Chatting with the Pros: Interview with romance author Maya Rodale

chatting with the pros

Today on “Chatting with the Pros” my guest author is a historical romance novelist, Maya Rodale. She writes strong female characters who stand up for themselves and still manage to maintain their feminity. Her books have appeared on the USA Today bestselling list and have been published in several languages. Her novel, The Wicked Wallflower won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best historical hero, and What a Wallflower Wants was labeled as a romance novel for the #MeToo movement. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to chat with her today and learn her thoughts on romance, female authors and women’s place in the world.

Maya Rodale Framed

Kaye: Your stories favor strong heroines for your main characters. Do you think romance is usually a female domain?
Maya: Romance has been traditionally a female domain, though 18% of readers today are men! I would love to see more men openly reading romance, but I also hope it never loses it’s focus on the female experience and the empowerment it brings to so many women in publishing. 
Kaye: Perusing your website and checking out your book covers, one gets the impression that your romances are a bit risqué. How steamy can you get before you cross over into the land of erotica? Do your books cross that line?
Maya: Romance Writers of America provides the best succinct definition of erotica: “Romance novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline.”
So it’s not a matter of how much sex is portrayed but how the sex engages with the plot. My historicals definitely have some steamy sexy times on the page, but I wouldn’t classify them as true erotica.
The Tatooed Duke
Kaye:  How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?
Maya: A title needs agreement from both the publishing team and myself; sometimes the title I pitch is the one we go with. Sometimes the story is nearly done and we’re frantically brainstorming at the last minute to find something that works.
Fun behind the scenes story: I wrote The Tattooed Duke thinking the title would be Brave New Lord which I LOVE but my pub team thought The Tattooed Duke had better sales potential, so that’s the one we went with.
Kaye: Your books feature strong female heroines, who stand up for themselves and what they believe against the men around them and societal beliefs. Why do you think your readers relate to them?
Maya: I think this is the experience for most women: we are constantly having to stand up and assert our humanity. I like to think that my heroines help real women have the courage and confidence to do this. And for those readers who don’t feel it’s necessary, I hope they see that it is.

Kaye: What are some tips for writing strong female characters in a time period when there weren’t many to be found, and making them believable?

Maya: The more I dig deeper in my research of history the more I believe that this is a myth. Women have always gotten out of the house and done great, wonderful, terrible things; but it hasn’t been recorded, or their stories haven’t been told, or (male) historians deemed it unimportant. Women have never been boring, silent bystanders to the world. 

I think we’ve been (maybe deliberately) shut out of history books and as a result we don’t know the long and full history of women being active participants in the world. Start with a look at the New York Times Overlooked Obituaries, for example. 

The problem isn’t that strong historical female characters aren’t accurate, the problem is that we have been made to believe they are. And in the name of “historical accuracy” we unwittingly perpetuate that in our novels. 

My tip for writers: find those stories, write those stories! And then explain your research in the author’s note. And my advice for readers: check your biases and preconceived notions and let yourself get swept up in the story. You may just learn something new about history too. 

Kaye: What’s the biggest challenge in writing romance for you?
Maya: Protecting my time! It’s my day job and still there are so many demands on my time and energy that make it hard to focus on my books.
Dangerous Books for GirlsKaye: You wrote a nonfiction book titled Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained. Can you explain briefly why romance has a bad rep and it is justified?
Maya: Romance novels have a bad reputation because they’re so powerful—they are the only art that consistently portray women triumphing in a world that doesn’t want women to triumph. Mocking them as “trashy books” or just “mommy porn” or “unrealistic” is a way to diminish their power. If we valued women and women’s work more, we’d value romance novels more!
Kaye: How many different countries and languages are your books sold in?
Maya: Many! A list of covers for foreign editions is on my website at www.mayarodale.com/books
Kaye: What’s the most fun about writing romance?
Maya: I do love being the all powerful Goddess of fictional worlds. And not having to get dressed up for work 😉
Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a romance story?
Maya: The development of the romantic relationship! And the happy ever after, of course.
Kaye: Where does inspiration for your stories come from?
Maya: Story inspiration is everywhere if you open your heart and mind to it! Right now I’m finding the New York Times “overlooked obituaries” of historical women to be a gold mine of story ideas for historical romance. I just need more time to write them…
Some Like It ScandalousKaye: You have a new book in your Gilded Age series coming out in June, Some Like it Scandalous. Would you like to tell us about it?
Maya: Longtime enemies embark on a sham engagement and end up falling in love! The only way for society darling Theo Prescott to survive his most recent, unspeakably outrageous scandal is marry someone respectable. Someone sensible. Someone like Daisy Swan. But she has plans that do not include a loveless marriage to anyone. Instead, she aspires to sell cosmetics that she has created. But this brainy scientist needs a smooth talking charmer’s flair for words and eye for beauty to make it a success. Before long, Daisy and Theo are trading kisses. And secrets. And discovering that despite appearances, they might be the perfect couple after all.
Read more at www.mayarodale.com/scandalous
Kaye: As a romance writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?
Maya: I do A LOT of research. Everything from reading biographies, non-fiction, histories, other novels to trips to the library or visits to museums. Or just googling. There’s general research to do about the time period—for example, I had to learn all about the Gilded Age (1860-1900) in Manhattan for my new seriesThe Gilded Age Girls Club.And then there’s research necessary for each particular book. For the next book in the series, Some Like It Scandalous I had to do a deep dive into the invention and popularization of cosmetics, since the heroine launches a cosmetics company with the hero.
Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring romance authors?
Maya: My best advice I think comes from Nora Roberts: “Ass in the chair. Words on the page.” Also, my friend once told me “If you’re not getting a rejection once a week you’re not trying hard enough.” Brutal, but effective. 


I want to thank Maya for joining me today and sharing her views with my readers. I think some may walk away with a different perspective on the romance genre. You can learn more about Maya on her very creative website: http://www.mayarodale.com/ and on her Amazon Author page, her Goodreads Author page, or on her Fantastic Fiction Author page.


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with science fiction and fantasy author Kevin J. Anderson

chatting with the pros

My guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” is an award winning and best selling author who has written countless novels and over 56 national and international best sellers. A majority of his works fall into the science fiction or fantasy genres, but he writes across many genres. In a recent introduction for “The Big Idea: Kevin J. Anderson“, an article about the latest release in his short fiction collection, Selected Stories, John Scalzi calls him, “one of the most prolific authors working today”, and one look at his immense book list on Amazon would leave no doubt that this is an accurate assessment. (You can find my review of selected stories here). He’s written a lot of books, 56 of which have hit the national and international best seller lists, and he’s been writing for many years, and I’m sure we will find his knowledge and experiences enlightening. Please help me welcome Kevin J. Anderson.

KJA

Kaye: You have written at least 56 national or international best sellers. What makes a good story in your mind?

Kevin: People want to read a good story with an exciting/interesting plot, a well-developed setting, and engaging characters. Make it a story you WANT to read, with clear prose and action. I don’t like muddled, glacial-paced stories where the prose is just too precious.

Kaye: Why science fiction and fantasy? Why not western or romance or mystery? What’s the attraction?

Kevin: Well, I’ve also written plenty of mysteries, and some of my work has been set in the old west, and most good stories have a strong romance component (though I don’t write category Romance or Westerns). I like to tell an interesting story, and I move around a lot among genres, even though I am primarily known for science fiction or fantasy.  I grew up in a very mundane small town in rural Wisconsin, and I was captivated by SF/F from an early age, because it showed my imagination what was possible. I wanted to go to exotic places, whether they were filled with aliens or dragons. Science fiction took me to a much wider universe.  (And as a skinny, nerdy kid with glasses and a bad haircut, “romance” wasn’t much of a possibility, so I stuck with spaceships and swords.)

Kaye: You wrote several Star Wars and X-Files novels. Is it difficult to immerse yourself in someone else’s settings and characters enough to pick up a thread and run with it in the same tone and writing style? How do you go about getting yourself into that mindset?

Kevin: It’s no more difficult than trying to immerse yourself in the old west or ancient Japan for a historical. A writer’s job is to absorb the story, characters, voice, and setting. I was already a big fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Files, and Dune, and I enjoyed going to work in those universes. In each instance, I would completely surround myself with the property — whether that meant watching the Star Wars films over and over again, or the episodes of the X-Files, or repeatedly rereading DUNE and its sequels. You pick up the manner of speaking, the “look and feel” of the world, and you make it into your own story.

Kaye: You’ve done several collaborations, including books of the Dune series, with Brian Herbert and the Clockwork books which you collaborated with Neil Peart, drummer for the band Rush. What is the biggest challenge when collaborating on a book?

Kevin: You both need to have the same vision for the book—which means a LOT of talking and brainstorming ahead of time—and you both need the same work ethic (so each partner puts in the same amount of time and effort…a tortoise and hare collaboration will just cause a lot of friction), and you need to be flexible. There’s never only ONE way to write a sentence or describe a scene. I would never want to collaborate with a diva!

Kaye: Do you belong to any writing organizations? If so, which ones? Do you feel your membership in these writing organizations have been helpful in your writing successes? How so?

Kevin: I belong to the Horror Writers Association (and edited three anthologies for them, the BLOOD LITE series), IAMTW (International Association of Media Tie-In Writers), and SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, although some of their recent decisions have made me so upset that I would not renew my membership if I wasn’t already a lifetime member.  The problem with such organizations is that you can become to engrossed in the politics and bickering that you forget your real purpose, which is to WRITE.

KJA Series

Kaye: You’ve written several series, including Saga of the Seven SunsDan Shamble P.I. and the Clockwork books? Are any of your books stand alone? Why do you lean toward series?

Kevin: I’ve written many standalone books. The one I just finished last week, a vampire/serial-killer thriller STAKE, that’s not part of a series. But I like to tell big stories, and once you’ve done all the effort of world building and character building an entire universe, you want to spend some time. To me, a trilogy is perfect — a beginning, middle, and end, with enough room to tell the story and describe the world in all its glory. Pragmatically speaking, it’s a much better decision commercially to build a series, because readers will want more and more, and each new book will help sell copies of previous volumes.  Can you imagine if A.C. Doyle had stopped after writing only one Sherlock Holmes story?

KJA Stand Alones

Kaye: Science fiction authors create whole worlds from their imaginations, often with new languages created in their own minds, and you have created many. How do you go about creating a new language?

Kevin: Hmm, creating languages?  I’m not really a linguist and I don’t know that I’ve developed full languages (though I do use weird words).  I just make up the words by making what seem to be the appropriate sounds, linguistic flavors, scary sounds for monsters or villains, softer or ethereal sounds for pleasant things.  I can’t really explain it more rigorously than that.

Kaye: Your work has won many prestigious awards. Which award are you most proud of? Why?

Kevin: Awards are awards, and it’s nice to have them, but I really prefer READERS. That’s what makes your writing worthwhile. It’s not terribly prestigious, but the award I value most is one I received very early in my career, when I received a trophy with an engraved brass plate and everything, naming me “The Writer with No Future” because I could produce more rejection slips than any other writer at an entire conference. To me, that didn’t mean I was a failure as a writer or that my work was awful—it proved that I was more persistent, that I kept trying, kept getting better, and never gave up.  I still have that trophy.

Kaye: In addition to being an author, you and your wife, Rebecca Moesta, are publishers at Wordfire Press, but originally you were traditionally published. Why the switch to being your own publisher after being traditionally published for so many years?

Kevin: Survival. No choice. The publishing industry has undergone a tremendous upheaval equivalent to the Industrial Revolution, and I could either be a mammal and evolve or stay a dinosaur and go extinct. I am still traditionally published (four books released in 2018, in fact, and a new 3-book contract from Tor Books for an epic fantasy series), but I also have a lot of backlist titles that were out of print and my fans wanted to read them. So I started releasing them myself with all the innovations of new technology.  It’s just another alternative.

Kaye: What does Wordfire press offer as a publisher for other authors?

Kevin: We are nimble and flexible, and we can produce books and get them to market far quicker than a traditional publisher can manage. But when you work with an indie publisher, or if you do it yourself, then you have to do all the work, all aspects of it.  It’s another income stream and another way to get your book in front of your audience.

Kaye: Is Wordfire taking submissions? What type of fiction is Wordfire looking for?

Kevin: Not really, I’m afraid. When we are open, we’re looking for established writers who don’t need their hands held, writers who already have their own platforms, fanbases, and marketing efforts because we have to rely on them to do the work that a whole department at a traditional publisher would do.

Kaye: You recently signed on as an adjunct professor at Western State Colorado University and you are a finalist candidate for the director of their Certificate in Publishing program. What prompted you to venture into the world of academia?

Kevin: Actually, I’m now a full professor and I run their Masters program in Publishing. I will start the first group of MA students this coming summer. There’s a LOT of paperwork and bureaucracy in academia!  I have taught writing and publishing quite often at countless writers’ conferences and conventions, most notably our own Superstars Writing Seminars, which is just hitting its tenth year.  Becoming a professor and teaching at a beautiful university in the Colorado mountains is great, offers a little more stability than freelance writing, and (the bane of all freelancers) it gives me health insurance and benefits I wouldn’t otherwise get.

Kaye: Any writing pet peeves?

Kevin: I don’t like artsy-fartsy stuff, dense prose and opaque plots.  Tell me a great story with a cool setting and interesting characters!

Kaye: Creating characters, developing plot, world building – what is the most challenging part of writing for you?

Kevin: Those are all fun, but if I had to choose I would say I have most difficulty with building rich, fleshed-out characters. Plotting and worldbuilding—that’s what I excel in.

Thanks to Kevin for sharing with us today. He’s given us food for thought with some really great answers. You can find more about Wordfire Press here: https://wordfirepress.com/.  Kevin and his wife, Rebecca Moesta, head up the Superstars Writing Seminars each year in February, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for those interested in learning the business of writing. If you’d like to become a member of the Superstars Tribe, or would just like more information about Superstars, visit the folowing link: superstarswriting.com. Visit the links below to learn more about Kevin J. Anderson and his works.

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J-Anderson/e/B000AQ0072/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1545798018&sr=1-1-fkmr1

Wordfire Press: http://www.wordfire.com/

Blog: http://kjablog.com/

Join us next month on “Chatting with the Pros”, when I’ll be chatting with romance author Maya Rodale. You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.


Interview with fantasy author Laurel McHargue

Georgetown Christmas Fair 2018

I’m talking today with fantasy author Laurel McHargue, a woman with a lot of energy.  She’s written eight books including her Waterwight fantasy series and an adult fairytale, The Hare, Raising Truth, she hosts her own podcast, Alligator Preserves, is a former teacher and active community member, networks and promotes her works online, and finds time attend writing events for face to face interactions with her fans and potential new readers, as well as other authors. Even through email the positive energy radiates from this author. I could give you a lengthy fanfare on how impressed I am with this lady, but I think it’s better to let you see for yourselves. So, without further ado, please welcome Laurel Mchargue.


Kaye: Would you talk about your author’s journey? How did you come to come to be a writer?

Laurel: When I was quite young, I learned I could get attention by telling stories. As the fourth of five girls, I was low on the proverbial totem pole when it came to feeling important, so I had to be creative. I think my wild dreams helped, though eventually, my parents would roll their eyes when I’d come down in the morning with an “unbelievable” dream I’d just have to share. Who knew a dream would launch my first fantasy series? I didn’t then, but hey, I was just a kid!

Fast forward through a lifetime of unique experiences that people were curious about—I was frequently told, “You should really write about that!”—and I finally made the decision to make writing my career. I always did well in classes that required writing, and there were teachers along the way who encouraged me greatly.

I think I always knew I’d write stories someday, but until I made the commitment, it was always a “someday” kind of dream.

Kaye: What can you tell me about your YA fantasy series, Waterwight, and specifically about your Waterwight Breathe which will be released on March 15th?

Laurel: Waterwight started with a dream in which I was running away from bad guys through a dilapidated town, and I came up against a large body of water. The only way across it was to fly, and so I flew. Halfway across, however, I doubted my ability to make it to the other side and started to fall. A flying frog appeared and said, “Grab hold!” and I grasped his leg. He got me to the other side and then died in my arms. The dream had other elements I was able to use in my story as well. Anyway, I shared the dream with my author friend Carol Bellhouse (because I wasn’t living at home anymore!) and she told me I needed to write a story around it.

At the time, I’d never written fantasy, and the thought of turning a dream into a story thrilled and terrified me! Over the course of a year my story unfolded chapter by chapter, and by the time I got to the end, I wasn’t ready to leave my characters. I knew there was more for them to do, and there were questions I needed to answer. So, Waterwight Flux answers questions, develops characters, and sets up more challenges for Celeste, the orphaned protagonist.

I chose to write Waterwight Breathe, the final book, in first person present tense perspective after reading The Hunger Games. I love the immediacy of the thoughts and actions, and having the last book narrated by the protagonist seemed like the perfect way to end the series. I know it’s unconventional to have different points of view in the same series, but my life decisions have frequently been unconventional, and I have no regrets!

Waterwight BreatheWaterwight Breathe is available on March 15th, and it might be my favorite work yet. I couldn’t wait to get to the ending, the only part of the book I actually planned!

Kaye: You received three CIPA EVVY awards for the first book in the series. That’s quite an accomplishment. What is it about this book that makes it EVVY Award worthy?

Laurel: The CIPA EVVY awards are highly competitive, and each book is evaluated with a rubric—not against other submissions. The judges look at everything from cover design to editing to plot and character development. Waterwight is a fantasy adventure with mythical and mystical elements and a female protagonist; it received praise from Kirkus Reviews and many readers. I’d like to think those readers and the EVVY Awards judges felt compelled to keep reading at the end of each chapter. I had fun ending most of my chapters with cliffhangers!

The first book is also divided into three parts, so readers get to see what’s happening from different perspectives in each part. As a bonus, and because I’m a former English teacher, I added a synonym glossary and questions for discussion in the back of each book in the series. I don’t dumb down my prose for YA readers.

I used 99designs.com for my cover design and couldn’t be happier! The same artist created my covers for all three books in the series. Also, I paid a professional proofreader to ensure there weren’t any annoying typos or misspellings.

Kaye: Your novel Miss? is based on your own experience as a first-year teacher and earned the IndieReader Approved Award. Tell me about this book.

Laurel: I’m incredibly fortunate to have friends who are authors too. In 2012, one of those friends, Stephanie Spong, challenged me to do NaNoWriMo with her. I had never heard of such a beast! Well, being the competitive individual I’ve been told I am, I looked into it, and after thinking the 30-day personal challenge was ludicrous, I signed up on October 31st!

This was about six years after my first year of teaching 7th grade English in a doomed middle school. As a resigned Army Major, I honestly thought teaching 7th grade Language Arts would be a breeze. Oh…Em…Gee! I was very wrong.

Because I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing each day, at the end of the day I’d create a bullet-point list of everything that happened. I walked into NaNoWriMo with a year’s worth of those bullet points and had all the material I needed to write my first novel.

I remember telling my students, “Someday, I’m going to write a book about you all!” I said it as a humorous threat, and every class would be filled with hands going up and exclamations of, “Oh, Miss! Can I be in it?”

Although I couldn’t put all 130 students in “Miss?”, I meshed together many of them and included actual events from that year. I say it’s “loosely fictionalized” because of that, and because I added some romance and a scary situation that didn’t actually happen, but could have.

Kaye: Could you talk about your adult fairytale, The Hare, Raising Truth?

Laurel: The same friend who challenged me to NaNoWriMo challenged me to a 3-Day Novel Writing Contest! Stephanie Spong discovered the contest and really wanted to do it, so what choice did I have? (smiley face).

I sent my husband away for Labor Day Weekend (official contest dates), stocked my house with food and beverages, and set up little workout stations around the house. Stephanie came to my house ready to write for 72 hours and we agreed on rules: She could have the dining room, I had the “Red room” (that may have influenced my writing!), and no talking unless we happened to bump into one another in the kitchen.

We were very good girls!

As I enjoy challenging myself with different genres (and contests with crazy time limits), I decided to try something completely different for this contest. “I’m going to write it in 2nd person perspective,” I told Stephanie, and she warned me about the difficulty. Bonus, I thought. I also thought I’d write something light and funny.

Something happened, however, when I heard Rod Serling’s voice from The Twilight Zone in my head (in the Red room). My story turned darkly comedic quite fast, and there was nothing I could do about it . . . I had to see where it would take me.

I completed The Hare, Raising Truth—a Grimm’s Fairy Tale/Twilight Zone mashup—in about 38 hours. It’s novella length, and it was an absolute blast to write. My husband read it when he returned from his banishment and said it’s the best thing I’ve written so far, and I’ve had many people ask, “How did you get into the head of a horny teenage boy so well?”

Well…it wasn’t that difficult!

Kaye: You have a podcast called Alligator Preserves. What is that about?

Laurel: I started my podcast Alligator Preserves—which is about storytelling and the human condition—for several reasons. I wanted to be able to narrate my own books, so my husband set me up with the equipment I’d need to do that (even after I banished him that Labor Day weekend!). Also, friends had suggested that many of my blog posts should be recorded, since blog posts tend to get buried and lost once they’re posted. I wanted to be able to “tell” stories as well as write them.

When I started recording, I realized I had a great set-up for interviewing other people who’ve “done things” too, so I started asking racers and Reiki practitioners and authors and challenge seekers if they’d like to share their stories. The response was overwhelming, and now I have a hard time figuring out how to fit them all into my own schedule while still having time to do my writing.

Recently, I’ve gone to a pay-for-service model for anyone with a book or product they’d like to promote. Creating a podcast with another person is a lot of work. I value the time I spend reading and researching (prior to the interview) and editing and posting to social media (post recording). I provide all the links to the audio and video I create to my interviewee for use on their social media as well. For authors, it’s another plank to add to their author platform!

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing fantasy?

Laurel: I can visualize scenes in my head so clearly, and most of them are fast-paced. The challenge is in slowing down my writing to help readers see what I’m seeing. Also, sometimes my writing is dream-like, and I have to find ways to convey that not-quite-real feeling.

That’s how multiple drafts help. I may blast through several chapters, totally believing that I’m conveying what my mind is seeing, and then I’ll have someone read them and they’ll say, “Huh? What just happened here? I don’t get it”!

My challenge is usually in adding more to a scene rather than deleting. There’s always more an author can do to make their writing sing more clearly!

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing for you?

Laurel: I think many authors might say that writing “The End” upon completing a project is the most fun, and I won’t lie—a happy dance always follows—but really, the fun is in the little surprises that happen along the way. It’s the unexpected character that pops into my head while I’m walking the dog or the funny thing a character will say. I’m more of a “pantser” than a “planner,” so I’m surprised all the time!

2019 DPCC card

Sharing my work and having a fan say, “Wow! I loved that!” is another obvious fun part, but that’s after the writing is published. I brought my work to the 2018 Denver Comic Con and was blown away by the interaction I experienced with readers. I’ll attend the 2019 Denver Pop Culture Con (new name) this year with my completed trilogy and a new graphic novel! Now, that will be fun!

Kaye: Fantasy isn’t the only genre that you write in, and you hope to explore as many genres as possible throughout your writing career. What is your favorite genre to date?

Laurel: I’m horrible when it comes to “what’s your favorite” questions, but I’d have to say that I’m really enjoying short stories right now. I’ve entered several “flash fiction” contests with very short time limits, and being able to complete a project in a week or less exhilarates me!

I’m putting together a short story collection now. I’ve promised my Patreon patrons a new short story every month (which I narrate on my podcast Alligator Preserves) and when I’ve created enough, I’ll publish them and acknowledge my partons.

That said, many of my fans tell me they love my nonfiction blog posts. Once Waterwight Breathe is launched, my next big project will be a nonfiction piece based on my dad’s WWII letters. I hope to have a draft completed by the end of 2019!

Kaye: Where does your inspiration come from?

As Neil Gaiman said when asked where he got his ideas, “I make them up  . . . out of my head.” (http://www.neilgaiman.com/Cool_Stuff/Essays/Essays_By_Neil/Where_do_you_get_your_ideas%253F). But how does inspiration get into my head? It gets there from every sensory experience throughout my days and from the Technicolor dreams I’ve had since I was a child. Someone said dreams are your brain’s way of dealing with all the things bombarding your senses during the day, and when I remember my dreams, I can often link them to something that has happened, or something that’s been “on my mind.”

Real people and creatures inspire my characters as much as imaginary ones (and who says the bizarre creatures in my dreams aren’t “real”?). Old Man Massive, the mountain spirit in my Waterwight trilogy, was inspired by an outcropping of stone on Mt. Massive that looks like an old, bearded man. Names and superpowers were inspired by real people I’ve known or met while writing the series. Zoya, my tragic octopus, was inspired by a paddleboarding experience on Twin Lakes, as was Noor, my fire-breathing dragonfly. The whole series started with a crazy dream I shared with a friend. I see and find inspiration all around me.

People have asked me where I get my imagination from, and all I can say is that it must be a gift from the universe! It’s certainly not a “thing” you can buy, and I’m not even sure it’s a “thing” you can learn. I consider myself quite fortunate that I was born with an imaginative brain.

2019_Me and RangerKaye: What do you do when you’re not writing?

Laurel: When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing or I’m marketing my writing (sure wish I could clone myself for that task) or I’m reading or I’m recording a podcast episode or I’m cooking a yummy dinner or I’m brushing a pillow’s worth of hair from my German Shepherd or I’m cleaning out my sock drawer (because, where do all those socks come from?) or I’m swimming (several mornings per week, and not very fast) or I’m chatting with my friends or with one of my four sisters or I’m worrying about my sons (because I’m a mother) or I’m wondering how the day has passed so quickly. And other things, too.

Kaye: Hunting for Red Meat is a collection of memoir-style essays based on your own adventures hunting elk. When did you get the idea to make them a published collection?

Laurel: Several friends have told me how much they enjoy my blog posts, and one of them, Erin Sue Grantham (who also hunts), suggested I put them into a book. When I looked at putting them all in a book, I was overwhelmed by how many stories I had, and realized a book containing them all would be too big. So I thought about segregating them into topic areas.

After three years of hunting (and never filling a tag), I had plenty of hunting blog posts, so I decided to start there. Our oldest son, Nick, suggested it would be a “blook” a blog book, and I had fun coming up with the title.

I really thought I’d have a lot more sales by now with a title starting with “Hunt for Red…,” but alas, no. I honestly think many readers would enjoy it as it’s far more of an appreciation of the majesty of the wild outdoors than it is about hunting. I share my awe and my suffering, my adrenaline and my poetic moments.

My next “Blook” will probably be about our camping adventures.

Kaye: You have also published two books on Haiku. Do you have a special love for that poetry form? What is it that draws you to it?

Laurel: I love Haiku because—like a short story—they finish quickly. You have only seventeen syllables to play with, and it’s like completing a puzzle. Five-seven-five. That’s it.

Teaching grades 7-12 also gave me an appreciation for Haiku. When the word “poetry” comes from a teacher’s mouth, it’s generally followed by groans. Once a student learns how to count out syllables, though, and fit them into a “puzzle,” or a “math challenge,” for those more inclined toward that side of the brain, poetry suddenly becomes fun.

I was always amazed by the final products my students would create, boys as well as girls, and what fun it was to watch them tap on desktops or count on fingers while figuring out the syllabic pattern.

Haikus Can Amuse: 366 Haiku Starters “happened” after I dropped my cell phone into the ocean. Cell phones don’t like salt water. Anyway, I had a few weeks to kill before getting a new phone (I was away on vacation when it happened), and it was Leap Year, so I figured, why not come up with 366 first lines! I put that together as a gift journal for people who like filling in blanks and journaling just a little bit.

Hai CLASS ku is a spinoff of my cell-phone-debacle book, and it’s designed as a classroom workbook with a semester’s worth of haiku first lines (90) and space to draw a sketch and write a bit about inspiration. It’s also a great tool for substitute teachers.

Kaye: Which author or poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with? Why?

Laurel: Dead? Steinbeck. Why? Because I love his writing. Alive? Margaret Atwood. Why? Because I love her writing. So many tremendous authors, so, so, so little life to experience them all.

I want to thank Laurel for joining me and sharing a little about experiences and her work. You can learn more about both at the links below.

SoundCloud (Alligator Preserves podcast): https://soundcloud.com/user-564361489

iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/alligator-preserves/id1337322865?mt=2

Stitcher permanent show link: http://www.stitcher.com/s?fid=165314&refid=stpr

(this link is optimized for mobile and Twitter posts)

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Laurel-McHargue/e/B00INB9OO6

Blog link: http://leadvillelaurel.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeadvilleLaurel

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeadvilleLaurel

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leadvillelaurel/

LinkedIn: Laurel (Bernier) McHargue


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Paranormal Fiction Contest Brings Changes for Friday Reviews

Hugs for Authors

The entries are rolling in for the paranormal fiction contest and each one must be read. Stories good enough to recieve invitations to the anthology will also need to be edited. In order to accomodate a time budget for all this contest judging and anthology compilation activities in addition to my other life responsibilities, you can expect to see a few changes in the Friday Reviews.

One good change is we’ll be seeing more of Jeff Bowles. Last week he stepped in with a movie review of Glass that was brutally honest, but captivating. That review was so well recieved that he’s agreed to share a movie review with us on the third Monday of every month. His review of Glass was knowledgeable of the genre and written well enough to be mistakeing for one of the top critiques. If book reviews are hugs for authors, then Writing to be Read wants to hug the film industry, too. If you want to keep up on many of the latest movies, be sure to catch Jeff’s Movie Review (working title) each month.

I also plan to make two reviews each month instead of four, for books in the genre to go along with the monthly theme set by the genre the “Chatting with the Pros” guest author for the month. In February my guest author was nonfiction author Mark Shaw, so the February theme was nonfiction. My supporting author interview was with nature writer Susan J. Tweit and my supporting post was about my own nonfiction endeavor with the first post in my new bi-monthly series, “The Making of a Memoir“. My reviews were both of nonfiction books of different sub-genres: Mark Shaw’s How to Become a Published Author and a compilation of poetry artwork and writings about mental illness, the Letters of May anthology.

Science Fiction-Fantasy

March’s theme will be science fiction and fantasy, and the “Chatting with the Pros” guest author will be national and international best selling author Kevin J. Anderson. He’s written more best sellers than there is room to list here and I’m thrilled to have him on Writing to be Read.  My supporting post will be about my science fantasy series, Playground for the Gods. I’m still searching for a author for my supporting interview, but my reviews will be for Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories and Jordan Elizabeth’s Rogue Crystal. If you want to be sure not to miss any of these great science fiction and fantasy segments, be sure to sign up to email or follow on WordPress to get notification of new content.

ghosts-gespenter-spooky-horror-40748

Before I wrap this up, let me just remind you all that there is still time to submit your short story to the WordCrafter paranormal fiction contest. The deadline is April 1, so don’t drag your feet on this one. The entry fee is $5 and the winner will recive a $25 Amazon gift card and a guaranteed place in the WordCrafter Press paranormal short fiction. Email your submissions to kayebooth (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll send you confirmation instructions for submitting your entry fee.

Your submission can be any genre, but your story does have to include a paranormal element, so get those stories in. Other entries may be included in the anthology by special invitation, and all anthology authors will recieve a small royalty share if the book makes any money. You can get the full submission guidelines here: https://kayelynnebooth.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/short-fiction-contest-paranormal-stories-sought/

I do hope you’ll all join me in the exciting changes ahead. I’m always interested in reader feedback, so leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to see on Writing to be Read.

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Writing for a YA Audience: Interview with FANYA’S illustrator.

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

Every book is a collaboration. I work with editors, cover artists, and the publishers in so many ways behind the scenes.  A few years ago, I got to collaborate in a different way.  This time it was with a local illustrator, Aaron Siddall.  He had an idea for a YA steampunk story.  He would illustrate it and I would write it.  We created a world of magic and mysterious creatures, and the book was released on November 14, 2018 from CHBB Publishing.  *Hold for applause, wink wink.*

Fanya - cover

I would like to introduce Aaron Siddall to all of you. We met years ago when I joined the Utica Writers Club.

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JE: When did you join the Utica Writers Club?  What do you like most about it?

AS:  The Utica Writers Club and I came together in 2010. I do write and occasionally read from things that I am working on, but I mostly attend for the creative energy. That and I find that writers make for excellent friends.

JE: How long have you been an illustrator?

AS: I’ve had a passion for art all of my life, but I had my first professional experience as an illustrator in 2001 working for Kenzer & Company and White Wolf Studios, both as a freelancer.

JE: What are some of the projects you’ve illustrated?

AS: Its hard to narrow down to favorites. But several stand out, such as; High Towers and Strong Places: A Political History of Middle Earth by Tim Furnish and published by Oloris Publishing.  How Robin Hood Became an Outlaw by Learning A-Z. Ravenloft Denizens of Darkness by White Wolf Studios.

Young Dragon 1 JPEG

JE: How did you come up with the idea for FANYA?

AS:  In a discussion concerning Steampunk and Fairy tales that I was involved with, I compared elements from both in relation to our world in the late 1800s (the Victorian era). In doing so, Russia and Alaska at the time were in the midst of tumultuous times, as there are many marvelous Russian Fairy Tales and the legends of the First Nations have many similar legends, these elements came together naturally in my mind.

World Map JPEG

JE: How did you come up with the title?

AS: Fanya is a name that shows up in both Russian and Inuit and Aleut peoples.

JE: What do you hope people take away from FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD?

AS: Overall, I hope that people enjoy the action and magic of the setting. There is a great deal to think on and enjoy.

JE: What is your favorite illustration from the book?

AS: The one of Mr. Beisy on the doorstep in chapter two.

We hope you enjoy reading FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD.  Reviews and emails are always appreciated.  If you love the artwork as much as I do, merchandise is available here.

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Interview with nature author Susan J. Tweit

susanj.tweit_

My guest today is an author, nature lover and plant ecologist. Her books include memoirs, beautifully illustrated travel books, nature guides, and even children’s books, but they all have strong ties with nature. Her books reveal connections with nature and life that have not been pondered or may have been overlooked in our everyday lives. Her books have won the ForeWord Book of the Year, the Colorado Book Award, and she is a five time recipient of Colorado Author’s League Award. With a background in science and plant ecology, she expertly weaves her natural environment into her writings, illustrating how all things interact and connect. Let me introduce creative nonfiction author, Susan J. Tweit.

Kaye: You are a female author who champions the natural environment. Do you identify most as a feminist, a naturalist or an environmentalist?

Susan: All of the above. I grew up in a family of naturalists and scientists; restoring everyday nature is my way of leaving the world a better place. And I work in two fields where women are still second-class citizens in so many ways: science and writing. So am a feminist just be participating in those fields as a woman.

Kaye: On your website you claim that you taught yourself to write after you realized that you enjoyed the stories told by the data more than you did doing the research. How does one teach oneself to write?

Susan: I don’t know how other people teach themselves to write creatively, but for me, as a scientist trained to eschew personal opinions and emotions, and to be extremely parsimonious with descriptive adverbs and adjectives, I found my writing voice in reading the works of writers whose works I admire. I read Ann Zwinger and Terry Tempest Williams, Barry Lopez and Kim Stafford, Brenda Peterson and Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko and Denise Chávez, Robert Pyle and Gary Paul Nabhan, Sharman Apt Russell and Barbara Kingsolver, and so many others.

As I read, I thought about the mechanics of how each writer told their stories (whether fiction or essays), how they introduced subjects and characters, where they got personal and where they stepped back, how they described landscape and culture, how they used words and language… I tried out techniques and styles until I found my own voice, which has continued to evolve through twelve books and hundreds of essays, articles, and columns for newspapers and magazines.

Kaye: Connections are a common theme in many of your works. Can you talk a little about those?

Susan: As a plant ecologist, I am fascinated by the relationships and interrelationships that form community, whether the human community, or what I call “the community of the land,” the interwoven communities of species—from tiny microbes to gigantic redwood trees—that make life on Earth possible. Who loves who, who eats who, who sleeps with or pollinates who, who can’t stand who… All of those relationships weave the fabric of Life with a capital L. Without them we would not exist, and we have so much to learn about the connections that are vital to this planet. I just collaborated with science illustrator Samantha Peters on “Natural Partners,” a feature for WILDFLOWER Magazine on plants and the animals they rely on. It’s up on the internet here: https://www.wildflower.org/magazine/fauna/natural-partners (The print version took the cover of the magazine, and it’s really gorgeous!)

Kaye: Writing seems to be a way of life for you, and your love for nature is woven into almost everything you do. You have a background as a plant biologist and most of your books offer a perspective on nature and the environment, and you call your books love letters “to the earth and its living web of lives”. If you could convey one message to your readers, what would it be?

Susan: Get outside and get to know nature nearby. Learn even a handful of your neighbors in the world of plants and animals and you’ll never be bored. Nature is vital to our health and wellbeing—it’s the best antidote to stress I know of, the closest source of inspiration and renewal, and it doesn’t require a prescription or training. And it’s free!

Kaye: Besides writing and ecological restoration projects, what are your favorite things to do?

Susan: I’m an outdoors person, so I love taking long walks in the arroyo near my home, hiking with friends, and setting out on long road trips to see this amazing continent. At home, I tend a small garden of native wildflowers and other plants chosen to provide habitat for songbirds and pollinators, cook elaborate dinners for family and friends, and read. I’m an omnivorous reader, which leads into your next questions…

Kaye: You’ve written three memoirs about your life experiences. What makes an experience worthy to become a memoir?

Susan: Memoir is a way of distilling what our own lives and experiences have to offer others. What makes an experience worthy of memoir is partly whether we can find a way of telling the story that is compelling to others (that is, to a wider audience than our close friends and family!). It might be that we lived through a critical part of history, or our personal journey is exceptional in some way, or simply that we figure out how to relate our very ordinary story in a way that offers some universal wisdom about being human. Both of my published memoirs—Walking Nature Home; and Barren, Wild, and Worthless: Living in the Chihuahuan Desert—taught me about how to tell a story, how show the way we grow and change over time, and how to pick and choose telling detail. Each one presented different challenges, and the memoir I am working on now is challenging me in new ways. Telling my personal story may be my greatest learning experience as a writer!

Kaye: Would you tell us about your Write & Retreat Workshops?

Susan: They are an immersion in writing, in learning place and story, and in the inner work that is the source of our creativity. Each one includes hands-on writing and workshop time, as well as time to retreat and nurture our inner selves. Each one is set in some extraordinary place chosen to inspire us, with time spend exploring that place. I don’t have any W&R workshops planned this year, but next year I may offer one set near Yellowstone National Park, that place of wildness and wonders.

Kaye: You are a member of Story Circle NetworkWomen Writing the Westand Colorado Author’s League. How are these organizations beneficial to you as a writer?

Susan: I am also a member of Wyoming Writers. Belonging to at least one professional writing organization is critical to writing: they offer education, resources, and, most importantly. community. Writing is an inherently solitary activity: pulling words from deep within, honing them into stories, and then offering the work of our hearts to the world is perilous. Finding a community of fellow sufferers… uh, writers, is essential to maintaining our sanity, growing in the craft, and getting published.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Susan: Besides leaving behind a paycheck, benefits, and job security to chase words and stories? Hmm… It’s hard to choose just one. Kayaking with sea turtles in the Sea of Cortez off Baja California? Learning about how to blow up dams to restore a river and its salmon run? Dancing with a Native American community to celebrate the return of those salmon? Watching a grizzly bear mom teach her twin cubs how to dig and eat spring-beauty bulbs in a meadow in Yellowstone National Park? Walking alone through some of the wildest country in the Lower 48 states, carrying all I needed on my back to listen to myself? Tending my husband and the love of my life through his death from brain cancer and then figuring out how to write how to survive loss? Seeing monarch butterflies return to a restored patch of urban nature? I’ve been fortunate to experience miracles and wonders all along the way.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What can readers expect in the future from Susan J. Tweit?

Susan: I’m working on The Climate Victory Garden, a book about how gardens can help grow The Green New Deal and slow climate change. It’s another chapter in my life-long quest to leave this world in better shape than I found it by restoring nature nearby and our connection to the green and living world.

Many thanks to Susan for sharing with us today. You can learn more about Susan J.Tweit and her work by visiting the following links:

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Susan-J.-Tweit/e/B000AQ53RY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1547778739&sr=1-1

Website: http://susanjtweit.com/

Join us next Monday, when I’ll begin a new bi-monthly blog series, “His Name Was Michael”, which will chronicle the stages of writing a memoir as I work through them for my own memoir of the same name, telling the story of my son’s death and my own grief process. This first post will talk about the prewriting stage for memoir.

 

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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with Women’s Fiction Author Barbara Chepaitis

chatting with the pros

In January, Writing to be Read is celebrating women’s fiction and female authors. You may have caught my Interview with Loretta Miles Tollefson two weeks ago, or my post about the history of female authorship last week. In continuation of this monthly theme,  I’m pleased to welcome a woman who authors science fiction and women’s fiction as my first guest for this new monthly series, Chatting with the Pros. Barabara Chepaitis is a traditionally published author of both science fiction and women’s fiction, and she’s very familiar with the issues that surround being a woman author in today’s publishing industry. Let’s see what she has to say.

barbara chepaitis

Kaye: What defines women’s fiction? Is it the subject matter, female protagonists, or the manner in which women are portrayed?

Barbara: In my experience, women’s fiction is defined by the publisher, who wants to have a specific place to put a book in a bookstore. For me, the difference between my science fiction and my ‘women’s fiction’ was what name they used.  When I write science fiction, they want me to use my initials to hide that I’m a girl.  When I write women’s fiction, they want to use my name, to prove I’m a girl.

Since I’ve never written a novel that doesn’t have a female protagonist, it’s clear to me that this isn’t the defining aspect. Other than that, I think the definition is kind of the way Dr. Who describes time – wibbly wobbly.

Kaye: What draws you to women’s fiction?

Barbara: I don’t know that I am drawn to women’s fiction.  I’m a feminist, for sure, but I never set out to write any particular genre.  I just get an idea for a character and story, then tell it.  If they happen to be female, that’s because I’ve known some fascinating women, with very complex lives.

Kaye: Do you think it is tougher  female authors today, or has digital and self-publishing evened the playing field for women in the publishing industry?

Barbara: It’s always been more difficult for women, in every field of endeavor we have in our culture.  There’s so many many ways to block women. First, you can just not hire (or publish, or pay) them.  Second, you can let them do the work, but not acknowledge the work they’ve done, attributing it to others. Only time will tell if digital and independent publishing will change that kind of move.  Being cynical, I guess that women will have to continue to fight for their place.  But that’s just me, being cynical.

Kaye: Romance usually has female protags. Why is it not considered as women’s fiction?

the amberBarbara: The quick answer – because the narrative arc primarily follows a trajectory of romance. I know that when I’ve written material that has a strong romance (as in The Amber) but has something else as it’s narrative arc (coming of age, self-discovery, overcoming demons, etc.) then it isn’t seen as romance. For instance, there’s some pretty strong romantic properties to the whole Jaguar series, but she’s primarily dealing with criminals and crime.

 

Kaye: What makes a good story?

Barbara: The answer to that varies pretty wildly, depending on who you ask. For my husband, a good story is often one of a hero who makes the ultimate sacrifice for a cause. He loves Spartacus, Saving Private Ryan, and so on.  For me, a story of a hero who overcomes incredible obstacles to reach a goal that serves others, or creates a new understanding of life, is always entrancing.  I’m guessing that for romance readers, the tale of finding true love is what winds their clocks. So the question to ask, really, is what makes a good story for you?

Kaye: Your Fear series has a futuristic setting, an action adventure storyline and a strong female protagonist, Jaguar Addams. It’s really women’s genre fiction. What genre or genres do you put it in?

a strangled cry of fearBarbara: I wrote the Fear series as a detective/mystery series. It just happened to be set in the future. When I was seeking a publisher, there was no such thing as ‘cross-genre’, and the mystery/detective market wanted nothing to do with it. Thus it landed in science fiction, which was more open, and they called it cyberpunk suspense – which made me wonder if I had to do something different with my hair,  you know?

You can say Jaguar is ‘women’s fiction’ in that it has a powerful female protagonist and is written by a woman, but there’s plenty of men hanging around as well, and they all have their own obstacles to overcome, sacrifices to make, stuff to learn. Most of my work crosses literary lines in some way.  I’m bitextual, and trangenre, I guess. And proud of it.

Kaye: Would you like to tell us a little about the series?

Barbara: Jaguar Addams and Alex Dzarny work on Prison Planetoid 3, which was established after a time of massive domestic violence known as The Killing Times. Now the worst criminals are sent to the Planetoid Prisons, where they’re run through programs that make them face the fears which drove their horrid crimes, based on the theory that all crime grows out of fear.  Jaguar and Alex are both practitioners of the Empathic arts, and have some maxxed out psi capacities, which they use in their work.

Jaguar and Alex are alike in their dedication to the job, but they approach it differently.  Jaguar runs with scissors, and colors way outside the lines. If Alex runs with scissors, he points them down. Both characters have close and complicated friendships with others who work on the Planetoids, and Jaguar has a ‘family’  in a Native American community in the Southwest. She’s an offshoot of a Mayan nation by heritage.

Each book is its own case, as in a detective series, but there is a larger arc along the way, which deals with Jaguar’s need to develop trust in intimacy, and Alex’s need to get a little more wild.

Kaye: Would you talk a little about the books that are published under Barbara Chepaitis, the ones that annnounce that you’re a girl and would probably most be classified as ‘women’s fiction’?

Barbara: I’ve got 3 under the ‘Barbara’ name:

Feeding Christine: “It was the season of Miracles in Teresa’s kitchen, and while none of the women particularly believed in miracles, neither did they think they’d be needing one. They were wrong.”

feeding christineTERESA DI ROSA, owner of the thriving catering business Bread and Roses, makes the feeding of bodies and souls her life work.  Now, with her niece CHRISTINE and her friends DELIA and AMBERLIN, she’s gearing up for the big event of the year – the annual Christmas open house.  But as the party gets organized, her life is spinning out of control.
Her divorce is barely final, her son is spending Christmas with his father, and Christine seems to be losing her grip on sanity as she grieves the death of her mother, Teresa’s sister.  The radical steps Teresa takes to rescue Christine shock everyone, but with her friends, Teresa feeds Christine a healthy dose of courage, wisdom and love.

these dreams

These Dreams: Cricket Thompson’s routine life of husband, home, and family becomes a land of nightmare when an act of random violence leaves her daughter critically wounded.  The crisis destroys her family, exposes her illusions and defies her belief in dreams.  She seeks solace at the bird sanctuary where she volunteers, and learns that healing is a miracle of choice rather than chance.

 

 

 

Something Unpredictable: Just FYI – SOMETHING UNPREDICTABLE is based on a house that me and my husband actually tried to buy.  There really is a circus house.

something unpredictableDelilah is 31, has no career to speak of, and is living at home with her hippie parents, and hanging on to a boyfriend who likes to photograph her naked in tubs of blue jello. Clearly, Delilah needs a plan.
Her sister is living the perfect life with the perfect husband, her father continues to make money off the stock market, and her mother continues to spend it on the latest social cause.  Delilah would love to save the world as well if only it weren’t such an overwhelming task.    She longs for inspiration.  But she’s about to encounter some things she never predicted – a long-lost grandmother, Carla, who used to tame tigers with the circus; a 260 year old house with septic problems; an ex-fiancee; and a man named Jack – all of which will change her life forever.

Kaye: Food plays a central role in much of your women’s fiction. In fact, you might consider it a core theme for your books. Can you explain why this is, and why it’s important?

Barbara: Mmm.  Foood.  I’m a real foodie, and love to cook and play with my food. Perhaps because my mother’s family is Italian, I also understood from an early age that food is a language all its own, something we consume to learn about the land and its people and our relationship to all that. To me, cooking is similar to writing, and eating and reading are the way we enrich ourselves, body and soul.

Kaye: Why does symbolism play such a big role in your work?

Barbara: Symbolism?  Actually, none of it is symbolism. It’s all experience and reflection on experience. If I write about a family violin that’s been lost and must be found, it’s because I know that music connects us across time with our ancestry. If I write about food, it’s because food speaks to us all the time.

Kaye: Children of the Land (Songs of the Mothers Book 1): This title screams women’s fantasy. I imagine a fantasy world laden with legends of yore. Would you like to tell me a little about this book?

children of the landBarbara: Children of the Land is actually the last novel in a series that I wrote which attempted to move across genres through each novel.   It started with Children of the Gods, historical fiction with a contemporary twist, retelling the ancient history of the Haudonosaunee.  Next was a near future novel titled Children of the World, which featured the descendants of the first novel as they approached the historical moment when biological immortality became possible.  After that was  Children of the Land, where the next round of descendants dealt with the political and world ramifications of that possibility in a fantasy novel.

When I talked to publishers about the series, they looked at me with something akin to terror.  I swear their hair stood on end.  It’s really the ultimate in transgenre, and couldn’t be handled by this market.  Ultimately, I decided to go ahead with Children of the Land, which is indeed a fantasy novel, and worry about the others later.   I have to say it was one of my favorite writing experiences ever.  It really appealed to my love of language, and my love of the Heroine’s journey.  It also allowed me to play with a lot of gods and goddesses from a variety of cultures, because part of the idea is that it’s time for them to return, and establish a closer relationship with humans, who are indeed the children of the land.

Here’s the synopsis:

Lord Aroc rules all, giving the gift of immortality only to his citizens.   The balance between City and village has been preserved for a long age, but a change is at hand, signaled by the dancing of the Northern Lights.  Now, a young woman’s choice to plant a small seed will determine world dominion, and the return of the gods.

That woman is Vareka, a Citizen working for Lord Aroc as Watcher for the villagers of Eryahsa.  Such villagers live apart from the City, and are ultimately absorbed to feed the City’s energy.  As heavy solar flares disrupt the City’s technology, the northern lights cause villagers to recall ancient stories of the Dreamers – spirit beings who would someday return. Then, an old man in Eryahsa tells Vareka she is inheritor of a task only she, daughter of a Dreamer and a Human, can complete.

She bears a locket handed down from mother to daughter for ages uncounted, and the seed it holds must be planted if the Dream is to continue.

She must choose her path, with no guarantee of success.  Either she will take her friends on a perilous journey to find the place and time of planting, or she will accept Aroc’s rule, allowing him to remake the world, in his own image.

Kaye: Your fiction features strong female characters, and their strengths give them power. Where do you draw your characters from?

Barbara: For me, characters make themselves known in a very visceral way, speaking up inside me to tell me it’s time to tell their stories.  Jaguar popped up when I was on the highway, and I had to pull over and make notes.  I can still see her, sitting on the arm of her couch, in her apartment with its skulls and hanging herbs.  She was smoking a cigarette, swinging her leg back and forth, and she said, “What you’ll do next is write me.”

Characters and their world, how they arise, where they come from, is a bit of a mystery to me, but I have noted that the best thing I can do is maintain an attitude of openness to their arrival. In fact, an attitude of openness in general.  A kind of “Okay.  I’m ready.  Whaddya got?”

I’m sure that this attitude is assisted by the fact that I grew up with a horde of powerful and complicated women, but I can’t say that any one of them has become a particular character.  Perhaps it’s just the flavor of their lives that gets put in the mix.

Kaye: So, would you say your stories are character driven?

Barbara: Yes, my stories are character driven. Characters, with all their complexities and eccentricities, create plot.  They have something to say, and are blocked from saying it.  Or they have something to hide and it’s revealed. Or they have something to BE, and are meeting obstacles in being that.  Characters – human and animal – are at the heart of all plots, the heart of all interest, the heart of our hearts.

Kaye: They say the pen is mightier than the sword. What causes have you used your status as a writer to champion?

Barbara: I once helped a Navy SEAL and Army Ranger rescue a war-wounded eagle from Afghanistan, and that came about only because I’m a writer.  I’ve also used my writing in any way I can to promote environmental causes.  In fact, I’d love to do more of that.

You can get the full story on the war-wounded eagle in her book, Saving Eagle Mitch: One Good Deed in a Wicked World. Thank you for sharing with us today Barbara. You can learn more about Barbara Chepaitis and her works at the following links:

Goodreads Author Page (Barbara Chepaitis): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/202062.Barbara_Chepaitis

Goodreads Author Page (B.A. Chepaitis): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/841157.B_A_Chepaitis?from_search=true

Feeding Christine  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Feeding+Christine+chepaitis

THESE DREAMS  https://www.amazon.com/These-Dreams-Barbara-Chepaitis-ebook/dp/B000FC0VI4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547053073&sr=8-1&keywords=These+Dreams+chepaitis

SOMETHING UNPREDICTABLE  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Something+Unpredictable+chepaitis

 

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