Interview with Liz Cowan, Author of “The Beast Within”

Welcome, Liz. What is your new book about?

The Beast Within is a contemporary twist on Beauty and the Beast.

Crystal Belle St. James’ life is devoted to caring for a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Reclusive Daniel Di Domenico may be handsome and wealthy but prefers solitude. One morning he wakes up with Bell’s palsy and becomes temporarily disfigured.

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

I researched Alzheimer’s on the internet and followed a fellow author whose mother suffers from dementia. Bell’s palsy: I researched on the internet and interviewed a friend who had it.

What do you like to read?

I am a voracious reader and gobble up 4-5 books per week. I read both fiction and non-fiction. My taste in fiction spans all genres. And enjoy well-written books. I also like to read non-fiction. Fiction develops the linguistic skills and non-fiction feeds the mind.

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

For me the essential qualities of a good story: it must capture and hold my interest; the story must pull me in whether it is a shifter tale or a romance, and the story must have “meat” on its bones.

Have you written any other books?

I have written three novels- The Dionysus Connection, The Marathon Man, Sins of the Father, two humor books- Through the Keyhole, Fractured Proverbs and Twisted Thoughts, and I write a weekly humor column for a couple of newspapers.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Sometimes the character names just pop into my head. Or, I meet someone with a name I know I will have to use in a story. If all else fails, I have several baby name books and try to match my characters with the appropriate name (which includes the meaning of the name).

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

My favorite quote is by Albert Einstein. “The difference between stupid and genius is that genius has limits.”

What is your favorite place, real or fictional?

My favorite place is Budapest, Hungary. I was born there. Also, it is beautiful, and the history of my ancestors draws me in.

Who designed your cover?

My cover designer is Tatiana Vila. She designed all but one of my covers and is amazing.

You’re right. That’s a great cover. Where can people learn more about you and your books?

My books are available on Amazon. All but one written as Liz Cowan. Fractured Proverbs and Twisted Thoughts written as Elizabeth Cowan. You can learn more about me on my website:

Thank you for talking with us today. Best of luck with your new book!


Interview with Bailey Devlin from the Bailey Devlin series by Rebecca Forster

bdThanks for the opportunity Pat. Instead of my thrillers, I chose The Bailey Devlin Series, books-without-bodies, sweet romance written as a gift for my mom’s 91st birthday.

What is your story?

My story is pretty basic. I’m looking for love but with the right person. If the right person doesn’t come along, then I’m looking to make it on my own. I don’t mean make it big time, I mean make it in a good, honest way. I just don’t want to ever wonder how I’ll pay the rent like my mom did. It’s tough being a single mother or the only child of a single mother. I worried a lot as a kid so that’s why I want to pull my own weight – but only if I don’t find a good man to help me pull it.

Where do you live?

San Francisco. Well, not the city but close enough that I can see that beautiful golden bridge in the distance. I’ll get to the city one day. That’s how hard I’ll work.

Do you have money troubles?

Oh, big time! Student loans – I’m in law school you know – so I’ve got a bunch of bills. I work at the courthouse sandwich shop, but the wages aren’t anything to write home about. Still, Mr. Balmati, the owner, and his daughter are like family so I’m happy there. And, if it weren’t for working there I would never have met Jeffery. And if I didn’t have to live in a run down old apartment building, I never would have met Ethan. So, maybe money problems are a good thing. What do you think?

Who is your true love?

Boy, I sure wish I knew. I’ll have to get to book 3 to find out who I picked. Ethan and Jeffery are both good men just different as night and day. It’s hard to choose between good men.

Last book you read:

Constitutional Law – or I read part of it but I keep falling asleep. It’s no fun sleeping with a book.

How do you envision your future?

Secure. Sweet. A fairy tale. But don’t tell anyone that because wishes don’t come true if you say them out loud.I’m a little superstitious.

What do you need?

Family. I kind of have that. Just not the one I thought I’d have. I was really weird about that. It took me a long, long time to realize that families don’t come in one size. I’m happy I was smart enough to finally get it.

Did the author portray you accurately?

Yep, It’s almost like we’re twins separated at birth. I’ve been meaning to ask her about that. I feel like I’m channeling her, but if her life was anything like mine she’s really a little bit of a dork.

How do you see yourself?

Competent. Hard working. Serious. Gawky. Well meaning. Suffering from foot-in-mouth disease. I’m so well meaning that I screw up the one thing I mean to do well by.

Are you lucky?

You wouldn’t know it from reading my books, but yes. I’m lucky. It’s just that Lady luck doesn’t hand me anything. As much as I believe in her, she makes me work for it. Maybe that’s so I appreciate whatever she sends my way.

Interview With Sherrie Hansen, Author of SHY VIOLET

Shy VioletThis is my fourth interview with Pat Bertram, on the occasion of the release of my new Wildflowers of Scotland novel, Shy Violet, coming May 1st from Second Wind Publishing. Thanks so much for all you do to promote our work, Pat!

You’re welcome, Sherrie. I’m always glad to do what I can to help. But we’re here to talk about you and your new book. What is Shy Violet about?

When a poor choice and some wild fluctuations in the space time continuum leave school teacher Violet Johansen stranded in the car park of Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland, Violet wonders if she’ll ever find her way back to her comfort zone. She has two choices – to trust a piper who looks exactly like someone she dated a decade ago, or a band of nefarious pirates. Pirates. Pipers. People and mistakes from the past that threaten to haunt you forever… A castle that’s been ravaged and rebuilt… Only time will tell if Violet and Nathan’s fragile new friendship survive the storm and see love reborn.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

We’ve all had ups and downs in our lives – a relationship you were utterly convinced was a dream come true, only to realize at some point that it was exactly wrong, even toxic. We’ve all lived through the disappointment, the heartache, and hopefully found, at some point in our journey, that good things come from bad, that all things work together for good, and that rainbows often follow the most terrible storms.

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

Shy Violet is set in one of the most beloved, picturesque castles in the world, Eilean Donan, near the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The main characters are quite ordinary, American school teachers who find themselves caught up in a drama that revolves around the nefarious activities of some modern-day pirates / whiskey smugglers.

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

I always hope that my readers will get lost in my stories, that they will be magically transported to another time and place where they can forget their own troubles and stresses for a time and live vicariously through my characters. For me, reading a good book, just like going on a nice, long vacation, broadens my perspectives and reminds me that there’s a whole big world out there that doesn’t revolve around me or my issues. There’s also a bit of humor in many of my books, and often, a quirky character or two who may bring a smile to your face. I love it when people say they find my books to be entertaining or funny.

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

I want my readers to believe that life is filled with second – and third and fourth – chances, that a wee bit of good can come from even the worst situations, and that there is hope – always.

Have you written any other books?

Shy Violet is my third Wildflowers of Scotland novel, and follows Wild Rose and Blue Belle. There is also a prequel novella called Thistle Down. I’ve also written Night and Day, the Maple Valley series – Stormy Weather, Water Lily and Merry Go Round, and Love Notes.

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

I wrote my first several books from the perspective of a single woman who could only dream about experiencing love firsthand. Fast forward a dozen years, enter one real-life husband, and I know how wild the rollercoaster really is. I feel that I can write relationships, dialogs and certain characters much more realistically – and even a bit humorously – now that I have insider knowledge.

Where can people learn more about your books?

You can find out more about me and my books at:!sherrie-hansen/c1scv or

Sherrie Hansen’s previous interviews on Pat Bertram Introduces  . . .

Sherrie Hansen, Author of “Thistle Down” and “Wild Rose”
Sherrie Hansen, Author of “Love Notes”
Sherrie Hansen, Author of Merry Go Round

Interview With J. Conrad Guest, Author of “A World Without Music”

A World Without MusicWhat is your book about?

JCG: A World Without Music is a non-traditional romance, as are most my novels. Protagonist Reagan returns from the first Gulf War haunted by horrific images of Tom Wallach, a dead marine he brought back from the desert. Seeking refuge from his nightmares and broken marriage in a jazz quartet in which he plays bass guitar, fifteen years elapse and he has a one-night fling with a beautiful young woman he meets at one of his gigs. When his ex-wife comes back into his life, the groupie’s obsession turns into a fatal attraction. With help from Wallach’s ghost, the daughter Wallach never met, and a friend who is more than he appears, Reagan must find the music that will enable him to finally let go of his tortured past.

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

JCG: Not long. After my publisher, Second Wind, accepted my previous novel, 500 Miles to Go, I took some time off. While going through some old short stories I’d written over the years, I came across one that I imagined could be part of a novel. I kicked around a few story lines for the next few weeks and finally settled on an alien from another planet “walking in” to the life of an average earthling. This alien is curious about music, since his planet evolved without it. He’s able to cohabitate with people without them being aware of his presence. He’s inhabited a number of notable historical figures from our history, from Jesus to Johann Sebastian Bach, Thomas Jefferson, and Thelonious Monk, in an effort to discover the meaning of music, and whether it serves to incite violence in humans.

But the character is a tertiary one, and his purpose isn’t revealed until the final twenty or so pages of the novel. The main character is Reagan, who is broken by his service in Kuwait.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

JCG: In the last dozen or so years, we’re hearing and reading more and more about our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with missing limbs and suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A large number of these kids are unable to fit into society; many end up homeless, while others commit suicide.

I wanted to draw attention to this issue, so I created Reagan. A veteran of the first Gulf War, he’s unable to cope with what he saw. It costs him his marriage, and so he loses himself in his music and several meaningless affairs. He also contemplates eating his Glock. But it’s always music that keeps him from taking that final step.

In the end, Reagan learns that his PTSD doesn’t have to define who he is.

How has your background influenced your writing?

JCG: To a large extent, I’m a loner; I don’t just march to the beat of a different drummer, I march to the beat of my own drum. I’ve struggled most of my life to fit into society. I bore easily. I’m not sure whether that’s a bane of creativity or something I learned in my youth. Maybe it’s genetic. I don’t follow crowds or genres, so I don’t write about vampires or werewolves.

All of my characters are like me—loners. They’re broken is some way, every day people whose stories deal with the universal ideals of love, loss, regret, and death—and the emotions associated with those ideals. A reader told me that my novels are “gritty, entertaining … real. Romance for the non-romantic.”

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I think upbringing colors every writer’s work, to an extent. As I near completion of my current work in progress, I’m wondering if I’ll submit it to my publisher. I’m not sure he’ll even accept it, and should he, I may publish it under a nom de plume.

It’s largely about sexual addiction the result of marital betrayal, and I worry whether readers will wonder how much of me is in the protagonist. As I consider that few readers are taken aback by stories about substance abuse or gambling addictions, I fear offending readers who may be sensitive to describing the sex act. A reader once told me she wouldn’t finish reading Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings because of several paragraphs that describe a sexual encounter that is a defining moment in the story. I thought it was pretty tame, but it likely didn’t help that she was the wife of an ordained minister. Someone somewhere will always be offended by something we write, even the description of two tongues intertwined in a single mouth.

Still, there is the recent success of a trilogy about BDSM that became a bestseller and was sold to Hollywood. It depicts acts of violence, including rape, against women; but it was written by a woman for women, so maybe I’d do well to take on the name of the fairer sex.

What are you working on right now?

JCG: My current work in progress is Forever a Philanderer. If you could go back in time, what would you do? Prevent the crucifixion of Christ? Maybe kill Hitler before he comes to power? If your spouse committed the ultimate act of treason, perhaps you’d return to the past to murder their mother, thereby erasing their existence in your present. But would it erase your pain, or simply serve as the ultimate act of revenge?

For Forever a Philanderer, I once again explore the paradox of time travel: how undoing events in the past affect that past’s future, as well as how obsession can be our undoing.

The story was born after editing for pay a romance novel a little more than a year ago. Romance novels today are rated based on their heat level, from stories that leave the sex act to the readers’ imagination—the action starts with a kiss and segues to a shared cigarette after the sex act—to those that depict the act in great detail, including body parts and bodily fluids. This woman’s novel I thought was better suited for the erotica genre, and frankly, I thought I could do it much better. In short, Forever a Philanderer is my most sexually graphic novel, as it explores sexual addiction.

Still, I’m on the fence about seeing it in print. Readers are far more forgiving about “seeing” a junkie shoot up heroine or a serial killer dismembering a body in graphic detail than they are about the sex act. Part of this is sensitivity, but also, I think, because it’s very difficult to bring something new to the act of love-making or “screwing” in fiction. It’s been done countless times before, which is part of the reason why I’ve refrained—until now.

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

JCG: When Dain Galdikas discovers his wife’s infidelity, he doesn’t confront her with her duplicity, he decides to go back in time to murder his wife’s mother to prevent the birth of his philandering wife.

What was the first story you remember writing?

JCG: It was a short story titled The Ultimate Paradox. It was written about twenty years ago as a birthday gift for a woman I wasn’t even dating. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she said she wanted me to write a short story. I can’t recall what it was that prompted her to ask that, but she must’ve seen something in me. I can’t recall what happened to the copy I kept for myself, but as I wrote it I began to see it as the basis for a novel. A year or two later I commenced my first novel, January’s Paradigm.

How do you deal with exposition to give readers the background information they need?

JCG: It really grates me when I hear agents and publishers condemn back story. “Just drop it into the story somewhere,” they say as if back story is something terrible that “takes the reader out of the story.” Just try to write a novel without back story.

The first 120 pages of Victor Hugo’s Laughing Man is back story, and the early chapters of Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is filled with back story.

Commercials during my favorite television nighttime dramas take me out of the story, but they don’t lesson my enjoyment, and you don’t hear critics clamoring to remove them.

Over the years I’ve learned how to include back story sparingly and disguise it so that it doesn’t jump off the page as what it is.

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

Almost always my understanding of the story changes during the creative process, probably because I don’t write from an outline. I go where the story and the characters take me.

In Forever a Philanderer, Dain makes a serious miscalculation in traveling back in time thirty years and ends up at Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (he also failed to take into account the earth’s rotation in traveling nearly two thousand years). It was to have been a one-time encounter with the Messiah, from whom Dain flees; but Dain, having traveled back in time, partially exists outside the parameters of space and time. Therefore, Christ makes return appearances to Dain at opportune moments, wearing John Lennon glasses and a JESUS LIVES! t-shirt, to advise Dain that his actions will weigh heavily against his life in eternity.

Describe your writing in three words.

JCG: Gritty, entertaining, real.

From where do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come?

JCG: If I knew the answer to that, I’d already be a household name based on my understanding of today’s publishing model twenty years ago.

Would it matter to you if you were never published? (In other words, would it matter if no one ever read your books?) Why or why not?

JCG: Of course it matters, and any writer who says otherwise doesn’t take their craft seriously.

The number of self-published titles last year is up more than 400% from seven or eight years ago. That says two things: First, it matters because more writers today self-publish when traditional publishers turn down their work. Second, the approximately 400,000 self-published titles last year, combined with a shrinking demand, only makes it more difficult for the cream to rise. With more books in print today than there are readers, the industry is more competitive than it ever has been.

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

JCG: Happiness can’t be found, unearthed like some ancient relic at an archeological site, it comes from within.

Where can we learn more about your books?

From Second Wind Publishing!j-conrad-guest/c1k84 and Amazon

Interview with Maribeth Shanley, author of “Crack in the World”

4912933c709924e57407a34b134ecc223749ed5f-thumbWhat is your book about?

CRACK IN THE WORLD tells the story of Emily, who is molested by her father. Emily is a member of a large family as she becomes increasingly isolated and all alone. After moving to Rhode Island she develops a strong outside support group comprised of Martha, a neighbor and grandmother, Sean, Martha’s grandson and Jeannie, a young girl Emily’s age. It is this support group that inspires Emily to defy her father as she turns her world upside down and takes control of her future.

I love your title. When terrible things happen, we often feel as if we have fallen through a crack in the world. What inspired you to write this particular story?

I’ve always wanted to tell the world my story. I know how important it is to talk about this thing because it’s still so alive and well in our human society and, in particular, my family. Someone needs to expose this dirty little secret which has the power of destroying a victim’s future. I originally wrote a memoir and gave it to my girlfriend (among others) to read. She told me it was good, but, more importantly she told me that I was a writer. Then, she suggested that I write a non-fiction novel. She loved my description of the first time I became intimate with my husband. She said, “It’s steamy, Maribeth. You have a knack for romance novels.” That was all I needed. I think I wrote the original story in less than two months. My same girlfriend read it and said, “I read a lot. I believe this could become a best seller.” Not to sound cocky, but I do too.

You’re so brave to write this story. Why will readers relate to your characters?

Because they’re real and I think we all know them by other names. Martha is gentle and wise and someone we all feel drawn to. Sean, who was brought up in a loving home environment with a strong mother and, of course, Martha as female role models, is every woman’s dream male.  Jeannie is wise, worldly and smart-mouthed; just what Emily needs to bring out her guts and glory side. Emily…oh, Emily, she’s bright, loving and oh so innocent; but not so innocent that she hasn’t been in waiting for just the inspiration she needed to take back her power from her narcissistic father, Joe. Sarah, Emily’s mother, we all know. She’s downtrodden by her bully husband. Joe’s a jerk, period; and Emily’s siblings are just living life without molestation.

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

Yes. I mostly used the Internet to get weather in Rhode Island correct and many other facts in the book which I checked for, e.g., when did I-pods first go on the market. I came away realizing that, basically anyone with a talent to write can do it. There’s so much information on the Internet to fact check and get time-lines correct.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

When I wrote the original version (the ending changed) I just knew when the story had ended. I’m a person who follows her gut and I’ve become pretty good at knowing things like that. I’ve finished the sequel, A VIEW INTO THE UNKNOWN and was able to end it at the end. Again, I walked away satisfied that I told the story the way it was supposed to be told.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

It’s taken me a long time and a lot of work to get to where I am. Emily and I are very much the same person. She looks on the sunny side of life, rather than living in the darkness her father tried to bestow upon her. She also looks for the good in people, although she isn’t gullible. She knows evil when she sees it. She’s a fighter and proves that.

When I finally moved away from my parents’ home, I searched for ways to change my life. My first year of college I took a Sociology course and read a book, PRESENTATION OF SELF IN EVERYDAY SOCIETY, by Erving Goffman. It changed my life because, for the first time, I realized that I was the author of my life and future. All I had to do was write a best seller and I’ve been writing it ever since. Even prior to that, I looked for a mate who would love and respect me and, damn if I didn’t meet Bob the night I moved away.   Several years ago I realized that, although I had worked hard on undoing what my father did to me as I put it in the proper perspective of my life, I had a lot of internal turmoil going on and it was causing me to feel unhappy. At the time I felt as if I should just accept that I would never be completely happy. But…that’s not me. So, I decided to look for an answer to the internal turmoil. In the meantime, I went back to meditating to an audio program called HOLOSYNC because I knew it had worked. I did begin to meditate again and low and behold I was able to unravel all my unconscious fears which caused me dysfunctional behavior and which was the root of my unhappiness. One day, as I was driving, I realized that I was and am happier than I ever thought possible. In the sequel, I give Emily Holosync as well. In the end, she finds the happiness she craves.

How lovely that you finally found happiness. Apparently, writing makes you happy, too. At what age did you discover writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing; however, I discovered it while I was beginning to heal. My mother’s death set my healing in motion. Before then, I was skillful at keeping the lid on that Pandora box. When I began to feel all the emotions of what happened to me, I knew I needed professional help. I not only spent about nine months in therapy, but I read a very powerful book called THE COURAGE TO HEAL, written by two females who talk candidly about molestation. It became my bible as it also became Emily’s. Authors Ellen Bass and Laura Davis encourage the reader to begin writing down feelings, thoughts and anything else that needs to come out. I have a huge file full of things I wrote including a letter to my father while he was still alive which I mailed. Over the years I’ve culled through the file and marveled at what I wrote. It gave me the courage to begin writing. My meditation, has set my talent free to write with confidence.

When where you first published? How were you discovered?

CRACK IN THE WORLD is my first published book. It was published this year. After writing the book and believing I had something worth publishing I began trying to figure out how to get published. Most people I talked to sarcastically told me, “Good luck.” I don’t think anyone believed I could find a publisher. I was hounded by self-publishing companies but my husband advised me not to go that route. I also decided not to self-publish. My line of thinking was…so what if you self-publish. What happens when you get it published? All you have is a book. So, I began to search the Internet and found a site (can’t remember what site) that listed over 100 publishing companies. The site discussed the query letter, etc. I simply began sending out query letters until one day, Mike Simpson, responded telling me I had a story that needed to be told. He gave me some much needed tips on how to structure the story and invited me to resubmit which I did. The rest is history.

Too, this is the history of who I am. I am a firm believer in BELIEVING. If you believe something can happen, it will. I was determined to be published. I never, ever give up. In fact, Bob calls me a bulldog who just won’t let go of that damned rag. When I make up my mind to do something, I just do it.

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’ve already begun writing two additional books which I plan to complete. I love writing basically women’s books with lots of romance and wonderful, naughty sex. I also want to incorporate other social wrongs into my stories such as sexism, date rape and the like.   One book I have in mind will deal with another realm, maybe an alternate universe. Too, I want to write a few children’s books under the pseudonym, Molly B. Goose. I raised two rescued ducks last summer as well as an injured goose this year. I want to teach children to respect other living creatures even though many of their parents don’t. I keep all these ideas in a computer file which is backed up on a separate hard drive.

What writer influenced you the most?

I have a confession to make. I don’t read as much anymore as I used to. I’m more a movie buff. In fact, I’m hoping that CITW and my sequel are made into a movie or miniseries. My major in college was film and television production and direction. The biggest kick in the butt would be to be part of making that movie or miniseries. When I used to travel for a living I read a lot of Steven King and John Grisham. I love things that go bump in the night. The sequel to CITW has reincarnation as a sub-plot. I also love how Grisham deals with social issues. When I was a little girl I read all the Nancy Drew books. I love sleuthing. In fact, years ago before going to college I was going to join the police force so I could become a homicide detective. In terms of being influenced, I’m the consummate romance lover.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

I sent a copy of my book to Oprah Winfrey. I used to live in Nashville, TN and knew her father owned a barber shop in Nashville. I did some research and found the address. Oprah now owns the shop after saving it from foreclosure and the street it’s on has been renamed after her father. I sent the book to him and asked him to give it to her. Who knows if anything will come of this; but, I do know that, because she was also molested it’s a subject near and dear to her heart. If she actually gets the book, I expect to hear from her one day. I’m now sending my book to some of the South Carolina women’s magazines asking that it be reviewed. I’m also going to set up a book signing with Barnes and Nobel and have already talked to the Business Development Manager about doing that. I’ll go to other local book stores and do the same. I use FB to promote my work as well. I also have a website, I’m so open to finding out how to optimize social media to get my name and books out there and read.

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

I keep one close by at all times. I get many ideas while watching movies, etc. as well. Good lines inspire me so I write them down. I’ve also used a photo to inspire me to write, e.g., what do you see in this photo?

What one word describes how you feel when you write?


Would it matter to you if you were never published? (In other words, would it matter if no one ever read your books?) Why or why not?

Yes, it actually would matter. I’ve done enough writing for myself and have that file I mentioned full of my writings. I now wish to write in hopes of inspiring others with my stories. Also, yes, it would matter if no one read my books. What’s the point of writing if no one reads them?

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

Yes I do, and I firmly believe this motto. I am living proof that it works. That motto is: Your life is your story. You are the author. Create a best seller! I’m putting that on my bookmarks which will also become my business cards.

I’ve been trying to adopt that same philosophy, because it is true, our lives are our story. One last question: Where can we learn more about your book?

From the Second Wind Publishing site:!maribeth-shanley/cdgr

Interview with Valerie Campbell, hero of “Valerie’s Vow” by Ashley M. Carmichael

Who are you?

My name is Valerie Hope Campbell. I am a high school English teacher and part time Sunday School teacher at my church where I also serve on the Education committee.

Are you the hero of your own story?

I never considered myself a hero of anything. I was forced to become the protagonist when I lost my best friend, Beth. However, Beth Sizemore will always be the hero of my story. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have made the vow, and there wouldn’t be a story at all. I never would have met Cooper, that’s for sure. I probably wouldn’t have met up with Evan again, and if I had, I certainly wouldn’t have had the guts to pursue anything.

What is your problem in the story?

I guess the real question here is what isn’t a problem in my story? Somehow I had to figure out how to keep my vow while maintaining my sanity, and my job. And yet, with the luck I have, problem after problem after problem…And without Beth, I just don’t know what to do. Fortunately, there is Cooper. And Evan. And Dakota. But I guess all that is a problem in itself. So really, I guess the problem is: What do I want to live for and how do I live for it?

Do you have a goal?

I have a lot of goals and dreams. I want to travel and see the world. I did a little of this when I was younger, but not as much as I want. I want to see China, India, Japan, Australia, Egypt, and—the Holy land. Sometimes I wonder about God and His role in our lives and I wonder if seeing the world would help solidify and answer these constant questions that plague me.

What are you afraid of?

I am afraid of failure. Of being alone. Of everything falling apart. My world shattered when I lost Beth, and I didn’t know if I could ever rebuild it. These fears are intensified some days. Other days the lesson. It’s a constant roller coaster of emotion.

Do you have any hobbies?

I’ve been restoring old furniture lately and that has been eye opening, and fun. It is a new skill I never thought I’d acquire, but has been very enlightening.

What is your favorite scent? Why?

My favorite scent is honeysuckle. It reminds me of home.

What is your favorite color? Why?

My favorite color is blue. It is calming and nurturing, it envelops you.

What is your favorite food? Why?

I love spaghetti—well anything Italian. Spaghetti is easy to make and is filling. And, well, brings back some pretty great memories!

What is your favorite music? Why?

I love a good salsa mix. It has a great mix, and now that I kind of know how to dance to it. Well, kind of I guess is a bit generous. Hopefully, he and I will have a chance to do a little more dancing in the future, but that’s a bit more than I want to divulge in a simple question like this.

Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.

A movie stub from The American Sniper, a lip gloss “blushing bride”, a few loose Euros, Pacific Cool Breeze hand sanitizer, and Stress-fix body lotion

What are the last three books you read?

The Professor and the Madman, The Atonement Child, and No Longer a Slumdog,

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

A man. Many women tend to be catty and competitive with each other. Men will help take care of you…usually. Plus, well, now there’s only one person I want to be stranded with and if you’ve read my story, you certainly know who and why!

Where can we learn more about Valerie’s Vow?

From Second Wind Publishing:!product/prd15/2506087281/valerie’s-vow and Amazon

Interview with Ashley M. Carmichael, Author of “Valerie’s Vow”

91B1ylE3rmL._SL1500_What is your book about?

My debut novel is Valerie’s Vow. It is a story of loss, love, and loyalty but more than anything it is a story of friendship. Though it’s been six months since she has lost her best friend to cancer, Valerie spends the majority of the novel dealing with her emotions over this traumatic loss. She meets and reacquaints herself with men from her past and present as a way to figure out where her future lies. As a romance writer, I enjoy having my main character find love, but as an inspirational writer the lessons that she learns, particularly about life, love and friendship are what I truly value.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

In November of 2013 a dear friend of mine passed away. She had spent several years battling a very aggressive form of breast cancer. She was in inspiration to everyone who knew her as a teacher, mentor, and most importantly as a friend. While Sarah and I are not as close as the characters in the book, she was still the inspiration for the story and I did my best to honor her legacy while writing.

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

There is a lot of me in this book, but don’t be mistaken—I am not Valerie. I did use some of my experiences to help me write (like how I met my best friend, the fact that I’m a teacher, some of my Sunday School Lessons and students). What is entertaining is talking to the people who know me after having read the book. One of the girls in my Sunday School class read the book and came to me and said, “Can I guess who is who?” referring to the kids in the class vs. our class. We laughed, because while the kids were not one and the same, she was pretty spot on with her guesses about who I’d based who on. So the next question she, and everyone asks, is who are the guys?

Like almost all characters, they are based on men who either have been in my life or are in my life in some capacity or another, but to what extent and who they are…well, I think that’s better left a mystery.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

I love Cooper, and as far as I can tell, most people who read the book love him too. He’s a likeable character because of all that he does for Valerie, but also because he’s somewhat mysterious. And who doesn’t like that?

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

The message can be summed up in a quote from the novel: “Go, do, see. Don’t spend your life in the shadows of someone else, the past or even the future. Just go live. But make sure you do it for God, because in the end He’s the only one worth living for. You are beautiful, you are special, and your life is worth living.”

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

Since I first wrote this book I have joined Winston Salem Writers, attended many writing programs and classes, joined a critique group and even joined a group via to focus on The Artist’s Way. By increasing my networking, I have become a better writer and overall a better person. I love this new community I have become a part of and, to be frank, it has made me more confident as a writer.

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

When I’m in my writing peaks I strive to write about 2000 words per day. To keep myself motivated, I will often keep a spreadsheet to track the number of words I am writing. However, I came to realize that writing was only a part of the ultimate process and it wasn’t and shouldn’t be my sole focus. I also needed to turn some of my energy into editing. I now strive for at least 250 words minimum per day and a least a little time editing or re-writing as well. I try to do some writing in the morning, as this is when I am at my peak intellectually. As a morning person I know this is crucial to my success. Working full time as a teacher, this is not always possible, so as long as I continue to make sure I do some writing every day I feel as though I am on track.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently editing 3 novels. They are written, beginning to end, but need a lot of cosmetic work. Hopefully they will be ready for publication in the next few months. I’m also in the process of finishing a YA book, I’m not sure it’s my genre, but it’s been an interesting adventure writing and I look forward to discussing it as a part of the critique process. I’m also starting the research process for a historical based on the set of letters my grandmother gave me. They are from my great-grandmother’s ex-fiancé. There’s definitely a story in there and I look forward to this adventure too.

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

I have characters who are constantly talking to me and swirling around in my head. Sometimes I dream them. Right now, I think I could count about 7 stories, each with individual characters. At times, I seem like I’m being anti-social…but really I’m creating new societies. I’m glad I have such supportive friends and family, otherwise they may have had me committed a long time ago.

What writer influenced you the most?

I would have to say the C.S. Lewis is one of the most influential writers. I got lost in a wardrobe when I was a kid and I’m never really sure I ever came out. I could probably quote him all day long, but when I’m writing I think about one in particular: “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again; even now.” Because that is what writing is to me—returning to my inner child who is searching for answers in a story that I can both connect to and relive over and over and that is what makes me glad.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing?

Power through to the end. Writing to the end of a story is always the hardest, but once you’ve come to the end, it’s like you can suddenly breathe. It’s a kind of validation. I’d spent the greatest part of my writing life prior to this novel writing, editing and rewriting the first few chapters so I could never get past or even to the climax sometimes. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to write, it was just that I couldn’t get past the unperfected parts to get to the end. Once I stopped trying to perfect it along the way and just powered through to the end it was as if I’d opened a floodgate and suddenly I was able to move forward with more direction and focus than ever before.

If you could have lunch with one person, real or fictitious, who would it be?

I’d want to have lunch with Jo March. She is a brilliant, strong writer (yes, I know she’s fictitious, but she’s based on Louisa May Alcott, so maybe that’s who I really want to have lunch with) who faced derision and rejection and not only overcame it but rose above and conquered those who told her she couldn’t succeed. She turned down a life of comfort (Laurie) for adventure, or at least for a life that would teach her more. And then she opened a non-traditional school for boys and she mothered and taught them about life, love and living. She would be an amazing person to know.

Where can we learn more about Valerie’s Vow?

From Second Wind Publishing:!product/prd15/2506087281/valerie’s-vow and Amazon