Interview with Carrie Jane Knowles, Author of Apricots in a Turkish Garden

Apricots in a Turkish GardenWhat is your book about?

Apricots in a Turkish Garden is a collection of ten short stories that focus on a moment in time when a character has an insight into their life and what has happened. And, that insight changes the character.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I work hard to create “real” characters. I want the stories to be like a window or a mirror. Readers often tell me that they feel like I have written about them or their families.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I almost always start with a character rather than a situation.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

Whenever I sit down to write I close my eyes and spend a few minutes thinking about the characters in my story, trying to imagine what they are going to do next.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

Writing and coaching writing is my day job. I have an office and I go to work everyday, Monday through Friday. I usually go to the gym before work, so I’m generally in the office ready to work by 10 in the morning and leave sometime between 5 and 6.

Writing today is also about promoting and some days the promotion end of the business takes over, as does the coaching, and I don’t get a great deal of time to write.

Ideally, I try to get at least one page of my own work written each day. I’m really happy if I manage to write two polished pages, i.e. pages that work and I don’t throw out the next day. Three would be a personal best!

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

Right now I’m working on two stories, one a short story and the other a novel I’ve been struggling with for the last two years. I’ve just had a real breakthrough with the novel, so hope to move ahead on that over the next couple of months.

The short story, like all short stories I write, will take several more months to draft then polish.

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

A great character with an interesting dilemma/problem.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

I’m always on the lookout for character names. I keep note cards in my purse and jot names down whenever I discover a good one.

Names are really important to me. They have to fit the character, the time frame of the story, the location of the story, and the situation.

Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?

I hope so! When I create a character, I do my best to listen to them and to let them be who they want to be.

I have this theory I call the bad parent/good parent theory of writing. The bad parent is always telling the child what they should do and be when they grow up. The good parent encourages the child to grow up and be whoever and whatever they want to be.

I want to be the good parent.

Describe your writing in three words.

Character driven, surprising.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Apricots in a Turkish Garden is published by Second Wind Publishing. You can purchase it through Second Wind and also at Quail Ridge Books and through Amazon and Smashwords. You can learn more about me as well as my work on my website:

Interview With Chelsea Bolt, Author of “Moonshine”

What is your book about?

My book, Moonshine, is the tale of a young woman who has lost everything she loves. Having resorted to living hidden in the mountains, she is filled with many emotions and struggles to find her place in society, if it still exists. Meanwhile, two young men, Finn and his less than serious cousin, Clay, stumble upon Isis and her hideout. The novel follows the adventure that these three find themselves in. With small town tragedy encompassing them, they uncover the truths that have been hidden. Along the way, they meet much older and wiser guides that help these three young people through their own journeys. Various incidents make the relationship of these three stronger, even when the opposite appears to occur.

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

I began developing the idea for Moonshine when I was sitting in Biology class in 10th grade. Eventually, I sat down with a spiral notebook and started writing about a month or so later.

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

Moonshine has three main characters: Isis Underwood, Finn Hazzard, and Clayton Hazzard. Isis has three primary characteristics: impulsive, brazen, and jaded. Finn can be best described as a silver-tongued fellow with a charming smile. Clayton Hazzard is simply, simple; he wanted no part in this venture he was thrown into. Of these three, my favorite character to write was Isis. She has so many layers, I haven’t even discovered them all yet. Her reactions are interesting to write, she has a whole spectrum that never land at the same place twice.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

My most likeable character is Jeannie Seymour. She’s a guiding light for Isis, unaffected by Isis’s sassy tendencies. She, like Isis, has interesting past that has shaped who she has become. I wasn’t aware of how likeable she was until people asked me more about her.

What was the first story you remember writing?

The first story I remember sitting down to write was a paper I wrote in 7th grade about a group of dogs living in a junkyard. It was just a fun little short story. Our teacher wanted us to use dialogue in a paper she assigned, and I remember that as punishment for being so talkative in class, we had to write an extra two pages. At first I saw that as a punishment, but now I see that assignment as a blessing; that’s when I realized I could write an entertaining story.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

Sitting in my desk drawers are cheap 90₵ spiral notebooks. Whenever I start to think of a storyline, I jot a few words down and doodle a few sketches of key themes I want to hit on in the piece.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

The one book I wish I had written would have to be Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. It is a beautiful piece of literature and I try to read it every winter. The tale of Ada an Inman is such a wonderful love story and I wish to be able to one day write something half as moving.

Describe your writing in three words.

In three words my writing is: honest, homespun, and heartfelt.

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

My motto for life is: “You never know what’s just around the river bend.” Think about it: you never step into the same river twice.

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

If Moonshine was made into a movie I would like for Clare Bowen (Scarlet O’Conner on Nashville) to play Isis, Robbie Amell (Stephen Jameson on The Tomorrow People) to portray Finn, and Reid Ewing (Dylan on Modern Family) to act as Clayton.

What is something you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?

One thing that I never leave home without is my trusty Dr Pepper Lip Smackers lip balm. If I ever do happen to forget it, my lips feel naked and severely chapped.

What is your favorite place, real or fictional? Why?

My absolute favorite place in the world is my grandparents’ house. Their home has so much character and so many stories behind it. There is a story for everything in that house.

Where can we learn more about you and your book?

It’s available from Second Wind Publishing:!chelsea-bolt/c1rby and Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords,


Rami Ungar, Author of “Snake”

snakeWhat is your book about?

“Snake” is about a young man (and I mean young) whose girlfriend is kidnapped over the phone. Later events cause him to have a break with his sanity and he becomes a serial killer, determined to hunt down every member of the mafia family that has his girlfriend. It’s a very dark thriller, and it’s very unusual to have the serial killer as a protagonist. I’m hoping that will allow people to enjoy the story more, though. Fingers crossed, at any rate.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I guess maybe it was the movie “Taken”. Yeah, there are plenty of similarities, but it’s definitely it’s own story. That’s actually what I wanted: I wanted to create a much darker story than “Taken” portrayed, though that was pretty dark in itself. I like to think I’ve succeeded in that respect. We’ll see what the reviewers say.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

Probably time and school work. You want to devote all your time to writing, but inevitably things get in the way, and you end up taking several breaks. In the end it took me six months to write this book, though if I’d had more time to work on it, I might have gotten it done in half the time.

Tell us a little about your main characters.

First off, we have the Snake, our very unconventional protagonist. He’s gone through a great change, and it’s why he’s the killer he is now. I purposely did not reveal his real name in the novel, because I wanted to imply that we all could become like the Snake under certain circumstances.

There’s also Allison Langland, my main character’s girlfriend. Unlike other damsels in distress, she’s a bit more proactive. She doesn’t waste away in a cell hopeless or hoping to be rescued. She’s a fighter, and I love that about her. I think that’s also why the Snake loves her, come to think of it.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

I did plenty of research on New York City, where the story takes place. I also did research on serial killers and psychopathy, the better to understand what sort of character I was constructing. I even had a forensic psychologist and profiler give me his diagnosis on the Snake based on crime reports I created. All in the name of authenticity.

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

Well, it’s an unusual story, so I think that might get people interested. And if people really take the time to check it out, I’m sure a few of them will end up enjoying the story and identifying with the characters. That’s the hope, anyway.

What are you working on right now?

I’m writing another thriller novel, as well as editing the sequel to my previous novel “Reborn City”. I’m also working on interviews, blog posts, and articles. As usual, I’m busy as a bee.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

I guess I’m aiming for readers who like what I like. That means Anne Rice, Stephen King, and James Patterson, with a dash of manga and anime. Don’t know how many people are like that, but I’m trying to find them.

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

I could probably spend hours philosophizing about that. There are many, many components that are needed to make a good story. But in brief, a good mastery of vocabulary, spelling, and grammar, a good plot and wonderful characters, and hard work will make for a good story.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Read, write, work hard, and never give up.

Where can people learn more about your book?

Where Snake is available:


JoAnne Myers, Author of “Murder Most Foul”

Welcome, JoAnne. What made you want to be a writer?

I have always been able to write. I had a teacher who suggested I become a journalist, but I took a different route.

Who or what was your inspiration?

I don’t believe I had inspiration from any one person, it was just something I wanted and could do.

What made you decide to write your books?

I write what I am interested in, and Murder Most Foul, is a fictionalized book based on a true crime.

I then became inspired by paranormal movies and wrote Wicked Intentions.

My love for monster movies inspired Loves, Myths, and Monsters. This story seemed to flow from my imagination. It was a fun book to write.

Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between, was inspired by my life, including the good and the sad parts.

In The Crime of the Century, the victims and the perpetrators were my inspiration. This crime sent an innocent man to death row, before DNA set him free. This crime took nearly thirty years to actually solve and bring the right perpetrators to justice. It is still the worst crime and only double homicide in my small town of Logan, Ohio. No one had written about it at that time, and I was always fascinated by the case. It was very shocking and citizens still talk about it today.

Flagitious came about while I researched The Crime of the Century and is loosely based on true crimes from my area. I discovered these crimes while watching the news.

How long does it take you to write a book?

My first true crime book The Crime of the Century, took several years to write. I had to have all the facts correctly, so I scoured newspaper clippings, courthouse documents, and witness and police statements. Writing true crime turned out to be more time consuming than I realized. But it was worth the effort. I really enjoy true crime stories. Some stories took only a few months. Fiction is much easier in my opinion then biographies.

Do you have a dream cast for your books’ characters?

With true crime books I of course use the real characters. How the crime actually took place, and what the victims went through. The fiction books I use imaginary names but some of the characters characteristics come from actual persons I have met over the years. When writing about monsters, a writer can pretty much say anything about the character. In some vampire stories, the vampire can fly, and in other stories they can’t. It depends on the writer and what he or she wants the monster to do, such as their weaknesses and strengths.

Where can we learn more about your books?


“Murder Most Foul,” solving a double homicide is pure murder for F.B.I. Agent Walker Harmon. Available in EPub, HTML, PDF

“The Crime of the Century” this true case from 1982 terrified residents and destroyed families.

“Loves, Myths, and Monsters” 11 fantasy tales entwined within the human world

Rochelle Potkar, Author of The Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories

What is your book about?

This is a cluster of 7½ literary short stories exploring the romantic-sexual facets of its characters.

Narain who lusts for Munika, hypnotized by her bosom, and old Jaganlal who wants a favour from young Dia. Jackie who falls for Nic who in turn is falling for Lee, and a cosmetic surgeon who is changing much more than Sneha’s hairline, nose, lip and chin.

Shonali and Neel who are realizing that infidelity might not be such an easy thing, and a woman who walks a tight rope between temple tradition and sexual exploitation.

And, Sunil who meets the woman of his desires through an adult dating site.

How long did it take you to write your book?

I had written many short stories over the last five long years and it was time now to put some of ‘em together.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

It varies with every story. Sometimes, I have the whole idea down. Sometimes, a wisp. Sometimes, an epiphany so fleeting that if I blink, I miss it. Sometimes, what I have is the ending and then I have to go and find its beginning. So it’s all tricky.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

More than writing, the decision to collect these stories together and present them as a book changed something in my life. It’s the feeling that I have been in a closet for long and now I’ve come out.

How does your environment/upbringing colour your writing?

I am an Indian, living in India. I have travelled internationally but I’m basically rooted to one place, one space, one armchair by the window. This has provoked the frog in me to view outside the well. I do draw my characters from people around me but my stories are a little unhinged from my where I live. They seem floating, ready to hinge anywhere. So I can’t say my writing is very Indian or country-specific. That’s a good and a bad thing, I suppose.

What are you working on right now?

I have been working on a speculative novel for a while. 2 years. Only now it seems to settle down like dust. I hope to have it out by 2014.

What writer influenced you the most?


What are your current writing goals and how do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

When writing I have to lose myself and become 0%. When marketing I need to be aware of selling whatever can be sold. So I have to become 100% aware of saleable things around me. This constant journey between invisibility and visibility is very funny, actually, swinging from one end of the continuum and back.

What are your future plans? What will you bring to the literary world besides more stories?

I see that there will always be rude, bad, hateful, distasteful people around and to balance them kind, soft, fine people in this unarticulated battle.

Art generates empathy and compassion.

But other than endlessly generating that in saleable products with price tags or preaching to the converted in echo chambers, I hope to someday tangibly touch another person’s life by doing something concrete for them with the little empathy and compassion I have. This can come through social work. And I am planning for it.

What genre are your books?

My writing alternates between speculative and literary. Speculative to me is when there is a lot of magic in it and it is off the ground. Literary is grounded. But these are simplistic definitions. Stories are subjective and the definition of it falls in nebulous boundaries. There I go again…nebulous and boundaries don’t go together!

Where can people learn more about your books?

The Arithmetic of breasts and other stories, is available on:


You can visit my website my virtual residence too at: Welcome!


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Marian Allen, Author of the Sage Books

sageCWhat is your book about?

The SAGE trilogy is about a land thrown out of balance by the selfishness of its ruler. When the most selfish of the Four Divine Animals (Tortoise) decides to stir things up and use a few chosen people to make even more of a mess, events take unexpected turns.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

The most unusual character in SAGE has to be Tortoise. Sometimes he appears as a tortoise, sometimes as a man, sometimes as a cat, and sometimes as The Black Warrior, a terrifying sight on the battlefield. He can probably appear as a woman, too, but I haven’t written that story yet. As his author, I like him very much, because he was so much fun to write, but I can’t say he’s a likeable character. ~grin~

How long did it take you to write your book?

SAGE took me close to 20 years, from first glimmer to print/eBook. I kept getting agents who loved the book but wanted changes, then didn’t like their own changes or didn’t want to wait for my rewrite. I rewrote the book, start to finish, three or four times, by which time I had gutted it of most of its strangeness. My youngest daughter, who had grown up listening to the rewrites, told me to stop listening to what other people thought and trust myself. I did one more rewrite, making it exactly what I wanted it to be, and that’s the one I sold to Hydra Publications.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Often it’s just a glimmer. Maybe a setting, a character, a situation, or a line of dialog. I start writing – I call it writing my way into a story – and stop to do some plotting and planning before I go on. Very rarely do I have the whole thing in mind before I start that initial writing.

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

I did a lot of research for SAGE. I read books on unicorns, on animal symbology and mythology, on English Anglo-Saxon life, and on the history of castles. Oh, and historical food and clothing. And silversmithing. One thing that really gets my goat is people who say, “It must be nice to write fantasy. You don’t have to do any research!” ~laughing~

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

There isn’t any swashbuckling or great feats of sorcery in SAGE, although swords are wielded and magic is present. One character says having magic is like being aware of another reality that’s as real as the one everybody else is aware of as well as being aware of everybody’s reality at the same time. I think readers will be intrigued by this feeling of the ordinary/extraordinary duality.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I ask my characters questions. After the rough draft, I fill out character sheets on them, including asking them 10 random questions and letting them answer in their own voices. I find their voices become much more individual and strong as the questions proceed. Then I can do the rewrite with those voices in my head and those answers in the background.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I have a spiral notebook with pocket dividers filled with “bits”. For the first time this year, I did the Story A Day in May challenge, and mined that binder for all it was worth! I still have masses of material in there, though. It’s very reassuring.

What writer influenced you the most?

On the grounds that I should go back as far as possible, I have to say that Walter R. Brooks, creator of the FREDDY THE PIG detective books for kids, influenced me most. Brooks’ characters were individuals with unique points of view and different voices and strong motivations. He knew when to show and when to tell, when to telescope and when to detail, and his bit characters were as unique and memorable as the main ones, and sometimes turned up in later books. Plus, he was funny!

Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?

The late mystery writer Dick Stodghill said, “Don’t take yourself too seriously – but DO take your work seriously. Insist that everyone around you take your work seriously. It isn’t some little thing you do, it isn’t a joke, it’s your work.”

Have you written any other books?

Marian786xOh, dear me, yes, thank you for asking. FORCE OF HABIT is a cop/sf/farce set on the planet Llannonn, where courtesy is mandated by law and loud-mouthed aliens from outer space – from the planet Earth, to be specific – are sure to find themselves in trouble. SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING is another science fiction novel, this one set on the planet Marner, where slavery is legal, and a tourist from Earth reluctantly puts more than her career on the line for someone she doesn’t even like. I’ve collected some of my short stories and self-published them for Kindle and at Smashwords.

Where can people learn more about your books?

The best place to go is my website: I have excerpts of all the novels and all the short stories there, as well as a page of links to stories that are free at my site or at other sites on the web.

The SAGE books are available:
The Fall of Onagros

Bargain With Fate

Silver and Iron

Celeste Paulette Boudreau, Character From “Rubicon Ranch: Secrets”

RRBookThreemidsizeRubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime serialization set in the fictional desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by authors of Second Wind Publishing. Celeste Boudreau is the creation of Dellani Oakes.

Who are you?

Celeste Paulette Boudreau, though I wasn’t born with that name.

Where do you live? 

I just moved to Rubicon Ranch.

What is your problem in the story?

I’ve got a secret I’m desperately trying to hide.

What is your secret?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore, would it?

What do you think of yourself?

I’m more dangerous than I seem. People see the outrageous wigs and the colorful skirts and don’t see past them to who I really am. Deep down, I’m not the colorful, flighty psychic. I’m much more than that.

What are your achievements?

I’m a psychic – a real one. Not one of these smoke and mirrors types. I see things in dreams, I know things about people that they would rather I not know. I have secrets of my own that would put theirs to shame. These imitation soothsayers make me sick. They wander around pretending to have spirit guides and hear the secrets of the universe. If they spent an hour in my mind, they’d see what real spirit guides are like. You think they’re warm and fuzzy? They aren’t. They don’t care if they jerk me out of whatever I’m doing to tell me something they think I should know. I’ve nearly been in three car accidents because of them.

What I wouldn’t give to be normal, just for one day. There are people who call this thing I do a gift. It’s not a gift, it’s a damn curse. And try to make money at it! People think you’re crazy or a fake and they won’t listen, no matter what you say. Idiots.

Do you talk about your achievements or do you keep them to yourself? 

My achievements make people laugh. They don’t believe them. When I say that I’ve been instrumental in solving three homicides, they ask why I didn’t help on the ones in Rubicon Ranch. Well, cause no one asked me. I’ve gone to that idiot of a sheriff more than once with my visions. He threatened to have me arrested for contaminating a crime scene and obstructing justice. Is it my fault that the ghost of the dead woman possessed me and made me walk around like a lunatic while she spouted some nonsense about who killed her? She didn’t even see the man! That case is still unsolved – but that’s not my fault. I tried to help and they won’t believe me that it was her scumbag neighbor. Pervert, that’s what he is. One day, he’ll get killed and just see if I’ll help out on that one.

Do you have any special strengths? 

Yes, I’m a psychic. I’m a damn good one too. And no, I can’t tell you the winning lotto numbers or how your mother likes the afterlife. It doesn’t work like that. I can’t just summon it for answers. If people tell you they can, they’re lying. This is unpredictable as the weather.

I’m also a damn good liar.

Do you have any skills? 

You mean besides divining the future and being ignored? Yeah, I’m really good at telling stupid people what they want to hear. I’ve been a psychic advisor on TV and radio. I even was on the Psychic Phone Network when I first got my powers. I thought I could really help people, but you know what? Those morons don’t want the truth. They want platitudes. When you tell them the truth, then you get sued.

What makes you happy? 

The bottom of a gin bottle after I’ve drunk my way to the bottom.

What are you afraid of? 

You want a list? So many things, I can’t possibly tell you all of them. Let’s start with that creepy “guide” who showed up when I was talking to Ward Preminger and won’t go away. I think I’m being  haunted by the ghost of Morris Sinclair. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What makes you sad? 

I don’t have time to be sad. Being sad doesn’t get you anywhere. It doesn’t matter what you do, where you go or who you say you are, you can’t escape some things. Sadness doesn’t help with that.

What was your childhood like? 

I was born with the ability to see things about people. I could sense auras before I knew what they were. I could get an accurate read on a person just by touching them. No one in my family understood. They thought I was crazy, some called me a witch. We moved a lot because after awhile, someone would find out about me. Someone tried to abduct me once because of my powers. Because I could sense that, I got away before they could catch me. My life got even more interesting when my other abilities surfaced at fourteen.

What is your favorite music?

I love Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, Pink Floyd.. Don’t give me any of that wonky, new age crap. I only listen to that when there are clients around. Classic rock all the way.

What is your favorite item of clothing? Why?

I love my wigs. They express who I am trying to be.

If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

I’d like to be by myself. Maybe then I’d get a little peace.

How do you envision your future? 

Pick one – I can envision yours, mine, the dog next door…..


Click here to read: Rubicon Ranch: Secrets ~ Chapter 4: Celeste Boudreau — by Dellani Oakes

Zoltan J. Galos, author of “The Informer”

What is your book about?

Hi, my book is about an artist turning PI to find justice for the murder of his girlfriend.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I was inspired from a pretty woman, who I contacted through the Internet, interested in my work. I travelled to London to meet her. Since the story took off.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Of course even in fiction some of the writer’s character is hidden in the book. As we create characters, we create them from our viewpoint and likings.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I developed my characters in a writing workshop I enrolled, as my girlfriend suggested.I never looked back.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

My upbringing aided me to write my books, as father wrote his journals, while Mum painted, so the artistic character is embedded in one of my characters and travelling and adventure from my years of hiking around Europe.

What genre are your books?

My books are in various genres and I write every genre differently. Romantic thrillers, like ‘The Informer’, with my hero Zsolt, the artist, a sequel of 7 planned books, two are published. Memoires, like ‘Educating Pizzy’, one published. “Spleen of Love’, romantic adventure by boat and ending in Egypt, one published. I am working on ‘Aphrodite Encumbered’, a novel with an unusual love, against the background of a changing South Africa, books 1-5.

What are you working on now?

I have 7 more novels in manuscripts I will type out in the near future.

Where can we learn more about your books?

If anybody is interested, my books are available at as Ebooks, and at, Red Lead and as paperbacks. I will procure another website for getting a batch of ISBN numbers(I need ten) and get onto the Internet as Ebooks as it is all a writer can afford nowadays.
Happy reading,

Linda Moore Kurth, Author of “Home of the Heart”

5498901What inspired you to write this particular story?

My twelve-year marriage was becoming more and more difficult, so I escaped in my head. I began fantasizing about how my life would have gone if I’d followed my dream of becoming an interior designer right out of high school. A woman in my church choir had had success as a romance writer, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’d finally become an interior designer and knew others in the field, so I had some interesting events I could riff off of.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I had a bare outline in my head and let the characters lead the way. My heroine is a strong-minded redhead who has family issues and has moved to Los Angeles to help her career and to be away from her parents who live in Oregon. The hero is a huge Oregon promoter and can’t think of a better place to live. He was also very close to his parents before they died, so geographical and family issues set up the conflict. By the way, I enjoyed writing from both the heroine and hero’s points of view, even though that’s not common in romances.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

My heroine has red hair and is of Irish decent. I’ve named her “Meg,” short for Margaret, my grandmother’s name. I’ve named the hero after my nephew, Matthew who died young. He loved the out-of-doors, so I’ve kind of given him an adult life. I did a research on surnames and came up with the Norwegian, Aaberg, which means hill or mountain by the river.

Do you keep a pen and notepad on your bedside table?

I did when writing this book, but what helped me the most was taking my dog for a walk after writing all morning. I carried a little tape recorder with me, and when an idea popped into my head that solved something I was stuck on, I’d record it.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

I love the out-of-doors, and I thought it would be an interesting contrast to have my male lead’s career to involve nature, as opposed to the indoors career of the heroine. I was an avid fan of the public broadcasting show, Oregon Field Guide, so I got an interview with the narrator and producer of the show. He told me some amusing events that happened behind the scenes that I was able to work into the story.

When where you first published? How were you discovered?

Home of the Heart was my first published book, although I’d had non-fiction articles published prior to that. I had not originally targeted a particular publisher when I wrote the story, and it had been rejected because of that. Then a writer friend told me about Avalon which publishes “clean” romances, so I re-wrote the story to their specifications and quickly received a contract.

Who designed your cover?

Since the book’s hardback publication in 1996, I’ve received my rights back. I updated the story and decided to self-publish it as an eBook. I found someone to format it for me and do the cover. I wanted an image that hinted of a warm, welcoming home, and of course, the couple who resembled the book’s description. I was able to find those images from an image service. The designer added the heart-shaped lock and the rough, red boards. The result is a warm, inviting scene that I love.

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

I love this question. What changed was my image of myself as a writer. Since that first box of books landed on my doorstep (Halleluiah!), I’ve seen myself as a legitimate writer. That’s made all the difference in what I do and how I feel about it.

What are you working on right now?

Should This Christian Marriage Be Saved? A Memoir of Marriage, Divorce, and Faith. It’s about living with a passive-aggressive husband for twenty-five years, how I coped (not always well), and how it affected my relationship with God and the church. Although it covers a lot of heart-breaking moments, it has a happy ending.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your work-in-progress?

9702184Thoughts of divorce and questions of her religious faith and of her own sanity torment Linda as her husband’s passive aggressive behavior accelerates despite years of counseling.

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Hayley Lawson-Smith, Author of The Julius Romeros Extravaganza, Part 1, The Bearded Girl

424005_116392965201730_2083669360_nWhat is your book about?

More than one answer to that question! Love, acceptance and individuality, are certainly some of the main themes, but at the heart of the story is adventure. Abigail is very young when she embarks on her adventure in Part 1 of this trilogy. As a baby born with a beard, she’s been shunned, pushed aside, even hidden from society by those too small-minded to understand true beauty, and eventually she’s sent away altogether to live with a circus. But it’s in this circus, The Julius Romeros Extravaganza, that Abigail finds acceptance and family.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

I think it’s certainly a matter of opinion when it comes to deciding who is the most ‘unusual’ character. Since the majority of them are sideshow performers, in fact they happily call themselves ‘freaks’, they’re all fairly unusual. But I’d have to say the character who stands out most in the story, for me anyway, is Julius Romeros, who has been born with lobster claws for hands. Personally I think the most likeable character is Old Barty. He’s gruff and tough in a Popeye meets Captain Haddock kind of way, but at the same time he can be so gentle and caring; he’s concerned for Abigail in very much a grandfatherly fashion and I enjoyed writing his dialogue so much I think he became more of a central character than he was going to be.

Who designed your cover?

A brilliant artist by the name of Diogo Lando, who’s based in Portugal. I adore his work as it springs from the page, but at the same time is so subtle. An amazing mix of realism and fantasy which moulded so well with my writing.

Do you have a favourite snack food or favourite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Chocolate! Chocolate and coffee and sometimes macaroni and cheese. But not all at once. If I’m feeling good I’ll chop up some fruit and munch on that, but it’s mostly junk food, I’m afraid. I describe a lot of food in my writing and I think that makes me hungry for all the wrong things.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Inadvertently and absolutely. I think I was about halfway into Part 1 when I realised I was writing a story with a strong moral, which I hadn’t intended to do because I never like to shove things in people’s faces and say, ‘this is the way you should live your life!’ But it’s an honest message that society can never seem to grasp; acceptance. Not just tolerance, but taking the idea that someone can be completely different to you and respecting them for that.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

Nope. I look at stories this way: so many people have said Harry Potter was a ‘kids book’, and yet millions of adults read and cherish the series. Similarly I’ve met little kids who will happily sit down with a big fat novel and read for hours. I guess time will tell who the biggest audience for such a tale is.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

Agh, yes! Twice now, but in a twisted kind of way I’ve enjoyed the death scenes. There’s a lovely big build-up, the penultimate moment and then the final breath; I have to admit that they’re fun to write. Although afterwards that character is gone for good; I’ve loved writing them into life and making them real, and now there’s a big empty space and I might not get to hang out with them anymore. But with the magic of writing it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get to see them again. Depending on the age of the character, there might have been years’ worth of adventures they’ve had you could write about … just create a prequel!

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Sometimes I’ve heard a name in the past and thought it had a nice ring to it, or when I createa character I pick a good name which goes with their personality or character traits. For example, Abigail means ‘father rejoice’ or ‘father’s joy’, which I thought was gorgeous because, after all, my Abigail has whiskers just like her father’s. Baby books are an excellent resource, and sometimes just randomly flicking through the phone book can lead to happy accidents.

Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?

Often. So many of them like to rant and give little speeches, it can be a lot of fun. Mervin the clown, for example was one of those fantastic characters who pretty much wrote himself. Walking home from work can be entertaining because it’s quite easy to have long meaningful conversations with the different men and women in my story. Once you’ve created a meaty character, their words just flow naturally.

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

I would love to see Abigail, as a full-grown lady, played by Lily Allen; she has a beautiful, natural quirkiness all her own which would really bring life to the character. Minerva the Twisted Woman would be amazing played by Nicole Kidman; she can pull off icy and sexy at the same time. Bob Hoskins would be perfect for Julius Romeros, as he’s that perfect mix of ham and genuineness, plus I reckon he could really pull-off the lobster claws and top-hat.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your books?

This is only Part 1 of a particularly long story. In the setting of a circus and sideshow there is so much scope for characters and adventure. Part 1, while being a novel of many adventures, almost acts as an introduction to the characters and setting; Parts 2 and 3 tell a story of their own, almost the moment Abigail’s life has been building up to.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

The initial idea came from a weird dream I had while struggling through a fever! There was a woman in my dream with a beard, with a ribbon tied through it, and she was travelling across the countryside with identical septuplets. It was bizarre and stuck in my head, so I gave some life to it, bulked it out and created new people for the woman to have adventures with.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Actually, I wish I was more like some of the characters. Reynalda, for example, is so tough and forthright and doesn’t suffer fools. I wish I had half her guts! If there was one character my friends and family would say I’m like it would be Bertha, the nanny. But that’s only because I’m a nanny myself. I don’t know if I have half her patience, though I’d hope I have the same capacity to love. Maybe I’m a bit like Julius Romeros, because I do like taking centre stage in the theatre …

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favourite? Why?

My favourite, at least in Part 1, is Lolly, the albino elephant. She’s such a fun, mischievous character, who doesn’t say much, being a pachyderm, but is so loyal to Abigail. I loved watching both her and Abigail grow up together, Abigail from a little girl to a mature woman and Lolly from a naughty albino calf to a saucy adult elephant.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Amazon, Lulu, Smashwords and ASJ Publishing are the websites to go to if anyone’s thinking about purchasing the book. There is also a Facebook page, with character introductions and story-line titbits.