Getting to know Susan Beckham Zurenda #author #historical #southern #literary #fiction #amreading #literaryfiction

My guest today explores the ramifications of an accident on a family, an accident that could have been avoided. Please help me welcome author Susan Beckham Zurenda! Let’s peek at her background and then learn more about her writing process and inspiration.

Susan Zurenda taught English for 33 years on the college level and at the high school level to AP students. Her debut novel, Bells for Eli (Mercer University Press, March 2020; paperback edition March 2021), has been selected the Gold Medal (first place) winner for Best First Book—Fiction in the 2021 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards), a Foreword Indie Book Award finalist, a Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, a 2020 Notable Indie on Shelf Unbound, a 2020 finalist for American Book Fest Best Book Awards, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2021. She has won numerous regional awards for her short fiction. She lives in Spartanburg, SC.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Instagram

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Susan: Bells for Eli is inspired by a real-life first cousin’s tragic childhood accident in the late 1950s when he swallowed Red Devil Lye just before his second birthday. His father was blowing up balloons for his son’s party with the lye and left it in a Coca-Cola bottle. Danny picked up the bottle and drank. Inspired by Danny’s accident, the novel explores how one misstep changes the trajectory of a young boy’s life and creates immense conflict in the lives of those around him in a time and place of supposed innocence, the small-town South of the 1960s and ’70s.  

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Susan: The genesis for Bells for Eli was a short story that won the South Carolina Fiction Prize many years ago. In that story, I chose a third person limited female narrator, but in the novel, I wanted a more intimate voice to connect with the reader. What I learned in creating Delia’s voice was not to force it. Almost from the beginning it didn’t feel like I was creating the voice so much as it felt like Delia speaking to me. It was much like listening to a girlfriend or one of my daughters talking, but instead of her talking to me, it was through me. I wrote Delia’s dialogue the way I heard her speak inside my head.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Susan: Eli’s father, Gene Winfield, was one of the most difficult characters for me to write because I didn’t like him. He is the person responsible, at least indirectly, for Eli’s accident. He’s also alcoholic and volatile. Yet, in his own dysfunctional way he loves his son, and some of his difficulties are rooted in guilt. It wasn’t until I wrote a scene in which Gene intercedes in an attempt to protect his son from bullying by other boys in the schoolyard on a Halloween afternoon that I began to feel sympathy for him. And I was so glad because Gene is human, neither all bad nor all good.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Susan: Delia, my protagonist, is the easiest to get to know because she’s the first person narrator and she expresses her feelings openly.

I liked creating all the characters. I missed them a great deal when I finished writing the book. I particularly liked watching Mary Lily, Eli’s mother, come to life because I’ve never known anyone quite like her. But I guess if I’m pressed, I feel closest to my main characters, Delia and Eli, because I experienced everything with them.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Susan: Because I came of age in the 1960s-70s, I thought I would remember everything. I was wrong. I researched language, music, cultural icons, among other things. It was so much fun to go back to this time.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Susan: I wrote the initial manuscript of Bells for Eli in about a year. After my agent accepted the novel in its initial form, I wrote a subplot (the story of Francie) and wove it into the novel. It was the exact right thing to do.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Susan: Most authors write in the mornings, but I typically write in the evenings. I am too distracted and self-critical during the day, but once night approaches, my inner critic goes to sleep, and I can relax and write for hours.

 Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Susan: In the drafting stage, I tend to have my characters “glare” too much and put their hands on their foreheads too often. Thank goodness for editing.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Susan: I love so many authors, especially Southern authors. There are certain books like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers that I consider near perfect pieces of writing.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Susan: I love to write outside when the weather permits. Mostly, though, I write on an aged desktop computer in my crowded office. My favorite place to read is the bathtub.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Susan: I taught English for 33 years and loved my career. During this time, I published a lot of short fiction, but I didn’t start my debut novel until I retired from teaching and began working part time as a book publicist.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Susan: Bells for Eli has been well received and has won several awards. I am grateful. But when a reader tells me he/she has read the novel more than once or is still thinking about the characters and the story, that’s the highest honor I could ever hope for. In a letter to his friend ErnestHemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “The purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader’s mind.” This is my purpose in Bells for Eli: for my characters’ lives to resonate with readers after the novel ends.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Susan: Literary fiction.

In the 1960-s and ’70s fictitious small-town of Green Branch, SC, two first cousins, Eli and Delia, grow up across the street from each other in a relationship illustrating the extraordinary depths of tenderness and friendship in Susan Beckham Zurenda’s debut novel, Bells for Eli. After a life-altering childhood accident compromises Eli physically and makes him the target of bullying, Delia becomes his great defender. Later, in adolescence, the outer appearance of Eli’s accident gone, the cousins’ relationship grows into one with deeper, more complicated feelings. Though Eli dates every girl in town and eventually falls in love, Delia is never far away. At every turn he assumes the role of her protector. His wounds of the heart from childhood never leave, however, and are the catalyst for decisions that bring this novel to a staggering conclusion, and Delia discovers a shocking family secret that reveals truths about Eli she has never known.

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N * Bookshop

This sounds like a very powerful story, Susan. Thank you for sharing it with us!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Lynda Rees #author #romanticsuspense #storyteller #fiction #nonfiction #childrensbooks

Today’s guest has a unique view of the world, one I think you’ll enjoy. Please help me welcome Lynda Rees to the interview hot seat! First a glance at her background before we move on to find out more about her writing process and inspiration.

Lynda is an award-winning storyteller living on a Kentucky horse farm. Born in the Appalachian Mountains the daughter of a coal miner and part-Cherokee Indian, Lynda grew up in northern Kentucky when Newport prospered as a gambling, prostitution, and sin mecca under the Cleveland Mob. Her fascination with history’s effect on today’s lives works its way into her written pages.

Having traveled the world working with heads of industry, foreign governments, and business managers during a corporate career in marketing and global transportation, this free-spirited adventurer with workaholic tendencies followed her passion for writing.

Both debut novels are award winners. Gold Lust Conspiracy is her award-winning historical debut novel. RITA finalist and debut romantic suspense Parsley, Sage, Rose, Mary & Wine, Book 1 of The Bloodline Series, is set in Kentucky horse country, followed by books 2-10. Operation Second Chance, also set in Kentucky, was an Imaginarium finalist.

Lynda’s middle-grade children’s books, Freckle Face & Blondie and The Thinking Tree, are co-authored with her granddaughter Harley Nelson. Lynda has also published several non-fiction books and a children’s picture book NO FEAR.

She hopes you enjoy her stories and you become life-long friends.

Lynda Rees, The Murder Guru

Love is a dangerous mystery. Enjoy the ride!©

Author Social Links:  Twitter * Facebook * YouTube

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Lynda: Fans of The Bloodline Series asked for a favorite character, FBI Agent Reggie Casse, to have her own love interest and series. So, I wrote Hart’s Girls, Reggie Chronicle 1; and U.S. Marshal Shae Montgomery entered the sleepy, rural, horse country town of Sweetwater, Kentucky, and the Reggie Chronicles was born. Hart’s Girls was such a success, I followed it with Heart of the Matter, Reggie Chronicle 2 launched 6/1/22 and Magnolia Blossoms, Reggie Chronicle 3 launched 7/1/22.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Lynda: I studied abduction and human trafficking with an FBI Agent and learned a lot about the industry as well as what organizations like the FBI and U.S. Marshal’s office are doing to combat the despicable crimes. It’s fascinating and has many legs. Through romance and suspenseful entertainment, these books are my way of helping the public learn about what’s going on in their neighborhoods, regardless of where you live; and how they can recognize the signs, prevent it from happening to loved ones, and help victims of such crimes recover.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Lynda: Yes. Reggie is a wacky, irreverent character who loves to flirt and prank. She’s also hell-bent on saving women and children from criminal activities. As such a strong character, finding a man who would appreciate her personality and career was difficult. Shea Montgomery is just the opposite of what she thought she needed, but he’s perfect for her. They both have issues to get through and over, but in the end, they are meant for each other.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Lynda: I adore strong women and portray them that way in all my books. Strong women need strong men. It takes a man with lots of confidence to appreciate my gals. They’re all so fun to create, and I have enjoyed learning them down to their very core.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Lynda: As I said earlier, I worked with an FBI agent in order to understand the criminal organizations—not just what they do but how and why. I delved into the psychology of the criminal mindset, and discovered why they are so successful, who their prime targets are and why they’re so vulnerable. I learned what punishments are levied for the varying types of activities, how the FBI and other organizations I mention in my books combat these crimes, and what is done to help victims. Recovery is a long, difficult battle, but it’s achievable for victims to ultimately have happy, productive lives.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Lynda: About seven. I write the story in my head. Then I outline the chapters and sequence of events. I write the chapters. I read and rewrite them. I share with my critique groups and incorporate revision. I share with beta readers, then incorporate revision. I do a final edit then send to an editor. I revise with editor revisions. Then I do another final edit.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Lynda: Yes, it’s a typical length of time for me. Putting the first draft on paper took about a month. I let it sit for almost a year while completing another project, then pulled it out again. It took about three more months to complete and submit it for publication.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Lynda: Nothing special. I normally listen to audiobooks while marketing, doing social media and answering emails. When I write, however, I need quiet. I have a glass of ice water, a cocktail or glass of wine. Then I sit alone in my office and put hands on the keyboard.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Lynda: My pet peeve is overuse of words. I am extremely conscious of it, something I’ve learned over the years. Those that irritate me most are: then, the, very, just, about, down, up, almost. I have a complete list of what I call “edit-out words” available for download at my website under the For Authors tab. It’s at:  http://www.lyndareesauthor.com

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Lynda: My father was the most courageous man I knew. He always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. I owe my achievement to him. His parents, my grandparents, showed me what love and marriage should be like. My grandfather taught me to read at the age of four with the Bible, while sitting at his side on the porch. We read together every day, and his patience at my continual questions never wavered. From him I learned a passion for reading, learning and for stories.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Lynda: I write in my office unless I’m traveling. Then, anywhere comfortable works. I listen to audiobooks in my office while doing work other than writing. I read in my comfy chair in the living room or on the swing out back under the pines.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Lynda: I’m a retired Marketing Operations Manager and Global Transportation Manager from Procter & Gamble, having spent thirty-six years traveling the globe for them. I did enjoy it. It was fabulous meeting and working with other cultures, governments, and heads of industry. Now, I enjoy writing full time, my family, many critters and farm life.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Lynda: Finishing and getting published my first two novels. Both won accolades from contests. Gold Lust Conspiracy is an historical romance set in 1890’s Alaska. It took over two years of research to write. My first romantic mystery, Parsley, Sage, Rose, Mary & Wine, Bk. 1 of the Bloodline Series, also won awards, and launched the same time as Gold Lust Conspiracy.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Lynda: I love romantic suspense, rom-coms, cozy romance, and hardcore suspense and mysteries; and I occasionally read time travel.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Lynda: I have achieved a comfortable financial status in my life, due to my corporate career and from writing. It’s great to have that stability. As far as defining success, getting good reviews or letters from fans is the most satisfying part.

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. I greatly appreciate you and what you do. I can’t wait to meet your readers and fans.

A corpse with a strange tattoo and a kidnapping at their wedding lead FBI Agent Reggie Casse and U.S. Marshal Shea Montgomery to an international ring selling items money shouldn’t be able to buy.

Stephanie Plum meets Alex Cross in rural Kentucky racehorse country. Janet Evanovich and James Patterson are my favorite two authors.

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N * KOBO * Apple

I love stories set in the horse world in one way or another. Thanks for sharing with us, Lynda!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Jean C Joachim #author #historical #contemporary #romance

My guest today is none other than the amazing Jean Joachim! Please help me welcome her to the interview hot seat with a nice cup of tea. Let’s take a peek at her bio and then find out more about her…

Jean Joachim is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling romance author whose books have hit the Amazon Top 100 list in the U.S. and abroad since 2012.

Jean has 69 books, novellas, and short stories in ebook, print and audio. She writes fulltime, never far from her secret stash of black licorice. An avid bird and dog lover, she has a fondness for chickadees and pugs. A music lover, especially classical, she has two grown sons and lives in New York City. She’d love to hear from you, email her at: sunnydaysbook@gmail.com 

Author Social Links: Website * Twitter * Facebook * BookBub * Blog

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Jean: An article I read in a local newspaper made me curious about boarding houses back in the day when logging was king in Sullivan County, where I spend my summers. On a lazy summer day a couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Michael, who’s a history buff, and I decided to trek up to Long Eddy and nose around. Sure enough, many of the boarding houses in that article are still there! Over lunch, Michael filled me in on the history of the place and time. I was fascinated. On the way home, I suggested to my friend that we should write a book about it together. Two years later, we did. And that’s how “Abigail’s Journey” was born.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story? 

Jean: So much of “Abigail’s Journey” was new to me. I’d never written an historical romance before. In addition to the information provided by Michael, I dug in and did a lot of research on my own. Books, Google, you name it. I read a ton of background material so I could place myself in the time period and feel what it was like to live back then. I developed the ability to go back in time and plunk myself down in a different time and place, and limit myself to things that were real then. Being authentic is very important to me, so I was strict about what I included in the book. I found myself so steeped in the time and place, the story flowed.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how? 

Jean: I did struggle with one part of the story I felt I had to do. I can’t be specific because it’s a huge spoiler. But it was something I had never done before. I worried I might be making the reader mad. They might throw the book across the room, but I did it anyway, because the story demanded it. In the end, it was the perfect twist to take the story in the direction it needed to go. It did not get any bad reviews, in fact the reviews were glowing. I breathed a sigh of relief. Once again, the story dictates where it needs to go, even if the writer doubts the shift.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Jean: No doubt Martha Chesney, the innkeeper and grandmother was the most akin to me. Of course, I’m near her age and have grown children and one son married, like she did. I’ve also been a writer and businesswoman most of my life, so I could identify with her hard work running the inn. And we shared an outlook on life and a sense of humor.

I enjoyed writing characters of different ages and making sure they weren’t stereotypical. I think Martha breaks the rules as does her granddaughter, Lizzy, a child of seven.  They keep the story fresh.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Jean: I did a ton of research. Michael is my summer walking buddy, so we discussed the book almost every day while we got our exercise. I also consulted books written about those days and did extensive research on the Internet. I looked up each and every food that they ate –what was available in the late 1700’s? And how was food made?

One interesting feature I discovered was that an oven was heated to a certain temperature, then loaves of bread were inserted. The heat stopped and the loaves baked slowly. This, like so many other things, was new to me. Did you know they didn’t have zucchini in the late 1700’s? Only squash. I found these details fascinating.

I even made a trip to an art museum where I viewed the paintings of the French aristocracy in the late 1700’s so I could study their clothing – for both men and women. Most of my characters didn’t have the money to dress like the French aristocrats, but the styles, colors, and fabrics were imitated in the Colonies. And how many pieces they wore and their hairstyles. I enjoyed the research as much as the writing.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Jean: I never keep count of drafts. I just write and revise until I can’t stand to look at it anymore! Seriously, you know when it’s at it’s best and is ready to go to the editor.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Jean: Three months. It took that long because my co-author is not a writer and I had to teach him a great deal about how a novel is created, structure, plot twists and so on. On my own, I would have written it in six weeks. When I’m in the groove that’s about how long it takes me to write a novel. I don’t regret the time it took. The book has been well received and Michael and I are quite proud of it.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Jean: I like to write early in the morning, when I’m fresh. I make a giant pot of tea and keep it warm. I can drink as many as six mugs of tea while I’m working. I need a quiet place with few or no distractions to focus on my writing. I get totally into the story in my head, living it in my imagination to do my best writing.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Jean: Oh gosh, yes!! My most overused are “just” and “that”. And when I think I’ve conquered those, new ones come along! It’s a never ending process to weed out the overused words. Thank God for good editors.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Jean: I got a classic education in American literature in college. Writers I most looked up to are long gone. They are Sinclair Lewis, Jane Austen, and Louisa May Alcott. I’m also a huge mystery fan and admire the writings of many mystery authors, most notably Agatha Christie, Harlan Coben and Ruth Rendell. 

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Jean: I now have a small office in my bedroom. I usually write there. But I read and revise sitting on the sofa. Always with a cup of tea nearby.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Jean: No, I don’t. I write fulltime. This is a luxury for me and I enjoy it so much after many years spent in corporate America.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Jean: My greatest achievement, I believe, is that I keep coming up with stories and characters who are so different. I do marvel at the breadth of my imagination. I feel lucky to have a fertile imagination because I’m never bored. I can even zoom out in the dentist’s chair and mentally go into a story I’m thinking about. Now that’s a gift!

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Jean: Of course, I love a good romance first and foremost, but mystery comes a close second. I also enjoy a good biography because I can be nosy and like to peek into the lives of others.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Jean: I consider the fact that I am able to write, publish, and sell my books a huge success. I spent many years working at day jobs and not having the confidence to write. I had stories, but never believed I could be talented enough to put them on paper. I have published over 65 novels and novellas. If you had asked me twenty years ago if I could ever do that, I would have laughed you out of the room. Being able to spend my days doing the work I love is success for me.

Abigail Chesney has it all; a husband more loving than she could have dreamt, three healthy children, and a house on thriving farmland. She’s happy in her little world until it crashes down around her.

Losing almost everything tests Abby in ways she never expected. Can she learn to accept what she can’t change and trust strangers? Relying on help from the people of Fitch’s Eddy, a tiny Catskill logging town, Abby discovers her own strength. Will Fate’s cruel blows crush her?  Or will love give her a new reason to go on?

Abigail’s Journey – travel back to Colonial America in 1786, with this heartfelt, sweet, historical romance, where the flavor of the past leaps off the page. 

“Abigail’s Journey” is a genuinely original, deftly crafted, impressively authentic, and exceptionally entertaining historical romance…” MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

Buy Links: AmazonUS * AmazonUK * AmazonCA * AmazonAU * AmazonIN

This sounds like my kind of historical romance, Jean! And I too had researched the foods available in the 18th century so am aware that zucchini wasn’t part of the diet. But they did import a lot of interesting foodstuffs from other countries, which surprised me. Thanks for stopping in for a lovely chat!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Mary J. Wilson #author #sweet #contemporary #romance #YA

Okay, folks, I’m going to make a small confession: my next guest author is in Skye, Scotland and I wish I could be there, too! What a beautiful place and so inspiring! Let’s meet Mary Karlik who writes as Mary J. Wilson and find out more about her inspiration and her writing process.

Mary Karlik combines her Texas roots with her Scottish heritage to write happily-ever-after from Texas to Scotland.

Honoring her Scottish roots, Mary is writing her new series under her mother’s maiden name, Wilson. This Sweet Contemporary Romance series is set in the Celtic music world of Scotland.

You can find her Texas roots in her indie published, Contemporary Young Adult romance Hickville series. She brings her two worlds closer together than ever in her latest novel—Hickville Crossroads—when a young, up-and-coming Scottish teen heartthrob goes undercover in a Texas high school to research his latest role.

She is traditionally published in Young Adult Fantasy with her Fairy Trafficking series set in the magical world of Scotland. The audio version of Magic Heist, the second in the series, was nominated in 2019 for the One Voice Award for “Best Fiction Novel UK Voices Only.”

Mary is currently studying Scottish Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, Scotland. She also earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, has a B.S. degree from Texas A&M University, is a certified, professional ski instructor, and a Registered Nurse. 
Mary is an active member of Contemporary Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, Young Adult Romance Writers of America and Dallas Area Romance Authors.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Instagram

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Mary: Jenny got a raw deal in the last book and I wanted to give her a happy ending. I’m moving into the adult world of Romance and since my new contemporary series is set in Scotland, I thought it was the perfect way to wrap the Hickville High series as I segue into the new world of contemporary Scotland.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Mary: I am always working to improve my writing. But the skill I worked on the most was making sure my Scottish characters sounded Scottish. I don’t use “dinna” and “canna” that many authors use. I spend a lot of time in Scotland, I’m working on a degree in Scottish Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, and while I do hear those words, it’s not the standard. To make my characters sound authentic, I tried to capture the cadence of the speech. I also used common phrases that are different from the US. For example, Scotts will say half six rather than six thirty, or at the weekend rather than this weekend.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Mary: Yes! The ending is always my biggest struggle. I wanted to have a big black moment resolution, but it was kind of over the top. I added the epilogue to tone it down a bit. I’m still not sure I got the resolution quite right.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Mary: I knew Jenny from the previous book, so she was the easiest. But I also found Frasier easy. I knew I liked him the minute he appeared on the page. It was almost like he was there in my imagination waiting for his chance to appear.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Mary: I am very lucky because one of my closest friends husband is a movie producer. They were great at answering questions about behind the scenes movie stuff as well as legal issues with child actors.  It was really her husband who gave me the idea. He mentioned that when they were shooting Spiderman, they put Tom Holland in an American high school. As far as the Scottish location goes, one of my closest friends is from Alford near Aberdeen. It was only natural that I use that small village as Frasier’s home town.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Mary: Is one million a valid answer? I am a hard core pantser which really means I write a really bad first draft and then revise, revise, revise, and then revise. I have no idea how many times because I’m not that organized.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Mary: HAHA! I have no idea. Maybe 4 months. I should know these things. I write fast first drafts and then everything slows. I think 4-6 months is usually the time it takes me. Again, I should know this.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Mary: I have a play list. I always write with music. I am very distractable and the playlist helps me focus. I also write the same time every day and I keep track of how many words I’ve written. I set goals for myself based on the previous day’s word count. I usually try to beat the day before, even if it’s by one word. Sometimes, I really have trouble focusing so I have to set a timer for like 10 minutes. If I can write for 10 minutes without getting out of my chair to see if my sock drawer needs straightening, I can take a 5 minute break. Usually, I end up getting into the groove before the 10 minutes are up. If I’m really struggling, I will ask a friend to sprint with me. I’m really competitive so always manage to write during a sprint. The most important ritual I have is “BUT IN THE CHAIR. FINGERS ON THE KEYBOARD.” I write Monday–Friday and sometimes on the weekend. It’s my job and I treat it like one.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Mary: Atmosphere, stomach clinches, and loads of others.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Mary: My close writing friends like Pricilla Oliveras and Madeline Martin. It’s been fun to watch their journey. Not only do they work hard to write great books, but they are generous, joyful people. That’s what I want to emulate. And then there are role models I don’t know but love their work like Emily Henry and Jenny Colgan. I am currently obsessed with Emily Henry. Her descriptions are so unique and fun it’s hard to describe. Jenny Colgan is a fun read. I enjoy her Little Book Shop Series, but I love the Muir series. She is a master at creating a world you want to visit.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Mary: I write and revise in my office at my desk. I’ve tried writing outside but it’s too distracting for me. My eyes are so tired after 8–10 hours in front of a screen, I listen to audibles more than I read. I listen while I’m doing chores or driving anywhere. I also listen while I’m running or walking unless I’m having trouble with a plot, then I listen to my playlist.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Mary: I am very, very fortunate that I do not have a day job. I did for many years. I worked as both a nursing instructor and as a hospital administrator. Those jobs were great, but my passion has always been writing.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Mary: Writing the book that is currently with my agent. It is the first book in my new series and I love it more than any book I’ve written. I think it’s the best I’ve ever written. But the best before that is Hickville Crossroads.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Mary: Romance! Romance! Romance! I love a happy ending.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Mary: Hmm. To be honest it’s writing the best I can. But not because I’m all woo woo it’s about being the artist. It’s because if I write the very, very best I can, I have a better chance of people reading my books. At the end of the day, I want to write books that take people on a journey, books that make them feel excitement, sorrow (sorry but I have to have a black moment), relief, joy, and happiness. If I can make someone smile at the end of the book and at the same time anxious to read the next one, that is success. Should I mention my secret, bigger-than-life dream? I want people to feel the joy and passion I have for the music and traditions in the Scottish Gaelic culture. Eeek Spoiler.

Frasier Anderson is one of the hottest teenage actors in the UK, but he’s virtually unknown in the US. Now he’s landed the leading role in a big-budget Hollywood film that could make him an international star.

So how do you prepare a Scot for a role as a Texas high school student? Embed him in a Texas high school. He only has to follow three rules:

No drama. No girls. And no telling who he really is.

Jenna Wiley is smart, funny, and has a few no-drama, no-dating rules of her own. Her friendship with new kid Ethan Smith is perfect and might even lead to something more. Except for a few things that don’t add up. Like his mom being afraid to have company. Or their house, which looks more staged than lived in. Or his sister, whom nobody talks about.

It all comes to a boil when Frasier’s biggest secrets hit the tabloids and the paparazzi swarm Hillside with Jenna in their sights.

Buy Links: Amazon * Nook * KOBO * Apple

Thanks for stopping by, Mary! I think your new book sound intriguing, mainly because I’m into Scotland and music, too.

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Introducing Rachel Barnes from The Perfect Neighborhood by Author Liz Alterman #author #editor #storyteller

I’m happy to welcome to the interview hot seat a character from Liz Alterman’s mystery The Perfect Neighborhood, Rachel Barnes. Before we find out more about who Rachel is, let’s first take a look at Liz’s bio. Here we go!

Liz Alterman lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons. She spends most days repeatedly microwaving the same cup of coffee and looking up synonyms.

Author Social Links: Instagram * Twitter

Rachel Barnes, mom in her early 40s whose child disappears on his walk home from kindergarten.

Betty: How would you describe your childhood?

Rachel: My childhood was largely unhappy. My parents fought constantly—primarily about money. Fortunately, my older sister, Darcy, was my rock. My earliest memory is of us sitting beneath the dining room table with her hands covering my ears, shielding me from our parents’ arguing.

Betty: What do you think is your greatest achievement? Why?

Rachel: My greatest achievement is my son, Billy. He is a kind-hearted, curious child who loves baseball and nature.

Betty: If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?

Rachel: If I could change one thing, I would never have allowed Billy to walk to and from kindergarten without an adult. My husband, Ted, convinced me that because the school was just a few blocks away and because Billy walked with his friend Oliver, he’d be safe. When I disagreed, Ted argued that “fresh air and a little independence” is good for a child. I still didn’t like the idea. We got Billy a cell phone so we could track his location. But on the morning of the day Billy went missing, I’d taken that phone because he’d been dawdling, playing a game at breakfast when he was supposed to be brushing his teeth. If I hadn’t let Ted get his way, my son would never have gone missing.

Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?

Rachel: My greatest fear is that we’ll never find Billy, that I’ll never see his sweet smile or hear his easy laughter again. Everyone in Oak Hill, our usually-quiet, safe town, knows that I’m living a parent’s worst nightmare. Our neighbors have helped search for my son but no clues have been found yet.

Betty: How much of your true self do you share with others?

Rachel: I tend to be very guarded and private. As a real estate agent, I try to project the image of the perfect lifestyle. I don’t want anyone to know the truth—my marriage has been in trouble since the beginning. But since Billy disappeared, I’ve been unraveling and I’m unable to keep up the facade. Only my sister, Darcy, really knows that I’m spiraling, and there are even some secrets I haven’t shared with her. 

Betty: Are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?

Rachel: I wish my relationship with my husband, Ted, was different. We got off to an unusual start. He hired me to sell his home after his wife, Jane, died. I could tell he was lonely. We spent more and more time together. When the home didn’t sell immediately, I convinced him to stay and make some changes. Before I knew it, I was pregnant. His son, Evan, from his first marriage, didn’t welcome me with open arms. My relationship with Evan has also been strained. I wish that were different, too, especially as I wonder if he had anything to do with Billy’s disappearance.

Betty: If you could change yourself in some way, what change would you make? Why?

Rachel: If I could change something about myself, I’d have been a better, more attentive mother to Billy. I’d have put down my phone and focused on him instead of prioritizing my work. After we had an incident with our au pair, I should’ve put a lot more thought into who I let watch Billy. Cassidy, the teen I hired to babysit in the afternoons, is a nice girl but very distracted recently.  She was late to arrive on the day Billy disappeared and I wonder how much that played a role in his disappearance. I’m haunted by the ways I’ve failed my child.

When actress and model Allison Langley leaves her former rockstar husband, Christopher, it’s all her Oak Hill neighbors can talk about. The gossip comes to an abrupt halt when five-year-old Billy Barnes goes missing on his walk home from kindergarten.

Billy’s mother, Rachel, blames herself for being at work and letting her only child walk alone. Cassidy, Billy’s teenage babysitter, was also late to arrive on the afternoon he disappeared and blames herself for his disappearance.

As the clock ticks down, police are unable to find any trace of Billy, forcing Rachel to ponder the enemies she’s made in their well-off suburb. Could it be one of her neighbors who stole her son? Would they abduct Billy to hurt her? How easy would it be to take a child while the parents or nannies are distracted?

When another child goes missing, the town is put under a microscope as the police try to get to the bottom of the disappearances. Will they be able to find the two children, or will it be too late? What secrets lie at the heart of this tragedy, and how far will one go to keep those dangerous secrets buried?

Buy Links: PenguinRandomHouse

Oh dear, Rachel! I do hope they find the kids. Thanks for taking a few minutes to stop by and tell us about your story.

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Karla Huebner #author #ficition #magic #realism #fantasy #ArtHistorian

My guest author today has a unique background and thus a unique world view. Please help me welcome Karla Huebner to the interview hot seat! A quick peek at her bio and then we’ll find out the answers to several burning questions…

Karla Huebner has lived on a boat and worked in factories, offices, theater, publishing, oil refineries, private investigation, and adolescent drug rehab; most recently she has taught Art History at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Her short fiction has appeared in such places as the Northwest Review, Colorado State Review, Magic Realism, Fantasy Macabre, Weave, and Opossum; and her prize-winning book Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic is available from University of Pittsburgh Press. Her novel In Search of the Magic Theater is just out from Regal House and will be followed by Too Early to Know Who’s Winning (Black Rose, 2023). Her as-yet unpublished story collection Heartwood was a finalist for the 2020 Raz-Shumaker prize.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Instagram

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Karla: The germ of it came to me when I was in my late thirties contemplating making some changes in my life, such as going back to school, and so it occurred to me that someday I might write a novel about a woman at midlife who makes big changes.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Karla: I wouldn’t say I struggled much with this one, but whenever I was writing in Sarah’s voice (versus Kari’s), I felt a bit like I was choking. Her rhythm is choppier. She’s not a very happy person.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Karla: All of the characters came easily into my head—sort of like channeling spirits—but for readers, I think some people will find Kari easier and others will find Sarah easier. Or who knows, maybe some readers will feel the male characters, who aren’t narrators, are easier to know. I doubt that, though. I think people will relate more either to Kari or Sarah depending in part on age (Kari is nearly twice as old as Sarah) and in part on personality.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Karla: The one small bit of research I recall doing for this involved learning more about the repertoire for cello plus guitar. I remembered hearing a lovely piece on the radio, but couldn’t remember who composed it–and never found out, but did come up with a reasonable set of composers whose work Sarah and Joey could play. Oh, and I also did a very small amount of research on peyote.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Karla: This was definitely a one-draft novel. I changed a word here and there between writing and publication. No real second draft.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Karla: Other than that it was several years between having the initial vague idea and writing, it took about three months to write In Search of the Magic Theater. I’d say that’s both typical and atypical for me. In part it depends on how ready I am to write a particular story, and in part it depends on whether I have enough free time to write for at least several hours most days, or have to write in stolen moments here and there (for example, late at night after teaching and working on scholarly projects). I’ve now written four novels and one novella that each took about three months, whereas I’ve finished one novel that I wrote in bits and pieces over ten years, I’ve got three others that are fairly close to done after ten or more years, and you don’t want to know how many more are underway. Some might have been three-month novels if I’d had the time to focus on them, while others just gradually accrete.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Karla: Probably thus and indeed. I also have a tendency to begin sentences with Well and So, but mainly in my personal writing, not when writing fiction (or so I imagine).

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Karla: I’m not really much of a role-model person as an adult, although there are lots of people (writers and non-writers) whom I admire. When I was a kid planning to become a writer, I’d say my author role models were Marguerite Henry, C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, and Shakespeare (!). I don’t write much like any of them today!

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Karla: Nope, I move around. Different rooms in the house, different cafes, the library, friends’ homes when visiting. Airplanes, trains, occasionally buses if the ride’s not too short or bumpy. My camping trailer. Wherever I am, so long as the surroundings aren’t too distracting. It’s helpful to have internet to look things up, but that can be distracting.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Karla: I’ve usually had a day job, although for many years I made sure they were varied and didn’t take too much thought. Then I became an art historian, which is a pretty enjoyable occupation for those lucky enough to get a job in the field, which I was. However, being a professor doesn’t leave a lot of time or mental energy for writing fiction.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Karla: Ask me again in ten years.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Karla: In genre fiction, I’ve always read a lot of mysteries. Otherwise, I gravitate toward magical realism and to authors who don’t really fit any particular genre—Colette, Italo Calvino, Heinrich Böll, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, Muriel Spark, Javier Marias, Toni Morrison, André Alexis. I’d like to add more living writers to that list. Oh, and I’m a great fan of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, which I guess you could call paranormal magical mystery-thriller humorous escapades.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Karla: Well, inner joy at having written things that I’m very pleased with is key, but also finding readers—ideally lots of them—for whom my work resonates. Since I’m not content to write solely for myself, success for me does ultimately mean publishing and finding my audience and even earning money.

Why, the rather staid young cellist Sarah wonders, should her aunt rent their spare room to the perhaps unstable Kari Zilke? Like the nephew in Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf, Sarah finds herself taking an unexpected interest in the lodger, but she is unable to stop at providing a mere introduction to Kari’s narrative of mid-life crisis and self-discovery, and develops her own more troubled tale of personal angst and growth, entwined with the account Kari herself purportedly left behind. Generational tensions, artistic collaborations, and even a romance steeped in Greek myth follow as Kari and Sarah pursue their very different creative paths in theater and music. And while Kari seems to blossom post-divorce, Sarah must grapple with the question of what the role of mothers, fathers, aunts, mentors, and male collaborators should be in her life as a young musician.

Buy Links: RegalHouse * BookShop * Amazon * B&N

A one-draft book is quite an accomplishment to my mind, Karla! Way to go! Thanks for stopping by to share your story and your inspiration with us.

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Brenda Lowder #author #romcom #womensfiction #romance #comedy #books #fiction

My guest today is an award-winning author who loves to read and write romantic comedies. Please help me welcome Brenda Lowder! Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out more about her inspiration and writing process.

Brenda Lowder is an award-winning author of lighthearted women’s fiction and romantic comedy novels. She lives in Atlanta and loves international travel, fine dining, and air conditioning. She’s a big fan of fiction in all its forms–books, films, television, and the lies we tell ourselves. Her brilliant and smoking-hot husband and two princess-scientist daughters love her enough to insist she’s still twenty-nine.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * BookBub

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Brenda: I was inspired by the Disney movie The Parent Trap. I loved that movie when I was a kid. I loved the idea of a child having the power to bring their parents back together. I wondered, what if a kid brought their divorcing parents back together and then developed the belief that they could really reconcile people? What if she held onto that belief, even as an adult, and made that her career? What problems would that bring about for that person? I wanted to write the book to find out.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Brenda: I think I developed more ways to have my characters say things without actually saying them. I tend to be a very literal person, so I’m working toward subtlety, and I think my skills grew with that in this book.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Brenda: I struggled a bit with my main character Sasha’s naivety and absolute conviction that she’s right. She has to have some major confidence to go after what she wants and to believe that she can remake the world and the relationships around her as she would have them.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Brenda: Cole Chase, Sasha’s love interest and professional sparring partner was the easiest to get to know. He appears in my previous book Keeping the Pieces, and is the younger brother of the main character so I knew him very well already and was excited to find out what it would take for him to fall in love. Readers kept asking when Cole was going to get his book, and here he is!

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Brenda: I researched match-making, divorce proceedings, and arbitration. A rewatch of The Parent Trap kept me inspired.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Brenda: Too many! Probably around ten.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Brenda: A year. Unfortunately, it is typical for me. I can write a book in three or four months, but then it takes me eight or nine months to edit it.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Brenda: I don’t know that I have any rituals that work, but I stare off into space a lot, and I wish I did less of that!

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Brenda: I don’t want to say in case I missed any of them!

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Brenda: My mom. She was awesome. I miss her every day.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Brenda: I write, revise, and read in my easy chair with my feet up. I need all the blood to go to my head for thinking.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Brenda: My day job is being a stay-at-home mom, and I love it!

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Brenda: As an author, I feel my greatest achievement is having two of my books hit #1 in Romantic Comedy in Amazon and four of them hit #1 in multiple categories. Winning the Maggie Award for Excellence for my book Keeping the Pieces was another great achievement for me.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Brenda: Romantic Comedy! I started writing rom-com because I wished there were more of them out there for me to read! I LOVE rom-coms—books and movies—and real life!

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Brenda: I think success is loving what you do and being able to have a meaningful connection with people. By that definition, I’m living my dream!

Sasha Timmerman’s purpose in life is not to find love for herself, but to help divorcing couples get back together—like she did for her mom and dad. Which is why she’s willing to don last-minute disguises and chase people down in frozen foods. By rekindling the sparks between couples experiencing a relationship hiccup, she enables them to continue their happily ever afters.

Contented bachelor Cole Chase is one of Atlanta’s top divorce attorneys. He scores the best settlements with the least amount of emotional fallout—until all his biggest cases start unraveling. Suddenly his promotion to partner isn’t looking like a done deal, and the mysterious Sasha Timmerman is at the center of every one of his cases-gone-wrong.

The world’s biggest action star hires Cole to handle his divorce, and the star’s wife secretly hires Sasha to reconcile them. When everyone gets stuck on the movie star’s private island, Sasha and Cole must fight their growing feelings for each other in order to battle on opposing sides in the bigger game of love.

Buy Links: Amazon * Free in Kindle Unlimited

Sounds like a fun story, Brenda! Thanks for stopping by and sharing it with us!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Talia Carner #author #publisher #advocate #womensliterature #historical #mustread #amreading #amwriting #fiction

My guest author today writes with a strength of purpose many do not employ. Please help me welcome Talia Carner to the interview hot seat! Let’s take a peek at her bio and then find out more about her writing process and inspiration.

Talia Carner worked for Redbook magazine and was the publisher of Savvy Woman magazine. A marketing consultant to Fortune 500 companies, she taught at Long Island University and was a volunteer counselor for the Small Business Administration. A committed supporter of global human rights, she has spearheaded projects centered on the subjects of female plight. In 1993 she was sent twice to Russia, and participated in the 1995 women’s conference in Beijing.

Hailed as “an author who enters arenas no one has entered before” for her award-winning five novels that expose society’s ills, Ms. Carner has keynoted or co-paneled over 450 civic and cultural events with 100 to 500 attendees—and over 300 Zoom presentations.

Ms. Carner is a board member of HBI, a research center for Jewish women’s life and culture at Brandeis University. She is also an honorary board member of several anti-domestic violence and child abuse intervention organizations and supports organizations that work toward Israeli causes.

Talia Carner’s addictions include chocolate, ballet, hats—and social justice.

She lives in New York and Florida.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads * Instagram

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Talia:  Inspired by Shalom Aleichem’s short story, The Man from Buenos Aires, I reinvented the story of one of Tevye’s daughters as the family flees a pogrom and meets this mysterious, shady man. Duped by this member of Zwi Migdal—the real legal Jewish union of pimps that operated with impunity for 70 years—she is shipped as a sex-slave to Argentina, where prostitution is legal. THE THIRD DAUGHTER is tribute to the estimated 150,000 Jewish girls and women whose voices haunted me and have propelled me to activism against today’s sex-trafficking.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Talia:  To continue to trust myself and let the story flow out of me.

It was also fun to take the character and language of Tevye and continue the story way past the point where Sholem Aleichem had left it. It tested my ability to channel that illustrious author. Readers instantly recognize Tevye, although he has a different name and every scene is freshly created and written by me, not by Sholem Aleichem.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Talia:  THE THIRD DAUGHTER is a very difficult emotional journey. I crawled under the skin of a teenager to experience her world—her kidnapping and enslaving—through her eyes, ears, body, and heart. It was hard late at night to turn off the PC and fall asleep, hoping for sweet dreams.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Talia:  Each of the secondary characters presented itself to me fully formed, especially the other sex workers in the brothel—each girl making a different choice within the framework of what life has doled out to her. The more complex person, though, was of Yitzik Moskowitz, the pimp who lured the protagonist to Buenos Aires. He was evil, yet he saw himself as an entrepreneur, a businessman who helped the economy of Argentina—and a savior of the women he entrapped from a life of hardship and pogroms in the shtetls of Eastern Europe.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Talia:  Once Google generated the name of the organization, Zwi Migdal, I found a tremendous amount of information available in translated documents, nonfiction books, and academic publications.

In the last couple of decades, I had been to Buenos Aires three times, but I didn’t know Spanish. Armed with photos from the time of the novel, the late 1800s to early 1900s, I hired two freelance researchers in Argentina, and they helped me better understand what I was looking at. If Batya walked from point A to point B, my researchers verified the names of the streets 120 years earlier. For finer texture, I presented both researchers—a man and a woman—with the same questions about clothes, food, and architecture, and was able to extrapolate more nuanced details when crossing their answers.

For historical accuracy, I consulted the director of Jewish archives in Buenos Aires, who, thankfully, knew English. She also read the final manuscript.

Once the protagonist, Batya, started dancing tango, what choice did I have but to learn it myself? I needed to write with authenticity about this complex dance—and the passions associated with it. For almost a year I took private tango lessons and occasionally spent an evening at a milonga in close embrace with total strangers (also my reason to quit tango once my research was done).

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Talia:  Probably about 30 to 50 rounds of revisions and editing.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Talia:  This novel was the shortest in terms of overall time—from concept to submission to the editor—only about two and half years. Usually, it takes me about five years. The reasons could be that the story poured out of me almost as it turned out at the end, and also it was told in a straight like, from one character’s point-of-view.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Talia:  None. I call it TIC—Tush In Chair. Just sit down and write.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Betty: I guess it’s not “every author.” I am well aware of “writing ticks” and my inner editor is at work while I write and steers me away from them. On the other hand, lately, in my new novel-in-progress I noticed that in my protagonist’s range of responses, her stomach never reacted, so I had to enlarge her repertoire of the physical manifestations of her emotions.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Talia:  I have a wonderful office in each of my homes. I have a comfy editing chair—or I go to the beach when I go over a printout.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Talia:  I’m a full-time fiction writer. I had left my previous career in marketing in order to write.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Talia:  The social issues I bring to the forefront of readers’ awareness—and giving voice to those without one.

As an outcome of my first published novel, PUPPET CHILD, I introduced The Protective Parent Reform Act, that passed in four states and clauses from it were used by twenty others.

Also, I was privileged to address in 2007 the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women for my novel CHILD DOLL about infanticide in China—the first time in UN history. (I was invited again for May 2020 to present the subject of sex trafficking, but the event was cancelled due to COVID.)

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Talia:  Literary fiction about uninterested characters doing nothing, yet I can’t put the novels down….

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Talia:  When I sat down to write my first novel on November 3, 1993 at 2:48 PM, I had no thought regarding where it would lead me. I didn’t consider the poor odds of getting published. All I wanted was to write a particular story about the Russian women I had met when I taught them entrepreneurship shortly after the fall of communism. (Twenty years later, that maiden raw material was recaptured in my novel HOTEL MOSCOW.)

After almost thirty years of writing, when I look at the body of work that I have produced through five award-winning novels (and the sixth in the works,) I am proud of having brought so many hours of enjoyment, thought-provoking, and educational ideas to tens of thousands of readers.

During that time, I also developed the skill of public speaking. I had keynoted and addressed about 450 in-person events (not counting small book clubs) before COVID. Once we were hit with COVID, I turned to Zoom and instantly had audiences of hundreds eager to engage with my talks. I have given over 320 Zoom presentations.

Success for me has been defined in reaching small realistic milestones rather than a big, yet unnamed and an elusive one in the far future. Together, those milestones carried me farther than I had imagined.

THE THIRD DAUGHTER is a frightening journey into the New World of the late 1800s, told by a trusting young woman lured from Russia and forced into prostitution in Argentina. When succeeding in the nascent art of tango, Batya finds courage in the face of danger and hope in hours of despair—and bravely struggles to free herself from bondage while bringing down the powerful pimps’ union.

The novel breaks the silence on a most shameful chapter—the legal sex-trafficking union, Zwi Migdal, that operated in South America with impunity for 70 years, from the late 1800s until WWII. Luring estimated 150,000 young girls from the shtetls of Eastern Europe with false promises of jobs and marriages, it then sold them into brothels.

Inspired by Shalom Aleichem’s story, The Man From Buenos Aires, author Talia Carner reinvents the story of one of Tevye’s daughters after the family flees a pogrom and meets this mysterious, shady man.

THE THIRD DAUGHTER is tribute to the victims, whose voices the author could not silence, and who propel her to launch her campaign against today’s sex-trafficking.

Buy Links: Amazon * Indiebound * B&N

I’m impressed by the number of rounds of revisions you do as well as by the fact that you know precisely when you sat down to write your first novel. That’s organized! Thanks so much for stopping in, Talia, and sharing with us more about your books and your mission.

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Meet Delfina, the clairvoyant undercover operative from DESTINY by Laurel Richards

#author #scifi #paranormal #romance #mystery #books #amreading

I have a special guest with me today, a character straight from the covers of Laurel Richards’ Destiny. Please help me welcome Delfina! First a quick peek at Laurel’s bio and then we’ll find out more about our guest.

Laurel Richards is a fiction author with a passion for shifters, space travelers, and other memorable characters. She has gathered inspiration from lots of different sources throughout her life and is here today to share her imagination through storytelling. Laurel writes sci-fi/fantasy, paranormal, and funny mysteries, with various degrees of romance mixed in.

Author Social Links: Website * Twitter * Goodreads

Betty: How would you describe your childhood?

Delfina: I’m lucky. I enjoyed a good childhood with a loving family. I wasn’t an easy kid, especially once my foresight kicked in, but my parents were great. My mother is highly intuitive, though not enough to stand out as being psychic, and my father has an eidetic memory. I couldn’t get away with too much troublemaking with the two of them.

Betty When did you have your first kiss and with who? How did it go?

Delfina: A better question is when I first kissed the man who told me he was my destined soulmate. I was on board a private shuttle, on the run from covert agents who wanted to use me for my power of foresight. I wasn’t sure whether Rave was the good guy or the bad guy at first, since he had so many aliases and secrets. Rave set out to seduce me, and he succeeded. He teased me with a soft brush of his lips before he took charge and kissed me until I couldn’t think straight. I had never experienced such a powerful reaction to a man.

Betty What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?

Delfina: I’m not sure if I feel more embarrassed about this or simply guilty. I accidentally dropped my emotional support animal, Bulu, in the toilet. In all fairness, she jumped off my shoulder and slipped off the toilet seat. I didn’t mean for it to happen.

Betty If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?

Delfina: When I was young and foolish, I used my power of foresight to win the lottery…twice. The second time was definitely a mistake. I drew too much attention to myself and set some bad people on my trail. Because of my error in judgment, I’ve had to move from place to place, always on the lookout. I have to be careful when I call home to communicate with my parents, and I can’t visit them the way I’d like.

Betty What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?

Delfina: I’m not going to admit I’m afraid of flying, but I am stressed out by it. That’s why I have Bulu as my emotional support animal. She helps my anxiety when I travel and looks out for me if I space out during one of my visions. Rave knows about my issues with flying, and he comes up with some interesting ways to distract me.

Betty How much of your true self do you share with others?

Delfina: Very little. I have to hide my talent for seeing the future, and it’s hard to get close to someone when you can already foresee how you’ll probably part ways. Relationships are tricky. The Sentinel Agency is made up of people with unique talents, though. I don’t have to hide anything from them.

Betty Are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?

Delfina: I love and miss my parents. I have a great relationship with them and, like I said, enjoyed my childhood. I just wish I hadn’t brought them under such scrutiny and surveillance. Because of the risk, I can’t see them and have to be careful about communications.

Betty What characteristics are you looking for in a potential lover/spouse?

Delfina: A good future. Dependability, self-control, intelligence, caring—there’s a whole list of characteristics that feed into this, but I’m a long-view kind of person.

Betty How do you like to relax? What kind of entertainment do you enjoy?

Delfina: There’s nothing more relaxing than brushing my furry friend, Bulu, at the end of the day. Her ears pinken, her head fluffs up, and she makes the cutest humming sound. I love playing with her too. We sometimes go window shopping together. Bulu is quite the fashionista.

Betty What items do you carry in your pockets or handbag?

Delfina: I carry quite a bit, since I’m always ready to make a run for it. For me, I have my hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, ID, registration documents for my emotional support animal, and a water bottle. For Bulu, I have a small container of food, her water bottle—it has a floral print on it—her grooming brush, a tiny toothbrush, and fruity toothpaste from the pet store. Oh yes, and a telescoping curtain rod. You’ll have to read about Bulu’s and my travels to understand that last one.

Undercover operatives have discovered Delfina has the power of foresight, and they want to capture and use her. Accompanied by her emotional support animal, Delfina uses her ability to stay ahead of her pursuers. The one thing she doesn’t foresee is Rave. The Imperian male claims she’s his genetic match, but he has so many aliases that she’s not sure if he’s the good guy or the bad. Attraction ignites as they are thrown together by mysterious government agents, a wildlife trafficking syndicate, and a covert agency that recruits people with unique talents. Secrets, passion, and intrigue collide in this sci-fi romance.

Content: m/f romance, love scenes, fight scenes

Buy Links: Books2Read * Amazon * B&N * Kobo * Apple

Sometimes I wish I had foresight like you, Delfina, but not always. Especially if it makes you a target. I wish you success and happiness! Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to Laurel for giving you the time away to be with us.

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Getting to know Neil S. Plakcy #author #mystery #romance #LGBTQ+ #historical #thrillers #books

Please help me welcome my guest author today, Neil S. Plakcy! Let’s take a peek at his bio and then find out more his writing process and inspiration.

Neil Plakcy has written or edited over three dozen novels and short stories in mystery, romance and erotica. His golden retriever mystery series was inspired by his first golden, Samwise. Long walks with his current goldens give him plenty of time to think up new crimes and solutions—and Brody and Griffin provide love, entertainment, and endless piles of fur on the floor.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * BookBub

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Neil: I grew up along the Delaware Canal in southeastern Pennsylvania, and so much of the area’s history was all around me as a kid. I wanted to explore what life was like along the canal toward the end of its era.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Neil: I realized that just because I thought something was “historic,” it didn’t automatically make it from the period I was writing about. So perhaps I enhanced my research skills.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Neil: I originally saw this as a two-book series. One set of characters would fall in love and discover a murder, while in the second book a new pair would find romance together and solve the crime. But that kind of cliffhanger just didn’t work, and I realized that I didn’t know enough about the second pair to build a whole novel around them.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Neil: The easiest for me was the lock-keeper, Isaac Evans. I grew up around Quakers and learned a lot about their religion as a kid. I made him smart and bookish, like me, and all that helped me get to know him.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Neil: I had to do a deep dive into 1872, the time of the story, as the canal was fading from prominence and freed slaves were coming north. I also researched my hometown’s history—for example, learning that there was a small Black community there which still thrives.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Neil: I wrote the draft of book 1 of the two-book series, and wasn’t happy with the ending. So I tacked on another hundred pages solving the crime, then had to go back and slim the whole book down, focusing on the two romances. Then a third draft to polish and prepare for my editor, and then a fourth draft cleaning up any errors she found.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Neil: It was a quicker process than usual for me because I was isolated during Covid. For part of that time I was on a sabbatical from teaching, and then later I was teaching online. So I had more time to focus on the book.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Neil: Pre-pandemic, I went to Starbucks every morning to write for an hour before work and reward myself with a café mocha. I trained my brain that when I settled in at that table, I was there to write. When everything shut down I had to buy a coffee maker and become my own barista. I have to fight with more distractions now, but I still sit at a table and write every morning, with a venti café mocha by my side.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Neil: A little and really are my writing tics. I always do a last minute run through for those before I send off to my editor.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Neil: I have three: Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac and Jimmy Buffett. I appreciate all of them for their prose, but also for the lifestyles they represent. I want to be an adventurer—even if it’s only in my head!

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Neil: As I’ve said, it used to be Starbucks. Now it’s my kitchen table for writing and revising. I read in bed on my Kindle, for the most part.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Neil: I will be retiring from twenty years as a college English professor this summer. While I relish having more time to write, I think I will miss the contact with students and colleagues. Many of those I work with are creative writers and we share a lot about writing.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Neil: Readers enjoy and relate to my characters. My best-selling series is about a guy and his golden retriever who solve crimes, and people sure do love that dog, and tell me they think of his human as their friend. I also pioneered writing a mystery series about a gay Honolulu homicide detective in which his coming-out process mirrors the crimes he investigates, and I’m proud of winning awards for that.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Neil: I have an equal love for crime fiction and light-hearted or low-angst romance. And those are the genres I enjoy writing the most, too.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Neil: For years, I’ve wanted to be able to support myself with my fiction, which I’m finally able to do. And the second part of success is reaching readers, and hearing back from them how much they have enjoyed my books.

Can two broken men heal each other?

In the aftermath of a failed love, Isaac Evans drops out of college and flees Philadelphia for a lock-keeper’s job on the Delaware Canal in rural Pennsylvania, where he pursues a life of Thoreau-driven solitude.

Prussian immigrant Lenert Tessmer trudges along the canal towpath in good and bad weather, hobbled by his dialect which prevents him from connecting with others. Then Lenert breaks his leg, and Isaac’s Quaker beliefs force him to offer a place where Lenert can recover.

Slowly, these two broken men find solace and healing in each other. But with railroads replacing the canal and narrow-minded outsiders who threaten their country idyll, Isaac and Lenert will have to face their deepest fears to develop a love that will endure.

Fans of MM historical romance will appreciate a fascinating time period, filled with unique details and a vibrant location, and a focus on the lives of working-class men in the 19th century who dare to love other men. This historical MM romance set in a small town in rural Pennsylvania in 1872 has a hurt/comfort theme.

Buy Links: Amazon * Books2Read

I love a good historical story, especially ones set in unusual places and times. Thanks for sharing, Neil!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!