Interview with author, Donna Everhart (conclusion)

 

DE.  I was going through chemo again in 2019. My hair had grown back in, [at least I had hair at the moment]. but I was about to lose it for a second time – and within two months of this photo, I had none.  I just got home from receiving a heavy dose of chemo at the hospital. 

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

DE. I’m always working on a new book, and my next novel, When the Jessamine Grows, releases January 23, 2024. It’s a different story from my others because I’ve stepped back further in time to the Civil War era. This is a morally complex story about the McBride family, subsistence farmers whose principles are brought to the foreground after their eldest son runs off to join the Confederacy after being influenced by his staunch Confederate grandfather. The father, Ennis, goes after his son, leaving his wife, Joetta, (my main character) to look after their younger son, and the farm. What follows is a harrowing time for her, and the rest of the family as she is bound to stand by their beliefs, and by doing so, becomes a pariah in the community.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DE. In 2008, when the company where I’d been working for twenty-five years went bankrupt. I’ve often wondered if they hadn’t, whether or not I would’ve started. It was the shove I guess I needed, because I’d thought I would retire from there. I’m so happy they folded. (haha)

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

DE. No – at least I hope not. (You do have wonder about all that paper, and the trees, and the pulp industry) But, I think this was already sort of proven when there was those few years when it seemed e-books might surpass sales of paper books. I haven’t looked it up lately to see if e-books are overtaking sales, but I think we’d hear it from the industry if that were to happen. Speaking from my own personal experience, paper book sales for my work is always higher than e-books.

Q. What makes a writer great?

DE. Speaking personally, what makes a writer great for me is when I look forward to getting back to the book, when they teach me something I didn’t know, or when they write about a concept, or topic that’s never been written about before. It’s when their way with words makes me re-read their sentences. Some writers hit all of these marks, some hit maybe one or two, but some aspect of these things, or all, are what I think make for a really brilliant writer.

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

DE. It looks . . . never-ending. It looks impossible. It looks like a fever dream. Chaotic. Messy. Dumb. I’m usually at a loss at the start. There are days/weeks of staring at nothing. Days/weeks of thinking, thinking, thinking. Trying to write, tossing it out, trying something else. It’s endless discussions with other writer friends. Eventually, a foundation, an inkling of THE idea comes. Then, it’s brick by brick through the first sentences, to the first paragraphs, and first pages. It’s getting through those 1,000 words a day goals. It’s self-editing, killing words, and birthing better ideas. Then comes the moment of angst when someone else reads it. Then the agent reads, and then the editor. There’s praying involved during the “others are reading it” phase. Lots of it. Then comes the polishing, (copy edits) honing, (first pass pages) and then, voila. Book!

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

A. I’m a Stage IV cancer survivor, and at one time, I was a single mother, and all along, I’ve been known to be stubborn (hard-headed???) so, this is something I draw on when writing my stories. I gravitate toward writing about characters with fortitude, and mental strength. Physical strength is important, too, but, writing about characters overcoming the odds because of their convictions – whatever those might be – is compelling. I love writing about people who were doing just fine until something comes along and knocks their world topsy-turvy, and now they have to figure out how to straighten it up. I’ve been there, we’ve all been there, and it’s rewarding to overcome obstacles.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

 

DE. Well. Downtime for me is getting away from my computer. I used to run, but since I can’t do that anymore due to all the radiation I’ve had, I like to walk

 (sometimes with weights) or go on a long bike ride. I also love to go to the movies, or watch a movie on TV, or a good series. We got caught up in Yellowstone, but then it started getting over the top. We gravitated toward the origin stories (1883 and 1923) and enjoyed those more. I love to go to the Blue Ridge mountains, and to sometimes take day trips – like I just took my grandkids to the zoo this past week.

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

DE. I did write this one book . . . that will likely never the see the light of day. It My agent said it was a “hard crime” novel.

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

DE. What you worry about at night is nothing in the morning.

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Interview with Author, Donna Everhart (part 2)

Donna & her grandkids

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

DE. You’re “looking” at a procrastinator. I’ll come to my desk every day and have a word goal in mind (usually 1,000 words) and oftentimes do everything but start working toward that goal. What follows is GUILT as time ticks by. By the end of the day, if I haven’t made the word count because of lost time on something unrelated to my writing goal, there’s the inevitable slump in mood. My best days are when I make a concerted effort to get the word count in. Even if I don’t, and get, say, 500 words, I’m happier for it because I know the effort was honestly made. It takes discipline to not get onto social media or think of the other million ways to avoid doing what needs to be done to accomplish the end result – i.e., a finished book. What I’ve found works best, write first; everything else comes after – even laundry.

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

DE.  Usually through an idea for a story. Sometimes a name comes to mind first, and I start to think about who this person would be, and what is it they want, what they’re good at, what they’re bad at, and if they have any enemies. It’s kind of all over the place. A messy, messy process.  

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Donna with hubby

DE. Reading stories that made a big impact on me were the main influence or motivator. The enjoyment I got from books where I wouldn’t stop reading for a long time, and when I finally took a break, I’d look around in a daze. I’d become so invested in that world, I think I was surprised I wasn’t “there,” instead of sitting on a couch in my living room. That kind of story made me want to create something similar. The idea of affecting a person’s mood, thought process, and emotions resonated for whatever reason.

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

DE. It’s actually been both. It’s never always this, or that. For example, in my debut, The Education of Dixie Dupree, it was the character of Dixie. In The Road to Bittersweet, it was the situation – the 1940 flood in western North Carolina. It just depends. When I begin to search for a story, I’m often lookin g for a situation, but out of nowhere, a name will come to mind – and then I’m thinking, who is this? (I have to have a name before I can develop a character)

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DE. Absolutely. When I’m really in that zone, hours can go by and I’ll sort of come out of it and realize, oh, wait. I haven’t eaten. I’m often shocked half the day is gone. It’s kind of scary sometimes!  

Donna with her granddaughter

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

Donna with daughter

DE. I love, love, love reading stories set in the South where I’m from, and so I guess it makes sense I’d want to write about my culture and the region I love. Aside from the classics out there for Southern literature, like Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, etc., it was reading the more contemporary writers like Kaye Gibbons (Ellen Foster) and Dorothy Allison, (Bastard Out Of Carolina) that jumpstarted my urge to pursue it. After I read their books and I was on the hunt for more stories like theirs. This was around 1987, or so, and as I began to discover these Southern stories which really resonated with me, I knew if I ever wrote anything, it would be something like this.

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Author, Donna Everhart ~ Interview

Donna Everhart is a USA Today bestselling author known for vividly evoking the complexities of the heart and a gritty fascination of the American South in her acclaimed novels. She received the prestigious SELA Outstanding Southeastern Author Award from the Southeastern Library Association, among many others.  Born and raised in Raleigh, she has stayed close to her hometown for much of her life and now lives just an hour away in Dunn, North Carolina.  

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

DE. I have an office upstairs that’s pretty secluded, which I love. It’s actually the same office I used when I was working way back when in the corporate world. Since I left that occupation in 2012 to write full-time, the one big thing I’ve changed is adding bookshelves. Lots of them! These shelves hold my inspiration and of course, my entertainment. The books in the pictures were placed right after the bookcases were built when I was still organizing, and boy, that was a lesson learned. I must’ve moved my stacks at least three times until I finally settled on read non-fiction/craft books to be read and my own work.

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

DE. We’re all so uniquely different with how we approach writing, so, I suppose you could say we all have quirks. I don’t necessarily need a completely pristine

 workspace, but I don’t want it so messy it’s distracting. I like medium point pens, although I don’t (and never will) work in long hand. The pens are for taking notes when I have an idea I don’t want to forget. And, usually, around 4:00 p.m., I often need a break, and I’m prone to have some caffeine so I can catch a second wind. It’s usually coffee, but if it’s really hot, (I’m in NC – it gets pretty hot!) I’ll opt for slightly sweet iced tea with a squeeze of lemon.

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

DE. I found a body on the beach once. It was a young man in his early 30s who was pulled out by an undertow. It was right after 9/11 and eventually I found out he was fasting, and praying, and on that particular day, the day he was due to go back home to West Virginia, he went out for a swim and, sadly, drowned. I found out all of this through his mother who contacted me later. She was able to find my address from her other son who was a state trooper, and had access to information. She wrote to thank me for holding his hand until help came. Even though he was gone, I felt compelled to do that. It was kind of scary because his eyes were still open, and I SWEAR he could see me, but given other things going on with him physically, it was apparent he’d passed on. It was really tragic and sad.

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

DE. I go right to the keyboard. My writing is too messy, (note the remark about long hand above) and I think too fast (sometimes) to be able to write anything legible. I even have trouble with my grocery list and deciphering what the heck I wrote on it.

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names. 

DE. I don’t have any pets at the moment. I used to have Yorkies. First, we had “the girls,” Bella and Kiwi. We tragically lost them in the summer of 2012, within three weeks of each other due to that whole fiasco with jerky treats. (If anyone is wondering what I’m talking about, just Google dog jerky treats made in China and FDA.) About 4 months later, in December of 2012 we got another little Yorkie we adopted who was 3 years old. His name was Snickers, but we renamed him Mister. (close in sound) He was a mess, really quirky, was NOT food driven – at all. He had some health issues like IBD, and chronic pancreatitis. We also tragically lost him in the summer of 2021. I took him to get his teeth cleaned and he suffered a catastrophic event. It’s a long story, but it tore my heart to pieces. Right now, we don’t have any pups, but I keep going out to sites to poke around and look. I know one day we’ll have some again. I’m thinking of adopting a bonded pair, if I can. I think that would be perfect.

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
If yes, tell us about it.

DE. The only other form of writing I’ve done is a very short form of flash fiction. I used to write these one-hundred-word stories where five prompt words were

Coming Soon!

provided and the goal was to write a complete story (beginning, middle, end) in 100 words. I’m so consumed now with writing to contract that I’ve not done this in years, but it was fun, and actually really challenging – more so than you’d think.

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

DE. You’re “looking” at a procrastinator.

Don’t miss part 2 of this entertaining interview with Donna next week. 

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Interview with author, Laila Ibrahim part #2

Q. What first inspired you to write? (con’t.)

LI. …… I thought to myself, of course, he does. She was his primary attachment figure. Our self-identity if formed by those early attachments. And in a flash, I thought of Lisbeth in Mattie’s arms. I wondered what it would be like for her to love this woman like a mother and then be expected to reject Mattie’s humanity to take her place in society. Then I wondered what it would be like for Mattie to have to leave her child to care for another baby. Finally, I wondered about Anne. I thought Anne would be a bigger presence when I started the novel.

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

LI. The characters.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LI. Absolutely. Sometimes I feel like I am dreaming out loud as a write. I feel and see a scene and then my job is to describe it.

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

Playing in the snow

LI. I feel like I was given the story of these women and I’m just going from there. Part of what I am working on is understanding how we got to this moment in time, given the history of our nation and world. I think about the caste system baked into the constitution of the United States that gave wealthy, white, Christian able-bodied straight men the most rights—and yet the  founders wrote a document that would one day include me as a citizen. I’m grateful to all the people who came before me who worked so that I could have the rights that I do. I don’t take my freedom for granted in any way.

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

LI. Cherry Blossoms in set in Oakland and Berkley between 1941 and 1946. Kay Lynn is a young woman with two children whose life is torn apart by World War 2. It is expected to be released in May 2023.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Wedding Party



LI. For my 40th birthday I challenged myself to start writing Yellow Crocus after the story had haunted me for 7 years. Five years later I self published it. It got picked up by Lake Union of Amazon Publishing in 2014 and I haven’t looked back. I’ve published five books since then with the sixth expected out in May 2023,

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

LI. Not in my lifetime—too many people my age love to turn actual pages. Maybe in my children’s life time. Or my grandchildren’s.

Q. What makes a writer great?

LI. I don’t know that I am qualified to answer this in a general way. I know many people for whom the language or poetry of writing is what makes you a great writer. I like writing that makes me feel something and learn more about the human condition. For that reason I like writers who are both honest and vulnerable.

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

LI. I start with knowing my main character(s) and a general time frame. Then I read the newspapers from that time until I find historical

events which give me momentum for a plot. I meditate on the characters, family members and the society and an outline starts to fall into place. I do a solid outline and from there I write. Ideally I have a contract for a book or two from the outline. I notice that most of the time I stick to the outline for the first ⅔ and return to it for the ending. But towards the ending it changes depending on what I’ve actually written. My first drafts are more like a screen play than a book. It’s lots of dialogue. For later drafts I layer in setting and reflection.

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

LI. My values and education show up in my stories. I’m called to write about the details of mothering in difficult situations.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

LI. I love my evenings when I watch tv with my wife. Hazel goes between us on the couches and I work on a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a very relaxing way to end my day. I enjoy gardening and walking with friends in the afternoons. We attend the Unitarian Church on most Sundays.

Peru

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

LI. Picture books are compelling to me. I was a preschool teacher/early childhood educator for decades. I thought of several stories then and sometimes I wonder about getting them onto the page.

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

LI. Not only is it okay to make mistakes, it is an important part of learning and being a conscious being. I want to grow and learn throughout my life. I often circle back to reflect on earlier parts of my life to think about them with my current understanding.

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Much Anticipated Interview with Laila Ibrahim

Luca is the Frenchie. The mini Aussie is named Hazel

Laila Ibrahim grew up in Whittier California. She has lived in Oakland and Berkeley for 40 years, when she moved there to go to Mills College where she studied Human Development and attachment theory. Since 1993 Laila and her wife have lived in a small co-housing community with two other families. Her adult children are a great joy, as is her dog, a toy Australian Shepherd named Hazel. She is beyond excited to welcome her first grandchild in July.

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

LI. Since my last child moved out I have had a room of my own to write it. I LOVE it. It’s in the back of the house with a view of a beautiful redwood tree. Before that I worked at the dining room table when my kids were at school or a small desk sandwiched in the living room.

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

LI. I don’t get dressed before I write. I usually make myself a cup of rooibos chai tea. I generally write for 45 minutes to an hour. Take a break. And then do it again. I can’t usually write for more than 3 hours in a day.

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

LI. I often write my very drafty, first drafts in bed, in a half dream state.

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

LI. I write on a lap top, though I have used a full size external keyboard at times.

Wedding Party

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names. 

LI. My toy Aussie, Hazel Nut Ibrahim-Bartley, often sits by my desk as I write. She’s 18 months olold and we LOVE her. She enjoys laying on our legs, playing fetch and running in big wide circle on grass.

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
If yes, tell us about it.

LI. I enjoy making visual art, but not other forms of writing, so far. Though when COVID first struck I wrote a poem for the first (and so far only) time.

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

LI. Create routines that work for you, and know why you are writing in the first place. I find if I’m sitting at my keyboard and nothing is coming out then I’m not working on the right story for me.

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

LI. With the Yellow Crocus series, I am continuing with the descendants of the characters in the first book. With the other two, Living Right and Paper Wife, it was a mystery. In many ways all my characters are parts of who I am, or who I wish I aspire be.

Rome

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LI. I was very surprised when I got the call to write a story. In 1998 I had a flash that conceived Yellow Crocus. Before that flash, I had no desire to write fiction. I was with a group of people talking about Tiger Woods. Someone mentioned the fact that he identifies as Asian as much as African American….

Join us for part two of this interview with this wonderful writer on June 16th
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Interview with Victoria Costello (conclusion)

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up?

VC. My new book comes out on June 13, 2023, and I couldn’t be more excited to bring it to readers. As mentioned, it evolved from the true story of my tragedy-plagued Irish American family I told in A Lethal Inheritance, but with me giving myself permission to ask, What if? What if the youngest family members dared to confront and reverse this legacy of violence and madness? The result is Orchid Child, a mix of history and fantasy inspired by Celtic folklore, along with science, and bits of mystery and romance. It’s a story told in three voices, one per generation, over a century.
Teague is the novel’s orchid child, who hears voices and talks to trees, but rarely people. Bullied back home in New York, he finds validation when his Aunt Kate takes him to West Ireland, where neo-Druids identify his strange perceptions as the gift of second sight, putting Teague at odds with Kate who sees his mental differences as a medical problem to be fixed.

Kate is the family success story, whose rising star in neuroscience has crashed in a sex scandal. She vows to salvage her career by taking on a study on the epigenetics of family mental illness in a rural Irish county. Only to discover she’s unknowingly come to her ancestral homeland, meaning she’s studying her own genes. As Kate’s research is blocked by hostile locals, Teague drifts further into his pagan fellowship, pushing Kate to confront the limits of science and the power of ancestral ties. Ellen is the apothecary’s daughter who will become Kate’s grandmother. Forced to flee Ireland for New York City after her beloved, also a holder of second sight, is accused of betrayal in the 1920 Irish Rebellion, Ellen lives to her eighties as the matriarch who struggles with the burden she’s accepted to keep the gift alive—until the family wound, past and present, can be healed.
I’m feeling gratified by the early positive reviews, the feeling that the story you’ve slaved over for ten years, is touching people, making them think and have hope when times are tough.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

VC. A weird thing about me is that even as a kid, when I kept a diary, or scribbled poems, I always took my writing seriously. It probably has to do with the fact that I’m a Scorpio and writing has always been my secret life. And that’s probably why it took until this year, when I’ve just turned seventy, to share my most secret story with actual readers around the world.

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

VC. I, for one, love paper books, especially hard cover, fine paper books, but I read e-books and listen to audiobooks more often

for practical reasons. I imagine I’m typical that way. So until we run out of trees, that will probably stay the norm.

Q. What makes a writer great?

VC. Oooh, hard one. Maybe the courage to bare their soul, regardless of what anyone thinks or says. The ability to find the right, and the fewest, words to express the ineffable.

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

VC. It all comes down to perseverance. Orchid Child took ten years from beginning to end. You have to want it more than anything else in your life during that time of writing, revising, querying, and promoting. There may not be room in your life while you have young kids to raise. That’s why I think a lot of women publish later. But I believe our books are richer for it.

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

VC. It’s all there in my writing.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

Top of Mt. Victoria

VC. Walks with friends in our wonderful downtown Ashland, Lithia Park. Hikes in the hills. Cat play. I really don’t have what you would call hobbies. I eat but I’m not a cook. I read and watch endless Scandinavian and British mysteries, from Shetland to Inspector Morse, I find are the perfect diversion when my mental energies need a rest.

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

VC. Being new to fiction, I’ll stick with it for the time being as my main creative output. I’ve also been writing essays on craft and theory of fiction and especially autofiction.

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

VC. I’m good enough. Pretty enough. Smart enough. Why, oh why, did I, like most women, take so long to learn this? Being enough is wonderful. Try it!

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A chat with author, Victoria Costello (part 2)

Edith Wharton’s estate.

VC….While working on my memoir, I did a ton of freelance writing, mostly science and psychology for outlets like Scientific American MIND, the kind of writing where facts and evidence reign supreme. I plan to stick with fiction from here on out. Just last year, I started teaching writing and I find that I love it. I’ve now taught both in person and online, through Southern Oregon University, and this Spring, for WritingWorkshops.com. The course I’m teaching now is called When Memoir Becomes Autofiction and it’s for memoirists who, like me, want to fictionalize their life stories to one degree or another. I’m having a blast and I’m sure it’s making me a better writer.

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

VC. I know many smart people say you should just sit down and do it, free write whatever comes into your head. Others listen to music or read poetry. For me taking a walk is the best thing for getting past a major block, or that blah, I have nothing worthwhile to say feeling.

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



VC. I usually begin with a feeling and then connect it with a character and a situation, in that order. For Orchid Child that feeling was one of disconnection, of not belonging anywhere, something I felt which I gave to Kate, along with her Daddy issues.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

VC. I think it was my early conviction that I was a weird kid, so I better tell no one what I was really thinking. It was safer to write things down.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

VC.   Aside from the moment when I laid eyes on my first-born son, getting lost in writing has been the best feeling I’ve ever had. I think it’s the same for artists working in any medium, and for athletes, too, although I wouldn’t know about that. As a writer, losing time and space while getting lost in my stories is everything. The euphoric feeling that carries you along, the words and sentences that seem to come out of nowhere, or from someone long ago. Not that this happens all the time. or even a lot. But when it does, it’s the payoff for suffering through all the drudgery of blank screens, and mornings when you have zero inspiration, not to mention the feelings of insecurity that are part and parcel of the writing life. That said, this high can conflict with other parts of life, like mothering and partnering, so it becomes a challenge to set boundaries, both for yourself and others.

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

VC.  I, and, maybe, most writers, tend to circle around the same themes no matter what we’re writing. For example, there’s a scene in Orchid Child that first appeared in my memoir, A Lethal Inheritance. It’s a traumatic childhood memory I’ve carried forever about finding my father passed out in our flooding basement. In the memoir I told it in the voice of my seven-year-old self as best as I could recall. In the novel, this same memory is shared by my protagonist Kate, a brilliant neuroscientist with serious Daddy issues. As Orchid Child opens, Kate has lost her job in the wake of an affair with her married lab director. Later, Kate tells her drunken dad story to Ryan, a work colleague and her soon to be love interest, who responds empathetically. Indeed, Ryan’s availability for relationship tests Kate’s predilection for doomed affairs. Like all unrecovered sex and love addicts with Daddy issues, Kate—like me for much of my adult life—resists a healthy relationship with an available man.

Suffice to say, I’ve struggled with this issue in therapy for decades but, oddly. it was only after I went to the bottom of it in fiction that I finally felt done. So, for me writing this novel has had a profoundly healing effect. I’m also gratified when I hear from readers who email to say that reading Kate’s story has helped them process their own issues. It’s also a lot of fun to make up stuff after spending decades adhering to the facts.

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names.

A. Now that I’m living on my own, I relish the company of my two, four-year-old Maine Coon sisters. Venus is the wary, mischievous one, while Queen Luna is the epitome of sweetness and calm who believes I exist solely to meet her needs.

Join us next week for the conclusion. Did you miss Part 1?
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To receive my weekly posts, sign up for my  On the home page, enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  March-Apr:   Joshua Hood, author of ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE TREADSTONE RENDITION  April: Author, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard, May: Victoria Costello. 
 June: Laila Ibrahim

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK 

Interview with author, Victoria Costello

Victoria was the kind of kid who would sit high on a tree branch for hours at a time, lost in thought. Unsurprisingly, she became a writer, beginning with reams of poems never seen by a living soul. She “also thought it would be cool to be read.” In high school, she started an underground newspaper which caused a sensation and got her suspended.
As an undergraduate, she studied journalism at American University in Washington, DC, where her career started in TV news and documentary. After raising two sons and working as a freelance TV writer/producer in LA and  San Francisco, she returned to college for my MFA in writing from Mills in Oakland. She wrote what became her memoir on nights and weekends.  A Lethal Inheritance was published by Prometheus Books in 2012. 

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

VC. My current writing space is a cozy loft, big enough for my desk and a small bookshelf. But it gives me a gorgeous view of Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, at least my chunk of it, from the north hills of Ashland, across the I-5, to Grizzly Point.

Loft with view of Grizzly Point

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

VC. After feeding the cats and drinking two cups of coffee, but before I start writing, I try to spend twenty minutes meditating at the ancestral altar I’ve erected in the attic.

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

VC. My brand of spirituality is a bit unusual in that I’m a high church Episcopalian and a pagan. The progressive Episcopal congregation I attend in Ashland, Oregon offers both traditional and Celtic Christian worship and gives me an avenue for doing community service. Then twice a month, I attend a Crone Soul Circle, an online gathering of wise women at the Sacred Wellness Grove, who meet my need for non-patriarchal, Goddess-centered earth worship and visionary feminist thought on issues of our day.

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

Coming June 13th

VC. I’m a keyboard kind of girl for actual writing, starting with my first draft. In the research and thinking stages, I gather piles of books and source materials on which I exhaust numerous yellow highlighters while filling spiral notebooks. I can’t even imagine writing, let alone the endless rewriting I do, without a computer. I have nothing but awe for authors who came before us and toiled by pen and paper alone or even a typewriter. White-Out is a nightmare I’d just as soon forget.

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)? If yes, tell us about it.

VC. Early on in my career, I made several documentary films and videos on social and political issues like abortion, nuclear power, and climate change. At a certain point, I got tired of shlepping around the world with crews and heavy equipment and I was happy to return to the solitary writing life. I also had two sons I had to raise, primarily as a single mom.

See Part 2 next week.
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To receive my weekly posts, sign up for my  On the home page, enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  March-Apr:   Joshua Hood, author of ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE TREADSTONE RENDITION  April: Author, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard, May: Victoria Costello. 
 June: Laila Ibrahim

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK 

 

 

 

 

H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard tells us more…Interview (part 2)

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

HWB. Little elves are not going to come in the dark of night and write your book for you. So: BUTT IN CHAIR, FINGERS ON KEYBOARD.

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

HWB. I don’t have a magic formula for that. Since I write historical fiction, some of the characters I run with are real. Many others that I create and plop into historical situations are an amalgam of traits and backgrounds drawn from friends, family, and coworkers I’ve known over the years . . . many years. And a few are just flat out made up.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

HWB. I’m not sure. I always enjoyed reading. Then in high school I discovered I could write pretty well, too, and received some recognition for that. I was also sports editor for the high school newspaper. At the University of Washington, even though I was a physical science major, I took some courses in creative writing and managed to hold my own.

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

HWB. Usually the situation, although I often develop the characters in tandem with the plot. In the end, it’s the characters that carry a story. If you don’t have 3D, believable people in your tale, nobody’s going to care about it.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

HWB. Not really. But I hate to leave a scene unfinished, so I’ll keep plowing through one until it’s complete, or until I find a logical break in it. It’s then I may discover it’s 4:30 in the afternoon, not 3 p.m. like I thought.

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

HWB. The history of WWII is packed with stunning tales that totally fascinate me. They are stories filled with facts and statistics, and strategies and timelines. But I want to bring these things alive. I want readers to realize that real people, just like them or their friends, lived these dramas. I want folks to pick up my novels and not just read about history, but experience it, live it. I want them to sit beside a pilot on a bombing raid, to experience the mind-numbing shock of discovering a Nazi death camp, to become lost in a Burmese jungle crawling with enemy troops, native headhunters, and blood-sucking leeches. I want my readers to keep turning the pages in my books long after they should have turned off the lights and fallen asleep. Or I want them to tear up because a character they were rooting for didn’t make it . . . or had something surprisingly good happen when all seemed lost.

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

Book signing

HWB. DOWN A DARK ROAD will be released May 9th. It’s a “gut punch of a novel” based on the WWII exploits of a prominent Oregonian, Jim Thayer. You’re side-by-side with Jim when, as a young infantry lieutenant, he and his platoon stumble into the very heart of darkness near the end of the war. The scenes are chilling and unforgettable, and Jim refused to discuss what he had witnessed for decades after. When he finally did, my wife—who had worked for Jim when she was a young girl—was one of the people he talked to. After that, she kept a scrapbook of write-ups about Jim. She showed it to me after our recent marriage (and after Jim’s passing) and insisted there was a great story there. I was reluctant to agree initially, but after further research and getting support from Jim’s family, I saw the light, and DOWN A DARK ROAD was born.

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

HWB. Always have a Plan B, and maybe a C and a D. You’ll need them.

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To receive my weekly posts, sign up for my  On the home page, enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  March-Apr:   Joshua Hood, author of ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE TREADSTONE RENDITION  April: Author, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard May: Victoria Costello.

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK 

 

Interview with H.W. “Buzz” Bernard, author of Down a Dark Road

TS. “Buzz” Bernard is a best-selling, award-winning novelist. His debut novel, EYEWALL, which one reviewer called a “perfect summer beach read,” was published in May 2011 and went on to become a number-one bestseller in Amazon’s Kindle Store. In 2020, Buzz switched from writing suspense/thriller novels to WWII historical fiction. 
Buzz’s fourth WWII historical fiction novel, DOWN A DARK ROAD, is scheduled to be released on May 9th.
Before becoming a novelist, Buzz worked at The Weather Channel as a senior meteorologist for thirteen years. Prior to that, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force for over three decades. He attained the rank of colonel and received, among other awards, the Legion of Merit. Although a native Oregonian, Buzz lived for 35 years in Atlanta, and now resides in Kennewick, Washington, with his wife Barbara and their fuzzy Shih Tzu, Stormy . . . who doesn’t live up to his name.

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

Stormy in Buzz’s studio

HWB. I have a writer’s studio that is separate from the main house. It was built just over a year ago. It’s rather large since it has to accommodate books, photos, plaques, and general “stuff” that I’ve accumulated in over 60 odd years of work.

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

HWB. Not really. But I do need a cup of coffee every morning to get my heart started.

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

HWB. Although I began writing short stories when I was in high school, I didn’t become serious about writing novels until I was 60 years old. My first novel, EYEWALL, was published when I was 70. So you can do the back-of-the-envelope math and figure out I’m continuing to write well into geezerhood.

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

HWB. I typically go right to my keyboard, although I’ll occasionally scratch notes on a writing pad if I’m doing research on the run. I love writing on a computer because I can edit as I go—trying this word or that, and experimenting with sentences of different lengths.

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names. 

HWB. I have a 12-year-old Shih-Tzu named Stormy (who is actually pretty docile). He demands that he accompany me to the studio every morning. Not that he wants to be with “Daddy,” but because he knows he’s going to get a cookie from my stash in the studio.

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
If yes, tell us about it.

HWB. Not really. But I started my writing avocation by selling articles to magazines and Sunday supplements (remember those?) of newspapers. I wrote five nonfiction (trade) books back in the Middle Ages, but decided that was too much work for too little monetary return. (This, you see, was waaay back when “cut and paste” meant you literally had to cut and paste . . . because you were writing on something called a typewriter.) I gave up writing for awhile after the nonfiction books, but missed it. That’s when I decided to try my hand at creating a novel. How hard can that be? I thought. Pretty damn hard, it turned out. But in the end, it turned out to be a whole lot more fun than anything else, at least for me.

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

Part Two will post next week. Don’t miss it!
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To receive my weekly posts, sign up for my  On the home page, enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  March-Apr:   Joshua Hood, author of ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE TREADSTONE RENDITION  April: Author, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard May: Victoria Costello.

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK