Posted in indie author, Jessica Conwell, Uncategorized

Three Sharp Knives

By: Jessica Conwell

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– Who is your favorite writer?

Jessica– That is tough one, because every time I think I know the answer, my brain yells, “Wait! Wait! But what about…?” A short list would have to include Richard Russo, Carmen Maria Machado, Tillie Walden, and Neil Gaiman.

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.

REVIEW

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!!

You can buy Jessica’s books here

Follow Jessica on Twitter

✌❤

Posted in Antara, indie author, Uncategorized

Ghost Stories

By: Antara Roy O

“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.

Johnny– 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?

Antara– 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.

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?

Antara– I am a devoted fan of Rock and blues music and my favorite bands include The Allman Brothers Band, Counting Crows, Blind Melon, Lemonheads, Nirvana, The Cranberries, and many others.

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!

REVIEW

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.

https://twitter.com/antara_oruganti

Be sure and Follow Antara on Twitter

https://www.instagram.com/antara.or/

Purchase Simply, Bahadur,’ HERE.

Visit her Authors Page on Amazon.

✌❤

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

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Posted in Uncategorized

While we are waiting..


I have to be honest with you, I don’t have a clue of what I’m doing here.

I’ve never blogged or operated a website. I’m an introvert so going out and meeting people, (let alone starting a conversation with them), has ever been anything that has ever come easy.

Yet… here I am. Starting a blog spotlighting writers, Indie Writers, talking to them about their books, learning about their passion, inspiration and motivation.

Oh yeah, did I mention that when I graduated High School I was reading on a 5th grade level?

Fasten your seat-belts folks this ride could get bumpy

Yet, somehow it all feels right, deep down this has been something that I had always wanted to do.

As far back as I can remember I’d always dreamed of being on the radio, dreamed of interviewing people, playing kick-ass music, making people laugh😂 and just entertaining 🎉everyone as they went throughout their day. To me that sounded like the best job ever.

Uhhhh, Houston….. we have a problem.😶

Shortly after enlisting in the Army I was diagnosed as being dyslexic. Growing up in the 70's✌ people weren’t diagnosed with conditions, they were given labels. If you were dyslexic you wore the label of stupid, you had A.D.D…., you were labeled hyperactive, god-for-f'n bid you were an introvert…. if so, your label read….WEIRD-O.

Luck for me, I had all three.

ENOUGH about that already!!!

My name is Johnny, I eat Cracker Jacks and enjoy a good selfie standing next to plastic green dinosaurs.

This is Dodge he’s 12 and ferocious.

Here’s Chrysler, he steals shit, especially from King.

Last but not least, this is King, we lovingly refer to him as the hipster doofus.

Stick around, Interviews and Reviews are coming shortly.

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Posted in Random stuff about my blog, Uncategorized

Why I’m here

Hi! My name is Johnny and this is my first post.

I live in NW Arkansas with my wife Jody and our three dogs: Chrysler, Dodge (both rescued Yorkie’s) and King (the spoiled German Shepherd).

Why am I here? Great question and I’m glad you asked, I’m here to meet and get to know Indie authors, spotlight them, their work and hopefully introduce some people to some great writers, read a few book, share some laughs🤣, you know….have fun.

So smile for a while and lets be jolly😜

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Each week a new Indie writer will be spotlighted. During our conversation my goal is to learn as much as possible about them. I want to know what makes them tick, what motivates them to do what they do, what processes and tips they might want to share and any advice they might have to help others up and coming indies headed down the same path they have already traveled.

My hope is that you will stick around and come back to meet some great people, who knows the next writer you meet might be your new favorite…

Meet a Writer Read a Book

Welp that’s it, my first post, 🎉 and since I don’t know what the hell I’m doing I’m going to bounce. ✌❤

Please feel free to hit me up on Twitter or drop me an email

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