Interview with Fiona Gavelle, a Character in “Judge vs Nuts” by Una Tiers

Who are you?

Hello I’m Fiona Gavelle, I’m the protagonist in Judge vs. Nuts.

Where do you live?

I live in one of the most beautiful cities, Chicago, Illinois. We have a stunning lakefront to Lake Michigan, magnificent architecture, a wide range of cultural venues, and unfortunately politics and corruption. If you read the book, you will get a guided part of my favorite parts of the city.

Aren’t there a lot of books about corruption in Chicago?

There are plenty of non-fiction books about corruption in Chicago, but Judge vs. Nuts is a humorcide, that looks at another form of corruption. The non-fiction books will give you a headache; our book will make you laugh.

What is your problem in the story?

The police think that my dead client, Judge Laslo King was murdered. Really, there are a lot of ways it could have been a terrible accident.

Dead client?

Technically, I represent the executor of his estate, so not the dead person. That isn’t allowed even in Cook County.

Do you run from conflict?

Early and often, I must have watched too much television as a child and thought life could be relatively simple. That way of thinking leaves my head in the clouds much of the time. When I left my first job, I did it in the middle of the night. When I moved out of the apartment I shared with my husband, it was while he was at work. Now when it comes to clients, I want to believe I relentlessly protect their rights.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Una made me vulnerable and naive, but she also put Aunt Tess and Judge Adam Curie in to protect me when I’m not looking. Their advice is so subtle; they think I’m not listening.

Do you have any special strengths?

I can write loopholes and spot them immediately. Then I redraft, edit, spot another loophole and repeat. It takes a long time to write a simple sentence when you are getting paid hourly.

What, if anything, haunts you?

Going to divorce court alone. My ears were ringing and I had trouble remembering how to get home.

How do you envision your future?

I like to write. I like to teach surreptitiously. I’m the protagonist in three novellas and am nearly finished with the next full length book, Judge vs Lake Michigan.

Thank you for visiting with us, Fiona. Best of luck!


Bio: Una Tiers (pen name) is an attorney practicing law in Chicago, Illinois. She is an avid reader. After a particularly grueling day in court, she wrote a story pouring all her anger into eliminating the judge, at least on paper. With a smile, additional victims were added as necessary. The result was Judge vs. Nuts, a look at murder, corruption and the Chicago judiciary. Una is calmer now.

Judge vs. Nuts is available in Kindle format.

Learn more about our masterpieces, see writing tips and other books at our website

Una takes messages for Fiona.

We are on twitter (@unatiers and Goodreads (Una Tiers)!

Interview with Erik Therme, author of “Mortom”

mortom-coverHow much of yourself is hidden in the characters in Mortom?

As many writers will admit, characters are often only ‘thinly disguised versions of themselves.’ This has never been truer than with Andy Crowl in my debut mystery, Mortom. Many times I would ask myself: What would I think or do in this situation? I’d love to say Andy’s an altruistic hero who saves the day . . . but the truth is that he’s stubborn, selfish, and often crass—all my worst attributes rolled into one. It’s always a risk to have a severely flawed protagonist (as you’re never sure if readers will connect with them), but I think it works for the story.

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

I believe Mortom will appeal to people who enjoy ‘non-traditional’ mysteries. There are no serial killers, no burnt-out cops, and/or retired FBI agents—only a normal, everyday guy, thrown into extraordinary circumstances. And who wouldn’t love to play a ‘real life’ game of follow-the-clues?

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

I tend to be most prolific during late evenings and weekends. If I’m especially inspired, I might try to sneak in some pages during lunch. I absolutely need music when I write, and—depending on the project—it varies from metal to movie soundtracks. I personally don’t shoot for a word count; I only try and write something every day, whether it’s for five hours or five minutes.

What are you working on right now?

I have two teenage daughters, and I wanted to write something they’d enjoy. Resthaven (Spring 2016) is about a group of kids who decide to have a scavenger hunt inside an abandoned retirement home . . . only to discover they’re not the only ones inside, and sometimes there are things far worse to fear than ghosts or monsters.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

I struggle with writing action. One of the golden rules for a writer is show—don’t tell, but every time I put action on the page it feels like forced description. It’s not uncommon for me to spend hours on a single paragraph, trying to get the words just right. At some point you simply have to say ‘enough is enough’ and move on. Otherwise it can drive you insane.

What writer influenced you the most?

I’ve always been drawn to Stephen King. He’s a brilliant storyteller and an incredible curator of characters. Whenever I feel stuck or uninspired, I grab some King from the bookshelf, leaf through a few pages, and I’m off and running again.

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

I don’t remember exactly where I heard it, but the best writing advice I’ve received is: “Raise the stakes and continue to build them.” If you don’t put your characters in peril, why should your readers care what happens to them?

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Never give up, and do whatever it takes to get your writing into the world. I would love to say that good writing is the majority of the battle, but it’s not. Timing, circumstance, and luck all play a huge factor. All you can do is believe in yourself and try to make as much luck as you can.

What do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come from?

Amazon publishing. With a few clicks you can sell your book with no upfront costs, and—like traditional publishing—you receive royalties. It’s incredibly empowering. The flip side is that the market is saturated with thousands of people doing the same thing, so the competition is huge. The most important thing is to write the best book possible. If you do that, rerik-therme-4-low-reseaders will find it.

Where can people learn more about your books?

I’m active on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and information on upcoming projects can be found at Mortom is available at and wherever books are sold.

Interview with Mrs. Xavier Stayton, hero of MURDER MOST CONVENIENT by Robert Colton

How do you do, Pat? My name is Mrs. Xavier Stayton. Do please pardon me, I am new to all this. My first book was only just recently published. I am quite thrilled to give an interview, and will do my best to answer your questions.

Welcome, Mrs. Stayton. Tell us, do you have a hero?

Oh, yes, Charles Lindbergh. As you know, just last year he flew from America nonstop to Paris. My husband, rest his soul, would have been so thrilled with this amazing accomplishment.

What is your favorite beverage, and why?

Tea, growing up in the United States, tea was always just a drink, however, now that I live in London it is rather symbolic of my new way of life. There is a ritual to the serving of tea, and the time it takes gives one a moment to reflect.

Please name five things in your handbag.

Well, of course there is my little silver snuff box; my cigarette case; my lipstick; a bit of pocket money, both pounds and dollars; oh and yes, my pearl handled pistol.

Do you have any hobbies?

Well, I have given up on several hobbies. I had lessons on the piano and painting, to name a few. People are always concerned about how a young widow spends her time, and suggest hobbies. I seem to have very little free time between writing, testifying in murder cases and travel.

Did you get along with your parents?

Well, of course. My father keeps to himself, he’s a busy man at The Men’s Hospital back in Saint Louis. My mother is hopeful that one day I will move back, she does not understand my love of England. But we get on all the same.

Have you ever failed at anything?

-sigh- I am not proud of my flying record. Airplanes give me the willies. I think Xavier would have been disappointed in me.

What is your favorite color?

Blue, it is the color of the sky, the color of water and the color of my dear Xavier’s beautiful eyes.

Have you ever had an adventure?

Several, there was the murder at Pierce Manor, the incident on-board the RMS Olivia and then the missing mummy in Egypt, just to start with!

How do you envision your future?

Hmm…well, that is a mystery that I have not yet solved.

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

Michael Haskins, author of the Mick Murphy Key West Mystery series

To Beat the DevilWhat is To Beat the Devil about?

Mick Murphy’s search to find Russian gangster Alexei, the man responsible for the murder of his fiancé, the sinking of his boat and almost taking his life. The book has two parts. It opens in part one, in Murphy friend’s voice – Norm, the black ops guy in Murphy’s life from book one.

While chasing down leads to Alexei’s whereabouts, Murphy and his friends get hold of Alexei’s journal and it leads them back to Key West, where the journal indicates a terrorist attack is about to take place.

What inspired you to write the book?

I became inspired to write the book after talking repeatedly with my military intelligence source about safety in the USA. I discovered, with other sources to verify, that cruise ships are not really protected on international waters or in local ports. What little protection offered in the port of Key West could not stop a plane attack on a docked cruise ship, any more than the TSA security at the airports stops terrorists. They do, I believe, give passengers a sense of security and that is its main purpose.

Who is your most unusual character?

I think that would have to be Padre Thomas, a Jesuit who sees and talks to angels. Not all the characters believe him, especially Norm and Bob, but Mick does because in past books the padre’s foresight of things has saved Mick.

How much of a story do you have in mind before writing your book?

Most of my books start when I have a beginning, middle and end. How I get to those last two locations is always surprising and often the characters take over and what I thought was going to be the middle or end changes. The changes the characters bring to my story are usually better than what I had in mind.

Did you do any research?

Research is an interesting subject in fiction. I believe the reader today knows a lot, some true some untrue if it’s taken from CSI shows on TV. But if one reader is disappointed in your facts, you’ve lost a reader for good. I have a military intel officer I run my ideas through, as well as weapons. Since most of my story is set in Key West, I do personal surveillance at local bars and restaurants, to get the facts straight!

Has your background influenced your writing?

My background as a journalist helped me do research as well as look for details. I gave many of these traits to Mick Murphy, so I a way I know him better because we share the same background.

Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

I like to write in the mornings, but to finish To Beat the Devil, I began setting time aside in the afternoons and that often went on into the knight. Now that I realize I can write most anytime, I might be able to finish the next book in less than a year!

What is a one sentence synopsis of your current work?

Art forgery takes Murphy to L.A., N.J. and Ireland to discover why his cousin, IRA fugitive Cecil Fahey was the front man for the sale to a Miami drug lord.

What do you like to read?

I am a believer that writers must read almost as many hours as they writer and, of course, you must read the genre you write to see what the competition is doing.

Do you have a saying or motto for your life or your writing?

I have a number of sayings hanging in my home office, but I think Einstein sums it up:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the entire world.”

Where can people learn more about your books?

I have sample chapters of all my books on my website – – and of course you can read chapters on Amazon and buy the books and eBooks on Amazon.

Nichole R. Bennett, Author of “Ghost Mountain”

Ghost MountainWhat is your book about?

When Cerri Baker moves with her family to the Black Hills of South Dakota, she begins seeing things—things like murder. Cerri has spent her life trying to avoid the spirituality and “hocus-pocus” her mother embraces, but once in the Black Hills, Cerri doesn’t seem to have much choice as her spirit guide insists she find justice for a murdered man

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

I think there’s probably a little of me.  People who have read Ghost Mountain say they can almost hear me when they read it.  I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

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

Before I start, I know my main characters.  I know who the victim is and the antagonist.  I even know why the crime was committed.  It’s all that stuff in the middle I have to work out as I go along.

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

Years ago, I heard about the “fish bone” method of plotting and that seems to work for me.  If you’re not familiar with it, draw a horizontal line on the paper (that’s the spine of the “fish”).  In the middle of the line, draw a vertical line.  Then, on each side of that vertical line, draw another about half way between the line’s end and the middle.  You want to make sure there’s a “turning point” at each vertical line, with the middle one being the biggest surprise.  You want to include a smaller “zinger” between those bones.  I have the current story’s fish bone on a dry erase board in my home office.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I grew up in a home where reading was important.  My dad is a retired police officer, as was his mother.  (Yes, you read that right.  My grandmother was a cop!)  My mom is a huge mystery fan.  How could I write anything except mysteries?

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I live in Western South Dakota, and write about the area where I live.

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

Coffee and chocolate!

What are you working on right now?

I just finished the second of the “Cerri Baker” books and have started another mystery novel with a whole new set of characters!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes.  I originally wanted to be a newspaper reporter.

At what age did you discover writing?

I don’t remember ever NOT writing.  I was first published in Daisy Magazine when I was 7.  I had created a word search puzzle using the colors in my crayon box.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Read a lot.  Write even more.  Find a critique group.  LISTEN to what they say, whether you agree or not.  Even if you think they’re wrong, they will have pointed out places where your work can be made stronger.

What genre are your books?

I write paranormal cozies.  What that means is I write mysteries where much of the violence takes place off the page and the crime is solved by a “regular person” (not someone in law enforcement).  That’s the cozy mystery part.  The paranormal part involves ghosts and spirits!

What do you wear when you write?


Where can we learn more about you and your books?

From my author page at Second Wind Publishing:

Ben Solomon, Author of “The Hard-Boiled Detective,” a Subscription Series


Have you ever planned a murder?

Sure. Usually three per month. Sometimes more. I ply the art for my subscription series, “The Hard-Boiled Detective.”

A subscription series?

“The Hard-Boiled Detective” takes an odd slant on the publishing game. This subscription series provides three works of short fiction every month. Fans download the stories in their favorite format: ePub, mobi or PDF.

What inspired you to create this series?

I grew up on heavy doses of Cagney and Bogart. The whole Warner Bros. gangster cycle. That led to Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane. Spillane’s the one who made the genre seem approachable.

Tell us about your main character.

I won’t tell you his name. One’s as good as another. Or the city that serves as his beat. You’ll figure it out, all right. His time? It’s any period you like. Call it 1929, 1939, 1959.

See, I’ve tried to create as pure a throwback as I could, where the gumshoe’s actions and observations speak for him. I don’t develop the hero’s personal life—I provide no melodrama, no backstory, no development on that level.

Describe your writing in three words.

Old-school detective fiction. (Do hyphenated words count as one or two?)

Okay. How’s about retro detective fiction?

You’re going to throw math at me, here?

Does this series have a format or concept?

Sure it does. And it’s kind of funny. After watching hundreds of movies and TV shows, and then reading all these books—there’s a murder victim around every corner. By the truckload. Hundreds. Maybe thousands. So it struck me: all these gumshoes must spend half of their professional lives at the local station house giving accounts to the bulls. That lightbulb established the format: each story of “The Hard-Boiled Detective” is told by our P.I. hero as a statement to the police. Lucky that he likes to tell a colorful yarn.

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

Character, by a long shot. I’m definitely in the Hammett camp on this one. He said, “What I try to do is write a story about a detective rather than a detective story.”

Why will readers relate to your characters?

Assuming I deliver the goods, they’re all bound up in one terrific genre. The detective story’s as traditional a spin as a western or an adventure of medieval knights. We’re all of us just bumping along, trying to live our lives as best we can, adhering to principles that are constantly challenged. The detective represents that, always searching for truth and justice above everything else.

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

That’s a pip of a question, and one that I’ve had a gas chewing on.

First of all, we make it a half hour television series. Can you picture that? It’s just not done, but would it ever clip along. Leave ‘em wanting more—there’s a motto for you.

The second idea’s a real stretch. We’ve got an unnamed sleuth working the mean streets of an unnamed burg, right? In a sense, he’s unidentified, right? So we cast a different actor to play him in every episode. We make him a different guest star every week. Call it hard-boiled casting. Sure.

Where can people learn more about your series?

You can find story samples, subscription info and plenty more at the website:

Carole Howard, Author of Deadly Adagio

deadlyadagioWhat is your book about?

Deadly Adagio is a murder mystery set in West Africa. The protagonist is the wife of a Foreign Service Officer who’s been yanked out of the life she knew and enjoyed in the U.S. and has no intention of being the good little Embassy Wife. She plays in an amateur orchestra, one of whose members is the murder victim. When she digs into the murder investigation, she finds herself involved in some dangerous advocacy to end a local custom she considers brutal.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I knew I wanted to write a mystery. (That’s because no one told me how really hard it is!) And I knew I wanted it to be set in Africa because many readers told me how much they enjoyed the scenes in my first book that took place there. And I knew I wanted it to involve an amateur orchestra. After that, I had to figure it out. First I decided who the victim would be, then who the murderer would be, and then I had to keep finding and re-finding inspiration. But I did!

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

This is one of those yes/no/maybe answers. None of the characters IS me. But all of them, the men and the women, have aspects of me. And aspects of other people I know, too. (So far, the only one to recognize himself in either of my books is my husband.) Plus there’s some flat-out invention, too, of course. I can’t imagine writing about something or someone whose life experiences I’ve never experienced or observed, though of course I have to bend them around to suit my purposes.

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

Yes, I did. I wanted the information about the inner workings of an American Embassy in a small West African country – who does what to whom – to be accurate. For that, I found the perfect book: Inside a U.S. Embassy, by Shawn Dorman. I also wanted some concrete information about the tribal practice I alluded to in the answer to question #1: who, how prevalent, why, why not. This information I found on line. (How did anyone do research before the internet?)

What are you working on right now?

My first novel was a character-driven contemporary novel, and my new one is a mystery. Just to make my life difficult, my work in progress is a different genre entirely: it’s a travel memoir about five volunteer experiences, each about two months long, in different and fascinating places in the developing world. There are scenes about tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda, about sex workers educating their colleagues about HIV/AIDS, about gender issues in Thailand, about the magic of zip-lock bags, and a whole lot more.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

Finding the right voice. People tell me I’m pretty funny in person, spunky and irreverent. Sometimes, when I write, though, I get so serious. Solemn, even. Yeck. So one of my main goals in revision is to nail the tone, usually by lightening it up.

What do you like to read? What is your favorite genre?

I mostly read fiction, largely contemporary fiction. My favorite kind of book is one in which – in addition to memorable characters and a gripping plot – has interesting information about something I knew nothing about, like glove-making in Philip Roth’s American Pastoral or book restoration in Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book. That’s why I set Deadly Adagio in West Africa, where I’ve lived. I know from experience that things I found “normal” while living there are fascinating and even exotic to folks who haven’t been. I also wanted to include the politics and behind-the-scenes maneuvering of an amateur orchestra because I think most people don’t know anything about it. They think it’s just pretty music.

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

Even though I just said my favorite genre is fiction, the book I wish I’d written is something else entirely. It’s Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck. She was a divining rod for the intersection of funny, serious, profound, perceptive…. and irreverent. She just nails it every time.

Have you written any other books?

carolehowardYes, my first novel was About Face. It was a character-driven book about a woman of a certain age struggling with aging and all its ramifications – you know, a typical 50-something year old struggling with the disparity between her past (former idealistic Peace Corps volunteer) and her present (corporate marketing executive) while battling hot flashes at business meetings with the new young boss.

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

I love this question! For some reason, I’d steer away from the very-famous and very-glamorous actresses (I know Angelina Jolie is going to be devastated by this news) and go with Amy Adams. (Pretty famous and not too shabby in the looks department.) For her husband, I’d go with James Franco. Or maybe Toby Maguire. They’ll just have to duke it out.

Where can we find out more about you and Deadly Adagio?

My author page at Second Wind Publishing:

Bergin Halverson, hero of “Clara’s Wish” by S. M. Senden


Who are you?

I am just a farmer, a husband, father and grandfather. I’m a simple man how is content to work my land, care for and love my wife and children. In many ways I am just like everyone else, and in others I am completely unique.

Where do you live?

I live on my farmland in rural Pottawattamie County , outside of the city of Council Bluffs , which is across the Missouri river from Omaha , Nebraska .

Are you the hero of your own story?

Like Dickens wrote, as life unfolds we see if we are the hero or villain of our own lives. I believe, finally I did become the hero, though it took a long time to get there. In releasing the past, I was set free from it, and could finally consider myself a hero, even in some small way.

What is your problem in the story?

I have held a secret for many years about a body buried in an unused area on my land. The grave is in a stand of trees that stand guard over that piece of land. It was not something I could speak of for a long time, I could say nothing until I was sure certain people were dead. You see, they threatened my family. It was not a chance I was willing to take. So I held the secret until my grandchildren discovered the skeleton, quite by accident.

Do you embrace conflict?

I do not run to embrace conflict, but when it comes, I prefer to stand my ground and face it. If one runs away from conflict, it has a way of finding you and making you face the music at a most inconvenient time.

What, if anything, haunts you?

Events of my past, but you will need to read the book to understand them.

Has anyone ever failed you? Has anyone ever betrayed you? Have you ever failed anyone?

All three of these questions have the same answer, my older brother Erdman failed me, betrayed me and worst of all I believe I failed him in that I could not help him. To my shame, I made things worse when I supplied him the alcohol that helped destroy us all.

What was your childhood like?

I always lived in the shadow of my perfect, older brother, Erdman. He was the child my parents doted on. He could do no wrong. I was treated like a servant, a forgotten child, and even the whipping boy for my older brother. I never had any idea why my parents couldn’t love me, but to their dying day, they never did.

Who was your first love?

Ahhh, my first love. If I am honest, I would have to say Clara Lindgren was my first love. I was too young for her, but I spent time with her when my brother, who was dating her, would haul me along to keep her occupied while he lapped up the accolades of his followers. My brother knew how to milk a crowd of every ounce of love and praise. He so desperately needed their adulation. I came to love her in a way that has never left me, though I married and raised a family. One never really forgets a first love, do they?

What is your most closely guarded secret?

Who it is that’s buried on my land.

What is your favorite scent?

It is an elusive fragrance that comes to me in dreams now and then. Or even once in a while it is carried on the soft summer breeze like a memory. It is called Replique by Raphael. It is a perfume from Paris that was popular in the 1920’s. It was Clara’s favorite fragrance. It has an enticing sweetness to it, heady perfume that tickles my senses and makes me remember some things that are better forgotten.

What are the last three books you read?

I don’t really get as much time to read as I would like, the farm keeps me quite busy, but I do love to read. Recently, I read Charlotte ’s Web by E. B. White to the grandchildren. I am still chilled by a short story by Shirley Jackson titled “The Haunting of Hill House.” I was completely repulsed and fascinated by William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and was fascinated by James Mitchener’s book Hawaii. I always wanted to go there, and the book was about as close as I will ever get. And a series by an English scholar, J. R. R. Tolkein’s books; the Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring and even his Hobbit.

How do you envision your future?

Better now that I have finally been freed from the past that held me hostage as I guarded the secret I held for so long.

Click here to buy: Clara’s Wish

S. M. Senden, author of “Clara’s Wish”

claraswishWhat inspired you to write this particular story?

I like to troll the newspapers for stories, and this story appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1925. It was a story that wouldn’t let me forget about a young woman, who like all of us at some point, trusts the wrong person.

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

I didn’t try to hide myself at all in Clara’s Wish. I think I expressed some of what every young girl goes through. I always put a lot of myself and my experiences into anything I write. Sometimes I read other pieces I have written, and laugh, remembering what was going on at the time I wrote something. I believe that in writing, like acting, we must bring a piece of ourselves to the characters, or they will not come alive for the reader.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Clara’s Wish was written in a few months. I write fast when I have an idea, and the story just kept unfolding, taking on a life off its own and the characters began to tell me what will happen. I would spend eight hours a day at the computer, writing and another three to four hours a day researching the era and details.

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

The research is the key to any historical piece. The most important piece for me is how people acted, how they spoke and their moral code of the day. It is all different from what we know today. If we pay attention, every decade has a special aura to it. That is the part that must be captured for the story to feel real. I had an advantage about researching this era, because I asked people about that time when I was a little kid. I asked about their lives, their hopes and dreams, their fears and all. I have their memories and recollections and of course I read. I read period books, magazine articles and watch period films too. Then I go for the historical accounts of events. In a book written in 1939 I got the information on starting the old car. I had seen it in a silent film, but it didn’t make sense to me until I read about how to start some early cars!

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

My goal for this book is to have people look at how they treat one another. The problems we face in our lives are the same our parents, grandparents and generations of people faced. That is the question of love. Of being loved, of loving and what it can bring with it, the greatest joy and deepest heartache.

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

I will try to write a minimum of ten pages a day when I am developing a story. Then I will push to rework 25-50 pages in rewrite. I want to be sure there are many layers to any given chapter. I like to be sure the reader can sense things too. Smells, sights, sounds and even taste and touch are all important. Weather can play a part in a scene, it can set mood, or be a contrast to the events unfolding.

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I am working on the hardest story for me to write because it is the story of my own family skeleton. It happened about 78 years ago, and no one ever spoke about it. Then, when other events offered, it came to light, but only in a vague way. Later, my father, curious to know more, found the newspaper articles about the incident when he was on a business trip. He gave them to me for safekeeping. For years it was something I thought should be written, but I wasn’t ready. Now I am, for I am the one who carries these family memories collected over the span of my lifetime. There is only one person still alive who lived through what happened, and they are reluctant to speak of it, and with good reason. The secret was murder, my grandfather’s murder. It made headlines across the nation.

What was the first story you remember writing?

I always made up elaborate stories as a child when playing. The first story I wrote down was much like anyone writes, terrible. At age eleven I wanted to emulate the authors I loved reading. I adored E. A. Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. I wrote a gothic horror, murder mystery story. I allowed my older brother to read it; he wrote wonderful poetry. He was honest with me too! He told me it was dreadful. I bet he was right. I do not know where that story is anymore. It disappeared, like so many things back then. The second piece I wrote was about a trying teenage experience I’d had, and my mother found it and destroyed it.

Does writing come easy for you? What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process? What is the easiest part of the writing process?

When I have a good idea, writing is easy for me, the story flows and I have written up to thirty pages in one day. That was an amazing thing to do, but the story was ready to be ‘born.’ The most difficult part is making sure the facts are correct. I check them, recheck them and check again. Sometimes it takes a long time to get answers. But it is worth it. The easiest part is the idea. I have no shortage of ideas. If I get to write them all, I will live to be very old!

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 always have paper and a writing implement near by so I can jot down an idea, dialogue, or a scene as it comes to me. I have notes in pencil, pen, crayon and even paint. None in blood, thank goodness! Some ideas come from observing a situation, some can come from the news, some come from dreams, but every story has some nugget of truth to them. I have a huge file of notes, ideas and outlines just waiting for their turn!

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

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It is one of those stories that is so well crafted, it is a story that will not let you forget. Also it crosses many genre lines. I believe a really good story never fits cleanly into a box. Rebecca is a love story, a ghost story and a murder mystery. It is a story of jealousy, of secrets and of lives intertwined in such a way that it brings them to a tragic intersection where so much is lost. It has an amazing twist to the plot line when we learn the truth about Rebecca. The survivors manage to go on, rebuilding their lives as best they can.

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

The best writing advice was from author, Charlotte MacLeod, she suggested that in any situation, play the “What If” game. As one asks “what if this or that,” a story begins to take shape. It is an amazingly simple yet powerful tool.

In another book written and ready to get published, there was a newspaper clipping, again with the newspaper for inspiration! The clipping mentioned that the old opera house, built in 1876, had been closed in 1909 and they never bothered to clear it out until the late 1930’s. When they went up there, the opera house and offices were on the second floor, everything was just as if they had left the day before.

That got my “What If” game going, because the first question was: What if they found a body up in the abandoned opera house complex? To research this, I got permission to go up into the unused second floor where the opera house and offices had been. I read about the history of the building and fell in love with the old place.

Then I thought about, if there was a body to be found, what would be the condition of the body? Again, important research here! I’d seen decimated mummy-like birds in other buildings with unused second floors that I had been given permission to explore. (Always get permission!) I once read an article in Old House Journal, again READ, about someone rehabbing an 1870’s New York town home. In the attics, sealed off behind a partition, they found the preserved, mummified body of a fully dressed woman in clothing of the 1880’s. And the rest is another story, soon to be published!

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Read, read some more, read even more, and write every day, even if it is only a line of an idea on a story. When you sit down to write, treat it like you are going to work, and dedicate a block of time to your writing. If you expect to be a writer, act like one: write.

Always be learning, reading, researching and most of all, pay attention to people. Listen to their stories; hear about their lives, they are offering you a rare look into a whole different world from yours. They have a great deal to teach you.

Write from a place of knowing. Bring your experiences to what you write; be willing to invest a piece of yourself in your writing so it will be real to the reader.

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