Posted in indie author, Shaun McCoy, Uncategorized

Electric Blues

By: Shaun O McCoy

“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!

https://www.audible.com/pd/Electric-Blues-Audiobook/B00GR9GGLA

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. 

Review

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.

With plenty 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 both Goodreads and Amazon because 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! 🙏

Be on the look-out for these other books by Shaun McCoy.

Be sure to follow him on Twitter

✌❤

Posted in indie author, Rebecca Hefner, Uncategorized

THE END OF HATRED BY Rebecca Hefner

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 dorkI 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:

Miranda:  Kate Beckinsale

Sathan:  Henry Cavill

Latimus:  Jason Momoa

Lila:  Nicole Kidman

Arderin:  Megan Fox

Darkrip:  Tyler Hoechlin

Evie:  Scarlett Johansson

Kenden:  Scott Eastwood

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 mind and 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 travel and 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!

Pepper

BONUS QUESTION

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!

Review

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… ❤❤

Follow Rebecca Hefner   Facebook I Instagram I Twitter I Amazon I Goodreads I BookBub I Website

✌❤

Posted in Gabrielle Olexa, Repost

Jenny of Lebanon by: Gabrielle Olexa

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

Conversation with Gabrielle

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 entitled Jenny 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.

Thames
Doppel

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.

I’m Jenny’s conduit to the world, so yeah, I’d say we’re close

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 scene…

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.

There are some parts of Jenny that I myself do not completely understand yet

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 is literary fiction at it's finest.

REVIEW

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.

From the opening scene the reader is whisked away into a narrative that is a feast for the imagination.

Weighing in 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.

Jenny of Lebanon is literary fiction at its finest.

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.

On Goodreads and Amazon, I gave Jenny of Lebanon 5 stars, if possible, I’d given more. This book is definitely worth the read.

**Quoted from Gabrielle while sharing random thoughts.

Jenny of Lebanon by: Gabrielle Olexa

✌❤