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New Fiction for Women: Mini Book Reviews

         I am always on the prowl for new authors (to me) to read, review and interview. If I’m lucky I find them to my taste for my pleasure reading too. An added bonus! These mini-reviews are books I wanted to share with my readers and unsolicited by the authors.

Christmas at the Beach Hotel by Jenny Colgan          reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing 4 out of 5 quills

A wacky little story set in a wacky little village on a remote rock (really) jutting out of the north Atlantic sea. The sentence structure, the run-on sentences and the odd flavor and cadence of the language made this writer/reader wonder if English was the author’s first language.  Rather than distract from the story, it turned out (at least for me) to add charm and credence to the unlikely characters living, willingly, on the harsh and unwelcoming island that is Mure.
It took a couple chapters in to fully believe in said characters and stop wondering why anyone in their right minds would live there. I recommend this book and look forward to the next one I shall be opening soon.

Seabreeze Inn by Jan Moran   reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing   
                                                                   4 out of 5 quills

I’ve been reading Jan Moran for awhile now. Very enjoyable contemporary stories set along the coast of southern California.

Seabreeze Inn is a series set in what was an old private home, now, out of necessity, turned into a charming Inn by a reluctant widow. Her husband, recently deceased, had neglected to tell her about his acquisition. She is quite surprised to find herself the sudden owner of an old house, with back taxes past due, broke on top of everything else. Its beautiful location on the beach and steps from the sand inspires her to convert the house into an inn. Throughout the series the old house gives up its secrets and becomes another vibrant character in the story line. 

The characters are well drawn and very plausible. The reader will be  happy to know that there are more challenges, conflict, surprises and love interests in the following books. 

    reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing        5 out of 5 quills 
                                    Married To The Rogue  by Mary Lancaster

This Regency romance is a perfect mix of good writing.  A fun, interesting story, several love stories woven in, and a hint of sex. Written in the style of Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh, the raciest romance scenes go no further than the kissing of fingers, the inside of a lady’s wrist, one or two passionate kisses….and the rest is left to the imagination of the reader.  This is my favorite approach to sex scenes in this genre. When an author is blatant, for no apparent reason, I find it is frequently to compensate for weak writing. A Literary Commentary

Married To The Rogue is strongly written. Deborah is a self assured young debutante who finds herself painted into a corner of scandal where there appears to be no escape.  Christopher is a young peer who has political ideas far ahead of his time and has an urgent need for a wife. 
Having just discovered Mary Lancaster, I look forward to reading more of her books. (Hurry up, Amazon!) 
I highly recommend this book to my readers.

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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Book Review ~~ The Daydream Cabin

4  out  of  5 quills                             Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Light, funny with a twisty, ‘feel good’ ending. Piney Wood Academy sounds like a well-heeled, private school for boys or girls whose parents can afford it. Wrong. It is a well-heeled, private boot camp for juvenile delinquents whose parents can afford it. And it’s a last stop  before serving serious time in ‘juvie’. The girls who are sent there are incorrigible and are not going to go quietly. 

The Daydream Cabin teaches the readers what boot camp is really like. This reviewer enjoyed learning something new. The writing is good, as we have come to expect from author, Carolyn Brown. The characters are well drawn and empathetic. I recommend this book to my readers. 

Did you miss my Interview with Carolyn Brown?



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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How to Write A Stage Play: Exercise

In this exercise, featured in my Journal, “How To Write a Play’, I have started a play for you to continue writing. It can be a 10
minute play, a full one act play, or a full length play. I have left the story plot ‘threads’ dangling in order for you to choose where the plot goes.
Tip: If you choose to write a longer play you might want to consider writing something in front of these few lines to get more ‘back story’.
Remember the best plays begin, early on, with some tension. 


                                                                    Scene 1  ©

At Rise: A hallway in a high school.

              (JASON and ROBIN stand next to some lockers away from the flow of students
              hurrying to their classes.)

                                                                    ROBIN (Hissing.)

You better not hurt my friend.


What are you talking about?


I know your rep….luv ‘em and leave ‘em.


Naw. Not me.


Yes, you. Just be careful.  Do not start dating Sara, coming on strong like she’s the only girl in the world. Then dumping her.


I wouldn’t.


You would. I’m just sayin’, if you plan on doing something like that, you’ll have to go through me to get to Sara.  

                                                                JASON  (Smirked.)

What if I’m planning on going through Sara to get to you?


What? You’re crazy.


That doesn’t answer my question.


You don’t even like me. 

(Now try continue writing this play. Make your own choices about where it goes and who does what.)
Want to read more about Playwriting?

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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Interview with author, Ella Quinn (part 2)

TS.  Expat and author now living in Germany, Ella Quinn is one of my favorite authors. Good solid stories, with plenty of story plot twists, and wonderful protagonists.  I love escaping with a Quinn historic (Regency) romance. After reading (in our interview) she cruised the Caribbean and North America, she then completed a transatlantic crossing from St. Martin to Southern Europe (Lagos, Portugal) aboard her beloved, Silver Penny (Yikes!)..well…my admiration knows no bounds. I’m an old ex-sailor and the thought of crossing the Atlantic in a sailboat terrifies the hair right off my head!  Taking a knockdown, while under spinnaker was enough terror to last me forever.

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

The cockpit of Ella’s catamaran, the Silver Penny (where she writes)

EQ. My characters discover me! It started with my first book. I’ve followed my characters ever since. They literally come up and introduce themselves to me.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

EQ. I should say that I never in my life expected to write fiction. But I was 58, tired of practicing law, and looking for something else to do. Suddenly, I had a video playing in my head about an angry Regency lady, and I had to write it down. One month later I had a finished book, The Seduction of Lady Phoebe, and had to figure out what to do with it.

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

EQ. Definitely the characters.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Ella with her hound, Lillibet

EQ. I do. There are times that I can write for hours and never get up.

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

EQ. I’m starting a new Trevor novella for a multi-author box-set that will release next summer. My Trevor series is about a horrible old duke who wants to control the lives of his children. This mainly consists of arranging matches that are good for the dukedom, but not for them. So, all the books are about his kids finding their love and their own spouses with help from friends and other family members.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

EQ.  When I first started to write. I’m very goal oriented. When I finished my first book, I knew I wanted to be traditionally published. I was very fortunate. Eight months after I started writing I had an excellent agent, and eight months after that I got my first contract. A friend who had been in publishing for years told me it would take 5 years to get published. I decided I didn’t have that amount of time. Fortunately, the month before my 60th birthday my first book released.

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

EQ. I don’t think so. Young people like paper books. If nothing else does, that will save the industry. On the other hand, most of my readers read in paper. It sometimes depends on the genre.

Q. What makes a writer great?

EQ. The ability to tell a compelling story that readers love.

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

Ella and hubby at TransAtlantic Yachting awards

EQ. It depends on the book. I’ve had books that I can write straight through from beginning to end, and books that I’ve skipped around writing scenes. For me it depends on how cooperative my characters are being. Twice I’ve had books where I’ve had to write the end before my heroine would tell me her story. She had to know she’d get a happy ending.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

EQ. I’ve done a lot of things in my life. Most of which dealt with people. Men read my books because they say I nail male POV (point of view). That’s probably because I was the first woman assigned to an Army Special Forces battalion, and I’ve been around Alpha males all my adult life. My husband is retired SF. I practiced family law for 20 years. That gave me a lot of insight into the problems people have. I’m a mom. I don’t think anything more needs to be said about that. I’ve traveled most of my life so I easily understand different cultures, which is what the Regency is. And I’m a researcher.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

EQ. I read a lot, but I’m not a restful person. I bike and walk. I like to travel and see new things or visit places I love. During the winter I spend about 4 weeks skiing. In summer I’m on the boat when I can be. I also paddleboard.

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

Winnie, helping with the writing

EQ. No. I’m happy writing Regencies. Although, at some point, I’ll have to write early Victorian.

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

EQ. Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s important to be able to take risks. 


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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Interview with Author, Mike Maden, writing for Tom Clancy (Part 2)

Mike Maden

Q. what it is like to be a co-author on this hit franchise?

MM. I’m certain that Tom Colgan got the wrong phone number and accidentally called the wrong guy when he offered me the chance to be

Tom Clancy

an author in the Tom Clancy franchise. (To the other Mike Maden out there: sorry about that. Okay, not really.) It is such an honor and privilege to write in this world and to hang out with the iconic characters that he created. I care deeply that I get the characters right and to do the research to the best of my ability. It is a tremendous responsibility to carry on the Clancy legacy but it is also a heck of a lot of fun. It’s also crazy weird to see my name beneath Tom Clancy’s. My only regret in writing for the franchise is that I never got to meet Tom who sadly passed away in 2013.

Q. Did you write some of the teleplays or contribute as a consultant?

MM. Having written screenplays in the past, I would dearly love to contribute to the Jack Ryan TV franchise put out by Amazon Prime. Sadly for me, the creators of that show don’t need my help. They’ve re-imagined Jack Ryan senior as a young man operating in today’s world rather than in the 1980s when he was first created by Tom Clancy. Judging by the huge fan base they have (including me) I’d say they have their hands firmly on the tiller. And in a way, I have the best of all worlds. Because the TV series features a young John Krasinski, readers think the series is about Jack Ryan Jr. (which is my bailiwick) so I’m getting all kinds of credit that I don’t deserve—and at the same time, I get to watch a really great TV series without having to do any of the hard, hard work that those folks have to do to create a smash hit.

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

MM. Every time one of my novels appears on the shelf it seems like an impossible gift. Why in the world is my name on the cover? How did that happen? How have I managed to win the lottery eight times in a row? I am one blessed dude. Speaking of blessed, I also have a secret weapon at my disposal. My amazing wife is always my first reader but she goes the extra mile and also reads the entire manuscript to me out loud before I send in the first draft to the editor. All one hundred thousand words. (She is a saint.) Sometimes a sentence reads fine on the page in your mind but when read aloud it punishes the ear like nails on a chalkboard—syntax, cadence, word choice all have a different resonance when heard as opposed to read. And the typos? Those last, lurking, invisible wee beasties that are the bane of every writer? She manages to scare them out from under the covers by the sound of her parched and rasping voice. (Okay, not all of them. But a lot of them. Thank heavens for professional editors who wrangle the rest of them.) Here’s my pro tip for the day: audiobook sales are becoming a huge percentage of total book sales. By doing an “audio” edit, I’m creating prose that will read and sound better for amazing audio talents like Scott Brick (www.scottbrick.net) who has read all of my Clancy stuff.

Research is very, very important. Of course, no one was better at research than Tom Clancy and his fans expect it of me as well. A lot of my internet research focuses on weapons and technology. But I prefer spending time in the countries featured in my novels in order to provide context for the characters and story. It’s also a way to show respect for the people and cultures I write about. Fortunately, I travel with a beautiful and amazing research assistant who happens to be my wife. Here Angela is in Spain helping me thoroughly research a plate of freshly sautéed pimientos de padrón for FIRING POINT.

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

MM. My favorite tool is my giant white board—which is actually a 4’ x 8’ piece of white panel board I bought at Home Depot for about $15 . I use a lot of “mind mapping” to brainstorm my way through each story problem—or just dream. I do all of my writing on my laptop (MacBook Air) and I break the first draft completely on Scrivener which is the best word processing program in the world to do it—and it’s very inexpensive.  The subsequent drafts that the publisher and I trade back and forth are on Word because that is their software of choice. My 4’ x 8’ white board (newly installed, soon to be marked up with my next story):

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

Hiking the Julian Alps

MM. I have a strict word count I hold to slavishly seven days a week. If I meet my word count early, I stop and do something fun as a reward. But I will work as many hours as it takes to hit my number even if that means I don’t go to bed. At the end of the day, I can’t hand in my calendar to my publisher and show them how many days I worked. My contract specifies that I must turn in 100k words of polished prose so my focus is on words and not hours worked. Neither publishers nor readers care how hard you work. They only care about what you write.

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

Did you miss Part I of this Interview?

For the answer come back on June 26th for the conclusion of this wonderful Interview.

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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Interview with South African Author, Dan Sofer

TS. Born and raised in South Africa, Dan moved to Israel in 2001. Most of his novels to date take place in Jerusalem, where he lived for seven years. Dan now lives near Tel Aviv with his wife and two daughters. “Currently, we’re all isolated in our apartment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Wish us luck!”

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.

DS. The short answer: wherever and whenever possible. I write at my laptop either in our computer room (otherwise known as our “mess” room) or at the dining room table. I’ve been known to jot down story ideas on my phone too. One day I hope to graduate to a coffee shop with good Wi-Fi and great coffee.

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, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

DS. I start with a cup of coffee. On good writing days, the coffee is cold by the time I look up from my manuscript.

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

DS. I went scuba diving with Tiger sharks in Mozambique. (Unintentionally!)

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

DS. I’m a morning person. I get up early to write before life gets in the way.

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

DS. Write first, do the rest later.

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

DS. My characters develop along with the plot. I take my time getting to know them. Only rarely have I based a character on a person I know.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

DS. Imagination. My first novel, A Love and Beyond, developed from a first date in Jerusalem. The restaurant in a renovated Ottoman-era building had an almost mystical atmosphere at night, and I wondered whether a place could make people fall in love.

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

DS. The situation comes first, the characters develop from the needs of the story.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DS. Definitely! When writing, I shut out everything around me and often daydream about story situations and issues.

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

Available May 12th. Preorder Now!

DS. My new novel, Revenge of the Elders of Zion, is releasing on May 12, 2020.

Synopsis: In Manhattan, David Zelig decides to create a Jewish secret society based on the Elders of Zion myth. The Gentiles already think the Jews run the world; at least now a Jewish cabal might prevent the next synagogue shooting. When older and wiser community figures reject his proposal, the restless young heir of Zelig Pictures moves forward on his own. Along with two of his childhood friends—a high-strung hi-tech entrepreneur and a self-centered playboy—David establishes The Trio. But running a clandestine organization is harder than David had expected. And far more dangerous. Soon, the fledgling covert group falls into the cross hairs of some very real and very ruthless secret societies. And when law enforcement gets involved David’s well-meaning plan quickly spirals out of control. Struggling to stay alive and out of prison, the friends debunk The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, chase a priceless collection of Fabergé eggs, expose the dark secrets of Imperial Russia, and acquire a very embarrassing relic from the dawn of Christianity. Along the way, David will fall in love and uncover a complex web of conspiracy. He will discover the devastating cost of hatred and confess the true reason he created his secret society. To overcome painful injustices and prevent the most devastating anti-Semitic attack ever plotted on American soil, David will risk everything.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Come back and join us with Part 2 on April 24th

To learn more about Revenge of the Elders of Zion, visit:

Special Offer:   Dan’ll be giving away over $500 in Amazon gift cards and merchandise for the launch. For details on how to enter, visit:

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky
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Books by Trisha Sugarek

How To Fill Your Time….Ward Off Cabin Fever (4 of 4)

You’ve been cooped up for weeks now….trying to fight off  ‘cabin fever‘ which is a real thing.  The term originated during the long, confined dark winters in the Yukon and Alaska during the turn of the 19th century.  Gold miners and fur trappers would be confined to their cabins for months on end. Usually with their business partner, another male, (seldom was a woman around during these early days of panning and trapping.) The hardiest of these men would go slightly crazy and had even been known to kill their partner in a fit of crazed rage. 

Another writing exercise I would like to suggest is to write a letter to your dad, mom, your child. Write the truth. It might even spark the beginnings of a story as you remember the good times, the hard times growing up, the view of a new world through your child’s eyes. 
Cabin fever sparked the trivia part of my brain as I remembered this little snippet of fact and started me writing this post.

Did you miss the rest of this series? 
Self-Isolated. What Do You Do with All this Time?
What To Do with Isolated Time. Write a Short Story
What To Do with all Your Isolated Time? Journaling

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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  Books by Trisha Sugarek

Ideas to Fill The Time….Writing

You’ve been  self-quarantined for weeks now…..Running out of ideas to fill your time?

Try writing something!


Did you read these most recent posts?

Self-Isolated. What Do You Do with All this Time?

What To Do with Isolated Time. Write a Short Story

What To Do with all Your Isolated Time? Journaling

Some ideas on how to start and keep writing. We all have at least one story inside us. Why not try?

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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Books by Trisha Sugarek




What To Do with Isolated Time. Write a Short Story

I hope you and your loved ones are still staying at home; the best way to avoid catching the virus or spreading it unintentionally. I know it’s boring and scary but we must do it to stem the transmission of this horror virus.

Now about writing; you’ve maybe pictured yourself as one of those who will write a novel “when you find the time”. I know many people who have said this to me when they find out I’m a published writer. I believe that every one has at least one story in them. 
The buyer of a book (in the store or online) take three steps to determine to buy or pass.  They see the cover…hmm..this looks interesting. They flip to the back cover where there is most likely a synopsis of the story. Then the buyer flips to the first page of the story. IT BETTER BE GOOD!  Because that’s your last chance to make them buy your book. The first line of your story needs to grab them. Here’s a list of examples, using all genres. 

‘As I crossed the street I didn’t see the bus bearing down on me. I heard someone scream.’

‘I sat in the prison waiting room about to interview a convicted killer. What would he say to me? More importantly what would I say to him. I’d never met a murderer before. 

“Slow down, Al,” Vi screamed and laughed from the back seat. “You’re gonna kill us.”

‘My first audition since I hit Hollywood and what if I fail?’ Cold sweat slid down my spine. My eye twitched. ‘Next!’ A hard voice called out. 

‘The teacher grabbed my math work book and, marching to the front of the room, read my poetry aloud.’

‘As the saloon doors creaked back and forth, the trail weary cowboys backed away when they saw him saunter in.’

“Mother must be spinning in her grave,” Kitty muttered, as her chauffeur drove up the long driveway to the main entrance of the State Prison.

‘A large scaly head rose out of the muck. Dirty algae hung from the mouth, caught in its large teeth. A single cold,  green eye with dirty yellow flecks in it, stared at me.’ 

Excerpt from Winter of Murder  ©  (first page of the new mystery; I think it grabs the reader.)

“What?” Stella gasped.
“Where?” Raul, her husband, demanded.
“Alaska.” R.J., their first born had just informed his parents that he was going to Alaska for six months. Maybe longer.
“It’s a great opportunity, Dad. Not many internships are offered by this company, especially when I’m not going for a major in geology but to study the impact the mining industry has on spawning salmon.”
“My God. Alaska.” Stella whispered. Being a murder cop in New York City she was not shocked by much but this had certainly knocked her back. “So far.”
“How are you going to live? I hear it’s expensive up there.”
“I get a stipend. Meager but it will buy my necessities. Room and board are provided.”
“I guess we could find the money for your airfare.” Raul always supported his sons in everything they did.
“Not a problem, Dad. I’ve been saving and I’ve already purchased my ticket.”
“R.J! You’re going regardless of what we might have said?”
“Mi amor, R.J.’s a young man now, not your little boy. He’s of age and can go anywhere he can afford to go.” Raul kissed his wife’s temple.
“But, Alaska. And to a rough mining camp? I don’t like this.”
“Mom, it’s no rougher than some of the streets right here in Queens. And look what you do. I’ve spent my whole life wondering if you would be coming home each night.”
“Did you? Wonder? Oh R.J., we tried so hard to insulate you boys from the dangers of my job.”
“We weren’t stupid, Mom. Robbie and I both knew some crackhead could kill you.”
Stella eyes filled with tears. Partly for what her son was disclosing but partly because this beautiful, tall, lean young man before her was her son. And he was leaving for Alaska.
“Mi mujer Policía, it will be fine. Now that I think about it, it is a rare opportunity. To study his beloved sea creatures far inland. I hear the scenery is spectacular.
“When do you go?” Stella asked.
“Next week.”
“So soon.”
“Yes. But, I’ll be back before you know it, Mom. It’s only six months. The time will fly.”
“For you maybe.” Stella sighed. 

The same rules apply here, you have to create rich characters, an arch to the story and a resolution. With a short or long story, you have the liberty to write description for pages and pages. That’s not my favorite type of book; I much prefer snappy dialogue. But that’s probably because I write more dialogue than description. A story does not have the ‘time’ limitations that a stage play has. 

I write out of sequence frequently when writing fiction.  I may be in the middle of the book when the concluding chapters come to me. Especially the Epilogue. So I write it. Why not? I can always edit it. 
Example: (The chapter title lets me know that I created this chapter but won’t be certain where it fits in the story, if I use it at all.)

Sample: New Chapter ??? (c)

Gwendolyn Baxter sat at her desk, her chin in her hand. She had been the student counselor at Bayard for the past eight years. She listened attentively to the woes of a fifteen year old teen seated across from her. Her parents were stupid. Her teacher didn’t understand her. She couldn’t get a boyfriend. She knew her lover would love the looks of this girl. Tall, willowy, blond. Olivia.
“I know how it is with parents. Always on your back about something. Right?”
“You don’t know the half of it.” Olivia sneered. “If it isn’t my grades it’s the length of my skirt. Jeez.”
“Do both your parents work, Olivia?”
“Yes. Sometimes my mom doesn’t get home until late. I have to cook my own supper.” She sighed.
“How are your grades?”
“Average of a B minus. But that’s not good enough for them.”
“That’s pretty good. What’s their problem?”
“Who knows?” Another deep sigh.“Listen, a friend of mine and I are having a little afternoon get-together today. Why don’t you come? His house is just blocks from here.
“Oh, I don’t know⸺”Olivia hesitated.
“He’s very rich and always has gifts for his guests. It’s so lit. Grace is coming.”
“Grace Stern?”
“We’re friends.”
“She always has a good time. Last week Geoff gave her some Gucci sneakers.”
“Really? That’s straight fire.”

Tune in for Thursday’s post, How To Journal
Did you miss part 1 of this series?

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!








Interview with Olivia Hawker, Author (conclusion)

Q. What makes a great writer?

OH. Greatness is so subjective, I don’t even know how to begin answering that question! But it is a question worth asking.
For me, I think a writer is great—as in powerful—when they are fearless. It can be really hard to expose our true emotions and our true thoughts. Most humans fear too much criticism; we fear being shamed and we fear doing things that run counter to our culture’s expectations. So it can be really intimidating for a writer to expose an unpopular opinion or even just to write in a really emotive, vulnerable manner.
It’s so much safer and therefore more comfortable to tell stories that don’t challenge the status quo. You’ll never be shamed for going along with what’s expected of you. In fact, you’ll usually be celebrated for it. I certainly don’t think less of any writer who chooses to stick to what feels safe and comfortable, and there are a whole lot of wonderful, beloved, and frankly lucrative stories in that safe/comfortable zone; a writer can make an entire career, and be wildly successful, by being safe.
But in my opinion, you can’t achieve greatness by being safe or by serving the status quo. And certainly, when we continue to uphold the status quo, we’re directly creating a culture that upholds all the things that go along with it—hierarchies, oppressions, homogenization, the stifling of some wise and brilliant voices.

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

OH. Sitting at my desk every day and putting in the work! Those initial days when I know I’ve hit on a shiny new idea and I’m so excited about it—they don’t last forever. With almost all my books, ennui sets in and I start to think of that book as a total drag. I still get it done. I’ve got a mortgage to pay; this is my only source of income and, with my lack of a degree, it’s certainly the only well-paying job I’ll ever be able to get. Better get that book done if I want to keep a roof over my head… and then I’d better move on to the next book as quickly as possible.

View from my desk

When you’re a baby writer dreaming about what it’ll be like to write full-time someday, you never imagine that vast swaths of this profession are just you glaring at your manuscript and thinking, “Ugh, I hate this piece of junk so much.” Much of the time, writing is a job like any other, with the same deadlines and grinds and frustrations and outrages. But as I said before, my worst day writing still beats the hell out of my best day doing accounts payable!

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

At my desk

OH. Oh my gosh, how have they not? For me, for my writing process (and, I suppose, the process of my inspiration, all the pre-actual-writing stuff) I can’t separate my life experiences at all. Which is kind of funny, because I never write about myself directly. This book I’m working on for Lake Union right now is the closest I’ve ever come to writing about myself, and it’s still not very close to actually writing about myself. I don’t do that thing where I make certain characters avatars for Libbie (aka Olivia)—that’s just not how my brain works. Yet I can so clearly identify exactly which bits of this character or that character are parts of me. And there is a part of me—usually a big part—in every single character I write, even the awful ones.
Really, though, I think that’s true for most authors, though some may not be fully aware of it. We may not have direct experience with the specific situations our characters are in, but we have felt all the same emotions they feel.
 I think the writers whose work really resonates with readers—the writers who become memorable instead of forgettable—are always influenced by their life experiences. How else can you write about life if you won’t allow your own life to influence your work—all of your life, the beautiful moments and the terrible ones?

Q. What’s your down time look like?

OH. I love my garden. I’m always working to expand it and I’m always tinkering with it—adding features, moving plants, improving the setup so it’s more resilient. I spend a lot of time outside with my plants and the bugs and the little garter snakes and the voles who live in my grapevine. I’m sure that answer won’t surprise anyone who has read One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.

My garden

When weather won’t permit me to frolic among the plants (like right now—it’s snowing and it’s miserable outside) I spin yarn and occasionally I get around to knitting or weaving with the yarn I’ve spun.
I live in a pretty isolated place—my island is at least an hour from the mainland by fast boat, and sometimes the trip takes longer; even then, it’s still a couple hours’ drive to the nearest sizable city, which is Seattle. Way out here, you have to make your own fun, so I do a lot of quiet, introspective things—but I really enjoy the isolation and the solitude. Occasionally the isolation does get to me; I’m only human. Writers need those things at least as much as we need garter snakes and flowers.

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

OH. Trust your gut. Go where your instincts lead you. There is no one else on the planet like you; only you can tell your story and tell it the way it wants to be told. Listen to the story when it speaks to you. Honor its desire to come forth. Be a brave and confident midwife: Bring your story into this world, and damn what anybody else thinks of it.

Did you miss the beginning? Click here.
Review of One for the Blackbird…

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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