Interview with Dan Janik, Publisher at Savant Books and Publications

danWelcome, Dan. Tell us, what made you go into publishing?

A desire to “pay back”—to other new and struggling writers—for the years of help I received during my early writing career. As such, we tend to focus on introducing “new” authors to the reading public.

What is the general background of your company?

Savant Books and Publications publishes works of enduring literary quality “with a twist” that ultimately transforms a reader’s established point-of-view. Our general target audience is high-school/first year college educated readers of American English worldwide but offer up our work to anyone just in need of a great story! We focus especially on North America, Canada, Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand and other English reading countries.

Are you getting from the business what you hoped to, monetarily as well as non-monetarily?

Yes. Savant’s business model was designed to be successful during “good” and “bad” times and it continues to prove such. We continue to be debt free and look forward to the publishing challenges of the years ahead!

How has the eBook revolution affected your business?

Ebooks have proven a mixed blessing. First, they save trees. At least that’s the idea. A second strongly positive blessing is that by virtue of being digital, the internet-delivered work is “fresh” and “new,” and less expensive rather than warehoused and shipped printed books.

Finally, a digital work can be machine-read, making an eBook also available as an audio book. The downside is that there frequently exists no verifiable information on sales (hence one has to totally rely on what the eBook “printer” reports which themselves are open to “creative accounting”). In addition, profiles of eBook purchasers suggest they tend to collect rather than read eBooks, rarely recommend good reads to colleagues and hardly ever do reader book reviews. Hence, it is difficult for early authors depending heavily on eBooks as a primary venue to garner that necessary “critical mass” of readership to establish author name and title recognition—the two most important issues for a new or early author.

Another somewhat larger issue is that of “self-publishing” within the eBook arena. The current tendency is for the quality of an eBook read to vary widely, affecting potential readers’ opinions of reading in the eBook venue. A bigger issue is the shift of emphasis from quality and service to more business-like product sales. In general this translates to an even more inhuman approach to publishing success in the eBook business. Finally, eBooks, as their Digital Management Rights (DRM) are frequently tightly associate with a digital “reader,” discourage decentralization and small business, which has always been the very “heart” of publishing.

Do you have a plan to survive since new ebook publishers are springing up every day?

We will continue to emphasize quality and service. In addition, we have our own bookstore(s) and offer our books in eBook format one year after they are released in softcover printed format. We are also working on developing an “a-Book” to be sold in bookstores.

Some people think that with more titles available today than at any other time in history, the novel as an art form is dying. Do you agree? Disagree?

I agree that more titles are available today, making “publishing” almost a whole new animal. I disagree that the novel format is dying. It is certainly changing with the new generation stressing visual elements (i.e. favoring “comic book” and/or “manga” style reads over purely printed word craft), much shorter length (e.g. “flash fiction” and “chapterized” internet works) over the traditional novel format, but the novel, per se, isn’t disappearing, it’s being refined and redesigned as will every “new” generation.

Do you publish anything or just certain genres?

Genre-wise, we publish widely; however, we do not publish gratuitous violence or sex, and favor historically-based fiction.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

We have a slightly different emphasis, calling a desirable product a “good read”. While a great storyline is essential, it is the writing of the story that distinguishes a “good read” from a less desirable one. When a target reader finds him or herself reading the work without pause (e.g. to reclarify a word, phrase or sentence), we at Savant consider the work a “good read”.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Let go of hubris and vanity, and focus on word craft and service. It through service that one will garner the “critical mass” of readers necessary today to establish author name and work title recognition.

Who are the authors you have published so far?

Savant has been fortunate enough to publish the work of really great writers—all talented, with numerous award winners. We’ve also published CD’s of music, so don’t just think we’re all print books.

If anything has made it all worth it, it’s been being able to work with such a great eclectic group of writers. I wish I could name them all but, just to name a few: David Seaburn, Gloria Schumann, William Maltese, A.G. Hayes, S. Stanley Gordon, Helen Doan, and many, many more!

What do you do to sell the books you publish, for example, where do you advertise?

We’ve found traditional advertising and marketing ineffective, being more akin to gambling than investing. This is the key. Gambling means we give people money in the hope of better return without any guarantee of return of the principal. Investing, which we favor, means we give people money in the hope of a better return with guarantee of return of our principal. This is another “revolution” that has only just begun throughout the financial and business world that is going to strongly affect publishing.

Do you set up signings for the authors and then publish the ‘tour’?

Yes. We maintain our own bookstore(s) where authors are encouraged to have book release and author introduction parties. We also allow Savant Books and Publications to host theme and genre- related “parties”. We strongly encourage authors to do the same, offering them copies of their books and those of other Savant authors for 50% off the Suggested Retail Price.

How do you acquire your talent?

We maintain an open (unsolicited) manuscript submission policy, couple our submissions with a required 16-question questionnaire—which we take seriously. All submissions are read. Many are submitted, few are chosen.

Where can we learn more about you, your authors, and the books you publish?

Visit our website at http://www.savantbooksandpublications.com! You can also find us on all regular social media streams to see what’s new!

Thank you for telling us about Savant Books and Publications, Dan. Best of luck for a long and literary future!

Savant

Interview with Sherrie Hansen, Author of SWEET WILLIAM, a Wildflowers of Scotland Romance

Hi, Sherrie. I’m thrilled you have a new book published. What is your book, Sweet William, about?

On the outside, Sweet William is about castles, kilts, and cows. It’s about sweet vs. savory – in the kitchen, and in the bedroom. It’s about family, friends and bull semen. On the inside, Sweet William is about doing the right thing, even when your heart is screaming at you to do the complete opposite. It’s about the good ones dying and the ones who irritate you no end still hanging on and refusing to go away. It’s about the unthinkable, the impossible, having a life you love and being asked to give it all up and move to an alternate universe on the other side of the globe because there is no other option.

It all begins when Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge. William is a real sweetheart (sickeningly sweet according to Lyndsie). Lyndsie is a wee bit tart (although William is too nice to ever point out such a thing.) The atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. It remains to be seen whether someone will get cut, or if they’ll find a recipe that works. Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

When William McKnight showed up at Michael and Isabelle’s wedding in Shy Violet, it was love at first sight (for me, not Lyndsie, who was totally irritated when he stole the limelight away from her dainty finger foods and crudités with his roasted grunter, buttery soft potato rolls and overly sweet Farm Boy Barbeque Sauce.) The two of them were so great together that I decided they had to be.

Sounds fun. Tell us a little more about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

William is getting rave reviews from my readers. He’s being called my best hero ever. I’m still so enamored of Pastor Ian in Wild Rose, that I can’t quite see it, but that’s another story. I adored writing Lyndsie. She’s spunky and sassy and self-confident. She knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to stand up to anyone who challenges her. She loves her family and would do anything for them, even when she’s totally disgusted by their actions. She’s a very loyal friend – until she has to choose between her two best friends and a family member that all desperately need her – and they live on opposite sides of the globe. Lyndsie has such snark – and William’s sweet disposition is the perfect foil for her sass.

Did you do any research for Sweet William? If so, how did you do it?

Although I grew up on a farm, my dad never raised cattle, so I had to do a lot of research on various breeds of beef cattle and their traits and behaviors. I researched cattlemen’s association in Scotland and the U.S., the origins of the Aberdeen Angus breed, agricultural import and export regulations, and… bull semen. I accomplished my task by visiting Scotland, Devon and Cornwall, interviewing veterinarians, talking to my niece, Victoria, who raises beef cattle and shows them at the fair, and tracking things down on the internet.

What about your book besides the Scottish setting might pique the reader’s interest?

I’ve been told by several readers that when I started writing my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, they missed the local color, familiar places, and quirky Midwestern characters from my first five books, which are all set in Minnesota or Iowa. While I maintain that people are the same everywhere (check out the church ladies in Wild Rose if you doubt me), my local readers will be pleased to know that Sweet William is partially set on a farm in Southern Minnesota. Backdrops like the Minnesota State Fair and a family gathering at William’s family’s farm in Blue River, Minnesota, should make them feel right at home.

What was the most difficult part about writing Sweet William?

I’ve “killed off” bad guys, in both Wild Rose and Blue Belle, and sent nefarious pirates to the slammer in Shy Violet, but in Sweet William, I had to do away with a good guy. Writing those scenes, and grieving alongside my characters, cut me to the core and filled me with complete and utter trepidation about the time in my life when I will have to face this kind of loss.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

One of the hardest things for me to do, as an author, has been to single out a particular type of reader to whom to market my books. They call it branding, and I’m terrible at it. My Wildflowers of Scotland novels are a good example. The focus of Wild Rose is faith and forgiveness, which appeals to a certain type of reader. Although there are no steamy scenes in Wild Rose, it does not fit the parameters of inspirational fiction – Rose is much too quirky, and well, too wild, for that. Blue Belle and Shy Violet are quite steamy, and the behavior of the bad guys in Blue Belle is sometimes gory, gross, and too explicit for the faint of heart. Sweet William is sweet, and except for one teeny, tiny, mildly steamy scene, suitable for all readers. It’s less suspenseful than the others, and focuses more on family “situations” for conflict. The thing is, my books are character driven. No two characters are the same. I think my books are better because I don’t try to put my characters in a box, but if you’re going to come along for the ride, you need to be willing to take whatever each particular character throws at you – me. If you’re open to it, I think it’s far more fun that way.

Which is more important to your story, character or plot?

As expressed above, I’m into characters. A reader recently wrote to me and said, “Boy, you know people. I have been practicing psychology and social work for 45 years and you must have been sitting in the office next to me. You know your stuff!” Although my characterizations are subtle, it thrilled me that she could appreciate the inner workings of the men and women I write about. I feel that if my characters are honest, well-motivated, and real enough, my plot will basically write itself based on their actions, fears, and needs.

Does your understanding of the story you are writing change during the course of the book?

How could it not, given how unpredictable people are? I always say that I write the first one third to half of the books, and my characters write the rest.

Have you written any other books?

Sweet William is a Wildflowers of Scotland novel, and follows Thistle Down (a prequel novella), Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet. I’ve written two stand-alones, Night and Day, and Love Notes. I also have a trilogy, the Maple Valley novels, about three quirky sisters who can’t stop with the quilts – Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Here are some links to places where you can learn more about my books:

https://www.facebook.com/BlueBelleInn
http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/
http://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-ansen/e/B007YXQJ4W/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
http://www.indigoseapress.com/Star-Crossed-Books–Contemporary-Romance.php#Hansen

Don’t forget to check out Sherrie’s new release: Sweet William. https://amzn.com/B01H2TUD3U

Interview With Helen Donovan, Author of WHAT GOES AROUND

What Goes AroundWelcome, Helen. What is your book about?

What Goes Around is about Phoebe who is adopted at birth. She’s yearned to know where she came from for as long as she can remember, so after she graduates from college she hires a private investigator to find her roots. He does. She is thrilled when he finds two living relatives…that’s when things take a turn for the sinister. And I mean sinister.

Sounds interesting and ominous. How long was it before you began to write the story?

The idea germinated for at least three years, maybe longer. My game plan for when I retired was to do music full time.  And then when nature deteriorated my voice, I’d write. So that’s what I did. I sang, time marched on, but nature didn’t kick in. I could still sing but it was time. I had to make the decision. After a few months I told my friend and longtime accompanist that I was quitting.

What inspired you to write this particular story rather than, for example, something about music?

One afternoon I watched two members my friend’s family fly off the handle over nothing. Looking back over our long friendship, I must have had my head in the sand because that’s how her brother and sister always reacted. It was their behavior that intrigued me. Why do they react like that? Others would never react that way. What makes some people do what they do? Why does someone from a loving family commit murder and an abused kid becomes a priest?

Sounds like a good foundation for a story. How long did it take you to write the book?

Oh, at least three or four years. I had all of 96 pages and I thought I had a book but I knew I needed professional help. I was dead right. I enrolled in a general writing workshop that was led by a retired professor from Northwestern University, that’s in Evanston Illinois, and Jerry was merciless. At the end of six weeks I was among a few others he invited to participate in the advanced workshop, which I did. I recorded those sessions and rewrote What Goes Around.

How do you track or differentiate between characters?

What worked really well for me and what was suggested by another author was a flow chart. It was invaluable for remembering details. It ensures that if she always has an English muffin for breakfast on page 2 she gets the same muffin on page 296. Notes also help keep each character’s behaviors consistent.

Is there a message, or anything you want the reader to take away with them?

Yes, think about the age old debate: nature vs nurture. How much do we really know?

What was your greatest challenge?

Getting What Goes Around published. The only thing that kept me hanging in there after all the rewrites and all the rejections was keeping faith in the story that was based on a sound concept.Helen Donovan

So, now that What Goes Around is published, where can we learn more about the book?

From my publisher, Indigo Sea Press. http://www.indigoseapress.com/deep-indigo–mainstream-authors-a-l.php#Helen

You can also buy the book at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/What-Goes-Around-Helen-Donovan/dp/1630662933

Thank you for talking with me today, Helen. Best of luck with your book!

Interview With Lazarus Barnhill, Author of PASTOR LARSEN AND THE RAT

Pastor Larsen and the RatWelcome, Lazarus Barnhill. Congratulations on the publication of your new book! What is Pastor Larsen and the Rat about?

Reverend Martin Luther Larsen — highly regarded, completely ethical, genuine and sincere —has dedicated his life to the pastorate. Now, in the face of the drudgery, church politics and frustration that are the usual professional hazards of the ministry, a dangerous and intriguing complication has slipped into his life: Ange. No one in Larsen’s close knit congregations knew of the existence of this woman, the daughter of a parishioner who appeared just in time for her mother’s funeral. For Larsen, Ange is more than mysterious. She is alluring, wise and astonishingly intuitive. . . . And then there is the issue of the large rat that seems to be taunting the members of his church.

That rat. Such an interesting part of the story. So mysterious! But that’s only one of the mysterious aspects of the book.

Underlying the story are multiple mysteries that get solved and secrets that get revealed. Most church-goers have little conception of the attitudes, aspirations and frustrations of the ministry. The more readers assume what they read in Pastor Larsen and the Rat  is totally unlike their congregation and sect, the more likely the story is a perfect mirror of their religious world. Then there is the mystery of mistress: who is Ange; why does she go out of her way to seduce Larsen; will she destroy him either intentionally or accidentally — how could it be otherwise? Finally there is the rat. Is his annoying, persistent presence some sort of sacred portent or is he just a varmint on the loose?

What made you write this particular story?

I actually conceived this book back in the 1980’s when a big rat took up residence in the church I served in Dallas. For weeks we tried everything to kill or capture the rat, without success. Over the years, the story grew, developed and transformed itself until at last it was complete in my mind. Once I started the actual writing process, the novel just wrote itself. Then I let it marinate for another twelve months, periodically re-reading it, until the publisher said, “It’s time!”

Are you worried that people will find Pastor Larsen and the Rat controversial?

To a degree. Some will find it profane. I hope some find it insightful and hopeful. Those familiar with religious bodies — and with the way spirituality operates in human life — will not be able to deny it’s honesty–not the sex part, but the organized religion part, and the divine intervention part. Ultimately I hoped when I wrote it that non-religious people would read it for the naughty romance and gain some insight into how the holy is able to work in our midst despite all that religions do to prevent it; and that religious people would “force themselves” live with the titillation in order at last to read something truthful about their gatherings.

Why do you write fiction? You once were a preacher. Isn’t that a better way of reaching more people?

When you write about a controversial issue, you don’t have to make it the center of your story to express it fully. You just work it in. For instance, when I wrote The Medicine People, I dealt a lot with the quiet underlying bigotry Native Americans and Western European descendants still harbor for one another but never express out loud. And while it was essential to the story, it didn’t overwhelm the novel. Stories have the power to make an issue live in the mind of the reader the way a speech never can.

In Pastor Larsen and the Rat, your religious background plays a big part. Do you believe writing is a divine inspiration?

I believe that whatever force there is out there in creation (call it God, destiny, a Higher Power or whatever you want) actually wants you to write. When you write, you are fulfilling an essential aspect of your truest purpose for existing. What do you think??

I am beginning to believe the meaning of Creation is creation, so by writing — or doing anything creative, even just living creatively — we are participating in Creation.

For  the sake of argument, let’s say the universe wants you (in fact the whole perverse group of us literary creative people) to write. Is there such a thing as praying for help with your writing? What would you pray? “Get me unstuck, O literary angel”? What about this, “Let my writing muse guide me to express my truest self as a writer, and trust the outcome to be in greater hands than mine”?

What if your literary angel has a purpose and story in mind for your writing that is greater than anything you can currently imagine? Of course that implies that being on the NY Times bestseller list may not be the greatest destiny.

You ask good questions, Lazarus. I wish I had the answers, but I do like the idea that our writing has a purpose greater than being on the NY Times bestseller list! Still, I hope one day your books will achieve such stardom.

Thank you, Pat. And thank you for talking with me today.

Thank you, Lazarus, and best of luck with Pastor Larsen and the Rat.

Pastor Larsen and the Rat is available from Indigo Sea Press http://indigoseapress.com
It’s also available from Amazon and is currently $0.99 on Kindle.
https://www.amazon.com/Pastor-Larsen-Rat-Lazarus-Barnhill-ebook/dp/B01GGIKF4A

Click here to read an Excerpt From PASTOR LARSEN AND THE RAT by Lazarus Barnhill

Interview with Rami Ungar, Author of VIDEO RAGE

Video RageCongratulations on the publication of your latest book, Rami. What is Video Rage about?

Video Rage is the sequel to my first novel, Reborn City, and the second book in the Reborn City series, a science fiction trilogy I’ve been writing since high school. The series follows the Hydras, a street gang in the futuristic city-state of Reborn City, a Vegas-like metropolis. The Hydra leaders have strange powers, and the origins of these powers are tied in with the mysterious Parthenon Company that rules Reborn City.

In Video Rage, the Hydras are currently on the run from Parthenon and its cruel CEO, Jason Price. They’ve been branded terrorists and are being hunted across the North American continent. They also have to deal with internal struggles and strife, which leads to some really interesting drama among the characters. It’s a very dark time for the Hydras, and they’ll have to band together if they have any hope of finding a way out of their troubles.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who is your favorite?

My protagonist is Zahara Bakur, a Sunni Muslim teenager from New York who found herself becoming a member of the Hydras by pure random chance. She’s the exact opposite of a gangster: she’s shy, modest, and timid, which makes her reluctant to take part in most of the Hydras’ activities. Despite this, she grows in confidence and courage throughout the books and establishes herself as an essential member of the Hydras, changing them and their outlooks on life as well. I really love her as a character, though I do have to put her through a lot of stress for the sake of story.

My other main character is Rip, a Hydra leader who’s a bit of a parody of the quiet and stern bad boys we see teenagers go crazy for in fiction these days. He’s tough and intense, but he can be too stubborn for his own good sometimes, and he actually has a phobia of talking too much, especially with people he doesn’t know. He has his own growth arc through the trilogy, mainly revolving around letting go of his earlier beliefs about the world and his place in it, as well as learning to open up to others, especially Zahara.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I think readers will relate to my characters mainly because they may have been in similar situations to the characters. The Hydras have lived through violence and loss for all their lives, and many of them have been under the impression that they’re only meant for violence and loss. Zahara is a Muslim in a world that can be hostile to her faith, and has experienced horrible discrimination. Rip has struggled with drug addiction. They’ve lived hard lives, and even people who haven’t experienced these problems can identify with the characters, and with their hopes that things can change and improve.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think that, at its foundation, Reborn City and Video Rage are sci-fi adventure stories. The books are filled with fights with superpowered beings, futuristic technology, gunfights, shadowy government figures. The characters are also lots of fun to get to know, and their journey and struggles are believable and real. I think there’s a lot here that will draw in readers and make you want to find out what happens in the story.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

While I didn’t originally have this in mind when I started writing the trilogy, I think what I want people to come away with is that just because people say you;re good for only one thing or you may believe that about yourself, doesn’t mean it’s true, or that you can’t be something better. The Hydras have erroneous beliefs about themselves, but Zahara challenges those beliefs when she joins their gang. She’s had people think the worst of her for years, but she’s never let those ideas shape who she is, and that’s something to the Hydras. I think that message is going to resonate with a lot of people, and I hope they take it to heart.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

Finding the time! I was able to write Reborn City through two years of high school, when my audience was family and friends and teachers, and I didn’t have a deadline or anything to make me write faster. But then I hit college and started to build an audience. And then I started publishing books, and Reborn City proved to be the most popular of my work. And readers wanted a sequel, which is difficult when you have a busy college schedule and a part-time job to do. Somehow though I did it, and I’m finally getting Video Rage out. Here’s hoping the third book doesn’t take as long to get out as the previous two did!

Who designed your cover?

The cover of Reborn City I designed myself on Createspace with a photo I took myself as artwork. I did the same thing with the cover of Video Rage, except I had my friend and fellow novelist Joleene Naylor do the artwork. She did a fantastic job bringing to life one of the scenes from Video Rage. I think I might have her do the final book’s artwork as well.

If your book was made into a TV series or movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

I’ve thought a lot about this, but I’ve only been able to match two actors to two characters. Firstly, I would like Tyler Possey from Teen Wolf to play Rip. He looks very close to my vision of the character, and he has the range to play the character. I also would love for Jason Price to be played by Samuel L. Jackson. In fact, I based the character on some of Jackson’s performances. So if either of them somehow find this interview, I hope they would consider helping get this book to the big screen and playing the characters I mentioned!

Have you written any other books?

I’ve published a collection of short stories called The Quiet Game, and a thriller called Snake. I’ve also written two more novels, and I’m compiling another collection of short stories. I’m a busy, busy guy with more stories than I know what to do with it!

What are you working on right now?

I’m going to edit another of my already-completed novels. Then I’m going to probably work on some short stories till November, when I plan to start writing the final book in the trilogy for National Novel Writing Month. With any luck, I’ll have that book out before I’m thirty!

Where can people learn more about your books?

All of my books are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo. If anyone reading this decides to read them, I hope you like what you read and that you find a way to tell me if you do. Positive or negative, I love hearing from my readers.

Blog: https://ramiungarthewriter.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RamiUngarWriter
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RamiUngarWriter

See also:
Rami Ungar, Author of “Snake”
Rami Ungar, Author of “Reborn City”
Rami Ungar, Author of “The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones”

Interview with Cindy Lynch, author of “Bye For Now”

bye-for-nowWhat is your book about?

My first novel entitled Bye For Now is the first installment in a young adult series. The story begins with Callie, the book’s main character, a woman, presently in her midyears. She is our narrator. During a quiet moment of mundane daily activity, as Callie is partially attuned to TV, a real life American tragedy begins to play out on the screen. It’s a traumatic—a horrific—event with unspeakable impacts on the human psyche. To escape the horror on the TV, Callie’s subconscious triggers the narrative and the book’s story commences to unfold, in detail.

Callie’s escape into her subconscious takes her back to her high school years. She’s on summer vacation at her grandparent’s lakeside cottage in northern Vermont, within spitting distance of the Canadian frontier. Life is slow. Life is rich. Pastoral Vermont scenes are carefully crafted with vivid imagery straight out of Callie’s memories of her youth. There’s the first hot flush of young love. There are soul nourishing family scenes of meals and recreational events. Each character is carefully painted in true-to-life brush strokes.

The character descriptions validate the youth Callie has experienced. There is special emphasis on the power of family connection to influence our future life in positive, uplifting ways. Later on, as Callie matures and the tale flows into her college years, troubling events are resolved in ways that hark back to the power and influence of her early family life. As the story proceeds, the pace picks up and the emotions conveyed take a tighter grip on the reader’s attention. Intensity grows as awkward social situations are recalled and irreconcilable adult enigmas are replayed.

How much of you is hidden in the characters in this book?

Much of this book is loosely based on my life growing up and visiting my grandparents in Vermont each summer. The lines blurred with fiction to grow this tail of love and loss.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I have always wanted to write a book about youth and young love. My friend and fellow author, Sharisse Coulter, helped push me in the right direction to get this book started. When the Newtown Massacre took place on that fateful day December 14, 2012 I knew I had to incorparate that into my story. This town was my hometown and it struck a chord deep inside me releasing this tragic tale.

Who is the most unusual character or likeable character?

Aunt Marilyn is the quirkiest in this story. She tends to talk to inanimate objects throughout the tale giving the reader the willies while Maddie gives the reader the laughs. Maddie with her colorful language and Italian phrases will have you laughing out loud.

What challenges did you face writing this book?

I have three very active boys at home ages 17, 14, and 11. Between getting them to their practices, games and music lessons at home it was difficult at time to carve out writing time.

Why would people relate to your characters?

I believe everyone has a story to tell of love and loss. The world was impacted by Sandy Hooks tragic event and I feel everyone can connect on a certain level with these characters that are involved.

What are you working on right now?

Currently I am finishing up some interior design of my second book, Even Willows Weep, the second book in this trilogy. It should be published by the end of May, 2016

How long did it take you to write your book?

This is an unusual answer to this question. Two weeks. Yes, you read that right. My friend, Sharisse, challenged me with writing a book in 14 days. This required writing 5,000 words a day to have a finished product in two weeks with 75,000 words. I had no idea what that entailed until I agreed to do it. What an undertaking, however the words just flowed. I enjoyed every second of it because I was prepared having had this story in my head since I was 14.

What advice do you have for other authors?

I would say just sit down and get started. Just write and let the words flow not worrying about sentence structure or grammar. Then when you edit make sure you find an editor that gets you. I mean really gets you. My editor, Keltin Barney, has been a god-send. He truly understands what I’m saying and where I’m going with my characters and plot.

Who did your designed cover?

I found Ivan Terzic from Czechoslovakia, on a website called 99designs. He was a great find and has produced the cover of my second book as well. I plan to continue working with him on future covers as I have one last book to write in the trilogy. I also have a non fiction book in the works.

Interview with Billie Tekel Elias, author of “PEARL’s Party…and you’re invited.”

41oilLxtYRL._UY250_What is your book about?

“PEARL’s Party…and you’re invited” is about my mother’s uplifting journey through life, her unusual businesses, her funny escapades, and her unique perspectives on living (and dying).

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

It took me some time to grapple with the loss of my mother, my sidekick and confidant. Her home was 100 miles from mine, so clearing it out in preparation for its sale was drawn out over an entire year. With each visit, I unearthed interesting bits of ephemera that gave me ideas for my book.

How long did it take you to write your book?

It took me a year to organize the physical materials and construct a timeline of what I planned to write about. As I sifted through canceled checks, matchbook covers, little black books and more, I wrote the stories woven through the objects. Another six months were involved in formatting it, laying it out, and figuring out the technology to self-publish.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Yes, I actually did quite a bit of research. Usually I was googling places where Pearl had gone, products she had used or obituaries of people she knew.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I used an excel spreadsheet to lay out a timeline of Pearl’s life, including dates I had pulled off primary source documents such as leases, airplane tickets or letters. The story is largely chronological, so this kept me grounded.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

I want my readers to come away entertained, feeling nostalgic about “the good ol’ days,” and thinking, gheez, if Pearl could overcome those obstacles and stay in party-mode, so can I!

What are you working on right now?

I have a couple of balls in the air. Since I wrote a book about my mother, I felt it only fair to do the same for my late father, a Renaissance man. I had already begun yet another book before either of my parents died, about my grandfather and his relatives who lived in the Far East over a hundred years ago. There will be two versions: a picture book for kids and another with the adult stories.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Definitely not. In fact, in high school I was so disinterested that I shunned away from choosing a liberal arts college and instead went to engineering school where I wouldn’t have to do much writing at all.

Does writing come easy for you?

In a way, yes, because I’m telling the story as if I were talking to you in person. I can hear my voice inside my head as I tap on the keyboard. Besides, my training as an engineer equipped me to be a good investigative researcher. My research often broadens the story.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

This is the hardest part for me. You think once your book is written and you can actually hold a printed copy in your hands that you’ve accomplished something great. The truth is, the work has only just begun. I had business cards printed before my book was released with an image of the cover and a link to my blog. I blogged for awhile about songs that my mother enjoyed, with links to youtube videos. I comment regularly on Facebook and sometimes on Twitter, plus I set up a Pinterest page with some of Pearl’s trinkets and photos pictured. And I seek out kind, generous interviewers like you!

Do you have a saying or motto for your life and/or as a writer?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

Pearl would be played by Nathan Lane (in drag) and her gay friends would be played by Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Jason Alexander and Alan Cumming. Her ex-husband would be played by Brad Pitt.

Where can people learn more about your books?

I blog at pearlsparty.wordpress.com and the book blurb for “PEARL’s Party” is at http://www.createspace.com/5765382 (where you can also purchase the book!). My photo and a cover of the book can be seen at http://www.amazon.com/Billie-Tekel-Elias/e/B0190OWZZO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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