Interview with author Carla Burgess

Carla Burgess is a women’s fiction 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.) It wasn’t until another member mentioned it that I discovered she’d been published and that made me curious about all the usual things. She’s indulged me and answered my questions below.

What do you find most useful about belonging to a critique group?

Being a writer can be a lonely, isolating business, so having a support network of online friends is a wonderful thing. I found the Women’s Fiction Critique Group great for support and advice, and it was invaluable for gaining feedback on my manuscript. This was especially important in the early days when I was a ‘secret author’ and too scared to let friends and family read my work. Critiquing other writers’ work was also an interesting experience, and I found you could learn a lot from the whole process, especially when you read other people’s feedback and see how people’s opinions and reactions differ from your own. I enjoyed being part of the group and hope to become more active again one day, but unfortunately, recent deadlines have meant that I haven’t had the time to join in.

What kind of writer are you? Do you insist on daily word counts? Did you study writing in school? 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?

I’m lucky enough to spend my days writing while my children are at school, but often I find it easier to write at night when everybody is in bed. It’s not so much the quiet that I need as I often listen to music while I write, but it’s more the fact that there’s no laundry to sort or cleaning to do. No one is going to phone me or ring the doorbell. I try to do 1000 words a day but if that’s not possible I don’t worry too much. If I’m on deadline, I tend to average about 4000 words a day. At the moment, I’m going over a first draft and am spending most of my time reading and making notes and thinking up alternative scenes, so I’m not making my word count but that’s okay. I’ve been on quite tight deadlines recently, so I’ve just been banging out a whole first draft first and resisting the urge to go back and edit what I’d already written. It was quite hard this time because I knew the beginning wasn’t right and wanted to tinker with it, but I also knew I needed to get the ending down so I forced myself to carry on. It was a big relief when I wrote the end and finally got to change my beginning.

What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

A change of scenery often works wonders. Sometimes it’s just a matter of walking the dog and an idea will pop into my head, but occasionally I’ll write a note in the text to come back to that bit and write a different scene to help move the story along.

Can you describe your path to publication? Did you query agents? How long did it take?

My path to publication was a bit of a shock really. I was on Twitter and saw a tweet from HQ Digital, which is a digital imprint of Harper Collins, asking for submissions of stories that start with a proposal. I wrote a synopsis and first chapter and sent it in, and then they called me to ask me to write it and offered me a two-book deal. I had the offer in February 2016, and Marry Me Tomorrow was published in October of the same year, so it was quite fast really. My second book, Stuck With You, was published in April 2017.

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

I’ve since been offered another two-book contract from HQ Digital and my third book, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is being published in October 2017. It’s a contemporary romance set at Christmas time, and follows Rachel, one of the characters from Stuck With You. She works in her family’s florist shop and is clashing with the grumpy but handsome new tenant in the flat above. It’s taken me just under four months to write the first draft, which is about 86k words. It will then go off to my editor who will make suggestions for structural edits, and then be proofed by a copy editor. I’ve just seen my new cover so it feels like it’s really happening now and I’m getting excited.

For book updates and author info, connect with Carla on Facebook!

Interview with Cass McMain: On Crafting Twists

Cass McMain’s third book, Gringo, is a little different than her first two. There’s still the realistic dialogue and relatable characters she’s known for, but this time she pushes the boundaries and includes a mysterious, perhaps supernatural, element. She’s created something of a headscratcher for her readers, but figuring it out is so rewarding that I convinced her to help walk us through it, with as few spoilers as possible. I also think it’s interesting to consider one writer’s process and compare it to your own.

This book is a bit of a puzzle by the end. The reader has do some work to figure it out. What is the reader response you’re getting so far? Do people get it? I had figured out that Daniel is an unreliable narrator and was relying on neighbor Greg to point me in the right direction. But you have to read those sections very closely.

I sent this to a number of beta readers, asking especially for them to look at it with an eye toward understanding. I was told by all of them that it was clear as a bell. Then, of course, half of these readers immediately proved with their next words that they had not understood it at all. I think almost nobody gets this book right away. It takes some thought. But everything is there; you just have to pay attention. You have to be very aware of the world you are in, aware enough to look back at the road you’ve been on. A lot of people don’t read that way. Greg is, as you noted right away, crucial to the understanding of this novel — but he also has been very carefully presented; you are meant to be sure you have seen what you have not seen at all.

For people who don’t get it immediately, what would be a helpful hint that doesn’t give it away completely?

How to give a clue without giving away the work, that’s one for the ages. I have no idea. I think the concept is familiar enough, from previous efforts in film and print, that when you give the only clue that helps, it immediately ruins the effect. All I can say, as you have: it makes sense. “Trust me.” Haha. It’s hard to get by with that.

When you started writing this book, had you already figured out what the twist would be? Was writing this book different than your first two and, if so, how?

When I started this book, I had no idea. I, myself, had to go back through, looking for proof I was wrong. I wasn’t wrong. My God, I said. It’s true. I have fooled even myself. It was halfway through writing the book when I found out what had happened, when I saw the twist. The other twist, the more obvious one, yes, I knew that one early. It was built into the reason I wrote the thing.

What inspired the events of this book?

Lack of sleep inspired the book, in a big way. The people across the street, an unfriendly crew whom I never actually laid eyes on, had tied a dog to the tree out front. He barked every night from 11pm until 4 am. (I never did find out what was behind these strict hours he held to.) He kept me awake for weeks. I was out of my mind with lack of sleep, crazy angry. I had just finished Watch, and was looking for new things to write about, and I could not concentrate at all. Everything became barking, everything was a dog.

I hated that dog. I wanted him dead. I called the City over and over again, to no avail. Eventually, I was standing in the street, barefoot at 2 am, in my bathrobe, throwing rocks and sticks at the dog and at the windows of the house, screaming nonsense. If I’d had a gun, I’d have shot that dog. Shortly after that, a writer friend asked what I was working on, and I told him: nothing. I explained about the dog. I explained about the barking. My friend said I should write about that. And when I said no, the story would be too short, how could I write about a barking dog and make it into an actual story, he said… maybe the dog is barking for a reason. And it came to me, the dog’s reason, then. I started writing the book the next day. I never once saw the people who lived in that house, but they moved away a few weeks after I started writing. Maybe they were never there at all.

gringoWhat is the message you hope readers take away when they finish Gringo?

I’m not sure. If the message in Sunflower was that you don’t have to be anyone but yourself, and the message in Watch was a more-disturbing maybe you can’t be anyone but yourself, perhaps the message in Gringo is: maybe you can’t be who you think you are. Maybe nobody can.

As a reader, I think figuring it out is half the fun, which is why I hesitate to give it away here. For those who’ve already read through the book once, here’s a SPOILER/HINT:

You sent me an article that helped me think about it.

The article I sent you was helpful, and maybe the clue is there, though I think once you posit the term “parallel” you have given it all away. Perhaps the secret, then, is in what way these people have come to be so broken, broken enough to find other worlds under their very noses. Broken enough to leave parts of themselves, ghostlike, behind. Does that give away too much? Yes, of course it does. My goal, early on, was to make people want to read it again, just to prove me wrong. To prove they did see what they assumed they saw.

I’d love to continue this conversation in the comments section with readers of Gringo or writers who’ve struggled with similar issues in their work. How do you make your intentions clear without hitting readers over the head?

Interview with author Lincoln Cole

Since publishing with Kindle Scout, I’ve gotten to know some of the other authors in the program and they’ve all been so kind. In my experience, writers tend to be very generous with their knowledge and willing to help new writers rather than being competitive and guarded with what they’ve learned along the way. Lincoln Cole has been one of those writers willing to share his process, so I wanted to talk to him in depth.

When did you begin writing and when did you decide you wanted to be published? Can you talk about how you came to the Kindle Scout program? 

I’ve always loved to write, so making up stories and jotting down ideas was never something I really decided to do. When I settled on the idea of publishing (and gave up sending stories to agents or magazines) I read up on how to do it and put my stories together. Those first ones were terrible and I have since re-edited them and put a lot of work into making them better, but at the time my only shining star was I happened to meet a graphic designer who has become my cover designer. I convinced her to make covers, and it has worked out really well for both of us.
Finding Kindle Scout was sort of random, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was so excited the first time I put a book through the program, and I managed to get about three hundred page views and no contract. Since then, I’ve put two other books into the program and have a new one up now as well! When I started the Kindle Scout program there were a few blog posts about it, but very little other information for authors to use when running a campaign. I wrote a guidebook about the campaigning process to explain everything I’ve learned, and I keep adding information on my blog as I find out new things, both in and outside of the program.

You write in a variety of different genres. Do you consider genre before you start writing? Does your audience change?

I write things I enjoy and tell the stories I want to tell. I’ve never really stopped to consider my ‘audience’ because in my mind I don’t have one. I just enjoy writing and I hope that some people might read them. Writing in different genres, especially when I cross boundaries like horror and literary fiction, is more just to tell the story I want to tell. I am definitely not popular enough for any readers to actually tell me to stick to one genre, and since I only do it for the fun of it I’m not too worried about it. If I had to write to make money and support my family, things would be very different.

Interacting with social media seems to come naturally to you. Has that always been the case or was there a learning curve?
Haha, I’m terrible with social media. I post too much or not enough, and I have a hard time of balancing content and useful information with things that aren’t as useful. The thing is, I work full time, and then write as much as I can, and then social media is just sort of an afterthought for me to tell people what I’m up to. My saving grace is my blog, because I can write blog posts and then just click a button to have them share to social media, so my social accounts are getting constantly updated, but the actual content is centralized and frees me up to schedule things in advance and just do things when I feel like it.
There has definitely been, and still is, a learning curve to all of this. I like to think I’m getting better at it, but I still regularly mess up.
What do you find is the hardest thing about being published? What is your favorite thing?
The hardest thing is getting your book out there and just being patient. Sometimes I’ll do a lot of work and promote like crazy and sell nothing, and then other times I’ll do nothing at all and it will sell like crazy. There isn’t really a rhyme or reason to it, though if you spend long enough without promoting and releasing new content you are guaranteed to stop selling.
My favorite thing is when readers reach out to me to tell me they enjoyed my work. When you spend months and a lot of energy/ambition working on a project, it’s nice to see that at least some people found it enjoyable and relatable.
What are you working on now?
I have my newest Kindle Scout entry up for another couple of weeks and I’ve been doing a lot of blogging and website refreshing. I also spend a lot of time on projects like the Kindle Press anthologies (of which the third is just now releasing!). I’m also working on the sequel to The Everett Exorcism to hopefully build momentum with that series and then I’ll probably try to write the third book as well before moving to something new.
I have some major plans for this world and have at least another ten books planned out around my first Kindle Press book that began with Raven’s Peak. I love the characters and the world and it is always fun to see what happens next!
Apart from that, I want to finish my next book in the Graveyard of Empires series, I have a book about self-publishing (to complement my Kindle Scout Guide) coming out soon, and I have a few more series I want to begin in completely different worlds. I’ve had some ideas rolling around in my brain for a long while and I really want to get them out on paper.

Interview with author Michelle Hughes


Michelle Hughes is not an easy writer to pin down. She’s mostly a romance writer, but  there are different sub-genres within romance. She writes vampire romance and cowboy romance and coming of age romance.

I see you have an extensive publishing history. What was your first book and how did you decide to self-publish? How has that been different from Kindle Scout?

The first book I published was ‘A Night at Tears of Crimson.’  I pulled that book down in 2015 and rewrote it completely.  I had no idea what I was doing in 2009 and while the story was based on reoccurring dreams, it was dreadfully formatted and lacked the experience I have now.   I think Kindle Scout gives you the confidence in knowing your book was good enough to be chosen over hundreds of others.  They also promote your book to an audience you’d be hard-pressed to find on your own.

 You write in different genres. Is genre something you consider before you start writing or is it a decision you make at the end?

I’ve always been a writer that flies by the seat of my pants.  An idea hits me, then I start writing and I usually look at the finished product wondering where this came from.  If I don’t ‘feel’ a book, it’s impossible for me to write.

 How long does it typically take you to write a book?

It depends.  Some books I’ve taken a year to write, others in 30 days.  I do find that trying to make myself write is harder for me.  I enjoy spontaneity in writing, and when I put myself on a schedule, it ruins my creativity.

What are the biggest challenges you face with your writing and how do you overcome them?

Being a mother of five children is probably my biggest challenge to writing.  I have three grown children but two of those still live at home.  It’s gotten much easier as they’ve gotten older. I wouldn’t trade them for anything, though.  My greatest accomplishment in life is my children.

 Tell us about what you’re working on now.

I’ve just released the second book in the Tears of Crimson series, and I’m working on the third. I have several other ideas that have yet to be started.  Like I said earlier, I write when the motivation hits, so who knows what will come next.

To find out more about Michelle Hughes, visit her website.

Interview with Author Gleah Powers


I recently read the novel Edna & Luna, about an unconventional connection formed by two very different women in the face of a culture that is often isolating. Gleah Powers creates believable, unique characters and I was so interested in learning about her writing process.

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

At 14, I began writing poetry and making art. I spent many years studying and pursuing an art career. In my 30s, as the content of my paintings became more and more narrative I turned to writing. At first, I wrote plays: monologues and one-acts which I staged with actors and directors or performed myself in a series of dramatic readings. This was a natural step after having spent some time in New York studying acting, singing and dance. As I received support and admiration for my writing, I began calling myself a writer and my desire to be published started to grow. For the past two decades, I’ve devoted myself to writing fiction, literary nonfiction and poetry.

What sort of formal training, if any, did you receive as a writer?

I took writing classes at UCLA extension, online with One Story, studied privately with Kate Braverman and Judith Taylor, attended writing conferences, and finally received an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles a few years ago.

What inspires you? What do you do if you get stuck?

Reading poetry inspires me and helps me to get unstuck. I also find it helpful to attend readings, be around other writers and hear their work. I’ve been part of a writing group for the past 15 years. If I feel discouraged or stuck, the fact that I have to read their work and give them notes, even if I don’t want to, helps me to push through my own stuckness.

Why do you write?

My initial impetus to write was born out of and developed from a burning desire at a young age to search for the most effective ways to address emotional pain and broaden consciousness.

My search led me to the arts; painting, theatre, dance and to the exploration of many alternative therapies.

In writing, I’m able to use the elements of all these disciplines: creating sentences that have a particular rhythm or movement, compelling characters, dialogue that zings, and always, the surprising realizations and thoughts that well up from the juxtaposition of all these qualities.

Writing a story is like making a collage.

Talk about Edna & Luna. Who should read this book?

I have led a life by turns grounded and nomadic—a perfect preparation for discovering in myself the voices of Edna and Luna. In my early teens, I lived with my grandmother in Phoenix. For many years, I was an explorer and teacher of alternative therapies.

In writing the book, I wanted to find out what would transpire if a relationship somehow developed between two women with very different backgrounds: a crabby widow, a bit of a drinker, who runs over people’s toes with her grocery cart and a new age healer who chooses food by its vibration. The exploration of each woman’s curious background and their developing bond tells the story of how family can be found in the most unlikely people. Most of us have had the experience of coming to know and even love someone we initially mistrusted or were suspicious of.

The book addresses themes of women supporting each other, challenging one’s assumptions & prejudices, compassion & empathy, important messages that are so crucial right now.

It is a for book for women and for men who are curious about the nuances and deep intimacy of female friendship.

Find out more about this author here:

Interview with Author Margaret K Johnson


Social networking technology has made it much less isolating to be a writer. I met Margaret through an online critique group and I immediately recognized a kindred spirit of sorts. When she explained she was self-publishing a book that was originally traditionally published, I was intrigued. I knew right then I wanted to do an interview.

I read your bio and was interested to see you went to Art College and painted before you started writing. Can you compare what these two forms of artistic expression mean to you?

I don’t paint nowadays, as I haven’t time to do everything at the moment. (I also teach creative writing, and I’m writing a new novel). When I do get the chance to do something artistic, I usually make collages these days. I’ve always loved cutting up pieces of paper, even as a small child! A few years ago, I made a collage called Urban Jungle, and went out in Norwich, my home city, taking photographs – of bins, graffiti, traffic, ambulances, play parks etc, etc, specifically to cut up. I get completely involved when I’m making a piece, but it’s different to writing. Writing takes over my life – mostly in a good way. I can hear my characters speaking inside my head, often when I’m doing something else. Painting or making collages absorbs me at the time, but doesn’t dominate my life. I suppose this makes it more relaxing than writing, but writing is my passion. I do want to make time for painting and collage in the future though.

parrotsWhen did you start calling yourself a writer and when did you decide you wanted to be published? How did you find a publisher for your first book?

I started writing after I left Art College many years ago with the misguided plan of writing a best-selling novel for Mills and Boon to support my art career. I quickly got hooked though, and even though I wasn’t published by Mills and Boon, I discovered I loved writing. My first book was published by Women’s Weekly. My brother’s girlfriend at the time shared a flat with an editor at Women’s Weekly, and she agreed to read my manuscript and liked it. It was such a thrill to see it in my local newsagents!

forhannahwithlovecoverYou have several other books traditionally published. Can you explain how you got the rights back for this title? Is this your first time self-publishing? How has it been different from your previous books?

I have had a lot of books published the traditional way – original fiction readers for people learning to speak English mostly, and a historical romance – A Nightingale in Winter – published by Omnific Publishing. I have also self-published two women’s fiction books – The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club. I enjoy the freedom of self-publishing – you can make any changes you want, and you can add details of your other books, or special offers if you want to. You can do what publicity you want to, the way you want to as well. I got the rights back to this book (which was formerly called Taming Tom Jones) when my publisher relocated abroad. We were issued with new contracts to reflect this change, but – mainly because I wanted to change the title of the book to For Hannah, With Love – I decided not to sign the new contract. I didn’t feel the original title reflected either the story or the message of the book. However, I have nobody but myself to blame for that, since I chose it!

Find out more about this author on her website or follow her on twitter @margaretkaj. Here’s and excerpt from the opening of For Hannah, With Love

I’m in the ladies toilets at my local superstore. Inside the one functioning cubicle, sitting fully clothed on the toilet seat, surrounded by overflowing carrier bags, a peed-on plastic tester stick clenched in my hand. Waiting for my fate to unfold.

Two minutes. The time it takes for Michael to go to sleep after we’ve made love if I don’t do anything to stop him. The pee on the plastic stick is asking a question, and the chemicals inside it are working out their answer. And in two minutes I’ll know whether their answer agrees with my instinct.

“I’m crazy about you, Jen,” Michael said three months after we first got together. “I want us to be together. But I’ve got to be totally honest with you, if you want kids, you’d better find someone else, because I’ve already done all that. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a father to Kyle, but it’s enough for me.”


Michael. We met at a fancy dress party nearly four years ago – my mate Rick’s thirtieth birthday party. The theme was Pop Icons of the Twentieth Century, and the room was stuffed full of Elton Johns, Donny Osmonds and Mick Jaggers. I was Madonna, complete with pointy bra, and Marcia, my best mate, was Diana Ross.

“You look fantastic with all that long hair,” I told her as we propped up the bar, preening ourselves and pointing out funny sights to each other.

“Thanks. I could get used to this glamour.” She ran a hand over the sea-green sparkles of her dress. Perhaps we should start a band.”

“Yeah, right.” I hadn’t forgotten our last spectacularly bad attempt at karaoke on holiday in Spain, even if she had.

Marcia never has liked to be reminded of her failings, even at school. “Your bazoomers aren’t level,” she told me stonily, jabbing an accusing finger in the direction of my breasts. “You need to go up a bit on the right.”

I yanked dutifully at my right cone, wondering if Madonna had experienced the same trouble.

“Anyway,” Marcia said, “who are you going to get off with tonight?”

“I’m not going to get off with anybody. It’s only been three months since I split up with Luke.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” she said. “Three months of freedom and so far you’ve done zilch to celebrate.”

“I don’t feel like celebrating.” I was hurt by now, but Marcia never has been a girl to let my hurt feelings stand in her way when she’s telling me something for my own good.

“Well, you should. Luke was a prize tosser. You are far, far better off without him, Jen.”

“I loved him.”

“You thought you loved him. That’s about as different as Ibiza and the Isle of Man.”

Marcia stood on diamanté sandal tip-toes, peering into the crowd, the dark river of fake hair flowing all the way down her bare back. “Him,” she said, pointing. “That’s who you’ll get off with if you get off with anybody.”


Marcia pointed again. “Him,” she said. “Tom Jones.”


“Mummy, I need to do a poo-poo!” In the supermarket toilets, a child’s urgent voice interrupts my reminiscences.

“Excuse me, will you be long?” her mother asks.

There are two blues lines showing in the clear plastic window of the tester stick.

“Only the other cubicle’s out of order, and I think this is an emergency,” the mother continues.

I’m pregnant.

“Sorry. I…I’ll be right out.” I get up in a daze, flush the toilet, and begin to fumble with carrier bags, testing stick and door.

I’m pregnant. Pregnant.

“Too late, Mummy. Too late…”

One of the carrier bag handles snaps, and as I scrabble for control, a box of tea bags and the testing stick skitter onto the floor.

“Mummy, I pooed my pants.”

The woman with the small child looks first at the stick, and then at me. “Good luck!” she says as her child begins to cry.

“Thank you.” I pick up the stick, and make my way from the toilets and out to my car. Load the bags into the boot of my car. Unlock the driver’s door. Get in. Just as if it’s any ordinary day.

But then I just sit there, gripping the wheel, staring straight ahead at nothing. My mouth’s numb and I’ve got pins and needles starting in my fingers. I want to cry because I’ve never felt so afraid and alone. And I want to laugh because I’ve never felt so excited and happy. It isn’t possible to feel all of those things at once, and yet I do.

I do.


Interview with Author Margery Walshaw


I stumbled across Margery Walshaw’s new book, Full Color Life, at an opportune time. It deals with a subject that many of us struggle with as writers: staying motivated. This has been a real problem for me lately.

This book is less of a ‘how to’ writing manual and much more about how to get inspired and stay inspired. You say “writer’s block is almost always a matter of not knowing where our story should go.” When you hit a writer’s slump, how do you get out of it?

I talk about how to get out of a writer’s slump in my book. Some of my advice is simple such as getting outdoors, other times, it’s seeking inspiration from other sources such as music. When I personally hit a writer’s slump, I feel it’s important to remind myself to have confidence in the writing process. Meaning, I know that there will be days when the words fly out of me and days where I’m not focused.

It might sound a bit esoteric, but I truly believe that if we are open to inspiration it will find us. If I believe that the answer will come to me, it usually manifests itself fairly quickly. Of course, I’m thinking about the problematic section of my book and therefore, when I go about my normal activities, I’m much more likely to be on the lookout and be receptive to an answer.


I’ve called myself a writer for a long time, but I have a harder time identifying as an artist or creative. Can you talk a bit about how these labels overlap and the importance of claiming them?

The term “creative” as applied to an individual is a very Hollywood term and that’s where I first heard it, but I like it and apply it to all artistic people. I can meet a writer and just launch into a great conversation. It’s like we “get” each other. I think this is because we’re both writers, we’re creative, we’re artists. We often hear that labels are bad. But labels can be positive. If someone wants to call me an artist, rather than a writer, I welcome that label. I encourage people to come up with their own terms/labels. What do you want to be remembered for? Are you a writer, a creative, a story-teller, an entertainer…they’re all good choices.


Throughout your book, you’ve included interviews with a diverse group of creatives. Did you find commonalities?

It’s easy for me to quickly state what the commonality was among the people I interviewed. In a word: DRIVEN. They know what they want and work tirelessly for it. But, they love their work. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to even call it work because it embodies their whole being.


You write fiction under the name Mia Fox. What are some of the different challenges in writing fiction versus nonfiction? Which do you prefer?

There is a big difference to my mindset when I’m writing as Mia Fox (for fiction) or Margery Walshaw (for non-fiction). I sometimes say that Mia is my naughty alter ego. (Readers will know the truth of this if they check out my Surprise Passion series!) Mia gets to have all the fun while Margery has to be serious. However, I also use my fiction process as a means to help other authors. I test out different genres and see if they are selling well with readers. I test out different marketing tactics. I explain that I’d rather have Mia make the mistakes than my clients.

Writing non-fiction is my way of sharing the knowledge that I have accumulated professionally. But a writer writes and I wouldn’t be satisfied in life if I didn’t pursue my fiction and the fantasies that my stories lead me to. One writing is for entertainment and the other is for education. I love both.


One of the things that resonated most for me was the unexpected stumbling block you encountered when you finished your first book and had to start marketing it. How did you break out of your comfort zone?

When I wrote my first fiction book, like many new writers I expected to put it on Amazon and have people find it. That was terribly naive. Just think of how many books exist! But, they say ignorance is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. My solution was not to be ignorant, but to educate myself. I read tons of blogs from successful authors, internet marketers, even people who understood the nuances of internet advertising. And now, I share my knowledge as a writer’s consultant and on my blog.


You can check out blogs for Margery Walshaw or Mia Fox


Interview with Author Tabatha Stirling


My New Year’s resolution was to get back to doing these author interviews that I think are so interesting. I love hearing from people who call themselves writers. I find our similarities as reassuring as our differences. I also think it’s particularly helpful in challenging the isolation that many writers face.

On that note, I’m excited to introduce the Today’s Author community to Tabatha Stirling, who shares her particular writing struggles, including the publication process of Unbound.


How old were you when you started writing? When did you decide you wanted to be published?

I was writing stories in my head before I could physically write. I think I was 7 years old when I met Pamela Kettle, the ultra-glamourous author-mother of my friend Danae, at Prep School.

I loved her at first sight. She had a massive, complicated auburn beehive, wore exotic, flimsy clothes, smoked Sobranie Cocktail cigarettes through an ivory holder (God! I know, but I was only 7), and swigged neat Stolichnya out of frosted glasses ringed with lime juice.

She wrote a few books I’d never heard of, but did I care? Not one bit and when I saw her name printed on the dust jacket I knew instinctively that I was going to be a published author one day.

It was hard for me because I suffer from Bipolar Type II and was un-diagnosed and un-medicated for a long time. This meant I had terribly low self-esteem and found it very difficult to finish projects or send anything off for query.

I found the physical act of writing torturous and was surprised when I was placed in the last 10 of a Comedy script competition run by the BBC. But I didn’t pursue it because I always felt a fluke and that anything successful that I did was by chance and I would never be able to replicate it.

My father was very unsupportive of my writing and my art. Actually, dismissive is more accurate. I remember him telling me that I should just go and get a secretarial job because ‘really, I was nothing special’.

I sometimes imagine where I would be in my publishing life if I had been supported. But that was the hand I was dealt and I’m delighted that I now have the chance to be traditionally published. botblunboundcoverpostcard


What’s your book about? Where did the inspiration come from?

My book explores the dark heart at the centre of Singapore’s maid culture and the abuses of human rights there.

I lived in Singapore from 2010 to 2014 and from my very first week I was appalled at the way both maids and helpers were treated.

Firstly, it is important to understand that these women and girls live in your house, usually in tiny little rooms, smaller even that most people’s utility rooms. They have one day off a week (there was no mandatory day off in Singapore for FDW (foreign domestic workers) before 2012), often work from 5.00 am to 11.00 pm with no breaks, are expected to hand over their passports to their employer and quite often are not allowed out in their free time.

If that wasn’t enough, some employers even change the women’s natural names to something Western and pronounceable. For example, from Rizel to Lisa. Some women come leaking breast milk, some women don’t see their children for 2-3 years and most send 80% of their money back to their home countries.

I was inspired to write the novel because I had no political voice in Singapore as an expat, demonstrations and political gatherings are illegal and the inhuman and corrupt maid agencies were not interested in a single person’s concern.

What I could do was write. And that is how Blood On The Banana Leaf came to life. I am passionate about these issues because all women deserve a voice, to be heard and not to feel invisible.


How long have you been working on this book? What else have you written?

I’ve been working on this book since 2013. I started writing it in my bedroom. My favourite place to write is my bed. I would have the fan on because I loathe AC and it gets pretty humid in Singapore and would stare out at the Banyan trees in the park and the incredibly fragrant frangipani in my neighbour’s garden.

It actually started out as a crime novel. I was washing up (as you do) and I thought ‘what if a Western employer had an affair with a maid, she became pregnant and they conspired to rid themselves of his present wife?’ And then it became something much more.

I began to see these stories from four very different women weaving in and around each other like four meandering tributaries exploring abuse of all kinds and how women cope in the most brutal of circumstances.

It was a very difficult book to write at times because much of the abuse described in the book are true stories trusted to me by helpers that lived close by, my beloved helper, Clarie and other women who had sought sanctuary at HOME, the NGO in Singapore. It is an incredible place that shelters women who want to return home but have no money for a multitude of reasons.

I’ve written loads of short fiction and poetry and have had quite a bit of success having things published which is very pleasing (and a relief). I’ve also written a 30 minute play, Don’t Like Mondays, about a school shooter. It is published on Amazon and was performed for Drama GCSE in 2014.

I have stories and poetry in two anthologies published by the Cake and Quill Collective and poetry being published in an up and coming anthology by The Feminine Collective.

Oh! And my next two novels are decided and sketched out. I think that’s it.


When you hit a writing slump, how do you get motivated again?

Writing blocks are the scourge of all writers in any genre but I think they are particularly dreadful for novel writers. Part of successful writing is the fluidity of the words, a flowing narrative and ideas springing from every corner of your world. This happens in patches and when it does you feel like you’re invincible and your novel is absolutely the best thing you’ve ever written. I think it feels quite like being in love. Intoxicating, heady and seductive.

On the flip-side when it staggers, drops to it’s knees and falls face down on the dusty page, then it feels as if you will never write anything good again, you will never be published and why the hell are you even bothering.

This is where writer’s groups are so important because you all understand this process and can lend moral support and practical ideas when someone is hollowed out with anxiety.

When it happens to me, I leave it to one side and design things. I am a book cover designer by trade and I just let the other side of my creativity make beautiful, colourful things.

Unlike writing, I never freeze up with design and I find it much easier. I can work for 18 hours a day on a design project and never get bored. Writing takes much more focus for me with frequent breaks and total silence.

I’ve always wanted to be a cool fantasy YA writer like Victoria Schwab and have groovy playlists that she publishes for her fans.

But no, frequent breaks, mostly on the net, and total silence.

I have a young, energetic family and an incontinent Beagle so total silence is very unusual but I’ve got to bang on with editing soon and some friends have offered a room when I need the peace.


Tell me a bit about the Unbound process.

The Unbound process is a white-knuckle, white water rafting experience. It is a game of sweat, tears and so much sighing that one sometimes wonders what it’s all about. But never, ever, ever do I regret signing with Unbound or starting the journey because once I’m funded I will be traditionally published and that is all I have ever wanted as a writer.

I know some authors write to tell their stories to readers, and some just because they love it and some because it’s a bit of a hobby.

I write to tell my stories, to make a really good living, to become an acclaimed writer in my field and to be able to write full-time. I may not achieve all these goals but I’m going to have fun trying.

Unbound is a literary crowdfunding platform but unlike other crowdfunding models it has a strict submissions process, a traditional publishing house that kicks in once funding is achieved AND a distribution deal with Penguin Random House which means our books will be in Waterstones and other well-known book shops.

I was signed by Scott Pack (iniitally through a Twitter pitch) who was Head Buyer for Waterstones for 10 years. I first heard of Scott when I was on Authonomy, a writing site that gave authors a chance, if their book was popular enough, to get to the ‘Editor’s Desk’ and receive a critique from a reader at Harper Collins.

But first you have to crowdfund your book with pledges by many, many people. And trust me, even if you have a billion friends on Facebook and 2000 followers on Twitter not everybody understands the idea.

I’ve had people think I’m asking for a loan and becoming quite cross and at times it does feel really grubby. But this idea, the idea of Patrons funding books has been around since Dickens who, incidentally, used the same model to fund some of his best known works.

British culture is Fort Knoxed about asking for money. The Americans and Chinese are much more open to it but still I keep banging on those doors and am now up to 50% which is half-way there. A very exciting milestone.

There are some incredible rewards for supporters even at entry Patron level. £15.00 will get your name on the Supporters page of EVERY edition of the book. Literary immortality for fifteen quid is not a bad deal!

So that’s a tiny window into my mercurial brain. Thank you for reading my article and do remember to pledge if you feel inspired:

And thank you, Katie, for having me. Some great questions to answer.

You can check out Tabatha’s blog here.

Interview with Author Gail Cleare

gailMany years ago, I participated in an online writing community that has since closed. Authonomy had a section of comment boards where different topics were discussed and one of the most helpful of those were the critiquing groups. They were organized by genre and Gail Cleare ran the Women’s Fiction Critique Group. When the site closed down, it was this group that many of us were most distraught to lose. And so we didn’t. We moved the group to another forum where it continues to run under Gail’s care.

I was able to read her new novel for that group and I’m thrilled to announce it’s being published today! Gail talked to me recently about her life as a writer.

When did you start writing and when did you start calling yourself a writer?

I wrote my first poem when I was ten. It was selected to appear in the literary journal at my school, the first time a fourth grader’s work had ever been chosen, and that was it for me—I wanted to be a Writer. I wrote stories all through high school, won two big contests, studied the craft in college, had my poetry performed in live theater in Boston, and then…remembered I needed to earn a living. So I wrote marketing/PR copy for many years, while dreaming of having the time to write novels because then I would be a real Writer. Instead, I raised three boys and settled for writing ads and content for AOL until 2010, when the stars aligned just right and I wrote my first full-length work, DESTINED, a novel of the Tarot. That’s when I started calling myself a Writer, though I had been a writer of another sort for my entire career.

Talk to me about your writing process. What is your preferred writing environment? How long does it take you to complete a book? At what stage of writing do you find outside feedback helpful? How do you sift through differing advice? When do you think about the audience your book appeals to? 

I write in a blue room at the very top and back of my house, sitting in front of a double window that looks out over many acres of fields and forest. Birds fly by at eye level. It’s lovely. My first book took only five weeks for the first draft and I worked on it every day, straight through. THE TASTE OF AIR has been rewritten three times and took a total of five years, with several stops and starts. After the first draft, I took started looking around for an online writing group because I needed feedback, and I found HarperCollins website for authors, Authonomy. Unfortunately, that site is closed now, but it’s where I originally started the Women’s Fiction Critique Group (WFCG), which has since moved to WriteOn. I find it incredibly helpful to be critiqued by other serious writers in the same genre. If you get a dozen or more opinions all at once, you can see the trends and understand which comments are personal taste vs. which views are held in common, and clearly identify flaws in the work. At that point, I make a judgment call and go with whichever path seems both practical and likely to take care of the unresolved issues. I think about the audience for the book all along, starting from the first draft of the first chapter. I shape the voice and the story with that in mind.

You run an online critique group for writers of women’s fiction. What has that group meant to you as a writer?

Yes, I mentioned the WFCG above. It has meant an enormous amount to me, in terms of making friends like you, Katie, who I met there on Authonomy, and because access to the group mind has been invaluable. We share reviews, information, experiences, leads, jokes and sympathy. There are several writers’ groups locally where I live, but they are for all genres. I am much more interested in having my work critiqued by authors who like to read similar books, rather than by writers who enjoy science fiction or detective stories, for example. By going online, we’ve been able to collect WF authors from around the world, and many current and past members of the group are doing really well, I’m glad to say.

Your new novel, The Taste of Air, is being released today. What is the book about and who should read it?

The Taste of Air is the story of two sisters who discover their mother has been hiding a secret life for over forty years. When Mary Reilly turns up in a hospital hundreds of miles from the senior community where she lives, Nell and Bridget find out she has a lakeside cottage in Vermont, a Westie named Winston, and a set of complex relationships with people her daughters have never met. The family drama plays out from the middle of the 20th century into the present, revealing the sacrifices all three women have made and the secrets they carry.

If you ever wondered what your mother is really like, you should read this book. It’s a family saga with mystery/historical elements, exploring the woman’s journey through three strong main characters. Readers of Sarah Jio, Kate Morton, Susan Wiggs and Luanne Rice will enjoy this story.

What’s your next project?

I’m working on the second draft of something much lighter called “Love & Chocolate, a romance with recipes.” It’s the story of a young woman who has been burned by a bad marriage, and tries to protect her heart by substituting chocolate and cybersex for the real thing. Every chapter ends with a chocolate recipe, or a bit of cocoa trivia. This book is nearly finished and I hope to have it out next year.

I’m also working on a sequel to The Taste of Air. A young girl introduced at the very end of the first book becomes the main character of the second, and the saga of the Reilly clan continues.

More information about Gail Cleare can be found on her website.

Interview with Author Jennie Ensor

jenny_ensor_author_photoI first “met” Jennie Ensor years ago on a now defunct writer’s website. We both belonged to a critique group there and I was able to read an earlier draft of her recently released novel, Blind Side. I’m rereading the polished, final version and I’m enjoying it even more the second time around. I recently talked to Jennie and got her to answer a few questions about writing, editing, and about her new book.

Jennie- I just started rereading, though it’s been long enough that I can’t tell for sure what’s new. Is the prologue new? It’s fantastic…

Thanks Katie – and thanks too for inviting me here. I added the prologue fairly late on, yes – good to know it works! It’s a short passage that plunges the reader into the action straight away, taken from a chapter near the end of Blind Side. The aim is to let the reader know the kind of book this is (a thriller infused with psychological suspense, terrorism, romance and politics!) as well as to create suspense as to what will happen.

So I love reading a piece I’ve read before that’s been revised and perfected. Tell me how long it took you to write this from the time you typed your first line until your publisher took it from your hands.

I started mulling over ideas and scribbling them down late 2004 early 2005 – so long ago I’ve forgotten exactly when. My novel was accepted for publication by Unbound in October 2015 (conditional on crowdfunding, see below). So around 11 years in total, though I did write another novel during this time and finish one I’d started earlier. I must have revised it ten or more times – I’ve lost count of how many! And before Blind Side was published I had to make many more changes (more on that later). Thank goodness there’s no more to make!

We ‘met’ in a writer’s critique group. How do you feel about the value of getting feedback as you’re writing?

It gives an immediate insight into how your work in progress comes across. Also other writers can make useful suggestions as to how to fix problems and can often articulate issues better than non-writers. Often there’s plenty of quite small things that people will pick up on, which a single editor may not. Though some find it confusing, I like getting a diverse range of views – with practise I’ve found it easier to decide which points I will act on. I think peer critiquing is one of the purest forms of feedback a writer can have. No money changes hands, which could influence things, only time and effort. You get back what you put in – there’s so much to learn from the attempt to help others. Last but not least, a group can really help one to soldier on in the face of discouragement, I’ve found – and be there to cheer on the successes.

I know a little bit about your struggle toward publication but can you describe the process you went through with Unbound?

The most difficult part was raising over £3000 to cover the costs of publication. For each pledge there’s a reward offered, e.g. a video of the novel’s settings that I’m doing my best to get done now. In the UK people aren’t used to crowdfunding as much as in the US, so you have to do a lot of explaining as to how it works and the publishing model. Like many others I found the first 30% or so came in relatively quickly… then it got difficult. I tried all sorts of things in the later stages. When my allotted three months were nearly at an end I’d reached only two thirds of my target and was trying not to panic. Fortunately, two very special people came forward and lifted me across the finish line.

Once the book was funded, I believe the processes are similar to traditional publishing – this is my first published novel so I’ve got nothing to compare it with. Blind Side is also the first title in Unbound’s new digital list (comprised of e-books), mainly genre-oriented fiction. There was an intensive period of editing and cover design – I was surprised at how much consultation was involved to produce the cover. But it’s nice to be able to say that in part at least it was my idea 🙂 I was thrilled with the final cover – I’m hoping the e-book sells enough copies to allow it to come out as a paperback version and be seen in its full glory!

Regarding the editing, I was asked to make many substantial changes for the developmental edit, such as changing the whole thing into present tense. I also altered aspects of the plot to make things hang together better and brought forward some elements to speed up the read. After reading my editor’s first report I felt daunted by the extent of the changes she suggested… especially the re-plotting, which was like tearing apart a jigsaw you’ve spent ages on knowing you’ll have to rebuild a bigger better one in only a few weeks. But as I made the changes I could see that they worked and knew I was doing the right thing.

How did you decide to change the title? 

I’d had my title ‘Ghosts of Chechnya’ for years – it was the second title after ‘Nikolai’. I started thinking of an alternative after my editor suggested that the title didn’t reflect the central character’s situation. I’d had doubts about it too for a while – many people didn’t respond well to ‘Chechnya’. The publisher also wanted a title that would suggest a thriller… After much hand wringing I came up with ‘Blind Side’, which totally fits the novel. But it’s taken quite a while to get used to it – and of course some people like the old one better.

Can you tell us what the book is about and give an excerpt?

Off the top of my head, Blind Side is about two guys who want the same girl. One she’s known a long time as a platonic friend, she thinks she is close to him then realises she doesn’t really know him as well as she thought. The other she is wildly attracted to but he has been traumatised by fighting in Chechnya, and is potentially dangerous. My central character Georgie has issues with trust having been badly hurt before; in essence she has to decide whether to risk making herself vulnerable, or to carry on as she is, living half a life.

I focus a lot on relationships and the (often abnormal) psychology of my characters, as is the case with many psychological dramas/thrillers. But the setting of my novel is 2005, amid the terror attacks on London. Embedded in the story are social and political currents of the time, e.g. people’s suspicions and fears of immigrants and outsiders, which seemed to escalate after 7/7 having already been heightened by the UK general election earlier that year. Also the war in Chechnya, which plays a part too… Tongue slightly in cheek, I’ve described Blind Side as The Book of You (a sinister stalker novel by Claire Kendall) meets a condensed version of Gone With the Wind.

Below is a short chapter from fairly early on – the first time Julian appears in the novel in the first person.

She’s standing there, across the lane. Close enough for me to call out hello.
Blue jeans, padded jacket, short boots, the furry insides folded over at the tops.
Not much make-up. Hair loose, tickling her shoulders. Scarf draped chicly
about her neck. With her long legs and silky hair she could pass for a model.

Every so often she looks at her watch. She’s getting agitated, chewing her
lower lip, staring at people passing by. Men, that is. Her hair keeps getting
blown across her face and each time she pulls it off with an impatient flick
of the fingers. The wind has a nip in it today. She hugs herself and rubs her
arms. She pushes her hands down into her jacket pockets, rocking from one
foot to the other.

It’s busy in this quaint little lane. People ducking in and out of boutiques
and bakeries, yakking in French, supping their Saturday morning cappuccinos.
Old ladies creaking along in cashmere coats and sensible shoes, trendy mums
pushing designer kids. Oh, yes, and little old me loitering in a doorway,

A burly man in a khaki jacket strides into view from the direction of the
Tube station. His hair is hidden by a beanie. She checks him out too. A sharp
turn of the head and the expectant look on her face is wiped in an instant. He
disappears into the gallery.

Russell Brand, or his lookalike, emerges from a florist. Diamond earring,
pirate beard. She looks again at her watch, ignoring him. Her mouth twists in
frustration. She jams her hands in her pockets and strolls along the lane, away
from me.

I drain my coffee, ditch the plastic cup. She stops and looks into the
florist’s window. I go closer, almost close enough to reach out and touch her.
Her long earrings nestle into the curve of her cheekbones. She’s wearing
gloss on her lips. A trace of light perfume reaches me. Something new, inviting.
I feign an interest in the garish display of tulips, unnatural yellows and reds.
Funny how dark glasses and a hat can make such a difference. She doesn’t
recognise me, doesn’t even see me.

What are you working on now?

I stopped writing poetry for a while due to so many demands on my time, and I do miss it. It seems to access another part of the brain to that needed for prose writing. I’ve started writing flash fiction and want to experiment a little with the form. I’ll probably need to revise my second novel (an unsettling psychological thriller) once more before it can be published, my next goal. Also I’m keen to get stuck into something new, not sure what yet.

To find out more about Jennie, check out her website at