Interview with western romance author Juliette Douglas

Juliette Douglas

I’m pleased to be chatting today with a prolific author who has burst onto the western scene in a relatively short amount of time. Her debut novel, Freckled Venom, was a Laramie award winner, and she recently signed on with Delilah‘s publisher, Dusty Saddle Publishing. The amazing part is she manages churn out all of her many books, while still holding down a traditional job outside the home, as well. Let’s see if she has any secrets to share. Please welcome western author Juliette Douglas.


Kaye: Your website says you are a new voice in the western genre, but it seems like you have written a lot of books. How long have you been writing western?

Juliette: I was a new voice 5 years ago, as I tend to have more grit in my novels then most women western writers.

I was 1st published in 2013, but the publisher was awful so ditched them and became indie and re-issued my books with new covers and re-edited interiors in 2014. So that’s when I like to say I’ve been published.

Kaye: What did you write before westerns?

Juliette: I have never written a thing before in my life. So I guess you could say I’m a late bloomer.

Kaye: Do you think it is more difficult for a woman to author a western novel and make a success of it?

Juliette: No I don’t. When I began to promote my novels at local events, I sold more to men then women. Since then I have all ages who read my books.

I personally feel it’s easy for me to write strong female characters in an old western setting then to write a contemporary western.

I love history, so it’s a good match for me. I’ve been blessed with my success. I know I am up against many good male western writers who have been around much longer then I have, but I’m making strides.

Kaye: What’s the biggest challenge in writing westerns for you?

Juliette: Making sure the things I want to happen are in the right time frame, I use the weapons for that era etc. For example: smokeless gunpowder did not appear until the 1890s.

Kaye: Your female characters are bold and brassy in a genre where women are typically portrayed as damsels in distress needing rescued by a big strong man. How do you write your heroines in a way that makes them believable, yet allows them to remain independent?

Juliette: I try to put myself into the situation. How would I feel, behave, emotions I might hide or display. Would I be angry or decide these are the cards I was dealt and how would I go about living my life with these secrets or circumstances thrown at me. Women who carved out a future for themselves in the old west had to be some of the strongest I have ever read about and I try to portray that with my characters.

Kaye: What can you share about your Freckled Venom Series?

Juliette: It was a great experience for me as a writer. I loved how my characters took over and I was just the messenger typing out their words and feelings.

SkeletonsThe Freckled Venom Series is very different then most western novels out there because it has a gun toting rugged female who bounty hunts instead of the usual male filled westerns. I’ve reversed the roles you might say.

In Freckled Venom Skeletons I tried something different. I had two points of view going on. One from the children’s POV and then the adults and it worked very well.

There will be many more stories in the FV Series. This summer I will have Freckled Venom Vixen The Early Years and for Christmas, Plum Dickens of a Christmas. A reunion of sorts with all the characters brought together in this book.

Kaye: What do you consider to be the single most important element in a western?

Juliette: Good storylines & plots. Plenty of action and hair-raising adventures.

Perfume Powder and LeadKaye: Would you talk a little about Perfume, Powder and Lead: Holy Sisters?

Juliette: Hahaha…This was one of the most fun books I have written. The idea is so absurd that this would have happened, but a possibility in those days.

Three soiled doves are tired of that life and set out to the gold fields, but they need money to get there. They stumble across nuns killed by raiders, and the girls change their habits, so to speak and make plans to rob a bank dressed as nuns.

But there are deeper elements also allowing the reader to form a bond with these girls.

It’s raw, it’s gritty and it’s not for everyone to read.

Kaye: Are there any of your books which you’d classify as western romances?

Juliette: I have the teasing potential of romance in most of my novels and my readers seem to like that.

Kaye: One of your most recent releases, Bed of Conspiracy, sounds to me like an

historic thriller involving political conspiracy, assassination plots and cloak

and dagger action, all set during the Grant administration? Was it difficult for

you to stray outside of the western genre?

Bed of ConspiracyJuliette: Oh man, I had wanted to do this story for 3 years before I finally found time to write it.

Loved writing this one! Set in 1876 it wasn’t hard for me at all. I loved weaving actual events into the story. Looking at maps of Washington DC from 1876 to learn the layout of the city to include actual street names and places scattered about in the fictional story. It has ended up being one of my most popular novels and due to the high interest has spawned a series. Next one titled: Death Deals the Hand, A Ross & Sam Adventure.

Kaye: Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

Juliette: Every where. Everyday stories and situations that can be transported back in time to the old west!

Kaye: What’s the most fun about writing westerns?

Juliette: Everything!

Kaye: The first book in your Freckled Venom series was also your debut novel, Copperhead, which you won a Laramie Award. What is the Laramie Award and how does one receive it?

Juliette: The Laramie Award is the western division of the Chanticleer awards. I submitted Copperhead on a whim and won over very stiff competition.

For 2019 I will be entering Bed of Conspiracy in the Laramie Awards Adventure & Caper category. Will see what happens!

They also have a category for children’s books and I will be entering my 1st Children’s book: We Are Awesome Possums.

Awesome Possums

Kaye: Would you recommend aspiring authors attempt the western genre? Why or why not?

Juliette: You need to know the history of the old west for sure. There are still many untold stories out there to share, but it takes hard work to come up with a fresh idea with the old tales that would be marketable.

The American Old West is our history, no one else can claim it. It speaks to the hearts of men, women and children across the world. It is America’s claim.

Kaye: If you could have lunch with any author, alive or dead, who would it be? Why?

Juliette: Louie L’Amore. A fascinating man. His stories are based on a lot of his own actual experiences. It would be neat to visit and talk with him.

I want to thank Juliette for sharing with us today. It has been an absolute pleasure. You can learn more about Juliette Douglas and her work on her Facebook Author page or her Amazon Author page. I’m proud to share a publisher with Juliette. I hope you will join me next week on “Chatting with the Pros”, when my author guest will be another Dusty Saddle author, Scott Harris. I hope to see you then.


Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress.

 

 


Interview with Christian western romance author Patricia PacJac Carroll

Pac PIc

My author guest today is a prolific writer, who must publish an average of at least six books per year, in numerous romance series. Patricia PacJac Carroll writes historical and western Christian romance at a rate that I find amazing. The books on her Amazon Author page scroll in what seems like a never ending flow. In addition to her own series, which are many, on occasion, she’s invited to participate in series with a collection of other authors, as is the case with her most recent release. Let’s see what she has to share with us today.

Kaye: In what ways is writing a Christian western romance different from writing a western romance?

Patricia: For me, saying it is Christian means at least some of the characters have a Christian world view. Faith and hope in the Lord are evident in their lives. No preaching or sermons or a lot of verses, only faith as it relates to the story and the characters.

Kaye: Your latest book was recently released, Sandra’s Journey. Would you like to tell me a little about the story?

Patricia: Sandra is struggling, she’s walled herself in away from others. Her little brother’s death and the fact that a fiance left for Calfornia the year before and she only received one letter from him, have stolen her courage. She meets a corporal who is escorting the wagon train, and he challenges her to dream. Romance blossoms along the California trail where by trails end she will have to choose between the two men. A story of courage rediscovered and dreams coming alive.

Sandra's Journey

Kaye: Sandra’s Journey recently came out as a part of a historical western series with a wagon train theme, which includes your book and those of several other Christian western authors. Would you like to tell me about the Lockets and Lace series?

Patricia: The Locket and Lace series is made up of several different authors.  I was asked to join in 2018 and wrote Oregon Dreams for the Locket and Lace series for 2018. And then this year again for the Locket and Lace series for this year with Sandra’s Journey.

Every book has a connection to the Bavarian Jeweler in St. Joseph, Missouri. They have a locket that was made in the shop and a piece of lace. We had 9 books last year and 10 this year. They are all wonderful books

Kaye: The Lockets and Lace series books are not the only books you’ve written, by far. You have written several other series, including the Mail Order Brides and The Law Keepers series. How many books have you written? How long have you been writing?

Patricia: I have been writing seriously for thirteen years and began publishing in 2012.  I have 40 books out right now and plans for many more. I have several series ~ Mail Order Brides of Hickory Stick, Montant Brides of Solomon’s Valley, and several others.

Kaye: Tell me a little about your author’s journey, if you would?

Patricia: I began writing and attending critique groups in 2006. I loved it, but my friends would call me the book of the week person because story ideas would attack me. I love the thrill of a new story and still do. Finally, I decided I better finish a book and my first book was Liberty Belle that I published in 2012.

Kaye: Your husband is instrumental in your writing, so much so that you’ve incorporated both of your initials into your author’s name – PacJac. Would you talk about how he enables you to write?

Patricia: My husband is a wonderful prince of a man who gives me the time to do what I love. He let me retire in 2006 so I could write. And now, my writing has enabled him to retire. We are a wonderful team and are enjoying our lives.  I added the PacJac to my writing name because I found there were other Patricia Carroll’s out there in the writing world. It works well though because you put PacJac in Amazon and it will pop up my books.

Kaye: Your female characters of the contemporary strong and independent variety, or do they follow the traditional damsel in distress variety of heroine?

Patricia: I’d say they are a combination. While I want to be historically correct, readers live in the 21st century. I do like spunky women, but I also enjoy writing about a character who grows in courage and strength, too.

Kaye: What part of writing do you find to be the biggest challenge?

Patricia: The self-discipline. I am a seat-of-the-pants writer, and I tend to live my life the same way. I enjoy fun, family, and friends as well as writing so at times the need to balance comes into play.

Kaye: Where does your inspiration come from?

Patricia: The Lord. He gives me the stories. I am amazed at how He has made sure I understand that. One time I had the opportunity to put a Christmas story in an anthology and had a weekend to write it as it was due Monday at noon. Now, I had bragged that if you just give me a name and a place, I will come up with a story. Well, after my haughty attitude, my friends gave me a name and place and my imagination heard crickets. Nothing. Nada. No story. Now, that was a bit scary to me. A writer isn’t much without a story. So I figured I missed the anthology. But then at 5:30 Monday morning I woke up with a picture in my mind of a cowboy on a horse pulling a Christmas tree and knew I had a story. And I wrote it and turned it in before noon. You can find that story in my book Christmas in Texas. The Richest Christmas. So I will give the Lord all the credit for anything good that I do. Any mistakes are mine.

Kaye: Your books obviously are portrayed in a western landscape, based on historical times and events. What kinds of research do you find yourself doing for your books?

Patricia: Documentaries, books on the old west. I have always loved the west and westerns.

Kaye: Do you feel you draw pieces from your own life into your stories? How so?

Patricia: Yes, and I tell my friends anything may be used in a story. I know I often have my characters state “How hard can it be?”  That is all me.

Kaye: What is the most fun part of writing western romance for you?

Patricia: I enjoy the characters and the things they get themselves into. Plus horses, I love horses and they have always been part of the draw to westerns for me. I also love the idea of the wide open wild country.

Kaye: What is something many of your readers wouldn’t guess about you?

Patricia: For twenty years, I owned and ran a pet store. Sea Horse Pets in Arlington, Texas. As you can guess I love animals. And people. I love to write, and my heart is that readers will enjoy my stories and be strengthened and encouraged by reading them. I enjoy making readers happy.

I want to thank Patricia for joining me today to share her thoughts with us. I don’t know about all my readers, but I am astounded by the sheer volume of her works. You can learn more about Patricia at the links below. Stop in and see if you too are not awed by the books she’s produced within the span of the past seven years.

Links

Author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Patricia-PacJac-Carroll/e/B008R9JCN2/

 

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/PatriciaPacJacCarrollAuthor/

 

Website: http://www.pacjaccarroll.com/

 

Newsletter sign up http://eepurl.com/bpPmbP


Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Interview with romance author Chris Barili (AKA B.T. Clearwater)

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author Chris Barili, and although he’s written in other genres, and his latest release is the fantasy novel Shadow Blade, which I reviewed last month, he also writes romance under the name B.T. Clearwater. You can read my review of his paranormal romance, Smothered, here.

In January, we talked to women’s fiction author Barbara Chepaitis and western author Loretta Miles Tollefson about the fact that women authors still are encouraged to use sex neutral pen names when writing certain genres, but here we have a male author who uses one when writing romance. We’re going with talk to Chris about writing romance and why there aren’t more male romance authors today. Or are there? Let’s find out what Chris Barili has to say about it.


Kaye: You have fiction published under your own name, but when it came to Smothered, your publisher suggested you publish as B.T. Clearwater. This is the reverse of what many female authors experience when publishing in certain genres, such as western. Did you feel like there is discrimination toward male romance authors?

Chris: My publisher didn’t encourage the pseudonym, actually. That was advice from a mentor and college professor, who recommended different pen names for different genres due to perceptions in the industry that if you write one genre well, you’re limited to that genre. I also publish westerns under a different pen name, T.C. Barlow.

And while I didn’t experience discrimination toward me as a male romance writer, I did get some raised eyebrows and comments like, “You write THAT?” So I had my youngest daughter think up a pen name that used my initials, and that sounded gender neutral. She came up with B.T. Clearwater.

Kaye: Do you think it is harder for male authors to make it in the romance genre than it is for female authors? Why?

Chris: I think it’s harder because not enough men have tried, so there’s no benchmark for it, no evidence to the doubters that men can do it. Men tend to avoid it because of the stigma associated with writing “that” kind of fiction.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing romance for you?

Chris: Probably making it “juicy” enough for a modern audience. I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I like love stories, and I tend to focus on the emotional relationship rather than the sexual one. Many (not all, but many) romance readers are looking for the steamy stuff, and that just isn’t me.

Kaye: You have a family, and are involved in cycling and martial arts, yet you find time to write and attend conferences and seminars. What are your secrets for juggling writing with your home life?

Chris: Mostly, I neglect my dog. 😊 No, that’s only a little true. As with anything, finding time for writing is a matter of discipline and sacrificing things that are less important. I had to remove a video game from my computer because it was distracting me from writing. Similarly, my DVR is 90% full of programs I fully intended to watch, but can’t get to because of writing. You have to make writing THAT important. My priorities are: my family, my health, the day job, writing. Everything else comes later.

Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in? Why?

Chris: I’m actually published in every fiction genre: fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, western, and crime. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I do most of my writing in the fantasy and romance genres. They’re all fun to write, and one of the things I learned during my MFA studies under Russell Davis at Western is to let the story find its genre. Don’t try to force it into one you’re comfortable writing.

Kaye: If Smothered was made into a film, who would you like to see play male and female leads?

Chris: Interestingly, when I develop a character, I often choose a model, actor, public figure, etc to roughly model their looks. In this case, I used actor James Denton as a rough look-a-like for Mike, and Annie was loosely modeled on Jeanine Garofalo. So yeah, them.

Kaye: What’s is the single most important element in a romance story?

Chris: Damage. The lead female character has to be broken somehow, and the only way she can heal herself is to be with the male lead. It’s corner, and not a great way to base a real relationship, but that’s kind of the trope of romance. She has to realize she cannot live without him.

Kaye: Where did you find the inspiration for Smothered?

Chris: Again, my MFA studies, only this time in a class with Michaela Roessner. She had us write a sex scene that gets interrupted somehow, and I had mine interrupted by the ghost of the woman’s late mother, who appears at the foot of the bed. That interested me so much that it grew into a novel, which was my MFA thesis.

Kaye: What was the most fun part of writing a romance for you?

Chris: Romance is a very formulaic genre, and the fun part, for me anyway, is finding a way to make that formula sound new. They say there are no new stories, only new ways of telling old ones, and I think that’s what I like about romance. Proving to doubters that it CAN be original and unique.

Kaye: Is there a future for B.T. Clearwater? Can readers expect to see more from this author?

Chris: Oh yeah, B.T. has a novella published in Gwyn McNamee’s Last Resort Motel series, called “Room Fifty-Eight.” That came out a few months ago, and will appear in a box set soon. And B.T.’s latest novel, Rise and Fall, needs to go off to the freelance editor soon for a work-over. I decided to take B.T. full indie, to self-publish those stories, because self-pubbed romances can do very well. Gwyn has given me some tips on how to get it right. So when Rise and Fall and the next two in that series are ready, I’ll upload them and see how they do.

Kaye: Chris Barili has a fantasy novel coming out in June, Shadow Blade, which I recently reviewed. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that one?

Chris: Shadow Blade was actually my backup thesis. Yeah, I had a backup. Outlined both, but wrote Smothered and saved Shadow Blade for after graduation due to the world-building it needed. It tells the story of Ashai Larish, an assassin for the feared Denari Lai order. The Denari Lai are a religious order that keeps their killers loyal by addicting them to the very magic that makes them so effective at killing. In Ashai’s case, he is sent to kill a king and his daughter, but falls in love with the princess, and finds himself fighting to keep her alive rather than to kill her.

Shadow Blade is being published by WordFire Press, as a “Kevin J. Anderson Presents” title, where the best-selling author highlights a new author “to watch.” It’s on a review tour now, and should come out in e-book and hard cover in May, and by the time this article airs, it will be out as part of WordFire’s “Epic Fantasy” bundle at StoryBundle.com.

I want to thank Chris for joining us and sharing today. It is interesting to learn about writing romance from a male perspective. You can learn more about Chris and all of his works on his author blog and website, his Amazon Author page, his Goodreads Author page, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more about the works of B.T. Clearwater on Amazon, Goodreads, Simon & Schuster, and Smashwords.



Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


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.


Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR 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


Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


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.

 

Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


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

 

Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.