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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 AnimalBehaviorist.us 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!






Author Interview with Leza Lowitz

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

An interview with Author Leza Lowitz

by Greg H. (VOSTROMO)



LEZA LOWITZ has published more than fifteen books as an author, co-author, translator and editor. Her work has received international acclaim and won numerous literary and cultural awards. She has written for The Japan Times, Art in America magazine, and lectured at Tokyo University. She also runs Sun and Moon Yoga in Tokyo, where she has lived since 2003.

I met Leza in college, when two of the most striking eyes I’d ever seen turned out to be hers. Indeed, my unrequited collegiate crush on her led to some interesting times which are now part of underclass legend at Princeton – which is odd, since that’s not where we went to school. She is so accomplished, so polished, so able, that I’ve made her the sole beneficiary of my will, with the proviso that she must first voluntarily, and in front of witnesses, break a nail, stub a toe on the coffee table, or drop some kushiyaki on her sweater. Indeed reading her posts on Facebook only pisses me off, daily. It’s worth noting that Leza, for whom Japan is home and where her talents most flourished, first journeyed there in 1989, shortly after we met; could her wild success be in part attributable to a lack of Me? It is likely the answer is ever unknowable, but I, for one, choose to believe.




Q:  Congratulations on the publication of your novel JET BLACK AND THE NINJA WIND. I understand it’s the first in a projected trilogy for YA readers. Can you get me Jennifer Lawrence’s phone number?

LL: I was going to ask you the same question. Actually, I was hoping you could hook us up with Sonny Chiba.

[Editor’s note: a representative for Sonny Chiba declined our request for an interview, noting that Mr. Chiba “has much better things to do with his time.”]


Q:  On your website LezaLowitz.com – itself unfairly well-designed – your bio notes that your husband Shogo Oketani is also a writer, and that as a couple you often collaborate. Is Hanebisho toilet tissue really worth the outrageous price?

LL:  Well, as you noted, we collaborate on writing. So you know, Hanebisho deluxe paper is out of reach. Luckily, though, Japanese toilets do almost everything for you. Really, the Yubari Kings are what set us back.


Q:  You have received many accolades and awards for your work, including the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, The Bay Area Independent Publisher’s Association Award, the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, a California Arts Council Individual Fellowship in Poetry, an Independent Scholar Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Copperfield’s Dickens Fiction Award, the Barbara Deming Memorial Award, the Japanophile Fiction Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award for Editorial Excellence, the Tokyo Journal Fiction Translation Award, and two Pushcart Prize nominations, and with your husband you also received the 2003 Japan/US Friendship Commission Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature from the Donald Keene Center for Japanese Culture at Columbia University. Where can I have my keyboard repaired, since the semi-colon is broken?

LL:  Can’t you fix it? I thought you could do anything, Greg! And when you’re done fixing yours, can I send you mine? My trackpad is broken. Maybe from the hundreds of queries I’ve sent out over the years. Even my trackpad couldn’t keep track.


Q:  We met in college, and I made no secret that I thought your poetry was already at a superior level not just to my own but to everyone else’s, and that if you decided to pursue a career as a writer, you would meet with great success. Indeed, I treasure the folder of typed originals I have – I read them anew every year. I don’t have a question here, I just wanted to let you know I’m keeping those, and there’s no use asking for them again.

LL:  That explains everything: all the poems I’ve sent out from the folder on my desk were yours, then. As for mine, they’ll come in handy with the first snows this winter. Make yourself a good bonfire, will you?

[Editor’s note: it is not clear whether Ms Lowitz’s remarks were intended sarcastically or not due to the poor quality of my eyeglasses. The total number of available pages of her poetry is 28, which would provide an R value of approximately 0.0000000004, equivalent to a 1/8” thick slice of wet tofu.]


Q: You’ve mentioned that what led you to Japan, which became your home and the center of your family life with Shogo and your son Yuto, was in part a childhood interest in martial arts and meditation. Why do you think Japanese vending machines, in particular, are more widely accepted than they are in the States for high-end products?

LL:  High-end meaning porno and panties? Or were you referring to Smart Cars, batteries, lettuce and milk?

[Editor’s note: The interviewer, as well as paperbackswap.com and its representatives, disclaim all knowledge of, or experience with, porn vending machines in Asia. Anyway those DVDs don’t play over here. No, wait —]


Q:  You grew up in San Francisco, which is among America’s most beautiful cities. Why do people still love the Grateful Dead?

LL:  Who wouldn’t love to be on a long, strange perpetual trip? And the tie-dye doesn’t hurt, either.


Q:  Do you find it more satisfying to write shorter forms, like poems and essays, or longer forms like your novel? Is one easier than the other? If you need more space, feel free to use the back of this website.

LL:  Shogo was the one who really wrote Jet Black, so you’ll have to ask him. If I ever finish a novel on my own, I’ll let you know. I’m in the midst of writing one now about Berkeley in the 1970s. I’m hoping some of Jet’s ninja powers will rub off on me and lead me to the finish line.


Q:  In addition to your successful career as a writer, you teach yoga and meditation at your studio, Sun and Moon Yoga. How can one approach someone who plans to go out in spandex, or yoga pants, and tell them it’s not a good look for their body type, without seeming like a total a**hole and maybe losing her as a friend, which would suck because she has cable?

LL:  Well, we all know you have an exceptional sense of style. Whenever I get dressed in the morning, I ask, what would Havas do? And then I do the opposite. Except when it comes to footwear. You had me at Converse High Tops. Oh, sorry. What was the question?

[Editor’s note: it is not clear whether Ms Lowitz’s remarks were intended sarcastically or not due to the poor quality of my willingness to admit she may be on to something. Her inability to maintain the thread of questioning, however, is something for which I take full credit and wish to be remembered.]


Q:  In the short space we have remaining, tell our readers something about me that they might find surprising.

LL:  You’re very, very funny. Really. And I think I remember that you can cook, too.

[Editor’s note: it is not clear whether Ms Lowitz’s remarks were intended sarcastically or not due to the poor quality of my nonstick cookware. At this point in the interview I was asked to deposit another twenty-five cents, but demurred because New Girl was coming on. The connection was dropped.]



Thank you Ms. Lowitz for agreeing to put up with be interviewed by Greg! Best of luck with your new book!
Below are just a few of Ms. Lowitz’s books:



To read more about Leza Lowitz you can visit her website  www.lezalowitz.com






Author Interview with Robin Murphy

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

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


Diane: We would like to welcome Robin Murphy back to talk about her second book “Secret of the Big Easy”.

Robin: Hello Diane I thank you and Paperback Swap for having me back.


Diane: Did you publish this book in the same manner as Sullivan’s Secret?

Robin:  No, I self-published Secret of the Big Easy. I read countless blog posts and discussion groups on the subject and after a lot of soul searching I decided to test the waters and join the community of self-publishers.


Diane: Is it easier to promote a book the second time around?

Robin:  It was easier because I had laid the ground work for my author platform with the first book. The website was there, my social networking was set, and I had a year’s worth of blog posts.  But it still takes the same amount of “time” to promote both books. You approach previous blog tours you were a part of, and interviews, and then I reached out to a few new sites to share my stories. It is a time consuming effort but I created a timeline so I wouldn’t lose sight of what I really love to do, which is writing.


Diane: Your second book “Secret of the Big Easy” brings us to New Orleans. Any reason you picked New Orleans as the setting?

Robin:  Interesting story, well maybe not to everyone…my husband and I always wanted to visit New Orleans and I thought wouldn’t it be a perfect fit for a psychic and a ghost investigating team to travel to New Orleans. Talk about paranormal.  Then I received, at my day job, an opportunity to go to a great conference at…you guessed it, New Orleans. So, I was able to immerse myself into the heart of the French Quarter, and viola, Secret of the Big Easy was born.


Diane: How much time do you spend on researching the information like the rituals, paranormal events, etc. for your story?

Robin:  I spend a great deal of time researching for my stories. I feel even though I’m writing fiction, I need to have factual information and details because it still needs to be believable.  Readers are intelligent and you’ll lose them if you have certain information that’s not correct. You never know when you’ll come across a reader who knows something particular about a certain situation or scenario in your story. The minute they see the error, they’ve lost interest.


Diane: You bring the characters on a paranormal investigation with their local organization. Have you ever been on an investigation like this? This is something I would love to do!

Robin:  Yes, I finally got the chance to go on an investigation last October with a local paranormal group.  It was fascinating, exciting, and everything I had hoped it would be. In fact, I wrote a blog post here: http://robinmurphyauthor.com/robinmurphyauthor/?s=ghost+investigation describing the experience. This was the best decision I could have ever made because it gave me such an understanding of what really takes place for a ghost investigation. If you get the chance, go for it!


Diane: From having various experiences myself, I enjoyed reading about Marie struggling with her new abilities. Is some of this coming from your personal experiences?

Robin:  No, I haven’t had any personal psychic experiences. I think I have a sixth sense, something a lot of people have. I’ve read many books written by psychics and learned about their experiences which gave me the sense of how it can take over your life or scare you out of your wits. It may be a gift, but some feel it’s a curse.


Diane: Are you going to continue this series and have the SIPS team continue to travel to other cities?

Robin:  Yes I am.  My third book in the series, Federal City’s Secret being released this summer, has Marie and the SIPS team traveling to Washington, DC. It involves politics, the mafia, secret societies, and of course, murder.


Diane: Where is your book available?

Robin:  In all the usual venues, Amazon paperback and Kindle; Barnes & Noble paperback and Nook.


Diane: Thanks again, it is always a pleasure talking to you as we share similar experiences!

Robin:  Thank you, I so enjoy our chats.




Robin Murphy has generously offered a free copy of her new book,  Secret of the Big Easy, to a PBS member who leaves a comment here on the blog.

A winner will be chosen at Random.


Thank you, Ms. Murphy and Diane!

Author Interview with Elizabeth Crane

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Interview with Author Elizabeth Crane by Greg VOSTROMO


ELIZABETH CRANE is the author of the critically-acclaimed short story collections When The Messenger is Hot, All This Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter.  Her work has been featured in numerous national magazines and anthologies, and been dramatized by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company and National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts. Her first novel, We Only Know So Much, was published in 2012 by Harper Perennial.


Betsy, as I know her, is tall, quick-witted, sometimes loud, and once presented me with a profoundly beautiful, somewhat passive-aggressively threatening gift: a funny phrase of hers I’d admired, written in gold marker on an antique hacksaw blade, ribboned in pink. Shortly after receiving this she met the man who would become her [unfairly gifted] husband, Ben, so you’re welcome. She is also the circumstantial genesis of one of my now-signature comedy bits, where, on meeting a pregnant woman, I offer my hand and say, in a conspiratorial tone, I had nothing to do with it. If her career tanked tomorrow, there’d be that, so let’s all join in welcoming her and asking me to leave.


Q: Congratulations on publishing We Only Know So Much, your first full-length novel. Previously you have published collections of short stories. I’ve written short stories myself, but not a novel. You think you’re better than me?

A: Thank you, and no, or at least not because I’ve written a novel. I kid I kid.




Q: Much of your writing has an easy, conversational, hip style that readers can readily relate to. What were your SAT scores?

A: I don’t remember exactly, all I remember is that they were fairly average, and that that when I took them a second time I went up in Verbal and down in Math.  I figure the real life interpretation of this is that in the following decades I have continued to go up in Verbal while I can no longer perform any tasks relating to Math.




Q: Your mother was an opera singer; your husband is an artist; you’re a writer. What’s your favorite item at Trader Joe’s?

A: Freaking meringues.  I am, at this point, fully addicted to them.  It’s almost nothing more than sugar in a pretty, puffy presentation.




Q: The US covers for your collection You Must Be This Happy to Enter feature a striking gnome-like figure. Is this a veiled critique of North Korea?

A: If it is, it’s veiled even to me.


[Note: at this point in the interview the polygraph to which the author is unknowingly connected (through a series of sensors hidden in the June 1984 copy of Modern Surveillance magazine which has previously been secreted into a small vault dug into the hotel room floor, over which the author’s chair has been placed) begins to emit a series of reactive trace patterns which are later examined by experts from the “MAURY” show. It is determined that these patterns are likely the result of acoustical pressure waves resulting from the loud knocking on the meeting-room door of the hotel day manager demanding to know why a vault has been dug into the hotel-room floor, and who authorized such a thing. To the best and most complete knowledge of the interviewer, HarperCollins Publishers, and the staff of the Riker’s Island Marriott Hotel & Suites, Ms Crane’s response to the question in question is unquestionable.]


Q: Who’s been the biggest influence on your development as a writer? Hint: Is it me?

A: I’m not sure about the biggest, that would probably be my dad, who was a big cheerleader.  But to say something utterly un-ironic or funny, you were one of the first people to tell me — or who I heard, let’s put it that way — that I was smart.  And that helped a lot.



Q: Is it true that you used a quote of mine in a short story which The New Yorker rejected? How many times did you resubmit it? Did you try anywhere else? Do you often give up that easily?

A: Ah, I believe you must mean “Out is better”?  Well, I didn’t resubmit it there because the rejection letter told me not to come back until I was no longer Havas-derivative.  As per usual, I’m not even sure what story that was in, but most likely it was published elsewhere.



Q: Who are some authors you admire? Are they dog or cat people? They’re not fish people, are they?

A: The list of writers I admire is a long one, David Foster Wallace, Lydia Davis, Rick Moody, and George Saunders among them.  Wallace had dogs, I don’t know about the rest — well, Saunders has a dog, but I don’t know if any of these people have fish. It’s true, that could be a game-changer.



Q: Your story “The Daves” from your debut collection When the Messenger is Hot has always struck me as depicting, in its way, the end of the world. Where did I develop such acute critical faculties?

A: You’re just more tuned in than the rest of the world to the fact that the world is ending.


[Note: at this point in the interview a wall calendar depicting the Mayan Temple of the Masonry Altars at Altun Ha appeared to fall from its point of attachment and slip behind a writing-desk. After the close of the interview an attempt was made to retrieve the wall calendar, but no trace of it was found. A similar mysterious event involving a large bath towel has been reported.]



Q: Which is more important: spelling or punctuation?

A: Well if you were my student asking that question I would say don’t turn anything in to me if both are not perfect. Otherwise I’d have to write a book. Screw-ups on both can cause inordinate problems for a teacher — I mean reader.



Q: Better kisser: Bill Maher or Charlie Sheen?

A: I’d sooner French kiss my dog than either of those.


[Note: Ms Crane’s dog, a French poodle, is named “Charlie Sheen.”]



Q: Do you write when the spirit strikes, or are you one of those people that go to “the office” regularly and pretends to have a real job?

A: I have a real job, but it’s not in an office so my hours are flexible.  Anyway it’s a little of both, but I do make an effort to write most mornings.



Q: You were an extensive journal-keeper before blogging became a thing. What’s your internet connection speed?

A: I have no idea.


[Note: repeated calls to Manny’s Ninth Avenue HVAC & Internet were not returned.]



Q: After your husband recently received his MFA, your family moved to New York City. Is “Max Fish” still there?

A: Don’t you have Google?



Q: What about “Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse?”

A: Sammy’s is still there and I think it’s open.



Q: Do you have a favorite among your own works? Are you right?

A: I have a few favorites, but I don’t want to make the rest of them feel bad.



Q: Finally, what advice would you give a young person just starting on a path as a writer: should they use the public wifi at Starbucks or at the library?

A: The library!


[Note: at this point in the interview the interview ends.]





To learn more about Elizabeth Crane, you can visit her website, http://www.elizabethcrane.com/

Thank you, Greg and Ms. Crane for a most enlightening interview!