Author Timothy Gwyn Three Random Questions Interview

Timothy Gwyn writes science fiction stories and has recently finished his first novel, Avians.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Timothy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your novel, Avians. It is quite apparent that you are extremely knowledgeable about flying and can discuss gliders and airships with great expertise. Can you tell us a little about your experience with flying?

Timothy Gwyn: I first rode in an airliner, a Pan-Am Boeing 707, when I was six, and my brother took me up in a glider before I was eleven or so. I learned to fly when I was eighteen, and quickly took it up as a career. On the fun side, anytime I can get a ride in a balloon, a helicopter or a hovercraft, I’m having a good day.

Ferrante: I was very impressed with the world building in Avians. Both the environment and the social structure were unique and interesting. Can you tell us how you went about creating this fascinating world?

Gwyn: I wanted to write about aviation that was greener than the kind of flying I do, so I set out to create a world that had low technology, but needed flight. The lack of metals and complete absence of fossil fuels – both of which could stem from Celadon not having a moon – oblige the inhabitants to build gliders. Putting the settlements high on mountain sides makes them ideal for launching sailplanes, and also creates a scarcity of habitable land that leads to all sorts of social consequences.

Ferrante: You chose to write from the point of view of several women, most young teenagers. Why did you choose girls instead of boys as your protagonists?

Gwyn: I wanted a utopian society with gender equality, but that begs a fundamental question: if everything is so perfect, why would a fourteen-year-old run away from home? Because the landowners consolidate their grip on their property not just through trade alliances, but also with strategic marriages, and Raisa wants no part of that. Also, I wanted characters who were not the biggest or strongest, but who have to accomplish their goals despite that, by finding courage and determination within themselves.

Ferrante: I don’t want to give away too much of the book but I really want to know why you made Raisa anorexic. You make it quite clear why she refuses to eat and it suits the narrative perfectly but what was the impetus for your decision to give her an eating disorder? How did you research this?

Gwyn: I don’t like to apply the term anorexic to Raisa, because I’m sure she’s never heard the word. She would claim her reluctance to eat is a protest, a hunger strike. It seemed the perfect flaw for Raisa: she has no idea how privileged she is, and she is a rebellious and contrary character. But yes, her attitude towards food is distorted, and experience with anorexia in my own family shows through in some of her specific issues.

Ferrante: Because this is such a rich and well thought-out world, I could easily see you setting more books in it. Do you have any plans for a sequel or other novels that take place in this world?

Gwyn: I do! There are already two prequel short stories published: “Far Gone” at NewMyths.com is about the trip to Celadon, and “Freezer Burn” at Antipodean SF is about one of Raisa’s ancestors coming out of the long sleep. I’m working on the first sequel to Avians, in which bandits worsen a refugee crisis, and Mel and Raisa must work together in new ways to prevent a disaster. I’d like to create a series of novels that follow Raisa and Mel’s adventures as they mature in different ways.

Ferrante: You live in a fairly small town in northern Ontario, Canada. I know you belong to the NOWW, Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop, and that there is an active writing community in Kenora. What else do you do to connect with other writers, improve your writing skills, and gather feedback on your work?

Gwyn: Since attending my first workshops in Kenora, I’ve become a regular at conventions in Winnipeg, Ottawa, and now Calgary. I put a lot of work into an Odyssey online course one winter, and I also belong to a speculative fiction critique group in Winnipeg; I get a lot of mental writing done on the drive home.

Ferrante: What advice would you give to new authors who are writing their first science fiction book?

Gwyn: Make connections. Start with Beta readers. Then, if you can manage to get to a convention or workshop, put your brave face on and sign up for a Blue Pencil Café because those short critiques often go straight to the heart of the matter. Look into online courses such as Odyssey’s, because they teach you to critique. Follow the Prix Aurora Awards: enrolling to vote is just ten bucks each year and you get to read all the shortlisted works.

Ferrante: What you working on now? What are your future plans? Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Gwyn: I’m working on that first sequel, Bandits, and roughing out some plots for later books. I have enough ideas to keep me going for many years. I have two blogs that can be reached through timothygwyn.com: Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol displays aerial photographs to chronicle the spring thaw in Kenora’s cottage country, and Timothy Gwyn Writes covers my adventures and misadventures pursuing writing and publication.

Three Random Questions

Ferrante: If you were a science-fiction character, who would you be?

Gwyn: Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. This Hiyao Miyazaki anime is perhaps my favourite movie ever. Princess Nausicaä is brave but pacifistic, and strives to understand nature to better her world. And she’s a pilot!

Ferrante:  The morning after a nuclear catastrophe, what would you be able to reinvent or re-create?

Gwyn: Coffee. There will be no civilization rising from the ashes until I have coffee. I’ll get around to building a printing press out of the slag and putting out a newspaper in the afternoon.

Ferrante: What kind of clothes would you absolutely never wear?

Gwyn: High socks, with or without shorts. I fold my socks down to below the shin. And flood pants: I’m still traumatized from my growth spurt in junior high. Captain Kirk’s uniform pants that end with a flare above the ankle make me cringe.

Ferrante: Thank you so much for participating in my interview series. It was a pleasure getting to know you.

Timothy Gwyn can be found through his website at www.timothygwyn.com, and Twitter @timothygwyn

Author Illustrator Claudia Marie Lenart Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Claudia. I’m so excited to be interviewing you. I love your illustrations.

I first encountered you when I reviewed Prince Preemie, written by Jewel Kats and illustrated by you using your fiber technique. Could you tell us what exactly you use in your illustrations?

Claudia Marie Lenart:  Thank you Bonnie! My illustrations are created from wool and other natural fibers, such as alpaca and mohair. In the books I illustrated for Jewel, I sculpted characters out of wool, through the needle felting technique, and posed them in scenes made primarily of wool or against a wool painting backdrop. Needle felting is a technique in which you use a barbed needle to repeatedly poke rolled up wool, which felts the fibers together. In Seasons of Joy, the book I wrote and Illustrated, all of the images are wool paintings, which I created through needle felting, and some pressed wool painting, a technique that comes from Eastern Europe. In pressed wool painting, wool fibers are laid out on a wool canvas; a heavy piece of glass from a frame is laid on top, and then you press against the glass to bind the fibers. The techniques are similar, except that the wool paintings can easily be framed and exhibited.

Ferrante: Where did you learn this technique? Have you used more traditional arts styles before developing this or did you go straight into fiber work?

Lenart: I am self taught. I did start with a book that described the basics of needle felting, but then taught myself after that. A friend on Etsy, from Eastern Europe, shared the basics of pressed wool painting with me and I took off from there. I have dabbled in art since childhood, drawing, watercolor painting, and colored pencil drawing. My mom taught me to knit, crochet, sew and embroider from an early age. I think the arts and crafts came together in needle felting.

Ferrante: Why did you decide to write a book on your own, Seasons of Joy: Every Day is For Outdoor Play? Will you be writing more in the future?

Lenart: I can remember always thinking “someday I’d like to write and illustrate a children’s book,” and that was long before I became a professional artist. I was a journalist, so I think my friends might have expected me to write a children’s book. It was a surprise that my first published works were as an illustrator. Some years ago I created a wool painting for our local Waldorf school. It depicted children playing outside throughout the seasons. People really connected to the work and I sold several more re-creations to families across the world, as well as prints. I thought it needed to be a book, so I sat down and wrote verse to capture the feel of the painting and then created 12 wool paintings, some based on the original painting.

I have other children’s books in various stages, however, my next will be another in the Seasons of Joy series. Where Seasons of Joy: Every Day is for Outdoor Play encourages children to get outside, explore nature and engage in imaginative play year round, Seasons of Joy: Growing Our Food in Backyards and Farms will encourage preschoolers to connect with whole and natural foods, to form a concept on where food comes from, to encourage future sustainable food growing and healthy eating.

Ferrante: I think your work would make wonderful prints for nurseries. Do you sell these on your Etsy page or do you keep all your book illustrations?

Lenart: Yes, I do sell prints of my wool paintings on Etsy and they do make lovely nursery art. I am not currently selling the original paintings, but I would take commissions to make a similar wool painting.

Ferrante: The stuffed animals on your Etsy page seem more like works of art than toys. Is that how you are marketing them? Do they stand up to rough child’s play or are they meant to be set on display? The animals and children are absolutely enchanting. Have you ever had a “show” of your artwork?

Lenart: Yes, the animals are more for display than active play. They would hold up to very gentle play and storytelling. I have not had an official art show – something to look forward to someday.

Ferrante: I was very pleased with the prose in this book and relieved you did not try to make it rhyme like many indie authors do. It was readable and poetic. What is your writing experience?

Lenart: As a young adult I wrote a lot of poetry and took a couple of college classes. Of course, I worked as a journalist for many years. Yes, I wanted the verse to feel very natural; where the verse rhymes, it happened naturally in the writing process.  I did revise quite a bit and consulted with a poetry editor.

Ferrante: Is there something new in the works that you would like to tell us about?

Lenart: My next book with a food growing theme. Seasons of Joy:  Growing Our Food in Backyards and Farms All Year Round

Ferrante: As a child, what was your favourite place?

Lenart: The beach. I grew up in Chicago near Lake Michigan, so had lots of opportunity to walk in the waves, build sandcastles and I love swimming in the cool waters.

Ferrante: If you lived underwater, what aquatic animal would you be?

Lenart: A mermaid or a dolphin.

Ferrante: What’s your worst obsession?

Lenart: For worst, I would say social media, because, while it has many benefits both personal and for my business, I am guilty of spending too much time and wondering where the hours went.

Ferrante: Thank you so much for answering both my serious and random questions. I learned a lot today. I’m looking forward to your next book. It is definitely an important and timely topic. Best of luck with all your projects.

Note: Seasons of Joy: Every Day is for Outdoor Play was reviewed yesterday on this blog.

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https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudiaMarieFelt

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Author Rita Blockman – Three Random Questions Interview


Rita Blockman is the co-author of Listen to the Wisest of All. Men and women aged 88 to 104 years old were interviewed for the inspirational stories in this book. They were from differing backgrounds but all were willing to share their life stories, values, and accumulated wisdom.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Rita. You spent 2 1/2 years interviewing people for this book. When you began this project, did you think it would take that long?

Rita Blockman: No, I predicted l l/2 years and didn’t realize initially that it takes time to develop a real relationship when you are interviewing people for a book. One has to establish rapport with an individual or couple, establish trust and ensure that what I wrote was clearly what was intended by the interviewee and approved by family and friends.

Ferrante: How much time after the interviews did you spend writing and editing?

Blockman: During the entire 2 l/2 years, we were simultaneously writing, editing and interviewing people. During the last six months our copy editor was meticulously refining the vignettes which are highlighted in the book.

Ferrante: How did you select the people to interview?

Blockman: It was our intent from the beginning to select people from different backgrounds because interviewing people from different ethnic groups, different religious backgrounds (or agnostics) and different socioeconomic levels, we felt would be more interesting to our readers. We followed different leads from several sources to find individuals in the age range in which we were interested. It is our feeling that each person (or couple) brought to life a universal theme of human nature which is actually a microcosm of the world in some sense.

Ferrante: What was the most difficult about writing this kind of book? What was the most rewarding?

Blockman: It was difficult to ask some questions which I was very curious about such as wanting to know if different individuals had “death anxiety” because of the advanced age of our interviewees. Once I got over the fear of this type of questioning, I was pleasantly surprised that it appeared that the more satisfied an individual was with their life, the less they thought about subjects such as this. The most rewarding aspect of writing this book was it made us conscious of how we wanted to live our life which included living with more intention and realizing the limits of status, ego, and materialism in the final analysis. Although I know this intellectually, it was refreshing to hear our beloved interviewees talk about different topics: how they valued different things in each decade, how they developed an optimism in spite of physical limitations and aging issues, how being poor “has nothing to do with money”, how important nature was and how it nurtures your soul, and how meaningful traditions make lasting impressions and generational memories.

Ferrante: Many interviewees had similar beliefs and attitudes. Did anyone ever say anything that really surprised you, that was unexpected or unusual?

Blockman: One individual stressed how important he thought it was to surprise people when they least expect it. He felt (and I do now) that it is much better not to wait until someone dies to send flowers, but to anticipate the needs of others and find things that might be meaningful to them when there isn’t necessarily a holiday associated with it either. This individual would surprise people with a rose from his garden when they arrived at his door. It might seem like a little thing, but it brought joy to a lot of people.  I have followed his advice and love doing this and love the feeling it gives me when I surprise someone. I actually have fun thinking about this type of thing during the year when the hustle and bustle of holidays isn’t an issue and one can focus on specific people at various times.

Ferrante: A common thread in the book is the importance of family. Do you feel that has changed for this generation?

Blockman: Most definitely. People engaged in conversations more, enjoyed family dinners more while cooking from scratch and overcame obstacles such as the Great Depression by banding together. There wasn’t as much mobility among families as there is today, so families had more day to day exposure to one another which led to celebrating more important events together. The lack of social media helped promote this type of interaction among families in my opinion.

Ferrante: Tell me about the photographs in the book.

Blockman: The photographs were purposely taken in black and white to reflect the period in which the individuals lived. We wanted the photographer to capture people in a spontaneous way and try to capture the “essence” of the individual and his or her interests.

Ferrante: One of the keys to longevity seems to be making oneself of service to others. For example Lloyd Dees serves as a parish visitor who calls on shut-ins, patients in the hospital, and people in grief. He also visits his homebound sister every day. The amazing thing is that he is 88 years old. Do you feel being of service to others helps people to live longer, happier, and healthier lives? 

Blockman: Mr. Dees demonstrated in his actions and good deeds that spiritual maturity is giving to others and letting go of your own wants and needs to some degree. I do think when we look outside ourselves and meet the needs of others, we feel better, and it strengthens our own sense of self.

Ferrante: one thing that struck a chord with me is when Lucy Gray spoke about the loss of innocence for children. They are exposed to so much, so early, that childhood is severely shortened. How would you recommend children’s innocence be protected without exposing them to risk of exploitation?

Blockman: I attended a lecture last night in which an older gentleman described an idyllic childhood for all children. He was getting ready to introduce an artist who had drawn pictures of her recollections of visiting her grandparents during the summer on a farm. I liked what he said…”Every child should have the opportunity to run and absorb nature, play hide and seek, explore, pretend, draw without specific instructions, listen to good music, learn how to plant flowers and vegetables, interact with people of all ages and be free of worry. “ Things are very structured for children now, and children are facing much trauma and pressure in our contemporary world which forces them to grow up prematurely and miss out on the innocence and beauty of childhood.

 

Ferrante: Joe Hamburg “stressed how important it was to be a good person: to have good morals and to be kind, understanding, helpful, charitable, and also to have an appreciation for the arts.” How do you feel the arts fit in with being “a good citizen of the world.” To feel children today are exposed to enough arts?

Blockman: Our society, in my opinion, views the arts as a frill or extracurricular activity. Art, in its many forms, reflects the human spirit in a way that can’t be duplicated in any other way. It enhances people’s creativity, allows them a safe way in which to express themselves and share their perspective. It is just as important as any subject in our educational system today, and yet it is being cut out of every program because of lack of funds. In addition to the soulfulness of any artistic endeavor for individuals, it helps us understand our world historically and culturally. I always love the feeling I get when I go to a museum and participate in a docent tour where a small group of people give their perception of a painting. Often times each person has a completely different perception which is so enlightening. I think this type of experience broadens one (and as Joe said makes us better citizens) so that we don’t get too narrow minded in our views about things. It also helps us participate in the world at large which teaches us how to “feel” and appreciate good works of art which reflect  the human condition in the most poignant way.

Ferrante: if you were being interviewed for this book, what would be the most important thing you would want to say?

Blockman: Although it might sound trite, I would have enveloped myself more in nature and offered more of this to our children, taken more time out to meditate on how to live with intention, actually visit and learn more from people from different cultures and backgrounds and never do anything that didn’t feel authentic to me.

(From a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking)

Ferrante: What song do you wish you had written?

Blockman: A song about the beautiful insights that are gained and sensitivity to others —even when emotional deprivation is pervasive in one’s early life.

 

Ferrante: What is the oldest object in your home?

Blockman: It is an old clock on our mantle that my husband and I purchased 45 years ago from a gentleman who was passionate about clocks. We associate the beauty of the clock and its chime with the beauty of the interaction we had with this gentleman.

Ferrante: What food could you absolutely not live without?

Blockman: Chocolate, without question! And, especially chocolate of the finest caliber!

Ferrante: In that, we are definitely agreed. Thank you for participating in this interview series..

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Women in War and More – Author Joan Leotta Three Random Questions Interview

Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood in Pittsburgh. She is a writer, story performer and lifelong beachcomber whose own dad got up early to hunt shells with her.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Joan. You seem to be a rather eclectic author, romance, mystery, essay, poems, short stories, and children’s books. Do you have a favorite type of writing?

Joan Leotta:  My favorite kind of writing is the one I am doing at the time. That’s not very informative, except to say I simply love to write. However, I write for children as a high calling—what is done for children, lasts. Poetry, the same. Touches the heart. I also read just as widely as I write—more so. I write non-fiction in the form of journalism (health and food) though I have , in the past,  written a travel book and many travel articles as well.

Ferrante: How do you decide what type of writing you going to do next? Does the topic choose the style or vice versa?

Leotta: The topic and the style need to be on the same track. I look at a topic and say—wow! Then my head begins to shape that WOW into a story or a poem, or perhaps I want to track it as an article. The idea is that WOW is something I want to share with others.

Ferrante: This blog focuses on children’s books so let’s talk a little about your picture books, Whoosh!, Summer in a Bowl, Rosa and the Red Apron, and Rosa’s Shell, which celebrate food and family. Why did you decided to focus on that topic? What do you hope to get across to your readers?
  

Leotta:  I want readers to see that ordinary family moments bring great joy. Of course, with my own background (Italian-American) food is often a part of that. My dad is the dad in stories, my Aunt Mary, the Aunt in Summer, a version of my Mom (she was a bit complex) is the Mom in Rosa and the Red Apron and while my Grandma could not sew, she gave me many intangible gifts, including a love of story, that have enriched my entire life.

Ferrante: The family in Rosa and the Red Apron are of African descent but you don’t seem to be. Did you choose this or did the illustrator? Do you try to include diversity in all of your books?

Rosa and the Red Apron was reviewed on this blog April 28, 2017 LINK

Leotta: Actually, they are not supposed to be of African descent in particular—the idea was to make them ethnically ambiguous. They could be anyone whose coloring is deep olive or brown: Some Hispanics, some East Asians, some African-Americans, some Middle Eastern folks and some Italian-Americans(old family photos of  mine show people of that coloring ). I am often asked, “What are you?” and I occasionally answer, “human, how about you?”

These ordinary experiences are not the particular “property” of any one ethnic group—all want, need and take joy in loving families. Yet, there are not many books out there showing such for anyone not blonde unless the characters are animals. I hoped Rosa would fill that gap. As a story performer, I often tell tales from many ethnicities, but on the same topic, subtly showing my audiences that each group has an interest in same basic things and each has value.

Ferrante: Your Legacy of Honor for book romance/mystery series features strong Italian-American women during the time of war. Tell us a little about the series. Why did you choose this topic?

Leotta: I grew up hearing stories of things my family did during wartime to support the efforts of the USA—both in combat (my father and uncles) and on the home front. I wanted to tell the stories of the valiant women. Desert Breeze wanted a set of four stories, so I started with WWII, then Korea, then Vietnam (where the woman serves in the war zone as a nurse!) and then Desert Storm (where women hold several roles, Journalists, home support and more). These stories are very close to home for me.

 

 

Ferrante: What kind of research did you to in order to write the books with authenticity?

Leotta: Research, research, research! I love research. As I shaped each story, I combed through books, newspaper articles, and sought first person accounts from people who lived through the eras in question so that details of things going on, places, would be accurate. For the first one, Giulia is the Italian spelling of a friend, named “Julia” who told me her story of leaving home and marrying a man who was not Italian-American. The research on the Wilmington shipyards—well, that was a lot of fun and I was already familiar with the resources. I had written several short stories about Wilmington history that took prizes from the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. An elder in my church provided me with his slides of Korea from when he was stationed there and a lot of anecdotes that appear in the book as things that happen to my main characters. For A Bowl of Rice, the Vietnam tale, I drew on the experiences of my former roommate,  who was a nurse in Vietnam. I read about the ways in which women journalists were working during the 90s and then also drew on Civil War history for the last book as well as lots of maps and a couple of recent visits to Rome to craft that tale.

Ferrante: What type of essays do you write? Are they about personal experiences or current events?

Leotta: I write personal experience essays. My work has been published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, Sassee magazine and SKIRT.

Ferrante: Are you working on more than one thing at a time? Or do you like to focus intently on a single piece of writing?

Leotta: I have a short attention span so I am always working on more than one thing. Often I am preparing something for a performance while writing as well. I used to write a lot of business articles. I kept only one client when we moved to North Carolina (that was my version of retirement) and now fill my time with poems (am revising at least one or starting one or both at all times). I am deadline driven (journalist habit) so my large projects are spaced out. When I get “stuck” I take a walk and tackle something in another genre.

Ferrante: You identify as a “story performer.” Tell us a little about what you do.

Leotta: I go to schools, libraries, and festivals and perform stories (often folk tales, sometimes notable women from history) as one woman shows. I love interaction, so I try to include my audience as much as possible. Even if the main stories are serious, I try to find places for humor too.

Ferrante: What is your latest publication and why do you think it’s worth buying?

Leotta: Rosa’s Shell is the latest—buy it for a good beach week tale for little ones. Great father-child bonding too.

Ferrante: What is the best advice you could give to a beginning writer based on your own experiences?

Leotta:  Pay attention to craft, look at rejections as stepping stones, and persist.

CLICK ON THE BOOK COVERS FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO BUY THE BOOK.

Ferrante: If you could invent a brand-new flavor of ice cream or sorbet, what would you choose?

Leotta: Lime vanilla swirl

Ferrante: If you could learn any dance perfectly, traditional or ethnic, which one would you choose?

Leotta: I can’t do any dance at all—I am without rhythm. Hmm, that makes this one soooooo tough. Anything I can dance with my husband maybe just the simple waltz so I wouldn’t step on him. (He is a good dancer)

Ferrante: If you were a colour what colour would you be? Why?

Leotta: I like blue the best, it’s my favorite. So I guess the blue of the sky so I could bask in the love of the sun and make my lap a play space for clouds

Ferrante: Thank you for participating in this interview series. Good luck with your new publications.

Joan Leotta’s Social Media links.

www.joanleotta.wordpress.com  (A series there on the birth of a picture book and photos of  the real Aunt Mary)

@beachwriter12 , Joan’s twitter handle

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Power Without Wisdom – Author Linda Yiannakis Three Random Questions Interview

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Linda Yiannakis has worked with children as a Speech-language pathologist for over 30 years. Her interest in language on becoming a writer has been an important influence on becoming a writer. She also teaches martial arts and there are certain philosophical elements from that world that have made their way into her work. Linda lives in the high desert of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where roadrunners and bobcats are some of her closest neighbors.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Linda. I think we live at opposite environments, although we also get bobcats in Northern Ontario.

Linda Yiannakis: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

Ferrante: What martial arts do you teach? Have you ever written about them?

Yiannakis: I teach traditional judo and a style of Japanese jujutsu. Over the years I’ve studied other arts as well, such as kenjutsu (swordsmanship), which is based on the same principles as the unarmed arts. I have published several articles in various martial arts publications and on the websites of international organizations. I also write summaries and further explanations of points I’ve discussed in class for my students. 

Ferrante: Kenjustsu is impressive to watch.

As a former teacher, I was always grateful for the difference speech therapy can make to a child’s ability to be understood. Has your experience with this work ever shown up in your writing?

Yiannakis: It has, in a yet-to-be-published manuscript called Digby of the Dinosaurs. In that story there are serious issues of communication to be overcome by the main character.

smallcovererasable

Ferrante: I look forward to seeing that in print. Erasable is your first book, correct? What inspired you to write this story?

Yiannakis: Erasable is my first published book, yes. I think that years of working with children who often wanted to just wish their problems away rather than deal with them made an impression on me. You do have to learn how to deal with problems, but not everyone has an adult who guides them through that process as they grow up. Children often can’t see the potential unhappy consequences of things that they wish for. I hope Erasable at least plants the seed of that idea in some young minds.

Ferrante: Unfortunatly, not everyone understands that. All that power in the hands of an inexperienced child parallels what often goes on in the adult world as well.

There is a strong element of karma in the novel. Every time one part of history is changed, the ripple effects are unpredictable. What are your thoughts on this?

Yiannakis: Change doesn’t always turn out the way we envision that it will. I think that as humans we are more connected to other people and events than we sometimes realize. And we can see less far into the whole cascade of future events that can occur as a result of our changing things than we think. 

Ferrante: I loved the book and the subtle messages given about our choices, impulses, and perspective. Without trying to give away too much of the story, one prevalent theme is the impact of our close associates on our lives. The presence or absence of another can greatly influence who we are. What would you hope readers gather from that?

Yiannakis: We should reflect on the fact that everyone leaves imprints or influences on other people. Some leave just a trace that we barely notice; others change our lives. And we ourselves are leaving imprints on others. It’s important to take stock once in a while of who you believe yourself to be and who you want to be because you are sharing little pieces of yourself with the people around you, whether you are aware of that or not. There is a Japanese legend about the « red string of fate » that says that the gods tie a red string around the pinky fingers of those who are destined to meet, help one another, or achieve something together. There are variations in how the legend is told but it presents the idea that all of our encounters are not random, but meaningful.

Ferrante:  Interesting.

How do you organize or schedule your writing? Do you have a routine?

Yiannakis: I do best when I get a lot of little chores out of the way so they aren’t nagging at me. I’m most comfortable writing in the late afternoons or early evenings. I like to write to some sort of closure. So in a book like Erasable, generally I tried to finish a draft of a chapter each time I sat down. Then about every three or four chapters I went back to reread and begin revising previous chapters. This was a process that I did over and over until I was ready to go through the whole thing from the beginning and do further revision on the book as a whole.

Ferrante: I would consider this book suitable for ages ten and up. Why did you decide to write for that age?

Yiannakis: It’s a wonderful age. They’re old enough to consider some more mature life concepts and scientific principles than children just a few years younger. But they’re still young enough to believe in magic and wishes.

Click on this link to buy Erasable

Ferrante: Yes, I loved teaching kids that age. They also have developed a fun sense of humor by age ten.

What do you think makes your writing original?

Yiannakis: I believe I bring a voice that reflects not just my own perspective on life but experiences from many children from a variety of backgrounds.

Ferrante: Yes, spending a day with a child is more valuable than any writers’ workshop.

Are you working on anything new that you would like to share?

Yiannakis: I’m working on more revisions to Digby of the Dinosaurs, a story about culture shock, identity and self-empowerment in a little boy who finds himself among living dinosaurs.

Ferrante: Well, that could go a lot of different ways! LOL. Now for three random questions (From a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking).

three random questions

Ferrante: What is the most useless thing you have ever bought?

Yiannakis: That’s a tough question. I guess recently, a tomato slicer. It should have been called a tomato squasher. 

Ferrante: As a child what was your favourite meal?

Yiannakis: Lasagna. Still is!

Ferrante: What is people’s most common misconception about you?

Yiannakis: I learn languages pretty easily, but not without a lot of work. I’ve had several people tell me over the years that they wished they had my ability to « just pick up a new language. » They don’t realize how much study and mental practice I build into my day to progress.

Ferrante: That’s admirable. Perhaps that will show up in your writing in the future.  Best of luck with Digby and thank you for participating in my interview series.

Erasable will be reviewed tomorrow on this blog.

Click on this link to buy Erasable.

www.lindayiannakis.weebly.com

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Author Darren Groth Three Random Questions Interview

Darren Groth writes powerful and insightful young adult novels. His work has won several prestigious awards and has been a finalist for the coveted Governor General’s Literary Awards in Canada.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Darren. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to interview you.

Darren Groth: Thanks, Bonnie. Great to be with you.

Ferrante: You are originally from Australia and came to Canada in 2007. How does the literary landscape for young adult writers compare in Canada to Australia?

Groth: Writing-wise, both are at the cutting edge of YA. Fine work from any number of brilliant authors abounds in both countries. In terms of the industry, the category is robust and agile and leads the way in the quest to bring greater diversity to the shelves. One Aussie initiative that has been highly successful in spotlighting the category is ‘LoveOzYA’, which started as a humble hashtag and is now a vibrant movement attracting the attention of publishers and booksellers alike. It would be great to see ‘LoveCanYA’ or something similar put together here.

Ferrante: You have teenage twins, do they ever inspire your topics or approach to writing? Do you think they help you to reconnect with your teenage self?

Groth: As a writer who looks close to home for fictional fare, my twins have been very inspirational. My novels KINDLING and ARE YOU SEEING ME? are dedicated to my son and daughter respectively, and arose out of fundamental questions I grapple with as a father and parent. Do they help me reconnect with teen me? In some ways. More so, I think they give me a window on the young adult of today; the stuff that I never had to consider or deal with when I was their age, and the stuff that never changes and remains constant from generation to generation.

Ferrante: ARE YOU SEEING ME? was a powerful book about love, courage, and sacrifice, putting a sibling’s needs first. Although the protagonist was autistic, it was easy for the reader to relate to his inner landscape. You must have done a great deal of research to acquire such an intimate knowledge of this condition. What advice would you give my readers on interacting with people on the spectrum?

Reviewed on this blog April 15, 2017.

Groth: Thank you for those kind words – I’m thrilled you related so well to Perry. I did do quite a bit of research, but I’m also father to a fifteen year old son who is on the spectrum, so my intimate knowledge is also derived from lived experience. My advice for hanging out with ASD folks? Be open of mind, heart and spirit.

Ferrante: Justine cares for her autistic brother and is viewed with sympathy and admiration by others. She sees herself differently. What, if any, misconceptions would you like to see corrected about the family and support systems of people on the spectrum?

Groth: You nailed it with the sympathy and admiration associated with Justine. Viewing neurodiverse families primarily through such lenses is a symptom of ‘otherness’. We need to move beyond otherness and focus on the characteristics and the motivations and the joys and the challenges that are shared. We need to find and embrace ‘anotherness’.

Ferrante: Your newest release, MUNRO VS. THE COYOTE, is about grief and guilt manifesting as an inner critical voice Munro names the Coyote. Why did you choose this animal as the symbol of his psychological struggle?

Groth: Munro’s therapist, Ollie, names the voice ‘Coyote’ and it serves as a nod to First Nations folklore. Aboriginal tales often depict Coyote as a trickster and a deceiver – that was the perfect identity for the destructive presence plaguing Munro’s mind.

Ferrante: Munro goes to Australia, your previous home, on a student exchange. Do you often use Australia as the setting for your books? Does it feel more familiar for you than Vancouver, Canada?

Groth: I’ve largely used Aussie settings to this point in my career, but I’m gravitating more and more towards ‘home’ here in Canada. Interestingly, in MUNRO VS. THE COYOTE, Brisbane felt very foreign to me and I was much more comfortable writing the Vancouver references.

Ferrante: Several of your books feature protagonists who are a little different or have unusual characteristics such as autism and Down’s Syndrome. Could you tell us how and why you choose these particular subjects and what you do to ensure authenticity in your writing with regards to their abilities, challenges, and life experiences?

Groth: Between being an ASD parent and a former special education teacher, it’s no surprise that disability and neurodiversity feature prominently in my writing. It’s also important for me to tackle these subjects due to their poor levels of representation in YA and adult fiction. In this age of #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #OwnVoices, it’s vital that those marginalized groups with little or no agency to tell their stories still have a place on the shelves. Regarding authenticity, it requires immersed experience and quality research. And even with both of these things, the decision to write in first-person POV requires very serious consideration and, in some cases, rejection.

Ferrante: Is there anything you would like to share with us about your work or upcoming projects?

Groth: I’m very proud to say that my next book is a novella I co-wrote with my younger brother, Simon. It’s called INFINITE BLUE and will be released Fall 2018. Simon and I also do a podcast called ‘Fireproof Garage’ where we rant, lie, crack up, and generally talk all sorts of bookish stuff. You can find it at simongroth.com.

Ferrante: Now, for a bit of fun.

(From a bit of banter.)

Ferrante: Of all the movies you’ve seen, which one made the strongest impression?

Groth: ‘The Usual Suspects’ is my all-time fave. Iconic bad guy, and the finest example of unreliable narrator you’re ever likely to see.

Ferrante: What proverb best sums you up?

Groth: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Ferrante: If you were a natural disaster, what would you be, and why?

CLICK ON THE COVERS TO BUY THE BOOK OR FOR MORE INFORMATION.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Author G.A. Whitmore Three Random Questions Interview

 

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25% of the proceeds from the sale of A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale are donated to a rescue dog organization.

G.A. Whitmore’s passion for writing and her love of dogs come together in her series The Rescue Dog Tales. The first book in the series, A Place to Call Home is based on the true story of Toby, an abused dog she adopted from the Connecticut Humane Society. She works and lives in Connecticut.  Her current day job in health care management can be stressful, and her rescue dog, Daisy, is an expert at calming her down and making her laugh every day.

Bonnie Ferrante: Tell us a little about yourself.

G.A. Whitmore: I love having her at my feet while I’m writing.  I also need to have a window to look out of when I write, so my desk is positioned so that I face the window in my study. I can stare out into the world that I am trying to keep at bay while I mull over what word to use, or imagine how one of my characters will react in a certain situation.

Ferrante:  Your book, A Place to Call Home, is based on a true story. Toby is a dog you adopted from the Humane Society. He’d been severely abused. Would you recommend that other people follow in your footsteps? 

Whitmore: Yes, of course. If you have room in your home and heart for a dog, visit your local animal shelter. Usually, the staff members know their animals well and can offer good advice on choosing one that will be right for you and your family. Sometimes, abused animals need more attention, but most shelters do not put animals up for adoption until they are socialized and ready for a new home.

Toby was seven months old when I first saw him at the Connecticut Humane Society. He had been physically abused and was severely traumatized. His backstory, as told to me by the woman who rescued him, fascinated and horrified me at the same time. He was found in northern California in a box in a dumpster with a white female puppy, presumably his sister. They were discovered by a young couple travelling back to Los Angeles, who took the puppies home with them. The local vet, upon examining the dogs, thought they might be part wolf. Toby ultimately ended up in Connecticut after relatives of the couple, who had stopped by to visit while on a cross-country driving trip, decided to adopt the puppies.

I couldn’t stop wondering how and why Toby and his sister ended up in a dumpster in a box, and were they really part wolf? And more importantly, what would drive someone to abuse a defenseless puppy? My musings turned into a story. The story turned into a book.

The impetus to finish writing the book came from my realization that Toby’s story could help raise awareness of the plight of abused and abandoned dogs. When A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale was published earlier this year, I decided to donate part of the proceeds from the sale each book to a rescue organization in honor of Toby and all rescue dogs in need of a place to call home.

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Click here to buy A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale

Ferrante: That’s wonderful. What advice would you give someone considering adopting an abused pet?

Whitmore: Be sure you are ready and willing to put in the time for your animal to get to know you and your family and to give it the attention and love it needs and deserves. Visit animal shelters and talk to the staff members, most of whom know their animals and will be happy to introduce you to those they think would fit your family and home. Ask questions about the pet’s background, habits, exercise abilities…anything you would want to know about a new family member. That is what this animal will be, after all, so do not be shy about asking.  The staff may not know every answer, but whatever information you receive will help you and your pet get to know each other better.

Ferrante: You have other pets as well. Are any of them rescued animals?

Whitmore: Yes, I have a cat who I rescued, and I have rescued four dogs since Toby. I will always have rescued animals in my home. I cannot imagine my home without them!

Ferrante: What kind of response have you had from children who have read your book?

 Whitmore: They love Toby and his kind and adventurous spirit, and they love the idea of animals talking to each other.  But they also wonder how some people can be so mean to animals. Even the adults who read this book (and there are nearly as many of them as child readers) say they are saddened by that part of the true story.  Most of the children say they cannot wait for the next book in my series.

Ferrante: Yes, it is unfathomable to me that people do these things to animals. Do you have another book in the works? 

Whitmore: I am currently writing the second book in my series, The Rescue Dog Tales, A Place to Belong: Kadee’s Tale.  It was inspired by an article I read in a Reader’s Digest several years ago while sitting in my doctor’s waiting room. (Yes, I am guilty of tearing it out and taking it with me.) Kadee is a mixed breed border collie who is rescued from a dog fight and finds herself part of a training program that pairs juveniles who get in trouble with rescue dogs. The lead human character, Sam, is a good girl who gets into some trouble, ends up at a ranch for juvenile offenders, and is ultimately accepted into the rescue dog-training program. As you might guess, she is paired up with Kadee and the two of them become inseparable.

three random questions

Ferrante: If any one of the national holidays had to be celebrated twice a year, six months apart, which one would you want it to be?

Whitmore: Thanksgiving, although I’m a vegetarian and do not eat turkey (or tofurkey, either), because I have so much to be grateful for and because I love pumpkin pie.

What is not a national holiday, but I wish it were, is Rescued Animals Day.  I would like to see shelters have open houses on that day and offer incentives to suitable people to adopt one of their shelter animals. Maybe someone you know will start the movement to make that happen!

Ferrante: Sounds like a great idea. Maybe one of the children who read your book will lead the way.

 If you were on an African safari, what would you absolutely have to see for your trip to be complete?

Whitmore: Like most people, I am fascinated by elephants, so seeing them up close and free would be amazing. But I also love the big cats…and the wild dogs…and the graceful giraffes…and the tiny meerkats…and….as you can tell, I would be one of those folks jumping around in her seat to see and photograph every wild thing!

Ferrante: If you had to choose your own epitaph of eight words or fewer (besides name and dates), what would it say?

Whitmore: She loved animals, and they loved her, too.

Ferrante: That’s beautiful. What a wonderful way to be remembered. Thank you for spending time with me today. I look forward to reading your book.  And thank you for being a refuge for unfortunate animals.

Read the book review here.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Exploring Our Darkness – Author Audrey N. Lewis Three Random Questions Interview

Audrey N. Lewis has retired after 25 years of running an International not-for-profit. Now she is able to focus on her writing and has completed two very different books.

audrey-lewis

Bonnie Ferrante: Hello and welcome Audrey. Reading through your bio I was struck with how many similar interests we have. We both enjoy furniture restoration, scrabble, gardens and nature. I don’t know if I would ever have the courage to keep bees though.

Audrey N. Lewis: Thank you for having me Bonnie. I would love to play scrabble sometime. It’s interesting that you mention needing courage when it comes to beekeeping. Really it isn’t about courage as much as it’s about the ability to keep calm. It has been a hobby that our whole family was able to be involved in. I actually discovered I am allergic to honey bees and my husband had to take over the hive care and I was responsible for extracting and preparing the honey. It’s an awesome experience and as a nature lover feels good to increase the bee population.

Ferrante: One of the characters in your short story collection, Everybody has a story… These are ours…, is also a highly creative person. Megan is an artist. But the rest, seem very different from you. When you write, do you draw on your own experiences or like to explore new ways of looking at things?    

Lewis: I think that when I write it is difficult not to draw from either something I have experienced on a physical level or an emotion that an event may evoke.

When I write I think I have a tendency to throw myself into the story and that although a particular story line might not be real or something I have personally experienced I tend to  immerse myself into a character or characters often letting it take over for a bit, until I can finish it and let it go.

Buy link for Everybody has a story…. These are ours…..

Ferrante: At one point in Megan’s story, she draws detailed, amazing pictures on frosted store front windows that melt away with the sunrise. This is a Buddhist activity, much like water sketches, chalk drawings, or sand mandalas. It was quite symbolic of her life. If you had to choose an artistic activity to represent your life, what do you think would be most suitable?

Lewis: Since we share many hobbies, I think you might understand my dilemma in saying I am not sure I can answer this question. I feel that I have come a long way from the little girl I was when I wrote my first poem or painted my first painting. More so now as the woman I am and continue to be, there is not one activity I feel that would represent my life, but rather an ongoing living canvas that would incorporate all of the arts and senses as well as emotions, including Mother Earth and all that she bears.

Ferrante: Although Megan’s future was taken from her, most of her life really, she never lost her true self. At one point she resorted to cutting herself and using her blood in an attempt to paint. Do you feel the creative impulse is essential to fill?

Lewis: I do believe that it is essential. I believe that as a creative person it would be so  difficult to be chastised, or forbidden to use my creativity in some way. In fact if I was no longer able to be creative at will in some way, I think I would just be empty and fade away.

Ferrante: Absolutely. It would be hard to get up in the morning.

The theme of parent and daughter seems predominant in your short story collection. Were they written as a group with that in mind?

Lewis: I am a mother of a son and daughter and a daughter who grew up with 3 sisters. I have witnessed myriad relationships throughout my years and with bearing witness to so many life events and experiences I felt I could draw most realistically from those. When I wrote them, they were written at different times and I did not really think about how they might go together.

Ferrante: The first story in your collection, “The Closet” had a sci-fi touch that was about a universal problem. The child in this story has special needs that her parents and teachers seem unable to fill. Because of her innate personality, she has great difficulty with self-control and interpersonal relationships. Consequently, she is excluded socially and even bullied. This raises the question of nature versus nurture. Are you coming down on the side of nature?

Lewis: This was a very emotional story for me. I think all too often we hear about children who need help but either aren’t recognized as having a problem or who slip through the system in one way or another. I believe that often times it is due to nature that problems present themselves and when this happens it is difficult not to over compensate with nurturing. But even with all the nurturing one can give without defining the nature of the problem or in the case of Lexi in The Closet, addressing and acknowledging it. I believe that you cannot nurture someone so disturbed without acknowledging that nature may indeed continue to take its course.

Ferrante: The mood of this story collection is quite sombre, even dark. Were they all written at a specific time in your life? Did you set out to explore the theme of helplessness or despair?

Lewis: It’s interesting that you ask me this question, because I have discussed this with close friends. Most of the stories were written at a different time and not necessarily shadowing where I was emotionally. I do not think of myself as a dark person, so I was surprised at how dark they turned out to be. I think that it is not so much helplessness or despair as much as my perception of the various life events and the reality of them. There are two sides to everything and I think that when I wrote them I was attempting to show the side of life’s stages that one doesn’t always look at. Thinking about these stories sort of makes me sad, because I feel that they do indeed reflect those emotions.

Ferrante: Your other book, Dreamseeker, Wish Keeper is totally different. It is a children’s book illustrated with crayon drawings. Why did you decide to switch from adult short story writing to a children’s picture book?

Lewis: Actually, Dreamseeker, Wish Keeper was written and illustrated in 1991 for my daughters 6th birthday. I have written many stories of various genre since then which includes the collection of short stories, Everybody has a story….These are ours. I don’t actually decide what I will write but rather let where I am and what I am feeling dictate my writing at a specific time.

 Click here to buy Dreamseeker Wish Keeper

Ferrante: The picture book almost seems as though it is written for adults instead of children, or at least teenagers. I felt the theme was to dream big, but worthy, dreams, be curious, work to fulfill your wishes, don’t give up, and share your gifts. Who do you feel you are speaking to in this book? Why did you choose this message?

Lewis: Like I said, Bonnie, I wrote Dreamseeker, Wish Keeper for my daughters 6th birthday. This was my gift to her, so when I wrote it I was speaking to her. I wrote it understanding the old soul in her and the gifts she shared with all of us. As the younger sibling of a physically disabled brother sometimes she didn’t always understand the fairness of life and yet her heart screamed the dreams I wrote about. I guess it only seemed fitting to give her messages that she might carry with her through life and remember how incredible human nature can be when we look at each other and at life itself in a positive way.

 Ferrante: What is your next project going to be?

Lewis: Phew. I am working on several projects right now. I am working on a novel that has been evolving for the past 40 years, about how differently we view expereinces at different times of our lives, how they may look differently depending on where one might be at the time. It is about going back, forgiving and letting go.

I am working on a sci-fi book with several writers. It is about a parallel dimension of powerful women and what their lives are like as they create their world. It should be interesting with different voices coming together.

I am also working on what was originally going to be a short story which is becoming a novella. It was inspired after the tragedy in Orlando and I am hoping will open up some deep discussions and perhaps change some reader’s views on the human race.

three random questions

Ferrante: What special talents would you like to possess?

Lewis:  Without sounding too altruistic, I would like to be able to alleviate the world of diseases, hunger and the carbon footprints and pollution that are causing climate change.

 Ferrante: As a child, what was your favourite game?

Lewis: I think this is another hard question, Bonnie. It depends on how old I was. I think what I remember that made me happiest was playing with my imaginary friend, Jeffery.

 Ferrante: What word do you most dislike? What do you most like?

Lewis: I really dislike the word “hate” it is such an unfriendly word and always seems to instill such sad feelings. I don’t think there is ever anything good that comes from that word.

The word I like most depends on the day. But if I think about it as a word that makes me happy when I think about what it means than it would be two words, Love and Peace. These are the words I really wish we could all live our lives believing and sharing.

Bonnie, thank you again for having me and I hope we can play a game of scrabble sometime soon.

 Ferrante: Thank you for participating. It’s always great to make a connection with someone of similar interests. Best of luck with your many endeavours.

The author’s short story collection was reviewed March 31, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Random Questions are from a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking

What If You Overheard a Murderer? – Author Philip Cox Three Random Questions Interview

Today we will meet an author who writes for adults. Do you remember the cold February weather? Philip Cox’s thriller/mysteries will make you shiver just as much as that northern wind.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Phillip. You began your writing career as a stay-at-home father. How did you find the time and the energy to write After the Rain, Dark Eyes of London, Something to Die For, Don’t Go Out Into the Dark, and Wrong Time to Die all within four years?

Philip Cox: Actually, it’s six years now, and She’s Not Coming Home and Should Have Looked Away are somewhere in there too. Writing a book is something I’d always wanted to do. When our eldest daughter was born, I took a career break from my job in banking and started After the Rain, which finally came out in 2011. Time management and self-discipline are very important: there are always potential distractions. As far as the energy is concerned, that’s just lots of black coffee and chocolate cookies!

     

Click on the book covers for more information.

Ferrante: Several of your books take place in the United States of America. Why have you chosen to write in that setting instead of England?

Cox: For a book to enjoy any success it has to sell in necessary numbers in both the United States and the UK. US readers are more likely to be interested in a story set in their own country. Places like London or Paris might be an exception. As far as UK readers are concerned, with a story set in somewhere like New York or Los Angeles, there’s that familiarity because of the movies and TV, and at the same time the exoticism and foreignness. I tend to pick New York and LA as they are places I know very well. In Wrong Time to Die the main character visits several restaurants and bars: they’re all real places. I’ve been to them.

 Click on the book cover for more information.

Ferrante: Why do you write in the thriller genre? Are you inspired by anything in the news or real life?

Cox: The authors I enjoy reading most range from Lee Child and James Patterson right through to Agatha Christie and Denis Wheatley. I took inspiration for After the Rain from a newspaper article I read about a guy from South London who was on vacation somewhere and went missing. Don’t Go Out in the Dark was something on Facebook. I was sitting in one of the stalls in a restroom and overheard a conversation. I got to thinking how scary it would be to be to hear a murder, even scarier if you had one of your children with you! So I took the plot of Should Have Looked Away from there.

               

Click on the book covers for more information.

Ferrante: Your interests include the history of cinema and model railroading. Is your basement filled with models? Have you ever written about either of these?

Cox: Ha! Not the basement – some years back I had the garage converted into a den! No, I’ve not thought about including model railroading, but I’m also interested in full sized ones. The Underground (subway) in London is the oldest in the world and has lots of history. A lot of the action in Dark Eyes of London takes place there, and there is a suggestion at the start of the book that readers download a system map so they can follow the events.

Ferrante: I’m assuming that since you write thrillers, you’re a plotter.

 Cox: Generally, the outline isn’t too precise when I start. I have an idea what the story’s going to be about and how it will end (generally) but I’ll flesh details out as I go along. Sometimes the story will develop in a different way to how I first envisioned it. I’ll always start at the beginning, and have never written the climax first; however, if I’m suffering from block, I might write a future chapter or two, then tailor the action to reach that stage. Better than stalling.

Ferrante: With two children to care for, a quiet and private place to work must be a challenge. Do you have a routine that you follow every day?

Cox: I tend to write when the children are at school or when they’ve gone to sleep. If that’s not possible, I’ll take myself off to the local library, but there are distractions there as well. I tend to pencil out a couple of chapters in rough – just an outline – one day, then hit the keyboard the next, alternating like that. With everything else going on, I’d find it too tiring to be typing day in, day out. I do target myself, not numbers of pages, but numbers of words. When I start a book, I’m aiming for around 65000 words. When I know when I need to finish the first draft, I can then calculate how many words I need to achieve each week. I also try to keep it Monday to Fridays: that way, I have time weekends to make up any shortfall.

Ferrante: What do you find the most challenging about writing?

Cox: Trying to come up with something original. Not easy. For example, the one I’m working on now is the third in a series featuring an LAPD detective. I came across a piece a few weeks back about an old Navajo superstition which says if someone’s on a journey and a coyote crosses their path, they have to abandon the journey, as it means they will meet with a fatal accident. The mystic side of that appealed to me and I planned on working that into the plot. I even thought up a title: The Last Coyote. As I always do, I checked on Amazon if there was already a book with that title and there was – a Harry Bosch novel! So it was back to the drawing board on that one. I’ve found it a good idea to have a notepad and pen with me 24/7 because little ideas will always flash through my mind at the most unexpected times. Another challenge can be boredom: if it’s hard going, and nothing’s coming through, it’s easy to get distracted to just do something else, so yes, you do need the discipline.

Ferrante: What do you find the most rewarding?

Cox: Getting the royalties! That’s not as glib as it sounds: whilst everybody likes to see those credits on their bank statements, to receive a payment for something I’ve personally created is an amazing feeling. Of course it’s not 100% me: others proof-read, and help with research, but in the main, it’s my achievement. When I worked in banking, that was all down to the guys who founded the bank however many years ago, and I was working something that others had set up and created.  Here, the books are my creation. Hope that doesn’t sound too lofty. Also rewarding is when I either first see the eBook on the Amazon sales pages or when I unwrap my copy of the paperback version. I was present at the births of both my children, and the feeling of seeing a new book is second only to how I felt then. Not a close second, by the way; some way behind, but second nonetheless.

Ferrante: What advice would you have for beginning writers starting their first novel?

Cox: When it’s finished, get somebody else to proof-read: you will miss loads, and lose your credibility.

Ferrante: Is there something you would like to share with your readers that I haven’t asked?

Cox: My favourite movie genre is horror, the black and white Universal pictures from the 30s and 40s, and the colour pictures from Hammer Films years later. I met and had a conversation with Christopher Lee once, an unforgettable experience.  I have a couple of CDs of soundtracks of the Hammer horror pictures, and once I got my wife to play excerpts, shuffled, to see if I could guess the movie. I got 100%! How sad is that!

three random questions

Ferrante: If you could create a memorial to yourself in a city park, what would that memorial be?

Cox: I think a life-sized statue of me sitting reading a book. Hopefully that will encourage more kids to get off their computer games and read a book. E-books allowed, of course.

Ferrante: If you could go back in time and ask any famous person in history one question, whom would you question and what would you ask? Assume that you would be given a completely honest answer.

Cox: Jesus Christ. I’d like to ask him: all the stuff I’ve heard, all the things I’ve read – is it actually true?

Ferrante: If, with your safety guaranteed, you could experience something considered very dangerous, what would you want to experience most of all?

Cox: To go into space, and see the world as it really is, as an actual planet, with the moon over there, the sun over there, and the stars way out there in the distance. That might link in with question 2.

Website:   www.philipcox.moonfruit.com

Twitter:  @philipcoxbooks

Instagram: philipcox_books

Facebook:  /Philip Cox

Don’t Go Out in the Dark book review.

Not Afraid to Write the Truth: Activist/Author Eric Lotke Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Writing/Righting History & Getting Toddlers to Eat – Author Delin Colón Three Random Questions Interview

delinglasses1aDelin Colón is a writer and freelance editor with a background in clinical psychology.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Delin. You have had a number of career paths. Tell us a little about them and how they led to your writing.

Delin Colón: Thank you, Bonnie. Actually, I wrote my first poem at the age of eight (in 1958). Several were published in minor literary magazines during my high school and college years. Then came essays and short stories.

While I had majored in French and French literature in my undergraduate years, I turned to clinical psychology in graduate school which combined my love of research and working with people, and led to counseling children and adults in a variety of clinical settings such as psychiatric hospitals, halfway houses, walk-in clinics and a juvenile detention center. This background led to a job as a technical writer for Sociological Abstracts. I loved the challenge of reducing an experiment or study down to four sentences describing the essence of the article.

A decade or so later, as the co-owner and manager of a stairbuilding company, I saw a need in the marketplace for a clearinghouse of all kinds of writers and formed a company that matched freelance writers with jobs. But the real impetus for publishing my first book, Rasputin and the Jews, came from reading the memoirs of my great-great uncle who spent a decade as Gregory Rasputin’s secretary/manager.

Ferrante: You have written two very different books, a historical nonfiction called Rasputin and the Jews and a picture booked titled Zeke Will Not Eat. Let’s talk about the first one for a bit. How much research did that involve? Did you have the plot and then do the research or did you discover the plot as you researched?

Colón: Actually, Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History is the culmination of 15 years of researching the writings of people who knew Rasputin. My father had always told me that his great uncle, Aron Simanovitch, had been Rasputin’s secretary. For years I tried to research my ancestor but with little luck until the late 1990s when I found, on the internet, an out-of-print copy of Simanovitch’s memoirs in French. It did not seem to have been professionally edited at all, as there was a lot of repetition and poor organization of the manuscript. However, what struck me about it, first of all, was that my great-great uncle was one of the few Jews permitted to live outside Russia’s Pale of Settlement where most Jews were confined. But even more importantly, his memoirs conveyed a completely different image of Rasputin than history and myth have recorded.

My second book was my English translation, with historical annotations, of Simanovitch’s memoirs, titled Rasputin: The Memoirs of His Secretary by Aron Simanovitch.

Ferrante: How do you organize your research and make it easy to find something you read later on? I read that you worked on the book for 15 years. You must have been buried in documents.

Colón: Most of the books I read about Rasputin propagated the demonic myth that had been fabricated by the Russian nobility to discredit him. But there were quite a few quotes and memoirs from those who knew him intimately, on a nearly daily basis (such as my great-great uncle and Maria Rasputin), that told the story of a humanitarian (who, okay, loved to party) who, contrary to government policy and to the wrath of the aristocracy, advocated equal rights for oppressed minorities as well a voice in government for all citizens.

With regard to organizing the research, I used a simple index card file with the subject and date of the quote or event at the top, the quote in the body of the card, and the title, author and page of the resource information at the bottom. The cards were then organized by subject matter and then chronologically within each chapter’s subject.

Ferrante: Can you give us a sentence or two about Rasputin and the Jews?

Colón: Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History is the product of research providing evidence that the Russian nobility, clergy and bureaucracy conspired in a smear campaign against Rasputin because they saw him as dangerous:

  1. for advocating equal rights for Jews (in opposition to the laws restricting their lives)
  2. for the popularity of his upbeat sermons of a loving God (in contrast to the fear of God preached in the Russian Orthodox Church)
  3. for being anti-war and preaching peace during World War I.
  4. and for believing that all citizens should have a say in government…the biggest threat to the nobility.

Ferrante: Why did you challenge the tradition beliefs about Rasputin?

Colón: History is written by the victors, not by the common man.  It became clear to me that Rasputin became a collateral victim of, among other things, the virulent anti-Semitism of the aristocracy, bureaucracy and clergy. My research revealed that it was not only my ancestor’s experience that Rasputin was a generous man, a healer and a progressive humanitarian, but that others who knew him well witnessed the same traits, refuting the demonic image. For me, it was a matter of righting a century-old injustice. Interestingly, Rasputin and The Jews led me to a correspondence with Rasputin’s great-great granddaughter in France. She tours Europe and Russia lecturing to dispel the myths about Rasputin.

Click on the cover to buy Rasputin and the Jews

Ferrante: Your latest book is a picture book for children, Zeke Will Not Eat.  Why did you choose this subject?

Colón: I’m in the process of writing a series of books for 2 to 6 year-olds, addressing typical toddler issues. Zeke Will Not Eat is the second one. I’ve done some research on the most common problems parents of this age group face and not eating is high on the list. The first book, Katy Rose Likes To Say NO!, addresses that stage where children assert their independence and establish themselves as separate from their parents by saying “no.”

Click on the picture to buy Katy Rose Likes to Say NO!

Ferrante: Did the technique used in the book come from personal experience?

Colón: Yes it did. It was a technique I devised for myself as a child, using my imagination to make mealtime more interesting for myself. It was completely internal and not something I mentioned to my parents or siblings.

Ferrante: Do you have any other tips for parents having mealtime difficulties with a child?

Colón: At the beginning of each of these little books, there is a note to parents explaining the behavior and its purpose in the child’s development. With Zeke, I note that, barring medical issues, there are a variety of reasons for a child’s unwillingness to sit down at the table for a meal, from filling up on snacks and drinks too close to mealtime, to feeling excluded from the conversation, or simply exercising newly found manipulative abilities.

Click on the cover to buy Zeke Will Not Eat

In Katy Rose, my note to parents stresses that it is not only normal, but developmentally necessary for children to go through a “no” phase in order to assert themselves in the world and establish a Self, an identity separate from their parents. As powerless beings subject to adult authority, “no” is often a child’s first taste of power and individuality. But when it becomes routine defiance or is hurtful to friends, it is an opportunity to teach compassion and the unfortunate consequences of negativity. There is also discussion on when it is important to say “no.” One way to avoid “no” is to make statements rather than ask questions, reducing the possibility of options. Rather than asking, “Do you want to go for a walk?” saying, “Let’s go…” or “Now we’ll go…” assumes the event will occur and doesn’t give an option.

Ferrante: The illustrations seemed odd at first glance until I read how they were done using the same 150 shapes arranged and rearranged to create pictures. Why did you choose this technique?

Colón: I grew up in a small town on the east coast that was essentially an artists’ colony. My mother is an artist and we were always given art projects to do, in a variety of media. One of the most famous artists in our town was Ben Shahn. His teenage daughter, Susie, happened to be visiting at my friend’s house when I was about 7 years old. She sat us kids down on the floor, cut a huge variety of shapes from construction paper and had us arrange the shapes into an image on a blank piece of paper. It was like doing a jigsaw puzzle with no ‘right’ outcome; just whatever our imaginations could conjure.

I’ve been enamored of this technique ever since, and have a website of other images I’ve created, in addition to the book illustrations. (http://delin-colon.pixels.com/)

I have nothing in mind when cutting the pieces of varying shapes, lengths and sizes. The challenge is in turning them into illustrations that convey the text. One image might take a couple of days to a week to produce. By the way, all of the pieces used in Katy Rose were also used in Zeke, with a few dozen more added for the latter. Instructions for doing such a parent-child art project are at the back of each book. Alternatively, a child could color in the black and white images, as one would in a coloring book.

Ferrante: I don’t think people realize how challenging it is until they try it.

What are you working on now?

Colón: I’m conjuring the third book in the series which will be about telling the truth, a more difficult and abstract concept than the first two. Interestingly, my research revealed a study showing that children are more likely to tell the truth after hearing positive stories (like George Washington being praised for admitting he chopped down the cherry tree) than they are after hearing stories with negative consequences for lying (like The Boy Who Cried Wolf or Pinocchio

In addition, I have half a dozen rough chapters of an existential coming-of-age novel illustrating how Self and Identity are shaped and the conundrum that there is no absolute Self without outside influences.

Ferrante: Interesting. That’s similar to Buddhism.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share with my readers?

Colón: This is the most thorough and in-depth interview I’ve done, with questions that pertain specifically to my work, as opposed to the general, stock questions that others ask every writer. I’ve really had to think about them. I just hope that your readers find some of my work of interest.

Ferrante: I’m sure parents of toddlers will appreciate your tips.

Three Random Questions:

Ferrante: What was the craziest thing you ever bought?

Colón:   I’ve never been a lover of shopping and have generally stuck to practical items but several decades ago I was intrigued by an ad for an electric device that could be set at various brain wave frequencies to induce alertness, memory, sleep, creativity, or relaxation. I was especially interested in increasing the Theta waves for creativity. At different times, I tried each different setting, wearing dark goggles that pulsed light flashes at different rates and head phones that played tones in the desired frequencies. They all tended to produce the same result for me: I’d fall asleep and have some very bizarre dreams. Not long after, I’d be awakened by one of my teenagers asking when dinner would be ready. Frankly, I never noticed any greater creativity, fatigue or relaxation in the ensuing meal preparations.

Ferrante: In your opinion, what song has the most beautiful chorus?

Colón: That’s a tough one. I guess the one closest to my heart would be Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World:”

You and me against the world,
Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world,
When all the others turn their backs and walk away,
You can count on me to stay.

It describes perfectly the close relationship I had with my older son, a musician who, even at the age of 27, before his death eight years ago, proudly described himself as “mama’s boy.”

The song continues:

And when one of us is gone,
And one of us is left to carry on,
Then remembering will have to do,
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you,
Of you and me against the world.

Ferrante: Oh, I am so sorry. I can’t imagine losing my son. My deepest condolences.

Last question. Do you like your first name? What would you like to have been called?

Colón: I do like my first name (accent on the second syllable: de-LIN) mostly because I created it. It is not the name on my birth certificate, but a mash-up of my names that I’ve been using for over 50 years. I was given a Hebrew name, Chana Dvora, and though I like it, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, especially with the guttural “ch.” But if I had it to do over, from scratch, I always thought “Kate” suited me.

Again, Bonnie, thank you so much for this opportunity. I don’t think I’ve ever given such a heartfelt interview … probably because I was never asked such well-considered questions.

Ferrante: Thank you. I try to make my interviews unique to the interviewee. You’ve shared a lot of information with us. This is, by far, the longest interview I’ve printed but it is chock full of value and cool ideas. Thank you for participating.

Zeke Will Not Eat was reviewed on this blog March 20, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Three random questions are from a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking)