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Author Interview (and Giveaway!): Susie Murphy

Susie Murphy’s new book, A Class Apart, is a brand-new release on Amazon.  Read to the end for your chance to win a copy!

Is there anything that has driven you to write historical fiction instead of something set in modern times?

I have always viewed books as a means of escaping from reality, so in general I’m not as interested in reading or writing about the times we live in. I want to be swept away to another world or another era and get caught up in the lives of people and places that are different from what’s outside my front door. That’s probably why I enjoy fantasy a lot, but I adore historical fiction most of all: the fashion, the big houses, how the people travelled, how they communicated. Even though it’s our own world, it’s poles apart from how we live our lives now. And I just love the idea of attending a ball in a flowing gown and being courted by a charming gentleman! That is, of course, an idealised view of the way things were; I can’t turn a blind eye to the social injustices and poor health conditions of the times, and I do highlight the contrast between the upper classes and lower classes in my book. But it’s all so fascinating – I can’t get enough of it.

Susie Murphy

How much research do you have to do in order to make these books happen?

Tons of research needs to go into writing historical fiction. You’d think I’d have realised this early on in the process but, no, I’d been writing my series for years before that obvious penny dropped. In the summer of 2016, it occurred to me that I should really double check some of the details in my book…and there followed twelve gruelling months of revisions. I had the noble titles totally wrong, my scullery maids were doing the wrong duties, the term grandfather clock didn’t even exist (not until 1876) – I could go on and on. And what I read up on inheritance law almost scuppered the premise of the whole series! I learned my lesson the hard way, and now I don’t include anything in my manuscripts that hasn’t been thoroughly fact-checked.

But there needs to be a balance as well – I don’t put every detail I’ve researched into my books. I read as extensively as I can on a subject to give myself a full understanding of it, and then only include what’s relevant to the story itself. The research provides the framework, but the story still needs to be the focus.

I see you don’t like tea or coffee (gasp!), so what do you like to drink?

I do get very scandalised reactions about this and have even been offered boiling water as an alternative. But I just don’t like hot drinks! I have discovered in the past year that I can be persuaded to have a hot chocolate – but it needs to have marshmallows, and I’ll want a glass of water to go with it. What do I actually like though? Give me two big glasses of milk with dinner and I’m happy. J

Where and when do you do your best writing?

We have a large armchair in the sitting room that has become my nest over the years. More often than not, it is scattered with notebooks, my laptop and a cosy blanket. (However, I have recently had to relinquish it to my husband for the World Cup, as it has the best view for the TV.)

When I’m on a roll, I can write at any time of the day. I like to accomplish something early before breakfast and can happily work on into the wee hours too. The mid-afternoon slump is usually my least productive time.

a class apart

What book are you reading right now?

I’m actually reading a contemporary book at the moment (the irony!). It’s After You by Jojo Moyes, and it was a gift for my birthday. I’m also listening to the third volume of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series on audiobook in the car. While I do read loads of historical fiction (my last book was The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor), I find it’s nice to mix things up now and then.

What’s life like when you aren’t writing?

I’ve been a piano teacher for the past nine years. This generally includes many conversations that go along the lines of, ‘Yes, I know you recognise that as a hashtag, but in music we call it a sharp.’ One of the funniest things about being a teacher is when you bump into a student outside of school and they look at you like you’re an alien – and that’s when you realise that up to that point they believed you existed only in your classroom. There are plenty of challenges in teaching but in the end it’s worth it when you see a student progress and, more importantly, when they see it too.

When can we expect the next installment in the series?

I do have a completed manuscript for the second book in the series, A Class Entwined, but it will need another draft based on the final edits in A Class Apart. After that, I’ll schedule it in with both my editor and cover designer. All things going according to plan, I hope to publish it in early 2019!

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Want to win an ebook copy of A Class Apart?  Leave a comment below, or visit Ashley O’Melia’s Facebook page and find the pinned post.  A random winner will be drawn on July 14th!

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Susie Murphy is an Irish historical fiction author.

In her working life, she has been a library cataloguer, a shop assistant, a market research interviewer, an office manager and a piano teacher, but all she has ever wanted is to add ‘author’ to that list.

She doesn’t drink tea or coffee (but swears she really is Irish).

She has lived for a substantial time in six different counties – she now resides in Kildare but she’s from Tipperary.

She can recite all the colours of Joseph’s amazing technicolour dreamcoat at top speed in one breath.

When she was young, Susie and her mammy won a sandcastle competition on a summer holiday in England – there were some pretty spectacular sand sculptures on display but the judges gave them the prize because they were the only ones who built an actual castle. Susie’s advice since then: always stick to the brief, people.

She wrote her first ‘novel’ when she was eleven. Entitled The Rabbits’ Journey, it was eleven pages long and an unashamed plagiarism of Watership Down.

You can find Susie on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author Interview: Ashley Goss

An author who isn’t afraid to be prolific in any genre that pleases her, Ashley Goss and I had a moment to chat about her book background and where she’s headed with her writing.

What inspired you to write about vampires?

Honestly, I love reading about vampires and werewolves so I knew I would end up writing a series one day however I didn’t think it would be this soon. My series all came from nightmares I had for a series of nights. I would jot notes down as soon as I would wake in case I would forget anything. It’s crazy how that happens. Always have need a pen and paper by my bed.

Will there be more vampire books in the future? 

Yes, there will be more books in the future along with werewolves, witches and others. I have built an entire world around this vampire series which will fall into the other books. Once the vampires series is done, certain characters will play HUGE roles in the werewolf and witch novels. I can’t say too much cause I don’t want to give anything away too early.

Tell us about your other books.

My other books are strictly romance books. I have written a mystery novel that should be released at some point towards the end of 2018. Stay tuned for more information on that release.

I see that you like to do book reviews.  What do you look for in a book?

I look for a good synopsis. If your synopsis can hold me then I use the Look Inside feature and read the first chapter of the book.  Of course if I’m still interested then I purchase the book and continue reading.

Were books a large part of your childhood?

Yes, as a child I was obsessed with reading anything I could get my hands on. Some of my favorite authors are still: John Green, Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steel and Gayle Forman. Of course, I couldn’t have gotten through grade school without Judy Blume or Goosebumps.

In your opinion, what does it take to be a writer?

No matter what kind of writer, you have to have an active imagination, a way to tell your story, and of course keeping it interesting. The hardest thing about being a writer is finishing your story, seeing it through from beginning to end.

What’s your life like outside of writing?

I am a mother of a beautiful 9-year-old girl and just recently got engaged on Christmas Eve of 2017. I work a full-time office job as well as writing on the side. I am still an avid reader. Right now, I just got done binge watching the Harry Potter collection.

Tea or coffee?

I don’t even like tea. I am 100% a coffee FIEND. I write often at coffee shops. When I write, I always have a cup of coffee by my side. =)

Do you have other books in the works?

I have about 20 unfinished manuscripts at the moment, all of which are half-written. I have three books coming out in 2019. I have not released exactly what books on what dates yet but I will announce this in March 2018.

Be sure to check out Ashley’s website, follow her on Twitter at @authorashleyg, and like her on Facebook.  Her books can be found on Amazon.

 

 

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Author Interview: Carlos LoPopolo

There’s nothing better than a good children’s book, unless it’s one that is based on real life.  That’s the case with Zobo:  The First Mustang, the first in a series of books that follows the real history of the mustang in America.

              Zobo with his mother, Rain

I see you’ve established two wild horse preserves in New Mexico, and you’re working on starting another one in Texas.  Where did your passion for horses come from?

I’ve always been around horses since I was seven, but in ‘99 when I found out what was happening to the mustang it became important to understand their plight and help to preserve them for future generations.  It was on their back this country this country was built.

It’s quite a process to produce a picture book.  What’s the toughest part?

Finding an artist that understands your concept.

                    Zobo’s father, Sombrillo

What does the future hold for Zobo?  Will there be more books coming?

Zobo is the first generation. The series brings the lineage forward from the area of present day Vera Cruz, Mexico to the government preserve they graze on today.  I am presently working on the eighth book in the series and the tenth line of Zobo’s descendants.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was in a kid but didn’t get serious until I was in high school.

 

Who are your favorite authors?

Thurber, Diaz, Castaneda. I like this quote from Castaneda: The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.

The path Zobo and his family would have taken.

What are you reading right now?

Historical documents from New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico.

Bio:  Pam and Carlos live in Bastrop Texas on a little parcel of land with their friends; three dogs, Bob, Mindy, and Trish, two cats Molly and Terry, three chickens (the chickens all look alike so they are hard to name), two donkeys, Bella and Storm, and two horses, Bliss, and Crackers. They all live together in harmony most of the time but, sometimes in chaos.  When they are not enjoying the bright sunshine of Central Texas or the fantastic sunsets they are thinking about where Zobo’s descendants are going next.   Since 1999 Carlos has been rounding up and preserving wild horses.  He has established two wild horse preserves in New Mexico.   Together with his wife Pam they are trying to raise enough money to purchase land here in Texas to open up another wild horse preserve. They are not asking for donations, which is why they are writing the Zobo series.  Through the sale of the books and the development of the movie project,  they hope to raise enough money to purchase land for a new preserve.

 

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Author Interview: Catherine Bannon

Having lived both in Canada and the US, Catherine Bannon gives a unique perspective to experiencing two different worlds.  She has used this understanding in her writing, and I got the chance to chat with her about that.

I see that you were born in Canada but live in the U.S.  What do you miss most about Canada?

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how best to answer that. I was eleven when we moved to the US because of my father’s work, so my memories are those of a child and I’m not sure of their accuracy. I think Canadians are better about respecting your personal space; Americans are so friendly and open and that’s not a bad thing at all, but I’m just made so that I need a wide space around me. And I’ll probably make some people mad with this but when it comes to the concepts that America is supposedly all about, the “Land of the Free” and the “All Men Are Created Equal” type thing, quite honestly I think Canada does it better. On a more personal level, I wish I could have grown up closer to my cousins; there are some I haven’t seen for thirty or forty years just because we live so far apart. And one of my absolute favorite places on earth is the Banff National Park. I probably wouldn’t have been able to get there any more frequently from Ontario, but I still miss it.

What has writing this book done for you?

It’s made me more completely aware of how much I still identify as a Canadian. Jillian is not Canadian; she’s British, but the point still holds. I’ve lived in the US most of my life and all of my adult life, but there’s still something in me, when the wheels of the plane set down in Toronto or Calgary or Vancouver, or when the car clears the Customs station, that settles down happily, sighs, and says, “Home!” I love my home in the Boston area but that little inner something is never completely satisfied until I’m north of the border.

Was there anything specific that inspired you to write this book?

I first started thinking about writing Imperfect Cadence when a friend of mine kept asking me, “Is that a Canadian expression? I never heard it before,” on a fairly frequent basis. I began to realize that I didn’t even know, a lot of the time, whether the idioms I used were Canadian, British, or American as all three had an influence on my speech. That started me thinking about culture shock, and my realization that even after spending most of my life in the US I still was undergoing a certain amount of culture shock that I’d never really gotten over. So I started writing Jillian’s story, and how she tried to reconcile the more reserved British culture she was used to with the more relaxed US culture here. They are similar in many, many ways but there are subtle differences that will over time become more evident. I wanted to try to make my readers see that, as great a country as the US can be, it isn’t the whole world.

What’s your favorite book?

That’s a really, really hard question. It changes every week. I suppose if I had to pick just one, it would be either Anne of Green Gables or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Both children’s books, but both books that have a lot to say to adults on many levels as well.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m re-reading the books of Charlotte MacLeod. She’s also a Canadian author who lived in the US, and her books are very, very funny. They’d qualify as cozy mysteries, I think, but the characters are drawn somewhat larger than life and in fact are deliberately overdrawn. She died a few years back and I’m still mourning that there won’t be any more of her wonderful stories.

With working at a university, how do you find time to write?

I have to use all my time as effectively as I can. I use my commuting time to do my plotting and planning; I named all the characters in Imperfect Cadence while at a baseball game. My husband is very good about doing things like the dishes and his own laundry to leave me time to write, and I can sometimes make time during the day by bringing my lunch, eating it at my desk and using my lunch time to write. I try to get a couple of writing hours a day during weekends and when I can after work. I always have a pen and notebook with me so I can jot down ideas as they come to me.

Do you have more books coming?

I certainly do! Pas de Deux, a sequel to Imperfect Cadence, should be coming out in late winter or early spring; I’m just doing the last revisions on it now. It picks up the story about a year and a half after Imperfect Cadence leaves off but follows when Joyce, Jillian’s next door neighbor in the States, goes to graduate school in London. I have plans for a couple more books in the series but I’m not ready to talk about them yet. I’m also working with a co-writer on a series of contemporary mysteries about a different set of characters, but set in the same universe as Imperfect Cadence, and also on a series of historical fiction with a paranormal twist.

Catherine Bannon was born in Canada and lived there until her family moved to the United States while she was in middle school. Despite living in the US for most of her life, she still finds the mix of cultures confusing, which is why she wrote this book in the first place. Catherine likes to travel but doesn’t have to time to do as much of it as she wants. She also is fond of classical music, which drives her classic-rock husband crazy. Catherine likes to cook, and her idea of hell is being stuck somewhere with nothing to read. She likes cats, but doesn’t have any at the moment because her husband is allergic to them. Occasionally she borrows a friend’s cat or dog just to get her “furry friend fix”. Catherine is a Christian and sings in her church choir. The church that Jillian, Josh and their families attend is the same one she went to for many years before she got married and moved out of town. Catherine works in the Employee Benefits office of a university in Cambridge, MA. She is married to Brad Bannon, a political analyst and adjunct political science professor. They live in Marshfield, MA, which is just south of Scituate. You can check out Imperfect Cadence on Facebook and Amazon.

 

 

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Author Interview: Claire L. Brown

Between cooking, writing, fundraising, and spending time with her dog, author Claire L. Brown always has something happening.  Check out my interview with her below.

Did you do any writing as a child?

I’ve been a writer all my life. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories.  If there was a story I didn’t like as a child, I’d write my own ending.  Then if I couldn’t find a book I wanted to read I started writing my own.  I was also badly bullied as a child so my imagination and writing became my safe haven and a place where the characters were friends you could trust.

Tell us a little bit about your charity, The Poppy Garden.  

After the publication of The Poppy Garden, on 11th November 2016, I decided that I could do more than just tell a story so I decided to start the Poppy Garden as a charity to help veterans of our armed forces to deal with their PTSD.

I was Inspired by my grandfather, SGT Joseph Robinson, who was part of the RAF during WWII, and how he dealt with his experiences of war by throwing his effort and his passion into his garden.  In the novel, the issues around PTSD and how this affects not only the veteran but also their family are looked at and examined in more detail.

I now aim to establish The Poppy Garden Trust – a charity to create a Poppy Garden in various areas of the UK for veterans to seek assistance and support and create their own poppy garden experience.  The Poppy Garden will be a centre to provide support, assistance and recuperation facilities, retraining and family support.

I am currently in the initial stages of setting up and starting to fundraise.  I am also currently in the process of identifying a suitable property and site in the North East for the very first Poppy Garden to be developed. You can track my fundraising progress at Go Fund Me.

Your blog includes several posts about recipes and cooking.  What’s your favorite thing to make?

I love cooking and baking and I also love experimenting with food.  What I love to cook changes with the seasons and with the ideas that I come up with or recipes I research.   Lately I my most prolific tests have been with Cinnamon Sugar Madeline’s and Ginger Bread tray bake.

With books like The Draco Chronicles and Jonah Axe and the Weeping Bride under your belt, it’s clear you like fantasy.  What first got you interested in the genre?

I think it’s the pure escapism, in fantasy nothing is impossible the only limits are your own imagination.

What’s your favorite time of day?

Early morning, especially on a day off when I can wake up naturally, get up and go for a walk with my dog Hero.

Tell us what your writing process is like.  Are you an outliner or a pantser?

I class myself as an organic writer and my process changes to fit the project.   Sometimes I plan manically and have every page plotted out in fine detail, other times I have a brief idea of the story and I just start writing it and see how the words flow.

What are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. I love crime stories and have for the last year been reading a lot of cosy mysteries.  This is my expansion out in to other branches of the crime genre and I’m enjoying it so far.  I’m also reading The Little Book of Lykke, the research carried out by the Happiness Institute in to what constitutes and how we create happiness.

Do you have any future books in the works?

I’m currently working on a project with the working title Dear Diary. I’m just in the initial writing phase and I’m not sure where it’s going, but I’m enjoying meeting the characters and starting on their journey.

 

Be sure to check out all of Claire’s links below:

Website     Facebook     Twitter     Pinterest     Instagram     Amazon Author Page

My Life As A Writer Blog  & My Life As A Writer When I’m Not Scribbling Blog

 

 

 

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Author Interview: Val Rainey

One look at Val Rainey’s website, and you’ll be in love!  It’s a treasure trove of beautiful illustrations and fun.  Val and I spent a little time talking about her children’s book, Sunny’s Grand Adventure.

What was your inspiration for writing Sunny’s Grand Adventure?

Well, it was a daisy pin that belonged to my mother Betty. Sunny began as a six-page double spaced hand written piece of silly and grew into a story/colouring book.

She is limited to a print run of 1000 copies and naturally I sign them all.

Part of her earnings is donated to children’s charities.

Do you have children in your own family who enjoy your books?

Yes. I gave my brother and my nieces and nephews their own copies for Christmas 2004.

Since then Sunny has been doing a lot of flying. Some of her adventures have taken her to Australia, Germany, New Zealand and of course Canada and the U.S.

Your website, The Elf and Toadstool, is a wonderful place full of whimsy and fantasy.  Have you always been interested in fantasy?

I guess so. I always loved the faerie tales that I was read and learned how to read on my own.

What’s your writing process like?

Oh, now there’s a dangerous question! The adventure begins when a character comes to visit the way Sunny and Marigold both did. From there it can get pretty crazy with everyone telling me how the story actually happened. Yes. Past tense.  I end up being an overworked recording secretary as much as the author.

Marigold is a series that I am working on. Marigold is a dragon. She is definitely not your regular dragon…oh no…not her.

Did you have a hand in choosing or creating the illustrations?

You want to believe it. I have a lovely lady Emily J. Hercock who lives in the U.K. I let her know what I want and voila.

What is your favorite children’s book?

It is a series of books that has been around a very long time. It is called simply My Bookhouse. The early illustrations were absolutely scrumptious. They were done in plates. The set I had was printed in the fifties. The series started with easy poems like the Little Red Hen and went all the way through to Shakespeare. I sure wish that I still had it.

Do you have more children’s books planned for the future?

Always! One series that I’m busy working on is called The Sunshine Collection. The first book, Fun and Frolic, is a collection of stories and poems written by my mother and I over a 75 year period. I never knew that she wrote until a box arrived from one of her sisters in 2000 with her work and other family treasures.

I’m busy with Down on the Farm and plan have it out for Christmas. The lovely Emily Hercock is doing the illustrations and cover for it.

Oh! I almost forgot……. I will also have a special poem about Max the Christmas Mouse available then too.

 

You can find Sunny’s Grand Adventure and Fun and Frolic at The Elf and Toadstool under the Book Nook tab.  Also, check out the Facebook page for The Elf and Toadstool.

 

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Author Interview: Harriet Hunter

While many books are written purely to entertain, Harriet Hunter seeks to help those dealing with alcoholism.  Since she has been through it herself, she is able to provide an insider’s perspective for those looking to walk a higher path.  Miracles of Recovery is due out later this year, but her website provides a lot of valuable information.

Since Miracles of Recovery was an outgrowth of your own experience with addiction and recovery, was it difficult for you to write?

No, quite the contrary. I’ve been writing (journaling) for years and writing each morning was natural, as a way to focus on one thought or a specific emotion.

The idea for Miracles of Recovery came to light after the death of my only child four years ago while overwhelmed with emotions. I realized I was already writing what I knew about, so for the first year, I never had to think about what I was going to write. Spiritual and emotional reflections were right before my eyes. It was after that first year I said to myself, “You realize you have a daily reader here, don’t you?”

It’s obvious that you’ve put a lot of work and caring into your website and blog as a service for those who are seeking help.  How do you find time for it all?

I try to wake up before my two dogs, a golden retriever and an American bulldog, and I am driven. Losing a child, a husband and two brothers, three in the last four years, has a way of propelling me to “see each day as if it is my last.” I write as if squeezing as many hours most days as possible.

My dogs demand a lot of physical attention and in between, I have my home I care for, volunteer work, and outings with friends. And of course, my critique groups!  Between these, including articles for submission, I try to write and edit at least five hours a day, but even this is not nearly enough.

Is there any one thing that you feel can help people most when they’re struggling with addiction?

The desire to change is an individual need that must come from the user, and no one else. Other than sharing with them what was so freely given to me, the responsibility for anyone who wants sobriety rests with the individual.  If new to recovery, we can help to allay fears and provide insightful information and literature.  This is a program of attraction, not promotion. Short of prayer, emotional support and encouragement while providing information about the AA program is about all we can do. We know manipulating, begging, jail, and loss of home and family isn’t enough at times to stop this terrible disease that demands it have all of us.  Jails, institutions, and death are a typical outcome for those with addictions. Any life-altering requires dedication from the individual to go the distance. They have to want change above everything else.

Recovery allows those who care to, to share with others our experience, strength, and hope so they may identify and see they too, can have hope to maintain sobriety one day at a time. Miracles of change that have happened to me and millions of others occur every day in our meetings of recovery. Those returning to the program already know what to expect and find it easier, sometimes, than the newcomer to come back.

I have always believed information is power. My book, focused on the newcomer and relapse, is a holistic attempt to provide reminders and an “inside look” at what they can expect coming into Alcoholics Anonymous. It takes a small mustard seed of willingness to walk into the rooms, which is often the most difficult thing to do of all. The AA program of recovery, as with any 12-step program, is a one-day-at-a-time commitment to not drink.

When can we expect Miracles of Recovery to be released?

I hope to be ready before the close of 2018, the very latest.

What are your favorite books?

The Outlander series, Gone with the Wind, Prince of Tides and many others.

What’s your favorite time of day?

Early morning before the angels fly and my dogs awake!

Do you have other books in the works?

Yes, I’ve been preparing a sequel to Miracles of Recovery, which will focus on recovery as being a program of action, with exercises, tables and personal accounts from others on each of the 12-Steps as to how the program has changed their lives.

We know normal people never have to think they may have a problem with alcohol. If they wonder, then chances are good that they do. Please visit http://www.aa.org/ for more information, telephone numbers and meeting schedules in your area.

 

Harriet Hunter lives in Florida with her dogs and when she’s not writing, she can most often be found outdoors gardening, walking or helping others. Visit her at Harriethunter.org or on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @Elizza6. For personal questions or information, contact her at Harriet@harriethunter.org.

 

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