. Shortly thereafter, I make up my mind and focus. Once I focus I keep reminding myself that I will make it better when I do a rewrite.  

 2.)   Your book, Sala: More Than A Survivor, chronicles the life of a remarkable woman. Please tell us how you happened to meet Sala, and what she is like in real life.

I met Sala several years before I wrote her story. We met at a health club on the track. Sala had always talked about her life as we walked. She talked and I listened. She had no idea I was a writer, but the fact that she was a Holocaust Survivor made me realize her life was so different than anyone I had ever known.  Sala is a wonderful speaker and a very intelligent woman. She sometimes feels that she has not had the education that most of us in the United States have had. That is where she is wrong. She has been through  more than most, which is why when she is a speaker at Holocaust Museums and schools, her lecture is one that causes the room to become still. A pin could drop and you would hear it. Young and old enjoy her truthful and captivating experiences. I have noticed that when the audience leaves the room they have a look on their faces that always astonishes me. Her message is well taken and always the same. Life is to live and whatever trauma we may have to face, God will give us the strength we need to go on.    

3.)   Sala’s story, dealing with her time spent in a Nazi Concentration camp, was troubling for our reviewer to read. Was it a difficult story to write?

It was very difficult to write. I had no idea how horrible and terrifying it must have been for a young girl to endure until I interviewed Sala for her memoir. I cried during the interviews. Sala was so very strong and I admired her strength as she told me her story.   In fact, there were days when I wanted to stop, but I kept on going knowing in my heart that this was a story that had to be told. Sala would hand me a Kleenex and we would continue.

4.)  Please tell us about some of your other books.

I have written three children’s books that were so much fun to write. I had worked in the medical field for pediatricians for several years before I began to write. I loved hearing laughter from children, so I decided to write poems that would be fun to read out loud. I knew the children’s market was tough, but I continued to practice until I got it right. I still get excited when a mother or father comes up to me and tells me how much their son or daughter enjoyed one of my books. Once you get the attention of a child, it’s the greatest incentive one could have to continue on. They say laughter is the best medicine and I think they’re right.

On the other hand when I wrote Love Changes, which was my very first try at writing, I knew that I needed to research and come to an understanding as to why a mother would not want to raise a child with special needs .I volunteered at a school and helped serve lunch and share in some of the free time activities of special needs children. I became emotionally involved almost instantly. I finished the book but never did understand how that could be possible. Writing Love Changes changed my life and for the longest time my character remained a part of me. I learned how to love every moment of my life and to care deeply for everyone close to me. At that time I never thought I was to become a caregiver for my mother after her stroke. This experience prepared me to become good at it and never sorry that I was dealt that hand.  

5.)  I noticed on your website that your screenplay, Romancing Gracie, is currently pending production. How exciting! Please fill us in.

There are so many different production companies ready to look at scripts hoping to make the best picture of the year. Selling a screenplay is very difficult, but not impossible. Getting an option to make a movie is very exciting, but sometimes it takes years to get a project off the ground. That’s where my script is at right now. We hope that it will happen, but there are so many variables in movie making all we can do as writers is keep writing and hope the options we receive turn into a well written movie that audiences will enjoy.   

6.)  Your company offers many services to both aspiring and established authors. What can you tell us about Michigan Avenue Media?

Michigan Avenue Media is trying to break new ground. There are so many wonderful writers out there that will never have their books published. The next best thing to traditional publishing is self-publishing. We try to help new writers create their books. We will coach them if needed. We will help them edit their book to make it look professional. My advice to unpublished writers is that a self-published author has a good chance of networking to get their story out there. It’s always better to have a property to show. A book is rarely thrown away, but pages stuck in a drawer will eventually be thrown out by someone. Books usually move from location to location and may somehow land on the right desk and become a best seller or a movie.      

7.)    When you get a break from your busy writing schedule, how do you like to spend your free time?

I love to see movies and get involved in conversations with people. I learn about life through others words. I especially enjoy conversations with men and women older than myself. It’s always been interesting for me to hear stories about how it used to be. I have always realized that no matter how old one gets, they have life experiences to share.        

8.)  What new works by Marsha Cook can we look forward to?

I am now working on a new screenplay and a novel.

9.)  Where can we get the latest updates on you and your books?

As soon as I have new information about myself or my clients, I post it on my websites.

www.michiganavenuemedia.com  and www.marcusbryan.com

10.)  Thanks again for visiting with us today, Marsha. Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

Yes, I have one message. Please don’t stop writing. It would be a shame to miss the next best seller or the next Academy Award movie. If I had given up years ago, I never would have had any of my books published or screenplays optioned for a movie. Dreams do come true, mine did.

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wendy walkerWorking Girl Reviews is excited to welcome Wendy Walker to our blog today.  

1.  Wendy, thanks so much for visiting with us and answering a few questions. Your novel, FOUR WIVES is up for review here at WGR. Tell us about the book and what inspired the story.

Four Wives was inspired by my life as a stay-home mom in the suburbs. All around me, I saw women who were conflicted by their deep love and commitment to raising their kids and the empty space that existed having left their other callings. This issue formed the first character I developed for the novel, whose name is Love Welsh. As I thought about this community and the people around me, I saw other issues worth exploring and I created characters and plot to give life to those issues. At the same time, I wanted Four Wives to be a fun, fast-paced read with lots of suspense. What resulted, I hope, is just that – a great read with deeper issues that linger long after the book is finished.

2.  FOUR WIVES paints a portrait of life in the suburbs as idyllic on the surface, but far from rosy in reality. Do you feel this could be true of any community—city, rural, small town, or more a symptom of wealthy suburbia?  

I think because these small, insular suburban communities are so homogeneous, there is a greater propensity to hide any thoughts or feelings that truly question the life choices that have been uniformly made. Here is an example of what I mean. Most of the families in these communities have working dads and stay-home moms. The women will talk about their discontentment with this situation up to a point, but it is only with their trusted friends (and sometimes not even then) that they will confess a deeper unhappiness that might lead to a change such as going back to work or even divorce.

3.  Your bio states that you’re a former commercial litigator and investment banker. Does this mean your desire to write came later or was it put on hold while pursuing your other career?

It came later for sure. I quit work as a lawyer when I had my first son. I really wanted to create more balance in my life, which had been so focused on work. But as I settled into stay-home life, I realized I was growing anxious and unhappy, so I tried to find something I could do in a few hours here and there each week that would be intellectual, meaningful and also a potential gateway to a career that I could pursue while being at home with my kids. Writing was what I found, and of course it had been in the back of my mind somewhere. My first inclination was actually to write legal thrillers!

4.  On your website it says you were trained as a competitive figure skater and are a long time supporter and board member of the Figure Skating in Harlem organization. Tell us more about this organization and your involvement.

FSH is a fantastic organization that targets at-risk girls in Harlem. By providing them with a full-service afterschool program, which includes skating and educational components, the girls gain self-esteem and self-discipline. This program has incredible success keeping girls focused on their studies and themselves during years that often lead to teen pregnancy and substance abuse. I became involved at its inception almost 12 years ago because it was started by my best friend from college, Sharon Cohen. You can check out FSH at http://Figureskatinginharlem.org !

5.  You have a new release coming in September 2009 titled SOCIAL LIVES. Is it along the same lines as FOUR WIVES or totally different?

Social Lives has the same basic structure as Four Wives in that it follows a few characters whose lives are intertwined. This time, however, the women live in an even wealthier community driven by hedge fund wealth, and the issues that underlie the characters and plot are a bit more serious and timely. From teenage promiscuity to the predicament of a wife whose husband is about to lose everything to a hedge fund scandal (sound familiar?), this book moves quickly and surprises readers all the way to the last page.

6.  Some of WGR’s readers are aspiring writers and, as most writers looking to be published, they’d appreciate knowing what it was like for you. Was it a long process? Did you send a hundred or so submissions, receive any rejections…?

It was long, but worth it! I started writing as a hobby with intention and because I was having babies during the first five years after I began, it took me about that long to finish a novel. The key for me in finding an agent and eventually selling my first book was getting professional feedback and revising heavily. As a self-taught writer, I knew I needed this and I found a wonderful writing professor who critiqued my work. This was so important for me and I found an agent soon after by sending out about 60 submissions using the books that are out there on literary agents and the like. There are many ways to break in and the first things any writer should do are perfect their manuscript, use any and all connections to get their work read, and then blanket the market to find an agent.

7.  Besides family and writing, what are your other passions?

I’m not sure I even remember! I love seeing my close friends for hours at a time over dinner or a walk. I like to run and hike and do so almost every day. But really, my work is writing and I love it. For so many years, it was my escape from the daily grind of raising kids and taking care of a house and I still view every hour that I am writing as leisure time. That is the very best part of this job for me!

8.  What’s a typical day like in the life of Wendy Walker?

Wake up to three little boys climbing in my bed. Make breakfast, get them dressed, drive them to school or camp. Then a run in the woods, and home to work. I start out with some PR or editing side jobs, and then hunker down on the floor by my fire or by my picture windows in my study to write. There is always lots of coffee involved! I can do this indefinitely, but usually only have a few hours before it’s time to pick up kids and drive them all over for sports and activities. From 2pm on, I am a mom again and that consumes me completely. By 9pm, I am usually in my bed watching some TV while I wait for my oldest to finish reading and puttering in his room so I can tuck him in. Then I tuck myself in. Very dull, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

9.  Is there anything about you that your readers would be surprised to learn?

OK here goes. I actually don’t read as much as other writers do and I don’t read books in my own genre (yikes!). I find that if I do this, my own writing style and process starts to take on the tone of what I am reading at the moment. So that leaves vacations and plane rides, of which I have few. Instead, I watch movies and great character- driven TV to keep my sense of storytelling alert. Also, I am an editor for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, so look for my books under those titles as well!

10. Wendy, thank you for spending time with us today. Anything else you’d like to share with our readers? Where’s the best place to go online to find out more about you and your work?

I think the message I really want to convey is that while my work is packaged in a way that resembles Desperate Housewives and the like, my novels are truly driven by real-life issues that I believe impact women everywhere. I have been so pleased to find that readers relate to my characters and the struggles they face. This is always my intention when I sit down to write and I hope that readers who enjoy this type of book will find me! You can learn a lot more at wendywalkerbooks.com. Thanks so much!!

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victoriahoward1The girls at WGR are honored to have romance/suspense author, Victoria Howard with us today. Welcome, Victoria, and thank you for spending some time with us.

WGR: You say on your website that you consider Scotland your spiritual home, could you tell us what it was like living in the Highlands and what you enjoyed most about the area?

Victoria: Until my mid-twenties I had always lived in an urban environment and worked in the city, so moving to a croft in rural Scotland was a big culture shock.  You can’t just pop out to the shop if you forget to buy a bag of sugar, as the nearest shop might be twenty-five miles away.  My most vivid memory of those first few days in my new home was waking up to the sound of birdsong rather than the hum of traffic. 

It’s exceedingly difficult to say what I enjoyed most about my time living in Scotland, it’s more a culmination of the whole country.   Scotland is a place of contrasts; on one side you have the bustling modern cities, such as Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with their vibrant nightlife and on the other, you have remote, wild open moors, stunning mountains, and lochs.

WGR: Victoria, when reading through your bio, I saw you have a background in medical secretary, legal secretary, and managing a company. How did the writing come about and has your other careers influenced your writing?

Victoria:  I’ve always enjoyed writing, although I think my English teacher might be surprised by that statement!  As I child I found the task of writing essays on a given subject boring, and it was only when I started writing to friends, sharing travel adventures with them that the idea of writing a novel came about.  In May 2000, I travelled to Seattle and that’s where I got the idea for my first novel, Three Weeks Last Spring

I don’t think my careers have influenced my writing, but they’ve certainly given me inspiration.  For example, in 1975 Howard Doris was granted permission to use Loch Kishorn on the west coast of Scotland for a deepwater construction facility for the production of oil platforms for the North Sea Oil industry.  It was this personal knowledge that gave me the idea for The House on the Shore

WGR: Your newest release, The House On The Shore, is coming up for review here at WGR. Please tell us a bit about the story.

Victoria: The House on the Shore is a suspense romance set in Scotland.

When Anna MacDonald’s boyfriend—and boss—cheats on her and gives her promotion to someone else, she resigns and decides to get as far away from Edinburgh as possible.  She packs up her old Land Rover and moves to her late grandmother’s cottage on the shore of Loch Hourn in the Highlands. 

With no phone or neighbours, and only two border collies for company, Anna sets out to finally achieve her dream; to write—and sell—the novel that has burned within her for years. 

She’s finally on the verge of healing her heart and finding some peace when handsome American artist, Luke Tallantyre, sails into the loch with engine trouble.  He’s sailed across the Atlantic to escape an artistic dry spell and to come to terms with his dangerous past.  He rows ashore, and knocking on the door of the croft, asks to use the telephone, but the reception he receives is less than welcoming – in fact it’s downright frosty. 

Anna resents the cranky American’s intrusion to her seemingly idyllic life.  Luke thinks she’s an ill-mannered hermit.  But an unseen assassin is after one of them.  So they unwillingly join forces and embark on an adventure neither ever imagined…including a chance at true love.

WGR: What books do you enjoy reading and do you have a favorite author?

Victoria: I love reading, but I try not to read other authors’ work while I’m working on a novel.  I don’t want to be influenced by their “voice” and word choice, so I tend to read when on vacation or when I’m not working on a manuscript.

While in Florida last Christmas, I picked up a copy of Linda Fairstein’s novel, “Final Jeopardy” and was hooked, due in part to my interest in anything legal.  Since then, I’ve read more of her novels, and I find her one of the most exciting crime novelists I have ever read.  I also enjoy novels by Elizabeth Alder, Katie Fforde, Dana Gabaldon, I could go on, but the list would take up too many pages!

WGR: If The House On The Shore was contracted for film and you could choose the actor/actress to play the leading roles, whom would you choose?

Victoria: What a difficult question.  I think I’d choose Gemma Arterton for the role of Anna MacDonald. She was excellent in the role of Tess of the D’Ubervilles in the recent BBC production. Hugh Jackman would make an excellent Luke, as he has a cheeky smile that lights up his face. 

WGR: What’s a typical writing day like for you? Do you have a set schedule and a specific place/office for your writing?

Victoria: Just because I’m at home all day, doesn’t mean I can sit and write all day – there are household chores as well as shopping, and cooking to attend to, so my writing tends to fit in around them. But on an ideal day, I’ll settle down in my office by mid-morning.  My first task is to see if any emails have come in overnight from my publisher in Everett.  I will answer these first, along with any requests for interviews, media packs or copies of the free first chapters booklet my publisher has produced. Once I’ve done that, I like to read over the previous day’s work, making any changes I think necessary, and any notes I may have made about what should happen next. Then it’s down to the hard work of writing. I’ll break for lunch, and then again to cook and eat dinner. 

WGR: Where does your inspiration come from and how do you start? Do you use an outline or are you more of a ‘lets just start and see where it goes’ writer?

Victoria: Ideas for plots and scenes can strike at any time.  I might hear something on the news, or read an article in the newspaper and think “that would make a good plot.”  Or I might be on holiday and the town or city I’m visiting might become the setting for a novel. 

Once I have an idea for a plot and have given my characters names, and identities, I like to write a 2 -3 page outline of the major plot points.  I don’t plot scene by scene as some of my writing colleagues do. I find that too restrictive. Occasionally, as with the novel I’m currently working on, my characters will take me off in a slightly different direction than I first intended. This can slow my writing down, as I have to re-think how to get them out of a situation. However, I’ve never yet had to delete more than a few pages to get back on track.  

WGR: Do you have any secrets you’d like to share…something your readers would never guess about you?

Victoria: Before I started writing full-time, I designed and produced knitwear using traditional Celtic knotwork patterns.

WGR: Other than writing, what are your other passions?

Victoria: I enjoy listening to music – anything from classical to jazz. I’m also a keen gardener, although I don’t have as much time to indulge the hobby, as I would like.  I love to travel, and again don’t do nearly as much as I would like. 

WGR: Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know and where can we go to find out more about you and your books?

Victoria: I have just signed a contract for the publication of my third novel, Ring of Lies, set in the steamy heat of Florida. It is scheduled to be released later this year under the Vanilla Heart label. 

I have a website, www.victoriahoward.co.uk and a blog, where I post news and articles about writing, www.victoriahoward.wordpress.com     Vanilla Heart also has a website with details of all its author’s novels, www.vanillaheartbooksandauthors.com

Victoria, thanks so much for being here at WGR. It was great fun! 🙂

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tikaThe girls at WGR are thrilled to welcome author, Tika Newman. Tika, thank you for being with us today.

WGR: We will soon be reviewing your book, The Eyes Of Innocence, here at WGR and I understand it’s the first in a series, please tell us a little about the book and the series.

Tika:  Thank you so much!  I am delighted to be here.  I would like to mention that the series name, as well as the name of the first book is The Eyes of Innocence.

The Eyes of Innocence series is the story of a psychic girl with the power to heal, as she grows up helping people and animals. 

Kalina was orphaned at the age of three and adopted by her aunt and uncle.  Imagine how they feel when they witness Kalina heal an injured baby bird at the tender age of five.  This is only the beginning.  Kalina’s abilities blossom from there and she attracts a lot of publicity.  Her aunt and uncle worry for her safety and the family makes the first of many moves. 

 The story opens when they settle in a small town in upstate New York.  Kalina begins to dream of a white horse with black mane and tail.  The exact horse shows up on her sixteenth birthday as a gift to her.  Nobody has any idea where the horse came from, including Kalina, but she knows that the horse is indeed a gift.  The story takes many twists and turns until her secret heritage is revealed.  Kalina is thrilled.  Her aunt and uncle panic, thinking they will lose her.

I believe this series is an original story and not a copy-cat version of any other book, movie or TV show.  It is believable, as well as heartwarming.  Readers have cried with happiness and sat on the edge of their chair at other times.  My favorite comments are when readers feel like they are there, in the story as it is happening.

WGR: You had a long and successful career in real estate, when did you first begin writing and where did the inspiration come from for The Eyes Of Innocence?

Tika:  It was the summer of 2004 when the urge to write first became a driving force within me.  Although writing newspaper ads and fact sheets for the homes I sold always came very easily to me, I never dreamed I would write novels. 

The inspiration part is actually very silly.  My husband and I rented a movie for the kids to watch.  It is a very popular series and I was looking forward to watching it.  To say I didn’t like it, is putting it lightly.  All the way through the movie I kept saying that I could write a better story than this.  It’s too fake.  My husband said, “Do it.”  I did it.

 I had NO idea how much I would dedicate myself.  I had NO idea that I could actually write stories that people would love.  When the first book was released, I was actually taken aback by the comments from the readers.  They loved it!  I was thrilled! 

WGR: What do you hate most about the writing process and what do you love most about it?

Tika: The only thing I dislike is the editing, because I’m never satisfied.  I edit, re-edit, tweak, make a few adjustments, edit again, etc.  I am a fanatic and make myself crazy!

The things I love about writing?  I could talk endlessly about that.  The entire creation process has captivated me.  I love working with the graphic artists to get my covers exactly as I want them.  I always have a vision as to how they should look.  The writing itself is wonderful.  I have a vivid imagination and a resourceful mind, but to create these characters and bring them to life is still amazing to me.

Some may consider me to be non-conforming, as I do not use outlines.  I have a general idea in my head of the main gist of the story and I write as I go along.  For instance – I am working on the final edits of the third book now.  The fourth book is half written.  I couldn’t tell you how many books will be in the series, but I could tell you how it will end.

WGR: Which book in your series do you feel would be most suited for being made into a movie and whom would you choose for the leading roles?

Tika:  A movie would absolutely have to begin with the first book; The Eyes of Innocence.  Since Kalina grows up during the series, the background is too important to miss.  Kalina will be an adult as the series progresses, so there will have to be a number of different actors playing the lead roles.

WGR: From your bio, I see you’re from upper state New York. What’s the best thing about living in such a beautiful part of the country? 

Tika:  I love the change of the seasons.  Actually, even though New York is our primary residence, we spend from late spring until November on a small lake in Pennsylvania.  It is very secluded, as we are surrounded by hundreds of acres of state game lands.  It is a writer’s paradise and I am in my element, surrounded by nature.

WGR: What’s your favorite thing to do on rainy days (besides writing)?

Tika:  Cook, write, cook some more, write, leave the dishes for later because I need to write.  In between, I play backgammon on http://www.gammonsite.com

WGR: Since you love to cook. What are some of your favorite dishes?

Tika:  I am writing the never-ending cookbook.  I’ve been working on it for years.  I love making up new recipes including breads, main dishes, cakes, etc.  Since I love to experiment and be creative, I simply cannot follow another recipe without altering it.  Even making something as simple as rice, I catch myself adding herbs and garlic, as well as cooking it in broth instead of water. I make bread from scratch. There is something so satisfying about taking yeast, flour and water and kneading it with my own two hands.  Of course slathering the warm bread with butter is pretty great too..

I can’t say that I ever cook anything with the idea of it being for calorie conscious people. I go for taste, taste, taste!  Main dishes are the ones I love creating the most.  Some examples are four cheese meat stuffed shells, lump crab cakes, easy stuffed pork chops, company meat loaf with glaze, scallops and mushrooms, seafood alfredo and lots more.

WGR: Have you ever done anything totally bizarre/crazy/zany?

Tika:  Me?  No, never.  Ok, there was one time I was a little bizarre, crazy and zany, but only this once.  My husband had been away on a business trip.  My son and I went to the airport to pick him up and we brought the beagle with us.  We didn’t have a leash for her, so I had her on a long chain. I can’t remember why the devil made me do it, but we brought the dog into the airport with us. Not one person said a word!  Well, my husband did, but my son and I giggled like crazy.

WGR: What’s one thing about you that your readers would be surprised to learn?

Tika:  There is a little bit of me in Kalina and Amy Sue McAllister. I want to be a healer when I grow up.  Toby was real.  His picture is on the back cover of the first book.

I am on my third donation for Locks of Love, an organization that collects hair to make hairpieces for children who have lost their hair to illness and can’t afford a human hair wig. I figure these children and their families have enough to worry about. This is the least I can do.  At my age, it’s a bit juvenile to walk around with long hair, but I do it for a reason – to help children. 

Giving back is important to me.  When my Real Estate Office was open and I had lots of money, I used to donate a number of Thanksgiving food baskets and Christmas breakfast baskets to two local churches. The breakfast baskets were so much fun!  I’d buy Danish, eggs, jelly, peanut butter, butter, bread, sausage, bacon, pancake mix, syrup, English muffins, juice and milk.  I always stuck a bit of candy in for the kids and sometimes a little house decoration.  The churches knew who I was, but the baskets were donated anonymously.

Other than that, I am just an ordinary woman. My family comes first in my life.  I adore my husband and have friends that mean the world to me.  I believe in love and always try to do the right thing, no matter what. Honesty is important and probably part of the reason why I was a respected Realtor. If I saw a reason why a family shouldn’t purchase a certain house, I would attempt to talk them out of it.  My philosophy was that I’d rather show them ten or twenty more houses instead of letting them purchase one that I felt was not the right house or had a defect that would hurt the future value. I treated my customers fairly and honestly. As the years went on, 90% of my business was referral business from past customers. That was something I was very proud of.

WGR: Is there anything else you’d like to share and where’s the best place to go to learn more about you and your books?

Tika:  I have a new blog where readers are welcome to meet me, ask questions and interact with other fans. It’s located at http://tikanewman.blogspot.com/

Of course everyone is welcome to keep their eye on www.thistlewoodpublishing.com for the latest releases.  I’m planning on releasing Window to Her Soul, the third book in the series as soon as I edit it one more time.  I promise – only once more!  Seriously, look for Window to Her Soul sometime in late June. 

I would also love it if readers would watch for For the Love of Anne, an historical novel that will be released in 2009. Set in the late 1800’s, the novel tells of the hardships facing a young brother and sister when their father abandons the family. After the tragic loss of their mother, Anne refuses to be separated from Billy, no matter what the judge says. 

They pack their belongings and escape to Chicago under the cover of darkness. Their intent was to find their father, hoping that he would take them in.  Unfortunately, things do not go as planned. Chaotic adventures become commonplace to Anne and Billy as they try to survive on their own.   Anne’s creativity and good business sense set them off on many adventures as they make their way alone. 

Anne witnessed first hand, what love did to her mother and vows to never let a man do that to her. 

If the heart wants love, the head cannot stop it.  Anne can run, but can she hide? 

WGR: Thanks, Tika, for being here with us at WGR and the best of luck with your series of books. 🙂

Tika:  It was my pleasure.  I thank you for the opportunity to share my story.

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Book Reviews:

The Perfect Poison by Amanda Quick

Jewel by Brett Lott

The Eyes Of Innocence by Tika Newman

The House On The Shore by Victoria Howard

Author Interviews:

May 26, 2009 – Tika Newman

May 29, 2009 – Victoria Howard

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brenda_hillThe girls at WGR are excited to welcome author, editor, and writing instructor Brenda Hill to our site today. Brenda, thank you so much for granting us an interview! 

1.) In your role as a writing instructor you often conduct workshops for aspiring authors. What is the most important piece of advice you give to a beginner?

To learn all you can about the craft of writing and never give up.

After welcoming new students and chatting about the different genres, I weave a glowing scenario similar to what we’ve seen in movies: someone decides to write a book, so they sit at a typewriter or computer, pound out a few sentences when they have time, and after completing the book, they send it off to instant riches and fame.

It sounds wonderful, and most of us have been led to believe that’s how it is. People still tell me they’re going to write a book ‘when they have time,’ as if time is all it takes. I tell my students how it truly is, which is often discouraging. 

While I may agree to other projects to pay the bills, my first love is the novel, and that’s what I’ve concentrated on for most of writing life. I made several attempts in the early years, hiding them away when I’d get stalled. 

But when I decided to take it seriously, to devote my time to writing and finishing a novel, I discovered the truth, that the Hollywood version of novel writing was a myth, a complete fabrication. Perhaps it was closer to reality years ago before the days of personal computers with novel writing software, instant research abilities, and online classes available to most everyone. Publishing houses and agents weren’t so snowed under with submissions and they could afford to take the time to work with a promising new writer. Some wined and dined them, even going as far as covering expenses while the agent or publisher worked with them to get that glorious novel written on a professional level.

Today, that seldom happens. Now, because of the enormous amounts of submissions, downsizing, budget cuts, and consolidations, few publishing houses accept manuscripts directly from new writers. Instead, they prefer submissions from agents who act as gatekeepers or first readers. And agents today are as demanding as the publishing houses. They’ll only consider manuscripts relatively free of errors, written well as to structure, pacing, believable dialogue, and of course, a page-turning story. Even then, they’re attuned to the market and will only sign what they believe will sell.

All of the techniques involved in telling a story good enough for other people to want to read require knowledge of the craft of writing. And it is a craft, just like playing the piano or any other musical instrument, painting a portrait or landscape, or even handling a car well enough to provide a smooth ride for the passenger. While some of us might be musically inclined or have watched someone else drive until we can recite the steps in our sleep, it takes knowledge and time to develop the skill to hit the exact right key, or to know exactly how much gas to give the car to get it to cruise instead of skipping like a flat rock in water.

I thought I could write a saleable novel the first time out. I’d read all my life, critiqued manuscripts at the bookstore I owned and had even taken several classes. But in the actual process of writing, I found myself frustrated by simple things such as condensing time or how to get my character through the door of a room and into another – all without boring my reader into a coma.

At one writers’ conference, a New York Times bestselling author said it took her years of learning, and when she took an unofficial poll of other authors, the average was eight years of writing, of rejections, of learning the craft before they ‘got it.’

Eight years. 

By then, I was so discouraged I could’ve cried. I’d already spent several years on my one story, writing, sending to agents, receiving rejections. And each time an agent said I needed improvement in a particular technique, I went on a quest to learn.

So yes, it took years, and I’m still learning.

But, when I finally received that offer of representation, I burst into tears. Even celebrating later, I was still so emotional that I couldn’t stop crying.

My books are now with a small indie publisher and I’m still hoping for that big contract with all the riches and fame. I still believe in those magical fairy tales, but like other big, important steps in my life, I have to work for it. Some writers are fortunate enough to have the novel-fairies guiding them to instant success, and while I may grudgingly read their books, I want to push them off a cliff.

So I tell my students that if they, after hearing all of that, still want to write, welcome! If they have that burning desire to create stories, perhaps there’s a reason. Perhaps something they’ll say in their novels will touch someone else in a positive way. So learn all they can and never give up. But I also tell them that if they don’t want to work, they should go home and take up a stress-free hobby.

Because writing well is hard work, you have to want it with a hungry desire that will not be appeased until you see your name on a newly-released novel. When I held my first book, saw the fantastic cover with my name on it, I hugged it to me in boundless joy and danced around the room. Only one other time in my life compared with that moment – giving birth to my son.

But with books you don’t have to change diapers.

2.) Brenda, it looks like as a writer you do a little bit of everything — short stories, novels, newspaper articles, and even restaurant reviews. What is the most unusual restaurant you have visited, and what are some of your favorite foods?

I grew up in Louisiana, and I love southern cooking – which usually means a lot of fried foods. And as much as I realize baked or broiled foods are healthier, my favorites are fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, bacon and tomato sandwiches, bbq ribs, buttered corn on the cob, biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy. And of course, Mississippi Mud Pie, which is a rich, chocolate-fudge pie. That’s why I’ve battled weight all my life. I’ll eat ‘right’ for a while, even lose some weight, but as soon as I have a problem in life, I reach for my comfort food. They say, “Reach for your mate instead of the plate,’ but unfortunately, that only worked for a short time. Now if I could meet a Terry O’Neal from Beyond the Quiet in my own life, I might not need so much comfort food.

An unusual restaurant? Have to think on that one, as I choose the restaurant, and of course I pick ones that serve food I like. I will say that it took quite a while for me to try sushi. Raw fish is not one of my favorites. Even the thought of it makes me want to dash out the back door for the nearest KFC. But it’s my son’s favorite, so I broke down and gave it a try. I took him along so that if I didn’t like it, I could pawn it off on him.

However, it turned out to be a delightful experience, and I wrote a review of the Japanese restaurant, Sayaka, complete with photos of the dishes on my http://www.cuisinescene.org site. While I enjoyed the evening, I’m not in any hurry to go back.

3.) Please tell us a little bit about your new book, Beyond the Quiet.

It’s a story of self-discovery, a journey of learning and embracing who you truly are as opposed to what you believe others require of you.

Lisa Montgomery thinks her husband’s death after twenty-five years of marriage is the worst that can happen – until she discovers his secret life.

She struggles though loss, betrayal, and bitterness, finally examining her life as a wife, mother, and as a woman. She learns to open her heart, to let go of the sterile woman she’d become to passionately embrace the woman she wishes to be. She learns to cherish each moment and follow her long-buried dreams.

4.) What is the most rewarding part of the novel writing process?

When I finally get a difficult scene to flow like I want, when the words finally match the rhythm in my head.

5.) What is the most frustrating part of the novel writing process?

I’m not a writer who whizzes through and gets everything down. Instead, I plod along, writing a scene or even a sentence, needing to feel that certain satisfaction before I can concentrate on the next one. If I’m not satisfied, I’ll write it again and again, changing this word or that one, trying the sentence in a different way. When I’m feeling pressured for time, I’ll eventually let it go, but it’ll nag me until I go back for yet another round of revisions. I’ll keep at it until I can read it and know it’s right. Then I can finally breath a sigh of satisfaction and move on. 

6.) Both of your novels, Ten Times Guilty and Beyond the Quiet seem to feature women overcoming incredible hardships. Are your books based on personal experience?

Like most people, I’ve faced hardships and have struggled to overcome them, so I think there’s a little of me in everything I write. 

In my first novel, Ten Times Guilty, my female lead, Tracy, is a struggling single mother trying to do the best for her son. At one time I had the entire responsibility of raising and providing for my own child, so I knew of Tracy’s desperation and her struggle to do better on limited funds. While I didn’t experience her sexual assault, I’ve coped with other traumas, so I could write about panic, hopelessness, and finally, the determination to take control and survive. 

Beyond the Quiet tells about a grieving widow who discovers her happy marriage was a sham. I wasn’t a widow, but I did lose my husband of thirty years to divorce, so I knew all the emotions: loss, shock, grief, betrayal, and rage. Some of my character’s other experiences, such as meeting a man who made her toes curl, haven’t happened yet, but I have an active imagination. 

My Amazon Short, Am I Wife or Daughter? is based on my own experience with my mother’s care. Again, what happened in the story wasn’t my actual experience, but the dilemmas and emotions – the indecision, the resentment, and guilt – were all there.

The women in my novels wind up stronger than they were when their stories began, and I’m still working on that strength for myself. Tracy and Lisa inspire me with their gained wisdom and strength. 

7.) What are some of your favorite books? Movies?

My favorites range in genre from The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler to Memoirs of an Invisible Man – the book, not the movie. The book was a wonderful, engrossing story of a man in desperate circumstances, but to me, the movie was a disappointing attempt at comedy. Another favorite is the original The Day the Earth Stood Still, and again, I was disappointed in the later movie, which lacked the charm of the original. But I loved the movie version of Somewhere in Time better than the book, and I enjoyed both versions of Where the Heart Is. The Flame and the Flower and The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss are two of my favorite historical romances, and I love most books from Joy Fielding. 

8.) Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Only that publishing your writing is a tough, competitive business, full of setbacks, disappointments, and frustrations. Yet if you persevere and succeed, the sense of personal accomplishment you feel when holding your book for the first time is a satisfaction that never fades. And when someone tells you they loved your novel, that they stayed up reading when they should’ve been sleeping, it’s like a standing ovation at the end of a glorious, grueling performance. To touch someone in some way with your stories is a wonderful thing, so if you have that desire, keep trying and never give up.

19.) Where can we go to find out all the latest B.H. news?

My website, http://www.brendahill.com  or my Author’s Den site, http://www.authorsden.com/brendahill , where I post news, short stories that have been published, and features on writing.

Thanks again, Brenda, for chatting with us today. Best of luck with Beyond the Quiet!

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Just a few announcements:

Our Spring Contest will be ending at midnight on May 15, 2009. If you haven’t entered yet to win the $20 Amazon gift certificate, you can find the post under announcements/contest in the drop down category menu on the right.

Book reviews coming up:

Dancing With The Stars by Norman Borine

Beyond The Quiet by Brenda Hill

The Perfect Poison by Amanda Quick

And we’re honored to have our next author interview with Brenda Hill.

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