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This week’s A Cup of Conversation is with the enigmatic Joe Congel. One of Joe’s tweets caught my attention a few months ago and I decided to rather cheekily comment about the book he was tweeting about. Well, little did I know I’d met my match and he enticed me to read his book, Dead is Forever…his debut novel held me hostage in the pages of the story for 4 days and nights…totally unputdownable. If you like crime fiction, with “real” people and a fabulous raw edge to the writing then Joe is the author to look out for.

I’m glad we crossed paths and here he is today sharing his author life with us…so grab your cuppas and let’s see what he has to say about all things writing and books.

1. When did you start writing creatively?

I caught the writing bug in the early ‘90s. Before that, I thought I wanted to be a professional cartoonist. I adore newspaper comic strips. They were an important part of my life for a long time. I grew up in upstate NY and was only about three hours away from where the Museum of Cartoon Art was located at that time. I travelled the three hours every first Sunday of the month so that I could catch the Museum’s First Sunday Cartoonist Lecture Series. They would feature a working professional cartoonist every month that would talk about cartooning and how they got into the profession, the tools they used, and the business in general. And of course, it always included plenty of up close observation and teaching of the technical part of drawing cartoon characters by that month’s featured artist. It was entertaining and informative, and helped keep my cartooning dream alive for many years. I drew a lot of comic strips that never saw the light of day, but I also did have a smidgeon of success. The Syracuse New Times, a local weekly paper where I grew up, did publish a comic strip of mine… once. At the time they had a weekly revolving spot that local cartoonists were invited to fill, and I got one of those coveted spots. Later on, I drew comic characters for an advertising campaign for a local video store. Those spots ran every week in the New Times for a year or so. This was all in the late ‘80s.

Then, in 1991, a friend of mine was writing a book called ‘Housetraining Your VCR: A Help Manual for Humans’, and he needed someone to draw the cover art and some spot illustrations throughout the book. He asked me since it was a light hearted book, and he wanted the cover and illustrations to be cartoons to match the light, humorous vibe of the contents. So I did the book with him, and it was during that project that I actually caught the creative writing bug. I got a first-hand look at the publishing business, and with encouragement from my friend, decided that I’d try my hand at writing. His was a non-fiction book, but I thought I was better suited to give fiction a whirl. I began ‘Dead is Forever’ shortly after that. I wrote that book during the mid-nineties. I even found an agent that shopped the book around for me. But it was one of those, you pay us for the printing and postage to package your manuscript, type of agencies. I was so happy that someone, anyone, wanted to help me sell the book that I agreed. Luckily, I had only signed on for six months, and of course, we never sold the manuscript. Later, I realized that a real agency does not charge for those services, but instead is paid when the book sells. Lesson learned. After that, I shelved the book for twenty-years while I helped raise two wonderful kids. The creative writing bug returned with a vengeance in 2016 and I took ‘Dead is Forever’ off the shelf and began to update and revise the storyline. I finally took the plunge into self-publishing in 2017, and I’ve been writing creatively ever since.

2. You have written a number of novels as well as short stories. How does your process for writing each differ?

Well, I thought that if I was really gonna give this writing thing a chance, I needed to learn more about the actual craft of writing a story. I took a creative writing course which focused on short stories, and learned a lot about how to structure a beginning, a middle, and an end, without a lot of extras, yet keep it a satisfying reading experience. When I’m writing a short story, I have to put myself in a frame of mind that allows me to cut out all the extra fluff. I pack in a lot of fluff (smiling here), when writing the full length stuff. For the shorts, I have to tell a complete story in as few words as possible. As you can probably tell by the length of my answers to this interview, that’s hard for me. I like to talk and my writing reflects that.

I love writing short stories. So I started a little experiment to help me when writing a short story for publication. I began stretching myself a little bit on my blog. I’ve posted a couple of oddball short stories (odd for me, anyway), and it’s given me a way to exercise that part of my brain and work out the kinks. It’s something that is needed to help me keep the so called fluff out of my short stories. They are also written in a genre I don’t normally write in, which pushes me to think differently.

I tend to take more time labouring over writing a short story than when working on a full length novel. I will sometimes spend hours changing sentences or words to make the story as concise and complete as possible. One of the biggest challenges I have is simply ending the story.

As I said, I like to talk a lot. So the longer form of the novel is where I probably belong. I think I am at my best when writing a full length book. I have several more ideas for Tony Razzolito stories, which will keep me busy for a while. So other than on my blog, I don’t know how many other published short stories you’ll see from me. Except for one – I’m participating in a short story anthology book that will be out, I believe, in April of next year. I can’t say anything else about that right now, other than it’s a fun project and the proceeds are going to be donated to a good cause.

3. How do you carry out your research to ensure the police procedures are correct in your detective novels?

The internet is my friend. I use it for almost all of my research. I’ve also been able to draw on the experience of a couple of my relatives. I have a cousin that was a Police Officer, who now in retirement, works security jobs for a casino and other venues around the central NY area. I also have a brother-in-law who worked as a Correctional Officer for the New York State prison system for thirty years. Just listening to the stories told by both of these guys over the years has given me a unique perspective on how police detectives interact with each other, which has helped me create believable law enforcement characters.

4. Tell us a little about your next release Dirty Air.

‘Dirty Air’ is the third full novel in the ‘The Razzman Files’ series, starring PI Tony Razzolito. It is the fourth book overall, counting the short story collection.

First off, let me explain where the title, ‘Dirty Air’ comes from. It’s a racing term which is used to explain when the turbulent air currents caused by a fast-moving car (usually the lead car in a race) can compromise the aerodynamics of the car following behind, causing it to lose control. Essentially, it is the effect that air passing over the top of the lead car has on the car behind it.

A question authors are often asked is… Where do your ideas come from? What inspired you to write that book? Well, in the case of where the idea for writing a story of murder in the world of NASCAR and street racing came from, inspiration hit when I came across the term, Dirty Air, while researching something totally unrelated on line. I had actually already started another storyline for the third book which I was building around a minor league baseball team and an old mob guy who disappeared years ago after turning informant. I was looking up some information for this, when I came across the Dirty Air definition. I can’t even explain it, but the plot of the NASCAR story just came into my head and started to write itself. I immediately changed gears, shelved the other idea and started over. So in this case, the story was inspired by and built around the title, rather than writing the book and then trying to figure out what to call it.

The story mixes the world of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) with the world of illegal street racing. Tony’s PI firm becomes involved when a young, up and coming NASCAR race car driver is murdered during Speed Street, which is a 3-day festival that takes place in Charlotte before the Memorial Day weekend race event.

The driver’s widow employs Tony and his partner, Scott to find out why and who killed her husband. She needs the service and discretion of a private detective agency because she’s afraid that the investigation will uncover secrets she doesn’t want the police, their fans, or the media to find out about—namely that her husband was moonlighting as an illegal street racer. She’s certain that is why he was murdered and needs Tony to prove it, yet keep her husband’s reputation from being ruined in the process. A juggling act that Tony and his team are not sure they can or should worry about while trying to find the killer.

Stock car racing is not in Tony’s wheelhouse, but luckily for him, his partner is a big fan. Between the two of them, and with a little help from Vinnie, a locally connected hood wannabe, they dig deep into both worlds, uncovering that there’s still a big link between the two worlds, going all the way back to NASCAR’s moonshine running roots.

Within the main plot, I try to blend enough of the central character’s back story that if you’ve not read any of the other books, you still get a good idea of what makes them tick. For instance: In the short story collection, ‘The Judge’ which is the third story, I began a story arc where we find out that Scott’s father is sick and he goes back home to be with him. In ‘Deadly Passion’, we learn more about that situation and about Scott’s relationship with his father. In ‘Dirty Air’ I continue that arc. It’s the same with Tony. From the first book, through the short stories, the second book, and now into the third, we get to see how he’s grown from a self-centered person into a man who can handle his chosen profession and a mature adult relationship. Not always perfectly, but with all the flaws, which (hopefully) makes you appreciate the progression of character building and development throughout the series. That being said, it’s important that the books can be read out of order and not lose anything or feel like the reader missed something just because they discovered the series with book three. But it still needs to be balanced just right to encourage the reader to like it well enough to want to go back to the beginning and catch up.

As I am the only one I answer to regarding when I release my books, I want to make certain that I’ve got this one buttoned up right. I live in the middle of NASCAR country, so it’s important to get the details perfect. That being said, I had hoped to release it at the end of October. Some personal life stuff derailed me and I am now looking at an end of December or a January release date, still to be determined. But rest assured, no longer than that!

5. How has your main character evolved as more books have been added to the series?

Tony Razzolito was an out-of-work retail appliance salesman. The first book, ‘Dead is Forever’, introduces Tony as a lazy, self-centered, borderline ass, not trying real hard to find a job. The store he was working at went out of business and he felt it was an excuse to try his hand at something new. He wanted to be a private detective, but had no formal training to do so. That is, except for a TV gameshow where the contestants had to try to solve a fictional crime. He was obsessed with the show and felt that based on that, and that alone, he could be a pretty good PI. He gets his chance in a very unusual way—his wife is murdered and he and his best friend, who just happens to be a police homicide detective, work together on solving the murder. Through trial and error, and some self-reflection, he grows quite a bit during the course of the book. But in order to turn him into a viable PI that readers would care about, I relocated him from his hometown and advanced the timeline in book two, ‘Deadly Passion’, by about five years. Now he is a PI that knows his business and he and his partner, Scott McHenry, run a Private Investigation Agency in Charlotte, NC. So, to answer any questions a reader of book one might have after reading book two, I devised a short story trilogy that bridges the time gap and learning curve for Tony’s advancement into the professional PI business. I encourage my readers to read ‘The Razzman Chronicles: A Trio of Tony Razzolito PI Stories’, to fill in any gaps in the series timeline. It’s not absolutely necessary to read the short story collection as book one and two will stand on their own as a series, but I believe reading it in-between the two full length novels will make the overall series more enjoyable.

6. Which of your secondary characters is your favourite and why would your readers like them?

Wow! That’s like asking me which of my children I like the best. But I am partial to the two homicide detectives that made their first appearance in the second Tony Razzolito book, ‘Deadly Passion’. Detective John Cahill and Detective Lucy Havens are partners and have a great chemistry which has made their scenes very easy to write. The interaction between the two are reminiscent of the buddy cop relationships you see nowadays on TV or in the movies. I actually looked forward to writing the chapters where they appear. It also doesn’t hurt that Cahill and Tony rub each other the wrong way. The interaction between the two men is a constant dick measuring contest, which also makes for a fun writing experience.

I liked writing about Cahill and Havens so much that they will definitely be in future Razzman books. I’ve also been kicking around an idea for a storyline that will feature them in their own series.

7. How do you ensure your books are ready for release?

My first draft writing process is fairly slow. I’m not one that can just write quickly and leave all the editing for later. I have a bad habit of editing as I go along. But once I’ve got the first draft completed, it makes the rest of the process go by a bit faster. I then send it out to my four trusted beta readers. All four are on the lookout for different things, and they give me their input and make suggestions. I then send each one’s suggestions to another one of the four. This gives me a sort of cross-pollination effect. We keep the suggestions that we all agree on and throw out any where there is not a unanimous positive vibe. It’s kind of like pushing it all through a funnel with a strainer where it all goes in the top, and the good stuff comes out the bottom leaving all the crap behind.

8. What was the last book you read and what lasting message did it leave?

Lately, I’ve been reading nothing but indie books. Most of them have left a lasting message or impression on me, mainly because a book written by an indie author seems to have been crafted with more passion than most traditionally published books. They’re just good writing. I even made it the subject of a recent blogpost. I listed the last five books I’d read that left a lasting impression on me. In the interest of space, I will talk about one of them here and direct you and your readers to my blog to read what I would consider the true answer to this question. And since you are conducting this interview, I’m happy to say that your book, ‘Broken Pieces of Tomorrow’ was the first book I mentioned in that blogpost. Your book left an impression on me for a couple of reasons. It was obviously very personal to you, which made it more than just a woman’s coming of age story. It was based on your coming of age story, and that made it special for your readers. I really could feel that you put your heart and soul into writing it. The message for me was that no matter what life throws at you, we all have the inner strength to persevere and have a successful outcome. It might not be the outcome we originally envisioned, but the path we all walk on has many twists and turns on it and quite often that path divides into two distinctly different directions—one that may be familiar yet destructive, and one that is unproven… unknown. Having the courage to choose the unfamiliar, taking you in that unknown direction can be scary. But if we believe in ourselves, we can and will find a satisfying life… and maybe even happiness. Anyway, that was the lasting message I took from your book.

9. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy? Why?

You probably hear this quite often, but the promoting or advertising part is my least favorite part of the writer’s life. I know it is very necessary if I want to sell any books, but it’s a whole separate profession in and of itself.

Trying to balance a regular day job along with fitting in time to write, leaves nothing left to devote to promotion. So I have to carve a chunk out of my writing time just to promote and advertise my work. I’m getting better at fitting it all in, but I’d rather just create the work and leave the selling to someone else. But such is the life of an indie author.

10. If you were able to meet any author, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?

Hmm, well it would have to be Robert B. Parker. He was undoubtedly the biggest influence on why I write PI Detective novels. I discovered his Spenser, PI series during a dark time in my life. I was going through some serious marital difficulties, and reading was what kept my mind occupied during that period. I picked up “Promised Land’, the fourth book in the series, on a whim. This was in the late ‘80s. The book was originally published in 1976. I loved it and went back to the first in the series and read the entire series in order up to that point, which was something like fifteen books. He wrote thirty-nine Spenser novels before he passed in 2010. When I decided that I wanted to write, I reread all of his books, and studied his style of writing. He was a mentor to me even though he obviously never knew that. I would like to meet him so that I could simply thank him

       11. Are you a planner or a pantser?

Total pantser! The only real planning I do is jotting a few notes at the bottom of the WIP word doc so that I can refer to them as I go along. But most of the time, the notes become obsolete since I really allow the characters to write the story. Although it can be a little bit of a pain when the characters take a left turn in the story’s direction that I didn’t see coming. That usually requires that I have to go back somewhere earlier in the text to insert a clue or add a passage so that the left turn makes sense. I never wait for a revision to change or add what’s needed when that happens for fear that I’ll forget or miss it later. It’s worked for me so far, so I don’t see myself changing the way I do things anytime soon.

       12. What’s on your current to-do list?

Well, right now, it’s finishing up ‘Dirty Air’. Life pretty much got in the way these past few months, putting me behind schedule. The good thing? It’s my own self-imposed deadline, so I have the luxury of re-evaluating and changing my release dates… within reason. I certainly don’t want to put it off too far from my original date. Readers have short memories, even if they like your work. If they come back for more, and there’s nothing next for them to go to, they move on and maybe never return.

Like I mentioned earlier – I’m also writing a story to be included in a short story anthology coming out next year.

If you would like to connect with Joe or buy any of his books then please follow him on any of the links listed below. Thank you for joining us and I hope to see you again soon!

In the meantime, Happy Reading, Happy Writing, Happy You.

Lots of love, Soulla x 

LINKS:

Twitter: @JoeCongelAuthor

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joe-congel-b59b4419

Website: http://carternovels.com/author-joe-congel.html

Blog: https://joecongelfictionstories.blogspot.com

Amazon link to books: amazon.com/author/joecongel

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I have recently had the absolute honour of being featured not once, but twice, on the wonderful site of contemporary romance author, Laura Ashwood.

So I thought I would give her a shout out here and to say if you’re not familiar with her work and writing please take a look at her site and her social media platforms. She has been truly supportive of me and my writing recently and I just know that we will continue to collaborate and share our creative journeys as we move along this path side by side. It has been a blessing meeting her.

So please read on as I share her most recent post on me, an authorview, and I hope that you will also choose to keep her at the top of your list when you are next looking for a new read! (Her website and books are listed at the end of this post)

Authorview: Soulla Christodoulou

Authorview: Soulla Christodoulou
Today, I’m interviewing women’s fiction author and poet, Soulla Christodoulou. Born in London to Greek Cypriot parents Soulla Christodoulou spent much of her childhood living carefree days full of family, school and friends. She was the first in her family to go to university and studied BA Hotel & Catering Management at Portsmouth University. Years later, after having a family of her own she studied again at Middlesex University and has a PGCE in Business Studies and an MA in Education.
Soulla is a Women’s Fiction author and wrote her first novel Broken Pieces of Tomorrow over a few months while working full time in secondary education and is a mother of three boys. She is a compassionate and empathetic supporter of young people. Her passion for teaching continues through private tuition of English Language and Children’s Creative Writing Classes.
Her writing has also connected her with a charity in California which she is very much involved in as a contributor of handwritten letters every month to support and give hope to women diagnosed with breast cancer. One of her letters will be featured in a book ‘Dear Friend’ out in September 2017.
When asked, she will tell you she has always, somewhere on a subconscious level, wanted to write and her life’s experiences both personal and professional have played a huge part in bringing her to where she was always meant to be; writing books and drinking lots of cinnamon and clove tea!
She is the author of Broken Pieces of Tomorrow.
Georgia, a second generation Greek Cypriot woman, faces an uncertain future after her marriage breaks down leaving her with three young sons. Along the way, through tears and heartache, she pieces her life together after having lost herself for too long in motherhood and matrimony.
A journey of emotional and spiritual self-discovery, love lost and love found.
And she also has written a collection of poetry, Sunshine After Rain.
This is a collection of 30 poems inspired by old sayings and phrases.
Each poem either directly relates to the saying, includes words from the saying or tells a short story or conveys an idea relating to the phrase.
“I have covered a number of different themes and ideas including: hope, love, happiness, disappointment, beauty, struggle, resignation, joy and of course that most British of all things, the weather!” she says.
What can you tell me about the inspiration for Broken Pieces of Tomorrow?
The Inspiration for Broken Pieces of Tomorrow, though a fictional story with semi-biographical elements, came from my own experience of marriage break-up and the new path I had to carve out for myself as I created a new life for me and my three young boys. It was at times painful to write and I would sit in front of the laptop with tears streaming down my face; not a pretty sight!
However, looking back now, I needed to write the book; it was a story deep inside of me for a long time. Writing the book allowed me to look at things, albeit many years after the end of my ‘Happy Ever After’ with a calmer, stronger heart and allowed closure for me on so many
different levels. I am happy with the lessons the experience has taught me, not only about myself, but people and relationships and the strength of the human spirit. Going through it all and then writing the book was truly cathartic and I am grateful for that.
Tell me about the main character, Georgia. What do you love about her?
She is a good wife and mother who loves her husband, children and family and lives her life, to a degree, along the path of their expectations and withing her own belief of what being a good wife, mother and daughter should be; the values she has grown up with all her life.
She is quietly determined and I love the way she doesn’t see what others see in her, which makes her even more lovable. She’s capable, clever, determined, resilient and able to rebuild her life despite life’s knock backs. She is funny and emotional, she exudes a quiet confidence and her positivism is infectious.She is an ordinary woman who creates a new life for herself and I love it that my readers have been inspired by her, motivated by her and driven by her.
You also write poetry, what inspired you to Write Sunshine After the Rain?
Aww, my poetry collection! I wrote the poems in the collection as a way to recharge! I decided to write poetry as a way of giving myself breathing space and thinking space between editing Broken Pieces of Tomorrow and writing The Summer Will Come. Writing poetry gives me an almost immediate result in that I can see a whole poem in front of me within an hour or so. There’s something quite satisfying about writing something which you can read in its entirety after such a short space of time and writing poetry allows me to do this. It provides me with the opportunity to use a different level of creativity and helps me to use words and phrases in a totally new way. I love the challenge too of bringing in both rhythm and rhyme to my writing through the poems I write.The collection is inspired by old proverbs and sayings so that each poem is written around or about one of these and I have included poems inspired by the favourite sayings of a few people I have connected with across my social media.
Does your writing process for poetry differ from how you approach your fiction writing?
Writing poetry usually happens when I’m feeling an extreme emotion, usually love or hope or happiness, and can often also be inspired or prompted by a word or a sentence in a book I’m reading, a thought I have or even a line in a film I’m watching. The main difference too, between my fiction writing and writing poetry is that I tend to hand write my poetry in a notebook and then type it up. My fiction writing tends to be written straight off on a word doc and usually while I am sat at my dining room table which is where I have my “writing space”. What’s one interesting thing you’ve come across in your research, and have you used it in one of your books (or do you plan to)? I did a lot of research for my second novel The Summer Will Come and in the process I have been amazed at how much of my own home country’s history I was not aware of before. Much of what I found was included within the fictionalised story although just as much was omitted too; I was very aware of not ‘information dumping’ on the reader! With my current Work In Progress (WP) I have been researching different types of Cerebral Palsy (CP) and in relation to my particular main character (MC) the impact it has had on him mentally, emotionally, physically and socially. Much of my research has come from face to face interviews with someone who has CP and he has been incredibly open and honest about his own experiences which has allowed me to build a realistic story, albeit fictional, around my two main MCs.
You mention in your bio that you started writing in 2015, what drew you to write and how has that whole process been for you, including the decision to self-publish?
I began writing on a serious level, with a view of writing a book, when I joined a Creative Writing Class and was given some fabulous feedback on my initial piece of writing. From there I wrote Broken Pieces of Tomorrow writing full-time as a teacher of Business Studies and a Deputy Director of Learning for the Sixth Form. Somehow having less time to write pushed me to use every single spare moment to sit in front of my lap top and get my words out.
My decision to self-publish came about for three main reasons; the first was to prove to myself that my book was worth reading, the second was to ‘get the ball rolling’ (I had 8 rejection letters, all standard) and the third was to free myself from Broken Pieces of Tomorrow so that I could immerse myself fully in my next book which I had already started planning in my head.
Self-publishing has so many big ticks next to it for me: the control over release dates and book cover design, the autonomy regarding making decisions, keeping more of the royalties, connecting with my readers the way I want to, getting involved in face-to-face events in my local community and of course being able to decide what works for me and what doesn’t. The gap between self-publishing and traditional publishing may not be narrowing but I believe the option to self-publish is a good thing, it’s shaken the industry up a bit and I believe it needs to be brought up to date! I read somewhere that the first chapter of a famous book was sent to an agent and a standard rejection letter was received back; hundreds of now very successful authors have been rejected again and again and likewise many have self-published. More and more readers are looking for new authors and are choosing to connect with them across so many different platforms; I’m ready!
What does your writing process look like for your novels, are you an outliner or a pantser?
With my latest novel, book 3, I’m actually a confuddled tangle of both! I planned out most of my first novel with chapter summaries and a running time line and did something similar with The Summer Will Come. But somehow with this latest WIP I have allowed my imagination, and my characters, to lead me. The research I have carried out and especially so the information I have gleaned from a number of personal interviews with a wonderful man I initially met through social media, has also shaped and pushed my story in an unanticipated direction.
What are your future writing plans? Any books in the works?
I’ve briefly mentioned the research relating to my current WIP which is in the first phase of editing right now. It’s a story about a friendship which begins across Twitter, between a married man with CP and a woman, which evolves into an illicit relationship. It explores relationships and why some people stay in relationships which are not rewarding and how relationships can be manipulative and controlling.
Do you listen to music when you write? Not often, but when I do it’s because I’m struggling with the writing and my energy has dipped; so it’s full on loud dance music which I listen to, or should I say dance to, in order to bring me back into that high energy mode again. I absolutely love dancing, it doesn’t matter how tired I am, blast up a tune and I come alive!
What do you do in your free time when you aren’t writing?
I work hard and I play harder! I work as a part-time private tutor in a small tuition school where I teach English and Creative Writing. I also offer editing services to writers, students and business people including ghost blogging and other general writing support services. I am working on a long-term project at the moment; editing and rewriting a children’s fantasy novel and I am thoroughly enjoying the process. The author already has a publisher for her work and so it’s a very exciting project to be involved in. I enjoy editing manuscripts different to my own writing as it gives me another perspective to focus on when I’m not working on my own writing. I find editing therapeutic; a chance to add the magic and wrap the novel up in pretty paper and ribbon; editing is the finishing touch to any novel and is a must have part of the process if you’re taking your writing seriously. Having your friend read the book is not enough.
The rest of my time is filled with running my home, spending time with my three young adult sons and enjoying time with my family. I am lucky to have my sisters and my parents as well as cousins close by and being part of a big Greek Cypriot family means often meeting up for one celebration or another.
I enjoy reading, exploring new places, both in the UK and abroad, going for walks, visiting libraries and historic houses, eating out and dancing the night away.
What’s your favorite food?
Ha! That’s a near impossible question to answer as I’m a real foodie so it’s easier for me to answer by saying I don’t like shellfish!
Tell us something about yourself your readers don’t know.
I took belly dancing lessons when I was in my late thirties and can belly-dance with the best of them; I even have a jingly-coin skirt! My friends and family often drag me up to dance with the entertainment in Greek Clubs and restaurants and I absolutely love everything about belly-dancing, the music, the costumes, the fun you can have with the moves. Everyone should give it a go!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You’re good enough and love yourself more.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
I’d just like to thank you most sincerely for taking the time to put together this wonderful interview and I hope that I can reciprocate soon! I hope your readers enjoy reading it and I look forward to connecting with you all.
Laura’s website is here and you can connect with her across her social media links (on her website) as well as buy her books which I have listed below.

Laura’s two fabulous reads:

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Welcome to this week’s A Cup of Conversation with the wonderfully talented author Tina-Marie Miller. I first came across her writing when I read Everything Happens for A Reason back in October 2017 and since then we have become frequent tweeters supporting each other and sharing our writing journey. Tina-Marie is set to release her next book Fame and Fortune in a few days and so this is a super exciting time to have her join us. So let’s see what she has to say about reading, writing and everything in between! 

1. When did you start writing creatively?

As a child, if I wasn’t daydreaming I was busy creating stories or making up songs. Instead of cards I used to create mini books for family birthdays. I’d draw cartoons depicting vignettes from our family life – which was never dull! I began writing full time about nine years ago. I started several books – which are yet to be completed – before concentrating on my debut novel, Everything Happens For A Reason.

2. You were brought up in the historic village of Sutton Courtenay, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire. Can you tell us how this has influenced your writing.

I was blessed to have been born in this beautiful, picturesque village which has hugely influenced my work.

As a child, I used to spend a lot of time at All Saints Church which sits on the edge of the village green and is the influence behind the creation of St. Michael’s Church in my books.

I had an amazing childhood growing up in such glorious surroundings and relished exploring every aspect of village life with my friends. Long, hot summers were spent down by the river or walking through green, leafy lanes that lead onto one of the two Brookes that can be found in the village. We’d share a picnic, or various treats that we’d snaffled from our homes and sit with our bare feet in the water, trying to catch tadpoles in empty glass jam-jars. And in later years, when I took my own children to all these favoured spots, I’d sit daydreaming whilst they played happily nearby, conjuring up some of the stories that I’ve woven into The Hamptons series.

3. What was the last book you read and what lasting message did it leave?

The last book I read was The Soul Keeper by Bibiana Krall. She has the ability to weave a magical supernatural tale and her latest short story is exceptional.

The story is set in the late 60s ‘Summer of Love’ era. It’s a haunting tale that will leave you gasping with a cleverly crafted ending.

The lasting message for me? Don’t mess with things you don’t understand!

4. I’m quoting now, “you enjoy nothing more than curling up with a good book and a cup of tea, and losing yourself in tales of love, life and laughter.” What does this actually look like?

When I want to read, I take myself to the corner of the dining room where my reading chair is situated. It is a huge, cosy swivel chair covered in bright pink fabric with a matching foot stool. There are several cushions – in varying shades of pink – which I snuggle into, akin to settling myself on a wonderful, soft fluffy cloud, before losing myself in a book.

5. Tell us a little about your imminent book release, Fame and Fortune.

Whilst we return to the light-heartedness of village life, Fame and Fortune explores the phenomenon of Ghosting – the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation. I have attempted to tackle this serious issue from different perspectives.

We welcome back many favoured characters such as Diana Fortune who has become quite the celebrity. Diana puts the newly formed Fortunettes through their paces in preparation for the Cotswolds County Majorette of the Year competition – which of course comes with its challenges!

We are introduced to a few new characters too, including the glamorous Georgina Fame, a popular weight loss guru.

It’s a tale of family conflict, deceit, broken hearts and redemption… Well… this is the Hamptons after all!

6. Are any of the characters in your novels based on yourself and/or your own experiences?

Absolutely; I write about what I know. I have been fortunate to have enjoyed a fabulous career so far where I have met an abundance of wonderful people from all walks of life. Often the characters that I create are influenced by more than one person.

7. Which of your characters is your favourite and why would your readers like them?

One of my favourite characters is Rita Denby. She’s a nosey, busybody who likes to have a finger in every pie. In my forthcoming release, Fame and Fortune we see a completely different side to Rita and I think my readers will warm to her immensely.

8. How do you organise your writing process and how do you prepare your books for release?

I tend to write between the hours of 10 – 4 during the week and afternoons/early evening at weekends. I have my own office in the quietest room of the house. I try and keep social media activity to first thing in the morning / last thing in the day. I found that this works much better for me and that I don’t get as easily distracted throughout the day!

When I get to the proof reading/editing process I tend to spend as much time as possible polishing my work before sending it to my editor. Once I send it off I usually then concentrate on getting the cover artwork designed and take time to think about marketing activities for the new book as well as ideas for refreshing the marketing for my others.

9. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy? Why?

No. Not at all. I love every single moment and am blessed to be on this journey doing what I truly love – each and every day!

10. If you were able to meet any author, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?

If you take a look at my bookcase, there is one author who stands out far amongst the rest because I have every one of his books – and this may surprise you.

I would love to meet Paul McKenna, the UK’s most successful non-fiction author.

I first came across Paul when he worked as a presenter on Capital Radio – my favoured station at the time – and later when he presented The Hypnotic World of Paul McKenna. Through his studies, he not only mastered hypnotism but also neuro-linguistic programming and has helped a wealth of people overcome some of the most challenging problems.

       11. Are you a planner or a pantser? 

I am a planner! I create a storyboard for each book and develop the characters before I begin writing. For my series, The Hamptons, I have created a whole fictional county! I have a map of Hampton Waters and Hampton Ash showing where each of my character’s live that I continually refer to. I create extensive notes that detail the plot and story outline so that by the time I begin writing I am completely focused. However, with each of my books thus far, there are some storylines that have just naturally developed – and no amount of planning can prepare for those!

       12. What’s on your current to-do list?

Create an audio version of Everything Happens For A Reason.

Record a vlog for The Curious Miss Fortune.

Prepare for the release of Fame and Fortune.

Carry on with Book 4!

Thank you dear Soulla for giving me the opportunity to feature on your blog. Sending you much love and hugs xoxo

Thank you Tina-Marie too for sharing your world of writing with us and I wish you a path filled with Fame and Fortune as you release your next novel on 31st October 2018. Thank you too my dear readers for joining us and see you again next week. Until then, Keep smiling, keep shining x 

Tina-Marie’s Links:

Twitter: @tinseymiller

Instagram: tinseymiller

Facebook: tinseymiller

LinkedIn:

Website: www.tinamariemiller.co.uk

Blog: http://www.tinamariemiller.co.uk/blog.aspx

Amazon link to books: https://amzn.to/2Cy3aqm

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When I first joined Twitter one of my first ever followers was Amy; I was attracted to her warm, friendly personality and as time went on we seemed to click on a level more than that relating to our writing, so to say we have been on this writer’s path together from the start is true. I have loved the way Amy’s passion for writing and her story Life Happens on the Stairs has exploded into the publishing world with her fabulous Breakthrough Novel Award 2018…truly deserved and I’m so proud to give this A Cup of Conversation interview with her. I’m sure you’ll love her just as much as I do!

 

1. When did you start writing creatively?

I wrote a lot in high school, short stories and some poetry. When I went to college, English 101 was a creative writing class and I loved it. My professor was quite taken with my work, but then I set down my pen for many years. I’ve always journaled, but in 2009 I read a popular YA series, and the spark flickered inside of me again. It wasn’t until 2013 that I sat down with the determination to get a full novel written. That’s when Life Happens on the Stairs was born.

2. How has your love of painting and art author influenced your writing and writing style?

Ah, the arts, dear to my heart. I was determined to prove to myself I could draw/paint. I worked on the craft for many years as I stayed at home with my kids. I guess that determination spilled over into writing, my first love. Art History made a huge impact on me and I love to find the “drama” behind the scenes of artwork and creators. I definitely found ways to incorporate that into my writing. This is a fun fact about LHOTS… There’s a scene where Elsie and Tyler are talking about their love of art and history. Elsie’s a fine artist and Tyler’s a history buff. He talks about seeing a painting when he was a kid by Peter Rothermel. It’s a historical rendition of Patrick Henry’s speech, Give me liberty or give me death. I used this because my brother’s name is Patrick Henry Rothermel. I stumbled across this during research and found it fascinating that not only a Rothermel painted it, but the names made up my brother’s name! So much fun!!

3. What was the last book you read and what lasting message did it leave?

The last book I read was Being Indie by Eeva Lancaster. I wish I’d read it sooner. She has invaluable advice for writers concerning the publishing business. I highly recommend it to all writers looking to publish. She breaks down the industry, dos and don’ts, and puts out the warning to writers about the publishing sharks, preying on peoples work.

4. tell us a little about your debut release Life happens On The Stairs.

LHOTS is a story of a young lady all jumbled up with fear and worry. She’s devastated that her dad is terminally ill, as she tries to help her mom make ends meet, cleaning houses for the wealthy. Elsie has to find her inner strength to endure all the pain she’s facing. Then, she meets Tyler. The love story balances the emotional rollercoaster of the heartache the family is enduring. Even though this is a young adult novel, many of my readers are moms who relate to the family aspect. LHOTS truly is a story about family when you get to the heart of it.

5. Are any of the characters in your debut novel based on yourself?

I suppose on some levels, they all do. Elsie has aspects of me, especially her emotions—I’m a very emotional lady! To be honest, I asked myself when I started writing Tyler, if I was a guy, what kind of guy would I want to be? So, Tyler even has pieces of me, such as his empathy and compassion.

6. Which of your characters is your favourite and why would your readers like them?

This is a tough one, I love them all! Even my antagonists. I guess if I had to choose, it’s Tyler. I love Tyler! He’s a true gentleman. I want his example to show young ladies that the way he treats Elsie is the way they deserve to be treated and to accept nothing less. He’s not perfect, of course, no one is, but our daughters need examples of what a true gentleman looks like.

7. How did you come about entering the competition you won recently and how has it helped you as an author?

The Breakthrough Novel Awards changed everything for me. I have a strong network of writer friends on Twitter, and someone along the way retweeted the contest information. It was a minimal fee, so I took a chance. Around the same time, I’d signed with an independent publisher. It wasn’t a bad deal, but as time moved on, I knew they weren’t invested in the story, just sales. In June, I received an email I’d won the BNA! From there, I chose to back out of the contract and let my publicist take the lead in self-publishing LHOTS. Eeva Lancaster and The Book Khaleesi have made my dreams come true! From helping me create a beautiful website, promotions that make the book shine, and the gorgeous cover. And most of all, Eeva edited the book. That was vital to me, something I wasn’t going to get from the small publisher. I wanted someone to work with that was invested in the story as much as I am, and winning the award gave me that opportunity.

8. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy? Why?

The query process. It’s frustrating to get rejected over and over. I’m stronger than I used to be as far as the rejections, but it seems impossible to get past the slush pile.

9. What is your process for ensuring your books are ready for release?

Edit the edits, reread, and edit those edits! It can feel like it will never end. After going through the release, I understand the process better, but I didn’t really have a plan to begin with. This is my debut, so I’ve learned a lot!

10. What three pieces of advice would you give a new writer?

Don’t give up. This is a journey, certainly not a race. Don’t rush into a contract. There are many vanity publishers out there and all they want is your hard earned money. I’m so grateful for the BNA contest, it really saved me a lot of heartache. When you’re an unknown author, you don’t have readers and your story will get lost in the sea of novels. Be patient and keep trying. If you self-publish, be sure you look professional. Know your limitations and hire a professional to help you. It pays off in the end.

       11. Are you a planner or a pantser?

I’m a pantser! I like to get a rough idea of the storyline in my mind, maybe outline a little, but what I love most about writing is not knowing what the characters are going to do. I will always be fascinated by the process. As the character develops, I find they do things I never would’ve expected. Sounds crazy, but as I’m writing, I’ll try to make them do something and it’s like they’re screaming, “No! I refused to go there! I’m going this direction!” I love it when surprises like that happen.

     12. What’s on your current to-do-list?

I have another book that needs significant work, and several more story ideas that I need to get written. I’m promoting Life Happens on the Stairs as much as I can, as well.

Thank you Amy for sharing your writer’s life and I wish you all the success in all the world with your new book! Thank you too, readers for reading! I’ve included Amy’s social media links below so you can continue to follow her amazingly inspiring journey.

Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ajmarkstahler

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajmarkstahler_author/?hl=en

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

Website: http://www.amyjmarkstahler.com/

Blog: https://frontporchobservations.com/

Amazon link to books:

http://getbook.at/LHOTS

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1720226148/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-J.-Markstahler/e/B07F5MBYQJ/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

 

 

 

 

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I am absolutely thrilled to be sharing Cassie Faber’s A Cup of Conversation interview as she is one day away from releasing her debut novel Frozen Memories on Amazon on 7th September 2018. Cassie is bold and bright and exciting (juts look at that gorgeous pink hair!) but she admits to being an introvert and she struggles with the 9 to 5 routine of work and hopes to be able to write full time one day. Her seed of inspiration for her new novel has evolved from an idea two years ago to the first in what she plans will be a series of books in the Angelbay Harbor series. So come and find out more about this fabulously warm and friendly author as she chats with me in this week’s A Cup of Conversation.

1. When did you start writing creatively?

Oh golly, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I have not been putting words or images on paper to give outing to the stories in my head. When I was a kid, I used to draw ‘stories’ and when I could write, I’d add dialogue, much like the old comic books back in the day. Writing has always been an escape for the stories my wild imagination conjures up at any given moment. I have never experienced writers block! I have the opposite, I can’t keep up with all the ideas pouring from my mind then flooding the pages into stories I hope I live long enough to write and publish!

2. How has music influenced your writing and writing style?

It’s been a big influence in my life! Growing up my grandma would listen to the oldies on vinyl, Mouskouri, Sinatra, Prima and Patsy Cline while cooking. On Saturday evenings we would huddle by the radio to listen to the radio drama’s and I would close my eyes and imagine the story play off in my head like a movie. Music brings back fond memories of my childhood, but it also sets the tone and evoke the right mood for writing the perfect scene. I have a variety of playlists for writing, editing, and for specific books. My husband thinks I’m crazy when I play a song on repeat as I work through a specific scene, but that’s how I work.

3. What was the last book you read and what lasting message did it leave?

You are a badass by Jen Sincero. It’s one of those books that makes you sit up and snap out of the rut you are in and get on with business!

4. Are any of the characters in your current series and WIP based on yourself?

The main protagonist Claire Forester’s love for baking, flowers and everything small town is very much me. Her sister Amanda’s instinct to keep her family safe and happy and get on with business or ‘mom mode’ as Claire refers to it is something that comes naturally to most parents I think, and certainly one of my stronger traits.

5. Which of your characters is your favourite and why would your readers like them?

Wow that’s a difficult question!

If I must pick then it will have to go to Claire and Boh, the main protagonists in books one and two. Claire’s a gentle spirit tormented by the tragic accident in which she lost both her mother and her memories. Her dramatic development from a fragile survivor to a tenacious business owner who fights for what she what she wants is remarkable and inspiring. Boh is strong-willed, broody and devilishly charming and comes with baggage he just can’t shake. His biggest fear is to be vulnerable and that’s exactly what happens when he falls for Claire. The more he feels the more he pushes her away and this makes for an explosive combination.

6. Congratulations on your latest release Frozen Memories. Tell us a little about it.

A couple of years ago I got this idea of a girl lying on a snowy bank. She was in a car crash; her face was all bloody as she lay there barely holding on to life. I knew she lost her memories, and that opened a floodgate of ideas. Characters started showing up and soon I had a full cast. I knew fairly early on that it would be series. I just had too much to tell for it to be one book.

7. Why would readers enjoy your book? 

All the characters in this book grow and change, for better or worse in some way and at times this was hard to write, but it was necessary for their development. I don’t shy away from writing the darker things and my characters get their fair share of it. This book, and the rest in the series are emotional rollercoaster reads!

8. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy and why?

Having a full-time job. I have known from a young age that a 9-5 office job is not for me, but the reality was that I had to work, raise a family, pay a mortgage and bills, all the boring grown up stuff.

9. What is your process for ensuring your books are ready for release? 

I must stick to a tight writing schedule as I’m not a full-time writer. Sometimes life just throws you a curveball and things don’t work out the way you have planned. I try and manage it the best I can and give myself adequate time to write but even more time for editing which can take from a few weeks to a few months! I have three beta readers who get the first draft off for an early readthrough to get a feel for their feedback on the story, characters etc.

       10. As an introvert, how do you deal with face-to-face book events?

I have not been to any face to face events yet but are very excited for my first whenever that will be!

11. What two aspects of the writer’s life frustrate you the most and why?

I think just not having enough time for everything but I’m hoping that will change once I can write full time. I have so many stories to tell and there’s just not enough hours in the day to do everything I have on my list!

12. What three pieces of advice would you give a new writer?

Don’t wait to start writing, if it’s your dream to be an author, start now, today, where you are with what you have. You are never going to feel ready so just take the leap and jump. You will grow your wings on the way down! Also, get your work edited and don’t try and have a good cover.

13. Are you a planner or a pantser?

Hands down a planner through and through! My mom tells me when I was a kid I used to make ‘to do’ lists, and as a grown-up I can’t function without it! I plan everything from my menu to which podcasts I listen to on my commute to work every morning and off course my writing and publishing schedule for the month to keep my 5 year plan on track!

14. What’s on your current to-do list?

Oh, my goodness, book one has been uploaded onto all platforms so at this stage I am working with bloggers for promotion, social media takes up heaps of time, but I enjoy hanging out with my fellow authors and friends! I am more than halfway through writing book #2 and have plotted the outline for a surprise novella! I also design my own covers so that takes up a lot of my time. I guess staying one book ahead of the release schedule is my goal, and that means sticking to my daily word count of 1250 words and playing catch up if I don’t make it!

     A little note from Cassie…Thanks so much for the interview Soulla! You are one of the loveliest people I have met on Instagram and in life and I am so honoured and blessed to know you! I hope that we will continue to work together for a very long time to come! Huggles xoxo

If you’d like to connect with Cassie you can do so here:  https://linktr.ee/authorcassiefaber

     It’s fabulous to be able to support such a lovely author as she launches her debut novel! Wishing her lots of success and I too am looking forward to a life long friendship and sharing a joyous writing journey together Cassie!

Thank you so much to all of you for joining me this week.

Until next time, Happy Reading, Happy Writing, Happy You. 

Soulla xxx

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Welcome to this week’s A Cup of Conversation with one of the first authors I connected with on Twitter and who, although is on the other side of the world, still          I remember reading first drafts of his first book and sending back little notes to him and now here we are celebrating the release of his book          . It’s truly wonderful to be able to share this with him and to have you here.

1. When did you start writing creatively?

That must have been somewhere around late 2011 or early 2012. I had been raving to my loved one about a little book called ‘the name of the wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss when she politely asked, “You’re okay with English and your creativity steals you away so often. Couldn’t you do that?”

I answered, “Of course not, he…” I stopped. Why couldn’t I? Not on the same level, surely, but something clicked then. I could invent a story. The problem was simply writing it down. How do I gain that skill? What story would I want to write?

2. Which author has most influenced your own writing style?

Surprisingly, I think my two companions (Meredith and Michael from AMM) take that cake. It’s not so much me saying that they’re better than a Pullman or a Tolkein, but rather that they’re so different in the way they approach writing. Michael has an air of precise mischief, and Meredith places the emotions of readers above all else. These things have begun to seep into my writing, simply because I read so much of theirs. Before this, I’d never read so much by the same author save for Rowling.

3. What was the last book you read and what lasting message did it leave?

A Stephen King novel, one of the Dark Tower books. It’s the one that mentions Charlie the train. I have never seen emotion twisted in that way. That book is the very definition of an eerie clown. It takes the things you believe are nonsensical and makes them into the most horrid things. It’s even more powerful because it lends a sense of truth. Maybe the important things in my life came from dumb coincidence. The sheer audacity in taking a song like Velcro Fly and turning it into a tribal drumbeat, far in the future, for people to murder one another with… I cannot imagine that.

4. Are any of the characters in your novel/s based on yourself?

I don’t rightly know. I’m not entirely sure what I’m like. Thinking back on it, I’ve largely avoided creating characters as simple as I feel myself to be. I’m a little worried about what that might end up saying about them…or about me. At this point, I remain a little far from going in that direction. They say that chefs always avoid their native cooking and then eventually come back home. I’m sure I will too.

5. Which of your characters is your favourite and why would your readers like them?

Ah, this is actually an answer you seem uniquely qualified to understand. Azrael Windslayer is my favourite so far. I simply adore the inherent goodness and stubbornness he has in following his core belief.

Azrael Windslayer, dear readers, is a necromancer who believes that people shouldn’t die. Mischievous and at times cruel, he remains to this one faith because he thinks that as long as people could remain alive, they could become better people and then improve beyond our wildest belief. He would not wish the pain of death on anyone

6. Tell us a little about Adventus, your new release out on 1st September.

Adventus is the first of my novels set in Grimea, which is essentially made of Europe+ Middle East, East Asia, Central Africa, and Russia, but in a fantasy setting. In the year 1100 PK, three portals open, one in each of the continents other than Baku. In response, the world’s governments attempt to maintain diplomacy by sending a joint party of all these nations out to kill a specific creature. The point, it seems, is to prove that different races should live in peace. However, each government has something nefarious in mind…

7. Sum up Adventus in 6 words for us.

Governments are enemies. People are friends.

8. Where do you like to write and do you have a writing routine?

Currently, at my desk. I suppose there is a routine of sorts. I drink a great deal of coffee and do nonsensical things for a few minutes, then put away all people, toys, and electronics and begin to write.

9. What’s your favourite go-to snack when writing?

I don’t really snack. The closest I’ve come are slow meals or some vegetables. Perhaps some celery or carrots. There is something insidious about fruit, or so I am told. It might be the sugar. I don’t quite understand these things.

10. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you most enjoy and why?

I love a few things about writing, not least of which is the feeling of when I write and come up with interesting phrases. I also quite enjoy finding out where a story goes. Thinking about it, I spoke to a friend yesterday about the joy I feel when I begin writing and the story takes charge. You’ll find me pacing in the kitchen, telling people about how unexpected I found the most recent twist.

       11. Where do you find inspiration for your fantasy books?

Adventus was borne from my personal shame at the way some countries handled the Syrian refugee crisis. I wanted to reflect that shame in a fantasy setting.

Most often I begin with the world, I suppose. Many a teenager has sat with a friend and asked something to the effect of, “Dude, what if, like, some people had wings, but they’re really way deep down inside and couldn’t come out unless we were in danger? Wouldn’t, like, most superheroes in that world be suicidal people who just found out they had wings?”

I do something similar to that, and then I expand it. Sometimes, I begin by imagining a certain human being.

       12. What aspect of the writer’s life frustrates you the most and why?

Goodness, I hate proofreading my work. It’s simply the most boring part, since I already know what I wrote and thus, know my own story. What is the point of reading my book seven more times, just to polish some sentences and plot points?

However, I’m warming up to even that part. Polishing my work has begun to feel like polishing a stone or a blade. It can do something better because of my continued efforts.

       13. What three pieces of advice would you give a new writer?

Write fast: Done is better than perfect.

Wonder about people: Realistic people can make interesting decisions.

Read: For god’s sake, please do this, even if you’re like Michael in that you only read half of a book before moving on. Your style will never evolve properly if it isn’t motivated by the tricks that you absorb.

       14. Are you a planner or a pantser?

Pantser all the way. Writing Adventus, I was aware of only a few facts: I knew that Yuuto was the great-grandson of an old character. I knew Adventus would happen and that there would be a global summit. And I had known about the terrible tale of Ur Istahla and Ayyur, which Ur recalls to Yuuto in chapter…31, I think it was. Other than that, it all appeared on the page as I typed.

       15. What’s on your current to-do list?

Why, making Adventus a best-selling book, of course! We are currently on preorder, getting reviews, and we have every intention of making our week-long blog tour a smashing success.

Huge thanks Andrew for this wonderful interview and I wish you all the best with Adventus. And thank you my readers for joining us and Andrew’s links are below for keeping up-to-date with his books and writing life.

Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/andrew_mowere

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Association-of-Merry-Makers-186550418737100/

Blog: http://associationofmerrymakers.wordpress.com

Amazon link to book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FPWXRP2

 

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Mark O’Neill is one of the first male writers to contact me about being featured in this series and I must say I’m truly delighted that he did. His interview is not only inspiring but he is open about his thoughts of the publishing industry and admits one of his book character’s sarcasm comes from him as he too can be a little sarcastic! He is a huge ambassador of Indie authors, so he already has a big tick next to his name from me! He’s a night owl and writes best between the hours of midnight and 3am and reveals how two of his books were inspired by real stories in the German news. You won’t be disappointed so welcome to this week’s A Cup of Conversation!

1. When did you start writing creatively?

When I was 10 years old. I remember writing about a deadly ninja that would go around beating up the bad guys. But this deadly ninja had feelings and would go home after a day’s hard work doing ninja’ing and talk to his dog about how he felt. It was really bad writing and I would cringe in embarrassment if I read it now. Remember I was only 10 and I am now 43!

But looking back, I realise it was the first time I started writing fiction where I was really rooting for the underdog. Justice and fairness has always been a constant theme in my writing.

2. Which author or authors has/have most influenced your own writing style?

The author I have always idolised is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and every year I re-read the Sherlock Holmes books religiously. When I was a boy, I read the Hardy Boys books and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books. I love detective books, spies and codes.

Now that I am older, my thriller/spy writing is influenced by people like John Connolly, Daniel Silva, Tom Rob Smith, Sam Eastland, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, and Mark Dawson.

3. What was the last book you read and what lasting message did it leave?

My reading has fallen by the wayside recently, as I try to write more of my own stuff. Today I started the new Daniel Silva book, “The Other Woman”, featuring the Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon. What message does it give me? That I have no chance in hell of ever bettering Daniel Silva! He is the spy thriller master.

4. Are any of the characters in your nine published novels based on yourself?

Not directly, but I do try to put tiny little bits of me in each character, maybe just a small trait or two that only people who know me well would recognise. For example, the main character, Major Sophie Decker is a sarcastic person, always ready with a smart-ass reply to someone’s stupid question. That is definitely me.

Her deputy Wolfgang Schmitz reads Asterix books and is always cracking jokes, looking as if he can be easily trampled on. People underestimate him but he can turn on you in an instant if pushed into a corner. Again, me.

Then there is Sergeant Max Amsel, a black guy who experiences racism in Germany because he’s black. I experienced racism in the past because I was a foreigner in Germany and I was attacked in 1999 by skinheads down in southern Bavaria after defending a black friend who was also being attacked. So I put all of my racism experiences in Amsel.

Finally, Department 89’s resident tech expert, Sergeant Katja Liebermann, has all of my tech and geek knowledge. She’s only happy if she is behind a computer screen.

5. Which of your characters is your favourite and why would your readers like them?

A lot of people have asked me this and I honestly can’t decide between Decker and Schmitz. Both of them are my favourites and I can’t choose only one. Females will like Decker for her kick-ass uncompromising tough attitude in a job which is traditionally a macho man’s world (Military Intelligence). Men will like Schmitz for his smart Italian suits, his humour, his loyalty and toughness.

6. Tell us a little about your new series Department 89?

Department 89 is a covert German military intelligence unit which officially does not exist. The rest of German Intelligence is unaware that it exists and it answers only to the German chancellor and to her chief of staff. D89 deals with the security problems that the rest of German Intelligence and the German police cannot deal with, perhaps because there is no evidence to make an arrest, or because conventional law enforcement obviously cannot take the law into their own hands.

D89 on the other hand can do what they want. They do not have to follow the law and can make a spontaneous judgment call as to whether someone lives or dies. They are privately nicknamed “the chancellor’s private hit squad”. It’s hard to keep the department accountable to laws when officially they do not exist. So in a way, they are a nice convenient solution for the chancellor when she has a situation that normally cannot be dealt with. She can call in her black-ops people and tell them to quietly dispose of the problem.

7. Where do you like to write and do you have a writing routine?

Due to crippling back pain, I must lie down when writing, either on the bed or on the sofa. So my laptop is my most valuable possession. My writing routine is to do the books late at night between midnight and three in the morning. Any other time of the day, I have terrible writers block.

8. Why would readers enjoy your books?

Because they have action, adventure, fun, excitement, and escapism. Think of James Bond or Jason Bourne and multiply by 50. Plus female readers will enjoy seeing a strong female lead character for a change, instead of the woman traditionally being the sex symbol who looks lustfully at the male spy. Now the woman is in charge and the men are the second fiddles.

9. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy and why? 

Editing. And having to deal with horrible people who seem to delight in sending nasty emails about how bad the books are in their opinion. I find it sad they have nothing else in their lives worth doing if all they can do is email me to complain about something in my books.

       10. Where do you find inspiration for your espionage books?

Other books and movies, as well as the news. I am always scouring German newspapers, websites, and history books to find possible new angles. When they found unexploded World War II bombs outside Berlin last year, I changed the bombs to poison gas and it became “The Beethoven Syndrome.” When the Neo-Nazi APD party got into the German parliament last year, it inspired “The Reichsbank Gold.”

       11. What is your process for ensuring your books are ready for release?

Setting a release date on day one and publicly announcing it. That way, I can’t back down from it. That forces me to keep working and stop procrastinating, knowing the clock is ticking down. Plus not sleeping too much.

       12. What two aspects of the writer’s life frustrate you the most and why?

Well as I said before, I get so much hate mail from pitiful hateful people and I am always told by my friends and family not to reply to it. That replying just keeps it going because attention is what they are looking for. But like Sophie Decker, I don’t turn the other cheek when getting insulted. So I am my own worst enemy.

The other aspect is the arrogance and rudeness towards indie authors, by the “traditional” publishing industry, by the media, translators, book conventions, etc. When they find out you’re an indie author, they look at you as if you are a contagious disease. I always say to them “I make 70% royalty on each book. How much do you make? 10% if you’re lucky?”.

That doesn’t improve the atmosphere but they know I’m right.

       13. What three pieces of advice would you give a new writer?

Never give up writing. Always edit your work. Always read other books.

       14. Are you a planner or a pantser?

A pantser. Planning is torturous for me. Planning takes all the fun out of writing. Just start typing and see where your mind takes you. To paraphrase a popular British TV comedy programme, “we’re now entering his mind. Expect filth!”

Stephen King said something along the lines of “if you don’t ever read, you don’t have any business being a writer.” He’s right.

       15. What’s on your current to-do list?

Writing the next Department 89 book (due out in September). Writing book one of a spin-off series, due out in the middle of August. Getting ALL of the Department 89 book covers re-designed by a lovely talented friend of mine in the US. The German and Spanish translations of my first book will also be out in August.

Links:

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/markoneill

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

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markoneillonline/

Website: https://www.markoneill.org

Blog: https://www.markoneill.org/books

Amazon link to books: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B074LCQN1D

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I have connected with many authors, writers and people involved in all things writing and Kristy has been one of those women who I clicked with immediately. We have the same can-do attitude, love our Twitter banter and are supportive of all our writer friends. So it is with much excitement that I introduce Kristy to you and I just know that you will love her just as much as I do as she reveals who influenced her own writing style, how the fun of the 80s growing up have slipped into her books and much more! 

A little word from Kristy…

Thank you for having me on A Cup of Conversation, it’s great to be here. Hello, readers! I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer so far.

1. When did you start writing creatively?

I’ve created songs, poems, and stories since childhood. There was always some limerick, jingle, or budding tale bouncing around my brain. In my 20s, I entered poetry contests, read my unpublished stories to kids, wrote music (I was in a blues band). It wasn’t until the last few years I decided (and was able) to focus on writing full-time. The writing was always present; it just evolved from a simple pleasure to an unquenchable thirst. I love writing!

2. Which author has most influenced your own writing style?

I’m not sure I have any one particular style. Each project seems to have a life & style of its own. Every book and author I’ve ever read has influenced me in some way.

3. What personal experiences are reflected in your writing?

Well, for Mall Hair Maladies, it’s my undying love of the 80s! I absolutely love the pop culture of that decade.

4. Of all your published books, which is your favourite and why?

They’re all my babies, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be one of my children’s books, Operation Scrub-A-Dub Skunk. Siggy Skunk is ostracized everywhere he goes because of something he can’t help; his smell. When he finally makes friends, they try hard and change his odor but it’s impossible. He is, in fact, a skunk. How many times have we been left out? Left someone out? Tried to change someone? Had someone try and change us? The lessons in this book about acceptance and tolerance are wonderful.

5. Kristy, tell us a little about your latest book Mall Hair Maladies

It’s a teen/coming-of-age story set in the year 1985. When the radio DJ announces that Madonna is coming to Pittsburgh in May, best friends, Randi & Tanya will do just about anything to score those tickets! As the concert date approaches, they’re getting more desperate by the hour and things get out of control fast. They just have to see their idol live! In the meantime, they learn some valuable lessons about life, love, friendship, and how one night can change everything.

6. What are you working on at the moment/what’s next?

This week, I worked on revisions for the second installment of the Mall Hair Maladies series, illustration details for my fifth Cackleberry Creek release, and I’m about halfway through editing a young adult fantasy I’ve been working on.

7. Where do you write and do you have a writing routine?

Although I have a lovely home office, I end up dragging all my writing supplies/gear down to the living room where I set myself up on an ultra-comfy reclining sofa in front of a sunshiny bay window (where I can see and hear the birds), with pillows propped all around me—under legs, behind back, neck, between my right armpit…basically, I’m writing on a woman-made cloud. The scenery, breeze, lighting…it’s way better than my office. As for a writing routine? I wish I were that disciplined.

8. Are the designs for your covers inspired by your own creativity and vision or do you have a designer?

I envision the cover in my mind and do my best to convey that to the graphic artist.

9. Who edits your work? Is it something you do or do you have a professional editor?

I used two different editors for my last release—Eve Arroyo and Kat Helgeson.

10. What’s your favourite go-to snack when writing?

Chocolate chips, homemade apple juice (frozen into Italian ice cups), and apple rice cakes.

11. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy and why?

I’m not built to be confined. It’s so hard for me focus when it’s sunny and beautiful because I want to go out and play. And summer nights…I want to go out and play. Summertime is hardest for me to stay in and write when I just want to run, run, run. Who can come in the house, kick off their roller skates and start writing? Not me! A new episode of The Gong Show is about to start in five minutes. See? Balance is something I’m still hoping to master.

12. What advice would you give to someone looking to write their first book?

Do it, do it, do it! If it’s your dream, you owe it to yourself. Don’t be embarrassed, afraid, discouraged. But be warned, it’s addictive!

13. What two things frustrate you the most about the writing industry?

As with any industry, it’s not always about the art itself, but the marketing game, who you know, the cliques, review-trolls and saboteurs. This business isn’t for the thin-skinned, and most writers/artists are sensitive beings. I used to get furious seeing real, hard-earned reviews deleted by the dozens for no reason whatsoever. Now, who cares? Also, the stigma attached to self-publishing. It’s getting old.

14. Are you a planner or a pantser?

I wish I were more of a planner, but I’m 85% panster. I allow the story to unfold however it needs to.

15. What’s on your current to-do list?

Haha, do we have all day?

Thank you so much, Soulla. Have a fantastic summer, everyone!

And huge thanks from me too to all of you and until next time Happy Reading, Happy Writing, Happy YOU! Soulla xxx

Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kristyjovolchko?lang=en

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/krizmiz33

Website: http://www.kristyjovolchko.com/

Blog: https://kristyjovolchko.wordpress.com/

Amazon link to books: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00BGCZGQY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1530929893&sr=1-1&redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

 

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Welcome to A Cup of Conversation with author Chariss K. Walker who has been a guest here quite recently. Sharing the inspirational dream behind her novel Kaleidoscope (The Vision Chronicles, Book 1) and how themes of love, prayer, forgiveness, dreams and other ideas have a physical energy she also talks frankly about her wonderful real life experiences which have influenced her writing and the many stories she has published. So grab your cuppa and let’s join Chariss in what promises to be a truly wonderfully enlightening interview. 

1. When did you start writing creatively?

I began creative writing in grade school. I entered a contest that was open to my K-12 school and won. Along the way, which included marriage and rearing children, I entered several local writing contests and won those too. And, I’ve always kept a journal. However, I published my first nonfiction book in 2008 and my first fiction book in 2014.

2. Which author has most influenced your own writing style?

I’m not sure any particular author influenced me. I’ve devoured so many books from a very early age that probably all the books I’ve read have made my writing what it is today. Books were my escape. Reading far above my age level, it’s quite hilarious that I was banned from my school library for reading ‘too’ much. Thankfully, the public library only cautioned my mother about the level of books I read.  I suppose that if I had to name one, it would be John D. MacDonald for my fiction thrillers. I’m sure he influenced the titles I’ve chosen for some of my books, such as Purple Kitty and Blue Cadillac. However, my nonfiction books are written as teaching manuals in the same style as the classes I once taught on these subjects. I soon found that my books could reach a far greater audience than I could through teaching a small class.

3. What personal experiences are reflected in your writing?

Everything. I am an author that writes about the things that I know. This includes my life experiences or the experiences of others I have witnessed. I have an active spiritual life. More often than not, my dreams and meditations have led me to a new series or a character that has something to say or wants his or her story told. That may be a little unorthodox, but it’s how it works for me. Usually that character has something in common with me – dreams, visions, denial of past experiences and learning to accept that earlier experience or memory.

4. You are a published writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Can you tell me how the process for each works and which you prefer writing. 

Because I studied metaphysical and spiritual concepts for over thirty years, I began writing nonfiction books to explain those concepts (those things that cannot easily be explained or measured scientifically, such as love, prayer, forgiveness, dreams, visions, karma, auras, chakras, energy, and other ideas). I have a master’s degree in metaphysical sciences, an honorary doctorate in Divinity, and I am a Reiki Master/Teacher.  I write nonfiction books to share and explain these views.

After a while, I realized that we all have these mystical abilities to some extent or degree. We desire and need practical application to better understand these gifts. I transitioned to write fiction books with characters who struggle to accept that part of their lives. The more I personally accepted that idea, the more fiction books there were to write.

Some of my characters see visions, some hear an inner voice, and some have dreams that come true. Some characters are supernaturally transformed. For example, in An Alec Winter Series, Alec is faced with a harsh truth – His father is a pedophile. The acceptance of this truth pushes Alec into a preternatural change. He becomes both avenging angel and demon-destroyer to punish those in New Orleans who harm innocent children or take advantage of those less powerful.

Actually, I don’t have a preference between the nonfiction and fiction books that I write. I find that, after writing a particularly gruesome crime thriller, I return to writing nonfiction as a sort of spiritual cleansing. It’s beneficial to wipe the slate clean or cleanse the palette with a topic that refreshes me and hopefully the reader.

5. Your non-fiction books share insight, hope and inspiration. Can you tell me more about these themes and why you chose them?

I have always been an individual who wanted to know ‘why’ and ‘wherefore.’ When I don’t understand something, I research until I am satisfied with the answer. For most of my adult life I desired to understand what God or Universe or the Power that organized this universe with all of its multiverses and layers wanted from me. I desired to know why I am here – what is the purpose of this life. In that pursuit, I studied many religions and beliefs trying to figure out my own worldview. I couldn’t accept the belief systems that were spoon-fed to me as a child from my parents and local organizations.

I have found that, if one is truly open to understanding, they will be led to the information they seek. That’s how it was for me. Once I discovered the spiritual aspects of life through meditation, Reiki, chakras, and other new-age concepts, I began to compare them to the religious indoctrination from my early childhood and teen years. The term ‘New-age’ is a misnomer – there isn’t anything new about it because these ideas and principles have been around since recorded history.

My first nonfiction book, Make a Joyful Noise: Searching for a Spiritual Path in a Material World, shared all that I had learned from a Christian perspective. It compared religious doctrine to spiritual concepts. It explained forgiveness, prayer, praise, angels, and the laws of attraction so that the average reader could easily understand. I like to think that the book bridged the gap between the two groups and that it allowed the reader to see that both groups are saying the same thing, they just use different terminology. As I continued to write nonfiction books for the next four years, it became apparent that my dreams and personal inspirations were trying to tell me something, something that should be shared with readers. For example, Kaleidoscope (The Vision Chronicles, Book 1) began with my personal dream.

In that dream, I was walking along the service alley behind my home. I saw a kaleidoscope on the ground. It was covered in dirt, but I picked it up, dusted it off, and put it to my eye. Instead of the pretty colored-glass from childhood, I saw a terrible scene of disaster. Shocked, I dropped the toy. I wanted to walk away from it, but I couldn’t. I was frozen to the spot. I told myself that it was just a fluke event and that, if I looked through it again, I’d see the mosaic images as I was supposed to the first time. Fortified by that notion, I picked it up and put it to my eye. Once again, I was rewarded with another terrifying image like something from a horror novel. The vision was so frightening that it woke me from a sound sleep. I sat up in bed with my heart racing. I stayed awake the rest of the night pondering what I had dreamed. The next morning, I began to write Kaleidoscope, the first book in The Vision Chronicles series.

As the protagonist, Mike Lewis wants a normal life but he knows this is impossible in his current situation. He feels that if anyone knew about his ability it would put them in danger. He tries to hide the fact that he has visions of future disasters that come true. Mike fights his ability, but then, with the help of a therapist, he begins to accept it. In Kaleidoscope, someone finds out about his secret and they attempt to abduct him. Mike realizes that he isn’t paranoid after all when someone is truly after him. Mike understands that he has to accept his gift and that it might be useful in avoiding those who want to capture him. This unknown assailant chases Mike throughout the entire series, however, the more he comes to terms with his unusual ability, the more it changes.

First, Mike sees broken images through a kaleidoscope, and then he sees larger pictures through a spyglass. His ability quickly evolves as he sees visions through window panes, windows all around, open spaces, streams of light, lamp’s light (all titles in the series)… and then finally, he sees all images though any clear glass surface. The Vision Chronicles Series represents our understanding of life too – The more we acknowledge, the more we grow in body, mind, and soul.  It was only natural for me to share what I had learned with others through my writings.

6. In your most recent fiction book who is your favourite character and why?

My most recent fiction book is A Medium’s Birthday Surprise. Becky Tibbs is an Asheville, North Carolina medium who helps the recently departed with their unfinished business. I love Becky. She’s a red-headed, freckle-faced southern girl with a lot of love and compassion. She drives a pick-up truck, wears cowboy boots, and fights her weight-gain and unruly copper tresses every day. Becky is a sweet twenty-six year old who has a lot on her plate. She wasn’t born a medium. Her gift arrived on the worst night of her life – the night both of her parents died in a traffic accident.

This series is the first cozy mystery books I have written and I am really enjoying the work. It has everything a cozy mystery should have: clean language, recipes, pets, and antiques.

7. What are you working on at the moment/what’s next?

After having recently finished a six-book nonfiction series, Going Deeper, which teaches the reader how to release trapped emotions and old baggage, I began to write Becky Tibbs: A North Carolina Medium’s Mystery Series. The series has something for every holiday. I am currently working on A Medium’s Independence Day Event. If my computer hadn’t crashed last weekend, it would’ve been published before July 4th, 2018. However, my very old desktop did crash and burn, so that book will be delayed for a while.

8. Where do you write and do you have a writing routine?

I write at home, in a corner near the kitchen and close to the coffee pot. I treat my writing like a job even though few people would work as long and hard as I work for the pay I receive. (Smiling as I write that.) I am usually up at 5:30 each morning. I drink my first cup of coffee, meditate, do some spiritual work, and an hour later, I get online to Facebook and Tweet. I manage six groups on Facebook so I must check-in several times a day to make sure everything is running smoothly. After that is out of the way, I begin to write. I write for a few hours, return to Facebook and Twitter, catch up on my responsibilities there, then sign off and write again for a few hours. I repeat that all day, every day, until the rest of the family returns from work. As an Indie Author, I have to be willing to do all phases of writing: formatting, production, publication, promotions, and make sure everything is up to date on social media sites.

9.Who edits your work? Is it something you do or do you have a professional editor?

I edit my work using several methods before I send it to my editor. No matter how many times we or the people we trust go through our work, we can easily miss something. My favorite blunder – in one of my books there was a sentence that read, “the dog at my homework.” I can’t tell you how many proofreaders and editors missed that ‘at vs. ate’ sentence. I was reading the paperback edition when I finally found the error six months after publication.

10. What’s your favourite go-to snack when writing?

I drink a lot of coffee, but I also love chocolate. I usually don’t allow myself a long lunch break so if there are brownies in the house… well, that with a hot cup of black coffee, that’s simply a divine pick-me-up.

       11. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy and why?

I’m sure that I am not alone when I reply that “promotions” are the hardest part of writing for me. By nature, I am shy. I am a recluse, an introvert. I’d stay inside, wearing flannel pants and a tee-shirt, every day if given the choice.  I find it difficult to promote myself, to toot my own horn. When I was growing up, it wasn’t acceptable to be ‘conceited’ and any action that was self-centered was considered such. I’m afraid that has followed me into adulthood.

I read comments on Goodreads and Facebook from many forums. Readers don’t like for Indie Authors to send them promotional invitations. Many scorn our attempts to get recognition for our hard work. However, Goodreads certainly sends out a lot of promotions and newsletters for the traditionally published authors out there. Indie Authors have to work five times as hard for a modicum of recognition. Then, Amazon – wow! I get tongue-tied when I think about Amazon.

I believe that all Indie Authors struggle to get reviews for their books. I personally ask for reviews at the end of each book I write. After a series is complete, I give my first book away to encourage readers to read, and hopefully, review my books. The magic number for reviews on Amazon is fifty; the big five-oh. I get very close and that’s where Amazon slaps me back in line. Just this week I had finally gotten 46 reviews for Kaleidoscope when Amazon randomly deleted three of them. I would have over fifty reviews already if they didn’t delete a few along the way. It’s painful and disheartening because there is no way to fight such injustice or such a huge conglomerate.

From the promotional aspect, I have to laugh at the absurdity and difficulty of being an Indie Author. I wish I could ignore it, but I can’t. I have to promote daily in hopes of wading through the 1,000,000 new titles published each year. I recently read that since electronically published books (eBooks) came to be, there are 32,000,000 (thirty-two-million – it looks bigger in number format) books in print and some estimate that number to be closer to 42,000,000. It’s amazing that an unknown Indie Author can sell even one book.

    12. What advice would you give to someone looking to write their first book?

For new authors, I suggest that they do a lot of preparation before they begin to write. Read a lot of books. Read different authors and topics. An avid reader usually makes for a good author – not always, but it certainly helps. Preparation includes knowing your genre, your audience, and your writing level. Figure out where you will promote your book before you publish. Have everything lined up to announce your new release before you hand it over to the world. Also, make sure your book is the best it can be and fully edited before you ever put it in print or eBook format. You are making a first impression and that is worth the extra time it takes to do it right.

    12. What two things frustrate you most about the writing industry?

It is very frustrating to see the bias against Indie Authors. Amazon and Goodreads give preferential treatment to traditionally published authors for sure, but many readers are also prejudiced. They treat authors and their books like name brands – Toyota, Sprint, Nike, Apple, Tylenol – never giving that generic or independent author a chance. Yes, there are a lot of authors who write one poorly edited book and disappear from the scene – that hurts all of us. But, there are also a lot of great Indie Authors who work hard to write excellent material and they are here to stay. I am one of them. I’ve thus far written 36 titles and I have a lot more to write. Goodreads and Amazon are vital resources for an Indie Author, but they can hurt us as much as help us.  I am often amazed that so many authors give Amazon exclusive rights to their hard work and actually help sell the KindleUnlimited program. My books are for sale on Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, and many other online sites.

    13. Are you a planner or a pantser?

I’m a pantser. And, I am a planner. This is a one woman show; therefore, I must plan and make the important decisions about my writings.

    14. What’s on your current to-do list? 

My near and distant future plans include writing the books for Becky Tibbs: A North Carolina Medium’s Mystery Series. I have several books already lined out that tell Becky’s story: A Medium’s Birthday Surprise, Book 1; A Medium’s Independence Day Incident, Book 2; A Medium’s Labor Day Job, Book 3; and so forth. I have also committed time to read and review other Indie Authors’ work. My TBR pile is large, but I like to give back to others who struggle like I do. I also have a spot on my website for “Author Friends and Bloggers” and I hope to increase that list.

Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chariss_walker

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/charissk.walker/

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/charisswalker

Website: http://chariss.com/

Amazon link to books: http://www.amazon.com/Chariss-K.-Walker/e/B004QZNKRK

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1984212.Chariss_K_Walker

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/chariss-k-walker

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to A Cup of Conversation with wonderful writer and food blogger Effie Kammenou. I instantly warmed to Effie on Twitter and her shining, gently personality comes through in her interview. She is of Greek heritage and her series “The Gift Saga”has been inspired by her father’s stories as well as her own inquisitiveness and connection to her family’s roots. I hope you enjoy reading her “cup” as much as I enjoyed chatting to her.

1. When did you start writing creatively?

That is not an easy question to answer. The short answer would be 2012, about six months after my mother passed away. I wrote as an outlet to express myself and to channel my grief. But I had been writing a food blog for several years before that. In that blog, I not only shared recipes, but also the traditions and celebrations that went along with the foods. I also occasionally contributed to a regional magazine, writing restaurant and book reviews and feature articles. However, if I go back even further, I remember writing a play with a friend when we were barely in our teens. And to think I thought I was only interested in acting out the plays, not writing them!

2. Which author has most influenced your own writing style and how?

I can’t say that my writing style has been influence by any writer. I admire many authors, envy their eloquence and sophisticated use of the English language, but each author has his own style and own voice. Mine comes from my soul and life experience as well as my interests and observations of the people around me.

3. How would you describe your “The Gift Saga” series’ writing?

When I began writing the first book, Evanthia’s Gift, I wasn’t sure it would turn into a book. I was writing more as a form of therapy. Fifty-nine chapters and 560 pages later, I had a full novel that was the first of a three-part saga. I had a story line in my mind for a while and I expanded it, developing a character inspired by my mother’s grace and spirit. I also had a basic idea how I wanted to continue the saga with the other two books, but the details and the deeper story emerged as I wrote.

4. What is your favourite reading genre?

I love to read women’s fiction and contemporary romance with deeper themes. The occasional rom-com is fun too. I also like a good paranormal fiction. And I really enjoy revisiting the classics I grew up with. That doesn’t really answer your question, does it? I can’t pin it down to just one.

       5. You have had an acting career in the past. How has acting influenced or supported your writing career?

Saying that I had an acting career is stretching it. I studied acting in college. I’d hoped to have an acting career. What I lacked at that time was the fortitude to forge ahead through rejections and the moxie to push my way through the right doors. And then there was that annoying reality called ‘making a living.’

My training did, however, influence the way in which I write and develop characters. The way I’d breathe life into a role by giving the character a history beyond the script is the same way I gave my characters in my books their personalities, traits and pasts.

I have a little corner of the living room which I refer to as my ‘writing nook.’ I must have made it too comfy though as my hubby is always sitting there! I don’t have a set routine- just whenever I have time.

6. How has your Greek heritage influenced the stories you write?

My Greek heritage is all over these books – the traditions, customs and religious holidays. The food and the spirit of the Greek people. The stories I’ve heard all my life and the experiences I’ve had. My observations of other Greeks and Greek-Americans and the dynamics of their families. All of these factors influenced my stories.

7. Tell us a bit about your latest release.

Chasing Petalouthes is the third and last book in The Gift Saga. This story focuses on the current generation in the family as they navigate their way from adolescence to adulthood. In the other two books the mains characters are women and it’s no different in this one.

Evvie has lived through the loss of her father and her most beloved yiayiá. Because of this, she thinks that closing her heart will protect her from future pain. She’s wilful and defiant at times in respect to her mother who has her best interest at heart but sometimes tries to force her hand in a direction that doesn’t interest her.

Stella is the youngest of a family of siblings and cousins who, in her mind, are all more attractive, intelligent and talented than she is. She suffers from a lack of self-esteem and that frame of mind lands her in a relationship with the wrong man.

Throughout the story, the younger generation learn lessons from the older members of their family. Many of the chapters drift back in time as far as 1928 before any of the family had come to America.

In the end, the entire saga is tied together in a very meaningful and heartfelt manner.

8. Where do you write and do you have a writing routine?

I have a home office connected to the kitchen. The joke in my family is that I only occupy one of two spaces in the house – the kitchen or the computer chair.

I work during the day, so I write in the evenings and on my day off. I’m a night owl. I sometimes can be found at the computer until 2 AM and then I get up to go to work in the morning. I can be a little obsessive once I’m in a writing zone. I hate to be interrupted and writing that late affords me a lot of quiet time.

9. How do you “build” your characters?

As I mentioned earlier, I develop characters the way I’d created and interpreted roles. I like to give each character a history even if it doesn’t come into play with the story line. But where they come from, the type of life they led and the experiences they’d gone through influences who they are, their traits and mannerisms.

10. What steps do you take to ensure your writing is ready for release?

I make quite a few revisions before anyone else lays eyes on it. I have a good friend, who I call my unofficial editor, and she is the first one to read through the manuscript. I take her suggestions and do another revision. With the first book, I had several beta readers and I’d made many changes after their read through. With this last book, I only had two beta readers before I handed it over to my editor. I make a few more revisions while working with her and when the manuscript is where we both want it to be, it goes out for a final proofread.

      11. What’s your favourite go-to snack when writing?

That all depends. Sometimes it’s dark chocolate and other times, chocolate licorice. But I’m really more of a savory food lover. Give me a few chunks of cheese and I’m a happy person. Especially kasseri!

     12. I know you’re fond of cooking. Tell me a bit about your food blog and how your cooking has influenced this.

The food blog was started because people were always asking for my recipes. I thought it was an easy way to share them and also give a little backstory on what makes the dish I’m sharing special. Most of the recipes are family ones, taught to me by my mother and yiayiá. I’m proud of my Greek heritage and I enjoy explaining the customs and traditions that go along with our delicious foods. I also have other recipes, ones I’ve developed myself and aren’t necessarily Greek. I entertain a lot, especially in the summer, so I post those recipes as well. All three of the books contain recipes between some of the chapters. I did this for a couple of reasons. I simply couldn’t help myself! But I also thought for the non-Greek readers, the list of ingredients would aid in imagining what the foods in the text might taste like.

     13. What two things frustrate you the most about the writing industry and how would you change these? 

The industry has changed completely from ten years ago. The ability to self-publish has given me and other indie authors the opportunity to have our books on the market and in the hands of thousands of readers. I’ve been fortunate that my books have been well received and have sold to a large demographic.

The frustrating part is two-fold. The amount of time I spend on marketing takes away from my writing. I’m always looking for ways to reach new audiences and with all the different social media platforms there are today, I always seem to be on my phone or computer.

The other thing is that traditional publishers have not changed their business model or if they have, only minimally. Indie books are selling at a rapid rate. Readers are buying them and discovering new authors, but unless an author has already sold tens of thousands of books on their own, the publishers won’t take a chance on them. Getting your manuscript into the hands of an agent willing to take you as a client is as hard as getting a publisher to consider your book. And you can’t get a publisher to look at your book unless you have an agent. I’ve already gone through this before with my so-called acting career.

All in all, I’m happy to have control over my work, so I just keep going, writing and promoting. I’m lucky to have a fan base that is enthusiastic when I release a new book. I love interacting with readers on social media and I appreciate their comments and reviews.

     13. What’s on your current to do list?

Chasing Petaouthes was only released on June 3, 2018. I’m busy marketing the book and looking for new readers for the entire series now that it’s complete. I’m working with my cover designer and formatter to create a box set so it can be purchased together at a discounted rate.

I also have notes on the next series and plan to begin writing in a month or so.

I also need to build an author website, something I’ve put off. I’ll be working on that as well.

Huge thanks to Effie for joining us and I wish you the very best of luck with the new release! Thank you too for reading – leave a comment too if you have a spare few minutes. You can connect and follow Effie’s writing journey and buy her books on any of her links below:

Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EffieKammenou

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

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/effie-kameno-speyer-961682107

Blog: https://cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com

Amazon link to books: https://www.amazon.com/Gift-Saga-3-Book/dp/B07DCBXGGJ/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1528001925&sr=8-5&keywords=effie kammenou

Newsletter signup page: http://eepurl.com/bIoJl1

Fan contact e-mail: effiekammenou@gmail.com

 Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/effie-kammenou

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