Renee interviews author Angelina Assanti

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Angelina Assanti

Angelina and I laughed over a cappuccino together during the Florida Library Association’s Annual Conference near Walt Disney World last month. Her quirky sense of humor (full disclosure: my family is from Boston) should serve her well as President-Elect of The Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

I’m from a small town in Massachusetts that no one has ever heard of. I just tell people I’m from Springfield because everyone from New England knows where that is. I moved to Florida to attend college in Orlando, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. I live in Fort Myers now. I went back for my high school reunion and was reminded how funny everyone is up there. Sometimes when I give a speech in Florida, people don’t know I have a background in radio and stand-up comedy and I deliver a funny line straight and they don’t know if it’s a joke or not. (Massachussians always get it.) I write the copy for the shows and always loved writing. I just never thought it was an actual career option. I’ve had several regular jobs in my life, but I would get bored and quit. I’m a quitter. My parents can’t believe I finished a few books. I guess I quit being a quitter.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I got cancer a few years ago and went I went to the bookstore at the cancer center and asked for a funny book. The woman I asked looked at me like I was an alien and snapped, “No one wants a funny cancer book!” I’ll never forget her saying that to me. I proved her wrong. What a sucker! Not only did Thank God I Got Cancer…I’m Not a Hypochondriac Anymore! go on to win several awards and become a #1 bestseller in three categories on Amazon, but that very same cancer center carries the book and a few months ago, they gave me a beautiful, large crystal award for it. The pages in this book are literally ripped from the journal I kept while I was in treatment. I was never close to anyone who had cancer, so I wrote it like a playbook for cancer.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
I hate to sound like a jerk but looking back, I didn’t really have many obstacles. I joined a writing group in 2012 when I realized I wanted to write a book and got lots of sage advice from people who had been both traditionally and independently published and asked people questions. I wasn’t afraid to admit I had no idea what I was doing. The writing community is very strange in that they want to help other writers succeed. You don’t find that in many professions. So, I’ve heard. I never stayed in one long enough to find out.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
I’ve had a few but my favorite was in 2014. I was writing a book about recovery and Betty Ford allowed me to tour rehab and talk to the counselors and residents. They made me promise in return that I would write an upbeat, funny story about recovery. No pressure, there! I did win a national award in humor for Mark Taylor’s Checkered Past: Recovery Road (The Lottery Heiress) (Volume 2) the next year. Many people have contacted me and asked me when and where I went to rehab because they wanted to know I was in with them. I reply that I only did the research there and am not in recovery. I know that seems strange but people thinking I was in rehab is the compliment of my life!

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I love anything by Dave Barry or Nora Ephron. I miss her. She was a great storyteller.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I don’t write in my manuscript every day. I do however carry a journal with me at all times and write in that every day. I used to keep digital notes in my smart phone until it crashed on me one day and I lost everything. I don’t chance it with technology anymore. I have heard several authors tell me their writing rituals but I’ve never heard any author have the same ones. We are all unique in our processes.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I used to be heavily involved with a rehab for homeless people but the cancer book has become the focus for my life right now. It’s hard to go through what I went though and come out the same person. When you’re in cancer treatment with the same people every day, some who are terminal, you wonder why it wasn’t you. It’s important for me to take the message out that early diagnosis saved my life and I had no symptoms of cancer. It was found on a routine exam. In Florida, someone is diagnosed with cancer every five minutes, so it’s important for people to know there are more survivors now than ever!

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
The first thing you need to do is join a writing group. I recommend you go to an actual group and not an online one. You need to network and meet people. That’s a huge missed opportunity in the writing business. The second thing to do is hire a professional editor. I can’t tell you how many people tell me, “Oh, I don’t need an editor, my spouse said it was good.” An editor will tell you the truth but they will also know how to analyze things such as continuity problems, character development, point-of-view issues, etc. Your spouse will lie to you and say your manuscript is perfect to avoid being smothered. Then, hire a copy editor. They will make sure there are no glaring mistakes in the actual book format. You don’t want the same person doing those two jobs and most people don’t know that.
I wouldn’t say I’d do much differently than I did. One thing I do (that most people I know won’t do) is I travel two hours every month to go to one of my writing groups. It is filled with NY Times and USA Today Bestsellers. If you want to be successful as an author, you have to be with people who are more successful than you. They don’t mind sharing their knowledge. You can’t expect everything to come to you. You have to be willing to go after what you want. Lastly, I know an author who was in her 70’s when she wrote her first book and she has had several made into movies. It’s never too late to go after your dream!

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

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Renee interviews author Sam Staley

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Author Staley Informal

I spent time with Sam at the Decatur Book Festival, where he was promoting “Unsafe On Any Campus?” The book about sexual assault won first-place awards in both the 2017 Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards in the Adult Non-Fiction category and the Royal Palm Literary Awards. (I encourage parents of college-bound students to read it.) Sam is a professor at Florida State University and I’d like to be the first to wish him a Happy Father’s Day!

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I currently live in Tallahassee, Florida, but grew up in Ohio. In fact, until moving to Florida, I had a virtually uninterrupted legal residency in Ohio for 50 years. I raised my kids in a house one street away from the house I grew up in my hometown of Bellbrook. I had a job that required me to travel nationally and globally, but all my job needed was access to the internet and an airport. So, I did not have to move my family for my job. My work has taken me to China more than 30 times, nearly 100 cities in the U.S., and 43 U.S. states. This global perspective informs my writing which draws on multicultural themes and issues of identity. At the same time, virtual work allowed me to reap the benefits of a raising my children in a stable environment within five miles of two sets of grandparents, numerous cousins, and with friends they have known from elementary school through college.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I am the author of six novels and seven nonfiction books, so this question is a bit tricky! Each book has its own inspiration. This summer, SYP Publishing will release “Calusa Spirits,” the third book in the Pirate of Panther Bay series. This series was inspired by my desire to stretch my brain by stepping outside of nonfiction–I am an economist by profession—into a more creative space through writing fiction. At the time the series was conceived, I had a literary agent who challenged me to come up with a young-adult romance. I thought a series about pirates would be pretty cool, and I became really excited about it when the principle protagonist became a female pirate captain who was also an escaped slave. St. Nic, Inc., my second published novel, is a re-imagination of the Santa Claus myth prompted by the “big” question all kids ask when they become certain age: Is Santa Claus real? Santa Claus, in this case, is the great, great, great granddaughter of the original Santa Claus and a Millennial. The story is based in reality and takes place at the North Pole. Essentially, I found a real-world analogue for the elements of the mythology, and then threw international intrigue in to make it a real adventure.
My most recently published book, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It, was prompted by the trauma of campus rape survivors that I got to know at Florida State University after I joined the faculty in 2011. Sexual assault is much larger and broader problem on college campuses than most people realize, but the solutions are not as straightforward as many assume (or hope). I felt the voices of rape survivors needed to be heard and coupled with practical solutions. The book is really a primer on campus sexual assault targeted toward parents of college-bound students in the hopes it would provide important information to a broad audience in a non-judgmental way, promote a wider discussion of the issue, and point toward practical ways we can address the problem. Unsafe On Any Campus? received a significant boost in visibility when it achieved first place finishes in the Royal Palm Literary Awards as well as at the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards in 2017.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
My biggest challenge has been managing my various writing interests—just ask my publisher! I have been fortunate in that I have not suffered from writer’s block. So, my biggest challenges are carving out time to do the marketing necessary to make my books as successful as they should be, balancing my writing with my teaching course load at FSU, and getting enough sleep.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
My biggest “aha” moment, and the one that keeps me focused and sane, was when I realized I can only control what I can control, and I stopped trying to control the events I could not. I can control when I write, and what I write about. I can’t control how people will react to my writing, or whether they will be inspired to write a review. I can control how I relate to friends and colleagues, but I cannot control their behavior or how they react or interact with me. This has allowed me to stay much more focused on the things that matter most—being authentic, respecting and supporting the people I interact with, honoring people for what they bring into a relationship with me (not what I might want them to bring), and following through on the commitments I make. This perspective also provides opportunities for self-reflection and grounding myself in my core values. This mindfulness allows me to really focus on what’s important in my life without getting too distracted. I try to see all challenges as opportunities I have to discover.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the years. I don’t have a favorite author. I like good, authentic stories. I tend to gravitate toward those authors being vulnerable in their writing, whether fiction or nonfiction. I also tend to evaluate authors on a book-by-book basis. I love Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice but don’t feel beholden to liking all her books. I also think Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, the third book in young adult Divergent series is underappreciated for its depth and nuance. Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is a fantastic story, both in depth and the way he tells it through the point of view of a uniquely gifted six-year-old, but I don’t particularly like science fiction as a genre. I also really enjoy reading memoirs written by ordinary, everyday people experiencing extraordinary events.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
My only ritual is meeting my deadlines! I have so many writing projects going at any one time that I have to write every day, whether for my job at Florida State University (writing commentary, policy studies, or marketing materials) or on my “own” time writing about pirates, Santa Claus, movie reviews, or contemporary film. I currently have regular contributions to several blogs with international platforms.

What are your interests outside of writing?
My main hobby outside of writing is snow skiing. I come from a long line of skiers–I have a picture of my mother on skis in 1948, and my father was one of the early presidents of the Dayton (Ohio) ski club. My family owned a small ski area in Ohio for 25 years, where I worked full-time before going to graduate school. I was also a volunteer member of the National Ski Patrol, becoming one of Ohio’s youngest patrollers to achieve the rank of Senior Patroller before heading to college in Maine. Florida has made this hobby difficult to sustain, but I can’t get it out of my blood. Outside of skiing, I have a black belt in the martial art of To-Shin Do, a self-defense-oriented form of ninjutsu that is the foundation for my self-defense workshops and seminars I lead at Florida State University. I have really enjoyed developing widely accessible martial arts curricula for student organizations ranging from one-hour introductions to a 12-week semester-long curriculum.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
The single most important decision I made to improve my writing was joining a critique group. Care should be taken in joining a group–you have to be vulnerable and be in a group respecting that vulnerability while setting the right bar for quality–but the objective feedback and “tough love” pushed me in directions that ramped up my writing quality immeasurably. I have won more than 10 literary awards over the past six years, and I have no doubt the discipline and insight provided by my critique group is a reason why. In fact, I cite them in my book acknowledgements.
A second recommendation is to join a local writing group that holds regular programming on the art, craft, and business of writing. I did most of my fiction writing isolated and alone. This definitely held me back as a writer and understanding the business and marketing necessary to develop the following I need to be commercially successful. In Florida, I am an active member of the Tallahassee Writers Association, Florida Writers Association, and Florida Authors and Publishers Association. These groups have fantastic programming for writers, particularly those starting out or early in their career.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Nancy Beaule

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Nancy Beaule

I met Nancy at a Writer’s Conference in Tampa Florida, and was impressed with her entrepreneurial career prior to writing her first children’s book. She’s working on a new young adult novel – welcome to MY genre, Nancy!

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up. Where you live now. Education. Work Experience. Share some things about yourself.

I was born in Lewiston, Maine, a mill town with a population of about 36,000, although it is the second largest city in Maine. My claim to fame is that I grew up a couple of towns away from Stephen King and was born in the same hospital as Patrick Dempsey!
I graduated from Monmouth Academy and worked as an administrative assistant for 12 years before starting my first business, a print shop. I sold the printing business in 1993, then invented a product called the Pie Saver, which are foil rings that prevent pies from burning (based on my previous frustration of cutting strips of foil, only to have them fall off!) We made them in Lewiston for ten years and were in most of the Wal-Mart distribution centers. It was an exciting time, with many highs and lows – similar to Chutes and Ladders! One time I was on QVC and had to do a live demonstration on a table outdoors, next to the ocean. The wind kicked up and was blowing the foil rings all over the place. I had only 3 minutes to do the spot, (it was very nerve-wracking) but we sold out anyway.
I sold that business in 2006 and went on to create a new food called Pizzania, a hybrid of pizza and lasagna. Kids and teenagers loved it, and I felt it would be a perfect new frozen food item in supermarkets. We had some success getting it into Sysco and other distributors, however, producing small batches and delivery from Maine was cost-prohibitive and required too much capital to sustain a frozen food business.
And now I have published four children’s books, geared toward ages 3 – 10 (K – 3rd grade). My background is a bit uncommon for an author, but being an entrepreneur has given me the opportunity to wear many different hats along the way.
My husband and I (married 42 years) are now snowbirds, living in Florida during the winter months and spending summers at our camp on Tacoma Lakes in Maine. We have two children, a son and his family in Maine and a daughter and her children in Orlando, so feel blessed we spend equal time with each family, and especially the grandchildren!

What inspired you to write this book. What is the story behind this story?

I have always believed in healthy eating, especially amongst children. I’ll admit I cringe when I see a family with kids in the grocery store and their cart is piled high with junk food. I believe in the 80/20 rule, both for adults and kids — if you eat right 80% of the time you can still indulge in something sweet, or whatever treat you enjoy. For instance, I live a healthy lifestyle, but don’t take my daily ice cream away!
I started writing for my grandchildren and came up with a carrot named Chompy who gets super-power eyesight from drinking Chompy Juice, made from carrots. The kids love the exciting adventures of Chompy and his Munchy Bunch pals, especially the evil Candybar. The books also have a subtle nutritional message (carrots give super eyesight; Candybar loses a tooth from eating jelly beans, etc.). I sometimes bring a food group wheel to schools, which is very popular with the kids. They spin the dial and place the food they select into the proper food group.
I am also currently writing my first YA novel, a romance mystery based on a summer camp in Maine in 1972.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle.

Marketing! I am a natural introvert, so networking is a struggle for me. I am most comfortable in my office writing, rather than going to meetings or attending social functions. I know I am not unique to this challenge, as many writers are introverted. But I keep working at it!

What has been your biggest “aha” moment and success.

I would have to say when one of the schools made Chompy Juice for all of the kids, and they were pretending their eyes were bugging out. They were so excited about the stories and telling me how much they loved them. It was fun.

What author do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence in you and your writing.

For fiction, I like mysteries by James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham; I also love biographies such as John McCain’s “Faith of my Fathers” or Christopher Reeves’ “Nothing is Impossible,” – I find peoples’ stories fascinating!

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals.

Almost every day! I created my own reward system — if I have time to watch a favorite TV show, then I have time to write; in other words I can’t watch the show until I have written a certain number of words each day. I also think about the characters and story of my YA novel, even when I’m not writing.

What are your interests outside of writing?

I love nature and anything outdoors — fishing, camping, swimming. I go on every roller coaster with my grandson, even went sky diving for my 50th birthday! Also enjoy baking, reading and anything with the grandkids.

Share some tips for other authors or aspiring authors. Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

I started my writing journey two years ago and took very helpful on-line courses through “Writestorybooksforchildren.com” — They occasionally offer deeply discounted rates, so I took advantage of those rates at the time. I also find a book called “The Emotion Thesaurus” invaluable — it’s becoming dog-eared so we know it’s getting used. I also got my first book illustrated very inexpensively through a site called Fiverr.com — they offer all kinds of services starting at only $5.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Katrina Kusa

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Katrina KusaI met 13-year-old Katrina with her proud parents, Joe and Luba Kusa, at a Florida Authors and Publishers Association awards luncheon. She’s been propelled by a sense of purpose since she turned her playroom into a library at 8 years old! Katrina makes many of us wonder why we didn’t begin our writing careers decades earlier…

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up. Where you live now. Education. Work Experience. Share some things about yourself. Something to know about.

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. After kindergarten, my family moved to Naples, Florida, where I attended Royal Palm Academy. My family and I have three furry friends, Max, Penni, and Jacque Bleu (two Boston Terriers and a French Bulldog). They are a very big part of our family and we try to take them everywhere, especially when we are traveling up and down the east coast during my school breaks and holidays.

What inspired you to write this book. What is the story behind this story?

As long as I could remember, I loved to create magical stories, playing with dolls and Littlest Pet Shop toys. And when I learned to read at an early age, I became obsessed with books.

When I turned eight years old, I watched a movie called “Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events” which inspired me to write my first short tale, Strange Happenings. Since that day, I have become closer to writing my own original stories. At 10 years old I wrote my first published story, The Kingdom of the Lizards, which won two bronze medals in the FAPA President’s Books Award Program, a national competition.

Living in Florida, there are lizards everywhere and I sometimes saw beautiful black-colored lizards. Also, I observed and recognized that a bit of bullying that was going on at school. I gathered my thoughts together and wrote a story that was half reality and fantasy which later became a magical piece of literature for all ages to read.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle.

As a 13-year-old, I have a lot of challenges! First and foremost is studying all my academics to achieve good grades while balancing my household duties. But as an author, time is my biggest challenge. I want to write more stories to show more meaning to the world that everyone can follow
I am now looking for a publisher for my next two books, “There Once was a Cat” and “The Girl in the White Dress.” I am so excited to get these books published as quickly as possible. I have a wonderful artist, Pavel Kulsha, who illustrated “The Kingdom of the Lizards” and he has also done the illustrations for my new books.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment and success.

When I Entered the 2017 FAPA President’s Book Award Contest, I had no idea of the honor that would come with winning. I received two Bronze Medals for “The Kingdom of the Lizards” in the category of juvenile fiction, both for the State of Florida and the overall National Award.
Then in October 2017 I submitted a short story to be considered for this year’s “Young Writers” creative writing contest, Spine-Chillers – Spooky Sagas. The Contest was organized through school for children ages 11-18. I never told my parents I was entering the contest until I found out that I was a finalist. I wrote a short story (just 100 words) that incorporates atmosphere, tension and suspense. There were over 4,500 entries and from these the publisher produced a collection of special anthologies. I was so excited to hear that I was a finalist. The name of my story is “The World Beyond US.” The anthology was released on Feb. 28, and will be submitted to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. as well as the British Library in London, U.K. The two libraries are the largest and second largest libraries in the world in terms of catalogued volumes.

What author do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence in you and your writing.

As a book lover, I love to read books from all different genres and authors. Here are some of my favorite authors: Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Hans Christian Andersen. Along with having beautiful works of literature from these amazing authors, there are a few stories that are astounding to me, too. The examples are: Sherlock Holmes, Tom Sawyer, and especially the magic of The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen. With these amazing stories, I can get put my writing to the next level that will help me in the future.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals.

For the lack of time because I am a student (and someone who does a lot of activities,) I don’t write every single day. But I do write thoughts that I get from my deepest temples into a notebook for future ideas of books and characters. If I have a few hours for myself, I go to my room, shut the door, and travel into the magical world of literature.

What are you interested outside of writing?

I love to spend time with my family and my three dogs, especially during traveling. I love to invite my friends over to my house and do funny and weird things with them. Besides writing, I love to compose my own music and songs and play the piano. I also like fencing and western-style horseback riding.

Share some tips for other authors or aspiring authors. Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

Every author has a different style and he or she writes in their own way. I wouldn’t try to copy any famous author or try to follow his style to write. All I can say is I would just go with my gut and believe in myself.
I would like to share my thoughts that all authors can benefit from. If you just have your momentum, don’t stop writing. Don’t worry about mistakes or wording, you can always edit it later. After a long writing spurt, take a little break to clear your thoughts and read your story out loud. Hearing your story out loud makes mistakes glaringly obvious. My favorite advice is to believe in what you’re writing. Live in your story, love your characters, no matter if they are good or bad. I wish the best for your writings ahead!

 

To suggest an author interview, email rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

 

Renee interviews author Jen Swanson

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Jen Author Photo-2017

Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of over 25 children’s books, including “Astronaut Aquanaut,” which received the 2018 Gold Standard Award from the Junior Library League. We met at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association Annual Conference, where Jennifer was a keynote speaker.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
If you told me when I was a kid that I would be a successful children’s author, my response would have been, “Cool.” I didn’t start out wanting to be a writer. I wanted to be a Doctor, a pediatrician to be exact. I studied chemistry at the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated in 1990. But organic chemistry and I didn’t see eye-to-eye, so I did my 5 years in the Navy and got out. Then I was a stay-at-home-mom for about 10 years and raised 3 kids. I started writing about 10 years ago and I’ve been lucky enough to do that from home, too. I am also employed by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth as a middle school science instructor. Aside from being a wife and mother, being a children’s author is the BEST job in the world. And I’m so thankful that I found this path.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
“Astronaut Aquanaut” was developed from my own curiosity. I was researching a book about space and had a conversation with one of my editors. We were talking about astronauts and how they train and then we started talking about how that was probably very different from how a deep-sea diver trained. I got to thinking and started researching. To my surprise, I found out that they do a lot of things in common when training. Since most of my books start with a “Wow! I didn’t know that fact.” I was off and running.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Like all authors, facing rejection is difficult. And it still happens. Whether you have written 5 or 50 books you still have the ones that don’t sell. It’s tough sometimes to keep going, but when I get a rejection, I use that to spur myself onward. Kind of like “okay, you didn’t like that one, but I’m going to write something even better that you’ll love”. And I keep going. You have to have a thick skin in this business.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
The hardest part about writing for me is finding the right hook and the right structure for the books. Most of my hooks are also my titles. When I find a title that resonates with me or is just plain cool, I know the book will work. I read A LOT of other kids’ books in my genre. That gives me an idea of how I want to structure the book. I try to think out-of-the box and do something unique. So when those two things match up — the hook and the structure, I usually write very quickly. It’s my “aha” moment.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I read a lot of mysteries– both adult and children. The bigger the adventure and the more difficult the mystery to solve the better. That kind of makes sense, because science is a lot like solving a mystery. You have to keep going and keep trying until you figure it out. I read a ton of authors, my favorites are Elizabeth Peters, Cleo Coyle, Rick Riordan, and of course J.K. Rowling, just to name a few.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I work every single day. Not every day is spent writing. Some days I’m marketing, other days I’m editing, some days I’m writing to a deadline. I usually work to whatever has the most imminent due date. My ritual is to be in my chair in my office by 9am and I work through til about 5pm.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I love spending time with my family. I enjoy biking, running, and walking along the beach. I was born with a travel bug so my husband and I take 1-2 big trips a year. Sometimes in the U.S., sometimes abroad. I love learning about and experiencing new places and cultures.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
My best advice is this; everyone has their own path to publication. Whatever you choose to do, is great. Keep at it and don’t give up. In this business it’s easy to keep comparing yourself to others and if you do, you may feel as if you come up short. Try to avoid that. Everyone is different! There is no one path to success. If you’re happy and moving forward, give yourself a pat on the back. Celebrate every success! You worked hard to get here.

 

 

To suggest an author interview, email rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

A hug in my hand

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My college experience included membership in a sorority which promised to “establish a perpetual bond of friendship” among its members. The promise turned out to be true.
Back then, my “Little Sister” gave me a pansy handkerchief (our sorority flower) which I carried at my wedding as the traditional “something blue.” Since then, it has traveled to college graduations along with Arlington National Cemetery to bury my parents.
Next week, my son will be married in Texas and I have scrupulously tried to follow the unspoken rules established for the mother of the groom: “Simply show up, shut up and wear beige.” It is a role which is the least important and the most invisible.
This is a destination wedding (with a limited guest list) so few friends will be with me to watch my son become a husband. Instead, my emotional support will lay folded inside my pocket, in the form of a pansy hanky. Along with drying tears, it will serve as a hug in my hand and a reminder of the friends who care.
Delta love and mine, Roxanne.

 

 

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Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of “The Anchor Clankers.”

Renee interviews author Mark Wayne Adams

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Mark Wayne Adams

Author and illustrator for 50+ books for children in grades K-12, Mark Wayne Adams is President-Elect of the Florida Authors & Publishers Association. However, his greatest talent may be his willingness to share his knowledge of the publishing industry with other authors – like me! Whenever we meet for coffee, I learn something new from Mark.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

Dawson Springs, Kentucky is my hometown, however our family’s home is eight miles outta town, near Pennyrile Resort State Park entrance. Most residents called this mile marker “the middle of nowhere.”

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?

OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters inspiration came from pet names. A brother is a bother, and sisters have sinister plans for sibling life. While researching this book during my book tours, I realized that most siblings had similar feelings about their own brothers and sisters. I also discovered almost every parent requires kids to play “out back” because it was safer than playing “out front” of their homes. This was the case for me as well. The gently sloping Highway 109 at the end of our driveway enticed drivers to speed past. Many a country dog lost its life playing tire tag in that quarter of a mile stretch.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Filtering story facts from fiction was one of the biggest challenges. I finally came to terms that Driew, the protagonist, had to live his own life in Dawson Springs—fiction. The environments he lives within is a compilation of the environments any resident or tourist would experience—fact. By doing this, Driew’s character has become a part of the community history.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

My biggest “aha moment” for OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters came while attending the Amelia Island Authors in Schools program where the students received the book prior to my visit. Most students ask where I’m from, which I reply, “Dawson Springs, Kentucky, does anyone know where that is?” Every hand in the room raised. They knew my middle of nowhere town, because Driew lived there too.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

As an illustrator, I refine my skills practicing with drawing books like The Animator’s Survival Kit. I do the same for my writing using editor guides like Fire Up Your Fiction. At any experience level in drawing and writing, I’ve found room for improvement. Most of my reference books have dog eared pages, penciled notes, and highlighted phrases for quick reference.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

A resounding yes! Writing has become a 24/7 exercise. From correspondence with clients, social media posts, texting, and writing for work, writing is a craft I should have mastered in elementary school. Then I wouldn’t spend most of my day editing the above.

What are your interests outside of writing?

Some people may not know, my full-time career is K–12 Book Illustrator. I’ve incorporated my love of writing by compiling my ideas and inspiration within my Best Sketchbook. In the past decade, I’ve filled 52 sketchbooks with ideas—11,648 pages.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

One tip for authors writing for K–12 readers would be to implement techniques from Schools: A Niche Market for Authors. Including educational resources within your books, helps them become classroom-friendly reads.

 

To suggest an author interview, email rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Evelyne Holingue

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Author Evelyne Holingue

I met Evelyne when we both participated in a Panel Discussion at the Author Extravaganza in Jacksonville, Florida. Her delightful French accent inspired me to learn more of her story.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

I was born and brought up in Normandy, France. As a grad student I moved to Paris where I worked in the publishing industry before following my husband to California.
As anyone can imagine this decision had a huge immediate impact on my professional life. First, I had to learn how to speak English. Someone once told me that fluency requires twenty years. It seems exaggerated, but it certainly requires lots of practice to learn how to speak, to read, and to write in a foreign language acquired in adulthood. I owe a lot to my born-American kids who took the role of teachers. As challenging and frustrating as it was sometimes, I think it helped me develop resilience and humility.

What inspired you to write these books? What is the story behind the story?

Trapped in Paris is a young adult contemporary thriller set in Paris and the Parisian suburbs. The story is inspired by the true eruption of a volcano in Iceland in April 2010, a day after one of my children had returned from France. This eruption shut down all air traffic and for days people were trapped in European airports.

Chronicles From Château Moines is a middle grade historical novel set in the early 1970s in Normandy. My love for music and history are behind this story, that braids American and French cultures via the alternating narratives of 12-year-old classmates Scott and Sylvie.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

English remains a second language, so I am always a little guarded when I start. I need to remind myself to let go and write. Corrections and revisions will arrive soon enough. 

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

My very first published story in Spider Magazine remains a very special memory. As a kid I had seen my name printed in a local newspaper when a poem I wrote had been selected. But to see it again here, in the USA, as an immigrant, was a proud moment.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

My favorites from my schooling in France are Zola, Maupassant and Camus. Now, I mostly read American children’s literature, from Picture Books to Young Adult. There are too many authors I love and admire to name all of them. My most favorite Young Adult author today remains A.S. King who also wrote recently a terrific middle grade book under her full name Amy King.
For Picture Books I love Oliver Jeffers, particularly his latest: Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth.
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

I pretty much write every day, but not necessary fiction. I blog in French and English once a week, for fun and discipline too. I write better in the morning than at night. After dinner I read, go through my critique partners’ chapters, and write down ideas or a tomorrow-to-do list, often too ambitious 

What are your interests outside of writing?

Since reading is my #1 favorite activity, I love libraries and bookshops. Then, I love the outdoors, so I walk every morning, almost always with my husband before work. I also practice yoga on a very regular basis too. And I enjoy taking care of our backyard and the front too I love nurseries almost as much as bookstores.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same?

I have not been able to stay away from writing, even when I tried in moments of discouragement. Nobody forced me to write. Nobody told me it was easy.
There is a huge difference between writing and the publishing business.
In the first place, though, there is a story to tell, so while I write this story I think it’s best to forget about the business part. It will come soon enough.
Also, the first draft is not the final result, but it is necessary, so I think it’s important to respect a first draft, to let it simmer for a few weeks before returning to it and starting a new draft.

 

 

Renee interviews author Brad Meltzer

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Author Brad Meltzer

Photo by PLGould/Images

Today Brad Meltzer releases The Escape Artist, his first new thriller in almost three years. He’s the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Inner Circle (and its sequels, The Fifth Assassin and The President’s Shadow) which are based on the idea that George Washington’s personal spy ring still exists today. Brad has written nine other bestselling thrillers including The Tenth Justice, The First Counsel, and The Millionaires in the 20 years since his first book came out. I interviewed Brad at Book Expo America and we’ve stayed in touch.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience?
I was raised in Brooklyn and Miami, graduated from the University of Michigan and Columbia Law School. The Tenth Justice was my first published work and became an instant New York Times bestseller. Dead Even followed a year later and also hit the New York Times bestseller list, as have all eight of my novels.
I currently live in South Florida with my wife, who’s also an attorney.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
For the past three years, the government has given me access to a place I never thought they’d let me sneak into. Not sure if you know about Dover Air Force Base, but it’s the mortuary for the US government’s most top-secret and high-profile cases.

On 9/11, the victims of the Pentagon attack were brought there. So were the victims of the attack on the USS Cole, the astronauts from the space shuttle Columbia, and the remains of well over fifty thousand soldiers and CIA operatives who fought in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and every secret location in between. Indeed, in Delaware of all places, at Dover Air Force Base, is America’s most important funeral home.

In this world where so much of the government is a mess, Dover is the one place that does it absolutely right. It is the one “no-fail mission” in the military. When a soldier’s body comes home, you don’t mess it up. And so, I’ve seen the stories of the morticians who rebuild hands (rather than giving a fake prosthesis), so that a mother can hold her son’s hand one final time…or where they spend fourteen straight hours wiring together a fallen soldier’s shattered jaw, then smoothing it over with clay and makeup, just so they could give his parents far more ease than they ever should’ve expected at their son’s funeral. And in today’s world, we need real heroes. The people here are the real deal.

What has been your most intriguing discovery in writing this book?
The book focuses on one of the most obscure jobs in the Army: The so-called “Artist In Residence.” Since World War I, the Army has assigned one person—an actual artist—who they send out in the field to, well…paint what couldn’t otherwise be seen. It’s one of the greatest traditions in our military—they call them war artists. They go, they see, they paint, cataloguing every victory and mistake, from the dead on D-day, to the injured at Mogadishu, to the sandbag pilers who were at Hurricane Katrina. In fact, when 9/11 hit, that was the only artist let inside the security perimeter. Sure, we have plenty of photographers and videographers. But what an artist does is different. Photographers take a picture. Artists…when they widen eyes and make rucksacks bigger…they tell a story.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
The Hollywood Reporter recently put me on their list of Hollywood’s 25 Most Powerful Authors. But before The Tenth Justice was published, I got 24 rejection letters for my true first novel, which still sits on my shelf, published by Kinko’s. I believe that ordinary people change the world, and it is that core belief that runs through every one of my projects.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I host “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History” on H2 and “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” on the History Channel.

 

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers.

Renee interviews author Jane R. Wood

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Jane R 

Jane R. Wood is President of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. She’s written many historic fiction books for children, including Voices in St. Augustine, Ghosts on the Coast: A Visit to Savannah and the Low Country and Lost in Boston. I recently caught up with Jane at the Amelia Island Book Festival.

 

1.              Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

 I was born in Astoria, Oregon, and moved to Florida when I was 10. I grew up near Cape Canaveral, and even worked at the Kennedy Space Center for two of my college summer jobs. I graduated with a BA from the University of Florida and earned a M.Ed. from the University of North Florida. I taught middle school and high school for six years, wrote for a newspaper for three years, and was a television producer for 12 years before writing my first book. I live in Jacksonville, Florida, with my husband Terry. I have two grown sons and five grandchildren. My family roots are all Finnish, which was proven when I did my DNA through Ancestry and it came back 85% Finnish and the rest European.

 

 2.              What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?

 I fell in love with the magic of words in the 4th grade when Mrs. Nance assigned a poetry project. That evolved into writing stories. My father was a great storyteller of everyday occurrences, so I think that had an impact too. Also, as a former teacher, I wanted to write fun, fiction stories for kids and weave some history and science into the story line making them educational as well as fun.

 

 3.              What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

                      I’m a planner so it’s sometimes difficult to let the creative process take over and                                            let the story tell itself. It’s always better when that happens.

 

 4.              What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

 I have aha moments every time a young person tells me they love my books. That tells me I accomplished my goal. I want kids reading, but I also want them enjoying what they’re reading. (Once a teacher, always a teacher!)

 

5.             What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or                                 your writing?

                        I like historical fiction. I like Ken Follett and Jeffrey Archer. Pat Conroy was a master                                       of words. I read Gone with the Wind when I was 16 and I think a seed was planted.

 

 6.              Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

 

 I don’t write every day, although I should.  I get inspired when I travel and visit new places. I keep thinking about my characters and what would they do there. My main ritual is that I need quiet when I’m writing, so I close my office door a lot!

 

 7.              What are your interests outside of writing?

 

 I love to travel. I enjoy cooking, and eating, and good wine. If I had more time, I’d sew and do needlework like I used to do. And of course, I love to read.

 

 

8.              Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

           I would encourage aspiring authors to learn their craft. Attend workshops, classes, writers groups and network with other writers. If they decide to self-publish, then they need to hire professionals to do the things that they are not good at – things like book formatting, cover design, website design, etc. And ALWAYS use a good professional editor. I have found that networking with other authors is extremely valuable – and fun! My membership in the Florida Authors and Publishers Association has taught me a great deal about the publishing industry. The only thing I’d do differently is start writing my books many years earlier. I think fear of failure holds many writers back. The best advice I can give is just do it!

                     For more information on me, go to http://www.janewoodbooks.com. 

 

 

Renee Garrison is an award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers.