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 Barbara Avon, indie author, Uncategorized

Timepiece by: Barbara Avon

“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 have their 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’s good 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.  

JohnnyShakespeare, 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 bingeing The 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. 

...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?

BarbaraI 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!

REVIEW

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 eloquent historical-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 world is 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 possess the 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.

Barbara on TWITTER

Barbara on FACEBOOK

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Barbara on AMAZON

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Be sure to check out Barbara’s new Book.

If you enjoyed Timepiece be sure to check out Postscript.

✌❤