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Book Review~~The Orchid Sister by Anne D. LeClaire

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5 out of 5 quills        A Review

How do I write a review, for this book, without giving away the twists and turns of the story and end up writing a spoiler? I can’t.  This beautifully written book has plenty of twists and turns. It’s a love story sort of, a story of intrigue sort of, a story of grief, revival and survival in huge doses. The threads of this tale are so tightly woven that to write about the plot is a spoiler x ten.  I just can’t do it. 

The writing is superb.The characters are well drawn and I cared about every one of them. If I had one tiny criticism (and it disappeared within the first six pages) it was that it had too much narrative for my taste. But after page six, I understood how the author constructs her story.   So I was immediately drawn into the story so much so that long descriptions (rather than the dialogue telling the tale) didn’t bother me.  

I highly recommend this book to my readers. 

Available now.Click here to buy

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker 
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Interview with author, Boo Walker

TS. After picking a five-string banjo in Charleston and Nashville and then a few years toying with Wall Street, Boo chased a wine dream across the country to Red Mountain in Washington State with his dog, Tully Mars. They landed in a double-wide trailer on five acres of vines, where Boo grew out a handlebar mustache, bought a horse, and took a job working for the Hedges family, who taught him the art of farming and the old world philosophies of wine. Recently leaving their gentleman’s farm on Red Mountain, Boo and his family are back on the east coast in St. Pete, Florida. No doubt the Sunshine City will serve as a setting for a novel or three soon. Boo’s bestselling page-turners are instilled with the culture of the places he’s lived, the characters he’s encountered, and a passion for unexpected adventure. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? 
Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

BW. I write in my dream space, my mancave in a Spanish-style house built in 1925 by an opera singer in St. Pete, Florida. I’m surrounded by guitars and banjos that constantly try to distract me.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

BW. I have a pretty serious coffee ritual to start my morning and writing day. I always have a bag of single-origin, fresh-roasted beans, which I grind that morning. I measure out an exact amount with my scale, and then brew using a Chemex coffee pour-over. Once the caffeine starts to kick in, I’m sit at my desk. I’ve come to rely so much on this routine that my entire day is shot if I don’t have my perfect cup.
Depending on my mood, I most always write to music without words, be it jazz, classical, or electronic.
I also have a couple less productive rituals that are actually more like procrastinating actions. I’ve somehow come to think I need to restart my computer before ever writing session. It’s totally stalling. And then I’ll grab my guitar for a little warm-up session. Another stalling tactic. Once I’m ready to dive in, though, I use an app called Be Focused, which sets 25-minute intervals where I do writing sprints. I don’t allow myself to surf the net or answer calls or texts. The sprints are writing only. No distractions.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

BW. R.D. Blackmore lingers somewhere high up in my family tree on my mother’s side. He wrote a book called Lorna Doone. He was a big inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson, among others.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

BW. If I haven’t written by noon, I’m in trouble. I’m such a morning person, so only under deadline and at gunpoint can I write much in the later afternoon or at night.

Part II of this fascinating interview posts May 24th.    Click here to read my REVIEW of Red Mountain.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker 
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Book Review ~~ Red Mountain by Boo Walker

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills  ~~~  A Review

Once in awhile I troll through bookstores online looking for an interesting author that I have never heard of. I kiss a lot of frogs but it’s worth it when I find an author like Boo Walker.

Red Mountain is a special place. It has the perfect soil and weather for growing wine grapes.  And growing people too, who gravitate to the mountain, often to hide or to find themselves. Besides the interesting characters that Boo Walker has drawn, I felt as if the wine was a character unto itself. The growing, the nurturing, the fermenting, the aging and sampling the final product. Resembling what life is all about. 

Boo Walker weaves a wonderful story with rich, flawed characters that you can love or love to hate. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Red Mountain Rising. And don’t miss my interview with Boo later this month. 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker 
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Book Review ~ Little Teashop on Main

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5 out of 5 quills  ~~ A Review

The Little Teashop on  Main by Jodi Thomas is a lovely story about three best friends (from cradle to grave) brought together when a play-date turns into a tea party. Their friendship is not without troubles but the light of these women’s love for each other shines through every page.  Forging careers, finding love and finally the ultimate test of their friendship. 

Jodi Thomas’ writing is flawless. Her stories are interesting. The characters are well drawn and the reader cares about what happens to them. The highest praise I can give a writer. This is a good summer read and I highly recommend it.

 

Did you miss my Interview with Jodi Thomas?

Release date: May 7th. Pre-order now!
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker 
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Author of The Colonel and the Bee Joins Us, (part 2)

Q. Tell us about writing The Colonel and the Bee. Not so much the cerebral process but more your ‘gut’ instincts, the fairytale (but not quite) fantasy idea of it.

PC: I definitely wanted to straddle the line between fantasy and reality, so that the most extraordinary events in the book are implausible but not impossible (though that’s definitely strained). The idea was to have a whimsical journey you could almost believe is true. I tried to portray a world worth exploring that conceals surprises and treasures for those willing to venture out into it. It is definitely a halcyon view of the time period (though not without its villains and pitfalls), eschewing any too-heavy issues/events because it’s meant to be an adventure viewed through the romantic eyes of explorers. I love historically accurate books and I love fantasy books, this one just happens to trend toward the latter.

Hot air ballooning over Africa

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

PC. If you mean ‘get lost’ in a total-immersion way, not as much as I’d like to. I’m working on that. I do sometimes ‘get lost’ in a plot sense, especially in the middle of stories. When that happens I try to look back to the most core elements of the story for direction. If those aren’t there, then something is really wrong. Never fun to get halfway through a first draft and have no access to your own story.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

PC. I recently finished a sort of cozy mystery set in a 1980’s Midwest neighborhood. It starts with a goat murder and gets weirder from there. I’ve been pitching it was a suburban thriller plot à la Liane Moriarty, set in Ray Bradbury’s halcyon Midwest, with a hint of Neil Gaiman fantasy thrown in for good measure.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

PC. Screenwriting in my early 20’s, novel writing in my mid/late-20’s.

Q. How long after that were you published?

PC. I was 32 (self-pub/indie-pub).

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

PC. Not a chance. Most articles I see these days are about them making a resurgence. I think everyone got a little uneasy when e-readers initially came out, but each format has its own virtues and limitations. I think they’ll continue to find their equilibrium with one another (at least until whatever’s next comes along…)

Q. What makes a writer great?

PC. The cliché of ‘a good story well told’ seems to hold true. For me its also clarity and mastery of craft, creativity in linking previously independent ideas, brave but intentioned prose, portraying simple things elegantly or elegant things simply, and telling the truth in a compelling and memorable way.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

PC. I accumulate ideas for a long time, usually a few years, constantly adding to a document on my phone/computer (always write ideas down, you will 100% forget some of them otherwise). When the story is ready, I’ll do any required research and translate the document of random ideas into a semi-coherent, narratively chronological outline. Off that, I write a first draft in as short a time as possible (I think inertia is important with first drafts), then take as much time away from it as possible for objectivity before the first revisions. Last, I get feedback/outside editorial input and revise, revise, revise.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

PC. Almost everything seems to find its way in somehow. I think more time lived equals more to draw from, so I’m always up for new experiences.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

PC. I think I’ve watched The Office (US version) about 50 times. I’m always trying to read more too (audiobooks are a godsend in LA traffic).

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre?

PC. So far each book has pretty much been a different genre. That’s not by design, it just kind of happens that way for me. Knowing the genre you’re writing in can be powerful/useful though, so I may be on my way to becoming a ‘master of none’ by switching so often. I think there are strengths/weakness with regard to sticking with one genre and of course it varies by the individual.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

PC. Living in the moment seems to be a nice idea. Try not to get too many parking tickets but pay them if you do. Garlic and cinnamon make just about any food better (just not together).

Did you miss part I of this wonderful Interview?

Purchase The Colonel and the Bee: click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with Patrick Canning, Author of The Colonel and the Bee

TS. I first ‘met’ Patrick when I stumbled across The Colonel and the Bee. Something made me order it and read it. Then review it. I don’t generally read fantasy but this was different…and beautiful…and my favorite character in the book was actually the three-story basket attached to the hot-air balloon. I ask, as I do all of my interviewees, for a short bio to begin the interview. Here is Patrick’s answer. 

PC. I’ll try to do it all in one breath: born in Milwaukee, grew up in Chicago suburbs, came to LA for film school, worked in film/entertainment throughout my 20’s, now trying to spend increasing amounts of time writing because I love it and I think I could be good at it with enough sweat/luck/coffee.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

PC. I rotate between a shared workspace, coffee shops, libraries, and my own apartment (where I get the least amount done). I live alone so being around people part of the day is nice. My dream work space has electrical outlets, a chair comfy enough to be in for hours but not so comfy you can fall asleep in it, ample people watching, low music, a bathroom, and if we’re aiming high, free refills.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

PC. Coffee and tea are almost always involved, but other than that I try to keep it as un-exotic as possible. Recently I started making the background of my Word docs legal-pad yellow. I heartily recommend this to writers who get sick of staring at bright white all day.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

PC. I’m exceptionally bad at foosball, but above average at ping-pong and pool.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

PC. Morning session/afternoon session, both 3-4 hrs. I’m still working on a more solid process and seeing what works. I heard one writer’s schedule (Dan Brown maybe?) is 4 am-11 am. That sounds weirdly alluring to me but I have yet to wake up at 4 am to give it a try…

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

PC. I think if you’re really procrastinating a lot, over and over again, it could be a case of wanting to be a writer more than actually wanting to write. I think a lot of people torture themselves over this when in reality they might just be chasing the wrong vocation. Some days are better than others to be sure, but if they’re all bad days, there’s no shame in career/hobby course correction.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

PC. Usually they’re a part of the initial idea but I love the revision stage when they start to crystallize and sound more like themselves in the dialogue. I try not to panic if elements like that are less than perfectly clear early on because they usually arrive by the time things wrap up.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Ballooning over Africa

PC. I came to novel writing through screenwriting, which I came to through a love of movies. I’ve always loved any kind of creative storytelling and the more I write, the more I enjoy it (for the most part), so that’s reassuring to me. Beyond that, it can be a matter of ‘why isn’t anyone talking about this’, or ‘this could be a nice way for people to escape’, or the ol’ reliable: ‘what if’.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

PC. The situation, followed very closely by the characters, and they become inextricable almost immediately (though both bend and change as the story takes shape).

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Join us March 22nd for the  conclusion of this interview with the talented Patrick Canning.

Did you miss my review of The Colonel and The Bee?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz. March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese

 

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Book Review ~~ A Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

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5 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Review

Everything you want when you sit down and open the cover of a new book. Friendship, hardship, love, heartbreak, history and finally…hope.  Rhys Bowen’s writing never disappoints whether I am reading her Royal Spyness series or her Molly Murphy series or her stand alone fiction (all excellent). 

Just a hint of the story as I do not write spoilers. Emily Bryce  is a debutante who never had a ‘come out’ as World War I rages in Europe. She is stuck in time, in place, with nothing worthwhile to do except follow her society-ladder-climbing mother around.  The opportunity to join the Women’s Land Army  and become a ‘land girl’ frees her from her stifling existence and her mother.  And this is where her adventures begin. 

I was a little put off by the title of this book as I read along. There isn’t one victory garden (in the traditional sense of the term) in the entire book.  But then I realized Bowen’s ‘victory garden’ were all the gardens in the story combined making it ultimately The Victory Garden. Sneaky Devil!   I highly recommend this book. 

Available: February 12th
Did you miss my Interview with this author?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Book Review ~ The Best of Us by Robyn Carr

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5 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Review

 

Robyn Carr writes with a casual flaire that makes the reader feel like they’re sitting in a comfy chair, by a crackling fire, wearing warm socks.

I am a huge fan of the Sullivan’s Crossing series and this latest contribution is a winner. At least three love stories are woven together like a fine tapestry in The Best of Us. Catching up to what’s been happening to the recurring characters in her stories is like running into some good friends  you haven’t seen in a while. While a new character drives the whole story when she meets and falls for Rob Shandon, the pub owner.

And the writing is without a misstep. A perfect blend of encounters, conflicts, reunions and  happy endings. Bubbling along like a happy creek, you hardly know you’ve finished the book and are left wanting the next in the series….right now!

Released January 8th so get your copy now!

Did you miss my Interview with Robyn? Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss. February:  Patrick Canning and March: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with author, Molly Gloss

TS. Molly likes to brag (just a little) that on her mother’s side, she’s fourth generation Oregonian, from German immigrants. On her father’s side she’s fourth-generation Texan, as her great grandmother  was the first white child born in Irion County, Texas. She is widowed with one son and was recently blessed with a new grandson!  She says, “Why didn’t anyone tell me how magical this would be?! Oh, right, they did tell me, I just wasn’t listening!” She’s been writing full-time since  1980. “I’m a slow writer, but I’ve managed to eke out six novels and about 20 short stories.” She currently lives in Portland, Ore. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

Writing….

MG. I like to be comfortable. I wrote The Jump-Off Creek in longhand while sitting in my favorite overstuffed chair. When desktop computers became the thing, I wrote while sitting at a desk, but I never loved it, and now I write on a laptop, sitting on the living room sofa with my feet propped up on an ottoman and the laptop literally in my lap.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

MG. Nope. I open the file I’m working on, reread the last few pages, and go to work wrestling with the next sentence. But I do have to have my favorite Roget’s Thesaurus close to hand. And also The American Thesaurus of Slang. Good for finding just the right period-perfect term for historical fiction.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MG. I have never lived on the “dry side” of the West where many of my novels and stories are set. I grew up on the “wet side” and live here still, in a suburban townhouse at the edge of Portland.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

MG. I try to write from post-breakfast to pre-dinner, with a short break for lunch, but that schedule can vary greatly now that I live alone and have no children or husband or dog to contend with. Now sometimes I surprise myself by writing late at night. But it’s a sad irony that I do have more trouble sticking to a set schedule now that I have more time to write. When I had a family at home and had to keep up the housework, the grocery shopping, the gardening, making meals, etc, I was more disciplined about squeezing my writing into the available time. Now I’ve become a procrastinator!

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MG. Speaking of which! I’m not the best person to give this advice, as I’ve become a terrible procrastinator myself, horribly addicted to the lure of the internet. I had to go away to a place without wifi in order to finish my last novel. Perhaps that’s my advice? Disconnect from wifi!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

MG. More often than not, a new character arises out of research for a previous novel. In researching for The Jump-Off Creek, which is a novel about a single woman homesteader, I came upon Teresa Jordan’s book of oral histories, COWGIRLS: WOMEN OF THE AMERICAN WEST, and there for the first time heard about young girls traveling the countryside breaking horses during the nineteen-tens, and my character Martha Lessen in THE HEARTS OF HORSES arose out of that research. And then while I was researching the history of horse training for that novel, I fell into a cache of material about how horses were trained (and misused) in the Western movies of the 1930s, and that was the beginning of my character Bud Frazer, a Hollywood stunt rider in FALLING FROM HORSES.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

MG. I’ve always wanted to write. I was a voracious reader and I think I’ve often been driven by a desire to write the story I couldn’t find on the library shelves.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

MG.They are intertwined. The character doesn’t exist for me until I know what sort of situation they are in. And the situation doesn’t mean anything to me unless I can see how it impacts a particular person.

Don’t miss Part two of this Interview on January 25th
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss. February:  Patrick Canning and March: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with Playwright, Author, Alretha Thomas

  Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, this prolific writer soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming.  In between plays, Alretha’s first novel Daughter Denied was launched in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country.  Alretha was awarded the Jessie Redmon Fauset Literary Award for her indie novel Four Ladies Only. Alretha returned to acting and is now writing and acting full time. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

AT. I write in the family dining room/hang out room. My computer is up against a wall and it’s my special place.
Whenever my husband wants to get my attention, he’ll leave a note on my keyboard knowing it won’t be missed! He calls it my home within the home. Lol! My husband and I often talk about buying a bigger home, if, and when we get a windfall. My dream workspace would have a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

AT. I have to be very comfortable when I write. Thus, I write in very loose-fitting clothing. Usually my blue sundress my husband bought me or my ripped up blue robe. I guess it’s something about blue.  I also must have my desk fan blasting. I have about a half dozen little stuff animals and toys that I keep to the right of me. I think they’re my good luck charms.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

AT. I volunteer every Tuesday at a nursing home not too far from my home. There are about six people there that I feel very close to. I paint nails for the ladies, tell stories and most times just listen. The residents have no idea how much they do for me mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They are wonderful people who for one reason or another are in the nursing home. It makes me grateful and it makes me appreciate being able to get around right now. No one knows what the future holds.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

AT. I love writing at night after my husband has gone to bed and it’s quiet in the house and the neighborhood. I just love it. I feel like a little girl in a sandbox. No matter what I’m doing during the day, I get excited when I think about the fact that later that night I’ll be writing. So many ideas about what my characters are going to say and do flood my head during the day. It’s wonderful when I can put it on paper.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

AT. Just do it! I’ve never had a problem with writer’s block or procrastination. Thank goodness. If anything, you have to pull me away from the computer!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

AT. I believe my characters discover me. They enter my subconscious and take over my being. They slowly began to evolve. Case in point are the main characters in my latest mystery novel, “The Women on Retford Drive.” I’ve never met anyone like my protagonist Julia Pritchard or her stepdaughter Blythe Pritchard. One day I just had this feeling about writing about a mother and step daughter being abused and working together to escape their plight. From there, the story just took off.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

AT. My fifth-grade teacher inspired me to write. She gave the class a short story assignment. I got an idea to write a story about a bag boy in a supermarket who falls in love with a young customer. I guess you could say that was my first romance story. The following day our teacher congratulated the entire class on our work. However, she said there was one story that stood out. And that story was mine. I nearly fell out of my chair. I couldn’t believe it. She read it aloud and the class was riveted. While I was watching the expressions on the faces of my peers, I knew in that moment I wanted to be a writer for life.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

Join Us with Part Two of this fascinating Interview on October 26th
To Purchase Alretha’s books, click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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