After reading a couple of books by Barbara I’ve come to the realization that I will never know what to expect when I begin but when I finish I feel satisfied and wanting more…
I can’t say enough about this book or the characters that she has created in this world that she has invited us into, it’s hauntingly beautiful, no… it’s hauntingly sexy.
The sexual tension between James and Lina is addictive. The story of them is a total “Avon classic” tragedy in a sense that I am faced with this warning: be careful not to believe everything you read, things are not what they appear to be when Barbara is in control.
Barbara does this thing where she weaves the characters of her story to your heart then she intensifies the moment before ripping it away. It’s an art and it’s a thing of beauty!
I love her style, I love the sexiness of her writing, the way she can create a moment so hot 🔥 without going into explicit detail numbs my brain.
The mistress of storytelling has created a tale that has captured my heart then shocked my senses into submission.
This is a really good book!
I’M GIVE IT FIVE STARS ON AMAZON AND GOODREADS
BUY POSTSCRIPT HERE
Congratulations Barbara on a job well done. I love this book! It is beautiful!!
“We have a choice about how we take what happens to us in our life and whether or not we allow it to turn is. We can become consumed by hate and darkness, or we’re able to regain our humanity somehow, or come to terms with things and learn something about ourselves.” – Angelina Jolie
Johnny– Hi Jennifer! Thank you for taking the time to visit with me, when I first finished this book, I must admit I was a little taken back. Honestly, I finished this almost a week ago and I still am having a problem trying to classify it by genre, at first, I thought it might be chick-lit, suspense, adventure, romance, self-help, self-discovery, truth is, it’s all of them and more. It’s a great book, and it blew me away, however, when you first set out to write this book what genre did you have in mind? Or did you?
Jennifer– I originally set out to place the book in the contemporary fiction category but it has crossed over a few genres including YA because the story moves back and forth in time.
Johnny– Why did you write A Dress the Color of the Sky?
Jennifer– I have had this story in my head for a long time. The original idea spring boarded from a screenplay I wrote in college but I never felt I had the time or motivation to write the book. After my divorce, I wanted to dig deep into my past and try to heal from my childhood trauma. The process of writing this book helped me to better understand myself, come to grips with my past and tell a universal story of a woman’s journey to find self-love.
Johnny– Tell me about your researching for the rehab center, there is a lot of structure in your narrative, to what extent did you go about to collect this information?
Jennifer– I conducted a tremendous amount of research before writing this book. It was important to me that I depicted a realistic rehab milieu for my readers to better understand the recovery process. For research I read books on sex addiction, attended AA meetings, attended a retreat, and interviewed many recovering addicts.
Johnny– When you attended meetings, did the other people know you were there for research? If so, were they helpful?
Jennifer– No one knew I was there for research. I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable so I tried to blend in with the group.
Johnny– Having done the research then written this book how would you define a sex addict?
Jennifer– I would define a sex addict the same way I would any other addiction. When a person had an addiction it takes a toll on every aspect of their life. If what you’re doing is negatively affecting your job, relationships, and family then you have an addiction problem. There is a series of questions that you can find on the Alcoholics Anonymous website which can be applied to any substance abuse including sex addiction.
Johnny– Sadly, sexual assault being such a huge topic in the media, how difficult were some of these scenes to write? Especially when Prudence was a little girl, being gang-groped by the twins in the closet and later on sexually assaulted by Richard, as hard as it was to read, I’m guessing that it must have been hell to write.
Jennifer– It was difficult to write and there are many scenes in the book that I can’t read without crying. There was a balance I had to find when writing about such horrors in order to not turn off my readers while also keeping things as real as possible. I felt it was better to hint at things rather than spell them out blatantly. No one wants to read about such horrors but the general message was very important.
Johnny– You did a fantastic job, as hard as it was to read your narrative was quick and complete, I feel that that made it tolerable to digest as a reader. Let’s talk about some of your characters for a minute, what hole did those annoying twins of Marilyn’s crawl out of? lol
Jennifer– I’m glad to know my characters made you feel so deeply! Some of the characters were based on people I have known and things I have heard combined with a creative mind.
Johnny– Pat is such a dreadful person, great job btw, how did you come up with this character?
Jennifer– I actually had a step-sister who was a lot like Pat.
Johnny– Did you have a real-life muse when you created Richard?
Jennifer– Yes, I loosely based Richard on one of my step-fathers.
Johnny– After I read the book, I found it on Audible and decided to give it a listen during my daily commute, through the narration it appears that Prue’s mom is really a self-serving, self-indulgent individual. Is that fair to say?
Jennifer– Yes, I believe that a great deal of Prudence’s issues stem from her relationship with her mother. I’d say you nailed it with your description of Prue’s mother.
Johnny– Marnye Young narrated your book on Audible (and did a fantastic job BTW) did you have to give her any special direction? She seemed so in sync with the book.
Jennifer– Marnye is an incredibly seasoned and talented narrator. I was honored to have her be the voice for the audiobook version of Dress. She truly loved the story and found it both relatable and important. She had a clear grasp of the nuances of the story and characters so I only had to do some minor tweaking during final edits.
Johnny– In chapter 7 the is a moment that happens to Prudence while she’s with Alister:
“This can’t happen,” I said, pulling away. “I have no clue what I’m doing or how I will survive. I’m scared of losing my husband and terrified to stay. What about your girlfriend? You live in London.” The laundry list of excuses. “This is a fantasy. Nothing more.” My body shifted farther from him. I craved space, but a powerful force pulled me back.
Was this Prue’s “moment of clarity”?
Jennifer– I’d say it was a huge moment of clarity for Prue. She faced her weakness for male attention and was coming to grips with a dysfunctional marriage and the trail of destruction her addiction left behind.
Johnny– Tell me a little bit about Dr. Mike. One of my favorite lines from him is:
“You live on love crumbs. A nibble drops, you gobble up the morsel. The crumb sustains you until he gives you another. Don’t you believe you deserve the whole loaf?”
How do you go about writing dialog for Mike?
Jennifer– I absolutely adore Mike. He’s the one person who doesn’t sexualize Prue and supports her with understanding and tough love. As far as writing dialogue, I had a literary agent tell me I am gifted at writing dialogue which was a huge compliment! I try to put myself in the room and picture what is happening in that moment. The research I did helped me to write realistic therapy dialogue but I’m not a therapist so I’m sure it’s not perfect but I definitely gave it my all.
Johnny– I totally agree with the literary agent, your writing of dialog is incredible! Have you had any feedback from actual therapist or medical professionals since you written this book?
Jennifer– Thank you! And, yes, there have been several psychiatrists and therapists who have written reviews. They have all stated that my novel depicts a realistic therapeutic milieu.
Johnny– Tell me about your writing process, how did you go about creating and structuring A Dress the Color of the Sky? Do you journal?
Jennifer– There are two kinds of writers, those who outline the entire story and know where they are headed, and writers like myself who fly by the seat of their pants. Both work, both are correct but I don’t know how a story is going to end until I get there. I made a lot of mistakes while writing Dress and had no clue what I was doing. I’m still a neophyte in the writing world but definitely know more now than I did when I was writing Dress. A few things about my writing process – my brain is more creative in the afternoon, I need total silence, my house has to be tidy, I sit on an exercise ball at my dining room table which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, I light a Himalayan salt lamp, scented candle, and a diffuser with peppermint oil.
Johnny– How long did it take you to write this book?
Jennifer– From beginning to end it took me five years but the last two were when I really focused and did the most writing.
Johnny– Are you planning a sequel?
Jennifer– I’m working on the final draft of the stand-alone sequel, A Dress the Color of the Moon. It is my hope that Moon is worthy of being picked up by a big publisher.
Johnny– Can you give me a quick elevator pitch for A Dress the Color of the Moon?
Jennifer– The story will follow Prue in her post rehab journey and learn how she fares in the world after five weeks in Serenity Hills. There will be several characters continuing on with her to Los Angeles where they will gather for the funeral of Gloria who committed suicide in the first book. Prue and her comrades with face many trials, tribulations, and temptations in the real world.
Johnny– There seems to be a lot of healing taking place in this book, was this book therapeutic to write or tragic?
Jennifer– Definitely therapeutic.
Johnny– Reading through the reviews on Amazon, it seems like this touched a lot of people, how does that make you feel as a writer?
Jennifer– The reviews have been one of the most beautiful parts of my writing journey. I have been especially surprised by the number of men who have written reviews. The reviews have deeply touched my heart and been incredibly motivating for me to continue on as a writer.
Johnny– If you were casting this book for a movie, who would you pick as your cast?
Johnny– Wrapping up, what do you want your reading audience to take away from reading, A Dress the Color of the Sky?
Jennifer– It is possible to heal from childhood trauma, what it’s like in an inpatient rehab facility, the experience of following one woman’s journey to find self-love, to not live in the past and it’s never too late to make a change in your life.
Johnny– Jennifer I can not thank you enough for taking the time to talk with me. I think you’re awesome! You are remarkably talented and a phenomenal writer. Thank you! 🙏
My original review: I’m sitting here at 4am on a Saturday morning. I had just finished A Dress the Color of the Sky by Jennifer Irwin and I’m in awe. There is nothing I can say that will come close to giving this book the review that it deserves.
To think that this is the first novel that Jennifer has written Blowsmy mind.
I’m giving her 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐stars because this is quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read. Without a doubt A Dress the Color of the Sky is the best debut novel I had ever had the privilege of reviewing. Jennifer has done what few writers have ever done, she surprised me, she is an amazing and talented writer who has only begun to shine.
My original review STANDS: READ THIS BOOK!
It’s a smart, sexy, and captivating book to read. WARNING: once started this book is hard to put down.
If you only read one book in 2020 it needs to be A Dress the Color of the Sky by: Jennifer Irwin.
I promise, you will not be disappointed.
You can follow Jennifer on her website and social media pages:
“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.” ― Jack Kerouac
HAPPY NEW YEARS EVE!
I’m not for sure how many books I read during 2019, I know it was a few. Around the end of August I had decided to start this blog honoring and featuring Indie Authors, it was then I started logging and reviewing through Goodreads and Amazon, Goodreads has me down for reading 52 between the months of August thru December.
Although my site reviews Indie Authors and supports Indie Books there were a couple on books on my reading list that did not fall into the Indie category, in the end only Indies made the list. This list does not reflect that the book was written or published in 2019, it just happens to be when I read them.
After reading so many good book this year it can almost be overwhelming try to only pick 10 as the top picks. There are so many others that deserve an Honorable Mention. However, in the end there could only be 10 and these 10 have made a lasting impression on me unlike any of the others.
Honorable Mention– Electric Bluesby: Shaun O McCoy, Although it didn’t make it into the top 10 it defiantly deserves to be mentioned. This is a futuristic tale about a depressed out of work A.I. named Arty that is sure to put a smile on your face. Gabrielle Olexa had recommended this book, said that it was a cute book, and she’s right. It’s well written and Shaun is a fascinating individual that I had the privilege to interview. Defiantly worth a look.
10– Bird Wingby: Dreena Collins, This is a book of Flash Fiction and I love it. It was way back when I first read Black Coffee Blues by: Henry Rollins, that I realized how much I enjoy reading flash fiction. This book brought it all back to me. Thank you Dreena!
9- Ascendby: Leia Gose, Fun and Magical are two words that best describe Ascend. Leia has done a ridiculously good job creating this world that I want to live in, written for YA this book is fun enough for everyone. Good news is that she’s writing a sequel!
8- The Desert in the Glassby C.C. Luckey, This book is surprisingly good. If not mistaken it is a debut novel and CC brings it. I’m really excited that I had the opportunity to interview her in 2019 and can’t wait to see what she publishes next. If you haven’t read it you should, it’s a lot of fun!
7- Jenny of Lebanon by: Gabrielle Olexa I know Gabrielle takes a lot of heat because this book is identified as literary fiction. Looking at the reviews for Jenny of Lebanon readers either hate it or love it, if you are looking for something to rival Twilight or Harry Potter, this book will be a waste of your time, however, if you love words and wordplay I highly recommend this book.
6- Depths of Darkness(Saints and Sinners Book 2) by: Crystal L. Kirkham, this is book 2 of the Saints and Sinners series and I found it to be just as good if not better than the first. I consider Crystal to be a writer on the move, she is as talented as she is creative and her new book Feathers and Fae will be reviewed on my blog in early 2020.
5- Three Sharp Knives by: Jessica Conwell, This was a pleasant surprise to me, Three Sharp Knives introduced me to my first transgender main character as well as the struggles within their community.I love the book as well as Jessica and her writing style. The interview I published with her on 12/8/19 is my favorite of the year, hoping to have her back after reading her other novel, Cluster. My advise, Read this BOOK!
4- The Van Helsing Paradoxby: Evelyn Chartres, This is such a fun book, the flow is incredible and very engrossing. There will be more about Evelyn during 2020 on my site because I think her writing is phenomenal, I will be reviewing her work in the near future.
3- A Dress the Color of the Skyby: Jennifer Irwin WOW! is about all I can say about A Dress the Color of the Sky. Jennifer also will be my first interview / review featured in 2020. Really impressed with this book!
2- Postscriptby: Barbara Avon, I love Barbara! Her writing JUST does it for me. Every time I finish one of her books it has become my new favorite. I picked Postscript because the evolution of her writing style has STOLEN MY HEART with this tale, it’s also filled with hidden gems that kept me on my toes. ❤
1- The End of Hatredby: Rebecca Hefner, this book has earned my number one spot because it was the book that stole my soul to romance, it’s not just this book either, it’s the whole series. I love it and can’t wait until she writes another. Rebecca is going to be a writer that we will hear of for a long, long time.
“The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough of is love.” ― Henry Miller
Johnny– Hi Ava! Thank, thank you for taking the time to visit with me and have a conversation about your book. Where did the idea for ‘Twice as Nice’ originate?
Ava– I think I read somewhere the phrase “space pirate” recently and I really wanted there to be a female space pirate! So I created Allie. As for the idea for the story, I just thought it would be a funny conflict if we put together a female who is somewhat asexual with a hypersexual male and see what happens. I love conflict!
Johnny– Space Pirate, I love it! You feature two different species of aliens Brex and Allie, (kudos on originality btw), where do you draw your inspiration from when you are creating different species?
Ava– Terran actually means human, but I understand it’s not very well explained in the story. As for Brex, who is not human, I guess I just draw on the many years of watching sci-fi shows and reading sci-fi books. But I also try to come up with something I haven’t seen.
Johnny– Brex is Primarsul, how did you go about creating this character? He is very unique in more ways than one.
Ava– To be honest, the idea for the story always comes first. As for the characters and the details, they just develop from the idea. I often “pantse” so I don’t know how they look until I write the scenes and sometimes even until I edit! For me, it’s easier to add the details later, and that’s only because what captivates me at the start is the story.
Johnny– This is the first book I’ve read that you’ve written, is sci-fi erotica the only genre you write? Or is this your first book?
Ava– I’ve written many unfinished speculative stories, novellas and even novels throughout the years – urban fantasy, dark fantasy, science fiction, science fantasy, paranormal, etc. However, as I don’t easily finish long stories, I decided to go shorter and shorter… and once I did and I decided I wanted to publish, I realized the only short fiction that was publishable was mostly erotica. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I’ve read and written my share throughout the years, but this decision was more necessity than anything else. Luckily, I started writing and publishing in this genre – after doing some market research – and I LOVED IT. Who knew it would be so fun to write short steamy stories with aliens?!
Johnny– It most defiantly is steamy and fun! Do you self-publish? Or do you go through an agency?
Ava– Yes, I self-publish. I am such a control freak and so multipassionate that I suppose self-publishing is fun for me, and necessary. I can’t imagine someone telling me what to do with my story, so I just do everything myself, and it works! I have spent years writing, editing, designing, marketing… so the natural conclusion was to self-publish. It’s a challenge because you have a tiny budget and a LOT of tasks, but there’s also a lot to be learned, and that’s what I thrive on.
Johnny– What advise would you give to anyone that is wanting to write erotica?
Ava– Well, right now it’s not as easy to make money off erotica… if you’re in it for the money, you better write longer romance works. If you’re just writing for fun, shorter pieces are a great way to improve your craft and get feedback. Definitely read top stories on literotica.com if you want to improve your sex scenes and sign up on Erotic Authors, the subreddit, where people will help you on your journey.
Johnny– Do you have to be ‘thick skinned’ to write erotica? I would imagine that there are some pretty crude people out there that just think they can message or email you some pretty vulgar stuff, or for the most part, is everybody cordial?
Ava– For now everyone has been super nice, but after all, I have just started. I have only published 3 short stories and I have only been an “author” for 1 month, so I’m sure I might face some weirdness in the future, but so what? I have become pretty thick-skinned already since I have been active only for years and have encountered all kind of people. As long as people are reading my stories, I am happy.
Johnny– What does the future hold for Brex and Allie? Any plans for later adventures?
Ava– Yes actually! After some positive feedback and a couple of suggestions, I decided to turn this story into a series called Starfarers and Warriors. Sadly, I might not revisit those specific characters, or I might, in passing. I have a couple of ideas for other series as well and it’s usually always the same world but with different people/couples.
Johnny– This is a very short read, are you planning on writing larger volumes in the future?
Ava– Absolutely!!! Even though I said I’m not good at longer works, I actually can last for a novella (no pun intended). So I definitely plan on publishing some longer works in the romance genre in the future, since Romance readers prefer longer reads. Also, I get most of my royalties from Kindle Unlimited readers, and that’s really pennies when the work is shorter.
Johnny– Who or what is your inspiration? (Could be your favorite author, musician, or music), what makes you want to write?
Ava– To be honest, writing is in my blood, my breath, my everything. I have been a writer since a very early age and the only times when I don’t write, I am miserable. As for my inspiration, it’s J.K. Rowling. Even though it sounds cheesy, Harry Potter opened my eyes to the magic of world building and storytelling and I became a true fiction writer than. I started with fanfiction and slowly built up my confidence to come up with my own stories. And once I opened that well, OH BOY, I still get dozens of ideas every week…
Johnny– Give me a quick elevator pitch for “Kicking the Vow”.
Ava– Kicking the Vow is about a woman who is highly religious and who has taken a vow of chastity, but because of horrid circumstance, she has to go work in a brothel on another planet. There she meets the charismatic concubines Tanar and Crahain and the owner Seb, and suddenly, she doesn’t know what to do with herself!
Johnny– What are your plans for 2020?
Ava– I plan to release a story at least every fortnight, so I hope that 2020 will come with a bit more clarity. I want to experiment and perfect my marketing strategy, so I can reach more readers, and I would be very excited to write more series! I love some of the worlds I’ve created, and my readers love them, too, so the new year looks good indeed!
Johnny– That’s a pretty aggressive goal! Are you the person that needs to challenge themselves?
Ava– See, that’s a normal goal for me! I guess if I don’t go big, it’s just not me. If I’m not challenged, I’m bored… so that answers your question.
Twice as Nice: Alien Breeding Romance is a fast read that will take less than thirty minutes to consume. Although short but sweet I found that what it lacks in volume it makes up for in creativity. Twice as Nice is also the first erotica book to be reviewed on this site.
No spoiler alert warning needed for this but do expect the heat 🔥 to rise while you are reading this book. Ava leaves nothing to the imagination, she also leaves nothing on the table.
Although short but sweet I can’t help but give Ava credit for originality and creativity. For that reason I’m giving this a thumbs up. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐HIGHLY RECOMMEND
This short story contains explicit sexual content, some may look as a disclaimer while other view it as a welcome sign, where-ever you reading preference I feel positive that there will be something in this book that you will like.
Except GENESIS is an intergalactic brothel. And the more she works there with the charismatic owner, Seb, the flimsier her vows get. In this short, steamy story, let’s follow Raya’s sexy transformation. http://mybook.to/KickingtheVow
KICKING THE VOW When Raya’s small planet is torn by war, she has to find a new place to live and work… and were it not for her vow of chastity, she would have been happy about finding work in GENESIS.
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.-Jim Morrison
Johnny– Hi C.C. thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Straight out of the gate I want to ask, where did the idea for The Desert in the Glass come from?
CC- I love adventure stories. Reading a book set in a detailed fictional world feels like the best kind of vacation. I wanted to write a book that felt real, but integrated some believable fantasy elements featuring characters the reader could relate to. The Desert in the Glass is written for people who love to explore.
Johnny– I don’t think I’m giving to much away by asking this, but basically this book is made up of three different stories that come together to complete this novel. All three are good enough to be stand-alone works, how hard of a decision was it to use these three in one book? were they originally independent stories or stand-alone works?
CC- Part 1, Terata, was originally a novella. As soon as I finished, I knew there was more to be told. I love road movies and I wanted my book to have legs, which led to the second part, The Red Road to Vegas. Part 3, The Birdhouse Keeper, was the most personally difficult to write, yet my readers say it’s their favorite. I see each part as following not a story-line but rather the unique life of a person, and all three of those people are critical pillars of the book’s structure.
Johnny– Where on earth did you come up with the “event” that takes place in Part 2, The Red Road to Vegas? That was very creative!
CC- We’re very, very small in the universe. Infinitesimal. Sometimes I’m surprised these kinds of terrifying incidents don’t happen a lot more often. Best not to think about that too hard, perhaps.
Johnny– How hard was it to develop the characters for this book? You get really detailed about them as individuals, I really like that.
CC- My writing process generally involves a brief initial description of a scenario and world before even thinking about characters. Once I have that idea in my head—which could be stated in as little as a single sentence—I ask myself, who is the actor? This person could be old or young, male or female. Eventually, someone in my head raises their hand. Then I put myself in their shoes, and get moving.
Johnny– Which was the hardest character to create?
CC- The main character of Part 3 worried me a little because she is a mother, and I am not. That’s an experience you can’t really understand unless you have it yourself—no pretending. I had trouble with her until I fell in love with her daughter, and realized that was something we had in common. After that, I knew her well enough to write her.
Johnny– You did very well, I personally believed her to be genuine. Which of the three stories proved to be the most difficult to write?
CC- A couple sections of Part 3 made me cry. Is it arrogance to cry at your own writing? The story digs deep into neurological issues, which I based on my personal experiences as a caregiver for a brain damaged family member.
Johnny– I don’t think it’s arrogance, it does say a lot about your passion, though. Let’s talk about the title for a moment, where did the name, ‘The Desert in the Glass’ come from?
CC- I knew from the start that I wanted time to be a constant theme of the book. There are many references to the counting of time in the book, from age differences between characters, whole sections set in different years throughout history, and the generally urgent pace. The other running theme of the book is the desert, which almost serves as a character itself. So, the book is an hourglass filled with desert sand, measuring the passage of time.
Johnny– How long did it take you to write this novel?
CC- I wrote Part 1 during a time when I was a caregiver for a family member. It was hard to hold down a regular job or any other commitments, so I turned to writing to keep me sane and give me an escape. The other two parts were written and edited over a period of just four months.
Johnny– Let’s talk about your writing process and habits, are you big on journaling? Do you start out writing by hand or digital all the way?
CC- I don’t do any personal journaling, but I always have pens and paper close at hand in case I have a lightning-flash idea that I need to record it right away. When I’m writing a story, I use a tablet and keyboard because my brain works faster than I can write by hand. I’m most comfortable typing because I’ve been using computers for writing since 1985. My father was an engineer so when I was a kid we always had the latest technology.
Johnny– Do you edit your work yourself?
CC- Yes, I do my own editing. I am protective of my work, yet I am a very strict taskmaster for myself. I read and re-read my work dozens of times, interspersed with breaks away from the manuscript and reading other authors’ books to clear my mind. If something doesn’t work in my story—if it doesn’t feel exactly right—I cut it and throw it away. And I’m crazy for grammar and spelling. I absolutely love editing, it’s my favorite part of writing. Sure, first drafts are fun and interesting and you never really know what’s going to happen. But when you edit, you really get to hone your craft, to take that raw material and make it glow. I feel little pride during my initial writing, but editing fills me with euphoria as I watch my story come to life.
Johnny– Does this love for editing help or hinder your ability or creativity while writing?
CC- It probably hinders it. It can be difficult to resist stopping and going back to double check the flow of the story, the quality of my sentences, and my grammar. Sometimes the frequent stops make for a better first draft, but it can also kick me out of my creative head-space. Drinking coffee helps, actually. It makes the story in my head play out in fast-forward, and if I stop typing, I won’t keep up and it will get away from me.
Johnny– If you were given the chance to go back and change any part of this book, regardless of how big or small, is there any part that you would change or alter?
CC- No. I’m not saying my work is perfect, of course. But every single step I take is forward, not back. And something that looks like a mistake to me may be an enlightenment to someone else, so I’ll let my work lay as it falls.
Johnny– Is there a bottom-line lesson to be learned from “The Desert in the Glass”?
CC- While my background is in philosophy, I try not to include overt morals in my adventure stories. But I do admit to a certain agenda; I love to feature characters in roles which may be surprising. A majority of my characters are female, but my writing is not romantic or “chick lit.” Not all of my characters are neurotypical, but my stories aren’t really about that. It’s okay for characters to be incidentally female, or unusual, or genius or broken in some way without the story being about that. And if the story ends up being about a normal typical guy, that’s okay, too. I write about regular people in irregular situations, and to me that means diversity without apology.
Johnny– I think you did an awesome job! Any chance you will be revisiting any characters or parts of this book in the future?
CC- No, The Desert in the Glass is a very self-contained story. But you’ll have to read to the end to find out why.
Johnny– What or who inspires you?
CC- I am in awe of the writers who have come before me, not because of what they’ve written but because of the circumstances under which they created their work. Writers are an odd bunch; they are compelled to create, perhaps even against their own will, like they have whole universes bouncing around in their heads that will burst out through their ears if not released through their fingertips. This process isn’t always fun or lucrative, but an impassioned writer doesn’t have any choice but to write—and, sometimes, drink to excess. I feel a kinship with the struggling writers who have come before me, and I hope to have the perseverance they did in sharing my stories with the world.
Johnny– Any particular writers you consider to be your favorite?
CC- Stephen King had a big effect on me when I was a teenager, not because of his horror themes but because of how he wrote his characters with such empathy even when he had little in common with them. I am also a big Richard Adams fan. But my favorite book of all time is actually by a very obscure author, Walter Wangerin Jr. He wrote a story in two books, The Book of the Dun Cow and The Book of Sorrows, which I highly recommend to pretty much everyone in the world. I’ve been known to buy copies of them at used book stores and randomly give them to friends.
Johnny– What can we expect next from C.C. Luckey?
CC- So many more adventures! I am just starting a massive multi-book series that will take readers on an epic journey to another world. I can’t wait to visit, myself. I’ll be the first one there, but I’ll be clearing the path and sending directions as soon as it’s ready to come visit.
Johnny– I cannot wait to see where your journey will take us C.C. I know one thing, it’s going to be great. Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun?
CC- I enjoy making miniature dioramas, like faux specimen jars and creepy scenes in tiny rooms where a crime has just taken place. I’m also very into video games, especially massive open-world RPGs.
Johnny– Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me! It has been a pleasure. Before we wrap this up is there any final thoughts or parting wisdom you’d like to share?
CC- It can take a long time to realize what you really want from life. The important thing is to keep trying until you find it, and don’t let anyone else tell you who you should be. For some people it’s creating a certain type of art, for others it’s having kids, and some people simply yearn for a return to nature. It can take decades to figure out where you fit in the world, and there’s no shame in learning late who you are. Just don’t give up until you figure it out.
Johnny– You are an awesome writer C.C. it has been an honor to visit with you.
CC– Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and my book!
I knew there was something special about CC Luckey when I read her book. Then in her opening line during our conversation she said “I love adventure stories.” Well, well, well, so, do I.
There is nothing that I didn’t like about this book. It’s an evocative adventure that beacons my soul to the dusty deserts of Nevada. I could almost feel the heat on my skin and the sun on my face as I read…
Divided into three sections each more beautiful and troubling than the next, I found it hard to pick a favorite. In the end it didn’t matter though, what happened was “The Desert in the Glass” tied together as neatly as a professionally tied bow around a beautifully wrapped box. A work of art.
If there was one thing that stood out about this book it would be this, the expressive narrative in which C.C. introduces her characters that she had created to star in this impressive tale. Vivid portrayal, well established cast and a plot that is as solid as a rock I found this book to be nothing more than remarkable.
I’m giving The Desert in the Glass five stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on both Amazon and Goodreads. It’s an adventure, not just that, it’s creative, it’s fun and I found it to be addictive. I love it and highly recommend it.
Below you will find links to contact and follow CC Luckey on social media as well as links to buy her books. If you are a fan of adventure, macabre and the unexplained you will not be disappointed.
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” -Jack Kerouac
Johnny– Hey Jessica, first I want to thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your book ‘Three Sharp Knives’. Having read your book I understand the name, and what it stands for, do you have any particular story behind the term/brand? where did “3SK” come from?
Jessica– Hey Johnny! Thanks for reading, I’m always happy to answer questions! The title Three Sharp Knives comes from the idea that certain people are considered ‘dangerous’ to society simply for existing, like sharp knives sitting on a counter. The three narrators are all such people, three women who fall just outside the bounds of what the world wants to understand.
Johnny– You are such a charming writer, you have a way when you developed your characters that is so real and strong that I feel invested, “bought in” and very close to them, what do you attribute to that?
Jessica– Thank you. I’ve always been of the view that characters are more important than plot. I’ll read a book with interesting characters and a thin plot well before I will finish a book with a fascinating plot and flat characters. I think the number one thing I try to remember when developing my characters is that people don’t make sense. People are messy. People are illogical. People act in ways contrary to their own values. People screw up. But despite it all, most people in the world are trying to do their best to work toward what they envision “good” to be. Whether that is a moral good, a spiritual good, or just a personal good varies person to person. But I try to start with asking myself, “What does this character define as their ‘good’ and what does it look like when they try to work towards it? How will they screw up along the way?” I think that might be why my characters are relatable. I think most people can understand the feeling of knowing the good, wanting the good, but having no effing idea how to go about achieving the good.
Johnny– This book is written in a different format than most, separated into four sections with no chapters, (which, by the way, works!), is this your style when you are writing? Or is it unique to this book?
Jessica– I tend to work with sections more than chapters. My earlier novel, Cluster, works this way as well. I think I fits my stories structure-wise better than breaking them up into chapters. I want the narrative to flow in a series of long arcs, mainly to create the feeling that everything is connected, nothing separated from anything else. Past mixes with present.
Johnny– What motivated you to write Three Sharp Knives?
Jessica– So, the most simplistic answer to that question is that after I finished Cluster, a friend of mine said, “I think you should write a story about ghost hunters.” Naturally, I took that in the least logical, barely connected direction I could.
The larger answer is that I wanted a story about unconventional people and unconventional love. Obviously, there is a lot of LGBTQ+ representation in 3SK, but even beyond that, I wanted to write a book for people who feel like they don’t really fit anywhere, people who want to love and be loved, but find it difficult to be understood.
Johnny– I want to talk about your characters again, they are so damn believable, and likable, did you have inspirations or muses when you created them, or were they strictly products of your imagination?
Jessica– Way back when I was younger writer, I made the mistake of basing characters entirely on people I knew. This, predictably, blew up in my face when said people read the stories, mainly because I was not yet a strong enough writer to mask what I was doing. So, I now have a strict policy for myself against writing biographical (or autobiographical) characters. However, there are, of course, scraps and snipping’s of people I have known or encountered in my life. I don’t think any author can truly avoid that. And, honesty time, there is a bit of me in each of my narrators.
Johnny– Without giving anything away, what was the hardest part of this book to write?
Jessica– Ha! That’s a difficult one to answer without giving anything away, because the truth is that the most difficult part of the book to write was the ending. In part it was because I couldn’t decide how to execute it. It was a eureka moment on a long walk that finally gave me the ‘nested circle’ structure of the flashbacks in the last section. The other reason it was difficult was—and this will be very difficult to say without spoiling anything—because, well, authors tend to get emotionally invested in their own characters, too. I’ve had people tell me how hard they have taken various unkind things I have done to characters of mine they connected with. My knee-jerk response is, “I know! I’m a monster!”
Johnny– You did it beautifully! Although, I gotta admit, I was a little surprised at the ending, so I’m guessing your going to be that writer that likes to shock your readers?
Jessica– I actually try not to, typically. Otherwise there isn’t much of a surprise since the reader is expecting a surprise, you know? I’m completely of the mindset that surprise endings have to be earned. They need to be a surprise only due to the reader not putting the pieces together ahead of time.
Johnny– My thought is that this book was written through the eyes of three different individuals, which narration was the hardest to write for?
Jessica– Heather, actually, who is also my favorite character. She was hard to write because of how bleak her worldview is at the beginning of her section. In a lot of ways, it mirrored my own thoughts during darker, lower moments of my life, and it wasn’t always enjoyable to access those while I was writing her.
Johnny– Was it therapeutic for you to write her?
Jessica– It actually was. It is good to speak dark feelings aloud sometimes.
Johnny– I did this when I interviewed Rebecca Hefner and it was a lot of fun so I’d like to try it with you if you don’t mind. You get a call from Hollywood, your book is going into production to become a movie, you are chosen to cast it, you can use any artists you want, who do you pick?
Jessica– I’ve been asked about before actually! I think my main demand that would be that all of my trans characters be portrayed by trans actors. Beyond that, if Saoirse Ronan isn’t Heather and Katey Sagal isn’t Mari, I just don’t know that I could sign off on the production.
Johnny– Ha! Katey Sagal would be perfect! Good call for Heather, NOW, who would play Seph and Lia?
Jessica– She’s a bit older than the character, but I think Jamie Clayton from Sense8 would be a great Seph. For Lia, I’ve never been able to lock down who I think would be good for her role. But I’m open to suggestions.
Johnny– I’m curious, because your book centers around this, are you a fan of puzzle rooms?
Jessica– I am a huge fan of puzzle rooms, verging on being evangelical about them. I’ve done enough of them that I have formed strong opinions regarding their quality.
Johnny– What advise do you have for someone that wants to become a writer?
Jessica– Write the stories you think only you will be interested in. That won’t be the case. Write the books you wish you’d had at your lowest moments. Also, immediately stop thinking about writing as some mystical art. Like any craft, it needs to be honed and developed. Practice.
Johnny– What advise do you have for someone that might be struggling with gender identity?
Jessica– Trust yourself. A million voices will tell you that you don’t know yourself, that they know you better than you could. Surround yourself with the people who love and support you, discard the ones who don’t. Never be afraid to seek additional support. Hold in your mind the truth that no matter what, you have intrinsic value and are worthy of love and respect.
Johnny– I hope I’m asking this right, because I am ignorant about transgender people, I’ll be the first to admit that, but, at what age did you drop the gender society given you (because of the anatomy you were born with), to become the woman you are today?
Jessica– That’s a tricky one, because I spent a long time knowing and being in active denial. I was 33 when I finally came out, though.
Johnny– Was your family supportive? are you close with your family?
Jessica– The members of my family I am close with were very supportive, even if they didn’t understand right away. I, of course, had some members who were less so (especially among my then-in-laws) but the people who knew me the best knew that this wasn’t something I had decided based on some whim I was having.
Johnny– As a transgender woman do you feel accepted by society?
Jessica– In certain segments, sure. Otherwise, no, no I don’t. For one thing, the US government itself is currently hostile toward trans people. Aside from that, the background noise of life as a trans person is a cacophony of microaggressions, threats of violence, discrimination, distrust, and prejudice. So, we find our pocket communities. We build our “found families” and we do everything we can to try to change the way things are. But we have a hell of a long way to go.
Johnny– When you say “currently hostile” was it more-so after the 2016 election than before?
Jessica– Absolutely. Before 2016, things weren’t great, but it seemed like progress was being made, if only in an ‘inch at a time’ way. After the election, not only were protections and rights we had been granted under constant attack, it was almost as if a license had been given to not hide your prejudices.
*(I’d like to add a side note here, as a veteran who served in the US Army it breaks my heart and angers me to my core that you have to deal with this sort of hate and hostilities. When I joined, I joined so EVERYONE regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation could live in this country freely, peacefully, without fear or harassment from bigots and their hate, intolerance, and prejudice.) JS
Johnny– Jessica where do you want to be in 10 years?
Jessica– Watching my daughter start college (if that’s what she wants), going on adventures with my partner, and always, always, always still writing. Even if my audience can still be counted on one hand.
Johnny– You keep writing like you do I’m predicting that you will need a “few” hands to count your audience on. What are you wanting your readers to take away with them after reading 3SK?
Jessica– I hope they leave with more empathy and understanding for people different than they are, as well as more openness to love in all of its bizarre, beautiful forms. I hope I can make some people who have never felt understood seen, even if just a little.
Johnny– Do you have any projects planned for 2020?
Jessica– Roughly a thousand of them, though I am favoring a project that does have a loose tie-in to 3SK (much as 3SK has some loose connections to my earlier book, Cluster). Unfortunately, it is in the form of bringing back probably the last character 3SK readers wanted to see return, so….
Johnny– So… we might not see Seph and Heather again?
Jessica– You may, but they will be wandering through the background of a scene. I have this long-standing belief that everyone is the background character in someone else’s life. All of my novels have a shared universe, but rarely will I bring a main character from one book into the forefront of another. However, you may see someone who was a minor character in 3SK play a more major role.
Johnny– Do you mind giving a quick elevator pitch for Cluster?
Jessica– A group of misfit friends run a music venue/coffee shope/vintage toy store together while coping with love and loss of many different flavors. Also, there’s a lengthy discussion about ghost sex.
Every once in a while I get the pleasure to come across a book that totally catches me off guard. Three Sharp Knives was one of those books.
Upon opening this book, I was carried away with a narrative that was so mesmerizing, characters so endearing, a plot well-groomed that it belongs on a Hollywood screen, I could not help but fall in LOVE with this book! I think you will too.
Three against the world was a reoccurring theme that ran across my mind time after time while I was reading this. Love, defined on their terms was what I was left with.
I love this book! It has earned the five stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐rating that I’ve given it on Goodreads and Amazon. I’m proud to say that I am a HUGE fan of Jessica Conwell.
If a good story and strong characters is your thing, then Three Sharp Knives is the book for you. I can’t wait to read and review Jessica’s other book Cluster.
Great job on writing a great book Jessica! I’m a fan!!
“What all of us have to do is to make sure we are using AI in a way that is for the benefit of humanity, not to the detriment of humanity.” –Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
Johnny– Hello Shaun, thank you for taking the time to talk with me about your book, where did the idea for Electric Blues come from?
Shaun– Ha! I don’t think I’ve admitted this before, but I wrote this story right after smartphones were coming into the mainstream. I had a little android phone that I adored, and I wondered what it would be like if it was sentient.
Johnny– LOL, that’s pretty cool. Did you by any chance hang on to it over the years?
Shaun– I did! In fact, even seven or so years later, it still works 😀
Johnny– That is awesome! And it still works… that’s pretty cool. The opening lines in your book reads: “I can’t love. That’s okay, if you ask me, most humans can’t either.” That is profound, what is Arty telling us in this opening line?
Shaun– Well, first, let’s all hope that Arty is wrong there. The world is a lonely enough place as it is! It’s a little hard to answer this question without dorking out completely, but essentially, I imagine Arty here is dealing with the fact that most people have a romanticized view of love—and even Arty can tell that the people around him don’t have that Romeo and Juliet stuff at their disposal. Like all of us, I hope, Arty, as he meets new people and sees more relationships, will grow in his understanding of what human love really is.
Johnny– Just so you know, dorking out is completely allowed, in-fact is very much encouraged here, lol. Tell me more about Arty, he seems interesting. He lives in a storage unit due to his unemployment circumstance; it sounds like he is improvising, adapting and overcoming his current situation, which is rather amazing since he seems to be running on a rather dated program.
Shaun– Well, to be fair, he’s running a pretty darn advanced program compared to what we have today 😀 It just depends on your perspective, I suppose.
Johnny– I’m constructing that question from Arty’s narration, I guess; he had mentioned that other A.I. models having a more updated programming than he. As a reader he just seemed like what he lacked in his program he made up through improvising. Was this intentional? Or is Arty pulling a Captain Kirk during his‘Kobayashi Maru’? (LOL)
Shaun– Ha! I don’t feel Arty is winning the unwinnable Kobayashi Maru scenario here. Certainly, a Denizen H could come up with the plan that Arty did, and perhaps even a more cost effective one. That being said, I did envision Arty’s AI as sufficiently complex to display a level of creativity. To use human beings as an analogy, the ability to succeed and be employable is more complex than just how good our pattern recognition (intelligence) is or how good our education is. Those things help, but they’re not the end all be all. So too, for an AI, I don’t think that processing power and updated software are always going to win the day. Maybe most days, but not all of them!
Johnny– There are so many good points to talk about in this book I’m having a hard time choosing one to start with, we know where the idea came from, what was your motivation to write Electric Blues?
Shaun– While I started with the idea of my phone, the story really is a reflection of a lot more than that. As a child who moved a lot, I’ve definitely lived the fish-out-of-water story, which, to an extent, Electric Blues is. And, as an analytical person, sometimes I find myself confused, or even occasionally estranged by the people around me who are more intuitive. Arty, as a robot, works as a pretty good vehicle for getting that estrangement, and the eventual catharsis of finding a way through the world, across. Social situations are hard, insanely complicated, and yet, people are expected to understand them perfectly. So, I think it’s easy for a lot of us to feel for Arty because so many of us have walked that same path.
Johnny– I love the dialog between Arty and the Veterinarian, is Arty starting to develop a personality or is he being logical?
Shaun– Oh yes! I don’t think you can really have intelligence as we think of it WITHOUT having personality or character. And, a lot of those character points are going to look like emotions. That may sound crazy to say about an AI, but hear me out! Our emotions serve certain purposes. Anger helps us keep boundaries for our emotional and physical safety, affection helps us treat our friends well, sadness helps us reflect on our life choices, etc. etc. Arty may not feel anger, but he has to develop habits which keep his boundaries. He may not feel sadness, but he has to look back on his choices, and his relationships, and see if he can learn better ways, he can handle his next set of choices and relationships. So, while Arty doesn’t feel like we do, it’s sort of a moot point because he’s thinking in the ways that are the root of our emotions. I think this is one of the reasons why people can empathize with how Arty feels, even though he isn’t really feeling. And THAT, I believe, gets back to the first line of the book where Arty says most people can’t love. What that’s really about is the misconception of what love is, and maybe we all have a bit of a misconception of what it means to feel.
Johnny– You seem like a pretty philosophical person so I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts, Knickers basically tells Arty to go help the underprivileged in order to keep his Government assistance, (how revolutionary is that?), do you consider that to be socialism or maybe, responsible, creative government? Or, is it something else?
Shaun– I wasn’t trying to make a point about governments there! For many people getting government assistance in the US, their assistance is contingent on them looking for work. I just updated our current laws as if a legislative body were to try and get them to encompass AI. BUT SINCE YOU ASKED, I think the fact that AI might be able to take jobs from us in a way that automation never could before, we really should be ready to transition to a universal basic income if the need arises 😀
Johnny– I read on your social media profile that you are a former MMA fighter? How did you get started in that? Was this something you did full-time?
Shaun– OH! Those were beautiful days 😀 The beginnings of that were pretty tragic though. I was nearly killed by an infection when I was 20. I was in a coma and hospitalized for two weeks. When I came out of it, I had trouble walking more than 100 yards. My Aunt and Uncle, Tori and Barry Polinitza, agreed to let me stay on their horse ranch during the day and train at their martial arts dojo in the nights. I fell in love with the puzzle of fighting, and eventually just had to try it out in practice.
I never did do MMA as a living/full time though. I think it’s entirely possible I could have opened up a studio and taught, but though I won all my fights, I don’t think I was good enough to live off of the purses.
Johnny– That an amazing story Shaun, thanks for sharing, very inspirational! What discipline did you practice?
Shaun– I studied quite a few disciplines! Shootfighting, Jiu jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing and Mui Thai were the arts which helped me the most. Almost everyone I was training and competing with had learned one art a youngster, so it was always a puzzle for me to make sure I had the skills to avoid or neutralize what my opponents were bringing to the table.
Johnny– Do you still train and/or compete?
Shaun– I do a little boxing, but I’m retired from fighting now! I play tournament chess to satisfy my competitive drive.
Johnny– Which is more vicious? I’ve heard chess tournaments can be downright brutal. Are they that competitive?
Shaun– Brutal is certainly the right word for competitive chess! Imagine taking the Bar to become a lawyer, but that the exam is taking you back. You’re thinking as hard as you can for over five hours at times, and the toll it takes is difficult to explain. The brain is a top calorie using organ in the human body, and when measured, it apparently eats up as much calories in a professional chess game as an NBA basketball player’s entire body will burn in their game. Which is more vicious? Definitely MMA! After a few days rest, you’re going to be recovered from almost any chess game. That’s not true for huge number of fights!
Johnny– What made you want to become a writer?
Shaun– I feel like I have a million answers to that question, and maybe they all come together into one giant answer! My father and grandfather told me stories growing up which lit my mind on fire. My mother would always find time to read to me. My friends and I would play make believe growing up, so storytelling was baked into my early socializing. I played a ton of dungeons and dragons and had to run and write the campaigns for my friends. I read the entire fiction section of my middle school library in sixth grade and it started to leak out of my ears in prose. There are ideas I experience which are so beautiful I feel like I have to share them with other people. I feel alive after I write.
But, if there’s anything the research on consciousness I did for Electric Blues has taught me, it’s that people are particularly terrible at giving the reasons for why they do things. So, who knows?
Johnny– Ha! Fair enough, have any of the stories told to you by your father and grandfather ever made it into any of your writing?
Shaun– Not the stories themselves, but my father’s world building and my grandfather’s way of building a character certainly come through a good bit in what I do.
Johnny– Was Electric Blues your first book?
Shaun– Not by a long shot! The first book I wrote was in seventh grade. I don’t know that anyone should read it though. My first full length novel that was published is Even Hell Has Knights.
Johnny– What writing plans have you got for
the upcoming year? Any projects in the works?
Shaun– Oh yes! Wasteland, a book in my Hellsong Universe, is in its final editing stage. It should be a beaut!
Johnny– Oh sweet, any release date ETS’s?
Shaun– We’re working on late first quarter next year! That gives you guys plenty of time to catch up! You can start the series here:
Johnny– Who inspires you?
Shaun– I have a ton of heroes! Some from the sports I’ve competed in. Garry Kasparov in Chess, who branched out to fight for fair elections in Russia and who helped move his home village to safety during regional unrest. Mirko Filipović, a fighter who got elected to the Croatian Parliament. Epicurus, who’s philosophy is so strangely modern! But it’s not just my heroes who inspire me! I have a friend who quit his job and gave up his dreams because he felt what he was being asked to do was unethical. And I have friends who are actually raising decent human beings! How the crap are they doing that? I could never do that!
Johnny– Who is your favorite author/writer?
Shaun– Frederik Pohl, I think, is amazing. I really think his material is right up there with Asimov and Bradbury, but he’s not as well known. I’d recommend Gateway to anyone looking to get into him.
Johnny– Do you have a sequel planned or written for Electric Blues?
Shaun– I do! There is a sequel out now for Arty called Binary Jazz. I have a third one planned, called Digital Muse, which is on the backburner. I feel that it wouldn’t be a good Arty story if the theme didn’t in some way tackle an emotion. Electric Blues deals with depression, while Binary Jazz is primarily about how positive and negative emotions build friendships. The third story will touch on the idea love and how human beings in love look from Arty’s perspective.
Johnny– I notice Electric Blues was on Audible, (Great performance by Gabrielle Olexa btw), are any other books been converted to audio?
Shaun– They’re not! Electric Blues is the only one so far! I agree that Gabe did a fabulous job on the audio. Getting someone to be monotone for that long and still keep the story exciting to listen to was no easy task!
Johnny– Absolutely! Her monotone was nothing short of phenomenal! (I’ve included a link above for anyone wanting to listen to this amazing performance). Shaun, what is your process when you begin writing a book from an idea?
Shaun– For me, it seems different for each story. Sometimes there’s an image or scene that burns its way into my consciousness, and I play the detective to see what came before it and after it. For the Hellsong series, the setting came first, and the story-lines emerged as I imagined how people would handle that particular damnation. At other times there’s a concept or emotion I have that I want to share, and the story is just the best way to communicate it with another person.
Johnny– Any advice for inspiring writers, cage fighters, or chess players?
Shaun– All three pursuits straddle the line between science and art. They require both phenomenal discipline and unfettered passion. Most people I meet have one of the two requirements down. My advice to anyone who is chasing one of these three endeavors is to find the area you are most lacking, whether it be discipline or passion, and feed the weaker of the two.
Electric Blues is a fun futuristic tale of an A.I. that is looking for his purpose. In doing so Arty teaches us all the possible meaning of life. To think that this whole story came about because of a smartphone blows me away, and so does this book.
of room for this franchise to grow I can hardly wait to see what Arties next
adventure will be.
Dynamic narration is necessary to make this book work for the reader. Logical and engaging dialog are entwined presenting a believe-ability that will easily hold your interest to the end. Shaun has done a wonderful job with Electric Blues.
Personally, I love the fact that coping with his current reality Artie is teaching me the basics principles of philosophy. While searching for his purpose in an ever advancing world, Artie has taught me that adapting is surviving, when one door closes another opens, it’s just depend on how one chooses to view it.
I’m giving Electric Blues five stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on bothGoodreads and Amazonbecause of it is original, humorous, and intelligent. I walk away from this book feeling both amused and charmed, but most importantly, entertained.
Shaun proves that sometimes the little things that come into our lives can provide some great opportunities. He also proved that with hard work and determination you can overcome adversity. Good luck 🍀 with all your endeavors Shaun, I’m a Fan! 🙏
“A scene should be selected by the writer for haunted-ness-of-mind interest. If you’re not haunted by something, as by a dream, a vision, or a memory, which are involuntary, you’re not interested or even involved.” ― Jack Kerouac
I don’t know about you, but I love a good ghost story. Growing up in the Ozarks I remember hearing stories that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. There were no explanations, no reasoning, just a story, and it was scary. Naturally when I came across Ghost Stories, I jumped at the chance to talk with author, Antara Roy O.
Hi Antara, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. This was so much fun!
What made you want to write Ghost Stories?
Hi Johnny, it’s always a pleasure to talk to fellow ghost story enthusiasts,
and good to be here!
I have always been a keen ghost story enthusiast. Perhaps, growing up in a small, quaint town with majestic pine trees all around me helped to nurture my interest in the paranormal. There was my grandma’s old, rambling bungalow up on a hill that is said to be haunted, and then there were plenty of ghostly tales that I listened to while sitting around bonfires during winter nights.
You could say that the atmosphere I grew up in was perpetually infused with countless supernatural tales. The ghosts were everywhere, part of my growing years, and I never stopped being intrigued by them.
Johnny– That sounds like a beautiful place. Has any of the stories you heard growing up ever been solved or explained scientifically?
Antara– None that I know of. It is hard to explore these inexplicable terrains and in a small town like ours, no one was up for exploring or finding a scientific perspective to things. Those who sighted the ghosts or experienced the hauntings told their stories, and those who were afraid kept out of the way! You could say that we mortals maintained a respectful distance from the supernatural beings.
Johnny– Are these stories that you’ve heard, or did you create them?
Antara-Most of these stories are inspired by true life encounters I have heard through the years, while some are works of my imagination.
Johnny– Are the works of your imagination inspired by something you may have experienced in real life?
Antara– Most of my stories are inspired by the eerie and majestic setting of my home town. I have once heard a door open all by itself in the dead of the night in my childhood home. Also, the true-life encounters of my immediate family members and relatives were enough to keep my creative spirit going.
Johnny– If you had to pick one out of your book, which would be your favorite?
Antara– My favorite would be ‘The girl by the lake.’ This story is inspired by a local legend about a beautiful girl who wanders around the highway, by a lake. She waylays travelers who are much smitten by her beauty and follow her into the depths of a forest.
Johnny– That one is my favorite as well. What made you a fan of the paranormal and supernatural? Have you ever experienced anything like that?
Antara– I have always been fascinated by the paranormal and supernatural. I have had a couple of experiences which have left me both terrified and intrigued. When I was in school, there was a ghost visiting our house and like I mentioned, I heard a door creaking and opening in the middle of the night. When we turned on the lights, there was no one around. Needless to say, such experiences are unnerving but they also make me feel alive and strangely curious about the otherworldly.
Johnny– Was this the only ghostly or paranormal experience you ever encountered?
Antara– There was one more, and this was much away from my original home. It happened here in the city that I now live in, Bangalore. A dear friend had lost his life in an accident and that very day I had seen a vision of him across the road. This experience chilled me to the bones and at the same time I was grateful that his spirit had appeared to come to bid me goodbye.
Johnny– Are you more fascinated or frightened by the unexplained?
Antara– I would say a good measure of both. At times my fascination helps me bridge over my fears and at times my fears keep my fascinations in check!
Johnny– In your opinion, what makes a good ghost story?
Antara– While there are no set rules to writing a good ghost story, but it helps to have the element of suspense. It is also important to create an apt eerie atmosphere, to draw the reader in and offer a completely satisfying, spooky experience. One of my readers told me once of how he loved the way one of my stories transported him to another world, as he sat waiting for his doctor’s appointment for a nasty ear infection.
Johnny– How do you collect ghost stories? Do people contact you or do you try to go out and experience it yourself?
Antara– Whenever I can, I speak to people of their supernatural experiences. Also, a really fascinating thing happened after I began to write and publish ghost stories. I started to receive messages on Facebook and Twitter from strangers who said they enjoyed reading my ghost stories and would like me to hear their stories. While some of these I have listened to and respected them for their personal details, the rest I plan to turn into stories, with the permission of the narrators.
Johnny– Tell me a little something about yourself , (where are you from, what do you do for fun, favorite foods, hobbies, pets etc…)
Antara– I come from the Eastern valleys of India, and although I have traveled far away from my home and have moved towns and cities ever since, my heart always belongs to my native valleys.
Other than my fascination with the paranormal, I love writing poetry. I write a lot of nature poems, some of which are motivational and inspirational. You can find my poems on Instagram (antara.ro). It does sound funny- my two interests, nature and the supernatural, but one does strangely complement the other, and I always believe that everything in the universe is inter-connected. I also enjoy playing the guitar and the piano. One of my favorite things to do is to head out on long drives with the music on. I enjoy baking and cooking new, exotic cuisines. When a newly cooked dish turns into a disaster, my dear husband is always there to encourage me to keep going.
Johnny– He sounds like an awesome individual. When you go out on long drives what kind of music do you listen to?
Johnny– Great bands! Sounds like a 90’s roadtrip waiting to happen. Is Ghost Stories the only book you’ve written?
Antara– I have written another book of short stories. These are mostly stories of childhood adventures. The book is named, ‘Simply, Bahadur,’ inspired by the character of an old, quirky gardener who worked in my grandma’s garden. These are gentle, feel good childhood tales describing the picturesque beauty of the valleys and the many delightful, eccentric people I met through my growing years.
Johnny– That sounds like a good read. It almost sounds like what we call around here, folk-stories, does the study of human behavior and customs interest you?
Antara– I’m immensely drawn to the study of human nature and folklore. There is so much magic in this world and I believe that one lifetime isn’t enough to thoroughly revel in it all!
Johnny– What other books do you have planned? Are you currently working on anything?
Antara– Presently, I’m working on a paranormal mystery novel. The story is set in an old, quaint town and there will be plenty of black magic and witchcraft thrown in. I’m truly excited to complete it and get it out into the world!
Johnny– Oh that sounds interesting, will this be released in 2020?
Antara– Yes, most definitely, and I hope it appeals to the lovers of spook and witchcraft out there!
Johnny– I’m sure it will! Thank you so much Antara for taking the time to talk to me, it has been a pleasure!
What can I say, I’m a sucker for the supernatural.
Growing up in the Ozarks nothing delighted me more than hearing a tale that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. It was exhilarating. It made me feel alive.
This is what delights me about Ghost Stories, Antara has captured in this book everything that I love, it’s both frightful and delightful!
Warning! 👻 Enter at your own risk. ⚠
From her native India she share tales that were passed down through local folklore and legend. Her prose is smooth and calm, her openings are so clear I feel as though I see the lay of the land a half a world away. The beauty of this book it that it’s without boundaries.
Ghost Stories does what governments has been trying to do for hundreds if not thousands of years, it unites us as people, it brings us together if only for a short amount of time as humans sharing a spine tickling experiences.
I’m giving Ghost Stories five stars⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on both Amazon and Goodreads. It fascinates me, it makes me feel young, it made me feel alive.
If you haven’t already read Ghost Stories I highly recommend that you do.
Antara has proven that she is a master of storytelling, passing along the spoken word of her ancestors to this written work of art.
In the midnight hour she cried more, more, more –Billy Idol
My Summer Friend is a fast 60 page read that takes us into the life and struggles of a young man who also happens to be an introvert that is coping with the loss of his grandparent and a negligent mother.
Johnny– Hello Ophelia and thank you for taking the time to talk to me. This book covers a lot of relevant topics in the world today. What inspired you to write My Summer Friend?
Ophelia– My degrees are in Psychology and Education so I work with high school students with social/ emotional issues. I think it was a combination of that, and my own upbringing having been raised by a 19 year old single mother.
Johnny– You seem like a focused and driven individual; do you think being raised by a single mother made you a stronger person.
Ophelia– It meant a lot of time spent alone. She worked full time and earned her BA part time at night so I had a lot of time to think, to use imagination and form my own opinions. The solitude was positive in that regard but led to a pretty serious lack of social skills. We lived with my grandparents early on so she was gone before I would wake up and I was in bed before she got home. The one thing she stressed was that education was the only way to escape being poor so I was held to a pretty high standard in that regard, but once the pre-teen years hit, it become much more difficult to maintain the confidence necessary to do well in school when there are so many instabilities and inequities in your life.
Johnny– This book expresses (with what I believed to be) the misunderstanding of being an introvert. Was one of your goals to bring awareness to this personality facet?
Ophelia– Yes. I think introverts, especially young males, can struggle socially. People may assume introverts don’t like other people or are shy with poor coping mechanisms. At the same time, I think young introverts may assume extroverts are less introspective and shallow and it can be upsetting to them when extrovert’s traits are favored by society.
Johnny– How difficult was it for you to create your main character, Ed? What kind of homework did you have to do? (If any)
Ophelia– Ed came pretty naturally. I spent a few years after college working at a school for juvenile sex offenders and fire setters so he is a combination of me and some of my former students.
Johnny– Working with either of those groups sounds pretty intense. How intimidating was it to go to work there straight out of college?
Ophelia– It was pretty intense. You go through the restraint training and read their profiles as part of the orientation but nothing really prepares you. You need to just jump in and be willing to screw up and grow. It’s a lot of violence and sadness. You see the results of the cycle of abuse. It takes a toll on you. The two images that stick with me most from that time are my first restraint when this 16 year old kid was trying to injure himself by lying down and repeatedly banging his head really hard on the gym floor. We restrained him with two holding him down and another bracing his head so he couldn’t bang it while we tried to talk him down. He got so mad that he couldn’t move his head that he bit through his tongue and started spitting blood at us. I can still picture him vividly, laying on the floor laughing with all that blood in his teeth.
The other incident that sticks with me was when I was getting something out of one of the residences for the younger kids. It was empty because they were having a Christmas party in another building with the staff and a few of the parents that showed up. The rooms had no doors and I saw this little kid’s basketball trophy on his bureau and I couldn’t help but think, who did he show that to when he got it?I just stared at it for a while in this cold institutional room trying to stop crying so I could go back to work.
Johnny– Wow, that is intense. Your heart is in the right place and I praise you for that. Who is the villain in this book? When I first got into this, I was thinking his mom was a bad seed, in the end you changed my mind. Then I was thinking the rich kid, then society for always favoring the upper class, who do you consider to be the anti-hero?
Ophelia– I think if you had to choose a character to be the villain it would be Paul Wheeler because he acts purely out of self interest. The rich kid is as much a product of his environment as Ed. I see the main conflict in our society being between individuals and their own identity. People seem to establish whatever identity will result in the greatest social benefit within their peer group. This is why I think adolescence is so difficult and adults are so rigid when presented with information that challenges the basis of their identity. Any change to how you see yourself may have social implications. That is the one thing I have found that people cannot tolerate and leads to the creation of justifications that can become problematic. This is most obvious to me on the macro scale of the socio/political but starts with the establishment of individual identity within a person’s peer group. Social media exposes people to a wider variety of perspectives which may challenge beliefs and therefore identity, so I think things will be rocky on the macro before it settles down. These little shells of identity are cracking and the reaction is quite polarizing and intense.
Johnny – I totally agree with your comment of Paul Wheeler acting purely out of self-interest. It seems we see this too often unfolding out each time we turn on the news. Was this social observation done on purpose or did it just work out that way in your story?
Ophelia– It wasn’t intentional. The twist wasn’t even in the original outline. It came as I wrote it. I look for themes and layers when editing. For example, once that twist became part of the story I was able to go back and add all of the broken home imagery every time Ed went on a date with Elise, like the condemned house in the woods, broken lighthouse at the airport bar, dilapidated house in Newport, and burning house in Providence.
Johnny– On the back of your book cover, it reads: “This edgy novella is a modern American love story that offers a glimpse into the psyche of a disturbed young man.” Is he disturbed or misunderstood?
Ophelia– He is disturbed in the sense that the identity he has worked to establish when he is finally free of his past, becomes challenged when he returns home. He is misunderstood in that I don’t think he is acting in an abnormal way given the circumstances of his situation.
Johnny– You portray an attempted date rape situation on the beach. How hard was it for you to write that scene? (Good job btw, I don’t know why, but that was uncomfortable).
Ophelia– Thanks. I wrote it from a distance because I wanted to focus on Ed’s reaction to it. That part was difficult. What would it feel like to value someone so much that is taken for granted by another? I wanted to capture the sense of worthlessness and powerlessness.
Johnny– What are you wanting your readers to take away from this book?
Ophelia– Question your identity. How do your beliefs benefit you within the context of your immediate peer group? Have you established these beliefs purely for personal social benefit or because they are true? Are you willing to be vulnerable enough to change and grow? Can you incorporate that willingness to change and grow into your identity rather than live a comfortably dogmatic existence? Can you understand how identity functions in others and have the patience to help them grow rather than dismiss them entirely? Can you recognize when someone is not willing to change and disengage rather than engaging in pointless conflict to reinforce your own identity?
Johnny– Was Elise an obsession or a crush?
Ophelia– She is an obsession because she checks all the boxes for him. She is his only connection to society. She is attractive. She validates his rejection of society by crossing the lake. She also fills the void his mother left. This is why no one else compares to her in his mind.
Johnny– What advise do you have for unpublished authors who are trying to get started?
Ophelia– Write like no one will ever read it.
Johnny– Ophelia I feel as though I’ve learned a lot from and about you, professionally, throughout our conversation, what do you like to do to for fun or to unwind?
Ophelia– I unwind with exercise, music and watching Patriots games.
Johnny– Thank you Ophelia for taking the time to talk with me, I really enjoyed My Summer Friend, I’m recommending it to everyone I know. Do you have any other books in the works?
Ophelia– Thanks Johnny, these are great questions. I appreciate the opportunity. I wrote a book called Something in the Water. It’s a book of short stories about other misfits that live around the lake from My Summer Friend. The stories all intertwine in subtle ways and have twist endings. Right now, I’m working on a novella named Exuvia which is related to the Something in the Water stories. It is about a photojournalist who enters the world of a group of young rich people under the guise of doing a story on them, but he has a hidden motive. I also released book three of my sci-fi series in June. Its title is The Infinite Eye, which is a sequel to Eclipse and Typhon. It is a dark sci-fi adventure similar to the tone of the Expanse or Culture series. They are all available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. I also have some hidden prizes on my website opheliarue.com
Ophelia has penned a story that is as beautiful as it is tragic. Ed’s reality comes to him through the lens of a telescope, it’s not until he’s forced to come out of his make-believe world that he meets the object of his desires face-to-face.
As you can read from our conversation, Ophelia defiantly knows what she’s talking about, she’s lived it, and she’s not afraid to talk about it. Written with a cynical styled cleverness, Ophelia has created a character deserving of both our admiration and pity.
I love this book and highly recommend it. Coming in at 60 pages it is a fast afternoon read that will satisfy while indulging your reading desires.
I’m giving My Summer Friend five stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on both Goodreads and Amazon. It’s gritty, raw, and it’s real. I LOVE IT!
Maybe there is a little of Ed in all of us, maybe that’s whats drawn me in, mental health is a real world issue, it’s not going away no matter how hard we try to ignore it. Thank you Ophelia, for allowing us to see the world through your MAGNIFICENT eyes.
If you haven’t read it you should. Ophelia is defiantly an author that I WANT read again.
Upon entering into this book, I was magically swept away into a dimension created by the mind of Rebecca Hefner. It was a very beautiful place.
Johnny– Hello Rebecca! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. The title of your book is: The End of Hatred: Etherya’s Earth, Book 1. How many books did you envision when you start writing this?
Rebecca– I wasn’t sure exactly how many books it would turn out to be. All I knew was that the characters were so vivid in my mind. Miranda and Sathan appeared first in my imagination, followed shortly by Lila and Latimus. I knew immediately that the second book in the series would be about Lila and Latimus. In my mind, the first four books of the series were really one long book in my head!
Johnny– What inspired you to write this book?
Rebecca– I’ve always been a voracious reader. My two favorite genres are romance and sci-fi/fantasy. I love steamy romance, because I think that seeing two characters get intimate is the deepest you can go into their soul. However, I need a slow burn, where I really get to know the characters, and see their relationship develop, before I see them get to those intimate scenes. I also really like a fantasy world, filled with creatures with magical powers and mysterious history.I wanted to write a book that combined a sweeping fantasy with the intimate romance that I loved
Johnny– I’m glad you mentioned that you are a fan of steamy romance, because there are parts of this book that get SMOKING. Do you find yourself having to re-editing some of your “spicier” scenes, to keep them from getting to hot? I ask because your romance scenes get super vivid but never really get explicit.
Rebecca– Great question! I have always loved a steamy love scene, and believe that this is a natural thing that everyone experiences, so I want the scenes to be vivid. However, my mother reads these books, and that’s always in the back of my mind when I’m writing them. I’ll usually go back over my love scenes as I remind myself, “Mom will be reading this…”, and edit from there. I don’t want to sacrifice the steam and intimacy, but I also want to be tasteful. It’s a fine line that I’m always working hard to balance!
Johnny– In the prologue you wrote that Etherya had created a flawless species, the Slayera, but since she was imperfect, the universe objected. How was the Goddess flawed? Or are you saving that for something later?
Rebecca– Oh, yes. As the series progresses, we definitely begin to see Etherya’s flaws. In Book 4, The Reluctant Savior, there’s a big revelation about Etherya’s past. But I love a good twist and don’t want to give that away, so keep reading!
Johnny– What visual references did you use when you created the Vampyres and the Slayera?
Rebecca– I just knew that I wanted the Vampyres to be tall and hulking and I wanted the Slayera to appear more human-like. That physical discrepancy would help cement the Slayera’s dependency upon the Vampyres for physical protection.
Johnny– Obviously from your description the Vampyres would be noticeable, Slayera, I’m guessing more human-ish, how do you picture them in your mind?
Rebecca– In my mind, the Slayera were created as the best version of humans. However, due to Valktor’s murderous actions, they lose their almost-perfect status and become fallible. I equate it to death of Icarus in Greek mythology or the fall of Sampson in the Bible. These age-old stories exist to remind us not get too complacent in our “perfection”. The Slayera had become so and, once their kingdom fell, they were thrust into a thousand-year war.
Johnny– I really love that this book occurs inside the boundaries of a parallel universe. You’re obviously a well read and well thought out individual, what are your thoughts on interdimensional travel and parallel universe?
Rebecca– I love that you asked this question! I’m a super-science dork—I went to Space Camp when I was a teenager and went to Governer’s School for physics when I was in high school. To say that I love all things to do with relativity (time travel!) and parallel universes (string theory, anyone??) would be an understatement. In fact, the current series I’m working on has a heroine who’s a theoretical physicist trying to figure out time travel. I believe that we, on this pale blue dot (as Carl Sagan would say), represent such a dichotomy. We are conscious beings, who feel so deeply and contemplate our existence but, in the vastness of the universe, I truly believe we are only a small, insignificant speck of dust amongst other universes and dimensions. This isn’t to say that we’re not important. Instead, it’s an opportunity for us to see everyone on the planet as one species: human. If we allow ourselves, our shared moment in time on this planet could be something so beautiful. I think we’re at a precarious moment in our evolution right now where we have the opportunity to choose unity or division. One will further our species and one could extinguish us. I love to write about these themes in my books!
Johnny– Well said. Super-science dork authors are the best! Do you have a release date planned for your current series?
Rebecca– I don’t have firm dates yet. I’d like to have my next two books out by Spring 2020. That would be Book 5 in the Etherya’s Earth series and Book 1 in my new series. But I also don’t want to rush the writing. That leads so underdeveloped plots and characters, and it’s important to me that everything is well thought out. Also, it takes my editor about a month to edit, then I have to revise, and then my proofreader takes about another month, so it’s a long process to get these books from my computer into reader’s hands. But I’m furiously working on them and am really excited to get them out there!
Johnny– If you were casting this as a movie, and could choose anyone you want, who would your stars be?
Rebecca– Oh, I play this game on Instagram
sometimes with my followers. It’s so
fun! Okay, here we go:
I mean, it’s not like I’ve thought about this or anything… 😊
Johnny– Ah, Evie, please tell us something about Evie. (Great cast btw, Nichole Kidman as Lila, be still my heart) ❤
Rebecca– Ha! Yes, those are some great actresses. Evie has been my absolute favorite character to write in the series (followed closely by Darkrip). At first glance, she seems so evil and broken, but over the series the reader gets to know her. By the time we reach Book 4 in the series, we really see inside her mindand understand how complex she really is and why she became that way. Her journey is a really interesting one, and it was extremely fun to write.
Johnny– This book deals with a few topics that are (sadly) relevant in the world today, two of them being, racism and gender equality. I once read that Gene Roddenberry had used racism and culture intolerance when he was developing Star Trek. Was this an intentional goal of yours?
Rebecca– Absolutely. It was really important to me that we see Miranda’s journey against sexism in this book. One of the main themes is her gaining the courage to defy her father and claim her throne. As someone who grew up in the South, there was constant “programming” of what roles a woman should play (wife, mother, college graduate, etc.). Those are all fine if the person chooses them, but they shouldn’t be forced. I wanted to show Miranda coming into her own and gaining the strength to claim the throne that was rightfully hers. And yes, I wanted to use the two different species as metaphors for the racism we see in our society. In the beginning of the book, we learn that the species stay separate. As Miranda and Sathan fall in love, they contemplate what that will mean for those age-old traditions. They must have the strength to realize that they are one people—immortals—instead of two different races. It goes back to what I was saying above about our planet’s place in the universe. No one looking at the human race from outer space would identify us as black, white, Mexican, Indian or Asian; they would identify us as humans. Eventually, Miranda and Sathan begin to understand that their people are much stronger as Immortals rather than separating themselves into Slayers and Vampyres.
Johnny– What was the first book you ever written? Did it get published?
Rebecca– This is the first book I’ve ever published! I’m a self-published author and that was definitely the right path for me. There are many advantages to being self-published and to being traditionally published. I firmly believe that each author must research and determine what path is right for them.
Johnny– Do you use beta-readers?
Rebecca– I don’t use beta readers, just because I’m so ready to get the books out once they’re back from my editor and proofreader, that I usually get them up for sale when they’re ready. However, I have a group of awesome readers and reviewers who will accept an ARC copy of my book and leave honest reviews. They are the first people I reach out to when I publish a new book and I always welcome their feedback.
Johnny– Are you a self-editor?
Rebecca– I definitely am, but I also like to let the story flow. I’ll usually write a section or chapter, and let the words flow onto the page, and then go back and read and edit it. I also have an amazing editor who I send my books to once they’re ready. She always comes back to me with great edits that make the story even better!
Johnny– What advice do you have for unpublished authors looking to get started?
Rebecca– Wow. Such a loaded question. I might actually write a book like this one
day and title it something like, “What I Wished I’d Known Before I Published My
First Book.” I made so many mistakes in
the beginning but now, I’ve pretty much figured it out. My advice would be a few things:
Go on YouTube and search “self-publishing”. There are about a million videos on there by people who want to help fellow authors just starting out.
You can also search for “better writing” and learn how to write more efficiently. The written word is more concise than conversation and learning how to compose your thoughts on paper effectively makes all the difference.
Join the #writingcommunity on Twitter and interact with everyone you can. I’ve met so many other amazing authors there!
Johnny– Good tips, how do you plan your book once you’ve locked in on an idea and have decided to write it? What’s your process?
Rebecca– I do a rough outline, and reference that as I write, but I usually just let my fingers tap and let the characters lead me. They always lead me to a place that is a thousand times better than what I originally plotted. They’re like real, live people who live in my head!
Johnny– Tell me something about yourself that not everyone knows.
Rebecca– Hmmm. I love solo traveland have visited many places in the world. I spent the entire month of September 2018 in Japan and that’s where I wrote most of The Elusive Sun! I also saw the most amazing sunset of my life while I was there and used that exact backdrop for a scene in The Darkness Within. There’s something about travel that just refills my soul.
Johnny– What an amazing story, now when I read those books, they will even be a little more special. Have you got any other wonderful journeys planned?
Rebecca– For now, I’m just excited to head to Colorado for Christmas with my family. My brother, his wife and their daughter live there, and my mother and I will be flying in to spend the holiday with them.
Johnny– What is the everyday Rebecca like?
Rebecca– I’m a tireless perfectionist who’s decided to pursue a full-time writing career. It’s so fun, but extremely challenging. I write a lot, and also focus on marketing my books, but I also take time to ensure that I’m doing yoga or taking some time to be active. This is the first thing I’ve ever done that isn’t an “active” job, so I have to remember to get up and get the blood moving. But that’s pretty much it right now—writing and living each day to the fullest. I really want to build this into a career and am trying my best to do that every day!
Johnny– There is an internal battle that Miranda struggles with, does she follow tradition or follow her heart. We know which path she chose, now, are you a traditionalist or are you someone who follows her heart?
Rebecca– Someone who follows my heart, definitely. It’s so important to remember that no one is going to live your dreams for you. Although it’s tough and scary, it’s important to listen to your inner-voice and pursue your passions. Although I believe in taking calculated risks, I believe that challenging yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone only makes you better!
Rebecca Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, you have been an absolute delightful!
I don’t think it would take a rocket scientist to figure out that I love this book. To be perfectly honest it blew me away.
There is something about Rebecca’s writing that leaves me in awe. It’s both comfortable and yet somewhat familiar.🤷♀️ We spoke about it during our conversation, using fantasy, science, and adventure her manuscript speaks to us in metaphors, and if only we would listen, it would make us all better at being human.
I’m hooked. I’m more that hooked I’m enamored.
I can not believe that before I read this book I have never heard of Rebecca Hefner. After reading her book I feel like I’ve known her my whole life. Very few authors can make their readers that comfortable. Yet, Rebecca makes it look easy. That is a beautiful thing that has came from a beautiful mind that has only begun to blossom. I’ve already started book two, The Elusive Sun 🔥🔥🔥🔥 and love it just as much.
I’m giving The End of Hatred five stars⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on Goodreads and Amazon because it’s a smart Sexy fun book to read!
If you haven’t read this book you should, I highly recommend it. Follow the link below to enter the wonderful world of Rebecca Hefner. You won’t regret it. 😉
Be on the look out for the rest of this 🔥 series… ❤❤
“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” … William Shakespeare
Timepiece begins with two soulmates living in the 1930’s, (pre-wall street-crash), married, in love, then they come across a means to travel across time and choose to take it before troubled times erupt.
Johnny– Hi Barbara, thank you for taking time to talk with me. I noticed on Amazon that you have written a few books. How many books have you written?
Barbara– Thank you for this opportunity, Johnny! I have written and self-published seventeen books of various genres. Three are children’s books. I began with romantic suspense but quickly felt the urge to branch out from there. I tacked Fantasy next (time travel), and several other genres after that. Timepiece is my fourth time travel book.
Johnny– Which would describe this book best in your opinion? That time (no matter how you get there, natural or manipulated) time effects everything, even love? Or, this is the direct consequence and effect of someone running away from their troubles?
Barbara– I’d say it’s the latter. Matthew and Anna have a solid relationship. Even by the end of the book, when it seems that all is lost, they are still in love with one another. Matthew made a hasty decision that catapulted them into impossible situations. However, as we can read in the last few lines, the love is ever-present.
Johnny– This book haunts me, and I love it. It starts off like a “Dickens classic” and end in a full-blown “Burroughs Beat” titling towards “Poe”. What author has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?
Barbara– I’m so thrilled you enjoyed it! I actually adore Dickens, and Shakespeare. I wouldn’t say that any one author influenced me, but it’s more like I’m in love with the written word and the way authors can weave words into a story. That said, Jack Finney’s “Time and Again” is my favorite Time Travel book. It inspired me to try my hand at it.
Johnny– This is the first book by you that I have read, (so far), so I don’t know if your other books deal with this or not, but do you have an artistic or personal interest with time travel?
Barbara– The idea of it has always fascinated me. I’m always interested in television shows, movies or books that deal with Time Travel. I wrote my first Time Travel story three years ago, and I was hooked after that. Unlike other authors, I do leave science out of it, and focus on the “magic of it all”.
Johnny– Your two main characters, Matthew and Anna, what was your inspiration while creating these two?
Barbara– Part of my brand includes advertising the notion that “love is the most remarkable magic – even in horror”. Matthew and Anna are simply two people in love. As the book opens in the 1930s, I simply made sure to havetheir speech and mannerisms match the decade in which they lived. I used to watch a lot of classic movies. The rest is simply born of my imagination.
Johnny– At the end of the first chapter there is a little sexual tension between Mathew and Martha, what is the back-story there? is there a back-story there? (maybe in another book) or is it just a “is what it is” situation?
Barbara– I wanted the reader to know early on that Matthew would always stay loyal to his wife. That idea circles around, and we see it again at the very end of the story. It’s also a nod to Matthew’sgood looks. A reader will often form a picture in their head of how the characters look. I wanted to make it clear that Matthew is a handsome man.
Johnny– Handsome and loyal are awesome qualities, would you say it was
his loyalty, to not disappoint Anna, that put them in their situation?
Barbara– Absolutely! Matthew is a proud man. Given the era, think James Stewart or Cary Grant. Times were different then and it was common for the man to head the family and take care of his family both financially and emotionally. The thing that intrigued him most about the watch was not what it could do, but what it could do FOR him.
Johnny– Your descriptive narrative of the late 60’s is raw and very real. Are you a fan of that era?
Barbara– Actually, not really! I prefer the 70s, 80s, and 90s, which is when my other novels are set. It was fun to challenge myself though. I used Google(a writer’s best friend) to find the jargon of the era.
Johnny– Shakespeare, Kerouac, Ginsberg. Three names mentioned during the interview for The Daily Rag, if you could have lunch with one of them, which would you pick?
Barbara– That’s a tough one! But I’d have to go with The Bard.
Johnny– Why did you pick the 3 moments in time that you did while writing Timepiece?
Barbara- One of my favourite movies of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. This is the first time that I wrote a story set in that time period. Matthew and Anna naturally found themselves in the 1960s and I had to end it in the 80s. Most people know that I’m an 80s lover. It even says so in my Twitter bio!
Johnny– What do you want the reader to take away from this book?
Barbara– Love conquers all. That’s usually the message in all of my books. Whether dark, or more in tune with a “happily ever after”, love is the only thing that matters.
Johnny– When did you first decide that you were going to be a writer?
Barbara– It wasn’t really a decision. More of a calling? I started out dabbling in poetry. Then, one day, in grade 9 English Class, my teacher praised a short story I had written. He even made me read it out loud which was excruciating for an awkward, shy teen! But my classmates loved it. I penned my first book in 2002. My husband encouraged me to published it in 2015, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Johnny– Tell me something about yourself that the average person doesn’t know. (where you are from, what do you do for fun, hobbies, what’s your favorite binge-watch, pets etc…)
Barbara– We live in Ottawa, Canada, but I was born in Switzerland to Italian parents. We immigrated to Canada when I was two. I still speak Italian daily, and there’s always at least one Italian character in my books. (Anna, in the case of “Timepiece”.) Our only pet is a tarantula that my husband named “Betsy”. (No, she’s not poisonous and stays in her aquarium.) I love to cook and I’m big on cooking shows, but we recently discovered Netflix, and love Stranger Things, Black Mirror and we’re currently bingeingThe 100. We recently saw Joker in theaters, and it was right up my alley! It was dark, yet brilliant, and breathtaking.
Johnny– You have already published a few books. What is your process when you start developing an idea to the point you start writing it down as a book?
Barbara– I pick a title first. Then I create the book cover. Both those things inspire the rest of the story. I create a brief outline using bullet points that I email to myself. The story may change from there as I’m generally a panster, but that’s about it!
Johnny– What was the first book you ever written? And did it get published?
Barbara– ”My Love is Deep” is my first book. The title was inspired by the famous Bee Gees song “How Deep is Your Love?” Although I wrote it in 2002, “life happened” and I put it away. Back then, I didn’t know about self-publishing. I’m not sure it even existed. In 2015, my husband encouraged me to publish it. There are now three other books in that series revolving around Peter Travis and his quest to find true love. It’s set between Ottawa and Niagara Falls. Last Christmas, I wrote “The Christmas Miracle” and I’m pretty sure that’s the last book I’ll write with Peter as my protagonist. Fun fact: Peter makes an appearance in my latest book, “Postscript”.
Johnny– Have you ever received a dreaded “rejection” letter? If so, how did you cope, and what advise do you have for unpublished writers if they ever get one?
Barbara– At first, I did briefly query. The rejection only added fuel to my creative fire. I am happily self-published now, and wouldn’t have it any other way. The creative freedom is what my soul screams for. For writers who follow the traditional publishing path, I can only say, don’t let rejections quash your spirit. There’s an audience for everything.
Johnny– I love the fact that rejection only added to your creative fire, is this something that all indie authors need to have in order to break through?
Barbara– Fear serves no purpose, except to paralyze us and inhibit our growth. As we all have different reasons for writing, I don’t want to share a blanket statement. However, if fear is preventing a writer from sharing or querying (or whatever their goal is), yes, they must overcome it to reach the next stage in their career.
Johnny– How do you go about editing work, do you do your own self-editing?
Barbara– I do self-edit! One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a fellow writer. She sent me a private message and asked me if I didn’t mind sharing the name of my editor since my work is “flawless”. I told her I self-edit. That message that day brought me so much joy. It really was priceless
Johnny– What are your thoughts on beta-readers? Do you use?
Barbara– I don’t use any. Picture the author slumped over their typewriter, or scribbling in their notebook. The one who bleeds their soul on paper. That’s who I relate to. Once those words are down, I share them. I don’t look for feedback prior to publishing. I don’t know, it’s sort of like a chef. Their diners don’t sample the food before deciding to eat the whole plate, do they? I see it more as a “surprise…I hope you like it!” And keeping with the food analogy, just as there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, I feel like there’s such a thing as too much feedback for writers. The magic sort of dissipates. This is also what I mean about confidence being key.
Johnny– Do you recommend self-publishing to anyone that is starting out? If so, how does someone self-publish?
Barbara– I’ve been known to say this a lot, but self-publishing is not “something to fall back on”.It’s not the first step for a novice. It’s a career in itself and a hell of a lot of work. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m too stubborn!The creative freedom is exhilarating. Therefore, I recommend it to everyone who wants their story out there on their own schedule, and doesn’t mind doing all their own marketing, etc. As far as “how”? There are so many different outlets available, so I will just say, find the one that works for you, and learn the technical ropes. The rest is simply your artistic expression come to life, and that is a very beautiful thing.
Johnny– Artistic expression is definitely something that you know about. Barbara, thank you so much for taking this time to talk with me. It has been an absolute pleasure talking with you!
As I stated earlier; This book haunts me, and I love it. It starts off like a “Dickens classic” and ends in a full-blown “Burroughs Beat” titling towards “Poe”. I ended this book feeling much the way one feels when exiting a roller-coaster, and no, not queasy, but rather: full of wonder and wanting more.
In a generation of writers pursuing to publish a new franchise it is so refreshing to come across such daring and originality. Timepiece draws you in with its loveliness and keeps you by it’s desirability. Splendidly written with eloquenthistorical-appropriate language, it swept me across the fabric of time as true love was put to the “ultimate” test.
Barbara has displayed everything that is truly wonderful and unique about indie authors. Her self published worldis where the literary meets the fantasy, the contemporary meets the classic, merging, to becomes a tour d’ force for the imagination.
Honestly ❤ I love it! ❤
I’m giving Timepiece 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on Goodreads and Amazon because of it’s sheer beauty and artistic-flow.This book is an absolute must for anyone who yearns for a really good discussion worthy composition.
WARNING this writer possessthe following: originality, tenacity, and charm.
You have met the writer: Barbara Avon
Now read the book: Timepiece
Elegant and beautify written. Check it out for yourself.
A Funny Memoir of Missteps, Inadequacies, and Faux Pas
Comedy is surprises, so if you're intending to make somebody laugh and they don't laugh, that's funny. -Norm MacDonald
Johnny– Amy Lyle is an author, comedienne, actor, and screenwriter, in her spare time she’s married and a mother to 4, (are you kidding me)! That is absurd, (lol), (other than finding short titles for your books), how do you find time to do anything? Is your whole day pretty much a scheduled routine?
Amy– YES! Two of the four kids are in college now and the two at home drive so it is getting much more manageable. I try to get most of my work done during the day. My husband is a fabulous cook, so we try to get all of us together as much as possible for dinners.
Johnny– With everything going on in your busy world, what do you do to keep yourself grounded?
Amy– I grew up in Appalachia, and when I’ve done independent films, my compensation was tacos, I’m pretty grounded.
You have a very comedic outlook
towards life, how does that affect you as a parent?
Amy– People are often shocked that I’m so silly yet so strict (as a parent). I think they see that everything, given enough time, can be funny. We have been lucky that they have never taken themselves too seriously and have a “this too shall pass, and my mom will tell this story in a stand-up routine within six months” attitude.
Johnny– That’s awesome, do they ever make
suggestions to you about adding something into your stand-up routine?
Amy– Yes. They text me stories all the
time, normally about their siblings.
Johnny– Did your parents have a sense of humor?
Johnny– What was your parents’ reaction
when you went into comedy?
Amy– My mother was mortified that I was “airing my dirty laundry.” When I told my dad that I was co-hosting a tv show, he said, “Interesting. Have you guys had any rain there?”
Johnny– Do your kids think your funny?
Amy– It depends on the day.
Johnny– Are any of them planning on following in your footsteps?
Amy– Not to my knowledge.
Johnny– How important of a role does social media play, with your career?
Amy– I don’t have any proof, but I do think social media has helped me land speaking engagements, film roles and sell a lot of books. I rarely pay for paid advertising, other than on Amazon for my books, so the social media must be helping.
Johnny– Do you have plans on increasing
your presence YouTube?
Johnny– This book reads different than most memoirs, did you write your chapters as skits?
Amy– That is an interesting observation. People have left reviews stating that my books read like SNL skits. I was a screenwriter and a stand- up comic before becoming an author so I have been trained that if you can say something in 5 words, do not use six. I try to get to the point quickly. I did have a firm ask me if they could turn The Book of Failures into a sitcom or film. I replied to their email in less than five seconds and have not heard back from them since. So, no. I did not set out to write the chapters as skits but it seems as if they have that flavor.
Johnny– When I’d first started read your book, I was thinking you had written it with an essay format, then I watched one of your stand-ups on YouTube, that kind of tweaked my thought process and pushed me towards skits, is auditioning for SNL a dream of yours?
Amy– Only every waking moment.
Johnny– This book is brutally honest, and honestly that is one of the reasons it’s so appealing to me, (it actually helped me with issues that I have). When you wrote this, did you realize or intend for this to be a self-help book also?
Amy– I did not. I wrote the book because of a Hollywood attorney rejected me as a client because I was a nobody that did not have any money or know anyone. He told me to write a book and get lots of press. Immediately my thoughts went to, “I have had a lot of failures, I could write about those.” In hindsight, and in writing my second book, I DID realize the healing power of sharing your worst moments. People were writing to me saying how they had felt so much shame for getting fired, or dumped in a relationship when really, all of these terrible things that happen to us just get us to where we need to be. I’m not saying it is easy. I cried in the bathtub every night for a year after my husband divorced me. But now, (over a decade later) I see that our time together was not wasted, we just wanted different things.
Johnny– You mention early on in your book that you have issues, one of
them is pronunciation, how does that affect when you are writing and performing
your Stand Up?
Amy– I write my own stand-up so I keep the GRE words for print use only.
Johnny– After I read this I went and purchased it on Audible, was this the reason you didn’t narrate your book?
Amy– I tried to record it on my own, but I sounded like a second grader and telling a story is different than reading a story.
Johnny– When did you first know, or make the decision, that you wanted to be a stand-up comedienne? Was this something you wanted to do since you were little?
Amy– My parents were strict German protestants that reminded my sister and me how very un-special we were since our births. They did this by saying, “Remember you are not special.” Comedy was a survival tactic for us. We used to put on complete “Late Night Comedy Shows” in our basement for our friends. They were a combination of imitating our parents, lip-synching to Barbara Mandrel, and roller skating to the soundtrack of Grease.
Johnny– Do you think that being raised by strict parents triggered you to be as focused or determined as you are now? You seem to be pretty thick skinned.
Amy– I do not know anyone with thicker skin than authors, comedians and salespeople and I’m all three. I pick on my parents frequently, but I have to admit that they both have incredible work ethics.
Johnny– Let’s talk about your “unconscious zone” you wrote about an
improv performance during a class you took, it happened, and “was appreciated
by the audience but I was mortified by exposing what I suppose is my dark
side.” Why were you mortified by this?
Amy– People that perform improv well are geniuses. I can write stand-up, books and screenplays because I can rework it, again and again, there’s no such luxury in improv. I do think improv can be studied and practiced; your mind would adapt to the medium. I have only taken one class and did one performance. And as you know, I was humiliated by what was flying out of my mouth- complete storylines about STD’s and little people. Improv is not for me.
Johnny– Is improv important for a stand-up comic? (It seems like it would be if there was a heckler in the audience.)
Amy– I love Paula Poundstone, she’s able to work the crowd really, really well on the fly. However, now that I have seen her perform several times, I have noticed that even her “on the fly”has tried and true jokes. It’s interesting, every comic must address hecklers and such, but each performer seems to handle them in their own way, which is the same way, every time.
Johnny– Have you ever been heckled?
Amy– Only by my teenage children that were sitting in the front row at The Basement Theater when I was telling a joke about them. The audience was shocked when I said, “All of those people (pointing them out) are my children,” The kids and the audience loved it.
Johnny– There was an incident that happened with your friend Shannon at Chipotle, by far one of the funniest scenarios I’ve ever read, how did you not just laugh-your-ass-off when that happened to your friend? Or did you?
Amy– I checked to make sure she was breathing and then laughed.
Johnny– Not to be a spoiler, but when she
goes to refill her drink, the Russian Businessmen cleaning their ties… To steal
a line from Kenny Bania “that’s gold, Amy… Gold!” Now the screen writer
in you has got to be salivating over the possibilities of what you can do with
Amy– I’m so thrilled that you were able to “see” that story in your head. I would love to make my books into films or sitcoms.
Johnny– Using your philosophy, “everything, given enough time, can be funny” is there an exception to that? Take away human suffering, death, misery, etc… let’s say, there’s a situation that happens with friend or family, even though no physical harm occurred, just great embarrassment, would this be off limits to you to use as part of your material, even though you know it’s comedy gold?
Amy– Nothing is off limits. Think of it as “What does not kill us will eventually make us laugh.” I’m don’t do insult comedy so I’m not offending people on purpose, I just prefer more self- deprecating bits.
Johnny– You had said earlier you love Paula
Poundstone, is she your favorite stand-up comedian? (If not who?)
Amy– I cannot pick just one. What is incredibly crazy to me is that many of the stand-up comedians, and comedians in general, that I love have bestselling books on Amazon and are next to my books. The list includes Tina Fey, Kevin Hart, Jim Gaffigan, Paula Poundstone, Trevor Noah, Mindy Kaling, Carol Burnett and Betty White, to mention a few. A few days ago, all of the “Amy’s” were lined up in a row on Amazon’s bestselling Humor & Entertainment books; Amy Schumer, Amy Lyle and Amy Poehler- that was a very good day.
Johnny– I bet it was. You deserve it Amy! Thank you for taking this time to talk with me, I’ve really enjoyed this time together.
Every so often you come across a book that will literally make you “laugh out loud” Amy’s Book of Failures had done that to me, at 4am.
This book is laugh packed and a fun read. It was created out of a rejection, turning a negative situation into a positive result. From this result I find it hard to believe that Amy will do nothing but succeed.
Written as a memoir Amy is brutally honest. She truly embraces her own philosophy of: “what doesn’t kill us will eventually make us laugh” and goes for it. Her light heart spirited approach to current life situation has become an inspiration to many, myself included.
Written in a different format than most memoirs, (another advantage Amy has going for herself), her narrative flow across the pages as a witty satire, allowing the readers an escape, as the scenes play out before them. Her refreshing style is a sheer delight.
Never taking herself too seriously Amy reveals to us that we should never be so critical about our lives that we forget that sometimes, it’s alright to laugh. If recognizing and exposing our flaws only makes us stronger, she’s Hercules on steroids. If your talented and creative enough, it makes an interesting memoir. Great job Amy, I’m a fan!
BEWARE: VERY FUNNY LADY AHEAD!
I’m given Book of Failures 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads for creativity, originality and plain AWESOMENESS.
You’ve met the writer: Amy Lyle
Now read her book: The Amy Bingar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures
Fresh and amazingly funny. Check her out for yourself.
“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” ― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Johnny- Hi, Gabrielle, and thank you for talking to me about your book Jenny of Lebanon, a short but sweet read that drops the reader at ground zero of White Ash Lane. The narrative is so descriptive that it’s hard to imagine anything except the sight and sounds of the morning in all its glory, a house neglected, a wrecked truck and a cat being a cat. Where does an idea like this come from?
Gabrielle- That’s a good question and a somewhat difficult one for me to answer because I’m not sure why when I put pen to paper that chapter one became what it is – a dark, descriptive waltz into the broken and decaying lives of Billy and Jenny. Really, as I started, I was unaware of the gloomy path my characters were taking me on, but as I walked with Jenny into this house, I began to grasp the gravity of the relationship and all of its flaws. The house is a representation of all that, I guess. My idea was just to immerse the reader, bring them to ground zero, as you said, so they could understand more fully everything that comes next.
Johnny- It almost seems like this might have
been a part of a bigger body of work at one time. Was it, and you liked this
scenario so much that you made it a solo project?
Gabrielle- Yes, it is, actually! When I was in college, once upon a time, I took a creative writing course.In that class I wrote a short story entitledJenny Kissed Me. It was inspired by a poem by the same name by James Leigh Hunt. You can find that poem in the front of my book. After I had finished and read it to the class, I couldn’t shake Jenny from my mind. I felt there was a lot more to her story. And thus, Jenny of Lebanon was born.
I decided to publish this one first, even though it’s technically out of order, because I felt it was strong enough to stand on its own. There are many details sprinkled throughout referencing moments that have occurred earlier, some vague, and others in your face. You don’t have to understand their full depth to enjoy what’s happening in the present, but I’ve basically planted seeds that will grow into larger plot points – in reverse chronological order – for readers stumbling upon the books as they are first published. I guess I watched too much Star Wars as a kid. 😊
As I release other Jenny stories (fingers crossed for the near future), it’s my hope they’ll strengthen Jenny of Lebanon and the series as a whole even more. Jenny is not done telling her story. There are reasons that help explain why she acts in the manner she does. She’s complicated.
Johnny– I’m going to do my best to attempt
to talk about your book without any spoilers. Novellas can be tricky without
giving away too much. Is it fair to say that Jenny of Lebanon was an
exercise for you to create and develop your character writing skills?
Gabrielle- The short answer is yes, it did, but I think it’s important to explain what kind of genre my book falls into so I can better explain my answer. Jenny of Lebanon is literary fiction. What that means is that it’s a story being driven by its characters instead of traditionally being moved by the plot, as well as focusing on style and depth. It’s also a “slice of life”. The reader steps into the lives of Jenny and Billy, experiences an afternoon with them, and then they depart. Pieces of the past are touched upon during this small window and the future can be alluded to, but it’s this specific moment in time between these two people that is the focus of the story.
So, yes, it was certainly an exercise for me, and I like to think it helped hone my writing skills. There are only two speaking parts in the story, unless you want to count the cat, Marvin, and he does put his two cents in quite often. I had to constantly think about pacing, about what they were saying to each other, and how it was affecting them. Other writers do this as well, but my space and time was limited. I had to make every moment I had with them count. There’s a lot of banter between Billy and Jenny, but they obviously couldn’t argue the entire time. That would have been tiring and boring, so I had to try and distract them, give them a reprieve before bringing them and ultimately, the reader,to a climax.
If you’d been a fly on the wall when I was writing, you would’ve heard me talking out the dialogue, trying to figure out if it was authentic enough. Me not being a man, obviously, I had to ask my husband and other guy friends if Billy seemed real in the way he acted and talked to Jenny. I wanted both of them to be relatable to the readers. So that was another exercise for me. I hope I succeeded in that endeavor.
Johnny- Absolutely, I think you did a great job, both sexes are believable. You bring up “literary fiction”. Veering from the book for a second, do you think that is a risky genre for an independent writer to start at? Why do you think it’s so rare nowadays?
Gabrielle- I think the literary fiction genre is frowned upon by some. For example, if you aren’t famous or dead or both, you can’t fall into that category rightfully, at least that’s the general feeling I get from scrolling through Twitter. I’ve read many threads where people talk about what they feel should be classified as literary fiction, and that’s hardly ever included a debut novel by an indie author.From what I’ve read, they thought it should be a term reserved for writers who’ve earned it from their peers, like there’s some contest I have to win first before I can claim it as my own genre. There also appears to be an air of pretension associated with it as well. This obviously isn’t true for everyone, but it’s still frustrating.
I’m not entirely sure why people think this way, but part of me believes it’s because they don’t truly understand what literary fiction is. It’s not that popular of a category, and there aren’t that many publications accepting submissions for it, compared to that of science fiction, fantasy or romance – so it’s really hard to get on people’s radars. Anytime someone asks what genre my book is or what it’s about, I mostly get deer in headlights looks, and then I have to do a whole bunch of explaining. Sometimes I purposefully don’t tell people the genre because I fear they won’t read it out of bias or confusion. I personally think it’s rarer to find books written in this genre because so many readers want immediate gratification and a fast-moving story filled with as much action as it can hold – so that’s what writers are providing them. You write what sells, right? It’s not wrong or bad, it’s just a different style. I’ve read on multiple occasions where people have said if something doesn’t happen in the first page and a half, they’re done. Some people like Michael Bay movies. Me, not so much. Ha. I personally enjoy getting to know the ins and outs of characters, learning what propels them in life, and discovering the details that create who they are. To me, even though I write fiction, I want my stories to be as real as I can make them. Life has all of those intricacies balled up into it,and that’s what makes it special.
Johnny- Surveying the living room, the
documented clutter and random chaos of the coffee table is so descriptive, is
this based off something you’ve witnessed at someone’s house? (Meant as a fun
question, no judgement. lol)
Gabrielle- Whatever gave you that impression? Ha ha. Yes, without naming anyone, there was an apartment I used to frequent that certainly helped shape the chaos we witness in Billy’s house. I only used some of what I experienced, like the fan with its missing blade covered in dust. Maybe some of the dishes or takeout items, too, but believe me, my friend’s place was Heaven compared to Billy’s. To fill in the details of the house, I tried to imagine how depression would look if it all got unpacked and strewn about. Let’s just be glad we never had to walk into Billy’s bathroom. Not even I wanted to go there.
Johnny- Lol, fair enough. Does this person(s) know they inspired you so much that you included them in this book?
Gabrielle- Oh, he’s aware. 😊In fact, when he read one of the first drafts, I think he knew immediately where I had drawn my inspirations. He wasn’t offended or anything, thankfully. I’m always warning friends that some part of their personalities or life may end up in my books, so they better be careful. 😉
Johnny- Jenny, is unfazed by the condition
of the living room; in fact, she stops at one point and checks her appearance
in the mirror. What was your inspiration in creating this character? I love this little attention to detail btw.
Gabrielle- Ah, Jenny. She’s an interesting one. Like most of the characters I’ve created over the years, it’s hard for me pinpoint exactly what creative puddle of ooze she crawled out of and why. She was birthed slowly through the words as I wrote them. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it’s the truth. There are some parts of Jenny that I myself do not completely understand yet because she hasn’t told me, but I believe she will tell me all eventually.
So really, she’s less of an inspiration and more of a person existing in my mind, telling me her story as I write it. When I get into her head space, I see her as this strong, sensual, but damaged woman who knows she’s beautiful and makes zero effort to hide it. She takes every opportunity to flaunt what she has, placing herself in the center of every situation. She craves that attention. But like I said, she’s damaged, and if she’s not careful, she’ll find herself vulnerable and no longer in control. That’s what really makes her uncomfortable. Underneath her tough exterior, as hard as it is to believe, Jenny does have a heart. And although she is a very honest person, she is human, and she lies.
Johnny- She’s beautiful and complicated for sure, not a cop out answer, btw. However, it’s amazing that you created her the way you did; do you think at times, that you are too close to her? (if that makes sense) Will her effect on you affect her journey down the road?
Gabrielle- I’m Jenny’s conduit to the world, so yeah, I’d say we’re close, maybe sometimes too close.When I delve too deep into her waters, it’s often a toxic trip and an emotionally draining one. On some levels I think we understand each other and can relate, but then she’ll say something or act in a way I never imagine I could, and I have to work extra hard to make sense of it. Her desires and motivations are often disconnected from my own life experiences. I’d be a dirty liar if I said our journeys weren’t connected. We may be two different people, living separate lives, but we are constantly learning from one another. I just can’t say for sure that we use that gained knowledge appropriately or at all.
Johnny- She’s walking down the hallway, she
straightens a couple of pictures, then she stops and relives a moment in one
picture hanging on the wall, but doesn’t straighten it. Tell me about this
Gabrielle- I have to be careful what I say about this scene because it’s a big part of the conclusion of the book. This is another moment where you aren’t likely to believe my explanation, but I’m pretty sure when I first wrote this part, I didn’t know what she was looking at or why it was important. All I knew is that it would be. That’s how a lot of things I write work. I drop down the dots, but I don’t connect them until later. I’m thankful this method works for me or else all of my stories would be complete and utter nonsense. I’m sure if you took a peek into my brain when I was plotting out my stories, it probably would’ve looked like a detective’s board filled with a dozen different colored strings stretched from one side to the other.
What Jenny sees and how she reacts used to make me think
Jenny was truly just a heartless person who didn’t care at all, but the longer
I’ve had to spend with her, I think this scene is more a moment for her to
pause and reflect, to think about the here and now, and where’s she come from
since then. Not fixing it says a lot about Jenny, I think, more so than if she
did correct it. What it says exactly
will likely be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the reader. I’d
love to watch a group discuss Jenny and Billy. That would be a lot of fun.
Johnny- Let’s talk about Billy for a moment.
Why is this guy so likable? Where did he come from?
Gabrielle- I’m not so sure he is likable. Some may see him as the victim in all of this, but others may think he’s as much to blame as Jenny. The way he is perceived will depend upon each individual reader, and that’s completely okay with me. Everyone is going make their own judgment. That’s the beauty of books, really – people being able to see characters and their actions and deciding for themselves who the “bad guy” really is, if indeed there is one.
Johnny– Likable might be the wrong word, he just seems “laid back” I’m guessing that’s why he seems likable to me, a bit of a slob, but, likable. lol. Was he a creation also? Or was there a muse behind his conception?
Gabrielle- Billy was partly just a guy who showed up and took his place in the story, but he was also a character fleshed out by stealing tiny details from my now husband, Phil. We weren’t married when I first started writing Billy, in fact, we were barely dating. The first draft versus what finally made it out into the world changed drastically over the years as our relationship did. I want to make it absolutely clear, though, that Billy is not my husband, but some of his mannerisms and best qualities exist in him. My husband loathes my characters, but specifically Billy because he can see the few things I borrowed. Billy was a mold made special by a handful of human traits, some random, some inspired, but without them, I don’t think he’d be the same character.
Johnny- Billy’s has a thought as Jenny is replacing a lightbulb. (no spoilers) His thoughts go one way and then his actions another. Are you describing “true love”?
Gabrielle- This is an interesting but brief looksee into Billy’s mind and character. We get a glimpse of what’s beneath what he shows us and Jenny throughout the book. I don’t think it was “true love” I had intended to show per se, but I can see how one could perceive it that way, considering what happens. It’s not the only time Billy’s emotions get the best of him, but as much as he would maybe like to become this person he thinks about or attempts to act like, he can’t change who he is. Jenny knows this and makes sure to tell him.
Johnny- I’m so happy that Jenny will return.
There really seems to be more to her that I want to know about. It’s like she
has so much more to tell. So, when you say “fingers crossed for the near future”
are you talking 2020?
Gabrielle- Ultimately, yes, I hope that come spring, or shortly after, I’ll have another chapter of Jenny’s life out in the world. A large chunk of it is already written. I just need to flesh out scenes in-between scenes and grow upon what I have. Saying that makes me incredibly nervous because deadlines terrify me. I don’t know how I turned in all my papers in college and graduated on time. Historically, I’m the slowest writer on planet Earth, and I can make an excuse out of just about anything. I’m almost magical that way. 😊 I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from complete strangers, though, and I think that’s what really is going to motivate me to make it happen. Many have asked for more, and I want nothing more than to do that for them.
Johnny- There is so much more of your book
that I want to talk to you about. I’m afraid that if I do, I’m going to spoil
it for others,so I’m going to stop. Who is your favorite author?
Gabrielle- That’s an easy answer, though not a very unique one, I’m afraid. Stephen King has been my go-to writer since my 9th grade math class. Somehow, I came into possession of the paperback tome that is IT. I’d been traumatized by the TV miniseries as a kid, thanks to my brothers, and I guess I wanted to face my childhood fears head-on. Or it could’ve been I really didn’t like math and needed a long distraction. This was likely the catalyst that determined my lackluster math skills, and I forgive Stephen King wholeheartedly. 😊 Totally worth it, in my opinion. Once I was done with that massive book, and it took most of the year, I needed more. I fell in love with his style and his stories. I even started collecting his first editions. There are some I’ll never be able to afford, but I’ve found a lot of them in varying conditions. None of them are signed, but my husband managed to get a baseball with his John Hancock on it. That was the best birthday present ever! I’ll never know if it’s authentic or not, but I really don’t care. It’s real to me.
Johnny– What advise do you have for younger
writers who are looking to get started?
Gabrielle- First and foremost, read. If you don’t have time to read, you probably don’t have time to write. It was probably Stephen King that said that or some other famous person, but it’s true. Your skill will obviously improve over time if all you ever do is write, but you’ll gain ground faster if you read the work of your favorite writers or peers. We learn so much from each other. Besides that, write what you know, write what you’d like to know, challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone or genre. Write what sells or write for yourself. Whatever you do, just write. Even if you think it’s terrible, write it. It very well may be, but it will get better. That’s what second, third and fourth drafts are for. Writing is a process, and it takes time. When you’re finished, don’t keep it to yourself. Set it free.
Johnny* Great advice. Thank you for taking the time and talk with me. It has been a pure joy to share this time with you! Please keep doing what you do.
Jenny of Lebanon has been like a breath of fresh air. It’s simple, it’s
beautiful, it quenched my thirst, and scratched the proverbial itch that was
impossible to reach. It was a joyful surprise.
opening scene the reader is whisked away into a narrative that is a feast for
at 57 pages there is no wasted space found between these covers. What is found
is a narrative that took me by the hand and led me step by step across the
pages, description that left lasting images in my mind, characters so realistic
I can picture them living up my block.
As Gabrielle had mentioned earlier, literary fiction is rarely used when discussing a debut novel but in this case, that is not true. Twitter did not discourage Gabrielle and she stuck to her guns because literary fiction is the glue that holds all other writing together. **“I just put the words down and hope for the best.” This is where dreams are born. Literary fiction is making a massive come back in this engrossing indie debut from who can be considered a rising star and a master of her craft.
and Amazon, I gave Jenny of Lebanon 5 stars, if possible, I’d given more. This
book is definitely worth the read.
from Gabrielle while sharing random thoughts.
Stepping back to 2016 to review this debut novel by Crystal Kirkham because it will always hold a special place in my heart. Road to Redemption was the first INDIE book I ever owned and read.
There is a good possibility that if I hadn’t come across @canuckclick on Twitter back in December 2016 this blog wouldn’t be happening.
Thank you Crystal!
YOU just know that you have a good book in your hands when opening scene does everything right, Road to Redemption does just that, just enough of a mystery by page two to peak my curiosity then by page four, I was hooked.
Road to Redemption has everything you could want a book to have. Interesting characters and a plot that is worthy of the big screen. The narrative description is spot on, details so clear that I could see the story playing in my head like a movie. In her debut novel Crystal has done everything right.
I first reviewed this book about three years ago, it’s worthy of a rehash. It’s that damn good!
The chemistry between Michel and Paige is PURE magic. Paige notices Michel while she’s stuck on a boring blind date, little does she know that a deal Michel made centuries ago would have such an effect on her life when she decided to pursue him and put a little adventure in her world.
This book will take you to hell and back.
I consider this a must read!I gave it⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on Goodreads and Amazon and I will forever by a fan of Crystal L Kirkham.
definitely a page turnerpardon the pun…
My one and only disappointment was that it had to end. Thank God for sequels because she wrote one!! 🎉
I loved this book as much now as I did when I first time i read it. Three times and each time is better than the last.
BUY ROAD TO REDEMPTION
DEPTHS OF DARKNESS made my TOP 10 Book List for 2019, it came in at number six, it is book 2 of the series. You will hear more about this in the near future.
At best, this book held my attention for the first couple of chapters due to the 70’s references seemed to be time period accurate and appropriate, another draw for me was the fact that this is loosely based off the 1975 merger of Fleetwood Mac with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
After that not so much.
To be fair to Taylor Jenkins Reid this book waswell written, definitely well researched which caused me to raise the rating to ⭐⭐⭐ instead of the two I had originally given it.
I don’t want to go so far as to say that this BOOK is a waste of time or money, but it just wasn’t for me.
This is my problem with Daisy Jones and The Six:
Everything in this book was easy, becoming a rock star, touring, recording an album, not to mention the rehab. ***kicking drug and alcohol addiction is not easy, anyone who has suffered through this living hell will almost be insulted at the thoughtlessness that went into this part of the story.
If you want to skip the book I’m sure it will be airing on Amazon soon, if you would like to read it there is a link to buy below.