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 



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

Amelia Island Book Festival


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There’s nothing more exciting than sharing your story with readers.
I just returned from the Amelia Island Book Festival, a three-day event designed to bring the people who create books together with the people who love to read them.

More than 100 authors and publishers attended, to sell and promote books, distribute related information and – particularly in the children’s author area – even offer merchandise such as tee shirts and toys. Celebrity chef Jacques Pepin winked at me as I walked past a long line of fans waiting for his autograph in their cookbooks.

I was happy to see lots of little ones (some in strollers) with their parents, who roamed the Author Expo while instilling a love of lifelong learning. Ticketed events supported the award-winning “Authors in Schools Literacy program,” which brings authors into schools and buys a book for each student of the author they meet.

I can’t think of a nobler cause, can you?

Renee Garrison is the author of an award-winning young adult book, The Anchor Clankers.

Amelia Island

Festival of Reading


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20171113_072611I read the email and blinked.

“Congratulations!!! Colette Bancroft, the book editor of the Tampa Bay Times, and the Author Selection Committee have recommended your award-winning release, The Anchor Clankers for presentation at the 25th annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading.  

The Tampa Bay area celebrates outstanding authors and the love of reading at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. Held on the Bayfront campus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, the festival attracts more than 6,000 book lovers and brings together people of all ages and socioeconomic groups to celebrate the joy of reading.” 

Jumping up from the computer, I did a little happy dance. Then, I cried.

I cried for the six years I spent writing the book. I cried for my parents, who didn’t live long enough to read it. I cried, mostly, out of sheer gratitude that a selection committee chose to honor my work.

Last November, I slid into a chair and watched other authors’ presentations at the 2016 Festival of Reading. One year later, I was invited to give my own.

That’s why I now encourage anyone who has a book lurking inside them, to write it down. Write a lousy first draft and then, a better second draft. You’ll probably publish your third draft.

And next year (when you’re standing at a podium discussing your work,) I’ll come and listen to YOU!

“The Anchor Clankers” latest review

According to Beth Rodgers, Staff Reviewer for YA Books Central:

“The historical context adds depth to the plot, as the story is set around the time that Disney World was being built. This added a healthy dose of interest, as it showed how the issues that teens deal with nowadays were dealt with in the late 1960s and early 1970s. From drinking to worrying about the romantic implications of the drive-in to teen pregnancy, Renee Garrison touches on a variety of topics that are still relevant in teen life today. It helps today’s teens see that they are not alone, and that life occurred before them and will continue to do so once they become adults. It was also fun to learn that the author herself grew up in the same way as Suzette, moving every few years and living in the Sanford Naval Academy with her parents when her dad took a job there. This was a welcome addition, making the story unique.”

(Suzette is doing a happy dance!)


Blowing in the wind


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The invitations were sent and the champagne, cooling.

Then Hurricane Irma invited herself to the party.

Today was to be a Book Launch Party for The Anchor Clankers, a time to celebrate the six years spent writing, editing, designing and proofreading my manuscript before its publication.

When a book is finally published, it’s the end of a long, (sometimes arduous) journey for the author. My sweet friends recognized that, and wanted to throw a monumental celebration – an event that required considerable forethought and planning.

Simply picking a date is difficult, since every day of the year is someone’s birthday, someone’s holiday, someone’s marathon, someone’s surgery, or the day after a hurricane hurtles into Florida, sending 75 m.p.h. winds and 12 inches of rain your way.

Life is full of surprises and things that cannot be foreseen (such as the absence of power, water and gasoline.) I’m so grateful to the people who planned to attend and hope that everyone will take two hours out of their busy lives on October 4 to come the rescheduled Book Launch Party.

Everyone, that is, except Irma.


“The Anchor Clankers,” is available on and Barnes & Noble.comThe Anchor Clankers“>The Anchor Clankers

The Gold Medal goes to…


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J.D. Salinger averaged 20 words a day to finish his 73,000-word classic The Catcher in the Rye over a 10-year span. My novel took six years to get from a legal pad into a binding.

Much of that time was spent sitting alone in front of my computer. On good days, I wondered how a book could be so easy to write. On other days, I struggled – week by agonizing week – wondering if it was worth the fight. Every book has its journey, which may take a month, a year, or even a lifetime.

Probably because they spend so much time alone, authors value recognition from their peers. At the Florida Authors and Publishers Association 2017 President’s Book Awards ceremony, the goodwill was palpable. Winners had been notified that we were finalists in the competition, so when the bronze medal in the Young Adult category was announced, I prepared to stand. I did the same when the silver medal was announced. That’s when I began to fear I’d been notified in error. (I didn’t even hear my name called as the gold medal was announced.) Fortunately, I DID see a six-foot picture of my book cover flash on stage, so I stood and walked toward it.

Turns out that E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, was quite right when he said, “It is deeply satisfying to win a prize in front of a lot of people.”

What would JK Rowling do?

When you’ve written a book, the next thing you must do is create an author website. It’s the first place readers go to find out about you.

As I recently discovered, finding a cure for cancer may be easier than creating a website. Starting with a bit of research, I went straight to because:

  1. I wanted to see what a professional did and
  2. I’ve been told I bear a slight resemblance to the creator of Harry Potter.

No surprise: Her website is lovely, no doubt because her budget is unlimited. She lives in a castle in Edinburgh and is married to a British doctor. Advantage – Joanne.

Experts suggest, “Make the site more about YOU the author, than about your book. A personal site is usually more compelling to readers and potential media than a book site.” Unfortunately, my life is quite unremarkable (much like my skills in technology.) Authors like me generally have two choices: the DIY approach or hiring a professional designer.

John Cossu of SOS (Software Oriented Solutions, not “Save Our Ship” though that acronym works, too) came to my rescue. A few clicks of the mouse allowed words and widgets to fall into place – no magic wand needed!

I hope you visit the new website (I also hope you like it.) Please let me know!

computer website

The beeramid

The sailing team captain felt the sweat trickling down his forehead. At least that’s how he explained it to Suzette the next day.

“We needed twenty cans across the bottom to form the base.”

They carried a bag of empty beer cans from its hiding place in the boat house. One boy even raided a Boy Scout recycling bin for extra cans. They’d hidden some in their rooms, of course, but didn’t want to risk lifelong detention by stashing upstairs the quantity they needed.

“Such a sweet project.”

After practicing in the boat house, the boys devised an efficient plan: two knelt on the floor to stack while two quietly passed cans from the bags. Silence was imperative since any loud crashes would surely wake the Captain’s daughter.

“Her bedroom is just inside the front door,” one cautioned, as they crept down the corridor. “Absolutely no talking, or we’ll get killed.”

The group worked quickly and methodically until a pyramid of beer cans rose more than five feet from the floor and completely blocked the doorway. As a final touch, one midshipman grabbed the camera that hung from a leather strap around his neck and snapped a few pictures for posterity, maybe even the school yearbook.

It looked amazing, an aluminum tower glinting in the corridor security lights. The group headed up the nearest stairwell, careful to avoid the rent-a-cop on his rounds.

Miraculously, Suzette never heard a thing…that is, until her father pulled open the front door on his way to watch the battalion’s morning formation.

“Good luck at school today.”

His head was turned toward his daughter’s bedroom, and he wasn’t looking in front of him as he walked. Suzette started to say thanks, but her mouth simply hung open as she watched a shower of red, white, and blue beer cans spill inside the apartment, burying her father’s feet.

The Captain’s hand still gripped the door knob.


~ Excerpt from “The Anchor Clankers,” available for Pre-sale at Please visit the website and use Coupon Code “ANCHOR” for a $3 discount!