Renee interviews author Robert Jacob

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Pirate Portrait

Digging deep into the true history of Piracy and those who lived this life, Robert Jacob unearthed a treasure of information that allows his readers to experience the true life and motivation of pirates in their Golden Age. His book, A Pirate’s Life in the Golden Age of Piracy won a Gold Medal in the Education category of the 2019 Florida Authors and Publisher’s President’s Book Awards (and a Silver Medal in the Coffee Table Book category.)

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 grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and got involved with living history in 1971. I did Revolutionary war re-enacting all through the bicentennial. I received a BS in education from Duquesne University and a MA from VCU in Richmond. I served in the United States Marine Corps for 31 years (1982-2013)
While serving in the Corps, I continued with my living history hobby, doing Rev-War, western gunfighter and mountain man rendezvous along with my wife, Anne, who always participates in these events. In 2006, I became interested in pirate re-enacting.
I retired from the Corps in 2013 and moved to Florida.

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

When I became interested in pirate living history, I wanted to learn about the time period, so I read every book I could find. I quickly realized that most of them were highly inaccurate and none of them told the complete story. Most were re-hashes of one book written in 1724, which was not historically correct and was filled with embellishments and incorrect “facts”. After several years of searching for a good and complete book on the subject, I decided to write the book I was searching for.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Finding a publisher.

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

I have many of them, each time someone tells me that they really enjoyed reading my book.

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

I exclusively read history books. Most of them are difficult to read. Not only are they exceptionally wordy, but the jump around in the historical timeline when telling their story. Their influence on me was to develop a style that is NOT theirs. My narrative is easy to read and is chronological as much as possible. There is one author whose style did influence me, James Burke. He also did a TV series in the 1980’s titled “The Day the Universe Changed.”

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

My writing seems to go in spurts. I may write constantly for a week, then not touch it for a month.

What are your interests outside of writing?

I still do living history and give lectures on pirate history. I also enjoy fishing.

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.

Getting the right publishing team is everything. No matter how good your writing is, getting it formatted and getting the right cover design is very important. I found my publisher by joining local groups of writers and asking them to introduce me to their publishers.

Renee interviews author James R. Hannibal

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James

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 am a former US Air Force Stealth Bomber pilot. I grew up moving all over as a military kid, then joined the Air Force at seventeen, and kept on moving around. Between the ages of 9 months old and thirty-one, I moved seventeen times, so I never know how to answer the question of “Where are you from?” I was born in Texas, and I graduated from high school in Texas (having lived many other places in between), so by the most accounts, I’m from Texas.

I studied applied physics at the Air Force Academy until that side of the program was cancelled in favor of quantum, and then I shifted to Middle Eastern Studies and counter-terrorism. For the most part quantum physics is just fiction via elegant math, and I didn’t see the point. The Mid East Studies program was experimental, so my degree says “History.” After the Academy, I flew T-38 Talons, A-10 Thunderbolts, B-2 Spirits, and MQ-1 Predators, with a total of more than 1500 combat and combat support hours. While working in the stealth, my clearances got me involved in some interesting extracurricular work. That’s all I can say about that.

Probably the most interesting thing about me is my synesthesia. I have a condition categorized as a “neurological phenomenon” that merges my senses through bridges of gray matter. I see and feel sounds, hear flashes of light and quick movements, and see and feel smells. For me walking through an area of bad roadkill scent feels the same as the blasts of sand hitting me when I walked through a sandstorm in Kuwait. A flash of light is like getting slapped in the face. But a string quartet is a silvery, tickling marvel.

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

With The Gryphon Heist, I wanted to explore the concept of morality in espionage within a fun thief/spy story. What I didn’t expect was the opportunity to explore forgiveness as well. But Talia’s character brought that home to me. She had so much bitterness built up over a life of hard knocks, that I knew she would have to learn to forgive in order to heal. While I was playing with the loyalty of spies and the technology of twenty-first-century thieves, Talia was pushing me to dig into the need to forgive and let go.

She brought up the question: “How do you forgive someone who murdered your father?” I shrugged. “I don’t have a clue.” And then the phone rang. I was called in to fly that very moment. I’m an on-call international airline pilot, filling in for the guys who call in sick. I didn’t want to go flying to Amsterdam that night, because I was just starting to Talia’s story moving. But once we settled in at cruising altitude, the captain and I began to talk. He told me about his passion (aside from flying). He was a counselor, specializing in helping the most traumatized victims learn to forgive, including the families of murder victims. He taught me so much in two ten-hour flights to Amsterdam and back. When I needed an expert in forgiveness to help me with Talia’s story, God put me on right on his flight deck.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Right now, my biggest challenge is keeping up with the work God places in my path. I used to worry about getting writing contracts. Now I worry about how I’m going to fulfill them. Each one is a calling, and I want to do them justice.

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

After The Gryphon Heist, comes Chasing the White Lion, continuing the adventures of Talia, Tyler, and their team of elite thieves. Chasing the White Lion has an unlikely star. I won’t give away too much, but amid a string of increasingly complex con games, the team must bring down a crime syndicate involved in human trafficking. One of the real hero organizations fighting child poverty, and by extension fighting human trafficking, is Compassion International. I asked them if I could give them a starring role in my next spy/thief book to raise awareness of their incredible work. I never thought they’d say yes. They did. I am so excited about where Chasing the White Lion will take us when we show the world how everyday people can stop human traffickers (and build up children at the same time) by helping organizations like Compassion.

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

I read an eclectic mix. Jon Land recently took over the Murder She Wrote series, and I love his ability to capture human character in the smallest movements and moments. Ronie Kendig has a flare for action in both her military and sci-fi thrillers. Brandon Sanderson is (in my opinion) the current master of fantasy. DiAnn Mills is the master of the protagonist’s internal psyche. These are the folks I’m reading these days.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

I wish I could write every day. It doesn’t always work out with a day job as an international pilot. When I get to a hotel overseas, I take a nap, go for a walk if the weather permits to re-cage my mind, and then sit down at the desk and write. That’s the key. You’ve got to sit down, open whatever software you use, and write.

What are your interests outside of writing? 

Aviation (obviously). I’d hate to fly with a pilot who didn’t like flying. I’ve also helped train pro fighters in MMA, so I like keeping tabs on that world. Recently I took over a fantasy game world from the 1980s, so I’ve gotten into the board game community. In my spare time, I’ve been studying game design. There are a lot of parallels to storytelling, so those to aspects of my work dovetail nicely.

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 never say I’d do something differently, because I feel God has led me to this point in my life in His way. I wouldn’t want to mess with that. I do wish that someone would have explained to me a long time ago that not everyone sees sounds and hears flashes of light. It would have spared me from looking crazy for half my life. That’s one reason I wrote the Section 13 series for kids—to help raise awareness of synesthesia.

My advice to aspiring authors is to keep writing. Too often I meet a writer who stopped at one book and has been trying to get it published for the last four or five years. If you’re going to be a professional writer, one book a year is a starting point. Keep sending out those queries, but keep writing too. When I was finally picked up, I’d been querying for four years, but I was also halfway through my fourth book. Each book is a learning experience—a new level. Getting stuck on just one is like staying in the same grade in school year after year.

 

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

Renee interviews author Nancy J. Cohen

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PubPink

Nancy J. Cohen writes cozy mysteries set in Florida. Her stories contain a touch of humor and a hint of romance. Her book, “A Bad Hair Day Cookbook,” received a Five Star Review from Readers Favorite.

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 grew up in New Jersey. My Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing was earned at University of Rochester in NY and my Master’s Degree at University of California in San Francisco. I worked as a Registered Nurse for ten years before retiring to write full-time. Currently, I live in South Florida with my husband. We are empty nesters with two grown children and a grandson.

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

I love to talk about food. I attend cooking classes and read food magazines. I like to cook and experiment with new dishes. I’ve posted recipes on my website and photos of dishes I’ve made on my Facebook page. The recipe list on my website got so long that I considered compiling them into a cookbook to save storage space. It would be a legacy for my children, containing all my favorite recipes and ones I’d inherited from my mother.

Food is a happy topic. When writing a mystery, we deal with sad events. Eating brings comfort, and so food is the light that balances the darkness of death in these stories. My heroine sleuth, Marla Vail, likes to cook. Working in the kitchen offers an escape from daily strife. She’s the narrator for the cookbook, adding her own commentary and anecdotes to flavor the recipes with her perspective. I meant this as a tribute to my fans. The cookbook is a companion to the series. With the excerpts included, it’s also a great introduction to the series for home cooks who haven’t read any of the books.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Regarding the cookbook, getting the measurements and ingredients listed to be precise and consistent was my biggest challenge. Regarding my career as a published author, the biggest challenge is that I’ve had to change publishers several times. When I wrote for Kensington, I got “orphaned” and they dropped my series after nine books. Five Star dropped their entire mystery line after I did four books with them. Then Kensington licensed rights to some of my books to Open Road Media, so there was yet another version out there. Rather than seek another publisher for this series, I decided to go indie starting with book 14. It’s been a good decision. Readers have been my biggest supporters. Easter Hair Hunt, book 16, will be out in March. Then I’ll see where I want to go from there.

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

Interacting directly with readers has been highly gratifying. We couldn’t do this in the earlier days of the publishing industry. Now we can communicate directly thanks to social media. I am accountable to my readers more so than to any publisher, and readers are ultimately our audience. Success is being asked, “When is your next book coming out?” In terms of awards, and my books have earned several, the biggest honor was getting an Agatha Award nomination for my instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery.

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

A series that greatly influenced my writing was Horatio Hornblower. As I progressed through the stories about this young officer in the British Navy, I realized that what drew me to the next book weren’t the sea battles. It was how Horatio grew and changed throughout the series. If you think about Nancy Drew, she hardly evolves in the original titles. You get a fun mystery in each book, but her character doesn’t change. That was okay back then but it wouldn’t appeal to me now. I like to follow the personal lives of characters from book to book, and we need to do the same as writers. Our characters must evolve and change. They become friends to our readers who want to follow their personal lives.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

It depends on if I’m in a writing phase or a revision phrase. I’ll give myself a daily quota to achieve. Once I’ve met my page count, I spend the rest of the day on marketing. Social media and book promotion are incredibly time-consuming. I write very early in the morning so I can usually take the afternoons off to do other things.

What are your interests outside of writing?

Reading, dining out, cooking, cruising, and visiting Disney World. Now we have a new grandson, so that’s changed the family dynamics.

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 still advise new authors to get a publisher. It’s important to cross that line for validation. A publisher can give your book wider distribution and promotional support in ways you cannot do for yourself. Also, determine your audience. Don’t bounce around from one genre to the next. Stick with the one you love and keep producing more material. Make sure you maintain the rights to your characters and series. Then you can take them elsewhere if necessary. Be versatile and realize you have options, especially if you get dropped by your publisher or your line folds. Most importantly, be active in the writing community. Join online listserves, participate in writing groups, go to conferences and workshops. Always learn and always keep striving toward success. Follow the 3 P’s – Professionalism, Practice, and Perseverance.

Name that book

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Books in a circle

When it comes to giving your book a title, less is definitely more. (Think Dracula. Emma. Twilight. Ivanhoe. Mockingjay.)
I struggle with two choices for my upcoming sequel to The Anchor Clankers.
1. Anchored in Love
2. Anchored Together
I studied Amazon’s book list to see how many books have the same title and discovered Anchored In Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash,” which was published in 2007.

Would that be a problem? Too confusing?

Author Madeleine L’Engle once admitted, “We had to search for the proper name for ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ and it was my mother who came up with it, during a night of insomnia. I went into her room with a cup of coffee in the morning, and she said, ‘I think I have a title for your book, and it’s right out of the text: A Wrinkle in Time.’ Madeleine goes on to say that many titles had been considered and all vetoed before her mother mentioned A Wrinkle in Time.

I wish I had an insomniac mother who could come up with a great book title.

Shifting traditions

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Thanksgiving retro-

My grandmother set her Thanksgiving table with an Irish lace cloth. I’m not sure that I even own one. (If I do, it’s packed away.) In her eighties, Nana once threw a crystal cranberry dish across the table at my mother because Mom neglected to remove it from the china closet and serve the cranberry sauce in it. A stickler for tradition, that one…
When my children were growing up, we didn’t always live close to family. Today, my daughter lives in Illinois and my son, in Texas, so we are learning to navigate a shifting holiday tradition.
I’ve become a guest, now, rather than a host. It’s delightful to watch them prepare recipes that are meaningful to our family. But I’m also pleased to see their unique additions to the day. Candidly, my daughter-in-law does a better job with appetizers than I ever could.
Screen time with family is wonderful, but nothing replaces being together, the affectionate hugs and the opportunities for reconnecting with one another over a holiday meal.
I hope they will carry forward a few of the cherished holiday traditions of their childhood for the next generation. Unlike my grandmother, I let go of any expectations and – along with the food – I savor the moments, the chance to be together.

 

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

Exercise

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6ACF932C-1

“Renee, have you ever been to SoulCycle?” my daughter-in-law asked innocently.
No, I hadn’t, but when the family gets together, I’ve learned to be flexible. That’s why at 7:30 one recent morning in Chicago, I trudged to a “Breakfast with Beyoncé” class with two daughters-in-law and my daughter. Wearing Lululemon duds borrowed from the girls, I was fitted with cycling shoes that locked into the pedals.
Wow, these look a lot like bowling shoes. (I quickly learned nothing could be farther from the truth.) A fresh, white towel was folded over the handle bars, with a tiny rack beneath it for a water bottle. The lighting was subdued and I was in the back row.  So far, so good.
A pleasant young man with a microphone praised everyone for coming to class and amped up Beyoncé’s “Halo” to a decibel level clearly designed to induce deafness. I spotted an employee wearing a SoulCycle T-shirt, who was prowling the periphery of the room. I waved frantically.
“Did I see a jar of earplugs at the front desk,” I shouted. She said something (God knows I couldn’t hear her) and returned with two yellow cushions in her hand. I inserted them immediately.
That’s when I heard the man giving instructions: Sway to the left. Sway to the right. Tap once. Tap twice. The bodies in the rows ahead of me bobbed up and down like pop tarts in a toaster. I did not, fearing that I might lose my balance and land on the floor while my feet – which were prisoners of the pedals – would continue spinning. I refused to end the family visit with a trip to the ER.
Periodically, my daughter would look over at me and yell, “Are you okay, Mom?”
“Yes,” I bellowed back, wiping sweat from my face and neck. When my towel accidently slipped to the floor, I stared at it. If I bend over to pick that up, I’ll probably land beside it.
Mercifully, the hour ended and I managed to snap my right shoe out of the bike pedal. The left one refused to budge, so I simply removed my foot. The bike shoe continued to cycle, reminding me of those boots in the stirrups of a rider-less horse at military funerals. At least I didn’t die.
We limped back to my daughter’s house (okay, I limped and the girls sauntered) in time for breakfast. My sit bones were sore, but my smile was wide. Guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

 

 

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

Renee interviews author Deborah Gomer

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Deborah Gomer

Author Deborah Gomer is an oncology nurse, case manager, and health coach. She is also a cancer survivor, who values the extraordinary power of the mind and body. Her award-winning book, The By-Your-Side Cancer Guide, walks readers through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond with honesty and understanding.

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 grew up in New Jersey, spending summers at the Jersey shore and winters sledding down the hill in our backyard. I loved the changing seasons, but after graduating from New York University and marrying, my husband and I decided to move back to his native Florida. We first settled in South Florida but moved to Jacksonville 16 years ago. We have two adult children who are Florida-grown. Although I miss the changing seasons, I absolutely love living in Jacksonville and am now considered a Florida native.
I have been an oncology nurse for 30 years and am passionate about what I do. Whether it is helping a newly diagnosed patient navigate their care, providing education to staff, or writing an article for a cancer journal, it gives me joy to provide education and support in the cancer community.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
My husband and my father were sitting around the kitchen table having a discussion about my job. I was explaining what some of my patients go through when they are diagnosed and how I love providing them with tips and suggestions to make their treatment easier. They both looked at me and said, “Debbie, you love to write. Why don’t you write a book for cancer patients?” Being a cancer survivor myself, I thought I could offer something unique—something written through the eyes of someone who has been both the patient and the caregiver. The idea filled me with excitement and I literally started working on the The By-Your-Side Cancer Guide the following day.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Oh my, there were so many challenges. First, I needed to research other books for those with a cancer diagnosis, and there were many. I did not want to repeat what others had done, so I made a list of things I felt were missing in these books.
Second, I had no experience writing a book or publishing. I joined several on-line writing communities in order to learn. The local university offers a wonderful array of community classes and I took every publishing class I could find. I decided to self-publish, so I had to really educate myself about the process.
I thought writing would be the biggest challenge, since I was working full time and had an active teenager at home. The writing was actually the best part. The biggest challenge has been marketing. It can be time consuming and is a tremendous challenge for someone with a full time job. I have a blog and use social media and rely a lot on word of mouth.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
Each time I finished a chapter, I would read it over several times, sometimes putting it down for a few weeks and going back to it. With each read, I would have an aha moment when I would add or edit. But I think the biggest aha moment was when I won two President’s Awards from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. Up to that point, I felt like a nurse who wrote a book. The award made me feel like an author.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I am an avid reader. I read anything I can get my hands on—oncology journals, magazines, cereal boxes. My favorite genre is historical fiction, but I also enjoy writers who make you feel like their characters are real—like you know them intimately. Some of my favorites are Amor Towles, Gail Honeyman, and Fredrik Backman. I am currently reading Donna Tartt’s, Goldfinch, and it is wonderful.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I wish I could write every day, but it is difficult keeping a ritual with a full-time job. I try to submit a few articles a year to CONQUER magazine. And I purchased some journals with writing prompts which I hope to start using.

What are your interests outside of writing?
My husband and I enjoy music and are fortunate to have a few outdoor venues that feature amazing local bands. It is our weekend relaxation ritual. I enjoy yoga and try to maintain a daily practice. I also enjoy trying new vegan recipes and growing hydroponic vegetables.

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.
1. Do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the writing and publishing process. Talk to other authors. Join writing groups or online groups.
2. I did not realize how expensive the process of publishing could be when I started and was blown away. At the same time, I wanted my book to be professional. Cost-cutting is understandable but not when it jeopardizes quality. I hired an editor and I hired someone to format the book for me. I had a local graphic designer do the cover. She was happy to be given the opportunity and I got a great deal. I chose to self-publish which allowed me to own my work and the content.
3. Have a marketing plan before you complete the book.

 

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

Um, a sexy lobster?

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sexy
Is it my imagination or are Halloween costumes getting shorter, tighter and riskier? Manufacturers are designing a wider variety of costumes for women that SHOW more skin than they COVER. When did bustiers, fishnet stockings and miniskirts became the norm?
In college I went to a costume party dressed as a bag of jelly beans (multi-colored balloons in a clear plastic dry cleaning bag tied at my neck.) Definitely NOT sexy.
Fashion experts say the shift toward skimpy Halloween costumes took off when American women began embracing a barely-there fashion aesthetic. Enter the era of low-rise jeans, miniskirts, and bandage dresses. Unfortunately, when Britney Spears debuted her single “Baby One More Time” in 1999, she also inspired a new Halloween costume: the sexy schoolgirl. (Sister Mary Margaret was appalled.)
Scanning the racks at the Halloween store, recently, I spotted a “sexy nurse, sexy police woman” and “sexy firefighter.” However, nothing surprised me more than “Sexy Lobster.” And I LOVE lobster. Just not that one.
I read that Google searches for “sexy Halloween costumes” have been declining. That’s good news. (Maybe Daenerys from Game of Thrones, had something to do with it?)

 

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

Attending a writers’ conference

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FWA Conference

Writing is a solitary activity — publishing is not. That means people like me need to network and meet other writers and publishers who share the same enthusiasm for writing as I do.

Regardless of how many novels we sell, there is always something to learn at a writers’ conference. The publishing industry is constantly changing and it’s hard for authors to keep up. Honing our craft is about more than learning proper punctuation, or when to use upper case or italics from the Chicago Manual of Style. These conferences offer the sort of nuts-and-bolts information that can improve our writing and increase our efficiency in the business side of the craft.

Sure, they’re exhausting (and usually involve cold coffee and a chicken dinner.) But I recommend that every aspiring writer attend at least one. Wherever you are on the road to success, you will meet others who have been there and who are ready to help you.

 

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

Renee interviews Author Jayne Rose-Vallee

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Jayne

Jayne M. Rose-Vallee. Jayne is an author and publisher of children’s books. Her mother’s love of poetry and quick-witted humor sparked an early appreciation for a good rhyme. Being raised on a farm taught her hard work and a little bit of dirt builds character. After raising three children on the east side of Detroit, she found time in the next chapter of life to follow her passion and write. The hesitant Jayne was encouraged by her daughter to publish her first book, Dinosaurs Living in My Hair, which catapulted her into a new business venture. Dinosaurs Living in My Hair is now a series with the third book currently being illustrated. The educational DLIMH!2 Coloring Book takes much of her dinosaur research and presents it to children with creativity and fun.

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 grew up in the Midwest. Attended Michigan State University. Married. Three children before the age of twenty-six. Stay-at-home mom. Volunteered and served on a variety of non-profit boards and community organizations. President of the Mothers’ Club of Grosse Pointe South High School and board of directors. Baked thousands of chocolate chip cookies for children’s athletic teams.
In summer, I cheered from the steamy pool deck; fall I watched from the sidelines of a muddy soccer field; winter I was bundled up under heat lamps in an ice arena; spring I was outside stiff from anxiety holding my breath through tennis rallies. My life was consumed with my family. When the last one went to college, we continued to drive and watch tennis matches, however, life as I knew it shifted.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
My daughter was an ambassador for Lululemon (she’s an Ironman/triathlete). As training for her ambassadorship, she underwent a program which asked her to identify life goals. She began mentoring me. She wanted me to publish a poem I wrote for her when she was four. After a year of ignoring her, I began to wonder, “What if?”
I found an illustrator, Anni Matsick, who agreed to undertake this project with an unknown, unpublished author. We worked together with Chris Schechner, (art director), and published books one and two. Bonnie Hawkins will be illustrating book 3 which is an underwater reef book where DLIMH tackles the subject of caring for Mother Earth.
Twenty-eight awards later, hundreds of school visits done, and thousands of hugs given, I am grateful to Lauren, my daughter, for her persistent encouragement to publish. It’s been an amazing journey. Not only is she the protagonist for the main character, but she single-handedly kicked me to get here.
Dinosaurs Living in My Hair is a poem I wrote for Lauren which details early childhood living with a mass of blonde curls. She would come in from play with sticks and dried leaves stuck in her tight spirals. It pulled and hurt to brush, comb, wash, etc. Parts of her hair never saw the light of day. I used to say, “Lauren, dinosaurs could live in that mess and I’d never know?” She’d shrug with those round blue sparkling eyes and dart out the side door to go play. Dinosaurs were the most ridiculous thing I could think of to say. I love the word imagination. I think to write the ridiculous is fun and persuade children think like this. Adults ask “Why dinosaurs?” Children know the answer is, “Why not dinosaurs?”

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
As an author/publisher the most difficult challenge to overcome was to believe in myself; to take myself seriously. Traditionally published authors and traditional publishers used to make me feel ‘less than.’ It’s taken five years, but finally I acknowledge in my heart, I’m legit. It’s the students who cheer, laugh, applaud, hug, and love the books, who changed this for me. They are the best indicator of quality. I trust them.
Recently I founded, Literacy for Kids, Inc., (LFK) a non-profit corporation whose mission is to promote literacy, advocate education, support tolerance, and encourage acceptance. We are busy organizing our first AUTHORS: IN-Detroit program where the purpose is to unite award-winning authors/illustrators with students at a face-to-face event. Each child will receive an autographed book from the respective author assigned to their school. LFK will selectively choose titles which promote vocabulary, history, culture, acceptance, and self-esteem. Since we have seen firsthand how students respond with excitement and optimism when engaged in this personal educational experience, we felt Detroit Public Schools would be a great place to launch our first project.
I am currently editing my first YA novel. It’s a cross between John Paulson’s, “Hatchet” and John Grisham’s “Client.” I wanted to write a book where Mother Earth was also a character. We have a piece of property in the middle of nowhere which speaks to anyone who has walked there. It feels sacred. My intent is to paint this emotional reaction into words. What I lack these days however, is time.
The second DLIMH!2 book has been adapted into a Spanish version. This is currently being printed and will be available soon. The book series is in rhyme and it was challenging to give it a beat and rhythm through the translation. We look forward to its addition to our selections.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
Most of my writing ‘ah-ha’ moments come early in the morning when I first wake. A year ago, we travelled to Africa. I was able to write for three weeks continuously while overlooking a watering hole. Every animal imaginable within walking distance made its way to drink directly in front of me. The marmot monkeys flitted around the treetops overhead, the baboons strolled down the dried river eyeing me cautiously, the padded grey elephant feet snuck in quietly, and the towering giraffes blended into the trees miraculously. Sleeping outside in a tent for three weeks, waking and writing, falling asleep and waking to write again, was one of the most magical times of my life. The wee hours, with my sleep angels having answered manuscript questions, were still fresh in my mind when I started typing each day. I find if I’m struggling with writing plot – characters – etc. – I pose the question in my mind before sleep, invariably I have my answer in the morning. It’s best to keep my pencil and paper next to my bedside to jot down before the day erases all of my secrets. I think I have sleep fairies.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I am an avid fly-fisherman. It’s an activity my husband and I learned together about year ten (10/40) in our marriage. We began in Montana streams and rivers and fell in love with the speckled trout. Now, we fish most in saltwater. We divide our time between Michigan and the Florida Keys. I still prefer wading in water – but being in the back country of the everglades is also spectacular. I have a half-written book (where fly-fishing is a character), sitting in my bottom drawer. Time. It’s my worst enemy.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I read a lot of children’s book because I like to introduce my granddaughter to the world of words. She loves rhymes which makes me happy. I love Jory John’s humor; Kenneth Kraegel’s, “Green Pants,” is awesome. When I hear my son read Mo Willems’ “Pigeon Needs a Bath” out loud it tickles my heart. It’s funny when his scratchy voice and scrunched up eyes recite words like, “too hot, too cold, too deep . . . “, it makes a mother proud to see him interacting with his daughter and a book. My all-time favorites though will always be nursery rhymes. They speak to me.

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 advice to anyone who wants to write is simply, “Write.” There’s no doubt the more you write the better you become. I love George Orwell’s advice when it comes to rules:
1. “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”
2. “Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
3. “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”
4. “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”
5. “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”
He goes on to say notice the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ suggest these rules are absolute and must never be broken. Although with all rules – he was known to break them often!
I would add two more rules from my experience:
6. When proofreading take out the word “that” It’s seldom needed.
7. Editing is done best when work is read out loud. If you stutter through a sentence, something isn’t right.
We must encourage children to be creative and use their imaginations. It’s a dying art. God bless the children and the young at heart.

 

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