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Author Interview with Amanda McKinney & Book Give-Away

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

 

Author Interview with Amanda McKinney
by Diane G. (
icesk8tr)

 

Thank you so much for doing this interview for the PaperBackSwap blog!! I have really enjoyed reading the 3 books in the Steele Shadows Security series.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a wife to the ultimate alpha male, mother of two angels who remind me every day how precious life is, daughter to my real-life hero and heroine, mom to two stinky mutts, die-hard Titos lover (very important to mention that), and someone who wandered aimlessly through life until I found writing. I’d always struggled with what I was meant to do professionally. Post college, my world was cheap power suits, grey cubicles, PowerPoint presentations, quotas, and butt-kissing. I knew this was not my path. I wanted to be the person who said, “I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work.” After decades of sending positive energy into the world, hoping I would find my dream-job, the quest finally ended after I wrote the first paragraph of my first book (that was so terrible it never saw the light of day). I fell in love instantly and never looked back.

I myself do not like to read “romance novels”, but I love mysteries. For some reason your books seem more mystery with a bit of romance thrown in. What gave you the inspiration for the Steele Shadows Security series?

Steele Shadows Security was an unplanned spin-off from the Berry Springs Series. I like to think of it as Berry Springs’ steamer, darker, grittier, bad-boy brother. The series was created when I finally submitted to the unrelenting voice in my head telling me to write something more intense, more emotional, and more alpha. With blind faith, I wrote Cabin 1, which became my first #1 bestseller. It was a good lesson to follow inspiration and have faith in your gut instinct!

You really brought these stories to life with your writing and made me feel like I was right there with the Cabin residents! How much of your experiences and background played into this?

I was born in a small, southern town that has more cows than people. Big trucks, American flags, cowboy hats, sweet tea—all the fantastic clichés. From a very early age, I loved two things: reading and the outdoors. For me, inspiration sparks when I’m in nature. There’s something about being out in the mountains, that can be magical and enchanting, but also dark, creepy, and extremely lonely—which makes one heck of a backdrop for a murder mystery series. Nature plays a huge part in every one of my books and is as much as a character as the hero and heroine. I visualize each scene as I write it, and try to feel the world happening around that moment with hopes its transfers through to the reader.

The men in the security company come out as very strong until those layers are peeled back. Are the men in your life them?

Absolutely. You’ve probably noticed most of the heroes in my books are former military or service men. I come from a long line of military men and woman and I truly believe that soldiers, combat veterans, and first responders carry a shield of armor that others simply don’t, and this manifests in many different ways within each person (all those layers and layers!). I have the utmost respect for them and I hope that shines through in my writing.

How long did you take to write these books?

I’m someone who loves schedules, plans, and consistency. Spontaneity scares the crap out of me. So I keep myself on a tight schedule packed with deadlines. I write every day, no matter what. I find that this helps keep the same tone through the book, and keeps my creative juices flowing. There’s nothing more frustrating than opening my computer and staring at the screen for thirty minutes trying to figure out what my next word should be. Writing every day helps to avoid that. I also have a daily word goal, and I’m pretty hard-core about meeting it. I’ve been known to set my alarm for 3:30 a.m. to get in some writing time before the kids wake. Thanks to this restless nature, I can usually write book a book in a few months.

Did you stay within your planned outlines, or did you ever write yourself into a situation you could not get out of?

When I begin a new project, the first thing I do is write a detailed outline—bulleted, of course. Although the story develops as I go, I try to stick to that outline as much as possible. I’ve realized that if I don’t, the story becomes scattered, filled with major plot holes. And no one likes a massive plot hole.

How do you deal with the times you may encounter writer’s block?

I step away from the computer and take a walk outside. I focus on my breathing and just still myself. I truly believe in the healing power of nature. If it’s epic writers block, I meditate. It’s amazing what clearing your mind can do you for creativity and attitude!

Do you enjoy reading books yourself? If so, what types of books do you enjoy?

I’m a sucker for romantic suspense/mystery. I love the delicate mix of romance, intrigue, and heart-pounding suspense, and of course the grand finale of it all, the happily ever after ending! And let’s be honest, a swoon-worthy hero doesn’t hurt either. As a reader and a writer, pacing is very important to me. One of my favorite things about the genre is that the stories are fast-paced. Nothing pulls me out of a book more than slow pacing or that ever-dreaded lagging middle section. When I write a book, I focus on creating a page-turning experience and making the reader feel a mix of emotions—fear, anticipation, shock, lust, you name it. If he, or she, goes to bed thinking about my book, or stays up all night just to finish it, I’ve done my job.

What’s next? Do you have other books already published, and are you working on another book?

2020 is going to be a big year for the McKinney Machine! I’m carrying out the Steele Shadows Security series with three more books (at least)! I am so excited to continue these character’s stories! I’m talking kid-in-a-candy-store excited. The books will have everything you’d expect in a McKinney novel—hot romance, alpha males, strong females, fast-paced suspense, and mystery, but will be standalone novels. No cliffhangers!

Where are your books available?

I am currently exclusive to Amazon, but plan to reach new retailers later this year.

Do you have a website / blog / Facebook page?

My website is the hub for all things McKinney— www.amandamckinneyauthor.com. But the best way to stay up to date on new releases, enter fun contests, and get tons of freebies is to sign up for my newsletter here.

Thanks so much for spending time with us today!! I can’t wait for your next books!

 

Ms. McKinney has generously offered an brand-new autographed copy of her book, Cabin 1 to a PaperBackSwap Member who comments here on the Blog. A Winner will be chosen at random. You must be a PaperBackSwap Member in good standing to win.

Good Luck to everyone!

 

 

 

 

Author Interview with Holly Hall Becker and Book Give-Away!

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Author Interview with Holly Hall Becker & Book Giveaway!

Interview by Mirah W. (mwelday)

 

I would like to welcome Holly Hall Becker to the PaperBackSwap blog!  Holly and I attended college together and we have been great friends for over 20 years. I am so honored to call her my friend and so proud she made the decision to write a book.  Holly is a talented writer and for years she has been capturing the spirit of her local community and tackling important topics and events for various magazines and newspapers. Recently, Holly published her first children’s book, Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure and I am so happy she agreed to join me for an interview. I hope you enjoy getting to know her and learning more about her book! Don’t miss the information on how to enter our giveaway at the end of the interview.

Mirah: Holly, you’ve been a writer for years, what made you decide to write a children’s book? 

Holly: I had the idea for Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure when my kids were much younger. It was just a fleeting thought after commenting on my oldest son’s hair one morning before school. I think he was in first grade at the time. Over the years, I’d think about that book idea. I’d always say to myself, “Maybe someday I’ll do. I’m just too busy now.” Then I realized if I kept saying that it would never happen. Finally, in Jan 2017, as part of a New Year’s resolution, I decided I should at least write the story down and see where it went.

M:  How would you describe your writing process for this book?  How was is different or similar to your process writing articles? 

H: I wrote the first draft of Bed Head in a coffee shop in a couple of hours one afternoon. I had the outline for the story already stored in my head from years of thinking about this book. However, I did put the story away for a bit and returned to it several times along the way. Life just gets busy with three children, freelance work and other commitments. I proofed and rewrote pages and had several trusted friends read drafts and listened to their feedback. Illustrations also take some time, especially ones with such beautiful detail likes the ones Pablo Agurcia created for this book.

Writing a children’s book was quite different than writing articles for newspapers and magazines. Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure was creative writing whereas the articles I write for publications are nonfiction and involve interviews, notes and research. The way a children’s book story flows from page-to-page and reads aloud to an audience is also quite different. The book, of course, took much longer to complete than an article.

M: What did you enjoy the most about writing a children’s book? 

H: I’ve enjoyed so many things along the way, but I have to say that having the opportunity to read Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure at story times and in classrooms has been the best by far. It’s really a full-circle moment of seeing what started as just an idea become a reality. I love watching the reactions of the kids while I’m reading, and their questions and comments are often hilarious. It’s also rewarding to see people enjoy something that you worked so hard on for so long.

M: I imagine you have received all kinds of funny questions and comments from kids!  How were you influenced by other writers when brainstorming and writing Bed Head?  

H: I’ve always appreciated children’s books with some humor. I loved reading books to my three children that made me smile or chuckle. I’m a big fan of picture books by Mo Willems and David Shannon for that reason. I also admire the clever humor and play on words in children’s books by Amy Krouse Rosenthall.

M: You mentioned the book’s illustrator, Pablo Agurcia, earlier. His illustrations are fabulous.  How did the two of you decide how the story would be captured on the pages?

H: When I wrote the first draft of the book, I wrote a few general notes at the end of each page of what I envisioned happening in the illustrations. Pablo took those basic ideas and expanded on them creatively. He’s incredibly talented and added so many small details to the illustrations that really enrich the story. I was blown away when I saw the illustrations for the first time.

M: Did you receive any input from your kids when writing Bed Head? How did they impact your story? 

H: I wouldn’t say they had much input into the book, but they definitely were my inspiration for this book with chronic cases of bed head. A few lines of dialogue in the book are straight from my son’s mouth.

M: I can say from experience, your kids do say some pretty funny things! I love all the names you use in the book. How did you select the names for the characters in your books? 

H: I used the names of my children and my nieces in the book, as well as Illustrator Pablo Agurcia’s children’s names. I needed a few more names for hairs in the book so I asked two of my friends if I could use their children’s names.  An initial suggestion I had from someone who read an early draft was to make the names easier to pronounce.  I didn’t take that advice, but I like that some of the names are not as common or not the common spelling. I think it’s more representative of the names I see on class rosters today.

M: With a name like Mirah, I appreciate you using names that aren’t as common or use the common spelling! What do you want kids to take away from your book? 

H: I want kids—really anyone—to laugh and be entertained by this story. I think bed head is a common occurrence at many homes and children can relate to it. I hope that children and the adults reading the book to children will share a special moment together. Hopefully the story sparks a child’s imagination to dream up other ideas about how bed head happens.

M: Speaking of how bed head happens, what do you recommend to those who wake up with a serious case of bed head and they have to get out of the house quickly? We’ve all been there!

H: Hats are a lifesaver! I love hats in general, but I always keep one near because some days I just don’t feel like messing with my unruly hair.

M: And now for the fun stuff; which do you prefer:

Pie or Cake? Cake unless it’s key lime pie!

Inside or Outside? Hmmm. Definitely inside if it’s cold. I do like outside when the weather is warm. My screened in porch is my favorite place. The best of both worlds! My family also loves visiting national parks on our summer vacations.

Television or Movies? TV. I love to become obsessive about a new TV show and binge watch.

Winter or Summer? No surprises here. Summer!

Concerts or Radio? I always have the radio on when I write, but I do love a good concert when I have the opportunity to go to one.

Phone Calls or Texts? It might sound strange, but I like how text messages are quick and a great way to stay connected to people. I like being able to send a quick word of encouragement to someone or a meme to make someone laugh. I enjoy receiving them, as well.

You can follow Holly Becker on her Instagram page: Link

I hope you have enjoyed this author interview with Holly! I would like to give away a copy of Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure to one of my fellow PaperBackSwap members! I remember being read to when I was a kid and Holly mentioned how much she enjoyed seeing children’s reactions when she did book readings, so to enter to win your copy, comment below with whom you would like to read this book with! You must be a PaperBackSwap member in good standing to win.  All comments must be submitted by Friday, January 31 and a winner will be selected at random. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Give-Away and Interview with Author D.M. Denert

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Mr. Denert for agreeing to this interview!
I’m glad to do it, thanks for having me.

First, please tell us a little about your book, Derek’s Great Thanksgiving Escape.
To be honest, it all happened quite spontaneously. I’ve been meaning to write some of the bedtime stories I’ve told my kids over the years, but never found the time.
Then one day, a bit out of nowhere, the idea to write a short story about Thanksgiving popped into my head. One thing led to another and I ended up turning the short story into a short book because I just had too much fun writing it.

It is a very amusing tale, told from the perspective of an 8-year-old boy trying to get out of spending Thanksgiving Dinner at the table with his relatives, including, his angry sister, weird cousins and kissing aunties whose kisses are inpossible to wipe off.
How much of this story is drawn from your experiences as a youngster?
I would say a great deal. However, it wasn’t just Thanksgiving as we tend to spend it with a small family group, so it wasn’t that bad. Other holidays and family gatherings were a whole different story, and often-included weird cousins and kissing aunties.
Those, I dreaded and tried to escape more than once, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Do any of your own children have plans to escape from Thanksgiving  dinner this year?
I don’t think so, but then again, they seem to enjoy family gathering more than I did when I was a kid.

There are some very handy tips in this book about how to avoid monsters, particularly attic monsters. Would you please share them here, just in case any of our members need to avoid attic monsters during the upcoming holiday season?
Sure, there are 3 key ones:
• Be super quiet. Monsters seem to avoid you if you’re staying silent
• Pretend you’re asleep. Closing your eyes seems to make them go away
• Have a clear path of escaping when the two above don’t work.
With that said, it’s probably best to avoid attics and basements when you’re alone in general.

Have you always been a writer and storyteller?
As a kid I was often told I have a very active imagination, I guess most kids do, but it seems I didn’t grow out of mine. With that said, I did write some fantasy as a teenager and young adult, but really got going as a storyteller when my first daughter was born.
I had to tell her at least 3 or 4 stories per night before she would let me go.

Do you have plans for publishing your next book?
Yes, I have a few in mind.
Two will be a continuation of Derek’s adventures. One about Christmas and the other summer vacation.
I’ve been also toying with the idea about writing a fantasy novel for children. Naturally, these will include dragons, fairies and monsters.

Did you have a favorite author growing up?

Growing up some of the earliest reading I did for fun, instead being forced to, were the Harry Potter books. The whole idea that there was another world paralleled to our one has really captivated my early years. Especially, how I was 11, the same age Harry is at the start, when the books were published in United States.

I think JK Rowling did a great job making it believable and I spend more than a few nights reading the series. Which also kick-started my passion for reading and later writing.

And now, do you have a favorite author?

One of my favorites, if not the favorite, author as an adult is Fyodor Dostoevsky. Others are Stephen King, Joe Abercrombie and of course Tolkien and CS Lewis, as both I discovered and enjoyed as an adult.

Now for some fun questions:

Stuffing or dressing?
Definitely stuffing, with bacon and mushrooms

Fresh cranberries or canned?
I think I never had fresh, so canned?

Apple or pumpkin pie?
Apple, while I enjoy pumpkin pie apple pie has always been my favorite.

Weird cousins or kissing aunties?
Weird cousins, nothing is worse than kissing aunties! I’m just kidding, but weird cousins seem to be a lot more fun. __________

Mr. Denert has generously offered to give away 3 copies of his book to PaperBackSwap Members who comment. Tell us who you would like to read his book to for a chance to win. We will choose 3 lucky winners at random from the comments we receive here on the Blog. Good luck to Everyone!

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Denert you can view is website at:  dmdenert.com

or follow him on Facebook here.

 

 

Author interview & Book Give-Away with Mary Potter Kenyon

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Interview with Author &

PaperBackSwap Member

Mary Potter Kenyon

 

Mary Potter Kenyon is the author of five Familius titles:
Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession, Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace, and Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink, (with co-writer Mary Jedlicka Humston), and a grief journal slated for publication in early 2018.

Mary has graciously offered to be interviewed here on the PaperBackSwap Blog.

 

Welcome Ms. Kenyon and thank you for agreeing to this interview!

Thank you for featuring me and my books.

 

You wrote your book, Refined by Fire in the two years following the death of your husband of 34 years. Where and how did you find the courage to share such a personal journey?

I’d already written about caring for my husband David during his cancer treatment in my book “Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage.” Our marriage relationship was revitalized through that cancer journey, and David was a five-year survivor when he had a heart attack. After writing my way through caregiving in 2006 it seemed only natural to write my way through grief, too. Within months of my husband’s death, I was facing the loss of grandson who was battling terminal cancer. Writing and reading is how I’ve always faced things, even as a teenager. I wrote “Chemo-Therapist” because every book I picked up about caregiving through cancer ended in the death of the cancer patient. I wasn’t about to read those, so I wrote my own, a story of love, hope, and a revitalized marriage relationship. My husband always told me it was a love story, not a cancer story. David had been the biggest supporter of my writing. “Coupon Crazy” was his idea, “Chemo-Therapist” was our love story, and “Refined By Fire” was written because of the loss of him. Pieces of my personal journal and blog appear in “Refined By Fire,” revealing the rawness of grief. I wrote it with blood, sweat, and tears, and it is the book I am most proud of. I knew I wouldn’t be able to help others in their own journey if I wasn’t willing to be completely open and honest in my writing. 

 

In your book you quote many other authors on the theme of loss and grief. One of my favorites is by Anne Lamott:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

Do you have a go-to quote? One that usually helps you to put things in perspective?

For years, I’d utilized my personal journal to jot down quotes or paragraphs from books I was reading, words that inspired me or said perfectly what I was feeling or experiencing. I’d noticed other authors using quotes at the beginning of their chapters, particularly in non-fiction, and I wanted to do the same thing. The idea was that if that author’s words spoke to the reader, they’d want to read more. I love leading readers to other books and authors. Lo and behold, one day I learned that there was actually a term for the quotes at the beginning of a chapter; epigraph. Now, I use epigraphs in all of my books. I don’t have a single favorite quote. Depending on what is going on in my life, it changes. At various times, I’ve even taped a quote to my desk, or carried one in my purse, usually when I am struggling with something and need inspiration or encouragement. I’m also drawn to journal, calendars, wall plaques and stationery with inspiring quotes.

 

What would you like to share with others who are going through grief and loss?

In my upcoming journal, I write about how many weeks went by after our downstairs and upstairs hallway lightbulbs burnt out. I couldn’t bring myself to haul out the ladder and replace them. That was something my husband had always done. I didn’t ask anyone else to do it, either. In fact, my teen daughters thought something had gone wrong with the switches. We adjusted to the newly darkened hallways. We’d leave the light on and the door open in the upstairs bathroom so we could see the steps at night. We’d open the downstairs bathroom and turn on that light to illuminate the dark hallway closet. We lived that way for months until one of my older daughters was helping me clean out the closet and wondered out loud why the hallway light wasn’t working. My daughters were horrified when I admitted I hadn’t gotten around to changing the lightbulbs. My point? It is a very dark night of the soul when we lose a loved one. But there are things we can do for ourselves during that dark period; read books by those who have gone down the path before us, attend support groups, reach out to others in our newly discovered empathy, or by journaling. We have the ‘lightbulbs,’ or the tools for healing available to us. We just have to utilize them. 

 

You are Senior Services librarian at the Dyersville, Iowa library. Have books always been a part of your life?

As a child growing up in poverty, I thought only rich people owned books. I learned to read before I attended school, and spent hours learning to print my name so I could obtain the coveted library card. It was a rite of passage in our family. During the summer, my two younger sisters and I would check out five to six books each on a Friday, and by Monday morning we’d have finished our own and be trading with each other. I worked at the same little local library as a teenager every summer, and again (with the same boss!) for a couple of years before my eighth child was born. When I needed to find work after my husband’s death, my first job was as a director of a small library. Then I worked as a newspaper reporter for eighteen months, what some would consider the perfect job for a writer. But it felt as though the endless meeting coverage, Beef and Pork Queen, corn stories, and legislative coffee coverage was killing me creatively. Now I’m back in a library, doing all my favorite parts of the job, without the responsibilities of a Director, and working on a book about using creativity in everyday life. I always dreamed of being an author or a librarian when I grew up, and now I’m both. 

 

How did you find PaperBackSwap? Any special memories?

I’ve always wanted to own a lot of books. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have shelves of books in their home. As a teen, I saved every penny of my babysitting money to purchase cheap Scholastic paperbacks. When I began homeschooling in 1992, I had a wonderful excuse for buying books. And for a short while, my husband and I even operated a used bookstore, so I had ready access to books. During that period of time, I was bartering books for clothing, toys, and educational materials for my children, so the idea of swapping books was nothing new to me. I’ve been a member since shortly after its inception, so I can’t even remember how I discovered it.  

I’ll never forget the day a man came to our door, a book in his hand, his wife waiting for him by the car. His name was Pete, and though I can’t remember what state he’d traveled from, he was passing through Iowa to go to a wedding and he’d decided to hand-deliver the children’s book I had ordered. My husband and I stood on the porch together, listening to this man’s story. He’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and he’d consciously made the decision to live every day of the life he had left. His wife came up on the porch and talked to us, too, with tears in her eyes. Their time together was limited, and this man was hand-delivering books to other book lovers, just to touch their lives in some way. He touched ours. After the couple left, David and I sat on the couch and held hands, quiet. His cancer treatment had given us a whole new perspective on life, but meeting Pete gave us a renewed determination to appreciate life and each other. I wrote him later, to tell him how much his gesture had meant to us. It was the next year that I lost David, and I have wondered since about this couple and the gift they had given us in the reminder to cherish each other.

 

Did you read as a child? What was your favorite book growing up?

I was an avid reader as a child, reading anything I could get my hands on. I’ve collected some of my favorites and have a shelf full of childhood reads; books by Lois Lensky, Jean Little, Elizabeth Enright. I loved anything I could identify with and even spent a summer spying on my neighbors, thanks to “Harriet the Spy.” As a teen working at a library, I started with the “A” authors, working my way through the alphabet and the shelves full of adult fiction, certain that by the time I’d graduated, I’d read every book in that library.

And now, what do you read? Do you read for entertainment? For escape? For knowledge? How many books are there in your To Be Read Pile?

I do a lot of research when I am working on a non-fiction book, so right now, I have 12-15 books on creativity in my to-read pile, but when I need a break from non-fiction, there are 10 fiction books in another pile, waiting to be read. I am a big believer in life-long learning, so I read a lot of non-fiction. I keep track of the books I read (and want to read) on Goodreads.com, and my (modest) goal this year is to read 50 books. I read 65 last year, approximately 60% non-fiction. 

 

Mary Potter Kenyon graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Psychology. She is Senior Services librarian at the James Kennedy Public Library in Dyersville, and a certified grief counselor. She is widely published in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. She is the author of six books, including the award-winning Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace,” and a grief journal slated for publication in early 2018. Mary is a popular public speaker and workshop instructor. See her website at www.marypotterkenyon.com.

 

       

Mary Potter Kenyon has generously offer a copy of 4 of her books to a PaperBackSwap Member who comments here on the blog. A winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!

 

 

Interview with Author John Freeman Gill & Book Give-Away

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Vostromo‘s Interview with Author John Freeman Gillgill

JOHN FREEMAN GILL is a native New Yorker and the writer behind Avenue magazine’s popular Edifice Complex column. His nonfiction pieces about New York have been featured in The New York Times Magazine, the collections The New York Times Book of New York and More New York Stories: The Best of the City Section of the New York Times, as well as The Atlantic, The New York Observer, The Washington Monthly, The International Herald Tribune, Premiere and, because that’s not enough, “and others.” (For comparison’s sake, mine have not.)

John graduated Yale University summa cum laude and received an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. (For comparison’s sake, I did not.) His novel THE GARGOYLE HUNTERS has just been published by Knopf, to wide acclaim from the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers, Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review, Booklist, and, because that’s not enough, “and more.”

John is charming and witty and loves Steely Dan and cats and if there is even the slightest degree of autobiographical truth in his novel do not, I say not, let him teach you how to French kiss. If you meet him you can ask about the roast chicken with the Barbie doll head, though I don’t advise it. Everyone in his family has fabulous hair. (For comparison’s sake, I once had a gerbil named Monty.)

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VOSTROMO: Welcome to PaperBackSwap, John, and congratulations on the publication of your novel. You’ve been writing about architectural history and the stories behind cityscapes for a long time. Where does your interest in the subject come from?

JOHN FREEMAN GILL: Initially it was just osmosis. The Upper West Side apartment where I grew up was something of a museum of Lost New York. My mother is an artist and native New Yorker, and for the past 63 years she’s been keeping one step ahead of the wrecking ball by painting portraits of city blocks just before their buildings are torn down. When I was growing up, the demolished landmarks of old New York were very much alive and well on the walls of our apartment: the 57th Street Automat served up cheesecake in the kitchen; the windows of the Fifth Avenue Bonwit Teller (razed for Trump Tower) displayed dresses in my mom’s bedroom; trains hurtled along the Third Avenue el in our front hall. In addition, she collected salvaged scraps of the lost city. There were grotesques carved into limestone keystones, terra-cotta spandrels that had once adorned a tenement, a stained-glass window bearing the word Delicatessen, giant carved stone brackets turned upside down to support a stone slab as a bar. She even had a picture frame made of wood salvaged from the Third Avenue El, or elevated train, when it was demolished in the 1950s. So I lived with the vanished city, which inevitably sensitized me to the living city around me when I headed out into the streets to live my life as a teenager and then adult.

V: One of your columns for Avenue begins If you know where to look, [the city] is full of rabbit holes, portals to worlds of splendid peculiarity hidden from the street. This could easily be the tagline for The Gargoyle Hunters. Setting aside the fact that I was not consulted about this obvious missed cross-promotional opportunity, real events inspired the novel. What made you decide to incorporate them into fiction, instead of reportage?

JFG: In truth, real events inspired only one important strand of the novel; most of the story is my invention. I began with the characters and the circumstance—a 13-year-old boy in the aftermath of a difficult divorce in the vividly crumbling New York of the 1970s. I thought it would be meaningful to tell a small, intimate story of a fracturing family while also telling a big story about the near death of New York City in the year and a half leading up to the famous Daily News headline: FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD. The idea of using a real-life event came later. The event was a bizarre and seemingly impossible architectural heist: the theft of an entire landmark city building, which shocked the city and made the front page of The New York Times in 1974. The mystery was never solved, and I wanted to find out how the story ended. So I sat down and wrote it, placing at the center of the action my reluctant 13-year-old protagonist, Griffin, and his obsessive father.

V: Hunters is a coming-of-age story that mirrors a changing cityscape with a boy’s changing understanding of family dynamics. One of the ways you express this is the twinning of opposites: characters focusing on the importance of the past miss the importance of the present; they move up and down from parapets to basements, inside and outside from bedrooms to scaffolds; they have deeply private moments in very public places; they compare the meaning of the lowliest of buildings (an outhouse) to the most exalted (the landmark first skyscrapers of New York). There are lovely phrasings scattered throughout the book: an architectural detail is “protected from the filthy heavens;” an artwork throws a “spotlight on the invisible;” a first kiss makes one feel “magnificently lost and at home at the same time.” My favorite of these is the moment the narrator imagines the part he played in his complex family history as “the bridge that kept my parents apart.” I mention these to prove that I can read, and that I read your book, and that your publisher shouldn’t feel they wasted their money sending me a copy, and that they haven’t made a huge mistake by agreeing to have you appear here. Truce?

JFG: In theory, a truce would be just fine. But then what am I going to do with this handy sword-cane I brought along to this interview? [Editor’s note: for comparison’s sake, I came to this interview unarmed.]

V: The theme of twinned opposites has a larger resonance, reflected in the first-person narration being easily, straightforwardly casual but unable to cover a deep undercurrent of menace: characters appreciate and cherish their city even as they lie, steal, and manipulate its people, flout its laws with abandon, risk their physical safety in its heights and depths; they reach for meaningful connection to each other even as they keep dangerous secrets. It’s a feeling startlingly encapsulated in the prologue, where a happy family drive to a Sunday picnic reveals the steaming sidelots of a slaughterhouse, glimpsed in passing though the pre-dawn fog. It’s also a very American maturation from boy to man, and marks a striking departure from the themes of your earlier works like My Sister Is A Big Fat Poopyhead and Mom, Make Her Give My Hot Wheels Back, to name two. Was this change of focus a conscious choice, or did your sister, now an adult, threaten you in some way, perhaps physically?

JFG: For the record, you just made up those two sophomoric titles, but I gather your readers are used to that sort of thing by now. On a serious note, though, one of my sisters actually did regularly chase me around and beat the hell out of me when I was little. Then one day, when I was seven and she was eleven, I turned around and socked her in the eyeball. Never one to skimp on drama, she ran around screaming, “I’m blind! I’m blind! I can’t see! Oh, I’m blind!” We’ve been getting along swimmingly ever since.

V: I went to school with your sister Claudia. She was one of the Beautiful People, it’s not much of an overstatement to say a lot of the boys had a bit of a crush on her. Years later, when I did a show that required me to grow a full beard, I had some head shots taken, and still more years later I shared one on Facebook. Her comment was “Very handsome, got better with age!” which is of course a barely-concealed way of saying “my god you were hideous in tenth grade.” Does this kind of passive-aggressive exchange explain why you named her “Quigley” and did all those horrible things to her in the book?

JFG: Ahh, you are jumping to false conclusions based on the one sliver of my life you know about. I actually have two sisters, and Quigley is not based on either of them. (And may I just say how sweet I think it is that after all these decades, a man of your advanced years still feels compelled to say, “a lot of the boys had a bit of a crush on her,” when you’re clearly talking about yourself?)

V: Claudia designs, crafts and sells beautiful decorative home objets d’art. As a writer, have you been able to solve the conundrum of how to be positively supportive of someone’s creative work while drawing as little attention as possible to the fact that you haven’t bought anything from them because as much as you like her stuff it’s hard to afford because money is tight what with having to save for the plastic surgery you want to get because of what she said about you in high school?

JFG: If I tell you you’re a perfectly attractive man, will you take off that rubber Nixon mask? It’s hard to hear what you’re saying in there.

V: Did Claudia read your book? Did she like it?

JFG: Yes, Claudia did read it and was generously supportive. But I guess you never know if she was just being polite; after all, she told you you were handsome.

V: Do you know if she’s… seeing anyone? I mean, just, you know. Curious! About an old friend, it’s not, I mean, you know, I’m only…

JFG: You’re gibbering. You know that, right?

V: [Loud coughing] Getting back to The Gargoyle Hunters, what stands out for me more than anything is a single line that I can fairly say sums up much of my own outlook on life. It occurs just about halfway through, at a time when the narrator is learning that an individual life, like a single building or an entire metropolis, is a process of construction, use, and wear over time, a million pieces held together by a purpose perhaps appreciated fully only in restrospect; I thought to end our time together by quoting it:

I felt it vibrating through my fingertips — like the time I touched the robot girl’s damaged nipple at Dad’s studio door, only much, much worse.

If that drives one person to read your book, I’ll have done my part.

 

 

Thank you Mr. Gill and of course, Vostromo for this great interview!

Mr. Gill has generously offered a brand-new copy of his book, The Gargoyle Hunters to a PaperBackSwap member who comments here on the Blog. A winner will be chosen at random. We will announce the winner in a week. Good Luck to everyone!

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Author Interview with Nya Gregor Fleron

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

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Author Interview with Nya Gregor Fleron by Vostromo

NYA GREGOR FLERON (it’s pronounced “knew ya”) was born and raised in Copenhagen. As if this wasn’t unfair enough in and of itself, she was also born with the cheekbones of not just a goddess but all possible goddesses because I, for one, don’t see how there’s enough calcium in the universe left to do… anything. I mean yeah she’s talented and friendly and cheerful and bright and wise but the point is, if you can’t find your letter opener, she’s the one to call.

Nya holds a Master’s in Creative Writing from City College NY, which just adds to the unfairness thing. Her novel Kali’s Gift was published in 2013 by Cheekbone Press (I’m kidding! … or am I?)

Nya has dedicated herself to exploring and experiencing the world with a confident curiosity and free self-reliance I wish I had. She has held a carousel of jobs ranging from amusement park ride operator to Program Associate at the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy but her real purpose on this planet, besides Emergency Scalpel Replacement, is to show everybody else that the pursuit of happiness Out There is the one thing that will make you unhappy — a message sadly lost when daily concerns and shiny stuff misdirect us. I know Nya’s had her sad and difficult times like anyone, but I’m equally sure she’s learned to handle them better than many, because she’s mastered the art of smiling on the inside even when she can’t on the outside. You only have to spend five minutes under her blue-eyed gaze (see fairness, un-) to know that: to become aware that there is, after all, a calm warmth in the world you’ve sensed but couldn’t put a face to until now — and you won’t notice until much, much later that your expensive kitchen knives seem suddenly barely adequate.

Nya’s latest book, Staying Happy: Personal Happiness Through Movement and Love has just been published.

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VOSTROMO: Welcome, Nya. You’ve spent much of your life traveling and experiencing different cultures, and reflecting on the way cultures are both shaped by, and shape, individuals. In Staying Happy you note a conscious decision to smile at people (When I come to new places in the world, I can get a sense of how open people are by seeing how many smile back) and I wonder: is it true that dental care in Malmö is significantly cheaper than in Copenhagen? Asking for a friend.

NYA GREGOR FLERON: Thanks, Greg. First can I say how extremely happy I am to be here. Thank you for your flattering introduction, I especially enjoy your fascination with my cheekbones. Regarding your specific question, I cannot say I know for sure. I try to stay away from dentists for the sake of my own happiness. My bet is, if the Swedish dollar is still lower than the Danish, that your friend could find some better deals in Sweden.

V: You’ve explored the cultural, interpersonal and spiritual connections people share through such disciplines as dance and yoga. Common to both is the notion of “losing one’s self” for a while through a focus on action over thought. I often act without thinking, and without going into detail (let’s just say I followed your advice in Chapter Eight and… hugged a tree like I… meant it…) would you happen to know any affordable defense attorneys in the Chicago area? Asking for a friend.

NGF: I am so glad to hear you are trying out some of my advice and getting out of your comfort zone. I am sorry if it got you, I mean your friend, into trouble, perhaps that is part of the experience you are co-creating? I am not familiar with lawyers in Chicago, but I do know a few here in New York I could hook you, I mean your friend, up with. Another great exercise I suggest is to share your story with a stranger. Sounds like a great opportunity for this. Let me know how it goes.

V: You were born in Copenhagen, Denmark, generally considered one of the world’s most beautiful and culturally interesting cities. Yet you’ve chosen to live in Brooklyn, NY. Our readers want to know: what’s wrong with you?

NGF: Ha ha. I totally understand your question: why would I leave El Dorado? The Danish translation of El Dorado is Smørhul — roughly translated it means “butter hole” which derives from the idea that the melted butter in the middle of the porridge is in the most peaceful and cozy spot. What better place for me to live in than New York to prove to the world that you can be happy anywhere? My happiness is my responsibility and I can make the best out of anywhere. On a more serious note, I actually find that New York brings out much more dynamic parts of myself that have helped me get over shyness and get out of my comfort zone: to become more alive. A life with little challenge and variety can result in sleepiness, and at least here in New York it is hard to fall asleep, so it suits my personality.

V: Laetitia Casta was chosen as the model for an update to “Marianne,” the symbol of the French Republic; rumor had it (incorrectly) that Annette Bening modeled for the revamped Columbia Pictures “Torch Lady” figurehead; am I correct in assuming that you are the model behind the Gillette Mach 3 Turbo Series razors?

NGF: Again I am flattered by your obsession with my cheekbones, ha-ha. I am vaguely familiar with Gillette’s different types of razors, am I correct in saying that Gillette Mach 3 is a razor for men? So… do you use one?

V: I’ll ask the questions, thank you very much. Many websites claim that, with sufficient determination, anyone can achieve Fleron-level sharpness, yet I remain skeptical. Thoughts? Can you describe your own cheekbone regimen?

NGF: Healthy diet, love, smiles, laughter and dance I am sure play into it. I also take a supplement, Chiamaka, which is supposed to hydrate your skin and hair. I also use various different skin products. But more importantly I think your admiration of my cheekbones plays a big part in their well-being.

V: Followup question: Have you ever cut yourself just washing your face?

NGF: No I cannot say I have, but I do have a tendency to be a little clumsy (perhaps due to too much excitement), so at times I accidentally poke my skin with my nails. Cute little crescent moons.

V: Lastly, Staying Happy ends with a quote from Carl Jung: There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. Is this an adequate description of why you agreed to do this interview? Asking for a friend.

NGF: Yes, definitely. All the tears of laughter have been invaluable and the praise received and the brain-wracking to come up with some clever responses. How did I do?

V: I’ll ask the questions!

 

Nya Gregor Fleron has generously offered a brand-new copy of her book Staying Happy Personal Happiness Through Movement and Love to a PaperBackSwap member who comments here on the PaperBackSwap Blog. A winner will be chosen at random.

Thank you Vostromo and Nya Gregor Fleron!

 

 

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Author Interview and Book Give-Away!

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

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Author Interview with Paula W. Millet by Diane G. (icesk8tr)

I would like to thank Paula W. Millet author of her first book Angelique’s Storm for taking the time to be with us today. Congratulations on the publication of your first book!

Thanks for inviting me!  I am excited to connect with the PaperBackSwap community to discuss my book.

In looking at your web site, we see that you were a teacher for many years. What inspired you to become a writer, and does the teaching background make it easy for you to make this transition?

Indeed. Teaching high school English and Speech was my professional career, having spent decades in the classroom, so my interest in literature and fascination with words has its roots in that part of my life. When I retired, I had the time to pursue some of the interests I had deferred when the time demands of balancing work and family were too great. Writing a book was always on my bucket list. I like to refer to this as my second chapter.

 

What is a quick synopsis of Angelique’s Storm?

Probably the easiest way to describe the plot is to give you the synopsis from the book cover:

The rain came down in heavy sheets and the wind howled around her as the angry surf churned in response. But she had battled the storms of life before, and she would not be intimidated, not by nature’s fury nor by a man, even one who once had her heart… 

When the beautiful plantation-born socialite Angelique Latour is swept off her feet and quickly wedded to a swarthy scoundrel, her world is turned upside down. Although schooled to be a charming, proper Creole belle, her fine education does not prepare her for the cruel irony that leaves her penniless and alone. Haunted by loss and betrayal, she refuses to be a victim, tapping into her own resourcefulness to save herself in a world where men traditionally hold the power and position. And just as a unique opportunity for reinvention, redemption, and romance presents itself, forces of nature and the universe plot to spoil her happiness, driving her hopes with a hurricane’s fury into the wide expanse of the Gulf of Mexico. Angelique’s Storm weaves a powerful tale of suspense, treachery, and survival against the backdrop of pre-Civil War South Louisiana

 

What gave you the ideas for the story Angelique’s Storm?

I currently work part time as an educator at Tellus Science Museum. We have a program for our school groups called Galactic Weather. And one day, while in the lab, I started thinking about life before modern meteorology, the peril of being unable to warn people of impending storms. Weather forecasting has saved many lives, hasn’t it? That was a pivotal moment for me, giving me the basic premise for Angelique’s Storm. The conflict, and plot were the vehicle from which the story could be told as I began to weave a romantic historical tale of these ill-fated characters caught in one of the most disastrous storms in recorded history, which interestingly enough, has had very little written about it, either in fiction or nonfiction. Of course, I became totally captivated by Angelique in the process.

 

You really brought this story to life with your writing and made me feel like I was right there with Angelique! How much of your childhood and background played into this?

Growing up in South Louisiana, specifically Terrebonne Parish, provided me with a rich cultural heritage.  Weekends were spent at “the camp,” which almost always included a boat ride out to Last Island. And as a child, I thought it was the most magical place on earth, a pristine sandy beach to explore with wild abandon, while the grown-ups fished in the surf. I can’t remember the first time I heard the story of when it was a lively resort more than a century earlier, the holiday destination of choice for the well-heeled bourgeoisie. But those tales always ended with a vivid description of the devastating hurricane that whipped through the island, destroying everything in its path. The tragedy seemed to cast a somber shadow over the beauty of the place, but in my mind, it was all so dreamy and romantic and terrible.

My interest in the last barrier island never seemed to wane as I grew into adulthood and sadly watched it slowly erode into the Gulf, its vulnerable position causing it to grow smaller and smaller with each decade. I happily brought my own children there to collect seashells and catch blue crabs, to build sand castles and swim in the salty water.  And I shared the history with them as well, a legacy passed on to the next generation. When I moved to Georgia, I had to visit one last time, just to say goodbye.

It seemed appropriate, then, that I would chose this mystical place as the setting of my debut novel. And while I certainly felt a kinship with the island, researching the stories of those who lived, played, and died there renewed my enthusiasm for writing a story about what might have happened. My imagination took it from there.

 

How long did you take to write the book?

About ten months, although I did take four months off at the midway point. Life sometimes gets in the way, making it hard to commit to the routine of daily writing. And then, my muse took off to Belize, leaving me to fend for myself. The inspiration returned in February, when the cold winter months motivated me to complete it. Within six weeks, I was ready to edit and revise the draft.

 

Did you stay within your planned outlines, or did you ever write yourself into a situation you could not get out of?

I knew where I wanted the story to end and had already mapped out a powerful climax in my mind, so I worked backwards in the outlining, which was the basic skeleton of the story, with only a couple of pages of key points.  I also had random sticky notes posted everywhere, jotting down ideas whenever one came to mind.  Much to my delight, the details and characterization magically appeared, often surprising me in the process. So I think I am a plotter, but I also like to fly by the seat of my pants when necessary.

 

How do you deal with the times you may encounter writer’s block?

Does opening a bottle of good wine count? Sometimes, you have to just take a break and wait for the creative juices to flow once more. Forced writing often comes across as such, right? And then, there is that fickle muse. She does like wine, though.

 

We see that Angelique is a very strong woman who seems to be able to get through anything. Is Angelique anyone you know, or a combination of people in your life?

The world has always been influenced by fearless, loving women, those survivors, who have had the faith, and fortitude to weather the storms of life without giving up or becoming bitter. There is beauty and power in that determination. And so I think that Angelique is a metaphor, patterned after so many of the female role models I have known in my life, both friends and family. I hope that this book indirectly honors them.

 

Being a person who never liked history, your book actually compelled me to look up the events from that time frame and the story of the Last Island. Were you always a history buff?

 I never pictured myself as a writer of historical fiction. I tend to think of it as the names, dates, and places that we were all forced to memorize in school, which killed any interest in the past for me.  Or so I thought. But I have come to understand that there are remarkable stories of people who lived through amazing moments in time, tales handed down to us through documents and fragments they left behind. This allows us to piece together a fascinating puzzle, envisioning what might have happened, to indirectly view history from a human perspective.

 And yes, Angelique’s Storm combines much of the conflicting accounts of what happened on that fateful day and night of August 10, 1856.  But the story itself is fiction, a romantic tale of the horror of nature’s fury and the triumph of the human spirit had we been there to witness it.

 

Do you enjoy reading books yourself? If so, what types of books do you enjoy?

I have always been an avid reader; I think most writers are, don’t you?  I used to anxiously wait for the bookmobile to make its way through our neighborhood as a kid. (Do they even have those anymore?)  And I had a library card from the moment I was old enough to get one. Books have taught me, comforted me, transported me.  Goodness knows, as both a student and teacher, I read the classics, those timeless works from the masters. Now, I tend to like contemporary fiction, with real settings and believable characters, but a good storyline will entice me to read almost anything, especially if it is well written and unique. Let’s just say, I don’t limit myself to one genre. Most readers don’t, especially with so many exciting choices out there.

 

Will there be another book in your future?

The allure of Angelique’s story has compelled me to delve further into the fictional tale, so yes, there will be a sequel, Angelique’s War, which takes our heroine into the Civil War and its challenges. I am currently halfway through the rough draft, which I do believe is going to take the reader on a wild ride. I plan to release it next spring. The third book in the trilogy will be Angelique’s Peace.

I also have completed a work of contemporary fiction, a novel that now needs to be tweaked. Once I finish the editing, I will release it. I am hopeful that will happen next summer.

And because I like a challenge, I already have an idea for another trilogy, which, ironically, will be cultural, historical fiction as well.

 

Where is your Angelique’s Storm available? How can readers keep up with you?

It is currently available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. I have an author page linked to the book there. I also have a Facebook page (Paula W. Millet, author) and a website (paulamillet.com), where I blog regularly. And you can find me on Goodreads, too. I enjoy connecting on a more personal level with readers, so I hope that your community of booklovers will feel free to join in the discussion or contact me directly. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Thanks so much for spending time with us today!!

Thank you! I have enjoyed it.  Writers are always hopeful that something they have written will find a way into a reader’s heart, so I appreciate the opportunity to connect with your membership.

 

Ms. Millet has generously offered a brand new copy of Angelique’s Storm to a PaperBackSwap member who comments here on the PaperBackSwap Blog. A winner will be chosen at random.

 

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