Getting to know…Karen King

I thought life would calm down a bit in November, but it’s been even more hectic than October. It started with NaNoWriMo, add to it a crazy blizzard here in Stockholm, then a death in the family, add a few more unexpected events and you get a month that has made me want to hibernate. But now I am trying to find my bearings again. Whew.

We’re back with another instalment of Getting to know… and today we’ve got author Karen King with us. Karen writes sassy, contemporary romance just right for reading on the beach. ‘I do – or do I?’ is her first chick-lit for Accent Press and has recently been nominated for the RONA (Romantic Novel of the Year Award). She has also written several short stories for women’s magazine and had 120 children’s books published.When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven. So let’s get to know….Karen King!

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Author Karen King

So tell me, Karen, what is your favorite part of being a writer? 

Getting a letter or email from someone who’s enjoyed reading my book. That makes my week! It’s so heartening to think that someone has not only read my book and enjoyed it, but also taken the time to write and tell me so. I really appreciate that.

I know what you mean! Sometimes fan mail can make up for all the times I’ve wanted to give up on a difficult story or character. Or when my writing day hasn’t gone as planned. What would you say is the most difficult part of being a writer and how do you deal with it?

Finding time to write down all the ideas that are whizzing around in my head. I have notebooks everywhere, failing that I’ll write on anything, receipts, serviettes, the back of my hand.

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Karen’s latest novel, I Do? …Or Do I?

I agree. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day. I try to jot plot ideas down as soon as they pop into my head. Sometimes I lose the notes and have to try to remember them…well, it happens sometimes. 🙂 So tell me, with all the ideas buzzing around, are you a plotter or pantster?

A bit of both. I like to know my characters really well before I start so I’ll write character profiles for them, and then do a basic outline of the story. After that I start writing and let it flow.

It’s the same for me. Started off as a pantser, but now I am a little of both. By the way, I love the cover of I Do…Or Do I? I just want to take a minute to share with my readers the blurb: 

Local journalist Cassie is getting married to hot-shot lawyer, reliable Timothy, and his mother Sylvia, who Cassie has nicknamed ‘Monster-in-Law’, wants to plan the entire wedding. When Sylvia books the exclusive ID Images to take photographs of the extravagant do, Cassie has no idea what she’s walking into. 



The elusive JM, ID Images’ newest photographer, just so happens to be Jared, Cassie’s first love and ex-fiancé, who broke off their engagement to travel and take photos of far-reaching wonders. He’s back to pay for his next wild adventure. 



Cassie decides it’s best to pretend not to know him, but when she’s asked to write an article for her newspaper, she’s tasked with a column surrounding all things wedding related. When Cassie jokingly writes a column meant for herself depicting her situation, a co-worker submits it in place of the real article and it’s soon making headlines, with readers asking the age old question – Who Will She Choose? 

Sounds like the perfect book for this Thanksgiving weekend!  So, readers, if I Do?…Or Do I sounds like your cup of tea, make sure you pick up a copy. Get your copy here:

Amazon – Accent Press – Waterstones – Book Depository – W.H.Smith 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you write full-time? 

I switch on the computer as soon as I’m showered and dressed, then it’s butt on chair, fingers on keyboard. I answer urgent emails, do a bit of social media then start writing. I’ll carry on writing all day, with the occasional coffee and social media breaks. Often, I’ll write for a couple of hours in the evening too. But I only get a couple of actual ‘writing days’ a week, other days I’m marking assignments (I’m a writing tutor), running courses, visiting schools and other stuff so might write in the evenings.

I write whenever I can snatch away time for it. Still working full-time, but hoping to eventually write full-time. When you write, do you imagine any particular actors or actresses as your leads? Or do you find inspiration elsewhere?

I don’t imagine actors or actresses as my leads but I do look through magazines and cut out pictures of people similar to how I imagine my heroine and hero to look. I also do a Pinterest board of work in progress and pin pictures of things related to my plot on it. For example, for ‘I do?…or do I?’ I pinned lots of wedding related pics, as well as pics of France and Venice which both feature in the story.

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Karen’s writing room – organised chaos 🙂 

Another Pinterest enthusiast! I do the same. I love Pinterest. I even have a board for my dream writing space. Right now, I do most of my writing in my messy home office/guest bedroom, while sitting on my living room couch or in cafés. What abut you? Do you have a favorite writing space?

I’m lucky enough to have my own room to write in. It’s usually very messy, but it’s organized chaos and I know exactly where everything is. If I tidy up I’ve had it, I can’t find anything for weeks.

I am with you there! Whenever I clean my writing space, I can’t find any of the things I need. But when I don’t clean it, the chaos can sometimes overwhelm me. Let’s talk reading. What are you reading now?

I’m reading The Pact by Jodi Picoult.

I read that one a few years ago and loved it. She is one of my favourite authors. Are there any subjects that are taboo for you when it comes to reading or writing?

Horror – I scare easily.

Once upon a time, I wanted to write horror. Nowadays, I prefer writing love stories. Now what about social media? Some people say we authors can’t survive without it.What’s your take on social media? Do you think it’s vital for us?

Yes, I think it is. One well known publisher told me they wouldn’t even consider a book unless the author had over 1,500 followers on Twitter. I like Social Media, it’s a great way to interact with people but it’s easy to while away hours reading the latest Facebook posts or chatting on Twitter so I try to restrict myself. Twitter is my favourite platform, then Facebook and Instagram. I’m on Google+ and Pinterest too but am not as active on them.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

It was back in the early days of my writing career when I was writing for several children’s magazines and had to come up with story ideas at very short notice, sometimes having to write one in a couple of hours. An editor told me to ‘give a character a problem and solve it’. I added ‘in an unexpected way’ to that and it’s been the basis of my stories ever since.

What advice would you give to novice writers?
Stop faffing about and get that first draft down. Then you can go back and reread, revise and rewrite. If you don’t write something you have nothing to hone.

Thanks again for joining us, Karen! Readers, make sure you follow Karen so you can keep up with the latest! Follow Karen here:

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Getting to know… Carol Cooper

Welcome back! It’s NaNoWriMo month and I’ve been busy the last few days trying to meet my daily word count goal. Hope it’s going well for all you fellow Wrimers! Let’s take a little NaNoWriMO break and get to know another writer. This time we’re sitting down with Carol Cooper. Carol is a British author, journalist, and doctor. She practices medicine in London and writes on health for The Sun, Britain’s best-selling newspaper. After a string of parenting books and an award-winning medical textbook, she turned to writing fiction. Her novels are all about 30-somethings looking for love, and they’re laced with inside medical knowledge. Carol’s latest novel, Hampstead Fever, follows the intertwined lives of six Londoners as emotions boil over one hot summer. You can find it at Amazon and other retailers, and in bookstores in Europe. So get comfortable, grab a cup of java or a glass of wine and let’s get to know Carol Cooper!

 

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Today’s guest, Carol Cooper

Carol, thanks for taking time to hang out with us. Let’s start off by talking about where you’re from. Now I’m a born and bred Philadelphia girl, but I think you mentioned that you’re from a little of everywhere. 

My background is international as my mother had Lebanese and Syrian origins, and my father was British. I was born in London and lived in Egypt until I was eight years old, when my mother and I went to live in the USA. I was in Washington, DC, for more or less 10 years, though there were periods of time in Europe during my high school years. I then studied medicine at Cambridge University, and now live and work in London and Cambridge. The London apartment is in Hampstead, in the heart of the area where my novel Hampstead Fever is set. I don’t always find much time for leisure pursuits, but the riverbank always beckons.

I love London. It’s got to be one of my favorite places in the world–and Hampstead is such a beautiful area. And I love it that you set your novel in Hampstead. I haven’t had a chance to read Hampstead Fever yet.  For readers who are new to Carol, I’m going to share the blurb now: 

hampstead-fever-final-ebook-coverA heatwave in London and trouble is brewing…

Chef Dan should be blissfully happy. He has the woman of his dreams and a job in a trendy Hampstead bistro. But his over-anxious partner, engrossed in their baby, has no time for him now.

Stressed doctor Geoff finds solace in the arms of a moody actress. Journalist Harriet’s long-term relationship with Sanjay hits the buffers, leaving each of them with serious questions to answer. Meanwhile single mother of four Karen misses the intimacy of marriage, but lacks the appetite for a proper relationship.

Passion and panic rise in the heat, but who can spot the danger signs?

Okay, you’ve got me hooked–I’ve one-clicked it on Amazon, so it should be in my Kindle now.  Let’s talk a little about writing. I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer–what about you? When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I was 100% sure by the time I was in my first year at university. As a child, I had wanted to own a button shop, and as a teenager my heart was set on becoming a nuclear physicist. Of course, when I first embarked on a novel at college, it never got off the ground because I knew nothing of life at the time, except how to pass exams.

I know what you mean about trying to write a novel in college and not having enough life experience. I never finished any of the novels I started in college. They just weren’t very good and it was mostly due to not having enough experience that the story or the characters even mattered. 

That’s exactly what I mean. A writer needs life experience in order to write something that’s interesting.

Was there a particular author or book that inspired you to become a novelist?

I’ve read a lot of inspiring books, and have been lucky enough to meet some great authors, but it was the queen of British crime fiction, the late Ruth Rendell, who convinced me to stick at novel-writing. She was the tutor on a writing course that I attended in the mid-1990s. By then, I was doing a lot of health journalism and already had some non-fiction books in the pipeline, but I had a hankering to write novels. It was Ruth Rendell who pointed out my strong points as well as my weaknesses, and persuaded me to keep going.

I am in awe. I love Ruth Rendell’s novels. I would have  loved to take a writing course with her. Her novel, A Dark Adapted Eye, is on my list of all-time favourite novels. Speaking of Ruth Rendell, she often tackled some very serious and controversial topics in her novels. Are there any subjects that are taboo for you when it comes to reading or writing? 

I’m an animal lover, so I would say cruelty to animals. It’s not something I’m very interested in reading or writing about.

I totally agree with you. I have a hard time even reading newspaper articles about cruelty to animals. And I doubt I’ll ever feature it in any of my novels. So do you think fiction address topical social issues? Some readers say they only read to escape and don’t want to be reminded of racism, social inequality, etc when they open a book. What’s your take on this?

I believe it should. Books that ignore racism and other forms of injustice aren’t doing their thing, and they’re not realistic either. Even romantic novels need a toe-hold in the real world.

Yes! That’s how I feel too. Even when I read to escape, I want to feel that the world I am reading about it realistic. What about social media? Do you think today’s authors need it to survive?

Social media can take up a lot of time without necessarily selling any books. But today’s readers really do want to know more about authors and about the world around the books they read, so I think it’s almost essential for a writer to be busy on at least one social media platform, and to interact. I’m most active on Twitter and Facebook, and I dabble with Pinterest and Instagram.

Me too. I am a Pinterest junkie. I use it for inspiration. I have to rein myself in sometimes. It’s the same with Facebook. I have to make sure I focus and don’t get too sucked into it. Let’s talk writing spaces. Do you have a favourite place to write? 

It’s not exactly a writing space, but I love to write beside the river Cam in Cambridge (the one in England). It’s a place with a rich literary heritage, and it’s also where I was a student. I find it uplifting to be by the banks of the river with a notebook and pencil, perhaps under a weeping willow. These days Cambridge plays host to hordes of tourists, but you can still find spots where there are just swans, geese, grazing cattle, and the occasional boat going by.

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A slice of paradise in Cambridge

I don’t blame you. That is one stunning view. I could sit there and dream and plot… Now, I know most authors have a favourite character. Which of your characters is your favourite?

I love almost all my characters, though Laure and Geoff really stand out: Laure and Geoff. Laure, being half Lebanese, is insecure despite her career as a hot-shot lawyer, and she has a lot of uncertainty about her cultural identity. Geoff is special because, as a doctor, he finds it challenging to deal with the minutiae of present day medical practice that take up so much time when all he really wants to do is made people better. But there’s also Sanjay, who’s impulsive, inquisitive, loyal, and funny, and loves music…. Can I have three favourites?

Of course you can! 🙂 I think I have two or three who my favourites. It depends on my mood.

I’m always curious which authors other authors read. Who would you recommend to people looking for someone new to read?

Three British authors really stand out for me: JJ Marsh, Clare Flynn, and Jane Davis. These indie authors have an international flavor, especially Marsh and Flynn, and I think their stories will all resonate with a very wide readership. I’d especially recommend Human Rites which is a detective novel by JJ Marsh, The Green Ribbons by Clare Flynn, and Jane Davis’s I Stopped Time, or her latest title My Counterfeit Self.

 

 

I’m going to add those to my TBR List. Carol, it’s been so nice chatting with you. Before we finish off our session, what advice would you give to novice writers?

Keep writing, even when you don’t feel like it. Whatever shape your thoughts are in, get them down. You can refine a rough draft later, but it’s mighty hard to edit a blank page.

Thanks again for joining us today, Carol! Peeps, make sure you follow Carol so you can find out what she’s up to and stay up to date on when her next book is coming out.

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Getting to know… Beth Miller

Welcome back for another instalment of Getting to Know… Today, we’ve got British author Beth Miller in the hot seat. Beth is originally from London but now she lives in Sussex.  She’s written two novels: When We Were Sisters and The Good Neighbour. She’s also written two non-fiction books, For The Love of The Archers and the just-published For The Love of Shakespeare. Beth’s taken a break from working on  her third novel to hang out with us for a bit.

 

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Beth Miller (Photo credit: Katie Vandyck)

 

Thanks so much for joining us today, Beth. It’s always great to have a chance to meet another writer. Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Do you remember how old you were when you knew?

When I was six. I knew I wanted to be a writer because I loved writing stories. I got a lot of encouragement from teachers and my parents who thought I could write well. I got published at the age of 47. I am a slow-burn kind of gal.

Then we’re birds of a feather. I always knew I wanted to be a writer. It just took me until I was 43 to actually publish a novel. 🙂  Now when it comes to writing, are you a plotter or pantster?

I’ve been both. First novel: pantsed it. Took 12 years. Second novel: plotted it. Took eight months. Current novel: a mixture, which is going to take roughly two years. I think plotting is a very good idea, but probably not everyone needs to. I’m just not a very good pantser.

I’ve got both of your novels on my Kindle, but haven’t had a chance to read them yet. I’m looking forward to reading them in December, once NaNoWriMo is over. Now, I know you’re working on a third novel. What can you tell us about it? 

I’ve nearly finished the first shoddy-looking draft. It’s about Hana, who comes from a very restrictive and sheltered family, and leads a double-life. It’s got lots of lists in it (I love lists), and it’s really about love, and the mistakes we make when we’re young. And the mistakes we make when we’re older, too. I think it’s funny, though I’m often the only one who finds my writing amusing.

It sounds intriguing! I can’t wait to read it! Speaking of reading,  what are you reading now? And what’s on your To-Be-Read List?

I usually have a fiction and non-fiction book on the go. The non-fiction currently is Contested Will by James Shapiro, about the was-Shakespeare-really-Shakespeare conspiracy. It’s for a talk I’m doing later this year. And I’ve just finished a couple of fiction books because of being on holiday: Girl on the Train (I was late to this particular party, though I wasn’t mad about it), and The School Gate Survival Guide by Kerry Fisher, which was great. The next one on the pile is Beyond the Sea by Melissa Bailey, and I’m very much looking forward to Rebecca Mascull’s next novel, The Wild Air, out next spring. Her books are different from anything else out there.
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Since I am American, I don’t know anything about The Archers. I’ve heard British friends mention it, but other than that, I don’t really know what it is. 🙂 Could you tell us a little about the Archers and how you decided to write about the program? 

The Archers is a long-running radio drama which is set in a fictional area of the Midlands. In fact it’s the longest-running radio drama in the world. I was commissioned to write the book because a friend of mine who’d been asked to do it turned it down and offered it to me. She didn’t listen to the Archers but I was a fan and had already written an Archers blog for years.

What made you decide to write about Shakespeare?

The same publisher (Summersdale) asked me to write the Shakespeare book for no other reason than I’d done the Archers one for them and they thought I could do it!

I think I’m going to have to check out the Archers. 🙂 Maybe I can listen to it while I am working. Now, speaking of work, what’s your typical day of writing like?

Take my boy to school, come back, make tea, and go up to my messy desk in the loft. Faff around on the internet for a while, then gradually pick up from where I left off last time. I edit the last couple of pages and then write onwards from that point. This makes it sound really smooth. There’s a lot of stop-starting and popping downstairs for a biccy before I get my head back into it.

Are you one of those writers who has rituals need to have certain things with them when they write or start a new project? 

I do buy a notebook at the start of each book but don’t think that’s a ritual so much as a necessity – I use the notebook! I’m not a very ritualistic person.

I always buy new notebooks when I start a project, but then I end up doing most of the work on my computer. So I think the buying of notebooks must be my ritual.  So what would you say is your favorite part of being a writer? 

Without question, people who have read the books telling you what they thought. I don’t mean Amazon reviews, though I do love reading those, even the bad ones. I mean in person, when people stop you in the street and tell you how a certain aspect resonated with them or how it made them feel. Those encounters keep me going through the arid periods of unsuccessful writing.

You are also an editor/book coach/ writing teacher. Does having this background make writing easier? Or do you find that your inner critic is more relentless?

I see the book coaching and writing as slightly separate to my own writing. I can’t assume that a client or student will have the same difficulties or strengths in writing as I do, so I try to be where they’re at with their writing. There are a few universal rules, though, that apply to everyone (such as ‘get some words written!’) I’ve been through the mill with writing, getting rejected, re-writing, getting rejected again, etc, and I have made every mistake in the book, so I think I know a few shortcuts now that I can pass on to people. But there are no shortcuts when it comes to getting the words down in the first place.

So true! I think a lot of people believe we writers can magically make words appear, but it’s all about putting in the time and actually writing. There’s no magic to it.

What about characters? Now when it comes to yours, is there a particular one who’s your favourite? 

In my first novel (When We Were Sisters), my favourite character for a long time was Miffy, the young girl. But I came to realise that the other main character, Laura – self-centered and bitchy – was a bit closer to my heart. In my second novel (The Good Neighbour), my favourite is definitely Davey, one of the three narrators. He’s a nine-year old boy, a wheelchair user, who’s brilliant at technology. I love his resourcefulness and his generous spirit.

 

What about social media? What’s your take on it? Do you think it’s  vital for today’s authors? 

I think it works for a few people, those who already have a built-in audience, such as Caitlin Moran. I’m not convinced it works so well for new authors. My twitter feed sometimes seems to be made up entirely of authors shouting, ‘read my book!’ in increasingly desperate ways. I worry that they are spending so much time on it, when they could be getting on with the next book. And there’s often a lack of wit and flair in the way people try to draw attention to themselves.

And there’s also a law of diminishing returns. I might see a post about a book that looks interesting, but by the time I’ve seen six, ten or even more tweets about the same book, I’m sick of the sight of it. Sorry. I don’t know what the answer is. I enjoy Facebook and Twitter but I’m not expecting them to make or break this thing I laughingly call my writing career. My current favourite social media is Instagram, though I don’t really follow any authors on it. I just like looking at the pretty pictures.

I know what you mean. I love Pinterest and Instagram for the very same reason. 🙂

What about writing advice? What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

‘Don’t get it right, get it written’. I don’t remember who said it to me, but I now say it all the time to writing students. It means don’t go back endlessly over your work rewriting; don’t sit there pointlessly worrying that it doesn’t say exactly what you want; don’t waste time moving commas about; don’t be neurotic. It means churn out the words, and trust that you can make them better later. I have this as a mantra in my head the whole time I’m writing the first draft.

So true! You have to write the words first. You can always revise and make it better. But that dirty first draft is a necessity. 

Now, when you’re reading or writing, are there any subjects that are taboo for you?

I would never write about child sexual abuse. Not because I am squeamish, but because I think it has become over-used as a plot device, and its horror is becoming diminished. I also don’t like killing people off in my books, as I think that can often be a slightly lazy device to move on the plot. But I love writing sex scenes – the raunchier the better!

Heheh! Sex scenes are always fun to write. Some of my readers tell me I don’t write enough of them, maybe I need to change that.  Now what about dream projects? If you could work on a collaborative project with any writer, who would be your dream writing partner?

In fact, my dream job would be to work as a collaborative writer, on an American TV comedy such as Frasier or Thirty Rock. I love writing with people but hardly ever do it any more. My dream writing partner would be Tina Fey, but she hasn’t called back.

You and I are on the same wavelength. I would love to work with Tina Fey–especially since we come from the same city. Well, maybe if we send her boxes of Philadelphia delicacies, she’ll give us a call. 😉

Thanks so much for thanks so much for joining us, Beth! Readers, make sure you check out Beth’s books. And don’t forget to follow her website so you’ll know when her next book is coming out. 

 

Getting to know…Cat Hogan

We’re back with another instalment of Getting to Know… Today, we have Irish author Cat Hogan with us. Her novel They All Fall Down came out in July, and I’ve just added it to my TBR/1Click list. If you like novels about love and obsession, then you should do the same. Cat lives in County Wexford in Ireland with her partner Dave and her two sons Joey and Arthur, loves storytelling, and has a cat with the cool name of Jim Hawkins (I’m guessing this cat is a bit of an adventurer like his namesake in Treasure Island). So pour yourself a cup or glass of your favourite beverage, make yourself comfortable and let’s get to know Cat Hogan! 

13124599_10153655434767549_3085583176196253113_nCat, I have to tell you that I love the cover of They All Fall Down. It’s on my TBR list and I’ll probably dive into it this weekend. It sounds like my cuppa tea. So tell me, which titles are on your must-read list this year?

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. I can’t wait to get my hands on this. Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent. This was one of the most anticipated releases in Ireland this year. Published by Penguin in July, it didn’t disappoint. It was number one best seller for quite some time. The book certainly lived up to the promo and the hype. Liz is an exquisite writer.

There are so many amazing titles out there.

Now I am intrigued! I will have to add these titles to my TBR list as well. They All Fall Down is out and it’s getting great reviews.  Are you taking a writing vacation to recharge your creative batteries, or have you already begun working on a new book? 

At the moment, I am working on two!

Two? I’m impressed! I have a hard time concentrating on writing one book. Can you give us a sneak peek? 🙂

One of the two is a standalone and the other is a sequel (of sorts) to They All Fall Down. The plot is evolving as I go on these two- particularly the follow up, but what I can tell you is I am wandering around souks and alleyways in Marrakesh, drinking mint tea and getting up to no good.

The standalone, at the moment, revolves around a not so tough guy who’s past is about to catch up with him in a very strange sequence of events.

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Cat Hogan

Ooh! Now you’ve got me hooked. I’ll probably start bugging you about your writing progress so I know when they’ll be launching! Now, I think every writer has a favourite place to write. Where is yours? Do you write at home or do you go to a local café or someplace like that?

My current hide away for writing is in my local library. I don’t have the luxury of an office space and trying to write at the kitchen table with my two boys running around, is not always conducive to creativity. I usually end up running around with them- an avoidance technique. The library in my home county of Wexford is a beautiful space and the staff are all fantastic. It’s a community.

So what’s your typical writing day like?

A routine for me is hard to achieve. My older boy, Joey (11), returned to school last week and Baby Arthur(3), has just started in Montessori. This frees me up and I go straight to the library until about 2pm. After that, I come home and do the Mammy thing for the afternoon. I pick up the writing again when my boys are asleep. It doesn’t always pan out like this but I tend not to stress over it either.

I know what you mean. I’ve been trying to fit my writing time around my work schedule and it’s not always easy. If I’m having a hard time writing, I end up working on an inspiration board to help me visualise the characters and settings. What about you? Do you look for images of actors or actresses as inspiration for your lead characters, or do you find inspiration elsewhere?

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Aidan Gillen

When I wrote They All Fall Down, I pictured Aidan Gillen’s face for Scott. It’s funny, the initial inspiration for me comes from location and sometimes a lyric in a song but when you hit a certain point in the story, the characters take over and tell the story for you.

I think a lot of people have this idea that being a writing is easy, and we both know it’s not. What do you think is the most difficult part of being a writer? How do you deal with it?

The most difficult part for me is trying to establish a writing routine around my boys and home life. The process happened very quickly for me. I finished the first draft in June 2015 and by November,I had a two book publishing deal. They All Fall Down was released in July- meaning lots of promo and events. Book 2 is due back with the publishers this month!! It’s a real juggling act.

What is your favorite part of being a writer? 

The freedom. The idea that you can be anything or go anywhere in the world while sitting at your desk. I always loved reading and writing, from the time I was a small child, but the reality was, I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life. Two degrees and my own business later, the penny finally dropped.

Last question: what was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Just keep writing. Write the book you want to write, and believe in yourself.

Thanks so much to Cat Hogan for joining us today! Make sure you add They All Fall Down to your TBR or 1click it today. Don’t forget to connect with Cat on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

Getting to know Avylinn Winter

And we’re back with a new instalment of Getting to know… Today, our guest is Wattpad sensation Avylinn Winter.  We first met last autumn through a mutual friend and spent a great day together drinking coffee, eating pastries at a wonderful café just outside of Stockholm and writing. Volatile, Avylinn’s debut novel, launched recently and it’s already getting rave reviews. 

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Avylinn Winter, author of Volatile and Wattpad sensation

Avylinn, I am so glad you could join us today. And congrats to the release of Volatile!  I’ve been following the reviews and readers are really connecting with it–but we saw that already on Wattpad.  Let’s get started, could you tell our readers a little about yourself?  

I’m from a smallish town in Sweden, but I’ve moved around a bit since I left my hometown ten years ago. Currently, I’m based in Stockholm, which is a great city with loads of possibilities. I’m one of those boring people who don’t have a lot of interests outside of work and writing. I used to ride horses, but after an accident last year, I’ve stopped that endeavor. I guess I should take up another hobby soon, but I’ve not found anything that holds my interest for long.

I think we don’t need a lot of hobbies. If you have one or two things that make you happy, then that works. 🙂 I don’t have many–mostly writing and traveling and enjoying good food. 🙂 

 

volatile_9781786514547_xlrgSo tell me, what is your favorite part of being a writer? 

I love creating characters and stories, and I absolutely love to discuss my creations with readers. I have a very fulfilling interaction with my readers on Wattpad, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Without that interaction, I’m not sure I would have continued to write these last three years.

Did you always know you wanted to be an author? 

I’m not sure there was a particular moment. I more or less grew into it, I guess. When I began posting stories for free online, it was more of a steady progression than a sudden realization. I’m still not sure I’m an author to be honest.

Trust me, you are definitely an author. You’ve been writing such great M/M stories that are connecting with readers. I’d say you are a natural born storyteller. When you write, would you say you are a plotter or pantster?

I’m definitely a pantser, but I do try to have a general idea of how I want the story to develop. It’s more like a guide than a strict plan, however. And most of the times, my characters end up going their own way, leaving me behind to chase after them. I have a feeling I might plan a bit more if I end up writing more plot-driven stories in the future. With character based stories it seems natural for me to let them have their way once in a while.

What about writing spaces? I know I love writing in cafés. I also love sitting on my balcony and writing (when Swedish weather permits). What about you? Where’s your  favorite writing space? 

I mostly write from my couch, staring at the screen with next to no distractions in the background. I’m not one of those who can work to music, instead I prefer silence. I’ve tried other settings as well, but it doesn’t work as well. I think I need my peace and quiet.

What’s your typical day of writing like?

I don’t write all that often, actually. I typically write a chapter on Saturdays or Sundays when I have enough time on my hands. I prefer longer sessions where I can finish a chapter since I post all of them as first drafts on Wattpad. I have a loose schedule that my readers keep reminding me of. Some days I tend to sit until I’m finished without stopping in between, other days I take breaks, so I’m not sure if I can tell you what’s my typical day. I try to keep the pressure low, that’s all.

I know what you mean. Some days I can write for hours until my fingers hurt. Other times, I can write a couple of scenes and then take a break. Sometimes I can spend hours just looking for images that help inspire my writing. What about you? When you write, do you imagine any particular actors/actresses as your leads? Or do you find inspiration elsewhere?

I usually have a face of a model or an actor in mind when I write because it helps me focus on certain physical aspects that I might otherwise forget. I’m not a very visual writer, so it really helps me along. I’ve also found that it helps me keep descriptions solid throughout a series since I have the worst memory ever and keep forgetting to type up what traits I’ve used to describe someone. I’m very inefficient that way.

Readers often ask me if I have a favourite character. I think it changes based on my mood. What about you? Have you got a favourite character that you’ve created? 

I think I have to say Joachim. He’s in the third book of the Treacherous Chemistry series. I can relate a lot to Joachim, and I think that’s why I like him so much. He’s from Stockholm, which helps a lot. He’s also trying very hard to be the person others want him to be. He keeps up a cheery façade even though he’s not actually happy all the time. I’m not as good as Joachim at hiding when I’m unhappy, but I still feel very connected to him. Whenever I write about him, I tend to smile a lot.

That’s definitely the sign of a favourite character! It’s like that me when I write about Mads. 🙂 Now, Avylinn, you have to tell me–what are you working on now? Can you give us a sneak peek of the plot?

I’m working on two books actually. I have already written the first, second, third, fourth and fifth draft of my second installation in the Treacherous Chemistry series, but I’m still not happy with it. While revising, I’m also writing on the third one. Attraction is still in the first draft stage, though, which makes it a bit easier to write. At least when you compare it to the manuscript from hell, i.e. Toxic.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading a book written by an acquaintance of mine, Christian Baines. I was seriously impressed by the first novel I read from him which is called Puppet Boy. This second story of his that I’m reading is called The Orchard of Flesh, and it’s just as dark as Puppet Boy, but with a bit more romance going on in the background. If you enjoy dark and gritty stuff with a lot of sharp wit, give Christian a chance. He’s really an excellent writer and I don’t say that because we’re friends.

Have you ever thought about co-writing a book with someone? If you could work on a collaborative project with any writer, who would be your dream writing partner?

I would actually be super interested in writing something together with Christian Baines, but I have a feeling both of us would tear each other’s throats out before finishing the first chapter. But I was allowed to dream here, after all.
What would you say is the most difficult part of being a writer? 

Currently, I find it most difficult to reach the right kind of readership. I’m not in 100% control of my marketing since I’m with a publisher, which means that I have to follow their lead. For instance, my recent release, Volatile, works for a YA audience, but since my publisher is an adult publisher, I can’t market it for YA.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
I think the best advice came from a quote. I’m not entirely sure where it originated, but the gist of it is that the first draft is telling yourself the story, the second draft is preparing to tell someone else. It gives me a lot of freedom to feel that I can play around with the first draft (even though I actually publish my first drafts online).

What’s your take on writers needing social media? Is it vital for today’s authors? 

It appears to be absolutely necessary when you’re starting out. We have the tools today to seek out groups of people who can support you from afar, but I’ve also found that a lot of what happens online is empty content. It’s not absolutely certain that it will help regardless of how active you are. I have my platform on Wattpad which is a social reading and writing community, but I’m also on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve found that I can’t really keep up with all three in a good way, however, so that’s another complication to consider.

What do you think about fiction addressing topical social issues? Some readers say they only read to escape and don’t want to be reminded of racism, social inequality, etc when they open a book. What’s your take on this?

I like to be challenged when I read, but I also see the point of books with escapism in mind. I think readers tend to interpret content in their own way, however, so I’m not entirely sure that it’s always up to the author. I don’t know if that answer made any sense at all, but I’m rolling with it.
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It made perfect sense! I am like you–I read to be challenged and have new experiences. But sometimes I just want to escape. 🙂 

Before we sign out, could you share with our readers the advice would you give to novice writers?

Write because you love it, write for yourself, write what you’re passionate about. The rest will sort itself out.

Wise words, indeed! I hope you’ve all enjoyed getting to know Avylinn! Make sure you connect with her!

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Getting to know… GL Thomas

Hi everyone! It’s time for another session of Getting to know… Today’s author is GL Thomas–Guinevere is the G. Libertad is the L. Seems fitting to go by G.L. Tomas as twin coauthors with a mission. They’re mostly known by their platform, Twinja Book Reviews, a review blog that supports and promotes diversity in young adult and speculative fiction titles, but with time, they hope to cross genres successfully with their romance debut Same Page.

Author PhotoSo great to have you both here! Let’s get down to business: tell us a little about yourselves. 

Well this one is wacky because even though we go by one pen name, we’re actually two people! Our pen name is G.L. Tomas and the G.L. is short for Guinevere and Libertad. We’re a twin writing duo who have always had a penchant for diversity in books, no matter the genre and we even have two book blogs dedicated to them, one for romance, the other for speculative fiction and YA.

Originally my sister and I are from Miami, Florida born of Cuban parents but we currently live in New Haven, Connecticut just steps from the Yale University campus.

All our lives we’ve always been interested in culture. Being that we are Afro-Latina, our racial identities have always come into question, so it always made us wonder about other people’s cultures growing up. Languages, food, dance, customs have always been things that have interested us about other people’s culture so I guess that’s more or less what inspired us to write books that center on people of different backgrounds other than the average American experience.

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We are kindred spirits. I’ve also always been interested in different cultures and grew up within walking distance of an ivy league university (University of Pennsylvania). When did you first know you both wanted to be authors?

Wow. This is simple. When I went on my quest to find a romance book that featured an Afro-Latina as the lead character and couldn’t find one. We figured, we might as well write our own. Now we plan on releasing three more books with Afro-Latina heroines this year.

I love it! I’ve got Same Page queued up on my Kindle, so I’ll be posting a review very soon. Are you working on a new book now? Can you give us a sneak peek of the plot?

Omg, we set our sights high this year. Our goal was to release 11 titles this year alone. All ranging in age categories(YA, NA, Adult)and genres(speculative fiction, contemporary and romance) but yes we are working on four books right now,lol. I know, I know we’re nuts but we hope to have all 4 out by the end of August. We’ll give you a jist of our faves.

Book 1: But I’m not A Robot – It’s an interracial light hearted romance centered on an Oklahoma Native living in NYC with just two issues, he’s Mormon and he’s a virgin. This book has been sitting in our heads for a while and we’re finally bringing it to life. We’ve always wanted to make a male virgin because virginity has always seemed to be a personal choice for only women, so we’re always trying to do something different to stand out from the crowd of already amazing books!

Book 2: The Unforgettables– This one’s a YA contemporary romance centered around two teens who love geeky things and try to balance feelings for each other and friendship. This one is a love child we’ve had for nearly ten years in our heads and yay! It features a Haitian American heroine and a Hapa(Half Japanese/half Welsh) hero who’s also a Buddhist, something I’ve never seen in a mainstream book before, which is also how my sister and I identify religion wise.

Both books sound great, so I will be keeping an eye out for them. What is your favorite part of being a writer? 

This one never gets old. When people tell us how naturally we weave culture into stories. Another is when we get emails telling us how amazing it was that we created a black girl who was better than Katniss in a YA fantasy(not my words,lol). It’s always been our dream to make stories for black women of all ages and words like that always drive us to write the next book!

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I love it! And, readers, in case you’re wondering which book we’re talking about it’s the Mark of Noba. So tell me, what do you think is the hardest part of being a writer? It’s not always easy, so how do you deal with it?

G: I can’t speak for Libertad, but culture tends to be the most difficult. I love showcasing Black women from a plethora of cultures. But that makes them harder to market. When the only market for books for Black women is African-American, what do you do when the couple in question happens to be a British-Ghanaian woman paired with an Afro-Puerto Rican?

The Black experience in the West is often limited to just African-American. I agree, that experience is the dominant one. Black folk who are Nigerian, or Cuban, Jamaican, Afro-Canadian, we often assimilate to the dominant Black culture in the West. There’s often no way around this. I love writing all Black women. Of all walks of life. But it’s often hard to market stories like these.

I have no way of combating it outside of hoping people who read our stories open their mind to an experience different from theirs. I’m always going to write Black women from all over the world. From different cultures, of different walks of life, and different experiences. Black unity is important to me. We’re often only separated by language/culture. I want so bad to be ok with the fact that my experience as a Black woman is different than a German-born Black woman, or a Canadian-born Black woman. So I hope people are open to it too.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading an audiobook called Black Rainbow by J.J. McAvoy and another audiobook in the Percy Jackson series. My sister and I are really obsessed with audiobooks right now! They’re so fun to listen to!

I keep trying to get into audiobooks, but it’ just never worked for me. Maybe I should give it a shot again. So tell me: which of your characters is your favorite?

G: My personal favorite so far has been a YA character we created named Sai Liber-Tetraphirmaportacheeq from The Mark of Noba. It was our debut novel, and as much as I regret using her as a guinea pig, people’s response to her encouraged my passion for difficult female main characters.

Women always have to be pleasant. Virginal. Easy to like. Tetra was my biggest fear, and she turned out to be the star of our series. The female characters who’ve followed her can be likeable in some ways, but they make questionable decisions that make readers disconnect with them. If we hadn’t used Tetra as our guinea pig, we would’ve never had the courage to make heroines like that.

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What’s your take on authors and social media? Is it vital to us?

Yes and no. I think we’re beyond the days of loving authors without knowing anything about them, but at the same time, you want to know you’re investing your money in someone who cares about most of the things you do. Twitter is the most time-consuming, but I think most authors should be on Twitter. Some of my favorite authors I’ve met on Twitter, and the opportunity to connect with them within minutes. I do however think there needs to be a balance of how much time an author uses on social media.

That balance is really important. I think there are days when I spend more time connecting with readers on social media than actually writing. I always have to limit myself.

Which authors would you recommend to people looking for someone new to read?

G: I have quite a few authors that push the typical envelope of the traditional romance reader. While I don’t connect to every single thing she writes, I feel as though Harper Miller is one of the few writers in Romance that goes beyond the typical boy meets girl story. As a QWoC I often feel as though there are a ton of writers who don’t take into account women aren’t always just attracted to men. That’s ok, but it’s disheartening. Rebekah Weatherspoon is also an author who’s not only queer friendly, but non-binary/gender non-conforming friendly. I understand the need to embrace femininity among Black women, but a lot of us feel pressure to, based on the way we’ve been viewed as women as a whole.

I want women of color, particularly Black women to know there are writers who take us in mind too. As far as story telling, I don’t think it’s proper not to suggest who’s blog we’re on–Kim Golden.

There’s the traditional way to put together in a story, and then there’s how people actually meet. I wish the single boy meets single girl always worked in real life, but life has an interesting way of putting two people together. Sometimes you find who’s right for you while you’re in a serious relationship. Sometimes you even realize monogamy doesn’t work for you. Maybe Baby features a heroine who wants children, but is in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want more than what he already has, so she’s forced to seek different things, despite thinking she’s happy. In the end, she ends up with someone she’s more equipped to be with, but if she hadn’t sought that out herself, she would’ve been stuck with the wrong person for the rest of her life.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 07.13.53I don’t do recreational drugs, but I appreciate when writers aren’t afraid to push that envelope, because in real life, people smoke weed, they smoke, even do drugs harder than marijuana. Some people are troubled. Some people don’t deal with things by just pushing them away for another day. Life is complicated. Relationships are complicated. Things are complicated.

Thanks so much for the Maybe Baby shout out. It’s my personal favourite of everything I’ve written. A lot of people didn’t respond so well to the infidelity storyline. Which brings me to the next topic, taboos.Are there any subjects that are taboo for you when it comes to reading or writing?

Well this is somewhat of a tough question. First of all, my sister and I don’t find any topics “taboo.” But there are trends and topics we aren’t necessarily interested in writing just yet. The “surprise pregnancy/baby” trope. This is more or less a personal decision as my sister and I are much younger writers than our peers so motherhood isn’t something we ever think to include because it’s not something many of our characters desire. We’re branching out in “Adult” romances later in the year but our niche so far has been New Adult so we’re really attracted to what one would consider a “young love” story. Sometimes it feels awkward to put that in the equation.

Another is full on Erotica. For now, we’re sticking to steamy and sweet romances, but it’s still early in our careers as writers, so never say never!

So true! 🙂 While we’re on the subject of “taboo topics”, what do you think about fiction addressing topical social issues like racism, social inequality, etc when they open a book. What’s your take on this? Some readers say get turned off by books that take on these issues and that they read to escape, not to be reminded of the problems in the world around them.

Honestly this is the writer’s decision if they wish to include these topics. We personally like to address them. Because our releases so far are more in the NA classification, these things matter to readers who identify as “Millennials.”

My sister and I are Millennials so social issues like sexism, misogyny, misogynoir, privilege, class and racism are things we talk about every single day. The only books I read to escape are pure fantasies like Harry Potter or anything by Octavia Butler. When it comes to romance though I think it’s great when authors take the time out to address such issues because it rings true for me. But this again is a personal issue and we totally get why some writers just like to make it about the romance or story.

We really try to make our non-black, cisgender characters the allies we’d like to see in real life, so for us, it doesn’t seem natural not to add issues that are important to us. Because we believe you can fall in love and learn something at the same time, if that makes sense, lol.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

I’d definitely say it’s been your cover is your calling card. Cover must convey genre, tone and emotion. That it’s not supposed to tell “the story”. Only the blurb does that. Covers is always something I’ve never known a thing about, but my sister and I are going through all these changes and learning more about what sells and what doesn’t.

I am so with you there. I think a lot of writers don’t understand just how important the cover is. They try to do too much with it.

That’s it for this week! Thanks so much to Guinevere and Libertad for joining us today. I really enjoyed getting to know them better, and I hope you did too! 😀

Have a great weekend!

Getting to know…Danielle Allen

I’m a little behind schedule this week. Some things going on at work ended up crowding out everything else. But I am trying to get back on track again, and this time we get to meet author Danielle Allen! Danielle loves football, fashion, film and fiction. She spends her days teaching and event planning and her nights writing. She’s the author of the Back to Life Series (Back to Life, Back to Reality, and not yet released spinoff Back to December), Love Discovered in New York, Autumn & Summer, the Heartache Series (Heartache, Heartfelt, and the not yet released Heartless*), Work Song, and The One.

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Danielle, thanks for joining us today. I’m sure our readers want to get to know you better, so why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m from Virginia and I still live here. I am looking to move to another state to just experience something new. I am a professor at a college and when I’m not teaching, I enjoy creating female empowerment opportunities. As much as I love to get lost in a book, I also watch a ridiculous amount of TV and movies. I’m a huge fan of Shonda Rhimes!! I love karaoke with my friends and enjoying time with friends and family.

Ooh! I love karaoke and Shona Rhimes too. One of these days I have to tell you about the time my friends and I won a karaoke contest at a country-western bar in Richmond. But that’s for another time. 🙂 OK, so spill the beans, Danielle. When did you first know you wanted to be an author? 

I wrote a short story in elementary school and I always thought it would be cool to write. I didn’t actually make a point of doing it until I created my 30 by 30 list in 2011. And as I approached my 30th birthday in 2013, I told myself that I needed to do it. So I did and I haven’t looked back!

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What inspired you to become a novelist? Were you inspired by another writer or was it something else? 

Before the big Indie Author boom, I wasn’t finding too many books about African American women in their 20s that weren’t focused on stereotypical depictions. So I decided to write a book that I would want to read and that book ended up being Back to Life.

It was the same for me when I first began writing. I decided I had to write the books I wanted to read. So are you a plotter or pantster?

I’m a total pantser. I just like to see where the characters take me.

Speaking of plotting and pantsing, are you working on a new book now? Can you give us a sneak peek of the plot?

I am working on two different novels. One is a surprise sequel — it started off as an extended epilogue and then it just grew into a novel.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 22.32.17What are you reading now? 

I’m not reading anything. It’s difficult for me to read and write at the same time. I know plenty of authors who do it, but for me, I just need to focus on one or the other.

 

I know what you mean. As much as I love reading,  reading other books while I am working on something new can be distracting.  So tell me–what is your favorite part of being a writer? 

My favorite part of being a writer is being able to connect with people from all over the world. Having one of my stories or one of my characters touch someone by entertaining them, inspiring them, uplifting them, etc. I remember when I was looking for contemporary romance novels to read and not seeing myself reflected in the heroines. So being able to create that opportunity for someone else gives me joy.

 

 

I love it! I know exactly what you mean. Now tell me–what’s your take on writers being active on Twitter, Facebook, Periscope? Do you think being on social media is an absolute must for today’s authors? 

I don’t have a large following or a huge fan, base so being active on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram is important to me. With the reach on these platforms dwindling, trying to find new, creative, unique ways to interact with readers.

 

So Danielle, do you think fiction should take on topical social issues? Some readers say they only read to escape and don’t want to be reminded of racism, social inequality, etc when they open a book. What’s your take on this?

Depends on the story. I believe a work of fiction should encapture whatever message the writer is trying to convey. Some stories don’t need the addition of social issues to tell the story. Some stories need do need it to tell the story. I think it’s most important to tell a believable story. In my novel, Work Song, the heroine deals with dating in the workplace, working in a male dominated field, and body shaming. My novel, The One, deals with the media’s treatment of minorities and women (specifically on TV). Although, both novels are primarily romance novels and focus heavily on the love story, they address those social issues.

If you could work on a collaborative project with any writer, who would be your dream writing partner?

My dream writing partner would be Shonda Rhimes!

Me too! I would love it if she read my books and developed them into a movie or limited run series. Now tell me–what was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

You can’t please everyone, so write for yourself.

So true! And what advice would you give to novice writers?

Write the story that you want to tell! Your novel is a reflection of you so make sure you put out your best possible product.

Many thanks to Danielle for joining us today! Don’t forget to check out Danielle’s novels and make sure you follow her on

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Getting to know… Ursula Sinclair

It’s Friday again, which means it’s time for another Getting to know… session! Today we have romance author Ursula Sinclair, the alter ego for LaVerne Thompson, an award winning, best- selling, multi-published author, an avid reader and a writer of contemporary, fantasy, and sci/fi sensual romances. She writes romantic suspense and new adult  romance under the pen name Ursula Sinclair. Ursula shares a little of everything with us–including an excerpt from her latest book, Shaken, which is part of the Club Prestige series. Make yourselves comfortable and let’s get to know Ursula. 

LaVerneWhen did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, even before I was old enough to realize what I was doing I wrote my stories on the walls. Much to my mother’s chagrin. lol

I can imagine! My mother would have gone ballistic if I’d written on the walls. 🙂 So tell me, which author or book inspired you to become a novelist? 

I’ve always been a voracious reader so I can’t say it was one particular book or person, but I will say that Octavia Butler’s work opened up a whole new sci/fi world for me.

I was late discovering Octavia Butler, but I totally fell in love with her stories.  They were so innovative and she was inclusive in her writing from the very beginning. With that in mind, do you think fiction should  address topical social issues? Some readers say they only read to escape and don’t want to be reminded of racism, social inequality, etc when they open a book. What’s your take on this?

I think authors should write whatever they want to write about, and if that includes relevant social topics of the day I have no problem with that. I don’t believe authors should be limited that way. Just as readers are free to read whatever subject matters or genres interest them or not. There should be something out there for everyone.

I am with you there. I think, even if we write romantic fiction, we should be able to write about whatever issues feel natural to the story or write the stories we want and need to tell.  So tell us — are you a plotter or pantster?

Pantser. Woot Woot! lol

Haha! I am a little of both. I love the freedom of being a pantser, but then I never get to the end. I need a bit of a roadmap.  🙂 So what is your favorite part of being a writer? 

The freedom to let my imagine run where ever it wants to take me, and the freedoms being an indie author brings. I have no limitations and I reap what I sow. But most of all I love bringing something entertaining and enjoyable to my readers.

 

What are you reading now?

I don’t have a lot of time to read so I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books. I can workout while I listen to them. It’s great. Right now I’m listening to Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, I’m enjoying it.

Are you working on a new book now? Can you give us a sneak peek of the plot?

I’m always working on a new book, usually more than one at a time but in different stages. One that I’m working on today is called Lost Gods. It’s about Zeus and how he’s been reborn several times with no memory of his past and his powers have been bound. But the world now faces a great danger and there are powers trying to get him to remember so he can put a stop to the world’s destruction while at the same time trying to ensure that Zeus won’t then turn around and destroy the world himself in his vengeance against the Fates who took away his memories. All the gods are dead, long live the gods. *grins*

Oh wow–I love this idea! I can’t wait to read it!  What do you think is the most difficult part of being a writer? 

For me the most difficult aspect is finding the time to write. As an indie author I’m a self-employed business person and, while I have people behind me, I still have to organize everything and still have to market myself as well as my books. All of which takes up a big chunk of time in which I’d rather be writing.

I know that feeling. I would much rather write than spend time doing promo, which brings me to my next question. A lot of people say that writers need to be active on Twitter, Facebook, Periscope, etc if they want to make it these days in the literary world. What’s your take on social media? Is it vital for today’s authors? 

I can’t speak for all writers, I’m sure there might be a handful not on social media yet they still manage to sell a handful of books. However, to reach the masses it’s a must. The world has become very small and the way it’s accessed these days is through the thing called the internet. More specifically social media platforms. Some people have better success in reaching an audience on one platform over another. Depends on many factors. For me I’m very active on Facebook and Twitter. A little on Google and Pintrest. But the bulk of my connections come primarily from my interaction on Facebook. That’s where the core of my readers are so that’s where I have to be.

Do you have a favorite writing space? Could you describe it for us? 

Ballerina seriesI have an office upstairs, it’s in a lot of disarray right now because I’m collecting swag to take to a few conventions and I’m in the process of renovating the master bathroom and bedroom and I my office is used as a holding area. But it has windows on two sides so I have lots of light. I’ve two framed large oil paintings my kids did for me in art camp when they were younger. My desk is a table I got from an antique shop sanded it down and painted it yellow. My chair is a Henry Miller chair which my cat decided to chew on the handles can you say I want to murder an animal. Yeah.

Sounds like my dearly departed cat, Smokey. He loved to scratch and chew everything.  So what’s your typical day of writing like?

Everyday for me is a writing day. I turn on my laptop and my fingers hit the keys and I just keep going.

 

 

If you could work on a collaborative project with any writer, who would be your dream writing partner?

JR. Ward.

Angel RisingWhich of your characters is your favorite? Why is she/he your favorite?

My favorite male character is Maze from my Ballerina Series. He does what he has to do and makes no apology about it. Lol My favorite female character is Thalya from Angel Rising. She’s strong willed and can kick ass too.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Don’t stop.

What advice would you give to novice writers?

Keep writing. And when you’re finished that book, go on to the next.

Thanks for joining us today, Ursula! Before we sign off, let’s take a sneak peek at Shaken

Shaken Cover

Ursula’s latest book, Shaken. Available now for Kindle, Kobo and iBooks. Cover artist: Minx Malone

Excerpt 

Chapter One

Redd

 I couldn’t quite stifle a yawn. Between my law school classes during the day, studying, and coming into the club every night this week to help out in the Martini Room, I was exhausted. Yet, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Even this, our regular monthly meeting. We would bring up names for consideration of membership in our exclusive strip club. Now after just a year, it was doing very, very well. We even had a waitlist. We were extremely selective in who we allowed in. If you had to ask about our fees, you couldn’t afford us. I glanced around the room at the other four women. I couldn’t have been happier to call them friends and partners in this extraordinary enterprise.

The first time we all met seemed like so long ago, back when some of them were stripping and I was only a bartender. Working in a place that was nothing but a job, a paycheck. No matter how good the money had been, the crap most of us had to put up with drove us to begin our own club. One we could control. A very different kind of place where our employees were safe, which wasn’t always the case in some strip clubs. We were not a brothel. Everyone who worked here and entered the premises knew it.

Olivia tossed a flyer on the table, bringing my attention back to the meeting.

“What’s this?” I picked it up, and after reading it, passed it around.

“This is bullshit,” Andie exclaimed.

We all knew it was. The flier was asking for signatures to shut down the “whorehouse” known as Club Prestige in the middle of their nice, gentrified neighborhood.

The five of us sat upstairs in the four-story building we owned. The top floor held our offices and was where we conducted the behind-the-scenes aspects of the business, but the real running of the club happened on the other floors.

Assholes! Didn’t even know we were not a whorehouse, but a legitimate strip club. Licensed and registered appropriately. We had all of our permits in line. Since I handled the legal aspects for the club, I damn well knew that. Whoever this person was trying to stir things up needed to get her facts straight. For one thing, this area was zoned for both commercial and residential. We also had some pretty influential clients, so I didn’t think this petition would get very far.

“We’re up to date and in compliance with all the city regs,” I said. “So these busybodies need to go get laid.”

After finishing our business, we went our separate ways for the evening.

We each had a room, or section, within the club that we liked to oversee. It made things easier. My favorite place to be was The Martini Room, third floor. I rode the elevator down, and as soon as it opened, the music piped into the hallway flooded my senses. Tonight, the bouncers were dressed in white tuxedos. They nodded at me as I passed. We placed at least one on each floor to keep the clientele and staff safe.

Our club catered to both male and females, having both sexes of dancers for his or her viewing pleasure. Some of the rooms were separated—male dancers in one room, female in another. Some had both.

The Martini Room was where everyone could mingle, and people came together to drink and chat. Not much dancing was done in here, but when it was done, the strippers present made it standing-ovation worthy. The concept of the lounge was my creation, and I loved the atmosphere.

The room was done in purple—so dark, at first glance it looked black—and emerald green. But it was the bar that truly made the room. Handcrafted using a combination of dark mahogany and pinewoods, it took up the entire back wall. The rest of the room had low tables with lush, comfortable S-shaped leather couches where groups could sit, mingle, and drink.

This was more of a social lounge, a place to sit down and enjoy an appetizer or one of the many flavorful martinis the room offered, hence the name. The music was lower here, more soulful, at just the right volume to allow for conversation.

Unlike the room next door. There was a bachelorette party happening there. Every now and then the frosted glass doors to my room opened and I could hear the excited screams of the women. I grinned, knowing they were enjoying Harper’s performance. At six-three with two hundred pounds of lean, rippling muscle, it would be kinda hard not to scream when he moved.

I made my way behind the bar and motioned for Jay. “Go ahead and take off. Congrats and have fun.”

“Thank you, Redd,” Jay said. “You’re the best.”

I usually helped out or filled in for any of the bartenders in the lounge. We had one out sick, and today was Jay’s wedding anniversary. He wanted to surprise his wife by taking her out of town for the weekend. Lucky. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a boyfriend or got laid.

I wasn’t shy. I enjoyed sex as much as the next breathing woman, but my schedule left me little time for a relationship, which I tended to shy away from anyway. I was still fashioning me. Besides, not many could live up to my idea of perfection, at least no one I wanted to come home to every night. So, I settled for a once-in-a-blue-moon scratching, no strings, no expectations. Somewhat lonely perhaps, but necessary. I still had law school to finish and a future to plan before adding anyone else into my chaotic life.

I took a quick visual inventory behind the bar to make sure we had enough supplies. My pom and blueberry martinis were legendary in this town so I had to make sure I had what I needed.

I glanced over the room. Even though the lighting was muted, my eyes were familiar enough with the space to know what to look for. I was making sure everything was as it should be and that our customers were happy. Almost all of the lounge seats were taken, but a few remained at the bar. It was still early in the evening for us. Judging by the glasses in front of everyone and the orders being placed, as well as the smiles and laughter, I’d say it was a good guess everyone was enjoying themselves.

Movement in my peripheral vision had me turning my head in that direction. Someone had just taken a seat at the far end of the bar. Pat, the other bartender, was closer, but I placed a hand on her shoulder, staying her movement and headed toward him.

He had on what looked like a chauffeur’s uniform. The cap he took off and placed on the counter gave it away. A rare sight in here, but sometimes the members are generous and pay extra to have their drivers on premises.

My heart pulsed harder against my rib cage the closer I got and the clearer the lighting became so I got a better look at him. Thick, dark hair and sharp features that could have graced a movie screen or fashion magazine. Damn.

Gunmetal-gray eyes zeroed in on me. I had a sudden itch that needed immediate scratching.

“What can I do for you?” I asked.

Don’t forget to check out Shaken’s trailer. Shaken is available now for your e-reader!

KINDLE | KOBO | iBOOKS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to know Ines Johnson

It’s time for another instalment of my “Getting to know…” series. Today, author Ines Johnson is joining us. I first heard about Ines through Facebook–we’re both passionate about diversity in romance writing– and after reading her novel, Pumpkin: a Cindermama story, I asked her to join my release party for Maybe Forever. Ines is based in Washington, DC and writes erotic, paranormal and fairytale romances. Add her books to your TBR list, and follow her on Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 07.25.03When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

I come from a family of storytellers. My mother would talk your ears off for hours and my father is a songwriter. I began my storytelling career in television, where I still dabble from time to time. A few years ago I’d written a script that I thought would make an excellent book, only I didn’t know how to write a book. So I took a couple of classes and started querying. I never received a single rejection letter. Instead, I got no responses at all in the beginning! But I never gave up and I never stopped writing. Wait, isn’t the the definition of insanity?

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I do my best writing at hightop tables where I can alternately sit or stand while typing on my laptop. A cuppa is a must. My favorite is a cuppa soy chai, sweetened with honey. I write best in the morning from 8am until lunchtime. Nights are reserved for reading.

Where do you find your inspiration when you write?

I’m a very bad Buddhist. I sit each week in sangha, which is similar to sitting in a church pew on Sunday. In a sangha the teacher, think preacher, will  lecture on spiritual teachings and guide the group in mediation. During meditation when I’m supposed to be getting my zen on, my mind always wanders back to the teaching and turns it into a story.

Tell us about your latest release. What inspired this book?

I released my debut fairytale retelling in March. It’s called Pumpkin: a Cindermama story. Here’s the blurb:

Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Now she believes she’s not cut from the storybook, heroine cloth and searches for Mr. Good Enough amongst the sidekicks and supporting men of the town. Love at first sight isn’t a cliche for town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne because for generations the Charmayne’s have spotted their soulmates be seeing a golden aura around them the first time they laid eyes on them. When Manny meets Pumpkin he sees…nothing, but sparks fly off the richter scale. The more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Could you describe your writing process for us?

I love plotting. Its my favorite part of writing. I love to go into Scrivener and use the Outline tool to plan the journey of my characters. I can recite just about any plotting structure you can think of. The Hero’s Journey, Save the Cat, Romance Arc, Relationship Arc…I could go on.

The first time I tried to write a book it took me one year to write the first three chapters because I agonized over each word choice. Now, I believe in fast drafting. Vomit the story onto the page without a care for comma placement. All told, it takes me about six months from the first drafted word to the final polished manuscript.

I take three to four weeks for the first draft, which I call The Dirty. I let The Dirty breath for as long as I am able to be parted with it -usually a week or two. Then I come back and Sweep up the grammar and plot holes, which usually takes another three to four weeks.

Next I send The Swept draft out to my trusted critique partners. When it comes back I Clean it up for another three weeks focusing on my weaknesses which is setting. Finally, I send The Clean manuscript off to the copyeditor for two to three weeks. When it comes back I Polish up all the commas and rethink my overused words. Then I hit publish, and start all over again!

Whats the hardest part about being a writer?

I went to school for producing and screenwriting, and worked in the broadcasting industry for over a decade, before trying my hand at novel writing. I wrote my first novel in 2009. It was based on a script that I wrote but couldn’t find the financing for. I was so proud of my work, but readers and critique partners noted that it was evident that I was a screenwriter and didn’t understand the mechanics of novelization. Screenwriting consists of action and dialogue. That’s it. In scripts, there is no internal monologuing and setting is minimal. I had some learning to do. Five years, and a ton of classes later, I’ve got four published novels lush in setting and internal angst.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Why are you so partial to that character?

My favorite character is still my first hero, the pleasure monk, Jian, from The Pleasure Hound.

The elements of a great romance is when the hero and heroine fit each others need. There’s a preponderance of books where pain is pleasure. And that’s okay with me -when I believe that there’s actually pleasure being had. I’ve read too many books where women are getting spanked just to get spanked. It’s not clear how the act satisfies a need in them, nor is it clear that the man understands and is acting to fulfill that need. That understanding is the sexy part to me: a woman who knows (perhaps subconsciously) what she needs and a man who knows exactly how to give it to her.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 07.26.23My book, The Pleasure Hound, came into being out of this frustration. I wanted to read about a heroine who was eager to explore pleasure. I wanted to encounter a hero who was skilled in, and solely interested in, that woman’s pleasure. My hero, Jian, studies women’s bodies like textbooks. After thorough perusal of, he emerges ready to ace the examination.

Do you have a critique partner? If so, could you describe how you work together?

I have a fairy book sistah in author L. Penelope. We’ve been sharing stories since our days as film students and college roommates. In 2014, after a few years at NANO and writing workshops, we made a pact to self-publish in 2015. Pulling, pushing and shoving each other along, we both made it through and haven’t looked back.

We share WIP drafts in the early stages of crazy sentences and plotting derailments; messy pages that we would never show our editors. For me, the early stages is the only time that I’m open to making changes in my story. Once I start painting my words with pretty prose I’m no longer open to critique.

Which books are on your TBR list? Do you have any particular indie writers who are your favourites at the moment?

I’m obsessed with Ernessa T. Carter who just went indie. Her book “32 Candles,” is an 80’s fairytale retelling for women of color.

Whats next for you? Are there any new publications in the pipeline? If so, could you tell us about them?

Author Ines Johnson

Author Ines Johnson

I’m currently working on the second book in the Cindermama series. These books are fairytale retellings featuring single mothers as the heroines. The first story is Pumpkin: a Cindermama Story, which is a retelling of the Cinderella story. This story is based on actual events. Shortly after my divorce, I was out with my two children at a community farmer’s market. A really handsome politician waved me over and began chatting with me about his platform. I was more interested in his light-colored eyes. But my burgeoning fantasy was dashed when my son sauntered over and embarrassing words spewed from his mouth. I ushered myself and my kids away, chiding my silly imagination. What man would be interested in a single mother of two school-aged kids? There are no fairytales featuring mothers as the heroines.

That night, I rewrote the events of the day to my liking. In my imagination, the light-eyed politician asked me out, after winning over my guard dog of a son. We got married and I moved out of my apartment and into some big mansion with a closet stocked full of name brand clothes. Oh, that closet…

Anyway, it was October, and so I plotted the book for the next month of NANO. The completed manuscript sat in a drawer for years because I didn’t think anyone would want to read a story where a single mother was the hero. Thankfully, I was wrong. Every woman deserves an HEA.

Thanks so much to Ines for joining us! Hope we can meet in person when I am in the US again! 

Getting to know Michele Kimbrough

Time for another edition of Getting to know… Today, we meet fellow indie author Michele Kimbrough. Michele and I came into contact last year when both of us were going through a bout of writing malaise.  We’ve been cheering each other on every since. I had the chance to read Michele’s latest release, Dangerously in Love, a great film noir-esque story. (Make sure you add it to your TBR List or 1-click it ASAP!) I thought it would be fun to to get know Michele a little better. Let’s see what she has in store for us. 🙂 

 

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I started out writing at Starbucks and Panera Bread (very comfy seating). But one day, I was lying in bed ill but had an idea for a plot twist. So I grabbed my laptop, propped myself up on my bed and wrote. That was the most comfortable writing I’d ever done. So, now, I am often found sitting on my bed writing.

Book Cover - DILTell us about your latest release, Dangerously in Love. What inspired this book?

I’m in love with this story. Two things inspired this story. The first thing was an FBI case I read about. I thought it was so outlandish that it might make a great fictional story. That same day, I watched an old favorite movie of mine. Then I was struck by inspiration. 

I think my faithful readers tell what Dangerously in Love is about best. So I’m going to let them tell it: 

Bookclub Reader said, “The main characters are Hill and Caitlin. After a case Hill was working on went south, he decided to change his profession as a lawyer and became a landscaper. Also during this life change he became disengaged in his relationship with long-time love Samantha. Caitlin was on a journey of lust, deception, and revenge to make those responsible pay for the tragedy brought upon her family.” 

Journalist Reader said, “When we open up the book, we meet Ms. Caitlin stumbling into the gruesome scene of a triple homicide. One which almost found her caught up in it as well. Skip ahead a few years, and now Caitlin is the beautiful and desirable wife of a “Suge Knight” type husband named Adam. Adam hires an attractive landscaper named Hill. Hill flirts, from a distance, with Catlin and catches the swiftest, quickest, most thorough asskicking ever. That still didn’t stop the two from having some of the steamiest, hottest and riskiest sex ever.”

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Could you describe your writing process for us?

I’m most certainly a pantser but I never start a story until I know who the characters are and what the major plot points will be. Then I fly by the seat of my pants, allowing the characters to drive, until midway through the story. At that point, I outline the remainder of the story. 

By the halfway point, the characters are fleshed out, their antics have roots and I need a roadmap to direct them to the conclusion. 🙂 I usually have seven drafts by the time the manuscript is ready for the editor.

Which three authors would you love to meet for a good gab session? Why those three writers? What do you think you’d talk about and where would you want the gab session to take place?

I’d love to chat it up with Stephen King, Harlan Coben and Walter Mosley at a bar and grill over shots of tequila and burgers. These writers are masters at what they do and I’d love to just sit with them and have a casual meal to hear how their creative mind works.

Author Michele Kimbrough

Author Michele Kimbrough

What’s the hardest part about being a writer?

I think the hardest part for me is managing my expectations. When I’m promoting, I have great expectations that people will flock to Amazon and one-click my books, ascending them to the bestseller lists. On the flip side, when my books go live on Amazon, my stomach tightens and my heart races. Why? Because I’m often petrified of what people are going to think of my stories – fearing I’d get a bunch of hate mail telling me to keep my day job, which, by the way, is writing news articles.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, could you share your playlist with us?

I will listen to music before I write for inspiration or to set the mood/emotion for me. However, I cannot write with music playing. It’s too distracting. I get lost in the lyrics and my mind shifts from writing to listening. My playlist is quite varied, from classical to country to R&B.

What are three things you’ve learned since you first began publishing? Is there anything you’d do differently if you could do it all over again?

(1) Ego has no place in writing — it only serves to stifle you. (2) Lose the expectations (as I explained earlier). (3) Have fun. If you aren’t having fun, then you aren’t enjoying it. And if you aren’t enjoying it, that energy will transfer to the page and your readers will feel it. Not a good look. 

If I could do it over, I’d make sure I understood for certain what genre I wanted to focus on (not necessarily exclusively but if my readers were to describe me, they’d know what genre to associate me with). I’d also write under a pen name.

Which of your books would you recommend to someone who is new to your writing? Do you have a particular favourite? If so, why is it your favorite?

So far, each of my books are quite different and fall in different subgenres. If you like a really fast paced book, I recommend Dangerously in Love. If you like high drama, I recommend Prudence. If you love a good unexpected twist, you’ll enjoy Wildflower. My favorite is Wildflower because of the subject matter and family dynamics. I love the characters and how they interact with each other.

What’s next for you? Are there any new publications in the pipeline? If so, could you tell us about them?

Currently, I’m writing a story that was originally intended for readers between 9 and 12 years old. However, as I get deeper into the story, I believe this story will resonate with readers 12 and older. I expect that it will be ready for publishing by the end of Summer.

Connect with Michele Kimbrough

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