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[Author Interview] J. W. Elliot

Welcome J. W. Elliot

James is a twenty-nine-year-old stuck in an older man’s body. He loves to paddle his canoe, shoot his handmade longbows in the woods, make knives, study martial arts, and generally enjoys challenging himself. When not teaching or writing about the real past, he is imagining worlds and histories that might have been, should have been, or may yet be.

James has two homes (though only one house)–the mountains of Idaho and the forests of New England–where he canoes, hikes, camps, rock climbs, and shoots the longbows he makes himself. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife.

His next book: Heirs of Anarwyn, Book III: Shattered comes out in a few months.

You can follow J. W. Elliot through his social channels:

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Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?

I’m a professional historian of Latin American and World History with five academic books published. I also study martial arts, and I love the outdoors and outdoor activities including canoeing, archery, hiking, rockhounding, and rock climbing. I bring all of my hobbies and professional expertise into my fiction writing.

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading to me. We had a subscription to National Geographic, which I devoured, and the Reader’s Digest, as well as a bookshelf filled with encyclopedias. So I have always loved stories and knowledge. But I think the real catalyst in me becoming a writer occurred when I was ten years old, and my family moved from Idaho to Oklahoma. It was a very lonely time for me, and I found solace and friendship in the characters I met in the books and comics I read. That was where I discovered J.R.R Tolkien, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Katherine Kurtz. That experience inspired me to take a creative writing course in high school, and I have been writing fiction ever since.

I dabbled in fiction writing for many years while I went to graduate school and started building my academic career. I often worked on my stories to wind down and relax at the end of the day. Eventually, I started reading them to my kids at bedtime. Their enthusiasm kept me writing—I knew I had to have something new for them the next night. My new series, Heirs of Anarwyn, was created in that give-and-take as I read and my kids critiqued.

Describe your desk / writing space.

I tend to write upstairs in my office surrounded by books with music playing in the background. But I can and do write anywhere. I’ve written in car repair shops, in the car while my wife is driving, on the airplane, restaurants, at church, and under the trees while camping. Writing time is so precious, I take what I can get.

Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?

I always have at least three books in process at any given time—one I’m editing, one I’m writing, and one I’m planning. I write every day, and I prefer to write in the morning when I can. But since I have a real-world job, I usually have to write in the afternoon or evenings.

My philosophy is that inspiration is not found—it’s created. By that, I mean there is no mystical muse upon which we have to wait for inspiration. I create work habits and processes that generate ideas and inspiration consistently. That’s what I do, and so far it is working pretty well.

How do you come up with the title for your books?

A title needs to catch the reader’s eye as much as the cover does, so I spend a lot of time trying different ideas for titles. I run them by my beta readers and try to find titles that are intriguing while also giving a sense of what the story is about.

What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?

I guess romance scenes are a bigger challenge for me. My daughters constantly tell me I get things wrong, and I have to rewrite them. My favorite scenes are fight and battle scenes. As a martial artist and a historian who teaches a course entitled The Global History of War, I feel pretty comfortable writing those scenes.

What inspired your book/series?

The Archer of the Heathland series came about because I wanted to write a series in which archery was represented in an accurate way. I also wanted to explore the role of family and loss in the shaping of human identity.

The Ark Project arose from the question of what it means to be human in a world where science and technology have superseded biological evolution. It was challenging because, as a historian, I tend to live in the past. I had to do a lot of research to make sure I got the technology and science correct. Even though I made up a bunch of advanced technologies, I think the future I created for The Ark Project is possible. It could actually happen.

The Worlds of Light trilogy came about because I wanted to see if I could create a magic system that drew on the real history of worshipping light with a modern scientific understanding of light. I also wanted to explore the question of how power can corrupt and what choices have to be made to ensure that it doesn’t.

The Heirs of Anarwyn series came to me one day as I was driving through the Idaho countryside. I wondered what would happen if magic wasn’t just an inert power. What if it had both consciousness and will and actively intervened in human lives to pursue its own agenda. I wanted to explore the nature of evil and how it takes root in the human psyche. I started writing it when I was sixteen, and I still haven’t finished.

Walls of Glass struggles to understand nature of racism and what each of must do to confront it. I drew on my own life experiences and my studies of history for inspiration.

The Miserable Life of Bernie LeBaron examines loss, mental illness, and broken families in a heartwarming story of a young man who overcomes his challenges by developing intergenerational friendships. I drew much of my inspiration for the story from own life.

Somewhere in the Mist examines the challenge of facing tragedy and loss in the era of the Great Depression. I wanted to write a story that explored how the past remains with us despite our efforts to hide from it. I found the central idea for this story in the Marion library in a little room dedicated to a ship called the Mary Celeste, whose occupants disappeared at sea without a trace.

What are you working on next?

After I finish the Heirs of Anarwyn series, I plan on returning to Archer of the Heathland world for a spin-off series with two of my favorite characters.

What authors or books have influenced your writing?

I love all great stories. I really don’t care what the genre is. But my “go-to” fantasy books—the ones I return to over and over again—are, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earth Sea Trilogy. I think these stories have a timeless quality to them that spoke to me as a child and still speaks to me as a more jaded adult. I devoured the Terry Brooks Shannara series. Somehow, I missed reading Frank Herbert’s Dune while growing up, but I just read the first book and loved it. So now, I’m getting into that entire series. I really enjoy Brandon Sanderson—especially the Mistborn trilogy and The Reckoners series. I find the Harry Potter series enjoyable, and I’m about halfway through Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.

If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?

I think I would love to live in Lórien amid the golden Mallorn trees beside the River Ânduin. In the real world I would like to live in the White Mountains near the Franconia Gap.

What is your favorite meal?

Probably ratatouille. My wife makes a killer batch.

Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?

None of the above. I prefer water.

Describe yourself in three words.

Driven. Caring. Fun-Loving.

[Author Interview] Patricia Mitchell

Patricia Mitchell’s lifelong love of writing and desire to capture the story of her mother’s life prompted her to embark on her first professional writing project—A Girl from the Hill. She holds degrees in mass media and communication, English literature, and creative writing. This work expresses her interest in Italian American culture as well as the relationship between mothers and daughters.

Patricia Mitchell lives in Smithfield, Rhode Island, with her husband Jeremy, daughter Julia and Beagle Trudy.

Her new book, Goodbye Pound Cake is available now.

You can follow Patricia Mitchell through her social channels:

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What inspires me – My intention when I write is to express myself in a way that others can relate to. As a kid I found fun in sarcastic essays, but as I got older, I decided I wanted to learn the craft of fiction. To me, fiction is much more challenging, and gave me the chance to create my own world that other people could understand and connect to. I studied creative writing and literature through college, but never felt confident enough to share my work beyond the classroom until 10 years ago. I kept the desire tucked in the back of my mind as I navigated through the corporate world. When a friend urged me to go to a writing workshop, I decided to take a chance. I initially worked with book coach Lisa Tener, who inspired me to actually write something and self-publish it. As an experiment, I thought it would be fun to bring some of the stories my mom talked about growing up on Federal Hill to life. The collection of essays in in what turned into my mom’s memoir, A Girl from the Hill was my first self-published book.

My desk/writing space – I have a desk that I use in one of our spare bedrooms. I use that sometimes, but more often than not, I’m sitting in a comfy chair with my laptop.

Writing routine – I am a big procrastinator, so I don’t have a set routine, but when I do write, I always play white noise on to help me focus. My favorite is vacuum cleaner noise. I listen to instrumental jazz sometimes as well. It’s hard for me to sit quietly and write because I get distracted way too easily.

Hardest scene to write – When writing A Girl from the Hill, I learned that my mother had a nervous breakdown when she was 31. She never revealed this to me, though the rest of my family knew (I’m the youngest of 5, and was often referred to as “the baby” well into my 30’s). She was sent to a hospital in 1955 and received electric shock therapy as part of her treatment. She really opened up to me about it, and it took me forever to capture her experience in a way that was real but allowed her to keep her dignity. To this day, I am so proud that my mom allowed her story to be shared, but the actual writing broke me down to tears numerous times.

Favorite scene to write – In Goodbye Pound Cake, the scene where the protagonist Michelle and her friend Mandy are found exercising to a video by Michelle’s rude brother. He laughs at them sending Michelle after him and throwing Mandy into recoil mode. Finally, Michelle’s dad puts and end to the ensuing argument, and decides that they should all go out to eat. In addition to the three kids, Michelle’s crush interest, and her brother’s best friend, comes along for the ride. It was fun capturing that experience. It felt very realistic to me.

What inspired the book – I mentioned the inspiration for A Girl from the Hill above. For Goodbye Pound Cake, I was at a place in my life where I worked hard to get fit and feel good about myself for the first time in a long time. I wanted to write a story about a girl who faces the challenges of being overweight during the very sensitive middle school years, getting ready to transition into high school and a whole new set of challenges. It’s important for girls, and boys, to love themselves for who they are, no matter what anyone thinks. But being skinny is not what it’s all about- it’s about being healthy in body and mind. It can be difficult to accomplish and attain, as I myself have learned going up and down the scale and having my own set of physical limitations. So, I know how it feels on both sides. I hope readers will see the importance of having hope and not giving up on their dreams, even if that dream is to not be bullied for how they look.

What are you working on next – I’m not sure! I have some ideas for a short story for the 2023 ARIA Anthology that are milling around in my head. It will also be the 10th anniversary for the publication of AGFTH, and I’d like to do a new edition to commemorate. My mom passed in September of this year, and I thought it might be interesting and cathartic to document some of life’s struggles as we age. I would also like to do a follow up book to Pound Cake, but I’m not sure if I can do anything more with those characters. I’ll gauge it on the response I get now that it’s published.

What authors influenced your writing – David Sedaris is my favorite modern essayist. He can make me laugh and cry in the same breath, which is such a remarkable talent. I love historical fiction, especially during the Renaissance and Middle Ages. Philippa Gregory tells beautiful stories from those periods. I appreciate the painstaking research she does for each book. And Alice Hoffman is an old favorite that keeps popping up anytime I’m in the mood for character driven stories.

If you could live anywhere – I would probably want to live in London in the 1960’s so that I’d at least have a chance to meet a young Paul McCartney!

What is your favorite Meal – I love Indian food, and samosas are my favorite.

Coffee or Tea – both! Wine or Beer – Beer when I was younger, wine now that I’m starting to age.

Describe yourself in 3 words – Compassionate, Silly, Expressive

[Author Interview] M. Z. Medenciy

M. Z. thoroughly enjoys adventuring, if there are lands to be discovered, stories to be told, or fun to be had—you can count on her to be there. M .Z. resides in Rhode Island with the love of her life, their two hilarious boys, a pair of energetic pups, and one cat to rule them all.

You can follow M. Z. Medenciy through her social channels:

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Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?

As a child writing was my escape. My family immigrated from Ecuador, and I am first generation American. My siblings and I were born into poverty, and endured hardships. I will spare you and your readers the details. To protect ourselves we use to create worlds from our imagination and use them as refuge. When I was in third grade my mother was on her own and things, while still financially difficult, were getting better. I didn’t need my world of imagination. Therefore, instead of running away into it, I began to write about it. My dreams manifested into wild stories that yielded curious looks during poetry and story time. I brushed off the side eyes and continued to write, but I kept it to myself. Other than a murder mystery play I wrote for a RIC student group fundraiser, Island Eight is the first story I’ve been brave enough to share with the world.

Describe your desk / writing space.

My writing space has varied from the Ocean Community YMCA pool viewing area while my son was in practice, to my car when my other son was at soccer practice. My preferred writing space is somewhere outside of my home like a park, library, or café. A place where I am forced to be a writer because there is no one who requires me to be a mother, no clients to make requests, no errands I can run, and no house to clean. Where I can put my headphones on, summon that world my siblings and I created, and begin to write. But let’s be honest, the second my cellphone chimes with my husbands, kids, or home number it’s back to reality.

Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?

In order for me to write, I have to detach myself from this reality. Sounds weird I know, but it’s the truth. My routine starts with ensuring all the housework and errands are completed, meals are prepped and all the busy work from my job has been delegated out. Once that’s done, I am able to sit quietly with my laptop and notes and concentrate on my breathing. Eventually I’ll find myself far from here, and in whatever world I’ve created. Alternatively, if I feel inspired, I’ll grab a pen, and scribble away on the first thing I can write on. There are piles of junk mail and amazon boxes with my chicken scratch on it ^_^.

How do you come up with the title to your books?

When I write I use a work in progress title. As the story evolves during the initial writing process, I’ll sometimes find one that is more fitting. More often than not, the title will come to me during those painful rewrites.

What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?

The hardest scene for me to write was the breakfast celebration at Cytrines’. Getting into her head was difficult for some time, but after several rewrites I felt like I could understand her better. My favorite scene to write was the dance in the town square.

What inspired your book/series?

I have wild dreams. Those wild dreams inspire my writing. Island Eight was inspired by several of those dreams which featured the first incarnation of the character Gabriel.

What are you working on next?

I have two WIP. One is the continuation of the Island Eight series, I’m itching to dive deeper into several characters. The second is a modern-day urban fantasy which will also be a series.

What authors or books have influenced your writing?

I love the way Douglas Adams, and Terry Pratchett wrote. Their writing exuded freedom, and at the same time was meticulously controlled within that freedom. I admire, how they conveyed such organized chaos.

If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?

Zeal, from the game Chrono Trigger

What is your favorite meal?

While my favorite mealtime is breakfast (and second breakfast), my favorite meal is Peruvian or Ecuadorian ceviche

Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?

Loose leaf tea. Neither.

Describe yourself in three words.

Un poco loca.

[Author Interview] Debra Zannelli

Welcome Debra Zannelli

Debra Zannelli is a retired teacher assistant and a graduate of Mitchell College. She was raised in Cumberland, Rhode Island. For eighteen years she lived in Salem, Connecticut and worked in Norwich at the Chelsea Groton Savings Bank. She enjoys hiking and sings in the local community chorus.

Her next book, Sister World 3, should be completed before the holiday season.

You can follow Debra through their social channels:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub | Website

 

Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?
I was a lonely child and spent much of my time living in the worlds I made up. The more I read, the more I grew to love words. Their power and ability to inspire gave me a lot to think about. Words took me to places I never dreamed I would go.

Describe your desk / writing space.
I’ve taken over my son’s bedroom. It has an attached study and built-in bookcases thanks to a talented husband. I have large windows I lookout of when writing. Of course I have since covered every flat surface with research and books-mine and many other authors.

Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?
I try to get writing no later than 2:00 on weekdays. If I manage to get writing before I smile a lot.

How do you come up with the title to your books? I usually use the basic concept to inspire me. With the sister world series I wanted to make certain the concept of strong women would be brought to the front of the book.

What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?

The hardest scene I had to write was at the end of one of my books when I was trying to explain a relationship between a father and a son I’ve revoted three or four times finally getting the feeling I had between a father and her daughter down and that was the hardest thing my favorite scene to write was when Maddie one of my characters first met the man she was to fall in love with and the way she felt when she looked into his eyes it was like the way I felt when I looked into my husbands.

What inspired your book/series? Darkness and Light is inspired by my deep-seated beliefs of how the human spirit can lift itself up beyond the circumstances life and others force upon us. We cannot control all the events in our lives. We can control our responses. Working with children you quickly learn our childhood experiences have a great effect on how we choose to live out life.

What are you working on next?
I’m presently revising Dark Night of the Soul. Over time and with more experience I have become a better writer. My characters, content and concepts are not changing, I only hope to make it a better read.

What authors or books have influenced your writing?
First and foremost will always be A Tale of Two Cities. There’s Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth and MM Kaye’s The Far Pavillion. I was also inspired by Carl Sagan. His works filled with fact brought about my love of researching the topics I write about.

If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?
I think I would stay in Rhode Island, but with each year becoming more sensitive to cold, the Mayan Riviera sounds better each year.

What is your favorite meal?
Can I say ice cream? I love Chicken Korma – Indian food.

Coffee or tea? Wine or beer? Coffee, wine.

Describe yourself in three words. Caring smart bookish

 

[Author Interview] Martha Reynolds

Welcome Martha Reynolds

After ending an accomplished career as a fraud investigator, I am now a full-time writer and bestselling author.

My books include the award-winning Chocolate for Breakfast (the first book in the Swiss Chocolate trilogy) and Amazon bestsellers Bits of Broken Glass and Best Seller.

My novel Villa del Sol was awarded the 2018 Book Prize in Literary Fiction by the Independent Publishers of New England.

The most horrible year 2020 knocked me off course a bit, but I released my 10th novel, The Summer of Princess Diana, in October 2021.

Meanwhile, I write on my blog – mainly about life, family, friends, and the changing world around us.

My new book has a working title of Always and Never Alone and I’m aiming for a release date of December 2022.

You can follow Martha through her social channels:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | BookBub | Website

  1. Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write? I always wanted to write, but my real-life job precluded me from spending enough time in that creative realm. When I retired in 2011, I devoted my energy to writing my first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast. Now I endeavor to write one book a year. It’s an optimistic goal, for sure.

  1. Describe your desk / writing space. I have written books by hand in a spiral notebook! I think I wrote the bulk of two novels that way. When it’s time to type, I’m usually in front of my desktop computer with the massive monitor (for my old tired eyes), or, if possible, I go to the computer room at my local library and work uninterrupted for three hours.

  1. Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired? I don’t believe the “rule” that a writer must write every day. Life happens! If a certain phrase strikes, type it into your phone. I write when I can.

  1. How do you come up with the title to your books? Ah, that’s an interesting question. The title of my first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, actually came to me one night when I couldn’t sleep. I got up and wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it! The next two books in the series needed to have the word ‘chocolate’ in the title, so that was a little easier. For my novel Bits of Broken Glass, I took the title from a fragment of a James Taylor lyric, because the song it comes from figures into the story. Sometimes I brainstorm a few titles and bounce them off a couple of trusted friends.

  1. What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write? The hardest scene was in my first novel. I accurately depict the way my character Bernadette discovers that her father has died. This was word for word the way I found out. So, I relived it all, some 30+ years later. Second hardest was the sexual assault scene in my recent novel, The Summer of Princess Diana. My favorite scene to write was probably the ending of Villa del Sol because I had been struggling with the ending, and when it dawned on me, I was so joyous that I could make it work that I rushed to write it.

  1. What inspired your book/series? Every book I’ve written has a kernel of truth in it, even if they’re novels. So the “Swiss Chocolate” series was inspired by my junior year abroad in Switzerland. Much of what goes into my books comes from what’s inside me; I just make up a lot of the other stuff.

  1. What are you working on next? I recently returned from a trip to Portugal and Spain and am dying to include some of that in my new novel!

  1. What authors or books have influenced your writing? Anna Quindlen, Elizabeth Strout, Claire Cook, Catherine Ryan Hyde. I respect and admire all of them.

  1. If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live? Well, Switzerland – as long as I had plenty of money.

  1. What is your favorite meal? Even though I’ve been trying to stay away from carbs, I could eat pizza every day.

  1. Coffee or tea? Wine or beer? Coffee in the morning, tea throughout the day. Not much of a drinker anymore, a glass of wine with a good meal or an ice-cold beer in the summer!
  2. Describe yourself in three words. Curious. Optimistic.

[Author Interview] Tim Baird

Welcome Tim Baird

Tim is a fantasy and science fiction author looking to share his wild ideas with the world. He has been an avid reader for his entire life and has always enjoyed writing, whether it be a technical report for work or a fictional story.

He lives in New England with his lovely wife & adorable son. He is an automation engineer by day and enjoy using his skills to volunteer with several youth robotics programs.

His next title is a dragon romance novel, titled ‘The Dragon in the Lighthouse’. It’ll be out in Summer 2022.

You can follow Tim through his social channels:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub | Website 

1. Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?

I am a husband, father, mechanical engineer, and lifelong lover of all things literary. I’m usually reading 1-2 books, writing 1-3 stories, and desperately trying to escape our busy world by disappearing into the woods of New England. I love building LEGOs with my son, playing the occasional video game, and spending time with my family.

My inspiration for writing comes from my experiences in the world coupled with my love of fantasy and science fiction. When I’m out on hiking and camping trips, I tend to take in the scenery around me and try to imagine exciting tales which could happen there or happened in the past to make the scene look the way it is. Especially if it involves dragons.

2. Describe your desk / writing space.
My desk is an old black sheet metal construction that I liberated from the dumpster bin at work. It’s covered in a variety of in-progress projects, bills to pay, and random tomfoolery which should have been put away by then (wip Magic: The Gathering decks, miniatures to paint, or random 3D printing projects).

3. Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?
My writing routine would be described as ‘haphazard’ at best. As I work a lot of hours, have a 6 yo, and try to escape the house into the woods to hike as often as possible, I tend to avoid my laptop when I can. But I enjoy writing while I eat lunch and after my son goes to bed. So, I don’t write consistently at the same time every single day, but I have consistent time periods where it does happen, when it happens.

4. How do you come up with the title to your books?
I typically bulletize my story until I’m comfortable with ~75% of what will probably end up happening and then dive in without a title. While I type, I let the ideas/concepts simmer on the backburner and try to think of eye-catching words from the bullet list which might look nice sitting on my bookshelf. I then come up with 2-5 names and check out the Internet to see if that book name already exists or is something close.

Sometimes I sort things out and determine the name right away, and sometimes I end up changing it even after editing is complete.

5. What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?

My hardest scene to write was probably a drawn-out battle scene at the end of my third book. It involved a real-life mountain top with features that I wanted to get right, several dragons fighting with multiple humans mixed in. There were a lot of moving pieces and it was hard to get everything just right and make sense when read back.

My favorite scene to write was probably the ending of my first book. It involves a battle between the MC in a helicopter against a dragon on Mount Washington. Between the players and my love of the hiking area in question, it was really neat to work through and bring to life.

6. What inspired your book/series?
My series was inspired by two things: my lifelong love of hiking in New England and a trip that I took to Iceland during a semester abroad in college. I was camping on this island off the southern coast of Iceland inside the crater of an old volcano and the beginnings of the tale came to me while I laid there in my tent. I didn’t end up actually starting the story for another decade afterwards as I was pretty afraid to start a book. I’m now working on my 6th book and wish that I had started sooner when I first had the idea.

7. What are you working on next?
I have the concept drawn up for a monster hunting SFF story set in the present time/world. It’ll focus on a strong female character who needs to work through her day-to-day life while also ridding her town of creatures trying to kill her and everyone she loves. It’ll probably feel like a mix between Buffy and Ready Player One.

8. What authors or books have influenced your writing?
My writing has largely been influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien, John Scalzi, and numerous Star Wars novels over the past several decades. I love science fiction, fantasy, and especially stories which blend the two. If you can toss in some good action scenes, character development, and make me fall in love with the MC, then I’ll get hooked.

9. If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?
If I could live ANYWHERE, it would probably be Rivendell from Lord of the Rings. If I had to say here in this reality, it would probably be in central/northern Vermont.

10. What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal really depends on the day. Sometimes I love a good, juicy slice of brisket off my smoker paired with a nice salad and cornbread, whereas sometimes a simple grilled cheese will hit the spot. If I wasn’t worried about destroying my GI tract and gaining weight, I’d probably eat buffalo chicken dip and corn chips all day.

11. Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?
I have a love/hate relationship with coffee but rely on it to survive. However, I do enjoy a good raspberry green tea when it’s cooler out. If I had to choose between wine or beer, I’ll typically go with wine (Riesling or Pinot Gris), but a Gin & Tonic with Bombay Sapphire really hits the spot.

12. Describe yourself in three words.
Lost but focused.

[Author Interview] Pete A. O’Donnell

RKB Writes Presents:

An Author Interview with Pete A. O’Donnell

Pete O’Donnell is the writer, creator, and performer of Ill-Advised Stories, a children’s story podcast full of free and funny tales. He is a graduate of Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is a member of the society of Children book writers and illustrators.

He makes his home in Rhode Island and the town he works in as a firefighter and EMT inspired the setting of his first book the Curse of Purgatory Cove about a boy and old man claiming to be a pirate.

He’s been telling stories about alien invasions and talking trees since first grade and loves diving into the worlds of science fiction writers such as Arthur C Clark, Issac Asimov and Greg Bear.

He draws a weekly comic strip at webtoons called Sparkie and Spaz about a ten-year-old space explorer and his cranky Robot companion. Their entire first novel is available to listen to at Illadvisedstories.com

He recently released two new books, the first installments in a seven-book series called In The Giant’s Shadow. Book one is called The Stars Beyond the Mesa and Book two is The Ocean Beyond.

You can follow Pete through his social channels:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Website

  1. Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?

Storytelling has been a lifelong obsession, ever since I spun a tale to my uncle about talking trees. I was seven and it was long before I’d ever heard of Treebeard. I’m dyslexic, so reading and writing were difficult skills for me to learn, but I’ve always loved telling stories and my father was willing to write them down for me.

  1. Describe your desk / writing space.

I have a small desk that I hardly ever work at, but where things collect, starship models, figures and pictures, anything to keep my imagination going. I also draw a webtoon and create illustrations for some of my books and that’s when I have to clear the desk off. My couch is where I usually write, though I find I have to move around throughout the day to keep working.

  1. Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?

I try to write any day I’m not at the fire station and I start early, around 5:30 am, working until my kids are up. I’ll come back to it as the day goes on, often tweaking the work. I’m useless at night as far as writing goes but try to use that time for drawing.

  1. How do you come up with the title to your books?

I like it to be the period at the end of the project so I never title anything until the first draft is complete, plus I often find the title reveals itself in the writing.

  1. What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?

One of the main characters in The Giant’s Shadow is blind. It happened to her fairly recently, so I find it necessary, when I write any scene from her POV, to think differently, to consider what you can’t see and how someone would use their other senses to navigate a strange, alien landscape. It’s required a great deal of research and careful consideration.

The scenes I enjoy writing the most are with a character named Amita. She’s witty and intelligent with a fun amount of attitude and she also befriends a large alien which is a childhood fantasy of mine.

  1. What inspired your book/series?

In the Giant’s Shadow started out different from the final product. When I was a teenager, I wanted to create a science fiction version of the original Robert E Howard Conan stories with a ronin type warrior who sold his services to various governments. I spent a great deal of time dreaming of different alien landscapes and building the worlds. As an adult the series became more inspired by Harry Potter and many of the thriller novels I’ve read. I know that sounds like a weird mix, but I like the idea of creating a puzzle box and having characters a reader can identify with in the middle of it trying to solve the mystery with them.

  1. What are you working on next?

I’m deep into the first draft of book three.  There are revelations coming that I think readers will find intriguing as the middle of this series quickly approaches.  I’m certainly looking forward to having a first draft that I can massage into an exciting novel.

  1. What authors or books have influenced your writing?

The world building of Isaac Asimov with his Empire, Foundation and Robot novels was something that opened my eyes to what a long view science fiction could take. Books like the Dune series and the Ender novels did this as well. Michael Crichton was my first dive into techno thrillers, a close relative of Sci-fi but with more consideration to pacing. I tend to read a wide variety in an attempt to increase my skill as a writer, which includes going through a number of classics like Hemingway and Steinbeck.

  1. If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?

I’ve always enjoyed the hopefulness of the Star Trek universe and really, with holodecks, you can choose to pick a thousand other places to experience as well.

  1. What is your favorite meal? Ahi Fish Tacos and an ice cold cerveza.
  2. Coffee or tea? Wine or beer? Coffee is a necessity but I enjoy tea as well. Beer, cold and preferably Mexican.

  1. Describe yourself in three words. Loyal, Imaginative, Curious.

[Author Interview] Heather Rigney

RKB Writes Presents:

An Author Interview with Heather Rigney

Rhode Island fiction writer, blogger, journalist, and art teacher, Heather Rigney has written The Merrow Trilogy–a Rhode Island-based, dark, historical fantasy series about homicidal mermaids, the colonial suppression of women, and a present-day alcoholic funeral director trying to make sense of it all. In 2016, Waking the Merrow, Heather’s debut novel, won the United Kingdom’s Wishing Shelf Gold Award. In 2017, Waking made the top 5% in The Launchpad Manuscript Competition. Her writing has been featured in Motif Magazine, Stone Crowns Magazine, and Avenue Concept Magazine. Until Summer 2020, Heather was a weekly contributor to The Writer’s Blog by Inkitt.

Are your books available wide or only on Kindle Unlimited?

Waking the Merrow is Kindle Unlimited, but the other two are not. Both Waking the Merrow and Hunting the Merrow are Audible audiobooks and Caging the Merrow will be available as an audiobook in early 2022. All of my paperbacks are available in many fine indie bookstores throughout Rhode Island. Twice Told Tales is one of my favorite local bookstores and they’ve carried my books since 2014.

Do you have a new book coming out? If so, what’s the title and when?

Unfortunately, I don’t have anything new coming out soon. Instead, I’m opening a school for writing and art called The Orange Anchor Art School! I plan on teaching students ages 5 – 105 one mile outside Pawtuxet Village in Cranston, RI. To find out more, click here: www.orangeanchorartschool.com

You can follow Heather on her social channels:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Bookbub

  1. Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?

I have always admired and been in love with the works of both Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter. Ms. Atwood writes about women in a raw, intimate way. She tackles science fiction/speculative fiction with a frighteningly thought-provoking, historically-accurate feminist edge. As for Angela Carter, she was so far ahead of her time. Her dark, erotic fairy tales explored radical libertarian feminism which really appealed to me in my late teens. These fearless women inspired me to explore the many sides of the female POV. I strive to shine a light on what it means to be a woman, to leave nothing out, to include all the beauty, shame, fear, honesty, and brutality.

2. Describe your desk/writing space.

My writing takes place in many places. Coffee shops, airplanes, trains, my car, the couch. I either write on a MacBook using Google Docs or Scrivener or I handwrite in a Moleskin journal.

3. Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?

When I started writing seriously, I would get up early and write from 5:15-6:30 AM most weekdays. Then, when I stopped teaching to raise my child, I would write while my little one was in school. I would write between 8:30 AM-noon most weekdays and my daily word counts were anywhere from 2,000-5,000 words. These days, I’ve been focusing on opening my school. Once that’s established, I look forward to blocking out an hour a two a day and re-establishing my writing routine.

4. How do you come up with the title to your books?

Waking the Merrow was a double entendre. ‘Waking’ is a reference to both a state of being (as in the awakening of the merrow) and funerals since my main character is a funeral director. The other two books follow suit–Hunting and Caging. A verb before the word Merrow, which is Gaelic for mermaid, indicates what is happening to the fishy characters in each book. 

5. What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?

Since this was my first book series, the whole process felt arduous because I often felt like a charlatan. I mean, I have a BFA in graphic design! What the hell do I know about writing? However, it seems that I did something right. I wrote the first book in 2014 and it’s still selling! 

My favorite scene to write was the very last one in the series. I remember where I was sitting, Dave’s Coffee on South Main Street in Providence. It was raining and I had just signed a new teaching contract that morning. It was a very bittersweet moment.

6. What inspired your book/series?

I was invited to collaborate on a now-retired, anthology called DIVE. It was a collection of short stories about mermaids or merfolk. Four authors were involved and I wrote a story called Mermaids are Not Nice. That was the birth of both my antagonist, Nomia, and protagonist, Evie McFagan. The short story received a lot of praise and more than one person stated that I needed to expand the world I had created. From there, I thought, I should make a trilogy out of this! I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

7. What are you working on next?

I’ve started writing about my dad, Ray. He’s quite the character and there are a lot of strange, outrageous, and hilarious incidents that have shaped my life. For example, Ray recently hit me across the face with a walking stick. I think most people would be horrified if their parents assaulted them, but, for me, it’s just another day with Ray. He didn’t mean it, and it really was an accident, but it happened because he was harassing me–and this is Ray’s love language. I’ve got a lot of material to work with. 

8. What authors or books have influenced your writing?

(see #1)

9. If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?

Italy. Every morning, I would walk into a little village and chat up some old adorable men while sipping a perfect cappuccino. Next, I would go home and paint or write until the sun started its descent. Then, I would walk back into the village and drink my evening wine with the same little old men. This is how I plan on spending my twilight years. 

10. What is your favorite meal?

In order, I would love a dirty gin martini. Oysters on the half-shell. Caprese salad. A glass of El Oso Y La Alemana Toro Red. Spicy squid ink pasta with lots of garlic and seafood. All followed by a perfect chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with sea salt. 

11. Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?

I do love tea but I’m a total coffee snob. I’m always hunting for the perfect cup of coffee. As for wine vs beer, wine. I used to love beer but then I was diagnosed with a severe yeast allergy. Unfortunately, beer (and even more tragically, good bread!)  has become an unworthy risk. 

12. Describe yourself in three words.
Quirky. Neurotic. Extrovert.

[Author Interview] Joseph Mazzenga

Born in a small town of the smallest state, Rhode Island Joseph Mazzenga knew he was a writer by the third grade. When his creative simmer turned to an imaginative rage, he embarked on a voyage with no anchor and no horizon. He stepped aboard knowing that this journey will be for the rest of his days. He still looks to the stars to find his way. The navigation can be plodding but the bearing is clear. Joe is now a full author, by way of children’s literature, Science Fiction, Non-fiction, and Urban Fantasy. Ever pursuing the itch that he can’t possibly scratch, he is constantly stretching his boundaries, honing his craft and fighting mortal enemies such as avoidance and procrastination at every turn. Whether it is a beloved stuffed seal, a hard-nosed orphan stuck on the raw streets of a future time, or a pre-apocalyptic vampire turned human, he is fantasy intermingling with the future. Joe continues to live with his wife and beloved son in Rhode Island, center of the creative universe.

You can follow Joe on his social channels:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Bookbub

  1. Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?

Truthfully, as a kid who had cancer, my imagination was my safe place, and I began writing at an early age. Writing can be cathartic, and the avenue of Fantasy was a safe place to be – to be ultra-strong, impervious to everyday stresses and to save the day when no one else could…who doesn’t love that?

  1. Describe your desk / writing space.

I converted a model/hobby desk into my writing space. Every slot has pens, pencils, figurines to watch over me and pictures of wolves against the desk wall. Oh, and it is covered in stickers a la the old steam trunks of yesteryear.

  1. Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?

The routine is whenever the inspiration hits. I have to write when inspired if nothing else, make notes in a journal. I have dozens of “treatments” for stories that I dip into.

  1. How do you come up with the title to your books?

The title usually hits first just as the inspirational scenes occur. Then it will morph as the book carries on, until finally, the title is settled on – usually by half way into the story.

  1. What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?
    1. I don’t know if I have had the hardest scene yet. They’re all hard. If I have to pick a genre, then Romance may be tough especially if you are a male trying to have a female POV.
    2. A favorite go to scene, always has to do with a tense, prepare for battle type of buildup scene. I love the rhythm of the buildup before the action really hits the reader.
  1. What inspired your book/series?

I love anti-heroes and I think the reading world needs more female inspiration. Growing up a comics kid, heroes need to not be those perfect “super” people. People are flawed and so should our heroes be.

  1. What are you working on next?

 

  1. Book 2 of the Bloodline Series – Demon’s Child.
  2. Resurrection – The Last Vampire
  3. Not My Time – Lost Witch

  1. What authors or books have influenced your writing?

I was always a comic kid who followed the beat writers like Alan Dean Foster. But I also was inspired by the classics from Tolkien and Asimov.

  1. If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?

In this world, I’d love to be in the badlands looking for dinosaur fossils. In fantasy, I’d love a totally tech-city where it rains all the time.

  1. What is your favorite meal?

I love food so it’s hard to pick but, being a pescatarian the choices get strange. I’ll go with eggplant vegan cheese parm. Go ahead – mock me.

  1. Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?

Yes, to all. But I do love me a red-blend wine.

  1. Describe yourself in three words.

Stronger than yesterday.

[Author Interview] Tabitha Lord

Tabitha Lord’s HORIZON series has won seven independent book awards. In addition to writing novels and short fiction, Tabitha is managing editor for the Inkitt Writer’s Blog, a partner and senior writer for Book Club Babble and Vice Present of the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA).

You can follow Tabitha on her social channels & website:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Website

1. Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?

I once did a ‘five things about me’ type interview, focusing on fun, interesting personal facts different from the stuff listed in my bio, so I’ll share the answers with you here.

When a book is too suspenseful, I get stressed out and read the ending first. I always go back and read it through, but this takes the edge off so I can relax and enjoy the story without worrying about the end. I know it’s cheating!

I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for my 40th birthday. It was very, very hard. Not Everest hard, but still a huge physical and mental challenge.

Tattoos are awesome and I have a few. I love really artistic ink.

I’m a medical school dropout. Med school with small children was, for me, an impossible task. I always thought I’d return when the kids were older, but it never seemed to be the right time. It wasn’t until I started writing that I was able to let that particular aspiration go.

I taught middle school Latin for over a decade. I know, I’m a dinosaur!

As far as what inspired me to write, it was really a who! For years, my husband encouraged me. His encouragement sounded something like, “Honey, write a book already!” I’d think about it and answer that I just didn’t have an entire story in my head. So much of my energy was taken up raising my kids, working, and running a household, there just wasn’t much left over for creativity. I am not implying you can’t have young children and write. I know people who do it very successfully, but after my workday, their activities, homework, laundry, cooking, etc. I really wasn’t interested. It was all I could do to string a sentence together.

Then my children got older and started moving out. When the dynamics in my family shifted, I started to think about what could be next for me professionally. I took on a yearlong writing project at work thinking it would give me the change of pace I needed. Turns out, it also gave me the kick I needed to write fiction. Since I was in the habit of writing every day for work, I challenged myself to write creatively every night. Lo and behold, when the report was finished a year later, so was my first manuscript.

2. Describe your desk / writing space.

I don’t have one particular place I write. Sometimes, I’m camped out at the kitchen table if the house is quiet. If the weather cooperates, I love to work outside on my porch. I do have an office, and I suppose I will spend more time there when I can’t sit outside during the New England winter!

3. Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?

My routine varies week to week, depending on what I’m working on, but I’m just a little bit obsessive-compulsive around scheduling my work week. I’ll sit down on Sunday and look at the upcoming week to plan. In addition to my electronic calendar, I have notebooks with to-do lists for every project I’m working on.

Generally, I’m drafting one manuscript, editing another, reviewing books and interviewing authors, and I’m the managing editor of the Inkitt Writer’s Blog. It’s not a good idea to blow a deadline for projects other people pay me to do, so my routine of the week is partially driven by those projects.

If we’re talking specifically about writing my own books, I can’t wait for the muse to strike or I’d never finish! Even if I don’t add much to the word count on a particular day, I’ll at least open the document and re-read the previous pages. I need to keep my fingers in a new manuscript or I tend to lose my momentum.

4. How do you come up with the title to your books?

All the titles in the Horizon series are named after ships. When I began writing the first book, I knew a good portion of it was going to take place on a spaceship called Horizon. After that, there always seemed to be another important ship featured in each book, so it made sense to continue the trend.

5. What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?

No particular scene stands out as the hardest one to write but, in general, slow scenes are hard for me to write. A well-paced novel has to have some down time in the action, if only so the readers can breathe. Not every scene should be super-high intensity, but even those ‘quiet’ moments have to be relevant and move the story forward. I can get bogged down and feel a little uninspired when writing this stuff, so sometimes I’ll skip ahead and write a fun scene.

Needless to say, highly intense or highly emotional scenes are my favorite to write. I see them almost like movie clips. There’s one scene in Equinox that looks a lot like a WWII dogfight, but of course takes place in space! That one was fun to research and fun to write.

6. What inspired your book/series?

I’ve always been a big sci-fi fan, so when I finally started writing fiction, I knew I’d start with sci-fi. For the first book, Horizon, I had two distinct parts of a story floating in my head. The first was a crash sequence. It was pretty basic at the time of its inception – just a young man who crash-lands on a planet, and a young woman, in some kind of trouble, who saves his life.

The second part was more complex. I was playing with the idea of what would happen if one segment of an already small, isolated population evolved differently from the other. What if they were empathic and could sense each other’s emotions and thoughts? What if some of them could heal with their mind? How would the unchanged people feel about their neighbors? It created such an interesting premise I knew I had to find a way to make it into a story. When I combined those two pieces, the seed for the series was born.

7. What are you working on next?

I recently finished the draft of an urban-fantasy. It’s a rather dark story about a lady assassin who kills people in their dreams. She’s a Jessica Jones meets Dexter vigilante type character, and she only goes after men who’ve gotten away with terrible crimes. In the opening scene, she’s on a job but realizes the person she’s been hired to kill is actually an undercover FBI agent. His criminal history is a cover. She finds him in the waking world, and they attempt to discover who wants him dead. I’m working through the edits now with my agent.

8. What authors or books have influenced your writing?

Honestly, too many to count! I’ve always been an avid reader, and now, I have the pleasure of reading and reviewing some really good books for Book Club Babble, a blog site I own with a couple of writer pals. I feel like I learn something new about good story-telling from every book I love as a reader.

9. If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?

Yavin’s 4th moon.

10. What is your favorite meal?

A few years ago, I would have said eggplant parmesan, but since my husband started doing the cooking, I’m absolutely nuts over his chicken marsala.

11. Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?

Both coffee and tea. I drink one cup of coffee in the morning and then switch to herbal tea during the day. I prefer wine, but I love testing out different beers at local breweries, especially in the fall.

12. Describe yourself in three words.

Energetic. Organized. Kind.