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Posts Tagged ‘Book Giveaway’

‘Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure’ Winner!

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure

The Winner of the brand-new copy of


 Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure 

by Holly Hall Becker is:


Dan C.


Congratulations, Dan C! Your book will be on the way to you soon. We hope you enjoy it and that it makes a great addition to your town’s library!


Thank you to everyone who entered!


And, if you would like to purchase a copy of this book, or any of thousands of other titles, you can find great books for great prices in the PBS Market.  Here is the link: PBS Market.


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

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Author Interview with Holly Hall Becker & Book Giveaway!

Interview by Mirah W. (mwelday)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter or Summer? No surprises here. Summer!

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

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

You can follow Holly Becker on her Instagram page: Link

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








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!