Stepping back to 2016 to review this debut novel by Crystal Kirkham because it will always hold a special place in my heart. Road to Redemption was the first INDIE book I ever owned and read.
There is a good possibility that if I hadn’t come across @canuckclick on Twitter back in December 2016 this blog wouldn’t be happening.
Thank you Crystal!
YOU just know that you have a good book in your hands when opening scene does everything right, Road to Redemption does just that, just enough of a mystery by page two to peak my curiosity then by page four, I was hooked.
Road to Redemption has everything you could want a book to have. Interesting characters and a plot that is worthy of the big screen. The narrative description is spot on, details so clear that I could see the story playing in my head like a movie. In her debut novel Crystal has done everything right.
I first reviewed this book about three years ago, it’s worthy of a rehash. It’s that damn good!
The chemistry between Michel and Paige is PURE magic. Paige notices Michel while she’s stuck on a boring blind date, little does she know that a deal Michel made centuries ago would have such an effect on her life when she decided to pursue him and put a little adventure in her world.
This book will take you to hell and back.
I consider this a must read!I gave it⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on Goodreads and Amazon and I will forever by a fan of Crystal L Kirkham.
definitely a page turnerpardon the pun…
My one and only disappointment was that it had to end. Thank God for sequels because she wrote one!! 🎉
I loved this book as much now as I did when I first time i read it. Three times and each time is better than the last.
BUY ROAD TO REDEMPTION
DEPTHS OF DARKNESS made my TOP 10 Book List for 2019, it came in at number six, it is book 2 of the series. You will hear more about this in the near future.
At best, this book held my attention for the first couple of chapters due to the 70’s references seemed to be time period accurate and appropriate, another draw for me was the fact that this is loosely based off the 1975 merger of Fleetwood Mac with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
After that not so much.
To be fair to Taylor Jenkins Reid this book waswell written, definitely well researched which caused me to raise the rating to ⭐⭐⭐ instead of the two I had originally given it.
I don’t want to go so far as to say that this BOOK is a waste of time or money, but it just wasn’t for me.
This is my problem with Daisy Jones and The Six:
Everything in this book was easy, becoming a rock star, touring, recording an album, not to mention the rehab. ***kicking drug and alcohol addiction is not easy, anyone who has suffered through this living hell will almost be insulted at the thoughtlessness that went into this part of the story.
If you want to skip the book I’m sure it will be airing on Amazon soon, if you would like to read it there is a link to buy below.
“We have a choice about how we take what happens to us in our life and whether or not we allow it to turn is. We can become consumed by hate and darkness, or we’re able to regain our humanity somehow, or come to terms with things and learn something about ourselves.” – Angelina Jolie
Johnny– Hi Jennifer! Thank you for taking the time to visit with me, when I first finished this book, I must admit I was a little taken back. Honestly, I finished this almost a week ago and I still am having a problem trying to classify it by genre, at first, I thought it might be chick-lit, suspense, adventure, romance, self-help, self-discovery, truth is, it’s all of them and more. It’s a great book, and it blew me away, however, when you first set out to write this book what genre did you have in mind? Or did you?
Jennifer– I originally set out to place the book in the contemporary fiction category but it has crossed over a few genres including YA because the story moves back and forth in time.
Johnny– Why did you write A Dress the Color of the Sky?
Jennifer– I have had this story in my head for a long time. The original idea spring boarded from a screenplay I wrote in college but I never felt I had the time or motivation to write the book. After my divorce, I wanted to dig deep into my past and try to heal from my childhood trauma. The process of writing this book helped me to better understand myself, come to grips with my past and tell a universal story of a woman’s journey to find self-love.
Johnny– Tell me about your researching for the rehab center, there is a lot of structure in your narrative, to what extent did you go about to collect this information?
Jennifer– I conducted a tremendous amount of research before writing this book. It was important to me that I depicted a realistic rehab milieu for my readers to better understand the recovery process. For research I read books on sex addiction, attended AA meetings, attended a retreat, and interviewed many recovering addicts.
Johnny– When you attended meetings, did the other people know you were there for research? If so, were they helpful?
Jennifer– No one knew I was there for research. I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable so I tried to blend in with the group.
Johnny– Having done the research then written this book how would you define a sex addict?
Jennifer– I would define a sex addict the same way I would any other addiction. When a person had an addiction it takes a toll on every aspect of their life. If what you’re doing is negatively affecting your job, relationships, and family then you have an addiction problem. There is a series of questions that you can find on the Alcoholics Anonymous website which can be applied to any substance abuse including sex addiction.
Johnny– Sadly, sexual assault being such a huge topic in the media, how difficult were some of these scenes to write? Especially when Prudence was a little girl, being gang-groped by the twins in the closet and later on sexually assaulted by Richard, as hard as it was to read, I’m guessing that it must have been hell to write.
Jennifer– It was difficult to write and there are many scenes in the book that I can’t read without crying. There was a balance I had to find when writing about such horrors in order to not turn off my readers while also keeping things as real as possible. I felt it was better to hint at things rather than spell them out blatantly. No one wants to read about such horrors but the general message was very important.
Johnny– You did a fantastic job, as hard as it was to read your narrative was quick and complete, I feel that that made it tolerable to digest as a reader. Let’s talk about some of your characters for a minute, what hole did those annoying twins of Marilyn’s crawl out of? lol
Jennifer– I’m glad to know my characters made you feel so deeply! Some of the characters were based on people I have known and things I have heard combined with a creative mind.
Johnny– Pat is such a dreadful person, great job btw, how did you come up with this character?
Jennifer– I actually had a step-sister who was a lot like Pat.
Johnny– Did you have a real-life muse when you created Richard?
Jennifer– Yes, I loosely based Richard on one of my step-fathers.
Johnny– After I read the book, I found it on Audible and decided to give it a listen during my daily commute, through the narration it appears that Prue’s mom is really a self-serving, self-indulgent individual. Is that fair to say?
Jennifer– Yes, I believe that a great deal of Prudence’s issues stem from her relationship with her mother. I’d say you nailed it with your description of Prue’s mother.
Johnny– Marnye Young narrated your book on Audible (and did a fantastic job BTW) did you have to give her any special direction? She seemed so in sync with the book.
Jennifer– Marnye is an incredibly seasoned and talented narrator. I was honored to have her be the voice for the audiobook version of Dress. She truly loved the story and found it both relatable and important. She had a clear grasp of the nuances of the story and characters so I only had to do some minor tweaking during final edits.
Johnny– In chapter 7 the is a moment that happens to Prudence while she’s with Alister:
“This can’t happen,” I said, pulling away. “I have no clue what I’m doing or how I will survive. I’m scared of losing my husband and terrified to stay. What about your girlfriend? You live in London.” The laundry list of excuses. “This is a fantasy. Nothing more.” My body shifted farther from him. I craved space, but a powerful force pulled me back.
Was this Prue’s “moment of clarity”?
Jennifer– I’d say it was a huge moment of clarity for Prue. She faced her weakness for male attention and was coming to grips with a dysfunctional marriage and the trail of destruction her addiction left behind.
Johnny– Tell me a little bit about Dr. Mike. One of my favorite lines from him is:
“You live on love crumbs. A nibble drops, you gobble up the morsel. The crumb sustains you until he gives you another. Don’t you believe you deserve the whole loaf?”
How do you go about writing dialog for Mike?
Jennifer– I absolutely adore Mike. He’s the one person who doesn’t sexualize Prue and supports her with understanding and tough love. As far as writing dialogue, I had a literary agent tell me I am gifted at writing dialogue which was a huge compliment! I try to put myself in the room and picture what is happening in that moment. The research I did helped me to write realistic therapy dialogue but I’m not a therapist so I’m sure it’s not perfect but I definitely gave it my all.
Johnny– I totally agree with the literary agent, your writing of dialog is incredible! Have you had any feedback from actual therapist or medical professionals since you written this book?
Jennifer– Thank you! And, yes, there have been several psychiatrists and therapists who have written reviews. They have all stated that my novel depicts a realistic therapeutic milieu.
Johnny– Tell me about your writing process, how did you go about creating and structuring A Dress the Color of the Sky? Do you journal?
Jennifer– There are two kinds of writers, those who outline the entire story and know where they are headed, and writers like myself who fly by the seat of their pants. Both work, both are correct but I don’t know how a story is going to end until I get there. I made a lot of mistakes while writing Dress and had no clue what I was doing. I’m still a neophyte in the writing world but definitely know more now than I did when I was writing Dress. A few things about my writing process – my brain is more creative in the afternoon, I need total silence, my house has to be tidy, I sit on an exercise ball at my dining room table which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, I light a Himalayan salt lamp, scented candle, and a diffuser with peppermint oil.
Johnny– How long did it take you to write this book?
Jennifer– From beginning to end it took me five years but the last two were when I really focused and did the most writing.
Johnny– Are you planning a sequel?
Jennifer– I’m working on the final draft of the stand-alone sequel, A Dress the Color of the Moon. It is my hope that Moon is worthy of being picked up by a big publisher.
Johnny– Can you give me a quick elevator pitch for A Dress the Color of the Moon?
Jennifer– The story will follow Prue in her post rehab journey and learn how she fares in the world after five weeks in Serenity Hills. There will be several characters continuing on with her to Los Angeles where they will gather for the funeral of Gloria who committed suicide in the first book. Prue and her comrades with face many trials, tribulations, and temptations in the real world.
Johnny– There seems to be a lot of healing taking place in this book, was this book therapeutic to write or tragic?
Jennifer– Definitely therapeutic.
Johnny– Reading through the reviews on Amazon, it seems like this touched a lot of people, how does that make you feel as a writer?
Jennifer– The reviews have been one of the most beautiful parts of my writing journey. I have been especially surprised by the number of men who have written reviews. The reviews have deeply touched my heart and been incredibly motivating for me to continue on as a writer.
Johnny– If you were casting this book for a movie, who would you pick as your cast?
Johnny– Wrapping up, what do you want your reading audience to take away from reading, A Dress the Color of the Sky?
Jennifer– It is possible to heal from childhood trauma, what it’s like in an inpatient rehab facility, the experience of following one woman’s journey to find self-love, to not live in the past and it’s never too late to make a change in your life.
Johnny– Jennifer I can not thank you enough for taking the time to talk with me. I think you’re awesome! You are remarkably talented and a phenomenal writer. Thank you! 🙏
My original review: I’m sitting here at 4am on a Saturday morning. I had just finished A Dress the Color of the Sky by Jennifer Irwin and I’m in awe. There is nothing I can say that will come close to giving this book the review that it deserves.
To think that this is the first novel that Jennifer has written Blowsmy mind.
I’m giving her 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐stars because this is quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read. Without a doubt A Dress the Color of the Sky is the best debut novel I had ever had the privilege of reviewing. Jennifer has done what few writers have ever done, she surprised me, she is an amazing and talented writer who has only begun to shine.
My original review STANDS: READ THIS BOOK!
It’s a smart, sexy, and captivating book to read. WARNING: once started this book is hard to put down.
If you only read one book in 2020 it needs to be A Dress the Color of the Sky by: Jennifer Irwin.
I promise, you will not be disappointed.
You can follow Jennifer on her website and social media pages:
“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.” ― Jack Kerouac
HAPPY NEW YEARS EVE!
I’m not for sure how many books I read during 2019, I know it was a few. Around the end of August I had decided to start this blog honoring and featuring Indie Authors, it was then I started logging and reviewing through Goodreads and Amazon, Goodreads has me down for reading 52 between the months of August thru December.
Although my site reviews Indie Authors and supports Indie Books there were a couple on books on my reading list that did not fall into the Indie category, in the end only Indies made the list. This list does not reflect that the book was written or published in 2019, it just happens to be when I read them.
After reading so many good book this year it can almost be overwhelming try to only pick 10 as the top picks. There are so many others that deserve an Honorable Mention. However, in the end there could only be 10 and these 10 have made a lasting impression on me unlike any of the others.
Honorable Mention– Electric Bluesby: Shaun O McCoy, Although it didn’t make it into the top 10 it defiantly deserves to be mentioned. This is a futuristic tale about a depressed out of work A.I. named Arty that is sure to put a smile on your face. Gabrielle Olexa had recommended this book, said that it was a cute book, and she’s right. It’s well written and Shaun is a fascinating individual that I had the privilege to interview. Defiantly worth a look.
10– Bird Wingby: Dreena Collins, This is a book of Flash Fiction and I love it. It was way back when I first read Black Coffee Blues by: Henry Rollins, that I realized how much I enjoy reading flash fiction. This book brought it all back to me. Thank you Dreena!
9- Ascendby: Leia Gose, Fun and Magical are two words that best describe Ascend. Leia has done a ridiculously good job creating this world that I want to live in, written for YA this book is fun enough for everyone. Good news is that she’s writing a sequel!
8- The Desert in the Glassby C.C. Luckey, This book is surprisingly good. If not mistaken it is a debut novel and CC brings it. I’m really excited that I had the opportunity to interview her in 2019 and can’t wait to see what she publishes next. If you haven’t read it you should, it’s a lot of fun!
7- Jenny of Lebanon by: Gabrielle Olexa I know Gabrielle takes a lot of heat because this book is identified as literary fiction. Looking at the reviews for Jenny of Lebanon readers either hate it or love it, if you are looking for something to rival Twilight or Harry Potter, this book will be a waste of your time, however, if you love words and wordplay I highly recommend this book.
6- Depths of Darkness(Saints and Sinners Book 2) by: Crystal L. Kirkham, this is book 2 of the Saints and Sinners series and I found it to be just as good if not better than the first. I consider Crystal to be a writer on the move, she is as talented as she is creative and her new book Feathers and Fae will be reviewed on my blog in early 2020.
5- Three Sharp Knives by: Jessica Conwell, This was a pleasant surprise to me, Three Sharp Knives introduced me to my first transgender main character as well as the struggles within their community.I love the book as well as Jessica and her writing style. The interview I published with her on 12/8/19 is my favorite of the year, hoping to have her back after reading her other novel, Cluster. My advise, Read this BOOK!
4- The Van Helsing Paradoxby: Evelyn Chartres, This is such a fun book, the flow is incredible and very engrossing. There will be more about Evelyn during 2020 on my site because I think her writing is phenomenal, I will be reviewing her work in the near future.
3- A Dress the Color of the Skyby: Jennifer Irwin WOW! is about all I can say about A Dress the Color of the Sky. Jennifer also will be my first interview / review featured in 2020. Really impressed with this book!
2- Postscriptby: Barbara Avon, I love Barbara! Her writing JUST does it for me. Every time I finish one of her books it has become my new favorite. I picked Postscript because the evolution of her writing style has STOLEN MY HEART with this tale, it’s also filled with hidden gems that kept me on my toes. ❤
1- The End of Hatredby: Rebecca Hefner, this book has earned my number one spot because it was the book that stole my soul to romance, it’s not just this book either, it’s the whole series. I love it and can’t wait until she writes another. Rebecca is going to be a writer that we will hear of for a long, long time.
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.-Jim Morrison
Johnny– Hi C.C. thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Straight out of the gate I want to ask, where did the idea for The Desert in the Glass come from?
CC- I love adventure stories. Reading a book set in a detailed fictional world feels like the best kind of vacation. I wanted to write a book that felt real, but integrated some believable fantasy elements featuring characters the reader could relate to. The Desert in the Glass is written for people who love to explore.
Johnny– I don’t think I’m giving to much away by asking this, but basically this book is made up of three different stories that come together to complete this novel. All three are good enough to be stand-alone works, how hard of a decision was it to use these three in one book? were they originally independent stories or stand-alone works?
CC- Part 1, Terata, was originally a novella. As soon as I finished, I knew there was more to be told. I love road movies and I wanted my book to have legs, which led to the second part, The Red Road to Vegas. Part 3, The Birdhouse Keeper, was the most personally difficult to write, yet my readers say it’s their favorite. I see each part as following not a story-line but rather the unique life of a person, and all three of those people are critical pillars of the book’s structure.
Johnny– Where on earth did you come up with the “event” that takes place in Part 2, The Red Road to Vegas? That was very creative!
CC- We’re very, very small in the universe. Infinitesimal. Sometimes I’m surprised these kinds of terrifying incidents don’t happen a lot more often. Best not to think about that too hard, perhaps.
Johnny– How hard was it to develop the characters for this book? You get really detailed about them as individuals, I really like that.
CC- My writing process generally involves a brief initial description of a scenario and world before even thinking about characters. Once I have that idea in my head—which could be stated in as little as a single sentence—I ask myself, who is the actor? This person could be old or young, male or female. Eventually, someone in my head raises their hand. Then I put myself in their shoes, and get moving.
Johnny– Which was the hardest character to create?
CC- The main character of Part 3 worried me a little because she is a mother, and I am not. That’s an experience you can’t really understand unless you have it yourself—no pretending. I had trouble with her until I fell in love with her daughter, and realized that was something we had in common. After that, I knew her well enough to write her.
Johnny– You did very well, I personally believed her to be genuine. Which of the three stories proved to be the most difficult to write?
CC- A couple sections of Part 3 made me cry. Is it arrogance to cry at your own writing? The story digs deep into neurological issues, which I based on my personal experiences as a caregiver for a brain damaged family member.
Johnny– I don’t think it’s arrogance, it does say a lot about your passion, though. Let’s talk about the title for a moment, where did the name, ‘The Desert in the Glass’ come from?
CC- I knew from the start that I wanted time to be a constant theme of the book. There are many references to the counting of time in the book, from age differences between characters, whole sections set in different years throughout history, and the generally urgent pace. The other running theme of the book is the desert, which almost serves as a character itself. So, the book is an hourglass filled with desert sand, measuring the passage of time.
Johnny– How long did it take you to write this novel?
CC- I wrote Part 1 during a time when I was a caregiver for a family member. It was hard to hold down a regular job or any other commitments, so I turned to writing to keep me sane and give me an escape. The other two parts were written and edited over a period of just four months.
Johnny– Let’s talk about your writing process and habits, are you big on journaling? Do you start out writing by hand or digital all the way?
CC- I don’t do any personal journaling, but I always have pens and paper close at hand in case I have a lightning-flash idea that I need to record it right away. When I’m writing a story, I use a tablet and keyboard because my brain works faster than I can write by hand. I’m most comfortable typing because I’ve been using computers for writing since 1985. My father was an engineer so when I was a kid we always had the latest technology.
Johnny– Do you edit your work yourself?
CC- Yes, I do my own editing. I am protective of my work, yet I am a very strict taskmaster for myself. I read and re-read my work dozens of times, interspersed with breaks away from the manuscript and reading other authors’ books to clear my mind. If something doesn’t work in my story—if it doesn’t feel exactly right—I cut it and throw it away. And I’m crazy for grammar and spelling. I absolutely love editing, it’s my favorite part of writing. Sure, first drafts are fun and interesting and you never really know what’s going to happen. But when you edit, you really get to hone your craft, to take that raw material and make it glow. I feel little pride during my initial writing, but editing fills me with euphoria as I watch my story come to life.
Johnny– Does this love for editing help or hinder your ability or creativity while writing?
CC- It probably hinders it. It can be difficult to resist stopping and going back to double check the flow of the story, the quality of my sentences, and my grammar. Sometimes the frequent stops make for a better first draft, but it can also kick me out of my creative head-space. Drinking coffee helps, actually. It makes the story in my head play out in fast-forward, and if I stop typing, I won’t keep up and it will get away from me.
Johnny– If you were given the chance to go back and change any part of this book, regardless of how big or small, is there any part that you would change or alter?
CC- No. I’m not saying my work is perfect, of course. But every single step I take is forward, not back. And something that looks like a mistake to me may be an enlightenment to someone else, so I’ll let my work lay as it falls.
Johnny– Is there a bottom-line lesson to be learned from “The Desert in the Glass”?
CC- While my background is in philosophy, I try not to include overt morals in my adventure stories. But I do admit to a certain agenda; I love to feature characters in roles which may be surprising. A majority of my characters are female, but my writing is not romantic or “chick lit.” Not all of my characters are neurotypical, but my stories aren’t really about that. It’s okay for characters to be incidentally female, or unusual, or genius or broken in some way without the story being about that. And if the story ends up being about a normal typical guy, that’s okay, too. I write about regular people in irregular situations, and to me that means diversity without apology.
Johnny– I think you did an awesome job! Any chance you will be revisiting any characters or parts of this book in the future?
CC- No, The Desert in the Glass is a very self-contained story. But you’ll have to read to the end to find out why.
Johnny– What or who inspires you?
CC- I am in awe of the writers who have come before me, not because of what they’ve written but because of the circumstances under which they created their work. Writers are an odd bunch; they are compelled to create, perhaps even against their own will, like they have whole universes bouncing around in their heads that will burst out through their ears if not released through their fingertips. This process isn’t always fun or lucrative, but an impassioned writer doesn’t have any choice but to write—and, sometimes, drink to excess. I feel a kinship with the struggling writers who have come before me, and I hope to have the perseverance they did in sharing my stories with the world.
Johnny– Any particular writers you consider to be your favorite?
CC- Stephen King had a big effect on me when I was a teenager, not because of his horror themes but because of how he wrote his characters with such empathy even when he had little in common with them. I am also a big Richard Adams fan. But my favorite book of all time is actually by a very obscure author, Walter Wangerin Jr. He wrote a story in two books, The Book of the Dun Cow and The Book of Sorrows, which I highly recommend to pretty much everyone in the world. I’ve been known to buy copies of them at used book stores and randomly give them to friends.
Johnny– What can we expect next from C.C. Luckey?
CC- So many more adventures! I am just starting a massive multi-book series that will take readers on an epic journey to another world. I can’t wait to visit, myself. I’ll be the first one there, but I’ll be clearing the path and sending directions as soon as it’s ready to come visit.
Johnny– I cannot wait to see where your journey will take us C.C. I know one thing, it’s going to be great. Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun?
CC- I enjoy making miniature dioramas, like faux specimen jars and creepy scenes in tiny rooms where a crime has just taken place. I’m also very into video games, especially massive open-world RPGs.
Johnny– Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me! It has been a pleasure. Before we wrap this up is there any final thoughts or parting wisdom you’d like to share?
CC- It can take a long time to realize what you really want from life. The important thing is to keep trying until you find it, and don’t let anyone else tell you who you should be. For some people it’s creating a certain type of art, for others it’s having kids, and some people simply yearn for a return to nature. It can take decades to figure out where you fit in the world, and there’s no shame in learning late who you are. Just don’t give up until you figure it out.
Johnny– You are an awesome writer C.C. it has been an honor to visit with you.
CC– Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and my book!
I knew there was something special about CC Luckey when I read her book. Then in her opening line during our conversation she said “I love adventure stories.” Well, well, well, so, do I.
There is nothing that I didn’t like about this book. It’s an evocative adventure that beacons my soul to the dusty deserts of Nevada. I could almost feel the heat on my skin and the sun on my face as I read…
Divided into three sections each more beautiful and troubling than the next, I found it hard to pick a favorite. In the end it didn’t matter though, what happened was “The Desert in the Glass” tied together as neatly as a professionally tied bow around a beautifully wrapped box. A work of art.
If there was one thing that stood out about this book it would be this, the expressive narrative in which C.C. introduces her characters that she had created to star in this impressive tale. Vivid portrayal, well established cast and a plot that is as solid as a rock I found this book to be nothing more than remarkable.
I’m giving The Desert in the Glass five stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on both Amazon and Goodreads. It’s an adventure, not just that, it’s creative, it’s fun and I found it to be addictive. I love it and highly recommend it.
Below you will find links to contact and follow CC Luckey on social media as well as links to buy her books. If you are a fan of adventure, macabre and the unexplained you will not be disappointed.
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” -Jack Kerouac
Johnny– Hey Jessica, first I want to thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your book ‘Three Sharp Knives’. Having read your book I understand the name, and what it stands for, do you have any particular story behind the term/brand? where did “3SK” come from?
Jessica– Hey Johnny! Thanks for reading, I’m always happy to answer questions! The title Three Sharp Knives comes from the idea that certain people are considered ‘dangerous’ to society simply for existing, like sharp knives sitting on a counter. The three narrators are all such people, three women who fall just outside the bounds of what the world wants to understand.
Johnny– You are such a charming writer, you have a way when you developed your characters that is so real and strong that I feel invested, “bought in” and very close to them, what do you attribute to that?
Jessica– Thank you. I’ve always been of the view that characters are more important than plot. I’ll read a book with interesting characters and a thin plot well before I will finish a book with a fascinating plot and flat characters. I think the number one thing I try to remember when developing my characters is that people don’t make sense. People are messy. People are illogical. People act in ways contrary to their own values. People screw up. But despite it all, most people in the world are trying to do their best to work toward what they envision “good” to be. Whether that is a moral good, a spiritual good, or just a personal good varies person to person. But I try to start with asking myself, “What does this character define as their ‘good’ and what does it look like when they try to work towards it? How will they screw up along the way?” I think that might be why my characters are relatable. I think most people can understand the feeling of knowing the good, wanting the good, but having no effing idea how to go about achieving the good.
Johnny– This book is written in a different format than most, separated into four sections with no chapters, (which, by the way, works!), is this your style when you are writing? Or is it unique to this book?
Jessica– I tend to work with sections more than chapters. My earlier novel, Cluster, works this way as well. I think I fits my stories structure-wise better than breaking them up into chapters. I want the narrative to flow in a series of long arcs, mainly to create the feeling that everything is connected, nothing separated from anything else. Past mixes with present.
Johnny– What motivated you to write Three Sharp Knives?
Jessica– So, the most simplistic answer to that question is that after I finished Cluster, a friend of mine said, “I think you should write a story about ghost hunters.” Naturally, I took that in the least logical, barely connected direction I could.
The larger answer is that I wanted a story about unconventional people and unconventional love. Obviously, there is a lot of LGBTQ+ representation in 3SK, but even beyond that, I wanted to write a book for people who feel like they don’t really fit anywhere, people who want to love and be loved, but find it difficult to be understood.
Johnny– I want to talk about your characters again, they are so damn believable, and likable, did you have inspirations or muses when you created them, or were they strictly products of your imagination?
Jessica– Way back when I was younger writer, I made the mistake of basing characters entirely on people I knew. This, predictably, blew up in my face when said people read the stories, mainly because I was not yet a strong enough writer to mask what I was doing. So, I now have a strict policy for myself against writing biographical (or autobiographical) characters. However, there are, of course, scraps and snipping’s of people I have known or encountered in my life. I don’t think any author can truly avoid that. And, honesty time, there is a bit of me in each of my narrators.
Johnny– Without giving anything away, what was the hardest part of this book to write?
Jessica– Ha! That’s a difficult one to answer without giving anything away, because the truth is that the most difficult part of the book to write was the ending. In part it was because I couldn’t decide how to execute it. It was a eureka moment on a long walk that finally gave me the ‘nested circle’ structure of the flashbacks in the last section. The other reason it was difficult was—and this will be very difficult to say without spoiling anything—because, well, authors tend to get emotionally invested in their own characters, too. I’ve had people tell me how hard they have taken various unkind things I have done to characters of mine they connected with. My knee-jerk response is, “I know! I’m a monster!”
Johnny– You did it beautifully! Although, I gotta admit, I was a little surprised at the ending, so I’m guessing your going to be that writer that likes to shock your readers?
Jessica– I actually try not to, typically. Otherwise there isn’t much of a surprise since the reader is expecting a surprise, you know? I’m completely of the mindset that surprise endings have to be earned. They need to be a surprise only due to the reader not putting the pieces together ahead of time.
Johnny– My thought is that this book was written through the eyes of three different individuals, which narration was the hardest to write for?
Jessica– Heather, actually, who is also my favorite character. She was hard to write because of how bleak her worldview is at the beginning of her section. In a lot of ways, it mirrored my own thoughts during darker, lower moments of my life, and it wasn’t always enjoyable to access those while I was writing her.
Johnny– Was it therapeutic for you to write her?
Jessica– It actually was. It is good to speak dark feelings aloud sometimes.
Johnny– I did this when I interviewed Rebecca Hefner and it was a lot of fun so I’d like to try it with you if you don’t mind. You get a call from Hollywood, your book is going into production to become a movie, you are chosen to cast it, you can use any artists you want, who do you pick?
Jessica– I’ve been asked about before actually! I think my main demand that would be that all of my trans characters be portrayed by trans actors. Beyond that, if Saoirse Ronan isn’t Heather and Katey Sagal isn’t Mari, I just don’t know that I could sign off on the production.
Johnny– Ha! Katey Sagal would be perfect! Good call for Heather, NOW, who would play Seph and Lia?
Jessica– She’s a bit older than the character, but I think Jamie Clayton from Sense8 would be a great Seph. For Lia, I’ve never been able to lock down who I think would be good for her role. But I’m open to suggestions.
Johnny– I’m curious, because your book centers around this, are you a fan of puzzle rooms?
Jessica– I am a huge fan of puzzle rooms, verging on being evangelical about them. I’ve done enough of them that I have formed strong opinions regarding their quality.
Johnny– What advise do you have for someone that wants to become a writer?
Jessica– Write the stories you think only you will be interested in. That won’t be the case. Write the books you wish you’d had at your lowest moments. Also, immediately stop thinking about writing as some mystical art. Like any craft, it needs to be honed and developed. Practice.
Johnny– What advise do you have for someone that might be struggling with gender identity?
Jessica– Trust yourself. A million voices will tell you that you don’t know yourself, that they know you better than you could. Surround yourself with the people who love and support you, discard the ones who don’t. Never be afraid to seek additional support. Hold in your mind the truth that no matter what, you have intrinsic value and are worthy of love and respect.
Johnny– I hope I’m asking this right, because I am ignorant about transgender people, I’ll be the first to admit that, but, at what age did you drop the gender society given you (because of the anatomy you were born with), to become the woman you are today?
Jessica– That’s a tricky one, because I spent a long time knowing and being in active denial. I was 33 when I finally came out, though.
Johnny– Was your family supportive? are you close with your family?
Jessica– The members of my family I am close with were very supportive, even if they didn’t understand right away. I, of course, had some members who were less so (especially among my then-in-laws) but the people who knew me the best knew that this wasn’t something I had decided based on some whim I was having.
Johnny– As a transgender woman do you feel accepted by society?
Jessica– In certain segments, sure. Otherwise, no, no I don’t. For one thing, the US government itself is currently hostile toward trans people. Aside from that, the background noise of life as a trans person is a cacophony of microaggressions, threats of violence, discrimination, distrust, and prejudice. So, we find our pocket communities. We build our “found families” and we do everything we can to try to change the way things are. But we have a hell of a long way to go.
Johnny– When you say “currently hostile” was it more-so after the 2016 election than before?
Jessica– Absolutely. Before 2016, things weren’t great, but it seemed like progress was being made, if only in an ‘inch at a time’ way. After the election, not only were protections and rights we had been granted under constant attack, it was almost as if a license had been given to not hide your prejudices.
*(I’d like to add a side note here, as a veteran who served in the US Army it breaks my heart and angers me to my core that you have to deal with this sort of hate and hostilities. When I joined, I joined so EVERYONE regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation could live in this country freely, peacefully, without fear or harassment from bigots and their hate, intolerance, and prejudice.) JS
Johnny– Jessica where do you want to be in 10 years?
Jessica– Watching my daughter start college (if that’s what she wants), going on adventures with my partner, and always, always, always still writing. Even if my audience can still be counted on one hand.
Johnny– You keep writing like you do I’m predicting that you will need a “few” hands to count your audience on. What are you wanting your readers to take away with them after reading 3SK?
Jessica– I hope they leave with more empathy and understanding for people different than they are, as well as more openness to love in all of its bizarre, beautiful forms. I hope I can make some people who have never felt understood seen, even if just a little.
Johnny– Do you have any projects planned for 2020?
Jessica– Roughly a thousand of them, though I am favoring a project that does have a loose tie-in to 3SK (much as 3SK has some loose connections to my earlier book, Cluster). Unfortunately, it is in the form of bringing back probably the last character 3SK readers wanted to see return, so….
Johnny– So… we might not see Seph and Heather again?
Jessica– You may, but they will be wandering through the background of a scene. I have this long-standing belief that everyone is the background character in someone else’s life. All of my novels have a shared universe, but rarely will I bring a main character from one book into the forefront of another. However, you may see someone who was a minor character in 3SK play a more major role.
Johnny– Do you mind giving a quick elevator pitch for Cluster?
Jessica– A group of misfit friends run a music venue/coffee shope/vintage toy store together while coping with love and loss of many different flavors. Also, there’s a lengthy discussion about ghost sex.
Every once in a while I get the pleasure to come across a book that totally catches me off guard. Three Sharp Knives was one of those books.
Upon opening this book, I was carried away with a narrative that was so mesmerizing, characters so endearing, a plot well-groomed that it belongs on a Hollywood screen, I could not help but fall in LOVE with this book! I think you will too.
Three against the world was a reoccurring theme that ran across my mind time after time while I was reading this. Love, defined on their terms was what I was left with.
I love this book! It has earned the five stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐rating that I’ve given it on Goodreads and Amazon. I’m proud to say that I am a HUGE fan of Jessica Conwell.
If a good story and strong characters is your thing, then Three Sharp Knives is the book for you. I can’t wait to read and review Jessica’s other book Cluster.
Great job on writing a great book Jessica! I’m a fan!!
“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” … William Shakespeare
Timepiece begins with two soulmates living in the 1930’s, (pre-wall street-crash), married, in love, then they come across a means to travel across time and choose to take it before troubled times erupt.
Johnny– Hi Barbara, thank you for taking time to talk with me. I noticed on Amazon that you have written a few books. How many books have you written?
Barbara– Thank you for this opportunity, Johnny! I have written and self-published seventeen books of various genres. Three are children’s books. I began with romantic suspense but quickly felt the urge to branch out from there. I tacked Fantasy next (time travel), and several other genres after that. Timepiece is my fourth time travel book.
Johnny– Which would describe this book best in your opinion? That time (no matter how you get there, natural or manipulated) time effects everything, even love? Or, this is the direct consequence and effect of someone running away from their troubles?
Barbara– I’d say it’s the latter. Matthew and Anna have a solid relationship. Even by the end of the book, when it seems that all is lost, they are still in love with one another. Matthew made a hasty decision that catapulted them into impossible situations. However, as we can read in the last few lines, the love is ever-present.
Johnny– This book haunts me, and I love it. It starts off like a “Dickens classic” and end in a full-blown “Burroughs Beat” titling towards “Poe”. What author has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?
Barbara– I’m so thrilled you enjoyed it! I actually adore Dickens, and Shakespeare. I wouldn’t say that any one author influenced me, but it’s more like I’m in love with the written word and the way authors can weave words into a story. That said, Jack Finney’s “Time and Again” is my favorite Time Travel book. It inspired me to try my hand at it.
Johnny– This is the first book by you that I have read, (so far), so I don’t know if your other books deal with this or not, but do you have an artistic or personal interest with time travel?
Barbara– The idea of it has always fascinated me. I’m always interested in television shows, movies or books that deal with Time Travel. I wrote my first Time Travel story three years ago, and I was hooked after that. Unlike other authors, I do leave science out of it, and focus on the “magic of it all”.
Johnny– Your two main characters, Matthew and Anna, what was your inspiration while creating these two?
Barbara– Part of my brand includes advertising the notion that “love is the most remarkable magic – even in horror”. Matthew and Anna are simply two people in love. As the book opens in the 1930s, I simply made sure to havetheir speech and mannerisms match the decade in which they lived. I used to watch a lot of classic movies. The rest is simply born of my imagination.
Johnny– At the end of the first chapter there is a little sexual tension between Mathew and Martha, what is the back-story there? is there a back-story there? (maybe in another book) or is it just a “is what it is” situation?
Barbara– I wanted the reader to know early on that Matthew would always stay loyal to his wife. That idea circles around, and we see it again at the very end of the story. It’s also a nod to Matthew’sgood looks. A reader will often form a picture in their head of how the characters look. I wanted to make it clear that Matthew is a handsome man.
Johnny– Handsome and loyal are awesome qualities, would you say it was
his loyalty, to not disappoint Anna, that put them in their situation?
Barbara– Absolutely! Matthew is a proud man. Given the era, think James Stewart or Cary Grant. Times were different then and it was common for the man to head the family and take care of his family both financially and emotionally. The thing that intrigued him most about the watch was not what it could do, but what it could do FOR him.
Johnny– Your descriptive narrative of the late 60’s is raw and very real. Are you a fan of that era?
Barbara– Actually, not really! I prefer the 70s, 80s, and 90s, which is when my other novels are set. It was fun to challenge myself though. I used Google(a writer’s best friend) to find the jargon of the era.
Johnny– Shakespeare, Kerouac, Ginsberg. Three names mentioned during the interview for The Daily Rag, if you could have lunch with one of them, which would you pick?
Barbara– That’s a tough one! But I’d have to go with The Bard.
Johnny– Why did you pick the 3 moments in time that you did while writing Timepiece?
Barbara- One of my favourite movies of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. This is the first time that I wrote a story set in that time period. Matthew and Anna naturally found themselves in the 1960s and I had to end it in the 80s. Most people know that I’m an 80s lover. It even says so in my Twitter bio!
Johnny– What do you want the reader to take away from this book?
Barbara– Love conquers all. That’s usually the message in all of my books. Whether dark, or more in tune with a “happily ever after”, love is the only thing that matters.
Johnny– When did you first decide that you were going to be a writer?
Barbara– It wasn’t really a decision. More of a calling? I started out dabbling in poetry. Then, one day, in grade 9 English Class, my teacher praised a short story I had written. He even made me read it out loud which was excruciating for an awkward, shy teen! But my classmates loved it. I penned my first book in 2002. My husband encouraged me to published it in 2015, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Johnny– Tell me something about yourself that the average person doesn’t know. (where you are from, what do you do for fun, hobbies, what’s your favorite binge-watch, pets etc…)
Barbara– We live in Ottawa, Canada, but I was born in Switzerland to Italian parents. We immigrated to Canada when I was two. I still speak Italian daily, and there’s always at least one Italian character in my books. (Anna, in the case of “Timepiece”.) Our only pet is a tarantula that my husband named “Betsy”. (No, she’s not poisonous and stays in her aquarium.) I love to cook and I’m big on cooking shows, but we recently discovered Netflix, and love Stranger Things, Black Mirror and we’re currently bingeingThe 100. We recently saw Joker in theaters, and it was right up my alley! It was dark, yet brilliant, and breathtaking.
Johnny– You have already published a few books. What is your process when you start developing an idea to the point you start writing it down as a book?
Barbara– I pick a title first. Then I create the book cover. Both those things inspire the rest of the story. I create a brief outline using bullet points that I email to myself. The story may change from there as I’m generally a panster, but that’s about it!
Johnny– What was the first book you ever written? And did it get published?
Barbara– ”My Love is Deep” is my first book. The title was inspired by the famous Bee Gees song “How Deep is Your Love?” Although I wrote it in 2002, “life happened” and I put it away. Back then, I didn’t know about self-publishing. I’m not sure it even existed. In 2015, my husband encouraged me to publish it. There are now three other books in that series revolving around Peter Travis and his quest to find true love. It’s set between Ottawa and Niagara Falls. Last Christmas, I wrote “The Christmas Miracle” and I’m pretty sure that’s the last book I’ll write with Peter as my protagonist. Fun fact: Peter makes an appearance in my latest book, “Postscript”.
Johnny– Have you ever received a dreaded “rejection” letter? If so, how did you cope, and what advise do you have for unpublished writers if they ever get one?
Barbara– At first, I did briefly query. The rejection only added fuel to my creative fire. I am happily self-published now, and wouldn’t have it any other way. The creative freedom is what my soul screams for. For writers who follow the traditional publishing path, I can only say, don’t let rejections quash your spirit. There’s an audience for everything.
Johnny– I love the fact that rejection only added to your creative fire, is this something that all indie authors need to have in order to break through?
Barbara– Fear serves no purpose, except to paralyze us and inhibit our growth. As we all have different reasons for writing, I don’t want to share a blanket statement. However, if fear is preventing a writer from sharing or querying (or whatever their goal is), yes, they must overcome it to reach the next stage in their career.
Johnny– How do you go about editing work, do you do your own self-editing?
Barbara– I do self-edit! One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a fellow writer. She sent me a private message and asked me if I didn’t mind sharing the name of my editor since my work is “flawless”. I told her I self-edit. That message that day brought me so much joy. It really was priceless
Johnny– What are your thoughts on beta-readers? Do you use?
Barbara– I don’t use any. Picture the author slumped over their typewriter, or scribbling in their notebook. The one who bleeds their soul on paper. That’s who I relate to. Once those words are down, I share them. I don’t look for feedback prior to publishing. I don’t know, it’s sort of like a chef. Their diners don’t sample the food before deciding to eat the whole plate, do they? I see it more as a “surprise…I hope you like it!” And keeping with the food analogy, just as there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, I feel like there’s such a thing as too much feedback for writers. The magic sort of dissipates. This is also what I mean about confidence being key.
Johnny– Do you recommend self-publishing to anyone that is starting out? If so, how does someone self-publish?
Barbara– I’ve been known to say this a lot, but self-publishing is not “something to fall back on”.It’s not the first step for a novice. It’s a career in itself and a hell of a lot of work. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m too stubborn!The creative freedom is exhilarating. Therefore, I recommend it to everyone who wants their story out there on their own schedule, and doesn’t mind doing all their own marketing, etc. As far as “how”? There are so many different outlets available, so I will just say, find the one that works for you, and learn the technical ropes. The rest is simply your artistic expression come to life, and that is a very beautiful thing.
Johnny– Artistic expression is definitely something that you know about. Barbara, thank you so much for taking this time to talk with me. It has been an absolute pleasure talking with you!
As I stated earlier; This book haunts me, and I love it. It starts off like a “Dickens classic” and ends in a full-blown “Burroughs Beat” titling towards “Poe”. I ended this book feeling much the way one feels when exiting a roller-coaster, and no, not queasy, but rather: full of wonder and wanting more.
In a generation of writers pursuing to publish a new franchise it is so refreshing to come across such daring and originality. Timepiece draws you in with its loveliness and keeps you by it’s desirability. Splendidly written with eloquenthistorical-appropriate language, it swept me across the fabric of time as true love was put to the “ultimate” test.
Barbara has displayed everything that is truly wonderful and unique about indie authors. Her self published worldis where the literary meets the fantasy, the contemporary meets the classic, merging, to becomes a tour d’ force for the imagination.
Honestly ❤ I love it! ❤
I’m giving Timepiece 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on Goodreads and Amazon because of it’s sheer beauty and artistic-flow.This book is an absolute must for anyone who yearns for a really good discussion worthy composition.
WARNING this writer possessthe following: originality, tenacity, and charm.
You have met the writer: Barbara Avon
Now read the book: Timepiece
Elegant and beautify written. Check it out for yourself.