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Author Interview and Book Give-Away with Dr. Harold Shinitzky

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015









Dr. Shinitzky is one of the very first authors to be interviewed on our PaperBackSwap Blog. He has a new book out and has agreed to another interview! Thank you Dr. Shinitzky, and welcome back!


Your new book, Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life, published last month, addresses an issue many people seem to suffer with, anxiety. Why this topic? Are anxiety disorders on the rise today?

You ask a great question, why did we (Drs. Shinitzky, Cortman and O’Connor) choose to write this book covering specifically this one topic, anxiety?  If you think you are alone and the only one suffering from anxiety, it might be helpful to realize that anxiety has become the “Common Cold of Mental Health”.  18% of the adult US population satisfies the criteria for any one of the anxiety disorders.  That’s approximately 40 million people.  So, when someone says you are One-in-a-Million, you really are One-in-a-Group-of-40.  Anxiety disorders are more commonly discussed today than ever before.  The topic of anxiety has been on the front cover of major magazines, discussed on all television networks and due to the proliferation of social media anxiety has become a buzz word throughout society.  The reality is that anxiety does not appear to be on the rise but we as a society have become more aware and willing to discuss, assess and seek treatment for a condition that previously went untreated and oftentimes disabled individuals.  What is unique about our book, Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life we are not anti-medication, we have chosen to empower individuals by teaching a range of behavioral steps that they can use to help manage or resolve their stress or anxiety.


Is there a level of anxiety in everyone? Isnt some anxiety a normal reaction to everyday life?

When discussing the topic of anxiety it is vitally important to start by sharing the reality that everyone experiences “anxiety”.   In actuality, the more accurate term would be “arousal”.  As a species, we are built to handle arousal to our system.  You wake and realize that you have a classroom presentation to give in one week.  You question if you are prepared for a job interview.  You have a competitive sporting event this weekend.  You want to ask that person out.  Whenever you perceive some stressor you tend to react.  This natural reaction or arousal is actually healthy.  It alerts you.  It drives you to become active.  As a matter of fact there is a simple yet elegant equation that explains anxiety, Investment + Perceived Threat (real or imagined) = Anxiety.  If you don’t have a horse in this race, you won’t be too concern as to the outcome.  Likewise, if you don’t perceive a threat to this invested situation, you don’t experience any arousal.  There is a great way to describe the normal process of anxiety or arousal.  Imagine a capital letter “U”.  Now imagine the “U” upside-down.  shin

Several years ago, a concept was postulated by Yerkes-Dodson called the “Inverted-U” law.  As your system perceives stress or arousal or anxiety, you become alerted and your performance actually rises.  The left side of the inverted-U curve is healthy stress, also known as Eustress.  As you awaken your system to address your life circumstance you ascend to your optimal performance levels.  This is when you are attentive, applying yourself, committed, and as the athletes that I treat would say, they are in the “zone”.  The problem exists when someone becomes too aroused at which point the curve reflects the Law of Diminishing Returns.  The right side of the inverted-U curve is unhealthy, also known as Distress.  In Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life we start by helping individuals realize that we all experience anxiety, that it is normal and that if managed properly can be very helpful towards achieving your goals.


How can someone tell if anxiety is controlling their life?

We encourage people to look at their anxiety based on three factors, Frequency, Duration and Intensity.  As we mentioned earlier that anxiety is normal, we therefore have to consider these three factors as important towards discovering the extent and impact of anxiety in your life.  The three factors can be posed as questions that you ask yourself. First, How often (frequency) do I experience this emotion?  When I get anxious, how long does it last (duration)?  Finally, when it happens, how extreme (intensity) is my anxiety?  I had treated a young man who told me that he was a very health conscious individual which is why he chose to use the stairs rather than take the elevator.  The problem was that my office is on the 24th Floor.  By the time he got to my floor our scheduled appointment was over.  Clearly, his fear of the elevator cable snapping and plummeting to his untimely death led him to avoid the elevator and create a logical explanation.  Another gentleman that I treated would leave his house each morning, lock his front door, and walk to his car and then question if he had truly locked the front door.  His intrusive thoughts and fears that someone would now have free access to his home and belongings led him to return to the front door and relock it.  Again, upon entering his vehicle, he second guessed himself wondering if he had just unlocked a locked door, leaving all of his worldly possessions ripe for the picking.  This pattern would occur between 20 and 25 times each morning.  Can you imagine what the neighbors thought when they observed this repetitive behavior each and every morning.  If your anxiety is interfering in your school responsibilities, social/interpersonal life, or vocation you may need to work with a respected professional. 


Who should read this book?

Who is our book for? Humans.  What, you want more than that as my answer?  We have written this as a self-help book for the general public.  We hope that we have penned a book that is both educational and entertaining, or as we like to say, “Edutainment”. Our goal is for anyone struggling with an issue of anxiety or if you know someone that is adversely affected by anxiety to read, Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life and learn steps towards addressing and resolving the angst in their life.  We have divided the book into discussing the normalcy of anxiety, causes of anxiety, creative as well as comprehensive tools to address anxiety, and finally we covered the five most common anxiety disorders that we see in our clinical practices (e.g.; Phobias, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). 


Chapter 3 begins: Bright lights, loud noises, the taste of rocky mountain oysters—there are but a few stimuli that are deemed to be universal stressor and consistently cause anxiety in humans. The rest are in your head. Is it all really just a matter of changing one’s view of things?

As Wayne Dwyer is oftentimes quoted, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Yes, it truly comes down to perception.  Remember the equation, Investment + Perceived Threat (real or imagined) = Anxiety.  I ask your readers to consider this concept.  What makes me nervous may not make you worry and what makes you anxious may not make me stressed.  Your feelings are statements of You.  Not everyone reacts the same way to a situation.  Some people love public speaking while others would rather have their non-dominant arm torn off.  Your feelings are statements about your Perception of Reality, not about reality.  A child who becomes fearful that someone is breaking into the house even though they know the branches from the tree rub against their window, still wants her mommy to stay with her until she falls asleep.  (I’m wondering why the parents just don’t cut the branches back).  Your emotions are reflecting upon your Investment.  Three people watched the Super Bowl together.  One jumped for joy as their team won.  The second person cried with their head and their hands in defeat.  The third person stared at the other two with a perplexed look wondering why two grown adults would be reacting so mightily to a game played by other people who could never hear their cheers as if their own lives depended on the outcome.  It is a pleasure to help individuals realize that if they develop healthier, more adaptive coping skills that challenge their previous methods they can overcome their greatest fears and worries.  The most common reaction that people display to an anxiety producing situation is avoidance. Once they avoid the stress inducing situation, their anxiety and worry decreases but only in the short-term.  Avoidance never provides long-term resolution.  A young lady that I treated was afraid of dogs.  All dogs, even a baby Cocker Spaniel. She would avoid the beast by darting across the street.  The short-lived relief by avoidance quickly vanished when out from a different store came a woman carrying a purse with a Tea Cup Chihuhua.  Again, the holy terror of this vicious creature would elicit fear and avoidance.  The only remaining option was to avoid the sidewalks and head to the middle of the street.  When working with individuals who possess anxiety it is important to empower the person by understanding that your emotions are statements of You, Your Perception of Reality and Reflect your Investment. 

After this awareness becomes solidified we then turn our focus on how this person is experiencing “anxiety”.  Anxiety can occur in one of three forms; Physiological, Thoughts and Feelings.  Some people only experience physical stress, tightness or changes in their heart rate and breathing.  Some individuals have intrusive thoughts and negative self-talk.  Lastly, other individuals might experience fears, worries and dread about the future events.  You might have one or a combination of the three.  Once we identify how someone is experiencing anxiety, an appropriate treatment plan can be created to address any of these three forms of distress.

This is your second book coauthored with Dr. Chris Cortman. What is next for you? Will you collaborate on another book together?

This has been a magnificent experience collaborating with Dr. Cortman again.  In our current Anxiety book we also co-authored with Dr. Laurie-Ann O’Connor who offered exceptional insights into the realm of Mindfulness, Yoga and other forms of helpful coping skills for anxiety.  Dr. Cortman and I have now converted our first book, Your Mind: An Owner’s Manual for a Better Life (Career Press, 2009) into an evidence-based youth prevention curriculum titled, The Social Black Belt (SBB).  We wanted to share the 10 Truths from our first book to a young audience.  We have now conducted two separate research studies to assess the impact of the SBB on the students’ Knowledge, Attitude and Behavior.  Just like in the martial arts, when you attained your highest level of skill, you receive a black belt.  When you possess a black belt you don’t go looking for trouble but when trouble presents itself, you can handle the situation.  Through the Social Black Belt, we proactively provide a range of skills through this onsite, interactive, fun-filled prevention program to today’s students.  Once they have attained their Social Black Belt, they don’t go looking for trouble but when trouble presents itself they can handle the situation.  Students are more self-confident, possess greater assertiveness, set healthy personal boundaries and are able to set long-term and short-term goals.  The SBB helps address bullying behaviors and fosters the development of pro-social behaviors.  The SBB is now being replicated across the country.  For more information on the Social Black Belt go to
Who is your favorite author? What book was your favorite when you were a child?

My favorite book when I was a child was, Harold and the Purple Crayon.  Guess what? My favorite color is purple and I still like to draw images and then entering into them for an exciting adventure.



Do you read self-help books?

Yes, I like reading self-help books.  I believe that we all have room for improvement.  A recent book that I read was, How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by the Dalai Lama.


Was there someone who influenced you when you were young to pursue psychology as a career?

When I was 15 years old a family member commented about my interpersonal style and how people turned to me with questions that I helped them to discover their answers.  They informed me that there was a profession called, Psychology.  I was introduced to 5 different Psychologists with different sub-specialties which I found extremely interesting.  So, I declared my major at 15 years old.  My high school Psychology teacher, Mr. Albiani was an incredible individual and mentor for better understanding the field of Psychology.

If you weren’t a psychologist, what would you be?

An artist or a tennis player.

Golf or hockey?


Skittles or M&Ms?

M&Ms.  The more chocolate the better.

Beach or mountains?


Lady Gaga or Tony Bennett?

I’d pay to see Lady Bennett or Tony Gaga.  I could see both.


To read more about Dr. Shinitzky you can visit his website:

To read the first Author Interview Dr. Shinitzky did with us for the PaperBackSwap Blog click here:

Dr. Harold Shinitzky of Your Mind: An Owner’s Manual for a Better Life


Dr. Shinitzky has generously offered 3 brand new copies of his book, Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life,

to 3 PaperBackSwap members who comment on this blog. The Winners will be chosen at random from the entries we receive.






Winner! The Winner of The Love Book by Nina Solomon is

Monday, December 22nd, 2014


The winner of Nina Solomon‘s brand new book, The Love Book, is:

Susan C. (couponchampion)


Congratulations Susan, your book will be out to you shortly!

Thank you Vostromo for introducing us to another great author and thank you to Ms. Solomon for agreeing to be interviewed by Vostromo and thank you for the copy of your new book to give away to one of our members!

To read the interview click here.


Author Interview and Book Give-Away – Nina Solomon

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014


An Interview with Author Nina Solomon by Greg (VOSTROMO)


NINA SOLOMON is a die-hard New Yorker, Columbia graduate, BFF to our previous Vostrinterview subject Elizabeth Crane, could stand to snack on some Entenmann’s from time to time (just saying), and I don’t trust her mother. She is the subject of one of my more potentially embarrassing male moments, which affords me a great story when people ply me with frozen margaritas, and what makes it even better is I’m not completely sure she knows what I’m referring to. Her debut novel SINGLE WIFE was a Literary Guild, Book-of-the-Month Club and QPB selection, and was praised by Elle as having “both flair and heart” — which pretty much describes her too. Only skinnier. Her new novel THE LOVE BOOK will be published in January by Kaylie Jones / Akashic Books. More at


VOSTROMO: Welcome, Nina, and thanks for spending some time with us. Reading through the press materials for your new novel The Love Book I was struck by an incident you relate where an admirer “began showering me with pastries.” I’m wondering: where did this take place, and do you think he’s still there? What kind of pastries were these? cheese danish? coffee cake? muffins? were they muffins? were the muffins iced? buttercreme, or the cheap stuff? Did you eat them all? If you did, did you gain any weight?

NINA SOLOMON: Did I eat them all? Did I eat them all? I thought you knew me better than that. I have never been known to leave a dessert unfinished, unless it’s laced with rum, which makes me nauseous. The pastry-plying admirer was the guard at my son’s school, but on the side he studied at the Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA) and besides fancy pastries like mille-feuille, Napoleons, almond croissants, he used to bring me entire cakes. Did I gain weight? No, not an ounce.

V: Also in the kit are references to finding a kitten in a grocery store and a man’s mock marriage proposal in a supermarket; your acknowledgments mention a friend’s saffron risotto; and in the novel itself one character is moved to ask “Are there any pizza bagels left?” while another stops at a deli for cookies on her way home. Indeed, of the thirty-four chapters comprising The Love Book, thirty-four of them have some type of eating and drinking. Given this focus on the notion of love as food for the soul, a question: how do you stay so thin?

NS: I only gain weight during football season when Edy’s makes Touchdown Sundae ice cream.


V: Your first book Single Wife is shaped by the structural outlines of the mystery novel, while The Love Book begins as a classic winding road trip. Given this appreciation of genre contours, tell us a bit about your own exercise regimen and how you maintain that youthful, girlish figure.

NS: Thank you, V, no other reviewer has ever asked me that. My mother, whom you do not trust, once saw me reaching for a second piece of fudge and said, “Don’t ruin your boyish figure.” You can’t both be right. I guess I respond to shaming. The “friend” who makes the amazing saffron risotto is also an exercise fiend and gets me to climb one hundred flights of stairs every day by telling me that if I don’t, I’ll start responding to “Lard-ass.” I think he’s also a bit of a sadist. He calls me a sugar smack head, then brings home three half-gallons of Edy’s Touchdown Sundae and a two-by-four mega Toblerone bar. A few days later he’ll innocently ask me where the ice cream went. You have to be fast around here.


V: You’ve been quite open about the inspiration behind The Love Book, namely your own experience looking for new romance after the end of your marriage. You describe finding a real-life “love book” and following its methods to a happily fruitful outcome. Given that dining out is a universal aspect of dating, and that your current boyfriend is French — we know ze French love ze gastronomie — can you offer our readers any advice from your own journey on staying slender while on the market?

NS: Staying slender while I was on the market was easy. There was no one to cook for me.

V: A major theme underlying much of Western literature is the quest for personal value — identity, place, purpose — outside of that set and defined by social expectation. In both Single Wife and The Love Book a woman revises and expands her sense of self beyond being wife, mother, object of male attention. Would you say that one’s inner journey burns as many calories as jogging, or spin class? Is carrying emotional baggage as effective as free weights?

NS: From personal experience, I would say that emotional baggage is at least as effective at burning calories as sleep.


V: We’ve mentioned that you are very close friends with Betsy Crane, herself a successful author. How’s Betsy’s weight these days?

NS: Betsy is successful and svelte. She recently suggested I begin calculating points. I’ve found it a useful tool to help moderate my intake of food. As Oprah says, nothing tastes as good as thin feels! Did you know that one cup of premium Edy’s Touchdown Sundae ice cream is only 20 points? That leaves me 6 points to splurge on rainbow sprinkles (and it’s not even noon)!


V: You’re on the faculty of Wilkes University — on their website is a “Healthy Dorm Cookbook” which I have to tell you is awesome. Which do you prefer, the Apple Sandwiches or the Curried Tuna Salad, and which would you say is more effective at losing the “freshman fifteen?”

NS: Apple Sandwiches? Really? There’s a recipe for that? The good news is that a 16 Handles has recently opened in beautiful Wilkes-Barre. They have a totally awesome non-fat, sugar-free frozen yogurt. If you only add twelve ounces of caramel and sprinkles, you’ll be beach body ready before long.


V: Finally, I too am slender — why haven’t I been published?

NS: I just calculated your BMI — it’s a gift — and determined that you are indeed at your ideal weight! It shouldn’t be long before you too have a book deal and then I’ll be interviewing you. Only better.



Nina Solomon has generously offered a brand new trade-size paperback copy of her new book The Love Book, to a member who comments on the blog. Winner will be chosen at random, Friday, December 19, 2014 at 12 noon EST.

Thanks to Vostromo for another valiant attempt to grapple with the definition of “interview” and to Nina Solomon for playing along.







Interview with Author & PBS Member and Book Give-Away

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

We asked and WOW did we get a response! We are very happy to announce the beginning of a new feature here on the PaperBackSwap Blog. We are proud to give a showcase to our Members who are also Authors by sharing some of their work. We will have Author Interviews, Book Reviews and Book Give-Aways of some of our own very talented Members!

We begin this series with an interview with Member and Author H.L. Blake. We hope you enjoy!

Seagirl by  H. L. Blake

Cheryl: Thank you Ms. Blake for agreeing to an interview with us for the PBS Blog. I thoroughly enjoyed your book, Seagirl. Where did the idea come from?

Ms. Blake: I have always loved the ocean, even though I haven’t been lucky enough to live near it. My sister had her wedding on a beach in North Carolina, and we stayed in a beach house there for a few days before the ceremony. It was an amazing experience that stayed with me for weeks when I came back to “inlander” civilization. I was looking for a book to recapture the magic feeling of that trip and couldn’t find just the right one. Then I woke up at 4 a.m. with Serena’s story fully formed in my head, wrote the first and last chapter that morning, and filled in the rest in the next few weeks.

Are you as enamored with the sea as Serena?

Oh yes. When Serena’s stream of consciousness talks about her love of the ocean, that is me talking. And some people do give me funny looks when I go on and on about it! I still don’t know why I don’t live there. Someday perhaps.


There is a theme of loss through the book, and all of the main characters seem to deal with their losses in different ways. But returning to the sea is healing for all of them, has there been a place of healing for you?

I think nature in general is healing for me. A quiet stream in the hills of Pennsylvania with nothing else around – the desolation and grandeur of the northern part of the Grand Canyon without all the tourist traps – and of course the rush and wind of the ocean. These places clear all the detritus of the world away and show the earth in its raw, original form, clean, breathtaking, and wild. When I spend time there, my mind is clearer and my soul made calmer by the experience.


This book is referred to as Young Adult fiction with a dash of fantasy, but I believe it is a book that young people and adults will enjoy equally. Did you write it as a book for young adults?

Young Adult fiction is a funny genre. I think when the main character is of that age, publishers and perhaps readers too automatically identify it as young adult fiction. I personally enjoy YA lit and read it extensively, even though I am a few years past that age myself! But I did try to keep the vocabulary and prose to an age appropriate to a main character in her early twenties, so by extension it would likely be comfortable for a reader of that age. Certainly, any age is welcome to read and enjoy it – we can all be YA at heart!


I related to Serena’s struggle with acceptance, both of her mother’s death and coming to terms with herself and her father. I wanted to tell her to take the time she needs to heal. Was there anything you would have liked to say to Serena?

Don’t let people tell you what you need to feel. The pressures from around Serena led her to suppress her emotions unhealthily for years, to the extent that she cut herself off somewhat from others, and it was painful to try to “live” again after all that time. Persons, even well-meaning loved ones, can cause great harm by telling those in pain to get over it. Only the one who has been hurt has the right to say what she is feeling and what she needs to survive and heal in time.


Serena is an artist, using her art as a means to survive. Do you find being creative is as necessary for yourself?

Absolutely. Writing is my lifeline and has been as long as I can remember. When I write, it is like opening a vein onto the page, my whole heart and soul given to the art – certainly it can be raw and painful – but afterwards I have something real and beautiful, and feel that ugliness and pain has been drained away. My poetry is most like that, my prose also to an extent. For me, writing Seagirl was a difficult but ultimately very healing experience.


Serena loves sea creatures as much as she loves the sea. Have you ever seen a mermaid?

*Laughing* I wish I could say I had. I did believe in fairies and unicorns long past the age when one usually gives up such things, and still greatly enjoy escaping into the world of fantasy. Just because they only exist as words on a page does not make such things not real – they are as real as your own inner thoughts, dreams, and imagination. You don’t have to give up dreaming and believing just because you are an “adult”!


Being a long time member of PaperBackSwap, do you find being an author and a member is at odds for you?

I’m not sure what you mean by “at odds” unless you mean that “reading” time takes away from “writing” time. That much is true! I have to force myself, as E. L. Konigsburg says, “to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish!” Sometimes the lure of the freshly arrived paperback in the mail overcomes the desire to give hours of blood, sweat, and tears into finishing a chapter or two of my own next novel. But I suppose I can always claim my reading time as research into the genre…


What is next for you?

I have previously written a science fiction novel for middle grades, which needs some editing before I try and publish it too. I also have a dystopia in the works (what author nowadays does not?) which is going to be very hard to finish, but I know will be my best work yet. My greatest hope is to be published more widely. It is very difficult (impossible) to break into authorship these days. Online- and self-publishing gives starving artists like me an outlet, but the one single item on my bucket list is genuine national publication. Here’s hoping.


Thank you Ms. Blake for this interview!

Ms. Blake has generously offered 2 brand-new autographed copies of her book, Seagirl to members who comment here on the Blog.

Good luck to everyone!







Author Interview with Robin Murphy

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014











An Interview with Author Robin Murphy by Diane G. (icesk8tr)



We would like to welcome Robin Murphy back to talk about her third book “Federal City’s Secret”.

Thank you Diane, it’s great to be back, and thank you for allowing me to chat about my book.


Diane: How are things going with the sales of your first two books?

Robin: I’d say my sales are average. I haven’t reached my dream of writing full time, but that day will come and I’m in it for the long haul…it’s my passion. Paranormal mysteries are a sub-genre, so it takes quite a bit of marketing to get my book into a new reader’s hands.


Diane: Are you planning on continuing with the series with every new book you write?

Robin: With regard to fiction writing, it’s hard to say. It’s been the case so far, but actually, I just finished my first nonfiction book, A Complete “How To” Guide for Rookie Writers in February of this year. It’s a very practical, hands-on and user-friendly book to enable a rookie writer to learn how to get their newly created work produced and available to readers.

I write what “nags” in my brain. I am a bit of a panster, so I do write what pokes at me and gives me the most pleasure. I work at writing for myself first, and then for everyone else. When I follow that rule, I’d like to think it comes across in my writing.


Diane: Your third book “Federal City’s Secret” brings us to Washington, DC for another adventure. Is there any significance in the locations you have picked for your stories, and are you going to continue with a different location for each book?

Robin: There isn’t any significance, other than these places excite me and I’ve enjoyed visiting them to use as my settings. Washington, DC is very close to where I live and I’ve been there many times, so it was a natural fit for this book.

My fourth book will be back in South Carolina, but will include another island. I love the beach, so it’s a natural pull for me to travel there and discover new areas to include in my book.


Diane: Marie is continuing to grow as a psychic and gain new abilities. Is this going to change her relationship with the other members of the team as she grows?

Robin: I love that you noticed how Marie is growing, which is something I tried to convey through each of these stories. Even though these stories are fiction, readers need to be able to associate with them, flaws and strengths, it makes us enjoy being around the characters in the books we read.

The changes that take place in the relationships between Marie and the SIPS team, as well as Cory, are gradual but very important. The team has come to genuinely appreciate Marie’s gifts and they rely on her during their investigations, as well as to help solve the crimes. For Cory, well why don’t we just let the readers learn how Cory really feels about Marie’s gifts.


Diane: One of the SIPS team members has moved on to the spirit world, is she going to continue to help the team with investigations through the members abilities?

Robin: Oh I’d love to share with you how this will play out, but you’ll have to wait and read the fourth book in my series. 🙂


Diane: What is next for this series and the SIPS team?

Robin: As I said, the fourth book will take place back on Sullivan’s Island, as well as Folly Island. There will be a new beginning for Marie, along with more murders and mystery. However, this book will involve local folk lore, pirates, possibly buried treasure, and more.


Diane: Where is your book available?

Robin: Paperback and Kindle on Amazon


Diane: In my searches online I came across a Serial Killer named Robin Murphy, have you heard about this person? Maybe you could incorporate some of that into one of your books.

Robin: Interestingly enough, I came across that also, and I used the story for a bit of research on my second book, Secret of the Big Easy, but it was creepy to see my name associated with a serial killer. 🙂


Diane: Thanks again, it is always a pleasure talking to you!

Robin: Thank you Diane, it was a lot of fun. I love Paperback Swap!












Author Interview with Deanna Raybourn

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014



An Interview with Deanna Raybourn by Mirah W. (mwelday)


Several years ago a friend recommended the Lady Julia books to me and Deanna Raybourn instantly became one of my favorite authors. Recently I joined the twitter-sphere and one of the first people I chose to follow was Deanna Raybourn.  I was so happy to find she was personable and willing to communicate with readers.  Her posts are fun, endearing, intelligent, and creative.  These same characteristics are in her novels and her characters come alive on the page.  I recently reached out to Deanna via twitter and asked if she’d be interested in an interview for PaperBackSwap.  I am so happy she agreed and hope you enjoy the following Q&A.  And her generosity extends beyond just this interview, so keep reading!

MIRAH (MW): In 2013 you expanded beyond the Victorian era and the world of Lady Julia.  FAR IN THE WILDS and A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS are principally set in Kenya around 1920. CITY OF JASMINE takes us to Damascus.  What brought about this new direction and how did you select your new settings?

DEANNA (DR): My publisher wanted me to take a break from Victoriana and gave me carte blanche to write whatever I wanted. It was daunting! I made a list of topics I read about for pleasure—I jotted down about thirty or forty items. Then I started circling a few that jumped out at me and tried to piece them together. The result was A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS. When my publisher asked me to continue with 1920s adventure novels, I started thinking about the Gothic novels I grew up loving—those of Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt—and I considered the settings I enjoyed most from those. Damascus was at the top of the list. Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Peters both set books there, and you cannot find a city more steeped in history. I also wanted to incorporate some of my own personal history. When I was a child, my parents hosted four young men from the Middle East, one of them a Bedouin. They were my first encounter with a culture so different from my own, and they were very gracious and kind. I wanted to weave that in, so Damascus was the best fit. I’ve also always been fascinated by the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia, so a snippet of his story went into the pot as well.

MW: My family hosted a student from Brazil when I was a sophomore in high school and I feel the same, getting to know her was my first experience with someone from a culture unlike mine. Going to Brazil and staying with her family is when I became almost obsessed with learning about other cultures and traveling.  Your novels are set in a variety of locations.  Once you have selected the locations for your work, what type of research goes into your writing process so it feels authentic?   I’m thinking here primarily of the hunting scenes and descriptions of Kenya and Damascus.  I’ve never been to either place but your writing made it feel real to me.

DR: Thank you—I’ve never been either! However, I do a LOT of armchair traveling. I love to read travel memoirs, and I’ve learned to track down the childhood reminiscences of authors who grew up in exotic locales. Their writings are full of sensory detail and interesting characters because children are hugely observant of the smaller stories we tend to overlook. Adults will often discuss a country’s politics while a child will tell you about the pets they had, the words they learned, the folklore they were told. It gives a much more rounded picture of a culture if you can see it through a child’s eyes. I also start my research in the children’s section of the library. Nonfiction books for kids give a brief, broad history of a region, and from there it’s simple to narrow your focus in the books for adults. Otherwise, you can end up wading through fourteen centuries of backstory to get to what you need to know—lovely if you have the time to research that thoroughly, but usually that isn’t the case. The other trick I use is asking friends of mine who travel to share their experiences and travel photos. I have friends who go on safari regularly who were only too happy to let me log into their online albums and see candid shots of Africa. I also try to approximate visiting a place as much as I can from a distance. If I can’t get to France, but there’s a French specialty perfumer in a city I’m visiting, I’ll pay a visit. When I couldn’t get to Africa, I had a few directors of wildlife parks show me around and introduce me to the animals. It wasn’t the same as going on safari, but I did at least get to stand five feet in front of a lion as it roared at me, and that helped!

MW: Checking children’s nonfiction books is a great idea.  And I imagine just being in roaring distance of a lion would be exciting! In addition to your strong locale descriptions, you give us strong characters. I love the character of Delilah Drummond.  She is what my dad would have affectionately called a ‘spitfire’. And I love that she reappears in your novella WHISPER OF JASMINE, the prequel to your recent novel CITY OF JASMINE.  Is there the possibility I’ll see her again in future projects?


DR: It was such fun to bring Delilah back in WHISPER OF JASMINE! She was one character I was very reluctant to turn loose of simply because at the end of A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS, her story wasn’t yet complete. She has a lot of baggage from the losses she’s suffered, and we know she still has a journey ahead of her at the end of SPEAR. I would love to write more of her, but there are no plans at present. I wouldn’t rule it out, though…

MW: I’ll keep my eyes peeled for her!  I have come to expect strong female lead characters from you…Lady Julia, Delilah Drummond, Evangeline Starke. What characteristics do you think are essential when creating your female leads?


DR: I write strong women because that’s the position I try to live my life from. I don’t like to dither, and I don’t have a lot of patience with my own insecurities. Frankly, they bore me! I would much rather write about the women who are embodying the type of badassery I think we should engage in on a daily basis. Whether it’s sleuthing around to solve a murder or making the best of a bad situation or coming to terms with the ghosts of our past, when we tackle life instead of wallowing in indecision, I think it’s more compelling, more interesting, and more fun. So I believe strength and a strong sense of humor–along with a certain intrepid spirit–are essential for my heroines. They don’t always behave as I do; Delilah is a serial adulteress, for starter. But they always have good reasons for what they do. And if a character is misbehaving, as Delilah does, it’s because it comes from a place of unresolved pain. I won’t write a female lead who is a bitch for no reason. If she’s doing something awful, it’s because something awful happened to her and she hasn’t processed it properly yet. She’s stuck in a place where she’s lashing out, and she has to come to terms with that. And I make sure to show the reader what her pain is all about. I can’t expect a reader to come on board with her and invest in her journey if I haven’t demonstrated that she’s worth caring about.

MW: I love the word ‘badassery’! And having investment-worthy characters is an amazing skill.  What are some of your favorite female characters created by other authors?  What about these characters make them appealing to you?

DR: From the classics, I love Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre for their spirit—and Jane Eyre is more spirited than many people give her credit for—and naturally, I want to put Fanny Price through a window. I’d far rather hang out with Emma Woodhouse who might be bossy but at least she’s got gumption. When I want a girl who is not very likeable, I am in the mood to read about Catherine Earnshaw and Amber St. Clare; when I want to see a somewhat limp character find her backbone, I turn to the narrator of REBECCA. And I love mysterious characters like MY COUSIN RACHEL. Was she a villainess? Was she a heroine? We don’t know, and that ambiguity is fascinating to me. I am also particularly fond of Amelia Peabody and Lucy Eyelesbarrow and Flora Poste. I like their forthright, matter-of-fact competence. There are at least a few dozen I could name, but I’ll stop now.

MW: I love Jane Eyre and could talk about her all day!  Sometimes we’re lucky and you let us revisit characters we love in your work. I enjoy that characters are woven through your recent projects.  In addition to Delilah I mentioned earlier, Evangeline has a connection with Ryder White, your male lead character in A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS. While he’s not in CITY OF JASMINE, he is mentioned by Evangeline several times. What made you decide to go that route with your characters in these recent novellas and novels?

DR: After I wrote A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS, I was brainstorming CITY OF JASMINE and realized I could tie the two together to make the stories even more engaging for readers. Then I took it a step further and plotted out how to connect those two novels with future projects and past projects, and it was all just so much fun—like a giant logic puzzle! The more connections I forged, the more I wanted to create. I found all sorts of little things I had layered into previous projects that I was able to go back and exploit, things I hadn’t even intended to use again, but they fit so beautifully into what I wanted to do I had to make the most of them. And I’m not finished yet! Just last week I realized there are two more characters who have only appeared as minor figures in previous projects but whose stories I really want to tell at some point. Fingers crossed…

MW: I’m intrigued!  Now I want to know who will return!  In WHISPER OF JASMINE we are introduced to Evangeline and Gabriel, the main characters in CITY OF JASMINE.   They have an instant connection with one another and make choices they wouldn’t have foreseen.  Have you ever had an instant connection with someone or been affected by an event that led you to do things you never thought you would?  How did that connection or event change you?

DR: My husband and I had a fairly instant connection when we met, but it wasn’t nearly as romantic as Evie and Gabriel’s! It wasn’t so much love at first sight as it was a feeling of complete and utter inevitability. I just knew that my life was going to be tied to his, and I accepted it. We were engaged within three months of our first date and married on my graduation day from college—something I would NEVER have imagined myself doing. I thought I’d wander off to Paris or Rome and scribble novels while having interesting love affairs and finally marry at about thirty. I was entirely shocked to find myself married at 22! But I adore him and he’s an amazing husband, so I’m rather glad I listened to the gut instinct that told me he was mine.

MW: That’s a wonderful love story!  Love can be an amazing adventure all on its own.  In CITY OF JASMINE, Evangeline and Gabriel are on an epic adventure.  If you could pick any sort of adventure to go on, what would it be and whom would you take with you?

DR: Without hesitation, I can tell you I would love to go on safari in Kenya or Tanzania with my husband. He’s a great travel companion—my partner in adventure! And he’s never faked his death, so we have that going for us…

MW: Hold on, I’m having a fit of the giggles.  Not faking his death is a good sign!  In addition to the wonderful Evangeline, Aunt Dove is a marvelous character!  I actually want an Aunt Dove of my very own to spend time with.   If you had to pick one of your characters to spend time with, which character would it be and why?

DR: Oh, that is the least fair question you could possibly ask! I love Julia Grey, but she’s very like me, so I suspect I’d be bored with her because there wouldn’t be any surprises. And I’d be a little frightened of what Delilah might want to get up to…Aunt Dove would indeed be a hoot, and if she’s too busy dashing off somewhere interesting with one of her old lovers, I wouldn’t mind taking tea with Portia, Lady Bettiscombe. I imagine she has some very interesting stories to tell.

MW: Most novels have characters the readers like or dislike but what about from your perspective?  They are all your creations but do you like or dislike them as readers might?

DR: It’s a very different perspective to what readers have. They can approach a character dispassionately and love or hate them; they can look at a bad deed committed by a character and call it a deal-breaker. But I see what goes on behind the bad deeds. I know what they’ve suffered and why they act up sometimes, so I might have a little more compassion for them. Occasionally, readers will surprise me and have more patience with a piece of nastiness than I will because their life experience has made them more sympathetic than I might be. Everyone draws the line of acceptable behavior in a slightly different place. And I take a sort of unhealthy delight in my villains. I like to find something to enjoy about them! The twistier I can make them, the better. I don’t expect readers to particularly like them though.

MW: Having a variety of characters is what makes a good book so much better.  In addition to connecting with characters, as a reader, I enjoy being transported to other places (times and locations) through novels. This is one of the reasons I enjoy your work so much.  On the flip side of that, what do you enjoy most about being an author?

DR: I love the fact that I can immerse myself so thoroughly in a place I’ve created wholly out of my own imagination. It’s like the most glorious game of “pretend” that you played as a child, only no one tells you to clean up your toys and come to dinner. You can just keep playing, moving the people around and giving them problems to overcome and dangers to face. And I love bringing readers into that magical place and sharing the experience with them. When you can take someone out of their everyday life for just a little while, that’s an extraordinary thing, and I feel privileged to be able to do it for a living.

MW: You are (gloriously) in contact with your readers via facebook, twitter, your website and blog and on behalf of your readers everywhere I say ‘Thank You’ for that.  How do you think social media has changed the literary world?  Is it a change for the better?

DR: Thank you! I think the change is almost entirely for the better. Writing is such an isolating occupation. My pal Susanna Kearsley likens Twitter to our water cooler; we emerge, blinking, from our writing caves and catch up with each other and the world. We get to be human again for just a little bit before we skitter back to work. And I love connecting with readers! It’s the best feeling to be struggling with a scene and put it aside to check in with social media and find someone’s tweet to you telling you how much they love your work. Or wrestling with a deadline and finding a writer friend has a project due exactly the same day and you can encourage each other by holding each other accountable. It’s lovely to get out of your own head for a little bit—and when you share yourself with readers they do appreciate it tremendously. That’s definitely worth the occasional bad apple who just wants to spread their sourness.

MW: We do appreciate it! Just a few weeks ago on twitter you reached out to followers for help identifying someone you had on your ‘inspiration board’…how does the inspiration board process work for you?

DR: When I’m preparing to write a book, I scour magazines for photos that somehow evoke a character or setting or mood for me. When I have a file stuffed full, I pull out a large piece of tagboard and my glue sticks and get to work. There’s no particular method to my madness—sometimes the photos don’t have anything to do with the action of the book, they just conjure the right state of mind for me. When I’m finished with the gluing, I embellish a little with rubber stamps and then the whole thing gets framed and hung opposite my desk so I can see it when I look up from my computer. I create one for each book, and when I’m finished with revisions on a book, its inspiration board gets taken down and the new one goes up. I try to post photos of the boards so readers can see what they look like, but now they’re asking to have the actual boards–maybe I should auction them off!

MW: Auctioning them is a great idea!  And getting a peek into your process is really interesting.  And you gave me all of the internets (most generous of you, by the way) for helping you identify your inspiration board mystery man, Adam Rayner! Because of that entire twitter conversation I feel I already have something invested in this project.  When can I hope to read the project associated with this particular inspiration board?

DR: Oh, you deserve all of the internets for that! He was the physical model for the male character in my October 1 release, NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS. Characters in this book are tied to those in A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS and CITY OF JASMINE, so everything is linked in some way. It’s also set in Damascus in 1920 and the action actually dovetails with a few events in CITY OF JASMINE telling different stories of what was happening at the same time.

MW: More connections!  I love it!  I will anxiously await NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us at PaperBackSwap! Before we go, what other tidbits would you like to offer us on your upcoming releases or events?

DR: On June 1 I have a new Lady Julia digital novella, TWELFTH NIGHT, and on November 1 is another Lady Julia digital novella, BONFIRE NIGHT, in addition to NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS, the 1920s adventure novel out October 1. Lots of good things coming up, so readers can keep track by signing up for my newsletter or following me on Twitter or Facebook.

Special thanks to Deanna Raybourn for taking the time to give us great insight into her preparation, research, characters, and upcoming projects.  Trust me, you don’t want to miss CITY OF JASMINE, it’s a wonderful historical adventure!  

To see a past interview with Deanna Raybourn please click here: LINK

And Deanna has generously offered a signed copy of CITY OF JASMINE to one lucky PBS member who comments on this post.  So leave a comment and enter to win! We will choose one winner at random who comments on this Blog. You must be a PBS member to win. Winner will be announced on Tuesday April 30, 2014! Good luck to everyone!





Author Interview with Frania Shelley-Grielen

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014








An Interview with Author Frania Shelley-Grielen by Greg (VOSTROMO)

Frania Shelley-Grielen is an expert on animal behavior, training and environments. She holds two Master’s degrees and has taught for the ASPCA, NYU’s Langone Medical Center, and vocational schools. Her company offers consulting services on many animal issues for both individuals and companies. Her new book Cats and Dogs: Living with and Looking at Companion Animals from Their Point of View has just been published and is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Frania has a ridiculously endless smile, a quick wit, and a dangerously high IQ, which is what makes her friendship with me so weird. She bears (see what I did there?) a strong physical resemblance to Bebe Neuwirth, except that Bebe’s Facebook page does not include a picture of her covered in brown bear saliva. That I know of. We used to pass notes back and forth in class. I probably still owe her money. Frania, not Bebe.


Q: We met years ago when we were young and cute. We’re both older now, but you’re still cute. What’s your secret?


A: Well if there’s any truth to that, it might be that I’m still drinking that New York City tap water!


Q: You have an MA in Urban Planning from New York University. Assuming you took this degree so you could plan a workable getaway from me, to a location I could not possibly find you, was it shocking to get my Friend Request on Facebook? Which do you regret more, joining Facebook or wasting all those years in college?


A: I did think that Planning degree had relocation potential with all those cities out there, and in addition to planning for human animals I kept wanting to know what the non-human animals – not you, Greg – in the city might have to say about things – so no choice there except for more university! And these days you get friend requests from every single person you went to high school with. And guys like you.



Q: You also have an MA in Animal Behavior and Conservation from Hunter College. It’s impressive to have TWO Master’s degrees, and it obviously means you worked extremely hard throughout your schooling. Since this likely limited your time for the more… social… aspects of college life, did you get my selfie? Sorry it’s a little blurry, the dog was licking my leg, he loves the taste of olive oil. So, um, what are you doing next Saturday (see Question 1)?


A: I was married in graduate school, so Spring Break was out of the question. I did work hard but being an animal behavior nerd I loved it, and my husband got to hear about animal behavior all the time, every day… *sigh* it’s the little things that make a marriage work. Also, if you think Fido loves olive oil, use the old actor’s get-the-dog-to-act-happy-to-see-you trick: bacon grease!


[Editor’s note: astute readers will note that Ms Shelley-Grielen has not actually answered either of Vostromo’s questions. Calls to the NYU Alumni Association and Bebe Neuwirth were not returned as of this writing; we do not believe “Hunter College” is a real place.]



Q: Your book Cats and Dogs does not mention me at all. Have you fired your editors? Will there be a Revised Edition with this material restored?


A: Now that you have brought that to my attention I will be looking into it.


[Editor’s note: Vostromo is in error. He is mentioned in all editions of Cats and Dogs, except the Revised Latvian verse translation, in Chapter 42: Why Pets Pee On Your Stuff.]


Q: You’ve worked on research projects on such fascinating topics as canine and equine domestication for the Museum of Natural History in New York. Are the bathrooms there as clean and pleasant as I’ve heard?


A: So the secret’s out! They are, all those great old porcelain fixtures and windows and such. And the exhibits are pretty cool too.



Q: If you were in a lifeboat and could save only your pets or me, would you promise to let my mom know I died a hero?


A: Of course. She will be very proud of you.



Q: I have developed significant lower-back problems from years of being emotionally unable to move the cat a few inches towards the edge of the bed. Does this make you respect me more, or less?


A: So much more! – for I not only share this affliction, I also suffer from an inability to move the dog from the couch.



Q: Finally, if you could live with only one animal for the rest of your life, would it be a cat, a dog, a horse, or Russell Crowe?


A: A trick question, because everyone knows that Noah gets to take two of every animal with him!






Q: So not me, then? Hello? … Hello? Frania?




Q: … Bebe? What are you doing here? What five dollars?!










While Greg gets that straightened out, we are very glad that Frania Shelley-Grielen has generously offered a copy of her book, Cats and Dogs: Living with and Looking at Companion Animals from their Point of View as a prize to a member of PaperBackSwap!


To enter to win, please leave a comment here on the Blog. You have until Friday, April 18, 2014 at 12 noon, EDT to enter. Winners will be announced on Saturday, April 19th.




Good luck to everyone!