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!

Introducing Antonio Sarvilli, inadvertent hero of Trapped by the Mob by Tami Lund

#author #romcom #suspense #paranormal #mafia #fiction #books #mustread #romance

I have a special treat for you all today. We get to chat with a financial planner (sort of) from Trapped by the Mob by Tami Lund. Please help me welcome Antonio Sarvilli! First a very quick peek at Tami’s bio and then we’ll see what Antonio has to say…

Romcom. Mafia. Suspense. Shifters. Vampires. Demons. Dragons. Witches. And more. Tami Lund writes it all. With wine.

Author Social Links: Facebook * BookBub * Instagram

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Antonio: *rubs back of head* Wow, you start with a whopper of an interview question, don’t you? Not exactly my favorite subject. There’s a lot of woulda, shoulda, coulda when it comes to my parents… I suppose I’d describe them as never satisfied. Christ, that sounds like a Prince song. But it’s true. They moved to America from Italy, searching for that elusive American Dream, but they never found it and died poorer than before they made that decision. The worst part is, my brother and I, we found the underground version of that American Dream. Running a mafia business is most definitely lucrative. 

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

Antonio: Damn, there’s another powerful question. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’re in cahoots with that annoying cop, Detective Proctor. Did you know he thinks I’m just a lay about who constantly mooches money off my brother, the mafia king? Guy has no freaking clue I’m the one who’s grown Gino’s empire so big, there’s no possible way he could spend all that money in a single lifetime. Which, I suppose, takes us back to my greatest failure. Yeah, my greatest accomplishment is my greatest failure. That’s what happens when you start regretting your involvement with the mob, I guess.

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

Antonio: This is gonna sound weird, but meeting Phoebe Cavanaugh is definitely the most wonderful thing to have ever happened to me. It’s weird because all I was supposed to do was keep an eye on her, make sure she didn’t cause trouble for my brother. Instead, I… well, I don’t wanna use the l-o-v-e word, but let’s just say… I’m crazy about her. Which sucks because, as wonderful as that is, I can’t let it go anywhere. No way am I pulling her into this messed up world I live in. And since I can’t get out…

Betty: If you could change the past, what would you change?

Antonio: *Snort* That’s an easy one. I never would have let my brother bully me into becoming his financial planner. Man, what I wouldn’t give to be just another working shmuck. Trust me, money really doesn’t buy happiness. Plenty of heartache, though.

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

Antonio: Pushing my brother too far and ending up wearing cement shoes at the bottom of the Detroit River. And no one knows that fear, except, of course, my brother. And you, now. But you know better than to talk to anyone about this interview, right? Crap, interview… you aren’t planning to publish this, are you? That whole cement shoes scenario could become reality. Can you at least change my name or something?

Betty: What’s your favorite game to play?

Antonio: Cat and mouse with my brother, the mafia king. Just kidding. I hate that game.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Antonio: I have one sibling, Gino Sarvilli, leader of the Detroit mafia, and he’s definitely not my favorite.

Betty: If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

Antonio: Wherever Gino couldn’t get to me. And I’d take Phoebe with me. And maybe Gino’s ex-wife, Margot, and my niece, Nina, because they are good people who got a raw deal and don’t deserve to be under Gino’s thumb.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Antonio: Before all this mess with Phoebe and my brother and Margot started, I liked to hop into my boat and cruise around the lake. So relaxing. Now, pretty much anything I do with Phoebe is relaxing. Well, when we aren’t trying to hide out from my brother, I suppose. So yeah, I’m not getting much relaxation time these days.

Betty: What genre of books do you most enjoy reading?

Antonio: Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I love a good romance. They’re kinda sexy, y’know? Plus, it’s great fodder for figuring out what women really want. Act like a romance hero, and you’re in, know what I mean?

Sure, Antonio Sarvilli is the money man behind his brother’s criminal empire, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. He’s not the one out there killing people. All he does is make greenbacks and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

That attitude changes when his brother assigns him to get to know Phoebe Cavanaugh, a Good Samaritan who witnessed something she wasn’t supposed to.

Now, all Antonio wants is to get out so he can be with Phoebe.

Except that’s not how it works when you’re related to the mob.

Buy Links: Books2Read

Yikes, Antonio! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you find a safe passage out of your current situation. Be sure to thank Tami for giving you a few minutes away from your job to chat with us, 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!

Getting to know Charlie Cochrane #author #mystery #historical #romance #series #books #fiction #amreading #amwriting

My guest author today is coming to us from “across the pond” so I hope you’ll help me give her a warm welcome! Let’s get to know more about author Charlie Cochrane and her writing, first with a peek at her bio and then on to the questions.

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes both romances and mysteries, including the Edwardian-era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Lume and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at book festivals and at reader and author conferences.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter

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

Charlie: Lock, Stock and Peril is the latest book in the Lindenshaw Mysteries series and is inspired by life during lockdown: the extra stresses, the different kind of existence and how that might ultimately turn murderous. The whole series, however, was originally inspired by the TV series Midsomer Murders. I kept thinking how cool it might be to have a similar series set in leafy England but with a gay detective. such thing existed, so I wrote it, making sure the detective fell in love with one of the key witnesses. One who owned a big, adorable, Newfoundland dog.

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

Charlie: Nothing new in particular, this time, although I firmly believe that with every new book you produce, you hone your skills and become a better writer. I can confess to one new bad habit I acquired, though: my editor always spots words I overuse and having managed to cut down on the usual ones, I’d only gone and picked up some new ones without realising. 😊

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

Charlie: Bizarrely, it was remembering exactly which lockdown rules applied when. There’s quite a gap for an author between first draft and final set of edits so I had to rely heavily on a) notes b) memory and when all else failed c) scrolling back through the government website. Isn’t it odd how something that seemed so constricting at the time passed so quickly out of our brains?

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

Charlie: PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) became my new best friend at one time, when I wanted to make sure I’d got the police rules right at a couple of key places in the story. I also tried to incorporate what I’d learned at the 2020 Portsmouth Mysteryfest where our keynote speaker took us through the latest advice for conducting police interviews. She made a point of saying how unrealistic TV police dramas are so I wanted to get closer to depicting the real thing.

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

Charlie: My usual two. I always produce a pretty good first draft and then bash it about until it’s polished enough to submit to the publisher. Which is where my editor comes along with her virtual red pen and, after much toing and froing, we’re several versions later and have something fit to see the light of day among readers.

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

Charlie: Very few, apart from going off and doing something mindless – like cleaning the kitchen floor – when I need to get a plot point clear in my mind. It always works, probably because it taps into the subconscious, which is very powerful and underused. I remember reading a book about inventors (and similar) which said many of them got their lightbulb moment while doing a repetitive physical task. It probably frees the rest of the mind.

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

Charlie: In my first draft, no matter how hard I try, the usual suspects creep in too often. Just. Look. More. Even. I hang my head in shame at how many of these little so-and-so’s manage to make it into the second draft. The newest addition to that list was simply, which kept appearing in the first draft of Lock, Stock and Peril – possibly as a replacement for just. (That sound is my eyes rolling at myself.)

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

Charlie: How much time have we got? Mary Renault, because of her beautiful economy of words – she could say more in a sentence than some folk do in an entire page. Agatha Christie, because of her plots and the wonderful way she re-used the same idea (and made fun of herself for doing that in depicting her alter ego, Ariadne Oliver.) Michael Gilbert, for producing the amateur detective Henry Bohun and Shakespeare…for being Shakespeare.

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

Charlie: I can write just about anywhere so long as I’m comfy. I usually work on a PC or laptop but if inspiration strikes then jotting notes on paper/phone/anything to hand has to be done, even if that’s while I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room. In terms of reading, I prefer to do that in bed or in the bath and I need quiet both for maximum enjoyment and for maximum concentration, as I read a lot of mysteries and don’t want to miss an important clue. 

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

Charlie: I’m retired from everything but writing. Well, in a paid capacity, anyway, because I chair the board of a small charity. I used to do freelance training of school governors, helping them with things like recruiting new headteachers, and many of the experiences I had doing that have sneaked their way into the Lindenshaw and other books.

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

Charlie: I think if I was a normal author, I’d say having a book reach number one in its genre on Amazon. But as I’m me, I feel prouder of two things: having an author I greatly respect telling me they like my characters and using the loo at the house of a multi-million selling novelist (long story, involving somehow getting invited to a meeting of crime writers during which I sat thinking, “How the heck have I ended up here?”)

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Charlie: Cosy mysteries, especially those written at the end of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth. They used to be quite hard to get hold of unless you scoured second-hand bookshops but there’s been a spate of republishing old novels and short stories, for example in the British Library collection. An absolute Godsend for readers like me.

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?

Charlie: Wow, there’s a question. I think, for me, success is defined primarily by people’s reaction to my stories. When you have readers emailing you to say your novels have helped them through bereavement, or to cope with another equally hard aspect of their lives, then what more fulfilment can you want?

They may be locked down but this case isn’t.

Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.

Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.

Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.

Buy Links: RiptidePublishing

I wondered how long it would take for authors to write about life during the pandemic. There’s my answer! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Charlie!

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!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Meet Captain James Hook, notorious pirate of the Neverland #fairytale #fiction #PeterPan #CaptainHook #amreading #mustread #novels

Buckle your britches, here comes Captain Hook! He’s here to tell us more about author Andrea Jones’ story about his life and times. First, let’s get to know more about Andrea, and then Captain Hook will take it away…

Andrea Jones, author of the Hook & Jill Saga – Novels of Neverland, for grown-ups.

Author Andrea Jones questions the fairy-tale premise of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan story: is it truly desirable to remain a child, or is it a greater adventure, after all, to grow up? Jones enthralls us with her award-winning literary series, the Hook & Jill Saga. As a “pirate author,” Jones breaks the rules, and her stories leave readers rethinking convention.

The first three books of the Hook & Jill Saga ─ Hook & Jill, Other Oceans, and Other Islands ─ won numerous literary awards and the hearts of their many readers. Within these novels, Jones deepens and explores Barrie’s famous and infamous characters, and re-imagines the Neverland for grown-up readers who long to return there. Jones is currently composing book four, The Wider World. Five books are charted for this series.

Jones graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she studied Oral Interpretation of Literature, with a Literature minor. In her earlier career in television production, she worked in PBS, CBS, and corporate studios. Jones is known around the world as “Capitana Red-Hand” of Under the Black Flag, a web-based pirate brotherhood.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Captain James Hook: My murderous father, and my cheat of a mother? He was handsome and aristocratic. She was vibrant, and corrupt in a very charming manner, and I adored her. Until their fatal day, they were discreet in front of the servants. But I assure you, there was nothing I didn’t hear.

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Captain James Hook: A nursemaid, naturally. Since my unfortunate injury, however, Mr. Smee performs these little tasks for me. He is, quite literally, my right-hand man.

Betty: Do you know how to swim? How did you learn, if so?

Captain James Hook: One doesn’t bother with such a trifle until one adopts a life upon the sea, although many a sailor fails to learn, and many a sailor drowns. Of course, once Pan’s damage was done, leaving me maimed and single-handed, I had to relearn everything. I endured terrible pain, for a very long time. Before the insolent boy’s interference, I was a master swordsman. Do you think it was easy to regain my skill? I couldn’t wield a spoon, let alone a cutlass! By the time I was able to scrawl my signature, even my name had changed. To remain afloat upon a sea of turmoil, aye, this is a skill I was forced to refine, or die.

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

Captain James Hook: For too long, I failed to grasp that my existence is dictated by my Storyteller. I strove in vain to win on my own terms, while all along it was she – “the Wendy” – who narrated my failures and my successes. Once I understood her power, I moved to take her under my control. Alas for all the time spent fighting the boy, when I should have pursued the girl. And yet, those years of struggle make the taste of my victory all the sweeter to the tongue.

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

Captain James Hook: I shan’t give the ending away, but I can attest that to possess a woman whose soul encompasses my own is the most exhilarating discovery a man of spirit can experience.

Betty: If you could change the past, what would you change?

Captain James Hook: Not one thing. I have arrived, after years of striving, at a place of perfection. It will not last. In the world of piracy I inhabit, it cannot last. Yet my legend will abide, and I shall die with the satisfaction of having truly lived.

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

Captain James Hook:  I flinch at nothing but the sight of my own blood. For this reason, the threat of the Crocodile looms ever at my back. Since that fateful day that Pan fed my right hand to the monster, the beast sniffs about the island of Neverland, seeking to devour the rest of me. The men of my crew are aware of my dilemma, as is the Wendy, who, attempting to inflict a weakness upon the “villain” of her tale, dictated this hitch’s existence along with my story. I contrived to make the Croc swallow a clock, which instrument ticks warning of its coming. When the beast and its ticking approach, I seize the nearest weapon, and launch my attack.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Captain James Hook: Piracy is not a vocation that lends itself to relaxation. In my private moments, when they occur, I devise my schemes for revenge and enrichment; I read philosophy and the classics, play the harpsichord with one hand and one hook, and, in more stimulating moments with the fairer sex, share warm sips of rum to set the mood for seduction.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Captain James Hook: I have already met her. I await her awakening. Why? Really – I am a man, and she is a female. I’ll not be so crude as to elucidate the nature of my desires. And one other walks this world with whom I should like to share my appreciation for her interest. My author, Andrea Jones. She “pirated” the brilliant Mr. Barrie’s Neverland, yet she remains true to his vision. I find her ideas as to my character and circumstances enthralling. As I judge it, her mind is full of wit, intelligence – and intriguing twists. She expresses me beautifully. If you doubt me, do pick up the Hook & Jill Saga. We’ll both come to life there.

Wendy Darling learns. What appears to be good may prove otherwise, and what seems to be evil…is irresistible.

In this startling new vision of a cultural classic, Wendy intends to live happily-ever-after with Peter Pan. But Time, like this tale, behaves in an unsettling way.

As Wendy mothers the Lost Boys, they thrive on adventure. Struggling to keep them safe from the Island’s many hazards, she finds a more subtle threat encroaching from an unexpected quarter: the children are growing up, and only Peter knows the punishment.

Yet in the inky edges of the Island, the tales Wendy tells the Lost Boys come true. Captain Hook is real, and even the Wonderful Boy can’t defend his Wendy against this menace. Hook is a master manipulator, devising vengeance for his maiming. Insidious and seductive, Hook has his reasons for tempting Wendy to grow up.

Revenge is only the first.

Deepening the characters sketched by J.M. Barrie, Hook & Jill reveals the dark side of innocence within Peter Pan. It awakens a daring Wendy who asks questions and seeks truth; it delves into Hook, the iconic villain. Striding from fairy tale and thrusting into reality, Captain Hook becomes a frightening force indeed.

Buy links: Website * Amazon * BookDepository * B&N

Thank you, sir, for taking time to come by and tell us more about your life.

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 Jennifer Worrell #author #scifi #bibliophile #noir #thrillers #crimefic #books #fiction

My guest today is a debut novelist with quite a story to tell. Please help me welcome Jennifer Worrell! Let’s peek at her bio and then find out more about her and her story.

If Jennifer were to make a deal with the Devil, she’d ask to live—in good health—just until she’s finished reading all the books. She figures that’s pretty square.  In case other bibliophiles attempt the same scheme, she’s working hard to get all her ideas on paper. She writes multi-genre fiction and the occasional essay, and is currently working on a sci-fi novel and a handful of picture books that may or may not be suitable for children.

Jennifer works at a private university library in Chicago. Edge of Sundown is her first novel. She’s always been drawn to “what-ifs” and flawed characters, and has never quite mastered the happy ending. You can sign up for her newsletter and read pieces published in various nifty literary magazines and anthologies at linktr.ee/JenniferWorrell.

Author Social Links:  Twitter * Facebook

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

Jennifer: The notion of covert extremists covertly eliminating people who outlived their worth seemed deliciously surreal, and since I’m frequently anxious about one day losing my ability to write, I was excited to explore the connection between the two.  But I started writing the novel before conspiracy theorists grew so much larger and louder in real life. 

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Jennifer: My protagonist, Val Haverford.  He and the plot were entwined from the start, though he mellowed out a little as the drafts became more polished.  The story is character-driven, so although he’s more of a passive fellow, everything that happens stems directly from the type of person he isn’t.

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

Jennifer: My villain, who shall go unnamed to prevent spoilers.  I’d like to think it’s because I’m not quite as evil or misguided.  I also feared readers would perceive them as a little too enthusiastic about their obsessions and consign those attributes to me.

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

Jennifer: I read all sorts of history on supremacist groups, which was not fun.  The aftereffects of garroting was much more interesting, as was traveling a few hours downstate to Val’s childhood town (fictionalized in the novel).   I also rediscovered my own, in order to avoid making mistakes.  Unfortunately, I still made some incorrect references, which proves that setting the majority of your book in your own city doesn’t make things any easier.

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

Jennifer:  I lost count.  I believe it was in the ballpark of eleventy billion and three, and it wasn’t so much a feeling of completeness as “you’re going to tweak this into oblivion.” 

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?

Jennifer: I spent roughly six years on it.  In my defense, I also wrote short stories whenever I needed a break or a shiny new idea wouldn’t let me alone.  But I am the world’s slowest writer, and often work when the muse strikes rather than on a daily schedule.

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

Jennifer: Unfortunately I can’t seem to get in the proper mindset until mid-afternoon.  Then I need to be at the keyboard (I only handwrite while taking notes) with coffee.  I log off social media because the temptation to noodle around on there is too great, and suddenly it’s tomorrow.  I need to have a big block of uninterrupted time in order to get lost in the project.

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

Jennifer: A friend pointed out that passive voice ruined my prose, so I’m trying to watch out for that.  And I tend to repeat words and phrases, but every story repeats different things, which makes the habit impossible to break!

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

Jennifer: Marilynne Robinson and Jeanette Winterson’s writing is so delicious.  I’m in awe of what they do with prose and mood.  I discovered new favorites recently: John Mantooth and Hank Early, whose characters and settings wouldn’t let me go.  Ditto Howard L. Anderson, who also does amazing things with tone.  He was even kind enough to blurb my book. 

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

Jennifer: I love writing outside.  Since the pandemic, I got tired of bending over TV tables, so I bought a nice proper table and set it near a window in the living room, and it’s the next best thing in bad weather.  I do most of my reading on the train to work, and at home it’s either the couch or a comfy chair in the bedroom, depending what the cat allows.

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

Jennifer: I’m the assistant to the dean and office manager at a university library.  It’s the first job where I really feel at home, with people who are supportive of my writing.  And I’m surrounded by books! 

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

Jennifer: I wanted to be a novelist since I found out such a thing existed.  I’m lucky that I found publication with a small press, and got my start with many great literary magazines and anthologies.

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?

Jennifer: I think once I reach all my goals without justifications or caveats, I’ll finally feel successful.  I’m not quite there yet, but I have one toe on the path. 

Val Haverford’s sci-fi and western novels made him a household name. But that was then. A decade of creative stagnation and fading health has left him in the literary wilderness.

Attempting to end his dry spell and secure his legacy, Val pens a dystopian conspiracy theory set in a tangential universe where alien invaders eliminate ‘undesirables’ perceived as drains on society.

But as he digs deeper into violence plaguing his adopted home of Chicago, he discovers unsettling similarities between his work in progress and a life he thought he left behind. Soon he finds his fictional extremists are not only real—they’re intent on making sure his book never sees the light of day.

As he pieces together haunting truths about his city and his motives, Val realizes his last chance to revive his career and reconcile the past could get him—and the people he loves—killed.

Will he make the right choice? Or will it be too late?

Edge of Sundown is a provocative story that shows how the desperation of lost opportunity can lead to drastic and unexpected consequences.

Buy Links: Amazon

That’s quite a tale! I hope it all works out for Val. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Jennifer!

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!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Getting to know Linda Ballou #author #historicalfiction #histfic #adventurer #traveller #blogger

Please help me welcome a fellow historical fiction author, Linda Ballou, who had the enviable job of living in the Hawaiian Islands to conduct her research! Let’s take a peek at her bio and then find out more about her.

Adventure travel writer, Linda Ballou, is the author of three novels and numerous travel articles appearing in national publications. Wai-nani, a New Voice from old Hawai’i, is her ultimate destination piece. It takes you to the wild heart of old Hawai’i, a place you can’t get to any other way. Hang on tight for a thrilling ride from the showjumping arena to the ethereal beauty of the John Muir Wilderness in The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon. Her latest effort, Embrace of the Wild, is historical fiction inspired by the dynamic Isabella Bird, a Victorian-age woman who explored Hawai’i and the Rocky Mountains in the late 1870s.  Linda’s travel collection Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales is an armchair traveler’s delight filled with adventure to whet your wanderlust. Linda loves living on the coast of California and has created a collection of her favorite day trips for you in Lost Angel in Paradise. All of her books are available at www.LindaBallouAuthor.com and online distribution sites in print and e-book format. She spotlights her travels on www.LostAngelAdventures.com.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Twitter

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

Linda: Ka’ahumanu was a woman in history that stirred my imagination. Brave, athletic, strong, passionate, caring, and centered in herself, I saw her as a role model and forerunner to the modern woman. She became the inspiration for my character, Wai-nani. I was first introduced to this character in history in the 70s –a time when women were breaking out of accepted molds. Her literal journey follows the rise of Kamehameha the Great, but her more important mythological journey takes her to her truth and discovering the extent of her powers.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Linda: Wai-nani (Ka’ahumanu) embodies all that was good in ancient Polynesian society. Athletic, assertive, and brave she stands beside her warrior-king husband sharing in his joys and sorrows for forty years. Like all Hawaiians, she is a water baby—finding strength, solace, and wisdom in the sea. Her greatest pleasure is swimming with her wild dolphin friend, Eku. Throughout her life, she rails against the “kapu system” that calls for human sacrifices, separate eating-houses for men and women, and severe penalties for the slightest infractions of laws imposed upon the common people by ruling chiefs and priests vested with the power of gods. She triumphs and becomes the most powerful woman in old Hawaii. I tried to bring this powerful personage in history to life for modern readers.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Linda: When I was 28, I took one blissful year off and spent it on the north shore of the Island of Kauai. I took a job as a cub reporter on the local paper. It happened that they ran a 200th-anniversary issue spotlighting the arrival of Captain James Cook on Kauai in 1778. This is where ano ano, the seed, was planted and the story took root in my heart. Historical accounts often speak of the savage Hawaiians stabbing the great navigator in the back. This prompted me to learn more about what was happening in the Hawaiian culture at that time. What I learned disturbed me. Indeed, they did kill the good captain. It is also true that Cook’s men trespassed on sacred ground, trampled on religious beliefs and ate the natives out of house and home. Ka’ahumanu and Kamehameha were there. I determined to tell the story of Cook’s demise and what followed through her eyes.

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

Linda: Getting into the mindset of the warrior prophesied to unite the warring Hawaiian Islands required relinquishing traditionally held values and attempting to absorb the ways of the ancient Polynesian view. He was inward, meditative, and sometimes sullen, but always brave and determined to fulfill his destiny.

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

Linda: Research for this story spanning twenty years became a beautiful obsession for me. I visited all the places described in the story to absorb the ancient mana, or spiritual energy resting there for those who chose to receive it. I read all of the oldest chronicles written by natives who were taught to read and write by missionaries. I interviewed a healing kumu in Hilo and spoke with elders about Hawaiian beliefs many of which are relevant today. Martha Beckworth’s Hawaiian Mythology was my greatest resource for the facts about the ancient Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian language is difficult for westerners, so I added a glossary of words I used in the text and changed the names of the characters to make it easier for western readers to relate and become engaged in the story.

I have a playlist on youtube that answer the most common questions I receive about the ancient Hawaiian culture

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

Linda: At least three. I conferred with my editor, a Hawaiian scholar, and got beta reader opinions before daring to publish this story which is sacred to the Hawaiian people. I was told by the Hawaiian scholar that my story was charming, but if a haole (white foreigner) published this fictionalized account of the Hawaiian story, I would receive 200 years of bad luck. This set me back on my heels for at least a year. In the end, I took Anais Nin’s words to heart and moved forward.

And then the day came

When the risk to remain

Tight in a bud was more painful

Than the risk it took to blossom. Anais Nin

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?

Linda: The actual writing perhaps three years, but the depth of research was a twenty-year excuse to be in the Islands. Typically, it will take me a year, or so to write a novel.

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

Linda: I read materials relevant to the subject I am writing about the night before enlisting my subconscious to the task while I sleep. Then I write first thing in the morning before being interrupted by the demands of the day. If I get 500-1000 words out I think I’m doing great.

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

Linda: I tend to gush over the beauty of a place. I have to tone this down so that my work is not too flowery. Many readers view me as a nature writer. I take that as a compliment.

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

Linda: I wrote a piece titled Jack London and Me. It is about the many connections I have to this man and how our paths have crossed. Jack lived life with daring and bravado. He was also very generous to others. He is considered the master of adventure writing. I admire his writing as well as his zest for life. I visit his Beauty Ranch where he rests in the Valley of Moon as often as I can to pay my respects to a great man and wonderful writer.

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

Linda: I live in what I call the “Cottage of Content” in the Santa Monica Mountains. I am surrounded by trees and watch my birds flit through the canopy while I write. I am happy here away from the fray. After lunch, I take a meditative walk in the mountains. When I return, I sit on my deck, feet on the rail, reading what I wrote that morning and reflecting on how it can be better. That is a perfect writing day for me.

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

Linda: I have sold real estate all my adult life. I am listed as an independent contractor on my tax returns. This position affords me the freedom to back off, or hit it hard. It has served me well over the years. It has given me the freedom to travel and write about my adventures. I have achieved a delicate balance between selling real estate and my writing projects and feel blessed to have both worlds.

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

Linda: Publishing Wai-nani is my proudest achievement. It was by far the most difficult and complicated work that I have done. Writing it in the first person meant I couldn’t use any modern words like plastic. I had to be very careful about being accurate in my depiction, still, I knew there would be push back from some Hawaiians. I am happy to report I have good reviews from long-term Hawaiian residents, and blooded Hawaiians as well. I love this story and have no regrets.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Linda: I would love to join Jack and Charmian London for one of their dinners with the many fascinating friends they invited to the Beauty Ranch. To ride with them through the redwoods and swim in the lake Jack created is a fond fantasy of mine. We wouldn’t talk about writing, I would ask him about his many adventures, especially his time in the Islands. He was loved by the Hawaiians for the way he told their stories.

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?

Linda: One reader told me “Your book was my salvation. It took me out of myself while I was going through a bad patch.” This kind of feedback is not uncommon. It makes me feel the time I spend writing is worthwhile. I sell houses to keep a roof over my head, I write stories to soothe my soul and to connect with other human beings.

Born into the royal class, Wai-nani rails against harsh penalties for women meted out by priests and ruling chiefs invested with the power of gods. Her rebellion takes her on a journey that puts her squarely into the eye of a political storm.

She meets Makaha, inspired by Kamehameha the Great, an inward thinking youthful warrior who is prophesied to unite the Hawaiian Islands. This is the beginning of a tumultuous forty-year love affair. Makaha accepts the challenge to end years of tribal wars and gives Hawaii a golden age. Wai-nani must decide if she will stand beside him before, during, and after his rise to power.

Like all Hawaiians, Wai-nani is a water baby finding sustenance and solace in the sea. Her best friend is a dolphin named Eku who swims with her on her mythological journey. She tells us what was happening in her beautiful world when Captain Cook arrived bringing new weapons and spreading disease in his wake. Wai-nani follows the rise of Makaha to power, but when he dies she breaks from his old ways. Beloved by the common people she defies death-dealing priests to lead them to freedom from the harsh, 2,000-year-old Polynesian “Kapu” system that called for human sacrifice to pagan gods.

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N * Bookshop * Website

Thanks for sharing the backstory of your story, Linda!

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!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Getting to know Liz Alterman #author #editor #suspense #fiction #YA #novel

My guest author today is also a fellow freelance editor. Please help me welcome Liz Alterman to the interview hot seat! Let’s take a gander at her bio and then find out more about her writing process and inspiration.

Liz Alterman is the author of a young adult novel, He’ll Be Waiting, a memoir, Sad Sacked, and a forthcoming domestic suspense novel, The Perfect Neighborhood. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, McSweeney’s, and other outlets. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons where she spends most days microwaving the same cup of coffee and looking up synonyms. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading.

Author Social Links: Twitter * Instagram

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

Liz: Decades ago, someone shared a story about helping out a friend. Though that favor seemed simple and straightforward, it took a very strange turn. I used that concept as a starting point and built the plot around the interconnectedness of our actions and how they can have a ripple effect—for better or worse.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Liz: The situation, that idea of simple favor going terribly wrong, definitely inspired me to write the novel. Then I had to come up with relatable but flawed characters who would make those choices to end up in those circumstances, which was both fun and daunting.

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

Liz: I wrote the first 50 pages prior to attending the wonderful Leopardi Writing Conference. While there, I had the opportunity to share those early chapters with an amazing editor as well as fellow writers, who shared their feedback and insight. On the flight home, I immediately began revising the opening and reconsidering the ending. In short, I’d say I wrote at least three drafts before I felt like the story was complete.

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?

Liz: The story took about a year to write, which I’ve learned is about the typical length of time it takes me to write and edit a novel. Until recently I’d been working full-time so I had to carve out time in the early morning or evening for my personal projects. I’ve almost completed a new project and I’m excited to begin sharing it. That has taken about a year as well.

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

Liz: I like to eat something crunchy—it seems to help me think. I also like to reread the most recent section I’ve written to try to get back in the flow of the story.

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

Liz: I’m trying hard to rethink my characters’ gestures and scale back on all the head shaking, nodding, and shrugging before they all end up with neck problems :).

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

Liz: I will write anywhere—in the car on a napkin if inspiration strikes, while taking a walk by typing (sloppily) into the notes app on my phone, on the back of a CVS receipt, where you can write an entire chapter, they’re so long!

I love to read in bed before I fall asleep. That’s my favorite way to end the day. But I’m happy to read anywhere if I have the chance.

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

Liz: I’m a freelance writer and editor and I truly enjoy it because it’s brought me the opportunity to meet and interview really interesting people and learn about an array of new things.

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

Liz: My greatest achievement has been not giving up in the face of so much rejection along the way.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Liz: I’d love to have dinner with Judy Blume. Her MasterClass is one of my favorites and I’m in awe of her long and successful career as well as her ability to write for readers of all ages. She also comes across as a true writer’s champion so I’m sure she’d have plenty of wisdom and encouraging words to share.

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?

Liz: I define success as continuing to come up with new ideas and staying motivated to keep writing even on the days when I don’t feel like doing it. I love the moments when you write a sentence or come up with a plot twist that surprises you. For me, those are magical and feel like the biggest reward.

What would you do to remember? What would you give to forget?

When Tess Porter agrees to pick up her boyfriend’s college pal at the airport on a snowy December night, she has no idea she’s about to embark on the most dangerous ride of her life. Two days later, the 17-year-old wakes up in a hospital with broken bones, unable to remember how she got there. Her parents are acting strange, and neither James, her boyfriend, nor her best friend, Izzy, has visited. As she struggles to physically recover, Tess wrestles with haunting questions: What happened? Will her memory ever return? And what if she’s better off not recalling any of it?

Buy Links: Bookshop * Amazon * B&N

Writing a chapter on the back of a CVS receipt?! I will have to try that! Thanks, Liz, for sharing a bit about your process and inspiration.

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!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Getting to know Sherrie Lea Morgan #author #paranormal #mystery #ghost #novels #novellas #amreading

Please help me welcome a fellow author who loves paranormal as much as I do! Sherrie Lea Morgan is such a sweet person with a lot of wonderful stories to share with you. Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out the secret to her success.

Sherrie Lea Morgan constantly searches for ghost walk tours in her home state of Georgia. There isn’t a haunted house she refuses to enter. Bouncing off story ideas with her twin sister is a pastime of hers, as her dog Bennett refuses to respond to her questions. When not working her current manuscripts, she enjoys spending time with her family. Although her children refuse to join her paranormal movie thrills, they are supportive in her obsession of all things scary. Of course, they are always willing to travel with her. She endeavors to show her readers a different view of ghosts in her paranormal books. Sherrie Lea also works to weave other paranormal gifts in her novellas.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Blog

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

Sherrie: The song “I’ll Be True to You” by the Oakridge Boys.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Sherrie: I think obviously my main character, Shannon, as she’s been there since Book 1.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Sherrie: A pair of pearl earrings and the need to find out who they belonged to. Plus, as Book 9 of the series, I had to come up with something.

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

Sherrie: The doctor because he was such an unlikeable character in a previous book. It was a challenge to sway my readers to sympathize with him.

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

Sherrie: Most of my research was done for the series and not one specific book. I did, however, need to verify which metaphysical term I intended to focus on and integrate it into the story. For each of the books of this series, I’ve sort of introduced a term that is reflected in Shannon’s gifts.

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

Sherrie: Really? Um…how mad would folks be if they found out I only do one really, really, really messy draft? I mean, I usually run about three rounds of edits before I send it off to the editor. So, maybe 4 before the editor and one more clean up round before being published.

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?

Sherrie: It’s been a while since I wrote this one. But most of my novellas take around two weeks to write as they’re typically under 30,000 words.

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

Sherrie: I dictate using a voice to text program and while I’m doing that, I have music playing in my headset. For example, because this book’s storyline was inspired by the song I mentioned above, I listened to it on repeat several times while intermixing with what we used to call “easy listening” music. I grew up doing homework to this on the radio.

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

Sherrie: Just, nod and I think maybe 3-8 others that I can’t remember. =)

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

Sherrie: Hmm. This is hard. I have role models for life and those for writing. I admire their courage and creativity.

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

Sherrie: My desk is where I do all my writing and revisions. To do reading for enjoyment, I love Audible during long rides. Otherwise, I can read anywhere and always carry a book in my purse.

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

Sherrie: My day job is writing, and I love it.

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

Sherrie: Hearing someone say they love my characters and wanting to ask more questions about them.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Sherrie: The person who wrote the epic poem Beowulf because no one knows who it is.

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?

Sherrie: My definition of success is knowing someone enjoyed my stories. That’s it.

A heart that waited. Another that didn’t. Can Shannon heal their past?

The number of trinkets left in Shannon’s box is dwindling, but when she takes the gloves off for a pair of pearl earrings, her vision of a pair of star-crossed lovers tugs hard at her heart. Her search takes her from virtual Internet byways to concrete highways landing in Augusta, where she hopes to pick up the psychic trail. As she stitches the pieces together, the threads of unfinished business get tangled up with her own. And lead her to a crossroads that could either heal, or cause more heartbreak.

Buy Links: Amazon

I love stories that revolve around intriguing jewelry or found boxes in the attic full of mysterious treasure. Thanks for sharing you inspiration and process, Sherrie Lea!

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!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Getting to know Alison Glick #author #researcher #teacher #literature #novelist

I am happy to introduce my next guest author to you all! Please help me welcome Alison Glick! Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out more about her writing and the story she has brought today.

Alison Glick traveled in the early 1980s to Israel, where she lived in a kibbutz and in a town near Haifa. After studying Middle East History at Temple University, she returned to the region and lived in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Syria for six years, working as a teacher, human rights researcher, and freelance writer. Alison’s writing has appeared in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Arab Studies Quarterly, and Mondoweiss. The Other End of the Sea is her first novel.

Author Social Links: Instagram * Facebook

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

Alison: That’s a bit of a convoluted story. For a long time, I resisted writing about anything connected to the Middle East. I tried and failed to write about other things in my life—my family, other things happening in the world. No matter what I wrote about, somehow things came back to the Middle East and my experience there.

 In an essay-writing workshop I took several years ago, the teacher’s feedback on my piece was, “I’m not sure what this is but it’s not an essay. It might be a book chapter. I think you need to write a book.” So, finally, I gave up resisting and started what I thought would be a memoir, because I always thought of myself as a non-fiction writer. When he saw the manuscript, my editor at Interlink Books encouraged me to fictionalize it. He thought my literary writing style would lend itself to telling a story that was broader, more universal than that of a memoir, which is technically more bound by what “really” happened. One of my goals was to write a book that would be read by someone who didn’t know much about the Middle East, or who was curious about exploring other ideas. I think a novel is more likely to be picked up by such readers.

 At first the thought of reworking the manuscript as fiction was terrifying because of how I had defined myself as a writer. Once I embraced the fear of the unknown and decided to trust the process (and my editor), the experience was liberating. I could create characters, tweak scenes in ways that added to the narrative, and craft a story that I hope appeals to readers beyond those interested in the Middle East. I drew on my experience in the region and on relationships I had with people, so it was also important to do what I could to respect the privacy of those individuals. Creating a work of fiction allowed me to do that, and to write a love story that reflects the experiences of others in very different situations.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Alison: The character of Rebecca Klein arrived developed in many ways, mostly because her narrative arc is based on my own experiences in the Middle East. But one of the most meaningful byproducts of reworking the book to be fiction was being able to rethink the meaning of my own experiences and actions, refracting them through the point of view of other characters in the story, particularly Zayn and Amira – Rebecca’s husband and daughter, respectively. Developing these characters, their arcs, and writing the denouement gave me the gift of resolving certain personal conflicts in a way that only strengthened relationships with loved ones.   

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

Alison: I chose to stay with first-person narrative as a way to bring and keep readers in the story who otherwise might be hesitant, anxious and overwhelmed by the politics and history in the novel. This made Zayn’s character particularly difficult because telling the story of a relationship that is unraveling, for a variety of difficult reasons, in the voice of one character could easily have made the other the “villain.” But it was particularly important for me that his character be seen as a sympathetic one to the very end, so I had to relay his character’s point of view and inner life largely through Rebecca’s thoughts and actions. I hope I was able to achieve this; I think I did.

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

Alison: In creating the origin story of Zayn’s family, I researched villages that were destroyed and whose inhabitants were driven out by the advancing Israeli army in 1948. Depending on where the villages were located, their inhabitants became refugees either in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or outside of Palestine. There were many such villages that met this fate throughout the country, so getting the political geography right was important. I also researched some of the immigration issues that were an important factor in what ultimately happened to Rebecca and Zayn’s marriage.

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

Alison: While writing this book, I would read the work of someone whose writing style I really admired before sitting down at my desk, just so I would have in my head the reverberations of what good writing sounded like. Not that I was interested in imitating that writer – what’s the point of that? Rather, it was a habit that was akin to stretching and warming up before exercising – you’re preparing your mind and body for the real work ahead. Speaking of exercising, one ritual I had on Fridays (when I had a 4-day work week), was to go to an early morning exercise class, then drive to a nearby coffee shop to write for as long as I could. This became an end-of-the week treat for me – until the day my car was towed for parking in the lot too long!

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

Alison: In this book it is a telling list: face flushed; throat tightened; beads of sweat; thud; like prey     

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

Alison: In writing, Tobias Wolf, because his memoir, This Boy’s Life, exemplifies a memoir writing style that does not sacrifice literary craft. And in writing and life, Arundhati Roy because her prose is exquisite – whether she’s spinning a fictional world in the Indian subcontinent or writing an essay about COVID that simply slays – all the while being a fierce activist for social justice everywhere.

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

Alison: I live in a row home in Philadelphia, which is a type of house that isn’t known for bringing in much light. So, I’m very fortunate that my home office has a skylight above and a slim window to my right (as I write this, I’m looking out onto the greening Tulip Poplar on this beautiful spring day). When I emerge from the intensity of writing about life in the Middle East, it is good to be able to look up and see the blue sky or hear the mourning doves cooing in their nest.

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

Alison: I’m currently working as an administrator and project manager in a Progressive Pre-K-6th grade school, and I love it! I occasionally have the opportunity to substitute teach and being around these interesting young people is invigorating (if sometimes exhausting!) on many levels. I’m fortunate to have warm colleagues who care so much about educating children as whole human beings. And they have been incredibly supportive of my writing by giving me time and promoting my book events. Could you ask for more?

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

Alison: Writing a book that brings readers who may not know much about the Middle East into a world they can identify with – a world where people court, fall in love, face challenges, laugh and cry together.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Alison: Oh, there are so many! While he is not with us anymore, I would have loved to have dinner with James Baldwin. He is someone who, like Roy, wrote so prolifically and beautifully in different genres, while steadfastly remaining a social justice activist. It would be interesting to talk to him about living and writing outside the United States, and about his controversial writings about Jews and Blacks in the U.S., much of which is misunderstood, I believe.

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?

Alison: I am successful as a writer if I’m able to bring to life stories that cause people to re-evaluate how they thought about something or someone. If I’m able to write in a way that leads someone to say, “I guess that person who I thought was different from me – maybe was my enemy – isn’t”, then I am a success.

Summer, 1981—Following the death of her father, Becky Klein, an adventurous, naive young woman from the Midwest, sets out for the Middle East, in search of her Jewish roots. She discovers something more, in a Gaza garden near a refugee camp by the sea. There she befriends the garden’s owner, a Palestinian activist who has served time in Israeli jails. As their relationship grows, Rebecca finds herself drawn into a story of roots unlike the one she had imagined.

The West Bank, Cairo, Yarmouk, Benghazi, Beirut—before long, their romance careens across a region in flames, child in tow, wrestling with conflicting maps of love, family and home.

Buy Links: Interlink Books * Bookshop

Thanks, Alison, for sharing your story and your writing process with us. I appreciate you stopping by and wish you all the best with your writing!

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!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Getting to know Patricia Schultheis #author #fiction #nonfiction #historical #Baltimore #mustread #story

Please help me welcome my guest today to the interview hot seat! Patricia Schultheis has written a collection of stories set in my home town of Baltimore, Maryland. Let’s get to know more about her and then dive into the interview to find out about her inspiration and writing process.

Patricia Schultheis grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the middle of three daughters in a Polish-American family. Struck by polio when she was six years old, she became an introspective, moody child who found great solace in reading. After graduating from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven in 1965, she moved to Baltimore, where she taught school, got married, began a family and had a career in public relations. 

 After having had several dozen free-lance articles published while working full time, she turned to writing fiction in her mid-fifties following the death of her beloved older sister. Her observations about Baltimore’s deeply inscribed cultural moirés became the foundation for her award-winning short story collection, St. Bart’s Way, published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House in 2015. Schultheis also is the author of Baltimore’s Lexington Market, published by Arcadia Publishing in 2007, and of A Balanced Life, a memoir published by All Things That Matter Press in 2018. She now divides her focus between fiction and lyrical nonfiction, and book reviews.

A widow, she continues to live in Baltimore, a city whose slow adaptation to change and sometimes quirky outlook reflects her own. She is the mother of two grown sons and five grandsons.

Author Social Links: Website * Email

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

Patricia: “The Haint,” as I describe below, was inspired by an installation at a museum and a rumor, but the whole collection of St. Bart’s Way came about almost by accident.  I was new to writing fiction, so sometimes I would write a story about upper middle-class white people in Baltimore and situate them on St. Bart’s Way.  At other times I would write about people living somewhere else like 19th century Richmond, or upstate New York.  I never set out to write a collection, but then I saw an ad for the Washington Writers Publishing House contest and realized that enough of my St. Bart’s Ways stories had been published individually to makeup a collection. So I submitted and won.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Patricia: That’s an easy one: Henri in “The Haint.”  I had a vague idea of the story I wanted to write, but, then, one evening, I was reading Had a Good Time, Robert Olen Butler’s collection of short stories based on postcards, which also are included in his book.  One postcard featured an old Black man standing by a picket fence, his face contorted with righteous rage, and I knew Henri immediately.  I know his anger and voice.  I literally got off my couch, went to my computer and began writing because I didn’t want to lose the sound of Henri’s voice in my head.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Patricia: Two things sparked the idea for “The Haint,” the first story in St. Bart’s Way.  In Baltimore’s Visionary Art Museum, I read a reference to a haint in the text accompanying an installation and jotted it down in my writing journal.  Then, my husband became the archivist for the restored old mill town where we lived in West Baltimore, and he told me of a Black man who killed himself when he was dispossessed of his property so the mills could expand. My husband was never able to verify whether or not that story was true, but I fused that rumor with what I had learned about haints at the museum.  The other stories in St. Bart’s Way came from simply observing my fellow Baltimoreans.

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

People intrigue me, so I apprehend most of my characters fairly easily.  On the other hand, the architecture of a story really devils me.  But to your point, as I look through St. Bart’s Way, I think Paul Maggio in “Other Men’s Sons” seems more of a vehicle for exploring divorce, disappointment in a child, and mortality rather than a fully developed character.  I read where Edward Albee once advised writers to put characters in unlikely situations and then notice how they respond.  If a writer can’t say what their character would do if suddenly confronted with a flat tire on a two-way road in the Upper Peninsula or a diagnosis of cancer, then that writer has   more work to do.

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

Patricia: Except for searches on Google, for example to find out about the Nazi occupation of Hungary, which was critical to “The Assembly,” I didn’t have to do much research. I’m fortunate to have been able to observe Baltimore’s white middle class for several years.  Most of them are devoted to their families, work hard, and take their civic responsibilities seriously. And, for the most part, they are not prejudiced, at least not overtly. However, like many white Americans, they are unaware of the nation’s foundational sin in regard to Black Americans.  That’s why  “The Haint” is the first story in St, Bart’s Way.  I wanted to show that eventually history, whether personal or national, demands a reckoning.

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

Patricia: For short stories, I don’t do “drafts” as such.  Rather, I have a strange approach, which I’m happy to share.  I always sense the emotional plain on which I want a story to end.  Not necessarily the final action, but the emotional place where I want the character and, by extension, the reader to have reached.  So, every day, I begin at the beginning, fiddling with the language, the imagery, the sentence structure, but also delving deeper into the story’s emotional truth.  By the time I reach the end of whatever I’ve written previously, I’m immersed in my story and ready to move ahead, maybe just a few paragraphs. But they’re good paragraphs.  This isn’t to say that I don’t revise at all. I do, but not in the sense of a totally new “draft.”  I also like to set the story aside before submitting it, and maybe send it to a few friends to see what they think.

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?

Patricia:  I’m a slow writer, and, for me, writing is work. I have friends who can write for hours, but I’m done at about three. So, a story can take me two or three months.  That said, I don’t have very many unpublished stories laying around.  I have some, but not many. Book reviews and essays are another matter.  They generally come faster, and that’s good because those genres emit and engage the reader in a different kind of energy than fiction does.

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

Patricia: I don’t have any rituals as such, although having coffee nearby helps. Also, and again I’m happy to share this with other writers, if my mind is especially preoccupied by something, I read poetry or the Bible to clear it. The distant, incantatory tone of the Bible can remove me from my dithering self and ready me to enter the realm of my story.

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

Patricia: I overuse the word “And.” And I’ve capitalized that for a reason, because I tend to affix it to the beginning of my sentences to show continuation of a character’s interiority.  And that’s usually unnecessary. And I’m grateful to those editors who catch me overusing it.

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

Patricia: I recently realized that I’m influenced by whichever writer I’m reading at the moment.  Their rhythms simply get into my head.  However, I’m enormously humbled by David Means, who elides time in his stories in a way that’s simply masterful.  I also admire Stewart O’Nan, whose language is lyrical and who treats working-class characters with respect and empathy.  I also have enormous respect for Hemingway.  A few years ago, I was going to Paris and read his A Movable Feast in preparation.  Now, A Movable Feast is about Hemingway’s early years as a writer in Paris, but he began it after he had won the Nobel Prize.  Sadly, he never finished it, and what we have is a draft, which reveals a throughline from his earliest days to his last.  From the beginning to the end, he made an enormous effort to get every word just right.  A Movable Feast  included pages showing Hemingway’s edits, and, just as he recalled doing when he was a struggling beginner, he continued to attend to every detail, every word choice, every bit of imagery, and punctuation mark.  A Movable Feast showed me that great writers respect the medium they work in.

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

Patricia: Originally, my special place was a second-hand electric typewriter set on my dining room table. (My kitchen was too small for a table.) Now, I’m very fortunate because I have an “office,” as my dedicated place to write.  When I moved out of my house after my husband died and went looking for condos, I was surprised by how many newer buildings lacked substantial walls on which to build a bookcase.  As soon as I saw the unit where I live now, I knew exactly where my bookcase would go. The same for my desk.  I keep a notebook in my car to jot down ideas as they come, but I “work” at my desk.

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

Patricia: I no longer have a day job, but for many, many years I worked in various public relations jobs.  I wanted to be a journalist back then and would run out on my lunchtime to interview someone for one article or another. I didn’t begin writing fiction until I was in my fifties, and by that time my children were through college, so the financial pressures eased.  I was working then for a software firm, which was near my house, and I’d write a paragraph or two before going to work.  That’s how it began. When I lost my job, and my beloved older sister died, I set journalism aside and began writing fiction in earnest.

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

Patricia: To be honest, given that I grew up in an era when women from my socio-economic background aspired to be schoolteachers or nurses, it’s somewhat amazing that I’ve been published at all. I’ve always been attracted to language, but so were many others whose lives went in other directions. I believe that for me it was a matter of persistence, and enduring many rejections, which still come. Having said that, I believe my greatest achievement is still to come.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Patricia: I really don’t know who that would be, and that’s probably good for them, whoever they may be, because I get stressed out preparing for dinner parties, and they’d probably have a miserable time.  I do, however, find that the company of other writers is very beneficial.  I belong to two groups on Zoom, one of them a critique group, and find that it helps me relax to be in the company of my fellow scribes.  They also give great advice.

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?

Patricia: That’s a very interesting question, because you climb one mountain, and guess what?  There’s another mountain. So, yes, I’d love to have another book published.  Writing is time consuming and hard work, so I take each new acceptance as a sign that I’m not wasting my time.  The same goes for awards: each one tells me “You’ve got what it takes.  Keep going.”

St. Bart’s Way is a fictional street in Baltimore developed after the First World War when streetcar lines were extended to the city’s leafy outer reaches.  From its founding, the neighborhood surrounding St. Bart’s Way was the home of the city’s professional class who wanted gracious, comfortable houses in which to raise their families.  Above all, however, these doctors, lawyers, and bankers wanted homes standing for permanence and lives lived to right purpose.

But at the root of the community lies a corrosive falsehood: the land surrounding the streetcar line was obtained fraudulently, and today that dishonesty continues to taint the lives of the families living in the community’s fine homes, families who mistakenly think their lovely houses with their multiple fireplaces and mullioned windows can provide sanctuary from a chaotic world.

In one way or another, the characters in this collection arrive at a point in their lives where they question the commitments they have made, the prices they have paid, and the lies they have told to others and themselves. They also discover that nothing can shelter them from the consequences of their choices. In that sense, these thirteen stories are linked thematically.

Buy Links: TheIvyBookShop * Amazon

Sounds like some interesting stories in your collection, Patricia. Thanks so much for stopping in to share more about them 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!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter