Interview with Jackie Fraser

I met Jackie years ago in an online writing forum. We later spent time in the same writer’s group and whenever I’ve had to take time away from the group, I beg Jackie to keep sending me her stuff. I’ve been lucky enough to read a lot of her books and I’m rereading her latest now. Jackie is so good at creating characters who feel like real people – the kind you think about long after you’ve finished reading. A big reason for that is her ear for natural dialogue that makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping on an actual conversation. Her new novel, The Bookshop of Second Chances, is like that. I got her to talk to me about her writing style and publishing journey.


Talk a bit about your most recent book. How long did it take to write? Who is your audience?

The Bookshop of Second Chances is commercial women’s fiction. It’s about Thea, who loses her job and splits up with her husband when she discovers he’s been sleeping with her friend. Her great-uncle has left her his house and collection of books in Lowland Scotland. She goes up there to sort out the house and sell the books. She meets Charles and Edward, estranged aristocratic brothers, and decides to stay for the summer, getting a job in Edward’s second-hand bookshop. And so on.

I’d hesitate to say it’s entirely romance, although it’s stuffed with romantic tropes, some more foolish than others. I wanted to see how far I could go with that and still write something I’d like to read. So the audience is ‘me’ and by that I mean ‘women of 45 plus who like a happy ending but don’t always find older women in romance novels particularly relatable’.

It took about five or six months to write altogether – I began in September 2016 and it was more or less done by the following spring, although I had some trouble with the ending. I did a million drafts.

Tell me about your writing process. At what stage of writing do you find outside feedback helpful? How do you sift through differing advice?

I have an idea for the beginning of something, and usually an idea about the central relationship. Then I just hammer it out. I don’t fight it if I get stuck, but I do make myself keep going if I’m bored of typing. I work it out scene by scene (at night usually) and sometimes I’ve done that well enough in my head that actually getting the thing into the computer seems a bit tedious.

Like everyone, I have good days and bad days, on a good day I can write 8000 words, but usually I manage much less than that. I edit as I go along but not in a decisive way – I just often re-read and amend sections as I’m going. My aim is always to just get the first draft finished, though, not to make it ‘good’ in any way. I put the speech marks in at the end, because writing dialogue is my favourite thing and punctuating it gets in the way. Apparently this is a bit weird.

I do a number of drafts and don’t share it with anyone until I’m pretty happy with it. I go on the waiting list for the Women’s Fiction Critique Group (on Facebook, run by ex-Authonomites). The Bookshop went to be critiqued in February 2018, so I’d probably waited, I don’t know, six months for that? I can’t remember. I was writing something else by then, anyway. So it went off to be critiqued. I think it was the fourth of my books that went to the WFCG, and the response was pretty good. I’d been a bit worried that it might be too ‘romantic’ (they don’t do standard romantic novels) but generally it went down a storm. I was slightly surprised, even though I did think it was quite good. (British sense of ‘quite’ there – as in ‘reasonably’.)

I got some good, useful feedback, particularly about the end as I recall, plus a significant suggestion about changing the location of one scene. I usually copy and paste all the comments into a document and work through them. Critiques are so useful, even if you disagree wildly with what people are saying. Anyway, I did a ‘final’ draft, and then probably another three. By 2019 I was trying to make myself submit it. I don’t always submit my books, I find it quite difficult, even though rejections don’t really bother me. But submitting is hard work, I hate writing synopses because my books have very small plots that can look quite feeble, and the whole thing is wearisome.

Do you plot it all out on note cards or does the ending come as a surprise to you, too?

Ha, no, I don’t really plot at all. I just ‘put some characters in a room and see what happens’. As I say, I usually have a vague idea – I mean the question is always ‘will X and Y KISS?’ and the answer is ‘YES, OBVIOUSLY’ – it’s not very complex. However how they get there and what the ‘apparently insurmountable barrier to congress’ will be is less clear.

What do you do if you get stuck?

I stop and do something else and assume my subconscious will fix it, which is usually does.

Do you read in the same genre(s) you write in? Are there particular authors who inspire you?

Ah, so this is a tricky one and the answer is… not really. I like literary fiction best. Which I can’t write, although I do try sometimes. I also read a lot of non-fiction (which I also write). Recently I have read a few more books at the lighter end of the women’s fiction spectrum because one ought to read in one’s genre. But I read all sorts of things, and I’m basically inspired by everyone who writes well, in whatever genre.

In terms of my own genre, Georgette Heyer is my greatest inspiration because her books are funny, and her characters are almost always convincing, however silly her plots may appear. My favourite authors include Iain Banks, Douglas Coupland, Claire Fuller, Terry Pratchett, Hilary Mantel, Susanna Clarke, Sarah Perry, E M Delafield, Stella Gibbons, and Kate Atkinson, who I absolutely love. (Interestingly, Atkinson says she’d write books even if they never got published and I would too – that is, after all, what I’ve done my whole life up to now.)

Can you describe your path to publication?

Well. Simon & Schuster UK have a Digital Originals imprint and every year in July they have a one-day open call for commercial women’s fiction submissions. Last year I noticed this on the actual day, and the extremely short deadline was very motivating. I sent off ‘five hundred words about me’ plus my first chapter. That week they came back and asked me to send the full manuscript. I’d never been asked for a full before, so this was quite the thrill.

Then everything went very, very quiet. In October one of the team shared a pic on Twitter of their Kindle with my words on it, which was exciting, but then it went very quiet again. In January they started talking about #OneDay2020, so I assumed it was a no, and planned to email and ask for a formal rejection (for my Rejection Spreadsheet). But when I opened my emails that morning there was one asking me to go to London for a meeting. Obviously I cried.

Anyway, I went to the meeting (I was extremely, surprisingly nervous) and we talked about the book and my soon-to-be-editor suggested a couple of revisions. I went home and did those and then we signed the contract. As an editor myself, receiving my copy-edits was really exciting, and, dare I say it, enjoyable.

I’ve been very lucky, as they’ve sold the rights in Germany and the US, so there will be a German edition (for my German in-laws to read!) and an American one – which will be a physical paperback. (The US edits were extremely bracing – I also had to write an extra chapter for them.) Plus there’s going to be a large print library edition, and US and UK audio books. I’m astonished frankly.

What can we expect to see from you next?

I’m writing two new things at the moment and hoping they’ll want to publish one of them. One’s about a woman who runs away from home, and the other one is about a woman who owns a fancy house that she rents as a retreat for artists and writers. I’ve nearly finished the first drafts of both, and am at the stage of having no idea whether they’re any good.

For more information on Jackie, follow her on Facebook!


Interview with Nolan White

Nolan White
In the internet era, writing has become a lot less isolated, even if many of the interactions we have are mostly virtual. It’s a lot easier to encounter people facing the same struggles so we can commiserate or share tips. Nolan White is one such virtual soul I’ve met on the journey and I got him to talk a bit about his work and his path toward publication.
Are you published or trying to be?
Yes, trying to be. This month I’m putting the finishing touches on the first Pedigree Nation trilogy. Ten years ago I started out with Great Days Outdoors magazine as their proofreader, then moved up to assistant editor. Occasionally, I wrote articles for it as well. I’ve written two dozen short stories and finished the manuscript on two novels.

When did you start writing, when did you start calling yourself a writer and when did you decide that being published was a goal?

While working for my hometown newspaper in ad sales, I was tasked with producing a tabloid. Since I had to also write its contents, I became a writer. One of my articles featured a local contestant in a scholarship pageant, which led to my launching a national pageant magazine within months. It seemed only natural that I should write articles about that industry and its winners.

But it never occurred to me that I could write fiction until I read an article in USA Today about the donor organ business. It unnerved me. The result was a novel I wrote in the thriller genre. Its plot had the hero’s runaway daughter picked up by a televangelist’s outreach network and sent to a so-called rehab center that fronted for a donor organ cartel. It was a novel whose time had come. Yes, ripped from the news headlines and easily embellished for drama.

I sent query letters to 45 publishing houses but quickly learned how difficult it was to accept rejection. So, to develop my craft and become a “real” writer, I joined a local literary club in Fairhope, Alabama. It helped me to be more optimistic, too.

Do you read in the same genre(s) you write in? Are there particular authors who inspire you?

I’m a voracious reader because I’m curious about everything from genetics to sociology. I’ve long admired James Lee Burke’s prose and gritty characters. I also enjoy the talents of Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, and T.K. Thorne.

Talk to me about your writing process. What is your preferred writing environment? How long does it take you to complete a book?

For me it took years. After all, I had a day job. Running a marketing company with 45 employees consumed my time, so writing novels was a hobby. But ideas consumed me. While on the road I wrote longhand, spending time in restaurants, coffee shops, and hotel rooms. I’m now retired so I revise my debut novel. I also write short stories, at least enough to keep my critique group busy.

At what stage of writing do you find outside feedback helpful? How do you sift through differing advice?

Anytime, actually. The best feedback comes from a friend who’s also my landlady. She writes children’s books, and I’m amazed by her insight into my various character’s motivations. I’ve come to rely on many male and female readers. A different POV is always welcome, including that of an award-winning author. She’s candid and the world’s best at spotting redundancies.

I’ve learned that critique clubs are not all created equal. Many people have a built-in bias for social conservatism, so when my novel presented a televangelist in a bad light, one critique member assumed I was attacking her Christian values. “Hey, back off,” I wanted to say. “It’s fiction.” I left the group before she reached the part about polygamy.

When do you think about the audience your book appeals to?

Well, that’s a bit tricky. When will readers agree that matching people who have compatible genes will produce better babies? It’s fiction, true, but it’s based on real science—its use and misuse, eugenics versus dysgenics.

Pedigree Promise began as a thriller but it’s much more than that. Its hero, a standup comedian, has the “youth gene,” but he’s conflicted about using his genetic asset for the eugenics cause (it’s supposed to prevent heritable diseases). Or, because he needs the money, will he allow a cabal of billionaires to patent it for their materialistic (and nefarious) purposes?

A stigma still surrounds eugenics because some people can’t separate it from the science of 1930s politics. Hitler, they insist, invented it. No, he perverted and coerced it. Meanwhile, his VW gets a free ride. Readers must decide if genetic matching is “playing God” or if pedigree is a cause worth mating for.

So the plot evolved into a hybrid story, meaning I’m using elements of mystery, psychological intrigue, humor, and social commentary to make readers think about humanity’s future. By the way, I’m optimistic about that, too.


You can find out more about Nolan White on his Facebook page.

Interview with Ann Griffin

finished image croppedIn my three million part series on writing, I’ve interviewed Ann Griffin, a writer of historical fiction. Her recent novel is a fictional version of real life events, inspired by her mother. The more author interviews I do, the more comforted I am by the idea that we’re all different. None of our paths are exactly the same and we have varied ways of existing because there is no one way to be a writer.

When did you decide you wanted to be published?

I wanted to be published very early while I was writing my novel, although I had at that time no idea what the process was. Once the book was finished, edited professionally by a developmental editor, I began querying. I signed up for Query Tracker, which provides information and a relatively easy way to query agents and keep track of who, when, and where. I participated in workshops on writing query letters and synopses and continued to modify them as I sent my queries and received feedback.

But despite a positive response (twelve requests for full manuscipts out of about 50 queries) it dawned on me how slow the process is. Not only that, I’m not a young person. Waiting two years after getting a contract to have a book for sale was just too long for me, so I refocused on self-publishing.

That turned out to be a steep learning curve, but thanks to a number of helpful websites (, I boosted my knowledge and my confidence, and dove in. I hired a cover designer. I hired a copyeditor. Within four months of making the decision, my book was launched. Looking back, I should have taken more time before launching to send out ARCs and get some reviews, but in spite of that, my sales have gone quite well.


My most recent (my only) book is Another Ocean to Cross, which is WWII historical fiction. It took about seven years to write, partly because I had no idea how to write a novel when I started. It all began when my last living uncle died in 2002. In his safety deposit box was a letter from a daughter no-one in the family knew existed. My curiosity demanded I look into this “family skeleton in the closet,” so eventually I met this cousin, who told me the story of her parents’ romance, marriage, and subsequent divorce. It was such a compelling, outrageous story, that I decided it needed to be written. Seeing no other suitable candidates, I volunteered myself for the job.

My first draft was fairly close to the true story, but my developmental editor (Kathryn Craft) helped me realize that sometimes, truth is too strange for readers of fiction, so I had to modify the story considerably to meet the demands of fiction. For example, in real life, the main character did not change much and did not seem to learn from her experience. In my book, she does learn and grow.

The story is of a gutsy young German Jewish girl, who tackles all kinds of dangers and hardships to save her parents, her child, and her battle-injured husband. The book follows Renata from Germany through Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, to Egypt. From there, later, she must go to London, and finally, she heads to Canada where, eventually, she reunites with her husband. Hence the title, “Another Ocean to Cross.”


What inspires you?

I am inspired by stories of people in my family history, or someone else’s, who must deal with difficulty, danger, isolation, fear, in a world that is different from what we know in the twenty-first century. Strong women particularly inspire me.


What do you do if you get stuck?

I’ll switch to writing prompts sometimes. Or take up a totally different project. Sometimes I’m stuck because I need to do more research, and in that case, off I go to the library or wherever I need to get the information.


What is the biggest challenge of being published?

The marketing. It consumes my life and makes it hard to continue working on my next book. I don’t have money to spend on a publicist or other pricey methods of marketing, so I have focused on speaking to book clubs, libraries, and other groups where I have a connection. I have participated in two book festivals and am registered for a third in April. Next I’ll be contacting service clubs which often want guest speakers and permit the speaker to sell their products. I have entered several book contests but am still awaiting results. I hope to be named a finalist and would be thrilled to win, because that phrase, “award-winning author,” and a pretty gold sticker to put on the book does help sales.


What’s the best part?

As a published author, I encounter immediate respect from other writers and even more so from the general public as I meet them. The sense of achievement, a book in my hand that I created, is as good as the thrill of new motherhood.


What is your next project?

I am working on two new books, and am still not sure which one I will complete first. One is a sequel to Another Ocean to Cross that begins in 1960. The other begins in 1880, and follows a boy, Walter, and his sister, Emily, who are taken from their parents and sent to Canada to be labourers, but in separate cities. Their determination to find each other forms the main part of the plot.

You can find out more about Ann on her website.


Interview with Lynne Marino


Lynne Marino’s second book, The Cha-cha Affair, was released in July. She writes humorous fiction and romantic comedies. I’m endlessly fascinated by how my fellow writers define themselves and their work. Lynne was kind enough to indulge my questions.

What kind of writer are you?

I walk the line between humorous women’s fiction and comedy romance. My characters don’t set out to meet a guy, nor do they necessarily want a man in their life. They have other goals and things going on, and then they run into someone they can’t say no to.

If you’re asking if I’m a pantser or a plotter, I do a little of both. I guess that makes me a hybrid author (joke intended).

Do you insist on daily word counts?

No. I do insist that I spend a good four hours a day writing, and another two learning about marketing. I will often put on a timer for forty-five minutes, take a fifteen minute break, and then start writing again. No cheating is allowed, like when I was a kid and moved the timer up during piano practice. I was the master at shaving a good ten minutes off that timer.

Did you study writing in school?

No, I studied child development and family systems. It comes in handy when you’re writing about internal conflict and the character’s motivations.

Do you edit as you go or force out a whole first draft first?

I write about sixty pages and then do a rough edit and revision. It helps me clarify where the story is going, and if that’s where I wanted it to go.

Do you write in silence or with music?

Silence. It’s golden.

Do you read in the same genre(s) you write in? Are there particular authors who inspire you?

I read a lot of books, mostly women’s fiction, humorous fiction, and comedic romance. I love novels that really walk the line between all three.

Some of my favorite authors are Frederik Backman, Markus Zusak, Jennifer Weiner, Elizabeth Susan Phillips, and Gillian Flynn who does not write comedy or romance. These are a few authors that I would pick up anything they wrote without hesitation.

ccTalk a bit about your books. Who do you write for?

I write books about women in crazy situations who have the temerity to try and figure a way out of them, and who have the audacity to search for a happier life. The women in my novels are older with children, careers, and ex-husbands, or, at the very least, have a few romances under their belts. I write for people who want to laugh about life.

Why do you write?

Good question. Because I can’t not write. My head is constantly thinking up stories.

What can we expect to see from you next?

I’m half-way through another comedy romance, the working title of which is “The Third Time’s The Charm”. It’s about two people who grew up next to each other, who’ve pretty much bombed at life and love, and who end up living back in their parent’s houses. The last thing they need is each other, until they come to realize that the only thing they need is each other.

For more information, check out Lynne Marino’s author site.

Interview with Margaret Ann Spence

Author photo- Margaret Ann Spence

Lately, I’ve been getting to know some of my fellow members of the Women Fiction Writers’ Association. Margaret Ann Spence is a romance writer who recently published her first novel. She answered my questions about writing, editing and publishing.

Tell me about your recent novel. Who is your audience?
My novel, Lipstick on the Strawberry, was published by The Wild Rose Press in 2017. It is women’s fiction. And, by the way, I love that term. Raised in a family of boys, and with three sons of my own, I just relish being in the company of women, real or fictional. My target audience is women aged 25-60. Particularly women who enjoy the domestic arts. The print and ebook book are available from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and many other book sellers.

Do you have a critique group or support network? Do you let people read early drafts?
I belong to a bi-weekly critique group. We meet in person, over dinner. Two people (usually) email their manuscripts or portions of manuscripts to the other members the week before. We then discuss the submissions at the meeting and at the end, hand our written critiques to the presenters. We have a dozen members, all writing in different genres. Each person gets to present about four times a year. The discussions are always lively. I also belong to the Women Fiction Writers’ Association, an online group, and a couple of other writing groups who meet once a month for discussion of craft, marketing, etc.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or ‘pantser’? Do you outline a story before writing or make it up as you go?
Combo. I start off with an idea, or rather a couple of ideas that will meld into a story. Have a vague idea of a plot and some main characters. Put that on paper. Then start writing. At first it’s like hammering away at the rock face until a shape emerges. Sometimes I have no idea how it will end until I write it. Other times I know the ending and have to shape the story to get to it.

lipCan you describe your path to publication? Did you query agents? How long did it take?
Lipstick on the Strawberry is my first published novel. But it’s the second novel I pitched and sent to agents. In fact, I started writing Lipstick when waiting to hear back from an agent who had requested the full from the first novel. I had a first draft of Lipstick in a few months, then many revisions, and a contract two years after I started writing it. I met Rhonda Penders, CEO of The Wild Rose Press, at an RWA conference and pitched the story to her, resulting in the publication of the book.

What are you working on next?
My next novel is completely different in setting and characters. It has three point of view characters, three generations of women. I’m deep into it at the moment, powering through to the end. Then comes the fun part, reorganizing and rewriting. I love revision.

For more information, check out her blog.

Interview with Rachael Richey

New profile pic 2013Rachael Richey is a romance writer I met in a critique group I’ve participated in for several years. (I highly recommend joining a group like this, for many reasons.) I’ve been able to read two of her novels, pre-publication, so far. I recently got her to answer a few questions about writing, publishing, and about her new book.


Tell me about your most recent novel. Who is your audience?

My most recent novel, Practising for Christmas, is a romantic comedy set at Christmas.  Olivia and her friends are spending Christmas in a remote coastal cottage, and before the others arrive, Olivia discovers an unconscious and very handsome stranger on the beach.  She takes him home to patch him up and it’s when her friends arrive the next day that things begin to spiral out of control due to a case of mistaken identity.  It’s basically a feel good seasonal romcom.  My audience will probably be mostly female, but I do have some stalwart male fans who read all my books.

perf5.000x8.000.inddWhat kind of writer are you? Do you insist on daily word counts? Do you edit as you go or force out a whole first draft first? Do you write in silence or with music? In the morning or at night? What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

Wow.  A lot of questions!  Right.  I write when and where the mood takes me.  At the moment I’m going through a bit of a dry patch, but when I’m in the zone (for example, nearing the end of a book), I have been known to write about 20k per week.  Definitely no insistence on a daily word count – that would put me off.  Sometimes it flows, sometimes it doesn’t and you just have to go with it.  I usually read back over my previous day’s work and do a quick edit, but save most of the editing until I’ve finished.  Sometimes I like music when I’m writing, but I’m equally happy writing in silence.  I have been known to do it with the TV on in the background if all the family are in.  I have to fit my writing in around everything else (I long for the day when it is my main job), so I write anytime.  I wrote a lot of my first book at night, between midnight and 4 am, but these days I don’t seem to stay awake so well, probably because I have more early mornings now.  If I get a bit stuck on a plot, the best way to sort it out is in the shower.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Daphne du Maurier, Kate Morton, Kate Atkinson, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, Linda Fairstein, Barbara Erskine, David Baldacci, Sophie Kinsella, Elizabeth George

When did you decide you wanted to be published? How did you go about making it happen? What is the biggest challenge of being published? What’s the best part?

I’ve always wanted to write, right from when I was a small child.   I used to write stories all the time and just assumed that when I was grown-up I would be a published writer.  That didn’t happen for a very long time and I kind of got caught up in other things, then one day in early 2012 I resurrected a story idea I had had a few years earlier, and once I started I couldn’t stop!  As soon as I had finished that one, in about three months, I started a sequel, at the same time editing and then submitting the first one.  By the time I finally got an offer from a publisher (actually from three in one week), in early 2014, I was part the way through the fourth book in the series.  You really do have to be prepared for a lot of rejections though.  I must have had at least twenty, if not more, for the first book.  Don’t be put off.  It’s worth all the rejections when you hold your first published book in your hand, and realise that other people will be getting to know your characters, and hopefully getting to love them.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on another romantic comedy, but I have ideas for several other books all fighting for my attention as well.  I’m not sure which one will win yet, but it’ll be exciting finding out.

You can find out more about Rachael Richey here.

Interview with Dave Olner

IMG_20170518_162052070 1

Years ago, I belonged to a now defunct writing site called Authonomy. There, I workshopped my writing, learned to critique others, and, ultimately, found my publisher. Dave Olner was one of the writers I met there and his book, The Baggage Carousel was one of my favorites. I was so glad to see he recently published it and I had a bunch of questions for him that he was nice enough to answer.

Since Authonomy closed, have you found a comparable writing group?

I haven’t frequented a writing site since Authonomy shut up shop. I feel like I found it at the right time: as a clueless fledgling taking their first crack at writing a book. Some of the feedback I received there helped shape the finished manuscript immeasurably and I’m thankful for it. It was a case of separating the wheat from the chaff, though, because some of of the feedback I received there was dogshit, from people who didn’t know what they were talking about. People just like me! I had found a virtual peer group and it was a sad day when the site closed.


When did you decide you wanted to pursue publication? How did you find your publisher?

After completing the book I embarked on the well-trodden road of queries, subs and rejections. I garnered some initial interest in the manuscript, but nothing that ever came to fruition. When I’d exhausted all options, when I couldn’t find anyone else who would even spare the time to dismiss my work, I set the MS to one side and started on a second book.

Years later, I was contacted by Nathan O’Hagan, one of the non-dogshit people from Authonomy. Now a big-shot published writer, he babbled excitedly about a new indie publisher, Obliterati Press, he was setting up with another author, Wayne Leeming. He told me he remembered my book fondly and asked if I’d ever managed to get it placed. The short answer to that was No. The two of them agreed to consider the MS and…well, here we are.


Describe your writing process. Do you keep a journal?

Much to my shame, I’m not currently writing at all. I’d like to write but after work, sleep, feeding and occasionally washing myself there doesn’t seem to be much time left. Although, sometimes I get an idea for a short story and it starts to rankle me so much that I’m eventually forced to write it down. It’s like lancing a boil and finding a homunculus within.

I don’t keep a journal in my grim everyday existence, but I have done them whilst away on backpacking trips. I’d like to say these journals contained in-depth reportage of the places I’d visited, but I found an old one recently and most of the pages were filled with doodles of robots.


tbcIn The Baggage Carousel, the main character’s traveling is motivated by rootlessness and restlessness. The places he travels to seem so real. How have you researched these places? Are you affected by a similar wanderlust?

All the places mentioned in The Baggage Carousel are ones I’ve visited. Some of the events featured in the book are based on actual occurrences. For the purpose of the narrative, I expunged myself from those events and transposed the central character, Dan Roberts, into them. He’s a bit more of an arsehole than I am but, hopefully, a little more entertaining. So it was like a Spacey/Plummer situation, except in reverse.


Is this really your first book? How long did it take to write and when can we expect another?

Yes, it’s really my first book. I would not intentionally deceive you. It’s hard to tot up how long it took to write The Baggage Carousel, because it’s something I would set aside for months on end and then return to periodically, a scab I had to keep picking at. So, maybe soup to nuts was something like five years, but it wasn’t five years of continual slog. If anything, the MS was something I would revisit when I had a little time away from the continual slog.

I wrote a second book, “Munger”, a character study based on a sex-tourist I met on a bus in Thailand. He was a hideous man, really, but his voice got stuck in my head. Even after the inherent darkness of my first novel, I somehow managed to plumb new depths of depravity with my sophomoric effort. I honestly do not know if the world will ever want or need this novel, but I do know it was something I needed to write.


You can follow Dave at and and check out his publisher,

Interview with Jeanne Felfe

Head shotJeanne Felfe is a women’s fiction author whose debut novel came out in 2016. Always curious how other writers make the journey, I asked her a few questions about writing, publishing and her support system. Here are her answers.

When did you start writing?

I actually have a notebook from Junior High that contains some of my writing, so back at least that far. However, I didn’t write seriously until around 2012. I “played” at writing, but would start and then stop for months at a time.

When did you decide to pursue publication?

The Art of Healing began its life as a short story for a Writers Digest contest in 2003. A friend mentioned Camp Nano in July 2013, the day before it started, and I decided to turn that short story into a novel, even though I knew two weeks of that month were already booked. Although I didn’t write 50K words, I did make it to 21K, which was the most I’d ever written on a single story. The writing bug caught hold that time and hasn’t let go. It took me three years to complete The Art of Healing, and I published it in June 2016, knowing absolutely nothing about pre-launch and marketing. I knew half-way through that I would publish my first book as an Indie author – it just felt right.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00025]Describe your book. Who is your audience?

The Art of Healing is a blended Women’s Fiction/Love story. Although the love story is central, it’s not a true romance. And though it has a satisfying end, it’s not the ending one might expect. The main female character, pediatric nurse Julianne Garvoli, has fooled herself into thinking her life is perfect – that it’s her dream life. Until she comes home one day to learn that her perfect life is anything but perfect. The main male character, photographer Jokob O’Callaghan, is definitely living his dream life, with his wife Keara. They travel the country in an RV creating works of art from his sunrise/sunset photos, and her poetry. When his life is shattered, he hides behind his work. A chance meeting between Julianne and Jokob in St. Louis at one of his art shows opens the door to a possible future together that neither really wants due to their brokenness. In spite of themselves, they find themselves falling in love. But life may have other plans for them.

The ideal audience is a reader who enjoys a deeply emotional journey through pain and healing. A story of growth and forgiveness, and of learning that we all deserve a second chance at love.

The Art of Healing was a quarter-finalist in the Booklife Prize 2017 Contest, where the judge said, “…This satisfying novel has a traditional romance plot, but infuses it with a depth and introspection that keeps the story fresh. No space is wasted on tangents, and the plot comes to a gratifying climax.”

Do you consider genre before you start writing or after the book is complete?

I should, but don’t. When a story floats into my head, I don’t question what it is, I simply write it. However, most of my stories revolve around strong female characters, and fit into some sub-category of Women’s Fiction. That said, I also write short stories, many of which have won contests and been published in several anthologies. My short stories range from humor to horrific, and just about everything in between, including a couple of fantasy. I’m never sure where the ideas come from, but they are usually a flash of a character or scene, and I follow wherever the stories lead.

Do you have a critique group or support network? Do you let people read early drafts?

I am truly blessed to belong to Saturday Writers, a chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild (MWG), and began serving on the board in January 2017. I also served on the MWG board for the 2017-2018 session. Saturday Writers is my writing home and I belong to two novel critique groups made up of several of its members. I can’t imagine trying to write a novel without their support. These two groups (one made up of six women), along with a tightly knit Facebook group, are the only ones I allow to see early drafts because I trust them completely to be honest without destroying me. That wasn’t the case early on when I received some critiques from writers who were not kind, nor supportive but were rather demeaning. I quit writing for a while because of that feedback. Now I am selective. My FB critique group has been writing together since 2014 when we participated in short story workshop together.
Learning which feedback to take from any particular critique partner is something all writers must figure out. Many beginning writers will take anyone’s feedback and make changes that may not serve the story, perhaps changing the voice beyond what truly works.

What are you working on next?

I am so excited to be working on my second novel, The Things We Do Not Speak Of. One day I had a flash that a teenage boy, Daniel, the pastor’s son, had disappeared. When I asked what happened, the voice of fourteen year old Cadey Farmer, a Somali Muslim refugee came through as if she were sitting in my kitchen telling me her story. I ran with it, not truly knowing where it would lead. I knew the beginning and the end, and I knew what had happened to Cadey and Daniel. The rest comes to me in flashes of conversation (how I usually write) between the various characters. I am trying something different. Cadey’s voice came to me in 1st person. There are multiple other point of view characters, all in 3rd person (but all with their own chapters and/or scenes – it’s not omniscient, but rather deep POV for each character). I’ve never read a novel that does this, and it probably breaks a bunch of rules, but all my critique partners tell me it works this way.

The story is a blend of coming of age, family drama, small town bigotry, religious clashes, and mystery, all rolled into one. After the Farmer family moves from Atlanta, where they settled six years earlier after escaping Somalia, to (fictional) Savannah Falls, South Carolina, young Cadey makes a decision that rocks her family, and rattles the townsfolk. Her decision sets up a collision course, forcing a change in deeply held beliefs on all sides. The story dives headlong into generations of racism and prejudice, of small town rivalries, and hidden secrets.
I hope to finish it by the end of the summer and will then begin submitting. All three of my critique groups have been reading it as I write it, so by the time I finish it will have had over ten sets of eyes on it.

For more information, check out

Interview with Tricia Drammeh

Tricia DrammehTricia Drammeh is an author who writes in many genres: YA, fantasy, paranormal, romance, and women’s fiction. I asked her to share her thoughts on craft and publishing.

Do you decide on genre before you start writing? Does your audience shift or is there crossover?

I usually have some idea of genre, though there have been times I’ve been surprised by the outcome. For example, with Better than Perfect, I had originally intended to write a romance. It turned out to be Women’s Fiction, as the story focused more on the main character’s non-romantic relationships and her evolution as a person.

I would say my audience is broken down into two types of readers, though there is some crossover. There are the readers who fell in love with Better than Perfect and who wish I’d write more Women’s Fiction. Then there are my readers who love young adult fiction with a bit of fantasy. My writing has been all over the place in terms of genre, so I can’t really say I have a large, hardcore fan base who will read everything I write, though there are a few readers who fall into that category.

btpebook (7)What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

In cases where I have a deadline, I push through and force myself to write through the hard stuff. Without a deadline, I have a tendency to abandon projects, sometimes for months.

How many books have you written? How long does it typically take?

I have written nine full-length novels and one non-fiction book. When I began writing, I could complete a novel in about two months. Now, it takes much longer. I’m not a fast writer and I like to edit as I go.

What is your biggest challenge of self-publishing? What’s the best part?

Like many authors I’ve spoken with, my biggest challenge has been promotion and marketing. I feel very uncomfortable with self-promotion. The best part about self-publishing is having control of the publication process. I choose the book cover, the editor, and the publication date. It’s very empowering.

What are you working on next?

I just finished writing a short story for an anthology being published in June. My next project will be revisions on The Coven, a paranormal story for teens.

If you’d like more information about Tricia, check out her website.

Interview with Debbie Burke

piano editDebbie Burke is one of the authors I’ve met since joining the community at Kindle Press. Her thriller, Instrument of the Devil, was selected by Kindle Scout’s crowd-sourcing program in October. I’ve asked her to tell us about her book and her writing process.


When did you start writing? When did you decide to pursue publication?

I wrote stories starting in third grade through college. Then career turned my focus to business writing. About thirty years ago, my husband and I moved to Montana where I found a wonderful writing community and I restarted with fiction. Sold my first short story for $5…and…the check bounced, a great lesson in the vagaries of publication. I also wrote magazine articles while working on numerous novels. The novels won contests and earned rave rejections from agents and editors but no publishing contracts. Finally, last year, my tenth book, Instrument of the Devil, won the Kindle Scout contest and was published. A thirty-year long haul but worth it.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or ‘pantser’? Do you outline a story before writing or make it up as you go?

Basically I’m a pantser. I have a starting point and an ending point but not many clues about the middle. The first draft is the skeleton to figure out the plot. Succeeding drafts, I add the flesh, muscle, sinew, layering on more with each rewrite. Sometimes characters appear and force their way into the story, changing the direction. Because I trust the power of the subconscious, I go with the flow. Usually it works out. Also my critique group helps when I get stuck, offering fresh ideas.

Do you read a lot of the mystery/thriller genre? Who are your favorite authors?

Because I do a lot of editing and beta-reading, I don’t have time to read as many books as I’d like. Probably my all-time favorite author is Raymond Chandler. I also admire Sue Grafton because she maintained high quality for decades until, sadly, the alphabet ended in “Y” when she recently passed.

InstrumentoftheDevil_KPress_Cover_FinalTalk about Instrument of the Devil.
Instrument of the Devil is about a terrorist who targets Tawny Lindholm, a technophobic widow, setting her up as a scapegoat in his plot to bring down the electrical grid. It takes place in Montana at the Hungry Horse Dam, a major power generating station for the Northwest US. The inspiration came from two sources: five years ago, I bought my first smartphone when they really took off in popularity. It confounded me with its antics–strange tones, inexplicable messages, a screen that spontaneously went black, etc. I assumed the problems were operator error, but it also made me wonder, what if a bad guy used a rigged smartphone to manipulate an innocent person to take the fall for a crime? At the same time, I was researching the vulnerability of the power grid and learned that a smartphone has the capability to access computers that control the grid’s inner workings. Those two components came together and the story was born. Then in 2016, the FBI thwarted a cyberattack by smartphone on a dam in New York, so I knew I was onto something that could really happen. A rigged smartphone is the Instrument of the Devil. Ironic postscript: after numerous trips to the phone store, it turned out my phone was defective so not all its antics were operator error.

What are you working on next?

Stalking Midas is a proposed title for the second book in the series. Tawny is working for the lawyer who helped her in Instrument of the Devil. He suspects his estranged father is a victim of elder fraud and sends Tawny to investigate. The plot involves a lucrative annuity scam that takes cruel advantage of senior citizens’ devotion to their pets. The third book in the series (proposed title The Suicide Gene) deals with teenage suicide.

Check out Debbie’s website at

Debbie is giving away three FREE signed copies of her book! Three winners will be chosen at random from all entries received by April 30. Enter by answering this question in the comments section:

Who are your favorite authors?