Sunday, March 29, 2009

Author Q&A with Darrin Doyle, 'Revenge of the Teacher's Pet: A Love Story'


Darrin Doyle grew up in Michigan, although he has also lived in Osaka, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Manhattan (Kansas, not the other one). His short stories have appeared in Puerto del Sol, The Long Story, Cottonwood, Alaska Quarterly Review, Night Train, Harpur Palate, Laurel Review, The MacGuffin, and other journals. He has received fellowships and scholarships from the Sewanee Writers Conference and the NY Summer Writers Institute. In the fall of 2009, he will begin teaching fiction writing at Central Michigan University.

His first novel, Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet: A Love Story, has been released by LSU Press. His second novel, The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2010.


About the book:

Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet: A Love Story, 208 pages, LSU Press (Yellow Shoe Fiction Series), 2009.

How did you get your start in writing?
I’ve always enjoyed reading. As a kid, my parents read me Where the Red Fern Grows and A Wrinkle in Time, and this is when I first became conscious of how powerful a story could be. On my own, I started reading Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and Piers Anthony. I can recall reading Jack London’s story, “To Build a Fire,” aloud to my 7th grade class – I don’t know what the occasion was – but that’s a long story! I’m still surprised that I did this, and also that the teacher let me do it!
I wrote lots of stories in high school, all absurd, crazy stories like “Mother Micah and her 47 Sons” and “Little Timmy Toob.” My good friend and I would exchange stories in the hall between classes, always trying to outdo one another and make each other laugh. These were intended solely as escape from the doldrums of school, and to this extent, they worked wonderfully.
It wasn’t until I was a 26-year-old senior at Western Michigan University that I heard (from the great poet/teacher William Olsen) that I could go to school for an MFA in creative writing, and that I could potentially get an assistantship, teach classes, and have my schooling paid for. This was a major revelation. I immediately applied and was accepted – an event that changed my life. Initially, I wrote both poetry and fiction, but eventually, I became more comfortable with fiction and made it my focus.
I published four short stories in literary magazines after graduating, lived in Japan, traveled around Southeast Asia, returned to Michigan, worked at a few jobs that were unsatisfying, and then decided to go back to school for my PhD. That’s where I wrote my first novel.


What does your writing routine look like?
I tend to write after 10pm, when there are no distractions. I attempt to write every night, but knowing that this is unrealistic, I allow myself a broad definition of the word “write.” Therefore, lots of nights are spent reading and re-reading my in-progress stories. Some evenings, I do nothing more than change a comma here, a word there. Still, I consider this writing since it requires ‘living in’ the story, keeping myself tethered to its characters, its conflicts, and thinking about where it might go. When I’m really busy, I like to write longhand in a notebook. For example, when I was teaching four sections of freshman composition in 2006, I grabbed every moment I could during the day to scribble in my notebook. This is pretty much how I wrote my second novel, The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo.


Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.
I admire Flannery O’Connor for her psychological insight, her amazing ability to jump from one point of view to another, and her humor.
I admire Franz Kafka for being the most original writer in history; nobody has come close to Kafka as far as uniqueness of vision. And ultimately, it is our uniqueness of vision that defines us as writers. I will never come close to Kafka, but I can keep trying.
I admire George Saunders, Sam Lipsyte, Judy Budnitz, Christine Schutt, Kathryn Davis, Lorrie Moore, and Chris Bachelder for being exciting, restless writers who surprise me and make me laugh.


What are you working on next?
I continue to work on short-stories in the hopes of someday publishing a collection, or at the very least, continuing to be associated with some of the many fine literary journals currently available. Recently, I have written a number of so-called short-shorts that are surreal and lyrical, all based around body parts. I have also begun work on a novel, tentatively titled Bad Luck Buttercup. That’s all I’m at liberty to say.


What made you decide to write this novel?
I was writing a short story with these characters, Mary Ann Tucker and Dale Portwit, two middle-aged, elementary school teachers. I enjoyed jumping between their points of view, and I enjoyed writing in the voices of characters that were very much unlike me. Once the story hit twenty-some pages, I realized that it wasn’t even close to being done. That’s when I said “screw it” and decided just to write as much as I wanted, with no regard for length. I had no plan, no plot. I simply had a setting and two clear characters whose voices I heard with amazing clarity. I wrote 300 pages in a four-month period – an incredible output that gave me symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and inspired me to invest in a nice chair with armrests.
I had such fun writing that first draft – following the voices, the manias, the desires, of these characters – that it really felt like the story “wrote itself,” if I can use a cliché.


What challenges did you face with this book?
The main challenge was the revision. My 300-page novel was raw, manic, and full of what Mark Twain would call “surplusage.” Fortunately, I had two amazing mentors named Brock Clarke and Michael Griffith who gave me advice on how to turn this unwieldy – if spirited – story into a focused book. I chopped the first 75 pages. I made elaborate lists of the main events in each chapter. I wrote timelines and character sketches. I researched limb removal and prosthetics, as well as the psychological effects of limb loss. 18 months later, I had a new draft that was ready to send to literary agents.


What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
My advice can be boiled down to one word: persist. You must love what you do, and you must do it relentlessly and consistently, even in the face of repeated failure. You must, of course, love to read and write (this should go without saying), but if you believe in what you do, and you are writing for the joy it provides you, you will see your work in print. It will most likely take a few years, however, and a few ulcers, to get to this point.



EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Author Q&A with Meredith Cole, author of "Posed For Murder"


Meredith Cole directed feature films and wrote screenplays before writing mysteries. She won the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition in 2007. Her book, "Posed For Murder," was published by St. Martin's Minotaur in February 2009, and her short story “Exercise is Murder” was in the June 2008 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America NY board, and she blogs at www.thedebutanteball.com

What's your book about?
Lydia McKenzie, an art photographer who recreates historic murder scenes, finally has a show in a Brooklyn gallery. But when someone starts killing her models just like her photographs, she has to catch the killer before she becomes the next victim.

How did you get your start in writing?
I started out writing screenplays and directing films. But when my son was born, I knew that I wouldn't be going back on the set anytime soon. I started to write a mystery novel set in my neighborhood (Williamsburg, Brooklyn). In my first manuscript, I did almost everything wrong. I had tons of backstory, and the action really didn't really start until page 65. But I loved the characters. So I wrote another book with the same heroine and most of the same characters. But this time the stakes were much higher, and the story was a lot scarier.

What does your writing routine look like?
I take my son to school, go for a swim, and then come back and sit down at my laptop to write. If I'm under deadline, I sometimes get up early (before my family) and write for an hour or so. And I'll sometimes write after my son is in bed.

Tell us some writers whose work you admire.
I really enjoy reading Ruth Rendell, Laurie King, Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Jane Austen, Rumer Godden and so many others. I'm a voracious reader, and I panic if my TBR pile gets too small.

What are you working on next?
I just finished the second book in my series with Lydia McKenzie, "Dead In The Water." Lydia has begun taking portraits of prostitutes when one of them ends up dead--a floater in the East River.

What made you decide to write this novel?
I love my neighborhood and thought it made an interesting setting for a murder mystery. My husband is an artist, so I know a lot about the art community. I enjoyed writing in the mystery genre, and thought it was interesting to have a sleuth who was a photographer. I liked the idea of looking through a lens to find clues.

What challenges did you face with this book?
I wrote the book in a year, and then began to look around for an agent. When I had no luck, I entered the manuscript in the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best Traditional First Mystery competition. The prize is publication, so I was thrilled to win.

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
Write every day, read as much as you can, and be patient. Success does not come overnight (no matter how many stories you've heard). Get a writing group if you can, and listen carefully to criticism. When you get the opportunity to show someone your work, you want to be ready with your best stuff. And writing good stuff takes a lot of time and revisions.


EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Artsville, Texas: Carl Block’s jug heads on the auction block


An oldie but a goodie: this is a December 2007 blog I did for the North Texas NPR outlet, KERA's Art+Seek blog.

Leafing through an online catalog of 885 lots of folk art auctioned with the collection of Academy Award-winning film director Jonathan Demme that were auctioned recently, it was easy to miss one North Texas gem.
Tucked away amid the naïf works billed as self-taught art masterpieces, the African American quilts and decorative arts and the rest of the Southern folk pottery, Carl Block’s Two-Face Devil Jug and Mini Jug were classic examples of the artist’s work. Bearing multiple fearsome eyes and grimaces showing evidence of an undeniable need for an orthodontist, they are what’s known to some as Southern face jugs.
In Waxahachie, where Block makes his home along with Flatland Pottery, the Webb Gallery cultivates quirky and unusual American folk art. The gallery’s Web site describes his design as “mirroring his own fun and bold self.”
Director Demme is reported to have one of the largest private collections of Haitian artwork in the U.S. With his taste for folk-flavored pieces, it’s perhaps easy to see why Block’s bold work might have appealed to him as well. The artist’s “60 Eye Jug” on the University of Texas-Tyler Web site may recall for some images of the shades and forms of Mexican pottery, an influence that might stem from the time Block’s family spent traveling Mexico during his formative years. Its many eyeballs peering out from the green glaze are perhaps not unlike Demme’s famous Hannibal Lecter garage in Silence of the Lambs.
Then there’s the casual cool of the gap-toothed guitar player in a Hawaiian shirt. A University of North Texas graduate, Carl Block is a seriously pedigreed potter who often doesn’t take his subject matter too seriously at all.
Snakes and alien faces merge into primitive patterns on the glazed earthenware that has been displayed at Edith Baker Gallery in Dallas and the William Campbell Gallery in Fort Worth, among many other places.
Like many creatives, Block’s artistic bent has a musical outlet as well. He’s half of the Waxahachie group Baithouse Stompers. He and fellow musician Neel Brown have a regular Wednesday evening gig at the College Street Pub in Waxahachie, and their adoring fans proudly call themselves Baitheads. On MySpace, they are billed as Americana/Reggae/Psychedelic. It was just a matter of time, perhaps, before the Stompers’ wheel came full circle to Block’s artistic roots and put out a CD comprised of songs like “The Creation Stomp” and “Flatland Wabi Blues,” pieces that wax harmoniously full of metaphors about clay and the potting process, flavored with a gritty Texas sound and a sort of 1970s optimism.
And if Carl Block’s face jugs are anatomical misfits, the kind of Picassoisms into which you could read all manner of subliminal messages, his figurative wares represent “all the little things that make my eyes and soul jam,” he says on the UT-Tyler site. “Fear, hate, confusion, humor and other emotions arise in my work.”
And you can’t put that up for auction.
To see Carl Block’s work online, click here:http://www.uttyler.edu/studioart/borders/block.htmhttp://cgi.liveauctions.ebay.com/4-Carl-Block-TX-Two-Face-Devil-Jug-and-Mini-Jug_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQcategoryZ28217QQihZ009QQitemZ190160934865QQrdZ1QQsspagenameZWDVW
To listen to the music of the Baithouse Stompers, click here:http://profile.myspace.com/%20…%20(click%20to%20see%20full%20link)


EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Author Q&A with Louise Ure, Edgar-nominated author of 'The Fault Tree' and 'Forcing Amaryllis'


Author Louise Ure spent a quarter of a century in advertising and marketing in the U.S., Singapore and Australia before finding her true love: writing crime fiction. Her debut mystery, 'Forcing Amaryllis,' won the Shamus Award for Best First Novel. The second book, 'The Fault Tree,' (January 2008 release in hardcover, March 2009 release in trade paperback, St. Martin’s Press) is a finalist for the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award. A third stand alone, 'Liars Anonymous,' will be out in April 2009. Although she’s a San Francisco resident now, all her books to date have been set in her home state of Arizona. “I don’t see things clearly until I’ve lost them,” Ure says


About 'The Fault Tree':


When Cadence Moran, a blind auto mechanic in Tucson, Arizona hears a murder happen just down the street as she leaves work, she unwittingly steps into the crosshairs of a killer who thinks he’s been seen and now wants to stop the only witness.


“I wanted to take Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark and update it for the 21st century, with a heroine who is as courageous, inventive and capable as women are today," Ure says.


How did you get your start in writing?


I started writing on a dare. I was having drinks with a girlfriend not long after the September 11 attacks and she said, “If it all ends tomorrow, what will you most regret not having done?” Writing, I told her. She dared me to fulfill that dream so I enrolled in a night class at a local bookstore the next day. Five months later I had finished 'Forcing Amaryllis.'


What does your writing routine look like?


I can’t even think clearly until I’ve done at least two crossword puzzles, so that’s the beginning of my day. Then I’m in my office by 7:30 and stay there until about 4, with a half hour off for lunch. When I’m writing the first draft, my goal is 2000 words a day. If I get that accomplished before four o’clock I use the rest of the day for emails, promotion planning and catching up on blogs. It’s a seven-day-a-week proposition for me. I lose too much steam if I take weekends off.

What are you working on next?


My third book, 'Liars Anonymous' comes out in April. It’s another stand-alone set in Arizona, this time about a roadside assistance operator who has to unravel the mystery of a murder that she hears on a late night call. She’s a damaged hero, as many of my characters are, carrying the burden of knowing that she, too, committed murder several years ago.


The next book, 'Doing Hadley Time,' is in its gestational stage now so I don’t want to jinx it by saying too much about it.


What made you decide to write this novel?


I’m the only writer I know who starts with titles. When I saw a gardening tag about how to force an amaryllis bulb to blossom I thought “Hmmm … 'Forcing Amaryllis.' That’s a great title. I wonder what the book would be about.”


The same is true for The Fault Tree. In February 2003, I was listening to the radio report of the crash of the Colombia Space Shuttle and the NASA scientist they were interviewing said they would do a fault tree analysis on the data. “It’s one of the best methods of identifying and graphically displaying the many ways something can go wrong,” he said.


That was a book I wanted to write: a study of all the ways that things got so bad, and why they went so wrong. Of course, my “fault tree” would be a real one – a eucalyptus in the backyard where the young protagonist was sent for punishment – rather than an engineer’s flowchart.

What challenges did you face with this book?


The most difficult challenge was to write the book from the point of view of a blind person, and have no avenue to describe anything visually. But the farther I got into the story I more I realized what a wealth of sensory information a blind witness might be able to convey. Maybe she smelled antifreeze from a leaky radiator. Maybe she knew he was wearing corduroy pants because she heard the wales rub together as he ran past.


And to make sure I got the details right, I did everything I asked my blind protagonist to do, although I did it with a blindfold on. (You really can do a tune up on your car with no sight.)


What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?


For me, the self-censor is a powerful force. I’m always questioning whether the idea is big enough, whether the writing is good enough. And some days those doubts make it difficult for me to keep writing at all. The best advice I got to counteract that self-censor came from author Gillian Roberts who said, “Today is the worst writing you’re ever going to do. Why would you want to put that off for another day?” It was somehow freeing to know that tomorrow’s writing could only be better. And it gets me another 2000 words down the road.


Where can we find your work?


My books are generally available in all major retail bookstores, libraries and online booksellers, but I have a special place in my heart for the independent booksellers who do so much to help introduce new authors to their customers.


For information about Mystery Writers of America and the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award nomination: http://www.theedgars.com/
Louise Ure’s website: http://www.louiseure.com/
Louise Ure’s blog site: http://www.murderati.com/



EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Author Q&A with Jeannie Ralston, author of The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blossoming


Jeannie Ralston’s book, The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blossoming, was published in May 2008 by Broadway Doubleday ( 254 pages).
A story of growth and maturation, both the personal and botanical variety, the book follows the development of Jeannie’s lavender farm in Texas through droughts, grasshopper plagues and other agricultural set backs, and details her parallel evolution, as she reluctantly sheds her Manhattan persona and truly learns to bloom where she’s planted.
The book has been praised by the New York Times and was recommended as a great read by Good Morning America and publications as diverse as The Dallas Morning News and Fortune Small Business.
Jeannie’s lavender life has gotten a second wind in Mexico, where she lives with her family and consults for a lavender project near Dolores Hidalgo, which is helping a poor pueblo to become self-sufficient by growing lavender as a cash crop.


How did you get your start in writing?
I was always writing little poems and ditties growing up. In junior high, I was named the editor of the annual and in high school I was editor of the school newspaper. I then went into journalism school and had four internships with various publications while in college. I ended up at McCall's magazine in New York City after graduation and began writing for McCall's and then various other magazines, mostly women's magazines, but almost always stories with a news slant. For about 10 minutes, I was the editor of my own magazine (called TeenAge) and eventually I started freelancing for Time Magazine and Life too. Since then I've been a contributing editor at Allure, Ladies Home Journal and am currently a contributing editor at Parenting. I've also written for National Geographic and travel magazines. I've never had a intense interest in writing a book (I didn't think one subject could hold my attention for the amount of time a book required), but after I had run a successful lavender farm for five years, I realized that my story might resonate with readers.

What does your writing routine look like?
The best way to talk about my routine is to talk about how I write anything I'm working on--from short essays to this book. I always do 3 drafts. My first draft is just to get something on paper. I give myself permission to be stupid and write terrible cliched phrases and to commit all kinds of writing sins--anything is OK as long as I get something on paper. That way I have something work with and I can see if the story that is playing itself out in my mind actually holds together once it's on paper (or computer screen, nowadays). My second draft is about getting the structure right and filling in any gaps in my research or actually looking up the quote I had used in a certain place to get the exact wording. So the second draft is the nuts and bolts draft. It's where a lot of the heavy lifting is done, I think. My third draft is devoted exclusively to the language. This is where I focus on making the words sing, making sure no cliches have made it through the other two drafts, finding new ways to express and describe. It's terribly important for me to work in this way so that I can compartmentalize--work on only certain things with each draft--rather than trying to conquer the whole piece or chapter or book at once. That's too overwhelming, I believe.

Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.
I really admire writers who can be funny yet at the same time touch a deep emotional chord. I'm thinking of David Sedaris. Or someone who can report the hell out of a story and also be able to describe something so perfectly or with such a fresh eye that I stop and think, "God, how did she think of that?" I'm thinking of Alexandra Fuller in this case. I also have to admit that some of my favorite recent books were the Harry Potter series, which I read with my oldest son. I also adore anything by Jane Austen and could read her books over and over. And do.

What are you working on next?
Right now I'm writing articles for magazines again as I try to decide what type of book I'd like to do next. I'm not sure I want to do another memoir--at least not right now. It's hard to put yourself out there like that, exposing yourself and your emotions and your mistakes to the world. I'm also watching the publishing industry to see how it's going to shake out. I feel over the next year or so there are going to be enormous changes and I want to make sure that if I have an idea for a book that it has the best chance of being received well and selling well.

What made you decide to write this memoir?
I started working on this book in 2005, after what I suspected would be my last lavender season. It seemed to be an ideal time to reflect on the lavender business—how I got into it unexpectedly and how it had changed me and my world view. I could see a real arc to the story, and I thought that the ending was not what a lot of people would expect. Most people who pick up this book, I believe, will presume that it will end when I’m happily busy with my thriving lavender farm. But of course real life isn’t always like that. In the end, my husband pushed me once more—testing my resolve and our marriage again.
But probably the main reason I wrote this book is that whenever I told my story to the visitors at our lavender farm—which was very often—people seemed truly fascinated. Not only by the agricultural aspects but by the major life changes, struggles and compromises I made to get to a truly happy position in life. What I think people were responding to was the idea that you can’t plan for happiness. You can think you know what you need to be fulfilled, but when life takes you down a completely different track, even if you’re far from where you thought you’d be professionally or personally, you can still find contentment.

What challenges did you face with this book?
The main challenge I think was to write honestly but not hurt people who are part of the story. I'm mainly referring to my husband, who was the engine for a lot of the things that happened in the book. He's such a wonderful man, but he's restless and has an enormous number of ideas. Sometimes his ideas and his personality can be exhausting, but I wanted to make sure I conveyed all the wonderful aspects he has along with those qualities that are harder to swallow. Also, we are like any married couple. We've had our ups and downs and I wanted to make sure I was fair to him while describing the journey we made together. He's been a real trooper about all this scrutiny. Fortunately, he's thick-skinned. Sometimes he has asked me why I needed to include this or that, referring to moments that were not our best as a couple, and I've told him that I wanted the story to be real. I wanted people to be able to identify with the struggles we've had, because everyone has something they have to get through. How often do you really get a true portrait of someone's marriage? I knew that if the book was about how great our marriage and life were not only would it not be true, but it would have no tension, no real plot. Plus, it would be sickening. Who wants to read that?

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
At this point I would say blog. I did a weekly blog for a year before I wrote my book and I was surprised how much that improved my writing. To write regularly for an audience and get constant feedback regarding what was working and what wasn't, really prepared me for writing my book. Obviously, I had lots of training before that--writing for magazines. But the regular nature of writing about my life for my blog readers pushed me along that much more.
EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Monday, March 16, 2009

Author Q&A with Charles Barber, author of 'Comfortably Numb'


Charles Barber is the author of COMFORTABLY NUMB: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation (Pantheon Books), which was released in 2008 to national media attention, including appearances on The Early Show and Fresh Air. Vintage Books published COMFORTABLY NUMB as a paperback in 2/2009. His work has appeared in the The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Nation and Scientific American Mind. He has taught nonfiction writing at Wesleyan University. He is currently a senior executive at The Connection, a social services agency, and a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. He lives in Connecticut with his family. Barber was educated at Harvard and Columbia and worked for ten years in New York City shelters for the homeless mentally ill. The title essay in his first book, SONGS FROM THE BLACK CHAIR (University of Nebraska Press), won a 2006 Pushcart Prize.


How did you get your start in writing? I wanted to be a writer from about the age of 14. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I was always reading and writing, but I kept all my scribblings and musings on scruffy pieces of paper that I usually lost. I didn’t get serious about writing until my late thirties when I wrote a memoir, Songs from the Black Chair.

What does your writing routine look like?

I still work in psychiatry and mental health, and writing is not all that I do. So I write when I can – which is usually the evenings and when I’m stopped at a red light and whenever I have an hour or five minutes or three minutes. I’m surprisingly productive this way. Even if I have the whole day ahead of me, I can only write effectively for four hours a day. Writing is exceedingly hard work. That’s why a lot of people talk about doing it but few people really do.


Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.

John Cheever, Walker Percy, James Agee, Tom Wolfe, A.S. Byatt, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ignazio Silone, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Dorothy Day, Andre Dubus, William Styron, V.S. Pritchett, William Trevor, Evelyn Waugh, Raymond Carver, William Finnegan, Graham Greene, George Orwell, PD James, Donna Tartt, TV writers like David Simon and David Chase, and on and on. A mixed bag, I know. I am drawn to: great stylists in the Anglo tradition, elegantly done books about social issues, Catholic writers, and highly literary mystery or crime writers.


What are you working on next?

A novel – a sort of mystery with a psychiatric theme.


What made you decide to write COMFORTABLY NUMB: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation?

I worked in psychiatry and mental health for many years and witnessed the psychiatric medication revolution during the 1990s. I thought there were extreme parts to the rapid acceptance of psychiatric meds in American society, and I wanted to say something about it.


What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?

- Don’t write on scruffy pieces of paper! If you want to get published, be disciplined, resourceful, and focused.

- Once you submit something, don’t think about it again until you hear back.

- The law of threes: always have something you’re working on, something that is soon-to-be published, and something that you’ve submitted and are waiting to hear back about. With three things going on at once, you don’t agonize as much about any one of them.

- Write what you know.

- Either say it well or say it originally. One or the other will do. Doing both is rare.

- Network. I always thought that writers were eccentric people who didn’t talk much to people. That may have been the case way back when, but to get things noticed these days you have to advocate for yourself and be social and hopefully be charming.

- Listen to rock’n’roll or classical music while writing. I do.


Where can we find your work?

Through my website, http://www.charlesbarberwriting.com/, or through the websites of Vintage Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.


EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Author Q&A with Nancy Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day mystery series


Nancy J. Cohen is author of the popular Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore who solves crimes with wit and style underthe sultry Florida sun. KILLER KNOTS and PERISH BY PEDICURE are the latest titles in this humorous series. Author of thirteen published novels plus a novella, Nancy has served as president of Florida Romance Writers, and as secretary for the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Several of her books have made the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association Bestseller List.


How did you get your start in writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. Even in high school, I submitted my work which consisted of short stories and poetry. I began writing novels in 1975. I wrote three practice books before discovering Florida Romance Writers in 1988. Joining that organization and participating in a critique group improved my writing so that I obtained my first agent at FRW’s annual conference. Each year, I sent this agent a new book, all romantic suspense. None of those sold. Then a member of my critique group, Marilyn Campbell, inspired me to write a futuristic romance. Switching genres brought me success. CIRCLE OF LIGHT was my first book that sold and winner of the 1995 HOLT Medallion award. I went on to write a total of four futuristic romance novels underthe name Nancy Cane. At that point, my stories contained mysteries, so I decided to write a straight mystery novel. And that’s how my series was born.

What does your writing routine look like?
I wake up early, around six, drink coffee, read the newspaper, then take my poodle for a walk. By 8 a.m., I’m usually at the computer. I do my best writing in the morning and spend the afternoon on promotional activities.

Tell us whose work you admire and why.
Heather Graham, because she writes several books a year in different genres, has five children, and always looks gorgeous.

What are you working on next?
A new mystery series based in Winter Park, Florida.

What made you decide to write this novel?
My latest release is Killer Knots. This is the ninth title in my Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairstylist Marla Shore. The story takesplace on a cruise ship. Marla and her fiancé sail away on their first Caribbean cruise with a killer on board. Having been on over twenty cruises myself, I wanted to share the experience with readers.


What challenges did you face with this book?
I researched on board the Navigator of the Seas and the Norwegian Spirit, took copious notes in the ports, and visited all the places in mystory. I wanted the details to be as authentic as possible.


What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
Have faith in yourself, work at improving your craft, and believe inyour success. Follow the 3 P’s: Practice, Persistence, and Professionalism.


EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Author Q&A with Carolyn Turgeon, author of "Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story"


Carolyn Turgeon was born in Michigan and grew up in Illinois, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania. After graduating from Penn State, she earned a Master's in Comparative Literature from UCLA, and spent several years in New York working as a writer and editor. Her first novel, Rain Village, was published in 2006 by Unbridled Books (320pp). Her second, Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, was published in March 2009 by Three Rivers/Crown in the US and Headline in the UK (288pp), and has been optioned for film by Random House Films/Focus Features. She's currently working on her third novel, a retelling of the the original little mermaid story.

Where is home for you?
I was living in New York City and working full-time at a non-profit until last spring, when I quit my job and began my career as a full-time gallivanting authoress. Now I go between State College, Pennsylvania, and New York City and Cornwall, New York, and I’m probably heading to Berlin this fall.

Where can we find your work?
You can buy my first novel, Rain Village, online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon and Powell’s, etc., and my second novel, Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, which just came out two weeks ago, online and in almost any bookstore.

How did you get your start in writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I was always a dreamy, bookish kid, and wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first book when I was 8, “Mystery at the Dallas Zoo,” about a group of kid sleuths searching for a stolen tapir.
As for how I got my start officially, I took writing workshops in college, I spent many years turning a story from one of them into my first novel, I started sending out query letters to agents and I also contacted my old writing professor Paul West, who passed me onto his agent Elaine Markson, who offered me representation, and then, eventually, I got a publisher. I didn’t publish short stories first the way a lot of writers do. Rain Village was my first fiction publication.

What does your writing routine look like?
I would like to have a more disciplined routine, but for the most part I’ve written in fits and starts and up against deadlines, even if they’re self-imposed. But lately I’ve been better about getting up early in the morning, heading to a coffee shop, and writing until lunchtime.
Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.
I admire so, so many writers, but here are a few:
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because he’s the perfect storyteller and writes the most wonderful tales.
- Patricia Highsmith, because she’s clean and elegant and precise and there’s this perfect sense of creeping dread in everything she does.
- Daniel Woodrell and Francesca Lia Block, two totally different writers with insanely unique, wonderful voices.
- Michael Cunningham, because his sentences are so gorgeous, and there’s a weightiness and profundity to his descriptions of even the most mundane things.
- Mary Gaitskill, because of the way she deals with pain and sex and desire.
- Jennifer Belle, for the flat, dry humor that infuses everything she writes.
- Jeffrey Eugenides, for the crazy, jam-packed mastery of Middlesex and the hushed elegant weirdness of The Virgin Suicides.
- Alice Hoffman and Isabel Allende, for their lush prose, their magic realism, and their ability to be both hugely commercial and literary at the same time.

What are you working on next?
For my third novel, I’m working on a retelling of the original Hans Christian Andersen little mermaid story. I’m telling the story of the princess—the one the prince falls in love with and marries instead of the mermaid, and who only appears briefly in the original story—as well as the mermaid. It’s set in the middle ages and it’s all gloom and ice and castles and convents. Sort of The Other Boleyn Girl-ish, but glittery and sad and with mermaids. It’s called The Sea Queen.

What made you decide to write this novel?
I wanted to work with an established story, a gorgeous old fairytale, and play with it, I guess. Cinderella is about as lovely and well known a story as I can imagine, and I liked the idea of telling the fairy godmother’s story—the one whose task is to swoop in and get this sad, abused, orphaned girl ready for the grand ball. I mean, once you really look at what she had to do, it seems a pretty impossible task, doesn’t it?

What challenges did you face with this book?
I was living in New York and working full time when I wrote Godmother, and that is certainly a challenge—making the time for it, finding the discipline, saying no to friends and turning off Law and Order. Plus it took me a long time to really figure out what story I wanted to tell. I wrote at least 100 good pages that I ended up not using, maybe more.

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
Two of the most important things are this, I think: 1) Don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of writing a novel, just break it down and tackle it bit by bit, scene by scene, page by page. And: 2) Have absolute confidence and faith in your vision and work. I have no idea how anyone could get through writing a whole novel without that. You have to have an unshakable belief that it will be worth it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Author Q&A with Elizabeth Baines, author of 'Balancing on the Edge of the World'


Elizabeth Baines is a writer of prose fiction and prize-winning plays for radio and stage. She has been a teacher and is also an occasional actor. Her collection of short stories, 'Balancing on the Edge of the World,' was nominated for the Frank O’Connor International Prize for the Short Story. She writes the critical-commentary blog Fictionbitch (http://fictionbitch.blogspot.com) and also has her own author blog (http://elizabethbaines.blogspot.com)
Her book, 'Balancing on the Edge of the World' (Salt Modern Fiction, 2007, 108 pages) includes stories about power and powerlessness, and those moments when the balance of power - between a violent father and his daughter, between a doctor and his smug patient, between an unsuspecting teenager and the dangerous world around him - can subtly or dramatically change forever...
Where do you call home? Manchester UK where I live, South Wales where I was born, and my old writing desk in the attic where I work. (Also Ireland, where my dad came from and where, whenever you go there, everyone keeps saying you’ve ‘come home’.)
Where can we find your work? It can be ordered from bookshops (Salt have UK, US, Australian and NZ distributors) and it’s available online from Amazon or The Book Depository, or direct from my publisher http://www.saltpublishing.com/books/smf/9781844713943.htm .
How did you get your start in writing? I began writing short stories and was published in literary magazines: I simply wrote one and sent it off and it was accepted. I had lots of stories published in magazines but getting a collection published was much harder. I went on an Arvon course here in the UK at Lumb Bank, Ted Hughes’s Yorkshire home, and my tutor the (now sadly deceased) novelist Martin Booth sent some of my stories off to his own agent, who immediately took me on. However, the agent said short story collections were impossible to sell, and he asked me to write a novel, which I did. I’d published two novels and had broadcast many radio plays before the market for stories opened up with the advent of independent publishers like Salt, and I felt it was worth trying for a collection again.
What does your writing routine look like? Boring from the outside, I guess! If I’m at home all day I just go up there to the attic at nine in the morning and work until about 1.30. I write by hand and if I’m on a deadline, or eager to finish something, or if I’m writing a novel, I’ll go back up after lunch and do some typing up.
Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why. WG Sebald for his unusual take on the world, and his air of getting right to the truth of things. Will Self for his verbal fizz and brilliant ideas. Margaret Atwood for her ironic yet lyrical sensibility and her wonderful vivid prose.
What are you working on next? I have a novel, 'Too Many Magpies,' coming from Salt in October, and I’m working on a new collection of short stories which they will publish next year.
What made you decide to write this book of short stories?
Like most of my writing, the stories in this book are fired by my sense of the need to air those experiences and viewpoints which aren’t always acknowledged – the flip side of things. There’s the homeless man, the Other Woman, the auxiliary nurse who knows what the Professor of Medicine doesn’t, the unheard children and children being made to suffer by adults.
What challenges did you face with this book?
I think there’s always a challenge in putting a collection of stories together – deciding which ones to include, which order to put them in, especially which ones to begin and end with, as I think these are the stories people tend to read when they browse. I chose a comic one for the start about a bunch of drunken pizza-parlour ‘philosophers’, and I hope I got it right…
What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
Be prepared for failure, but don’t accept failure. Keep at it. If your work is rejected, take a good look and if you think it needs it, work on it again. If you honestly think it doesn’t, bang it off again, and quick!

Author Q&A with David Hewson, author of 'Dante's Numbers' and 'Semana Santa'


David Hewson is published by Bantam Dell in the US and Pan Macmillan in the UK, as well as a wide variety of publishers around the world in translation. His current paperback, 'The Garden of Evil,' was voted best mystery of 2008 by the American Library Association. A former journalist with the London Times and Sunday Times he lives near Canterbury in the UK. His current hardback release (out March 24) is 'Dante's Numbers.' His first book, 'Semana Santa,' was made into a movie with Mira Sorvino. 'Dante's Numbers' is his thirteenth published novel.
Where can we find your work? In book stores generally around the world - I was in twenty different languages last time I counted (you stop after a while).
How did you get your start in writing? In a way I’ve always been a writer since I left school at seventeen and became a journalist. I saw writing as the only possible career given that I’m allergic to manual labour.
What does your writing routine look like? Like a job, which it is. I spend three months on the road for promotion, a month or two in Italy for research, and the rest of the time at home writing, planning and editing. I generally work a five day week, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm, except when I’m on the road when it becomes more flexible.
Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why. Robert Graves' I Claudius and Claudius the God were two wonderful books that turned me on to Rome and history. I’m also a big admirer of Somerset Maugham, MR James and Arthur Machen. Over the years I’ve grown to love Ed McBain for his use of an ensemble cast among other things. I like writers who don’t fit easily into categories or attract labels. The whole genre thing is a turnoff for me frankly.
What are you working on next? I’m currently working on the ninth Nic Costa novel. After that I intend to finish a short story collection set in Venice which I’ve been slowly working up for some time, and there are a couple of scriptwriting projects that may or may not come to fruition. But Nic Costa is a regular in my diary - one book a year, the way a series should be.
What made you decide to write this novel? Dante’s Numbers is the seventh Nic Costa book, and a bit of a departure in that my cast get on a plane for the first time. The story starts in Rome then shifts to San Francisco where the opening theme, about a movie set around Dante’s Inferno, becomes muddied with Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It’s important for series authors to stay fresh and one way I do this is by trying to write an entirely different kind of book each time. Each one has to be completely separate from the previous, though to continue the underlying story of the relationships between my varying characters. Taking them out of their home environment, Rome, from time to time allows me to see them in a different light.
What challenges did you face with this book? Making sure that it was America seen through the eyes of foreigners, not an American novel. Also trying to introduce some subtle thematic links between Dante’s Divine Comedy and Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which aren’t obvious but are there waiting to be brought to the light.
What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers? Read lots of books, work hard, be patient and always attempt to be original. Me-too books never work in the long run. And don't do this because you want to become some filthy rich celebrity. Herman Melville couldn't make a living out of writing - he spent the last couple of decades of his life working as a civil servant to make ends meet. Success in writing isn't measured in dollars, but in what you write.
EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Author Q&A with Joe Nick Patoski, author of "Willie Nelson: An Epic Life"


Joe Nick Patoski is the author of "Willie Nelson: An Epic Life," Little Brown (497 pages) published April 2008, trade paperback out this April. Joe Nick Patoski has authored and co-authored biographies on Selena and Stevie Ray Vaughan and the coffeetable books Texas Mountains, Texas Coast, and Big Bend National Park, all published by the University of Texas Press. A former staff writer for Texas Monthly, he has written for the National Geographic, People magazine, Field & Stream, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and others. In 2003-4, he recorded the oral histories of B.B. King, Clarence Fountain of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Memphis musician and producer Jim Dickinson, Tejano superstar Little Joe Hernandez, and 15 other subjects for the Voice of Civil Rights oral history project, some of which appeared in the book My Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Juan Williams, published by Sterling, and rode on the The Voices of Civil Rights bus tour, a 70 day journey across the nation where personal oral histories on civil rights were collected for the Library of Congress.
How did you get your start in writing? Getting good grades in junior high English composition inspired me.
What does your writing routine look like? Ugly. My desk and office are perpetual messes. I try to write in the morning, but my main inspiration is the deadline.
Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why. Nick Tosches, Lester Bangs, Paul Theroux, mainly because they think outside the box and are interesting to read regardless of whether or not I care about the subjects they write about.
What are you working on next?A history of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, which is my museum, having attended pre school classes there as a four year old.
Why do you like writing non-fiction? Why mess with fiction when real life is this bizarre?
What challenges did you face with this book? With the Willie book, the main challenge was figuring out the story because Willie moved around a lot, and separating fact from fiction, since so much of his story is steeped in legend.
What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers? Write. The best way to figure out how to do it is to keep doing it. I also keep close the advice my editor at Texas Monthly, Greg Curtis, used to impart: Write it like you talk it.
Related links: http://www.joenickp.com/
EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Author Q&A with Kane X. Faucher, "Tales Pinned on a Complete Ass: Journey to Romania"


Kane X. Faucher is author of the humorous book, "Tales Pinned on a Complete Ass: Journey to Romania."
What's your book about?
The book is a humorous semi-autobiographical account of my brief travels through Romania. I suppose the style adopts the perspective of Hunter Thompson mixed with P.J. O'Rourke. The somewhat satirical poke at ethnographic and travel writing does belie my actual admiration and respect for Romanian culture, and as well marks a significant departure from my previous books which are mostly bleak, dystopic, impenetrable experiments for a very niche literary audience that can actually sit through the entirety of Joyce's Ulysses and "get it". Instead, I decided to push into print that other mode or register of my writing practice that seems to have garnered a great deal of mirthful attention; namely, my absurdist streak where I go about talking about connecting myself to electric jellyfish or dispersing crowds with air horns - that sort of thing.
Why do you call it "semi-autobiographical"?
Fictionalizing oneself, even under the most seemingly objective reportage, is an inevitability. How we represent ourselves is always incomplete - a vignette of projected ego. In the case of this work, the events did not always happen as I report them, but are rather embellished or nuanced for narrative humor effect. The trick of satire is to employ the occasional hyperbole or absurdist chain of narrative sequence.
Where can we find your work?
My publisher gave me dim indications about placing them in various stores around the Pennsylvania area, but mostly the storefront is a virtual one: Amazon.com., the great churning mill where lazy marketers shill to lazy buyers.
How did you get your start in writing?
I began, like so many, writing bad high school poetry, moving on to fiction, and developed a conceptually top-heavy practice that involved a critical engagement with polemic narrative, themes borrowed from poststructuralism, as well as an incorporated development of authors I have always held dear such as Jorge Luis Borges, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Samuel Beckett, William H. Gass et al.
What does your writing routine look like?
That has changed drastically over the years. A decade ago, I was a night owl and would haunt the pubs and bars, writing feverishly in notebooks and packing away jug after jug of beer. At times, I'd work through to the early morning, keeping myself on my sharp pins with the aid of copious amounts of coffee, good vodka, and endless cigarettes. Cliche? Perhaps. I hardly stick around long enough to worry about such things. Nowadays, I'm up near dawn, suffusing myself with coffee, cigarettes, and eventually (once the midday line is breached) beer. I used to do all my work in pubs, cafes, and bars since I needed the white noise and the intervention upon the senses of those random snatches of conversation that briefly arrest one's attention and diverts the flow of written discourse. These days, I work primarily at home, on my MacBook, surrounded by my security blanket: a wall of books, piles of paper, thousands of pages of scribbled notes, an overflowing ashtray, dirty coffee mugs, empty beer bottles, and my feverish tapping punctuating the rhythm of the music I have on - which is generally ambient experimental stuff like Zoviet France or Boards of Canada. As pedestrian as it might sound, I think marriage has made me a better writer in many ways. Gone may be the days of wild and surreal nights of bizarro adventurism and uncanny encounters, but my focus and production seems to excel in times of stability and love. I no longer worry about next month's rent, for example, and so I am free to indulge my writing passion. More importantly, my wife keeps me honest, and I respect her opinion above anyone else's when it comes to what I write.
What are you working on next?
That's a rather large question since I split my time between academic and literary matters, sometimes blurring the line between the two. I have several modes of writing making my practice somewhat versatile and eclectic: I can move from Gonzo humour to literary fiction to journalistic copy to aesthetic reportage to poetry to satire to jargon-laden academic articles in a matter of seconds. I completed my Jonkil Calembour dystopic cycle with the release of Jonkil Dies by BlazeVOX last September, but I am working on a novel that resurrects his image in a plot that involves the corporatization of the modern university and the devastation of the humanities. I am also working on another book entitled Crackle which would be akin to a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels narrative concerning, of all things, that neglected medium known as radio. There is also a few Nietzchean-style aphorism books, a few poetry volumes, an experimental post-code poetry collaborative project with Matina Stamatakis and John Moore Williams, and another few humour books. At the moment, I am in process with a book-mystery manuscript involving an infinite library with lots of medieval ciphering, as well as a book of Borgesian-style short stories. I hope to use the book-mystery book as the launching text for its sequel that I have been tooling with for over twelve years concerning a fiendish doctor who uses art to excite a mass unconscious desire for atrocity. Academically, I hope to rewrite my metaphysical book on metastasis, as well as a collaborative reappraisal of Louis-Ferdinand Celine's use of narrative.
What made you decide to write this novel?
Overwhelming egotism. Actually, I merely wanted to give voice to that absurd streak within me while at the same time poking fun at ethnography. It was a good way of justifying my rather random decision to go to Romania.
What challenges did you face with this book?
Publishing delays, mostly. Putting the book together from a series of scribbled notes was rather easy.
What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
Don't bother with pricey workshops, seminars, or "how to get published" books. Stop worrying about how others dictate things like craft and form. Find your voice or multiple voices, and start projecting. Of course, publish often and keep actively and currently engaged in what has happened and what is happening in writing. Experiment freely in writing without sabotaging yourself with premature thoughts on its publishable merit. Not all experiments succeed, and not everything you churn out has to be stellar. Learn to embrace those ebbs and flows of creativity, for it is the natural process of development.
Favorite Links:
Tales Pinned on a Complete Ass: Journey to Romania, and other books by Kane X. Faucher:
http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keywords=Kane%20X.%20Faucher&search-type=ss&index=books&page=1
Kane X. Faucher's webpage:
http://www.geocities.com/codex1977/
Past interview of the author:
http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2005winter/faucher.shtml
EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Author Q&A with Martin Avery, author of The Devils Wear Bauer (Not Prada)





Martin Avery is the author of two new books out about the #1 bad boy of the NHL, the hockey player they call the Superpest and the King of the Agitators. And the guy in the Gap ad that People magazine said is one of the sexiest men alive.


The Devils Wear Bauer (Not Prada) is the unauthorized biography, describing where he came from and how he got kicked out of the NHL. Sean Avery: Hope And Change: The Comeback of the Rocky of Hockey is about his return to the NHL.


Where can we find your work? You can find it at Lulu.com: http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=3176762


How did you get your start in writing? I started out in the little literary magazines and later went to Vermont College for an MFA in Writing.


What does your writing routine look like? I write fast and I write a lot. I listen to what I've written on my computer. I love novel marathons like NaNoWriMo and the Muskoka Novel Marathon.


Tell us some writers whose work you admire. Wally Lamb was at grad school with me in Vermont. His first novel was great. I'm reading his latest right now.


What are you working on next? Book three in the Sean Avery trilogy is about the New York Rangers "Cinderella" season. After Avery's return, they turned around, got out of a bad slump, and sprinted for the play-offs.


What made you decide to write this novel? I've been following this hockey player's career since they played Junior A and this year he turned into the best story in the NHL so I felt I had to get out a book or two.


What challenges did you face with this book? Dealing with publishers is the biggest challenge.


What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers? Do it!




EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'
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Author Q&A: Tom Cain on 'No Survivors'


EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'


What's your book about? 'No Survivors' is about Samuel Carver, the protagonist, who is a hired assassin, paid to remove dangerous individuals who are beyond the reach of the law.

As it says in my first book about him, 'The Accident Man,' he does very bad things to even worse people. Specifically he creates accidents that make their deaths deniable. His victims have it coming – with one very significant exception that provides the story of 'The Accident Man' - but even so, Carver is profoundly conflicted about his work, morally and psychologically scarred by the corrosive effect of violence and death. His greatest hope of redemption lies in the love he has for his Russian lover Alexandra ‘Alix’ Petrova, but both their circumstances and their characters complicate matters, to put it mildly.

Plot-wise the story of 'No Survivors,' which is set in 1998, involves missing Soviet nukes, a Texan billionaire with a longing for The Rapture, the rise of al-Qaeda and the conflict in the former Yugoslavian province of Kosovo. Fundamentally, though, it’s about Carver, Alix and the twists and turns in their relationship. Even in a thriller, all the action, excitement and tension in the world mean nothing if you don’t care about the man and the woman at the heart of it all.

Where can we find your work? I sincerely hope you can find it in your local bookstore! And if not, you can certainly find it on Amazon.

How did you get your start in writing? I’ve been a professional writer since I was 19 – which was a LONG time ago! – and have done most of my work as a magazine editor and newspaper journalist in London.

What does your writing routine look like? Day-by-day I start work at 10.00am, but tend to do my best writing between about 4.00-8.00pm. In terms of the Carver books, I start thinking of them in the early months of the year … gradually accumulate research and ideas through the spring and early summer (all the while working on other assignments and projects) … start writing in about August … begin to panic in October because I don’t have anything I like … knuckle down again … gradually pick up speed and deliver in mid-January.

Tell us some writers whose work you admire. Among thriller, crime and adventure-writers … Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler, Alistair MacLean, Wilbur Smith, Mario Puzo, Dennis Lehane, Michael Crichton, Dick Francis, Lee Child, James Lee Burke, Stieg Larsson, David Chase (creator of the Sopranos), Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow (the creators of 24) … all those classic British murder queens: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, PD James, etc … and in other genres I’ll throw in Tolstoy, Jane Austen and Anthony Powell. Shakespeare had a pretty dab hand with plot and dialogue, too, come to that!

What are you working on next? I’ve just handed in the third Carver novel, Assassin, to my publishers and am starting on No.4 soon. What made you decide to write this novel? Contractual obligation!

What challenges did you face with this book? Well, there was the general second-novel challenge, which is that you fill your first story with a lifetime’s worth of good ideas, and then you’ve suddenly got to do it all over again, and almost certainly much more quickly. Specifically, I had the problem that 'No Survivors' follows on directly from 'The Accident Man,' which ends with Carver in a pretty bad way (I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it!), with the result that he’s incapable of action in the early stages of 'No Survivors.' Having a semi-vegetative protagonist, it transpired, was a very, very tricky proposition when writing an action-thriller. But I hope I overcame that difficulty!

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers? Keep going. Don’t let rejection and failure get you down. Learn to sort the useful element in any criticism from the nonsense that surrounds it. Obsess about the structure of your books: getting that right is far more important than worrying about fancy prose. Create believable, interesting, multi-faceted characters. And never forget that you write at the service of the reader. Yes, you should express yourself. Yes, you must follow your own passions and instincts. But writing means nothing if it does not communicate.

Favorite Links: http://authorsplace.co.uk/tom-cain/ (This is a British site, but it’s the best place to find out about me). http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=654275624 (I’m always interested in making new Facebook friends) http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Tom+cain&x=0&y=0 (Because you’ll want to be buying the books, right?)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Author Q&A: Jill Williamson



EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and has just finished a novel, At High Tide.




Jill Williamson is the author of Darkness Hid: The Blood of Kings, Book One (April 1, 2009 from Marcher Lord Press)


A freelance editor, the Eastern Oregon resident loves to read and started Novel Teen Book Reviews (http://www.novelteen.com/) to help teens find great books to read.


"We review books for ages 8-12, 12-16, and 16 and up. Our site has a search box that helps readers find books by age, genre, or gender. I also run http://www.teenageauthor.com/, a website devoted to encouraging young writers," Williamson said.


Teenage Authors has a yahoo critique group where teens can post their work for review. Williamson's husband has worked as a youth pastor for eleven years, so the John Day, Oregon native has had lots of experience working with teens.


What's your book about?


By Darkness Hid is a medieval fantasy novel about a "stray" named Achan. "Strays" are property ranked lower than slaves. Sometimes Achan has feelings about things before they happen. Sometimes he senses when someone intends to abuse him.


One day Sir Gavin, famed hero of the Old Kingsguard, offers to secretly train Achan in the ways of knighthood. Since Achan senses kindness from the Sir Gavin, he accepts his offer, eager to make a new life for himself. Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, Vrell’s mother is under pressure to marry her off to an evil lord. Vrell dons men’s clothing to conceal her identity and uses her mental communication ability to vanish into the world of men. Forces of darkness have become aware of Vrell and Achan’s gifts and seek to seize their powers. While Vrell knows how to use her gift, Achan’s gift is unstable and could be used to overthrow the world.


Where can we find your work?


You can read a sample chapter and endorsements on my website. My articles have appeared in Brio, Brio & Beyond, Devo’Zine, and Shine Brightly. I also have a children’s missionary book that will release from Beacon Hill Press in 2010.


When did you get your start in writing?


At first I wanted to be a speaker. I discovered that sometimes, people will hire a speaker based on articles in a magazine, so I looked into writing articles. Somewhere in there I started a teen fiction novel. It was so fun that I lost interest in speaking and writing articles. When a writer’s conference came to town, I signed up right away. I couldn’t believe how much I had to learn. When I got home, I did everything that the conference speakers had recommended.


What does your writing routine look like?


When I’m brainstorming something new, I tend to carry a notebook around with me everywhere. I just think and think and jot down ideas. Eventually I flesh that into a rough outline, then sit down and try to write the whole book as fast as I can. It usually takes me about a month. The first version is always a bit of a mess, but rewriting is my favorite part. Once I’ve written that first draft, I know my characters much better. Sometimes I need to sit down and brainstorm some more to fix plot holes or work on characters who weren’t quite developed enough. So I’ll carry my notebook around some more until I’m ready to fix those things. Once I’m fairly happy with my rewrite, I start feeding chapters to my awesome critique group. Once the whole book has been read by them, I do another rewrite and it’s pretty much done. Sometimes it helps to set it aside and work on another book. Then I come back to it later and read it. This way I can catch things I might not have seen before.


Tell us some writers whose work you admire.


Ted Dekker, Eric Wilson, Frank Peretti, John Olson, Bill Myer, and Anthony Horowitz for the genres I like to write. Jane Austen, Jenny B. Jones, Lisa Samson, Francine Rivers, Melody Carlson, Megan Whalen Turner, and Cathy Gohlke for other genres that I enjoy reading.


What are you working on next?


I am working on the second book in the Blood of Kings series. I also have a Christian spy kids series and a mad scientist series that I’m working on sequels to.


What made you decide to write a fantasy novel?


I just really like them. The more I started brainstorming, the more excited I was to begin. Plus, I felt that there was a short supply of edgy Christian fiction for older boys to enjoy.


What challenges did you face with this book?


Researching medieval medicine/healing was the hardest. When I really started looking, though, it was fascinating. I know my scenes are much better because of all the research I did. The sword fighting in my book also improved greatly as a result of my research.


What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?


Just write that book. Make yourself do it until you finish the whole thing. Then write another one. The more you write, the more you learn. Then you can go back and see what needs rewriting. Read a writing craft book every so often and read other fiction novels in the genre you like to write. I have a list of writing books on the “For Writers” page of my website.


Favorite Links:




Book review site: http://www.novelteen.com/


Teen Writers site: http://www.teenageauthor.com/






Sunday, March 1, 2009

My new novel, 'At High Tide' is done. Seeking one great agent ...




Open letter to an agent:




'At High Tide' is a novel about a woman whose family's plate tectonics are shifting rapidly with a patriarch's descent into dementia. Texas transplant and newspaperwoman Keely Haydn Hunter returns to her iconic family home, High Tide, to help her family cope with grief and loss and change. However, as the tide goes out on Vancouver Island, it leaves behind all kinds of unexpected things – and it takes away other things that permanently disappear, hidden in the ocean depths. When Hunter comes back to the beach town of Haven Bay, she expects to encounter a certain amount of family baggage. What she doesn't expect is that a chilling family secret from her childhood will threaten life as her already fractured family knows it.




Terse, descriptive, poignantly funny – I believe this book will appeal to readers who have appreciated the work of writers like Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club, Wit's End) and character-driven literary fiction in general. Additionally, I think the theme of dealing with dementia is something more and more readers can identify with as we live longer and become more fragile. I really like the characters in this book, and I believe readers will love them, hate them, and want to read more about them.




AUTHOR BIO – J. LOUISE LARSON




J. Louise Larson is a Texas-based writer and the editor of a weekly newspaper in Texas. Her first nonfiction book, The FabJob Guide to Become a Party Planner (co-authored with Jenn James and Craig Coolihan) was published in 2006 by FabJob Publishing. She has contributed to magazines and newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News, Entrepreneur Magazine, AirTran's Go Magazine, Smart Business Magazine, Midwest Airlines' MyMidwest Magazine, DS News, Pasadena Magazine, and others. She has successfully started a small magazine group and a weekly newspaper. She is a member of The Author's Guild and the Writers League of Texas.




In 2000, she was awarded the highest journalism award in the state of Texas for feature series writing, the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors award, first place. In 2002, she won a silver award from the Parenting Publications of America. 'At High Tide' is her first novel. It incorporate the two very different places she has spent the majority of her life: Vancouver Island, British Columbia and Texas.




She can be reached at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com.

Author Q&A: Liz Funk, 20, speaks out on "Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls"




Liz Funk is the 20-year-old author of “Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls,” a new non-fiction book about the pressure on young women to be perfect and please everyone, being published by Simon and Schuster on March 3rd. She is a journalist who writes about Generation Y (particularly gender, social class, and education) and has been published in USA Today, Newsday, the Christian Science Monitor, CosmoGIRL!, New York magazine, the Nation, the New Jersey Record, the Baltimore Sun, the Huffington Post, Tango, and Girls' Life. She writes regularly for Ypulse.com, where serves on the youth advisory board. Her web-site is lizfunk.com, where she also writes a blog on Generation Y and whatever else crosses her caffeine-addled mind.
Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls Touchstone/Fireside, March 3, 2009. 256 pages.
http://www.amazon.com/Supergirls-Speak-Out-Inside-Overachieving/dp/141656263X
In the tradition of bestsellers, such as Ophelia Speaks and Quarterlife Crisis, Liz Funk’s Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls sheds a disturbingly bright light on a condition that is spreading quickly from Generation X to Y—and even to little girls. Funk calls this being a “Supergirl,” i.e., a girl who believes that in order to be happy, she must excel at her job or career, have the best grades, wear the coolest clothes, date the best-looking boy, and have the perfect body size.
Drawing from investigative research, candid interviews, personal anecdotes, and medical evidence, Funk discusses the dangerous effects of the phenomenon. Her book reveals ambitious, stressed-out women whose drive overwhelms every aspect of their lives: their body image, diet, exercise, school schedule, career choices, romantic relationships, and interactions with family and friends. By closely following five girls and interviewing almost a hundred more, Funk explains the root causes of the phenomenon, illustrates how it is affecting society at large, and shows other Supergirls how they can recover from their overzealous tendencies and habits.

Where did you get the idea for this book?
I’ve been thinking about the pressure on girls to be perfect my whole life. In high school, I observed that the girls who got the most attention and the most positive reinforcement were well-dressed, pretty, skinny, self-effacing, mild-mannered girls who got great grades, but made it all look easy. Obviously, this is a terribly high bar to set for all the other girls in school, and I wanted to see if this was the norm everywhere and what it was doing to girls. It was so eye-opening and interesting to talk to girls from around the country and hear about the pressures that they faced and the consequences of their frightening drive to overachieve. And because this book is partly investigative journalism, I had a blast traveling and intimately observing 5 young women’s daily lives, as well; these five girls are a central focus of the book.

What do you love about this book?
Although I know that I’m going to take some heat for it, this book has a very youthful, rather informal tone. I wrote the bulk of this book when I was 18, and I think that a teenager’s narrative voice really comes through in the writing; I was also really careful not to censor my teenaged and twentysomething sources and to convey their slang and jargon and occasionally sexually explicit ideas on growing up girl in Generation Y.

What is one of the nicest things someone has said about this book/your writing?
Getting the blurbs for this book was honestly one of the most flattering and exhilating experiences of my life. Some of my favorite authors—Leslie Bennetts, Laura Sessions Stepp, Jance Erlbaum, Abby Ellin, Leora Tanenbaum, Gloria Feldt, and E. Jean Carroll—gave me some really wonderful advance praise.

What writers do you like and why?
I really like Jonathan Franzen; he writes the most spectacular novels of social criticism. His book Strong Motion is my favorite book. I also really like Alexandra Robbins (who wrote Quarterlife Crisis and the Overachievers); she’s someone whose career I’ve tried to model mine after. I’m a big fan of Maureen Dowd, the New York Times’columnist and author of Are Men Necessary? I think she strikes the perfect balance between being feminine and stylish, and also being a serious political journalist. She’s so cool! Also, I really admire Dan Brown; the amount of research that he clearly put into the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons is positively staggering. Actually, “Angels and Demons” made me think very deeply about religion and my life, and I really applaud Dan Brown for bringing such deep books to the mainstream.

What is some of the best writing advice you have received?
In terms of writing fiction (which is the next project I’m working on—a novel), one of my college professors encouraged me to take the scenes that I was struggling with illustrating and write them as scenes from a screenplay. I’ve found that to be endlessly helpful. In terms of writing non-fiction, I can’t think of any advice that I’ve received from someone specific that was particularly prophetic, but what I can recommend is buying the book “Getting Your Book Published for Dummies.” It’s the best $15 I’ve ever spent in my life! It’s how I initially learned the ins-and-outs of this industry.

What advice would you give to writers hoping for success?
It sounds cliché, but really, if you want to be a published writer, don’t give up! There were three specific instances that I can think of where I was like, “Forget this. Writing full-time is so hard, I’m just going to be a French professor/ bed and breakfast owner/ tanning salon owner and read for fun and write for fun on the side.” Obviously, I’m so glad now that I stuck with writing. So my advice to writers would be to find your niche, build your brand, and stick with it.
http://www.lizfunk.com/
http://www.amazon.com/Supergirls-Speak-Out-Inside-Overachieving/dp/141656263X
http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Liz-Funk
J. Louise Larson is the author of The FabJob Guide To Become a Party Planner (FabJob Publishing, 2006). She is seeking representation for her novel, High Tide. She is the managing editor of a weekly newspaper in Texas, and has contributed to major magazines and newspapers.
Larson features Q&As with authors on her blog, The Writing Porch. To inquire, contact her at jackielarsonwrites at gmail dot com.