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Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, author (part 2)

Yankee Stadium with friends….the good old days…packed seats

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

LMG. When I went for my MFA at the New School. It was the first time I really starting thinking of it as a career. I had written a few books before that still needed a lot of work, and even sent one out to a few agents, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. My MFA program really helped shape me as a writer, and then afterwards when I got an agent, he was a great mentor in honing my craft. About a dozen years later, he’s still my agent.

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

LMG. Nope, never. People will always want physical copies, but there will definitely be less. Personally, I’ll read on Kindle but I prefer a book a lot more. I can read e-books on like a plane, that’s about it. Physical books have a smell to them, you carry them with you, you make notes in the margins. I know you can do that with e-books but it’s not the same. I still have my high school copy of The Great Gatsby with all my notes from when I was teenager. It’s a treasure. That wouldn’t be possible with an e-book.

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

LMG.  Depends. Sometimes the character comes first, sometimes the idea. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and that inspires the book like with my last novel The Ancestor. I heard a song called “The Ancestor,” and the first line was “Go on bury me.” It was wintertime and I just pictured a man buried in ice who wakes up from it after a hundred years. The rest of the book began to unravel from that image.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LMG. I’ve always been a writer since I was a little kid. I used to make up stories about my dog getting into crazy situations, so this was always the career I was meant to have. I think that there are people who are just born writers. When I’m not working on a project, I get a little depressed, so I have to write. It’s a part of me. And it’s always been liked that.

Two Lees at book signing with Charlaine Harris

Lee and……Lee

TS: What are the chances that two gentlemen are named Lee Goldberg, both authors, and I interviewed the first one six years ago. And they, one from L.A. and one from NYC met and became acquainted at a couple of book signings? Too weird and wonderful.

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

LMG. Depends. Usually they start to emerge in tandem.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LMG. That’s when I know I’m really writing something great. I’ll leave my body for a few hours and forget what I’ve written. Then I’ll spiral back down. I’ve heard Stephen King describe a similar thing. I don’t know where I go, but I go somewhere. It’s the same when I’m reading a book I’m really into, I’ll lose time in the best way.

Q.  Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

LMG. I’m always working on something. I have a YA series coming out, so I’m working on the idea for the third book. The first two have been written. And I have a screenplay project as well based off of my books that I’m working on with a production company. I’m very excited about that, since it’s been about three years in the making. I also have a few ideas for books I want to write. One takes place in the 1950s and would be a Jewish Mad Men. The perspective of a Jewish man breaking into the ad world then and the different kinds of anti-Semitism he faced. I was inspired after watching the HBO show The Plot Against America.

Q. I understand that you are about to release ORANGE CITY, an exciting sci-fi novel. Tell us about it.

LMG. Imagine a secret, hidden City that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the City forever. You can never leave. Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the Man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

Did you miss Part 1 of our interview?

Don’t Miss Part 3 of this Interview ~~ June 19th
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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“I just always wanted to tell my stories.” Author, sports writer, Mike Lupica Interviews with this Blogger

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. His longevity at the top of his field is based on his experience and insider’s knowledge, coupled with a provocative presentation that takes an uncompromising look at the tumultuous world of professional sports. Today he is a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily News; at the same time a prolific author under his own name and writing for Robert B. Parker and James Patterson. 

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

ML. Just start writing. I do it all the time. Just get into it, even if the first few pages might not ever get into your book.

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

ML.  In my imagination? Where else? I get them together and get them talking, and then all of a sudden one of them will say something I didn’t know they were going to say, or do something I had no idea they would do. In moments like that, I feel as if I have the best job in the world.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

ML. I always just wanted to tell my stories. When I was ten, I was writing mystery and adventure stories – longhand of course – with myself as a main character. Old-fashioned, Catholic School blue essay books. It’s all I ever wanted to do. Tell my stories. When I was traveling extensively to talk to kids in schools for my Middle Grade books, I’d always tell them that they had to buy my books, because I had no other skills.

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

ML. Characters. Always.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

ML. All the time. At the home we once had in Connecticut, my wife Taylor transformed a shed about fifty yards from our back door into an amazing writing cottage. The first time I walked down the hill, my son Alex turned to his mother and said, “He may never come back.”

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

ML. Well into this September’s Jesse, called Stone’s Throw. And back with Mr. Patterson for a new one. Working with him has been one of the great experiences of my career. Like getting a master class in getting the reader to keep turning pages.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

ML. College. Three school papers. Working nights at the Boston Globe. Writing for the Globe and the old Boston Phoenix. Chasing my dreams as hard as I could. Now here I am, getting to write about characters that Robert B. created. Honor of a writing lifetime.

Q. How long after that were you published?

ML. I was in my early 30s when “Reggie” put me on the Times list for the first time. My first mystery, Dead Air, followed shortly thereafter.

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

ML. Never.

Q. What makes a writer great?

ML. It’s like asking what makes oceans deep. It’s a wonderful mix of talent, imagination, work ethic, and writing stories that make you, the person writing them, keep going to find out what’s going to happen next. And never getting up from the desk until you’ve done your best work that day.

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

ML. There is nothing more exciting than Chapter One for me. Nothing. It’s the beginning of the adventure. And for me, there is no end to the adventure, even with The End. Because my head goes right into the next one.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

ML. I have been blessed. My parents, in their 90s now, still living in their own home, have been a constant blessing. I’ve never met a smarter or better or kinder person than my wife. And we have these four amazing children. They make me smarter every day, by always reminding me that they think the good old days are now.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

ML. Down time? What’s that?

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

ML. I am thrilled to be back in the world of writing mysteries. I feel as if I’ve left my mark writing novels set in the world of sports for young readers. And I am so proud of the work Mr. Patterson and I did on “The Horsewoman,” a great big novel set in show jumping (spoiler alert: My daughter is a champion rider.) I never think genre. Just good stories.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)
It’s what I’ve constantly told my younger readers: Once a good idea gets inside your head, it’s impossible to get it out.
And the only thing more powerful than a good idea is a random act of kindness.

Did you miss part 1 of this wonderful Interview?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Interview with Author, Sports Columnist, Mike Lupica

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. (http://www.mlb.com) Besides being an author, in his own right, he is the voice of Robert B. Parker in the Jesse Stone series. I am thrilled that Mike has given us his time and insight to his writing processes.

Mike Lupica: I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, apart from books, for a long time. I started writing a column for the New York Daily News when I was 23. I made a couple of other stops along the way, and currently also write a couple of baseball columns every week for mlb.com But I am still in the Daily News. I have written more than 40 novels, including autobiographies for Reggie Jackson and Bill Parcells. Two of my novels for young readers, Travel Team and Heat, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list for children’s chapter books. Now I am honored to be writing books about Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall, created by my friend, and one of my writing heroes, Robert B. Parker. I also have my first book with James Patterson, “The Horsewoman,” coming out in December of 2021.

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.

ML. All I need for my dream work space is unlined yellow tablets – my pal Elmore Leonard told me to get rid of yellow legal pads so I could stop worrying about staying between the lines – and rollerball pens and my MacBook. We go back and forth between eastern Long Island and Florida now. My wife, Taylor, has given me wonderful rooms in which to work in both of them. On Long Island, I have the same writing table I’ve had since the 1980s. It’s still got good words left in it.

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.)

ML. Again: The ritual is sitting down to write. That’s the whole ballgame. The great Joe Ide, who writes the IQ books, once told me that writer’s block just means you got up from the desk.

Q. How do you ‘get inside’ Robert B. Parker’s head and write for him?

ML. Bob Parker, as I knew him, has been inside MY head since I bought “The Godwulf Manuscript” at a (now gone) Brentano’s on Boylston Street when I was at Boston College. I have read and re-read him ever since. Anybody who has read my newspaper columns knows that my voice has always echoed his. So did my early mysteries about a New York City investigative TV journalist named Peter Finley, who later ended up in a CBS Sunday Night movie I was lucky enough to write. When I sat down to write a sample chapter for Sunny Randall, about ten pages that got me into Robert B. Parker’s wonderful world, I just felt as if I were exactly where I was supposed to be. Sunny tells Spike that the UPS kid “m’am”-ed her. Spike asks if she shot him. And I was off.

Q. Do you find your ‘voice’ creeping in when writing for another author?

ML. Again, the voice to which you refer has been inside my head for such a long, wonderful time. It was across the table from me at dinners we had, it was on the bottom floor of his great home in Cambridge when I did a television piece about him one time. And in radio interviews where we sat next to each other. In my mind, I’m just continuing that conversation with Sunny and Jesse.

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

ML. My friends know this. My family knows this. I have four children. I would give a bazillion dollars to get to go back and coach just one of them, one more time, in baseball or basketball or soccer.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

ML. Plain yellow pads that I buy from my friend Ann Nealon at PDQ, forty at a time. Old-fashioned Cross rollerball pens. I write longhand for 30 or 40 pages, then type. When I do, it’s like an instant second draft. But I still think best with a pen in my hand.

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

ML. I do my best writing in the morning. Then revisit my morning pages in the late afternoon. When Elmore Leonard was alive, I’d call HIM in the late afternoon, even into his 80s, and always begin this way, “Are you writing or thinking about women?” He’d giggle and say, “What, you can’t do both?” But I knew he was at his desk. And would usually go back to mine.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

 

Join us for Part II of our Interview with Mike Lupica ~~ February 19th

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Interview with author, Madeline Hunter

Madeline Hunter is a bestselling author of more than thirty historical romances. She is a two-time RITA winner. Her books have been on the NY Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller list.  Over six million of her books are in print, and have been translated into fourteen languages. A Ph.D. in Art History, she was, for many years, a professor at an eastern university. She lives in western Pennsylvania, near her two sons.

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.

MH. About ten years ago some renovations in my home allowed me to create an office just for my writing. It is right off the family room and has a lot of light. My desk is a long, deep ledge along one wall. I am a stacker, so that desk is usually a total mess. I know where everything is, though! And when I organize, I lose stuff so I don’t do that too often (this is my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)
I suppose if I had a dream work space, it would be a small separate building, or perhaps an elegant office that resembles an English country library from the 19th century, full of books and wood and a desk that isn’t so big that it gets covered in my stacks. Can I have regular office staff to keep it all looking gorgeous too?

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.)

MH. Coffee, then more coffee. Silence. Preferably no one else in the house and certainly not moving around and DEFINITELY not popping in to chat.

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

MH. I am a traveler. I have been to five continents, and more cities than I can count. Travel really invigorates me and fills the well that I draw on for my writing.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

Available April 27th

MH. I start with either legal pad/pen or computer. In either case, I am just throwing down ideas to flesh out the germ of a notion I have for a book. It is very messy and barely understandable to anyone else except me. I keep doing this, honing the story idea, making sure the characters work for me, and ensuring there is enough story to carry a novel. Eventually I start writing a synopsis and try to synthesize all of that into the actual plot story line. The synopsis goes through more drafts until it is in final form. The synopsis is not an outline. It is the who, what, why of the book, but not necessarily the how.

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

MH. Yes, but it has shifted around. I started out a night writer, then became a morning writer, and am currently an early afternoon writer. I have no idea why the times have changed. Ideally I’d be a morning writer because when it gets pushed off, it may not happen at all.

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

MH. Sit in the chair and just start with one sentence. The rest will follow. Now, that sounds so sensible, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is the actual sitting and doing it that is the problem. If you have a publisher and write to contract, that contract really helps because no work, no pay. However, if you are not beholden to anyone but yourself, problems can develop. I think every writer who starts a project should create deadlines and commit to them. Make them realistic, but non-negotiable once they are set. When I was starting, before I was published, I forced myself to finish a book every eight months. I had a goal and found the time to get it done. It is harder to procrastinate when you see your goal slipping away.

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

MH. Wow, this is a big subject. I have had characters come to me in many ways. I have had them walk into other books and start being so dynamic and interesting that I knew I had to do a book just for them. I have had visions of characters and ended up figuring out a story so I could learn more about them. And I learn about them as I write them. I am a big believer that character development is just that—they develop as the story unfolds. The reader learns about them pretty much the same way I did. It is important to me that my characters be distinctive. I don’t want all of my heroes to be cut of the same cloth, for example. It is tempting, when you have a really cool character, to use clones of him again and again. Eventually the readers recognize that is happening, however.

Join us for the conclusion to this Interview ~ January 23rd
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Book Review: Someone To Watch over Me by Ace Atkins

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  4 out of 5 quills           Book Review reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

The good news: Everyone is back!  Hawk, Susan, Henry at the Harbor Health Club, Quirk, Belson, Mattie, the new side kick of Spenser’s and Pearl, the pup. (spoiler alert!)  

The bad news: The ‘ick’ factor is off the charts with  Robert B. Parker’s  new Spenser novel.  Loosely based upon the case against Jeffrey Epstein and his notorious band of child molesters, I felt I needed a shower after each chapter. The book refers to the old, white men who followed Epstein around the globe. Politicians who ‘might be President one day’, senators, and pervert millionaires.  Even though the archival video tracks clearly shows Donald Trump whispering in Epstein’s ear, giggling like some awkward teenage boy, as he purveys a group of young girls dancing at one of Epstein’s parties, the book doesn’t go far enough on this one important point.  

It’s surprising how phrases like:’ human traffiking’, ‘lost and exploited children’, and ‘child abuse’ all sort of whitewash the reality. Atkins’ new Spenser story uses no whitewash and is in the reader’s face about the details of the sickening truth.

I can’t say I liked this book. But I can say, as is true of all Ace Atkins’ writings, it is very well written. I did enjoy having the old gang back around Spenser!

Release Date: January 12, 2021
Did you miss my Interview with Ace Atkins?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

Interview with Lauren Willig, author of Band of Sisters (conclusion)

Excerpt from my upcoming review of Band of Sisters: “This is an exceptional, sweeping saga about a group of women, all alumni of Smith College, who volunteered to go to Europe to assist the ravaged French villagers during World War I.  What is extraordinary is if an event happened in this book, it happened in real life….” 

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

LW. My first serious stab at publication was in third grade, with a mystery novel called “The Night the Clock Struck Death”, featuring twin girl detectives (because if one girl detective was good, two had to be even better, right?). That manuscript came back to me with a rejection slip, as did the one after that (a Victoria Holt knock-off called “The Chateau Secret”, written in sixth grade), but religiously read my Writer’s Digest magazines, attended writer summer camp at UVA as a high schooler, and kept on at it. I signed my first publishing contract in 2003— seventeen years after that first rejection letter.

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

LW. No. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but there’s power in an actual object, in the feel of the paper in your hands. Children learn to read on paper books. It’s still the default mode—even if I do spend most of my time reading on Kindle these days as I sit in the dark next to my small children’s beds, waiting for them to fall asleep.

Q. What makes a writer great?

LW. Every reader will have a different answer to that. For me, it’s something to do with voice and characterization, with that magical mix of word craft and an intuitive understanding of human nature, which makes the words themselves fall away as the real, living, breathing, believable people appear before you, telling you their stories, sweeping you into their lives.

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

LW. It involves a great deal of coffee. A very great deal of coffee.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

LW. I spent most of my childhood living in other centuries. I went jaunting off on the crusades with Eleanor of Aquitaine as a Lower Schooler through E.L. Konigsburg’s A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, and took off through late Victorian London every Sunday night with Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes on Mystery. I looked for Robin Hood and his Merry Men around every tree in Central Park and spent a great deal of time as a Victorian governess in gothic mansions via the oeuvre of Victoria Holt. So my real life, my life as a child in Manhattan—and an adult in Manhattan!—with some digressions to institutions of learning in between has very little to do with my writing. Although I did mine my experiences as a grad student in London for the Pink Carnation books and as a junior associate at a New York law firm for my first stand alone novel, The Ashford Affair.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

LW. With an early rising preschooler, a night owl first grader, two books due this year, and a pandemic, down time feels like a quaint and charming concept I may once have read about in a book. When I can, I try to grab a few minutes with a jigsaw puzzle (I find jigsaw puzzles terribly soothing); I do a great deal of baking with the preschooler (which may explain why most of my baked goods come out shaped like dinosaurs); and I relish my reading-in-the-dark time as I sit by the first grader’s bedside, waiting and waiting for her to fall asleep.

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

LW. All the time! I’ve always been a cross-genre reader—no one could figure out what genre the first Pink Carnation book was meant to be when it came out back in 2005!—and I love writing as broadly as I read. I’ve had a half-finished contemporary rom com sitting on my computer for years, waiting for the time to finish it, and I’ve always wanted to write a mystery or mystery series, either historical or contemporary. Maybe one of these days….

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

LW. I haven’t regretted any of the books I’ve written, only the books I haven’t written. So when it comes to the question, should I write it? The answer is always: write it!

Thanks so much for having me here, Trisha! To learn more about me or any of my books, just pop over to my website, www.laurenwillig.com, or to my Facebook author page, https://www.facebook.com/LaurenWillig/. Or you can find me on Instagram (@laurenwillig) and see all those dino shaped cakes my preschooler makes me bake!

Did you miss the beginning of this wonderful Interview?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

Interview with Author, Lauren Willig (part 2)

Future writer

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

LW. There’s something to be said for the famous Nora Roberts dictum: “butt in chair”. But I do believe there’s something to be said for productive procrastination. Are you procrastinating because you just don’t wanna? (Trust me, there are days when all of just don’t wanna.) Or are you procrastinating because there’s something wrong with the story and your subconscious mind needs some time to worry away at it? What I usually do is try to power through (aka butt in chair, coffee in hand), but if powering through doesn’t get me anywhere, then it probably means that there’s something fundamentally off and the best possible thing I can do is go browse through the clearance racks at T.J. Maxx, call my college roommate, or buy pumpkin themed goodies at Trader Joe’s. Giving yourself license to not think about the book and do something else entirely can give you the room to make sense of what’s not working. I’ll be on the Trader Joe’s checkout line or a in a dressing room and have that “aha!” moment when I’ll realize that the reason I’ve been stuck for a week is because I have the scene in the wrong viewpoint, or the scene doesn’t need to exist, or I’m trying to shoehorn my characters into doing something that works for the plot but isn’t true to their character. So… procrastination ain’t all bad. Just watch out for the just don’t wannas.

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

LW. Baroness Orczy, the writer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, said that Sir Percy Blakeney walked up to her one day at a London Tube stop. I’ve never had a character accost me on the subway, but they do tend to pop up in all sorts of strange places. Generally, mine jump out at me from whatever historical source I’m reading. For example, my upcoming book, Band of Sisters, came about because I was researching Christmas customs in Picardy during World War I (for a different book) and stumbled on a memoir by a Smith alum, talking about throwing Christmas parties for French villagers in the Somme in 1917. I thought “what on earth is a group of Smithies doing on the front lines in World War I?” And that was that.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LW. I was six years old. As I saw it at the time, my choices were ballerina, princess, or novelist, but since I can’t dance to save my life and no-one was considerate enough to offer me a hereditary principality, I was really left with no other option but to focus on fiction. So I told my first grade classmates I was going to write books. And I did. I was rather disappointed when my first novel was rejected by Simon and Schuster when I was nine, but I stuck the manuscript in a drawer and kept on at it.

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

LW. A little from Column A… a little from Column B…. It’s the old chicken and egg question. For me, the two tend to be bound up together. The characters are shaped by the situation and the situation is formed by the characters. I write historical fiction, so there’s the added layer of characters being shaped by their times.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LW. I read recently about a state called “flow”, where there is nothing but you and the task. And that pretty much sums it up. On a good day, the world around me falls away and there’s nothing but me and the characters. I come to at some point to realize that hours have passed and my coffee’s all gone. Those are the best sort of writing days (aside from the whole disappearing coffee bit).

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

A. Right now I’m working on a prequel to my upcoming book, BAND OF SISTERS. (Release date in March; don’t miss my review of this fine book.) BAND OF SISTERS is about the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College alumnae who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers on the front lines. While I was writing it, I became fascinated by the charismatic and eccentric founder of the Unit, a ground breaking archeologist who periodically dropped everything—her career, her children—to bring aid in war zones. The real life founder of the Smith Unit had gotten herself tangled, right out of Smith, in both the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish American War and wound up being decorated by Queen Olga of Greece for her contributions war nursing. I wanted to know what she’d seen in Greece that made her plunge into the Spanish American War with the Red Cross—and what it was that turned her into a lifelong pacifist and humanitarian. I decided to go back and write her story, as a young woman just out of Smith, fighting to be allowed to excavate as an archaeologist with the boys and finding herself on the front lines of a war. That book doesn’t have a title yet (other than my working title, Smith II: The ReSmithening) but it’s slated to appear on shelves in spring of 2022, a year after BAND OF SISTERS.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Next week will feature the conclusion to this wonderful interview. Don’t Miss It!
Did you miss Part I?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Book Review ~~ Wild Horses on the Salt

2  out  of  5 quills   ~~   Book  Review reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

This is a good story set in the gorgeous, stark landscape of the central Arizona desert. Unfortunately it has some formatting issues that were a huge distraction for this reviewer. Every two and a half pages the author started a new chapter. The chapter placement interfered with the story flow. By the time I finished the book I had counted 111 chapters within 323 pages.  There didn’t seem to be any explanation for this, certainly not the two usual reasons for a new chapter; that is, the location of the story changed or the POV (point of view) had changed. Sagas that are well over 500 pages will only have 30-40 chapters. 

When Becca the heroine runs from her abusive husband out into the desert; the story is abruptly interrupted by a history lesson of the wild horse. Instead of focusing on Becca’s feelings of being hunted by her abusive husband, trapped with nowhere to go,   the diversion to the history of wild horses diluted, if not destroyed, the tension of her fleeing. 

Early in the story a driver, unfamiliar with the roads and driving too fast, collides with a wild horse horse crossing the highway. He loses control of his car and goes into a ditch. He hits a Saguaro cactus which falls on the car trapping the driver. The reader is never told what happens to the man and if and when he was ever rescued. The author continues the story thread of the wounded stallion but leaves the driver in his car with no resolution. It is very important that the writer pulls every thread and finishes any subplots. 

Another thread that was neglected was when the abusive husband suddenly turns up at the inn where Becca is hiding. How did he find her? Did he know she was there or was it an unbelievable coincidence? It’s never explained. 

 New chapters are usually begun when the pov (point of view), changes or the location in the story changes. A new chapter beginning every 2 and a 1/2 pages (as was the case with this book) was distracting and not supportive of the story flow. For example: Chapters 65-69 should have been one chapter.  Chapter 53-55  should have been one chapter. Chapters 90-95, again, should have been one chapter. The location nor the POV had changed and one chapter ended in the middle of a conversation. These are just a few examples of this misguided chapter placement. 

As I said, this was a good story concept but the frequent, (oh so frequent) chapter change badly interrupted the flow. And I am still  left wondering why the choice was made for two and a half page chapters?

How To Format a Novel
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Book Review ~~ I Jonathan by GWB Scott

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing   5 out of 5 quills    ~~  Book Review

A lovely, thoughtful writing about our civil war as seen through the eyes of the citizenry of Charleston, South Carolina. Scott artfully draws the rich opulent life of high society and then, in the blink of an eye, plunks the reader onto a mule driven cart sitting amongst slaves, freedmen, and blue collared working white men. Amidst fetes, balls, parties and parades the attack on Fort Sumter was a weak, half-hearted skirmish when  the South Carolina Militia artillery fired from shore on the Union garrison on April 12, 1861. It is generally taken as the beginning of the American Civil War even though Sumter fired on southern ships running the Union blockade months before.   The bombardment continued, off and on, all day, watched by many happy civilians.

One note Scott hit perfectly was that the people who befriended Jonathan (from Boston) and took him in, were traitors to what he considered his country (the North). How would he be able to reconcile this?  Yet, he lived most of his life in and around Charleston and all during the war years. 

This book is touted as fiction but the historical accuracy was breathtaking, with wonderful little tidbits from the deep dive this author did with his research. I think my favorite was the tale (and forgive me if I don’t get it exact) of a young man who was a fan of a popular and very talented pianist. Their friendship went on for years until the piano man joined the Confederate Army. As a farewell gift to his acolyte, he scribbled some numbers on a snippet of paper and pressed it into the young man’s hand. The song found its way from hand to hand until someone was able to make sense of the numbers on the page…and the rest is history.  It is what we now know as ‘Taps’, Played on military bases today and at military funerals.

I have one critique and that’s about the poor formatting. Writers!  Find your ‘Justify’ (margins) key and use it!  This will keep your right margin as crisp and clean as your left margin. This book had multi-syllable words that ended a line of text and hence defaulted to the next line of text. This left huge gaps in the right margin. The writer/editor should have taken the time to hyphenate these words rather than leave a ragged right margin.  The ‘Section’ page should have appeared on an odd numbered page (right side) and the chapter following should have been placed on the next odd numbered page. (Format a Novel

Readers do not need to be Civil War enthusiasts, or know much about it, to thoroughly enjoy this story. It is beautifully drawn with rich characters.  I highly recommend this book. 

Did you miss my Interview with George Scott?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ The Cowboy Who Saved Xmas

          3 out of 5 quills   ~~    Book Review reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Jodi Thomas contributed a short story to this collection of cowboys and Christmas.  With her fellow authors, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn, they have written three stories capturing the spirit of Christmas amidst ranch life. 

Father Goose by Jodi Thomas left this reviewer wanting more!  I was disappointed this wonderful story was not developed into a cozy length novel or a full novel. The story line could have supported either.  93 pages was just a tease but still conveyed Thomas’ unique style of writing and a taste of life on a ranch.  The children were well drawn and delightful. 

Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn contributed the other two short stories.  I wasn’t impressed. They seemed rushed and not developed. It was almost as if someone said to these two authors, ‘we’re publishing a trilogy of cowboys saving Christmas; your story needs to be 100 pages and your deadline is (date).  Oh, yes and your story needs to have kids in it.’  And that’s exactly what they provided.

I wished the whole book had been filled with pages from Father Goose

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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