Interview with author, Donna Kauffman

TS. Fairly recently I discovered Donna.  I ordered one book (Blue Hollow Falls) and quickly ordered the rest of her books. That’s always a good sign from this Blogger!  Beautifully crafted stories!


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

DK. I work any and everywhere. Have laptop, will travel! And I often do. I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains in southern Virginia, and though I do have dedicated office space in my house, I don’t think I’ve ever actually gone in there to write. Working where you live can, at times, provide a wealth of distractions to help procrastinate getting any writing done. At least a few times a week, I hop in my car and head up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is minutes from where I live, and find a quiet overlook, trail, picnic area, and work there. It’s inspiring and has the added benefit of no internet/cell/email/other distractions. I’ve written large portions of many books up there.

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

DK.  No rituals for me. I prefer it quiet (no tv, music, chatter) but I’ve written sitting in busy airport terminals and during my kids sports practices. I think sometimes you can get bogged down by placing too many “I have to have this in order to write” requirements. I’ve always been a “plant your backside somewhere and fall into the story already” type, mostly because I know if I started down the “I must have” path, I’d never get another book written.

Fox kits at Rescue Center

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

DK. I volunteer for a local wildlife center and a local wildlife sanctuary. I’m a dedicated hiker/outdoors person and photographer who loves animals, so it’s been a fascinating adjunct to that and I’ve learned so much about all the critters I’ve lived amongst for years. If I had the time, I’d love to get my wildlife rehabilitators’ license. Someday!

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

DK. No set time. My schedule and other obligations often create the blocks of time I write. Given a whole day with nothing else on the docket, I tend to get up and dive in before the world wakes up and gets in the way, and often times write all day until dinner. Then I’d likely sink back in again after the world goes to sleep. I’m both morning person and night owl, so that comes in handy!

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

DK. That’s the single biggest obstacle to all writers. I think I can safely say we all do it. (And if you don’t, please share your trick with me!) I guess I’ve learned how to remove temptation from my immediate surroundings (hence the my mobile office pod, as I call it, aka my car.) If I can’t stop myself from getting up and doing laundry instead of tackling the next scene, or from scrolling through social media, then I take myself off somewhere where I can’t do either of those things. It’s an ongoing battle. Deadlines and knowing you’ve got bills to pay also help immensely.

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

DK. I don’t know if I can pinpoint that. Story evolution is such an ephemeral thing for me. It comes at me from all sides, in all manners of unfolding. Some characters are part of the initial, ooh, this is a story I want to tell! And some come along as the story develops.

Q. What first inspired you to write your stories?

DK. Wanting there to be more books in the world that I wanted to read. I have broad interests in fiction and I’m very picky all at the same time. I like what I like. I have my favorite authors and am always on the prowl for new ones. (The library is a wonderful treasure trove for finding new authors. No investment risk other than a little time to see if they can pull you into their worlds…) I was having a hard time finding more of what I loved and kept imagining what story I would want to read, and one thing led to another, and I started putting thoughts to paper. I’d always been a writer of some kind or other, so it was a natural combination of putting my thoughts down in writing, then steering those thoughts into the fictional realm. When I got serious about it, I joined a local writer’s organization and immersed myself in learning more about the craft of writing as well as the business of writing. I knew immediately I’d found my people. (Fictional and non.)

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

DK. Could be either one. It really depends on the story. The trigger could be location, occupation, setting, conflict, or any combination of those. I’ve been writing small town fiction for a while now and so location is often the first thing that intrigues me. I want to set my fictional world in this place or that, and then occupations, conflicts, plot ideas start to percolate, and along with them the perfect people to tell that story, both main characters and secondary. Research begins, story begins, and folks just up and introduce themselves in the process.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Join us for Part II, October 27th of this fascinating Interview                  

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MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    September: Dylan Callens.  October’s author is Donna Kauffman. In November we say hello to Rita Avaud a Najm. 
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Interview with Author, Janet Macleod Trotter

TS.  This is an author whom it seems picks each individual word as she writes. Elegantly written prose, she scrapes the words down to their most beautiful meaning. She knows her characters and locations and wears them like a second skin.

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.

JT. My writing ‘dens’ have changed over the years! I have a small area in the house that I call my study (seen here) and I’m writing this in there now. The desk is usually untidy with research notes, spiral note books, scraps of paper and of course my laptop. Around me are shelves of non-fiction books, dictionaries and loads of files full of research for the various novels I’ve written.

But I often get more writing done if I go ‘out to work’ and away from the house and its domestic distractions! So I do a lot of my writing in libraries or places of retreat. My favourite one is the Lit & Phil in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Northeast England)– a wonderful old 19th century building with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and wee cubby-hole spaces in between where I can sit and work, drink coffee and try not to get distracted by the fascinating history books around me!

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

JT. I quite often go for a 50 minute walk first thing in the morning, partly for exercise and partly because doing something physical often kick-starts ideas. I think about my characters as I walk and this helps me know them better and decide what to do with them next!   As I’ve indicated, my desk at home is not a tidy space but all I need is the laptop and the current file of notes beside me for reference. Sitting down at the desk and getting started is the hardest moment, as I’m a great procrastinator! And I have to have ‘rewards’ along the way such as a huge cup of proper coffee in the late morning and lots of tea in the afternoon (especially since I started writing my INDIA TEA SERIES!)

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

JT. When I was eighteen years-old I caught a bus in London and three months later arrived in Kathmandu! It was the heyday of the hippy trail across Asia in the 1970s and I got to see some amazing places that are now too dangerous to visit. I saw the ancient Buddhas of Bamian in Afghanistan before they were destroyed. The trip was the inspiration for my mystery novel, THE VANISHING OF RUTH.

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

JT. I try and get started by mid-morning and write for a couple of hours. Then I’ll start again after lunch and write till late afternoon/early evening. I don’t write any later than that. The evening is relaxation time or catching up with other jobs, social media, emails etc. But in some ways a writer is never off-duty, as I’m often mulling over ideas or doing background reading. It’s not just about the physical writing.

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

JT. Oh dear, you are asking a hardened procrastinator! Routines are good. Make sure that sometime during the day you sit down at your computer/desk/kitchen table and put some words on paper. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect, just write something. Then you have material to go back over later and build on. I find that re-reading what I’ve written the day before and editing it, helps me get back into the story. And while you’re there, put your phone and computer on silent so that you aren’t tempted to check messages or answer them!

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

JT. I always begin with the historical period and the social scene, so I do a lot of reading around the subject and then my characters begin to be conjure……


Join us on July 14th for Part Two of this fascinating Interview

MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?     June: Mehreen Ahmed.  July: Janet Macleod Trotter, author of Tea Planter’s Daughter and in August we say ‘hello’ to Cheryl Hollon.
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Melting away the shame…

Women Outside the WallsOne early, wintry Sunday morning I found myself sitting in the waiting area of an Illinois State Prison for Men.  I was about to visit a confessed murderer. I was writing his story for a stage play I was developing.

I felt like a fish out of water. Over dressed, out of place, and very conscious of the other women around me. Probably much like how Kitty felt, in my future book. The only males in the room were young, probably sons and nephews of the incarcerated men we were waiting to see. And here was an odd thing, everyone’s shoes were untied.  I found out later, and by personal experience, that the other visitors knew the drill.  The CO’s (correctional officers) would search our persons which included removing our shoes for inspection.

Trying hard not to stare, I observed the hopeful resignation on these women’s faces.  They knew each other and murmured news and gossip to one another.  I was definitely an outsider and did not belong.  As I sat there an overwhelming urge to know their stories and write them down came to me.  It was urgent that I find out what brought them to this place.  They didn’t look like bad people. They were women you saw at the store, on the street, in an office, ordinary in every way; wives, mothers, sisters.

Now it was time to go inside. I remember heavy steel doors clanging shut behind us. It was a scary moment; I had just given up my freedom. Even though it was for a short time, my rights and freedom were in other people’s hands.  I was assigned a table and sat down to wait for Bill. The suppressed frustration and rage in that room was palatable. Other than a short hug between loved ones, no touching was allowed.  I’m certain that contraband was exchanged but I never witnessed it. The women were indefatigably cheerful in front of their men.  It might have been a crowded city park, families sitting at picnic tables visiting, playing cards, giving their children snacks; save for the concertina wire at the top of the fence.

A year and a half later when I was in the final rewrite of my novel Women Outside the Walls I was working on the acknowledgments. One woman, in particular, had shared so much with me, about her life outside the walls.  I wished to thank her but still maintain her anonymity. I asked her if I could use her first name and only the initial of her surname. Would that protect her, I asked, and keep her clients from knowing about her personal life? Her reply to this question was this:
“It doesn’t matter if your readers figure it out and discover that it’s me…your book has taken away all my shame…”

Shirley K. had stood by her man while he served ten years.  Raising their children, supporting an unwed daughter and grandchild and working two jobs.  Half way through her husband’s term, Shirley’s son was sentenced to life for murder.  Now she was visiting two of her men in prison. She’s a hero in my book.  She did nothing to deserve this kind of life.  Never even had a traffic ticket. And that’s the common thread among these women.  Married, raising their children; mid-stream America, right?  Then their husbands or sons or brothers make a stupid decision and end up in prison.

I asked Shirley how she and the other women kept up a brave face when visiting their husbands. She told me stories about how after the visit was over the women, friends for years, had a designated rest area (down the highway a couple of exits from the prison) that they would meet at after visitation.  That’s where they shared their tears, grief, anger, and commonality of spirit.  But they never let their husbands see what they were going through. They were serving time in their own personal prison; doing their own time.

Little did I know that my novel about wives waiting outside the walls, while their men served out their sentences, would have this kind of impact. What I did know was, as I wrote the book, I met many women from all walks of life that had someone currently in prison or had that experience in the past. Most of my book is based on true stories told to me. As a writer it is not uncommon for me to have people, strangers, appear in my life to share and contribute something to my writing. It’s welcomed but uncanny.

Epilogue: Shirley’s son, convicted of murder and sentenced to life, had his conviction and sentence reduced to manslaughter and fifteen years.  He was released in 2014.
DON’T MISS BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   In April, a long awaited interview with Kathleen Grissom (The Kitchen House) May’s author is Jordan Rosenfeld.

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More with best selling author, Julia London (part 3)

Julia in Ireland
Julia in Ireland

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

(con’t. from Part 2)  JL.  From there, the manuscript is improved over and over again with subsequent rounds of editing by me, by an editor’s notes, by copy editors who catch inconsistencies that, unbelievably, neither me or a developmental editor caught. So the finished book has been massaged and manipulated many times over. At least in my experience.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing/stories?

JL. Just living life informs the writing. I meant what I said about having to be in the world to understand it. It would be very easy to never leave my house, to sit in front of a computer all day. But I won’t allow myself to do that. I have an active lifestyle, I travel, I have an extended family I love and that has been dysfunctional from time to time. Continue reading “More with best selling author, Julia London (part 3)”

Interview with Julia London, best selling author of Regency Romances

Julia.London.203,200_I confess!  I read them along with several million other women.  I love the regency period when men were gentlemen and women were ladies, in the drawing room.   Subtle, and full of innuendo, I like something left to my own imagination. And Julia London delivers!  Now I landed an interview with one of my favorites.

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

JL. This is my current office, however I’ve just invested in a treadmill desk and am about to change the London.3way I spend my day, as in upright and not hunched over. But where is that sucker going to go? I haven’t figured that out yet.

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

JL. I can’t sit down and write until I’ve exercised in some way. I have a variety of activities to start the day: either taking my dog out for a jog (rather, he trots happily along, while I wheeze through a jog), yoga, biking or Pilates. It clears my head and gets the creative juices flowing. I’ve worked out a lot of plots while sweating profusely.

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

JL. I majored in political science with an emphasis on Middle Eastern Studies. Mainly because I paid my own way through college with a patchwork of jobs and scholarships. The best was a National Defense Education Act scholarship for which all I had to do was study a critical language for three years. The deal was that if the country needed your language skills within some specified time frame after graduation, they could call on you. So I studied Arabic (I know, right?) and took some classes in Middle Eastern religion, economics, and culture. I should point out that I have forgotten most of it. As it turned out, there wasn’t a big call for that expertise. Continue reading “Interview with Julia London, best selling author of Regency Romances”

When A Story Takes You by the Throat!

Women Outside the WallsHow do writers find their stories??  This one came to me as I sat, one Sunday morning, in the waiting area of a state prison. I was there to interview a convicted murderer for a play I was writing(Cook County Justice) about his case. I found myself sitting with many other women;  wives, sisters, daughters, grandmothers.  We all had one thing in common; we were there to visit a man behind bars and all of our shoe laces were untied. (They search you.)

Was I nervous?  Scared?  YES!  I’d never been in a prison before and I was about to enter a visiting room filled with convicted murderers, rapists, thieves and drug dealers.  The one thing these men had in common was they were someone’s son, husband, and father.

I have often advised new writers to write about what they know.  I did not follow my own advice.  These women had such an impact on me…..figuratively taking me by the throat and insisting that I tell their story.  So I did….with research, research, and more research.

This story is told by three diverse women married to men who made a bad decision. Continue reading “When A Story Takes You by the Throat!”

Interview with Author, Jennifer Ryan

TS:  To say that Jennifer Ryan writes ‘romance’ novels would be doing her a disservice.  Her good, solid stories are about good, solid people with a little romance and some modern day ranch life and cowboys is more accurate.  I love her stories and so when she agreed to this interview I was thrilled!

J.Ryan.photoQ. 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.

A. I have two writing spaces. My “office” is in my kitchen. I love the little table in my breakfast nook with the windows all around looking out at the backyard, pool, and garden. The second place I write is off the kitchen in the small living room. Sometimes I just want to sit on the sofa with my feet up, a movie on the TV I’ve seen a dozen times ten times turned down low in the background, and type away, lost in the story.

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

A. I’m a creature of habit. I write every day. For the most part, I’m focused on the work, the story, my characters. But I do love to have a cup of tea, cookies or chocolate. I’m pretty sure I keep the Hershey’s company in business.

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

A. I started writing when I was pregnant with my daughter Jenna. I named the heroine of my first book, (Small)Saved by the Rancher, after her.

Q. Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative?

A. With 3 kids, I need to stick to a schedule (that whole creature of habit thing). During the school year, I sit down to write after I drop the kids at their respective schools. I work until 11 AM, hit the treadmill, shower, have a snack, then back to work until it’s time to pick the kids up from school. I eat lunch in the car while I wait at each school. Once home, it’s snack time for the kids and homework. I work until dinner. Cook. Then if I’m on a roll for the day, I’ll work into the evening. Other nights, I’m on the couch with my husband watching one of our favorite shows. On the weekends, I work from the time I get up through the evening with short breaks for meals and doing stuff with the kids. There’s a lot of stops and starts, but I’m used to that. Life happens, but I love seeing the story in my head come together on the screen.

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

A. Oh, how I love to procrastinate. That’s why I’ve set up a routine. Some days I write for hours. Others I may only get an hour done. The thing is, I make time for it each and every day. Even if I only get a few lines or paragraphs down, I’ve made progress. Over time it adds up.

Cover.J.Ryan..ScanQ. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing and for how long?

A. Yes. I love those days. The story seems to fly across the page – though it takes hours. The satisfaction I feel from a day of great writing can’t be described. It’s such a relief to have the story out of my head and on the page. If my husband is off with the kids hiking or dirt biking, I can write all day without interruption.

Q. Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment ?

A. Let’s just say I’ve got a very active imagination…..
Don’t miss Part 2 on Tuesday

and….Coming Soon! my REVIEW of ‘Her Lucky Cowboy’ released later this month!

DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     Jennifer Ryan,(Aug.), Grant Blackwood (Tom Clancy) Sept. and Julia London.
Don’t Miss it!  A bonus Interview with Iconic comic book writer, Chuck Dixon, in September.
Coming Soon! Don’t miss my Reviews of
Sue Grafton’s ” X “ , the newest Kinsey Millhone mystery  and Jennifer Ryan’s newest release.
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‘Blue Prints’…A Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  REVIEW  5 out  of 5 Quills     ‘Blueprints’ by Barbara Delinsky

Everyone across America loves the ‘how to’ TV shows.  How to flip it, how to gut it, how to cook it, how to not be the worst cook, how to lay tile, how to create curb appeal, how to love it or list it….there is something for everyone.

‘Blue Prints’ by Barbara Delinsky, will take you ‘back stage’ to experience all the intrigue, the politics, theBlue Prints by Delinsky back stabbing of a popular. home improvement reality show.   The joy of her writing is she quickly tells about the many characters and before we turn too many pages, we care about all of them and are rooting for them. Continue reading “‘Blue Prints’…A Review”

All The Single Ladies…a Review

reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing(5 out of 5 quills)     A Review  All the Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank

I turned the last page with a hearty, well satisfied (but somewhat regretful) sigh, last night.  I think the ultimate compliment to a writer is when a reader says, ‘I didn’t want it to end‘.  And that’s how I truly felt having to leave best friends, Lisa, Suzanne, Carrie, and Miss Trudie. All the Single Ladies

Any woman over (oh, let’s say) forty years of age will really relate to these middle aged women.  They have had their failures and triumphs; they are now knocking along as best they can, having learned the hard way that nothing in life is guaranteed or forever. They come together initially to champion the memory of a friend… Continue reading “All The Single Ladies…a Review”

Interview (part 2) with best selling Author, Barbara Taylor-Bradford

A Young Barbara
A Young Barbara

TS:  More than a treat, it’s a honor to interview this illustrious author with such a body of work! 

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

A. When I was ten years old, I was encouraged by my Mum to enter a short story contest with a magazine in England. It was about a young girl who desperately wanted a pony. Amazingly, long after I’d forgotten about it, I received a postal order with a small amount of money and a note that I was one of the winners in the competition. Seven years later, I joined the Yorkshire Evening Post as a typist. Within a year, I had become a reporter for them. I’ve been a journalist ever since.

Q. How long after that were you published?

A. My first novel, A Woman of Substance was published in 1979. I had tried to write four earlier novels that weren’t working for one reason or another. But all along, I was still a published journalist. I had a syndicated decorating column in the US throughout the 1970s. I also wrote and had published several decorating books in the 70s. Prior to that, I was a Women’s Page editor on Fleet Street with a handful of newspapers and magazines in England. Continue reading “Interview (part 2) with best selling Author, Barbara Taylor-Bradford”