Thursday, April 23, 2009

Author Q&A with Jerry Hunsinger, 'Axe of Iron' series

Author Jerry Hunsinger (the Axe of Iron series, Vinland Publishing) spent most of his adult working life as a commercial pilot, and pursued writing novels as an avocation after retirement.

How did you get your start in writing?
My writing was sporadic until 2004. My wife Phyllis made me believe in the story that I had held inside for my entire adult life. Without her support and advocacy, I would not have begun, completed, or published this first novel of my series. It is the most difficult undertaking of my life. She pushes me just enough and I need a push on occasion, to get the job done. Ultimately, this effort led to publishing after I wasted one year seeking a literary agent to pursue publication of my work through a large publishing house. So today, I both write and publish. How long that will continue is impossible to estimate at this point.

What does your writing routine look like?
My day begins not later than 0700, after coffee and the newspaper, and typically continues until the evening hours. I found that I had to factor composition into the day—I have a schedule I try to adhere to--or all I did was promote and socially network for visibility. I do try to write daily, but that is not always possible given the myriad business details that come up that must be attended to. I have written only historical fiction novels. My first novel, Axe of Iron: The Settlers was published August 1, 2008. It is the first in the Axe of Iron series. These books are a continuing tale about a medieval people whose lives are surprisingly like ours. They have the same basic desires for happiness, love, food, and shelter that has dominated the thoughts of generations of cultures the world over. These character-driven, historical fiction books tell the adventures of Greenland Vikings as they struggle to establish a settlement in North America 1000-years ago in the face of hostile native opposition.

Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.
Historical fiction is my favorite genre. Our bookcases sag under the volumes that we have retained. For pleasure, I read everything that Wilbur Smith and W.E.B. Griffin write. I also own every book written by C. S. Forester, Alexander Kent, and Ayn Rand. Sir Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples is an excellent reference work. Ken Follett is another favorite. His Pillars of the Earth was superlative. The works of the aforementioned authors have been read repeatedly because they are able to spin a tale that is engaging, entertaining, and realistic.

What are you working on next?
Axe of Iron: Confrontation is in the edit process and is scheduled for release in June 2009. The series is five or six books and the release of each volume will follow at the rate of one per year until I have told the tale.

What made you decide to write this novel?
I have had a lifelong interest in the medieval Norse people. That interest is focused on the five hundred year history of the Norse Greenland settlements. The mystery surrounding the abandonment of the two known settlements and the disappearance of every single person living therein has captured my imagination. Years of research has led me to believe that they did not disappear, rather they assimilated with the natives of North America. My series of books tell a plausible tale in support of that contention. No other author has ever treated the subject the way I have. Axe of Iron: The Settlers is my first novel. It is a character-driven, historical fiction book. My characters tell the story and the reader sees the events through their eyes.

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
The entire process has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbies, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Do your homework, believe nobody, and get everything in writing, research, research, and research.

I have seen many aspiring writers take one class after another in the hopes that this acquired knowledge will pave the way for them. I, too, took many writing classes. If you spend all your time worrying about plot, voice, POV, etc. you will never actually take the plunge. In the final analysis I can say the classes helped, but what I finally found was, ‘In order to learn to write, you must write.’ You must have a story to tell, find someplace where you can do so without interruption, and set down and get at it. You will make mistakes, certainly, but you will learn your craft in the process. Another piece of advice for you: if you do not own a recent edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, buy one; it is the bible of the industry.

We write because we must; we have a story to tell. Now that I have actually gotten the process going with one book published, I derive satisfaction from telling my tale to others. I expect that feeling to continue as the Axe of Iron series unfolds. The entire writing/publication process was difficult and expensive. There are two major downs to writing and both are part of the learning process. With high expectations, I presented my rough draft manuscript to an editor—wrong approach—forget the expectations. I got my masterpiece picked apart, marked up in red, and seriously in need of correction and rewrite. My response? I dropped it in the trash. Phyllis to the rescue! She made me see the error of my ways and pushed me to do what all writers must do at this stage, dig in, and do your job. I cracked up the editor by telling her that she had said that ‘my baby was ugly.’ Actually, it was ugly, so I had to fix it, and I did. Hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. An English teacher is not an editor and you cannot edit your own work, so hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise.

Do your homework on the submission guidelines before you query. All agents will have their own guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow their submission guidelines. Dealing with agents is the most disheartening undertaking for a writer. Agents act like the writer exists because of agents, when in fact it is the other way around. I wasted a year trying to find an agent from among those professing to have an interest in my genre only to find that there are not any in existence.

Author Q&A with Luigi Morelli, 'Revolution of Hope'

Author and trainer Luigi Morelli says his faith in social change from a cultural perspective has evolved through a combination of training, education and unique personal experience. He teaches “Non-Violent Compassionate Communication” based on Nonviolent Communication as developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg. In 2003 he was a founding member of the Wavecrest /Friends of L’Arche community for the disabled (part of the international federation of L’Arche communities), in Orange County, Callifornia, in 2004. Morelli holds a masters degree in environmental sciences, and has lived in Europe, South America and Africa. He has resided in the US for the last 22 years. His book, Revolution of Hope is due out momentarily from Trafford at

How did you get your start in writing?
I am originally more of a researcher than a writer. English is not my first language so I need an editor. As a researcher I am someone who has a passion for asking questions that matter … I ask questions and then dig under every stone to find leads, and new answers leading to larger questions.

My first question leading to a book came to me on a warm spring day along the banks of the Delaware in Philadelphia at what is called Penn’s Landing. I love Philadelphia and its historical background and that day my attention lingered on a tall bronze statue of the Native American Tamanend (St. Tammany). The caption at the foot of the sculpture said he was patron saint of the colonists, and his festival was celebrated on May 1. I was inspired and tickled to death by the idea that a Native American could be a patron saint for Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. I thought I would just find a nice book that would explain it all. I ventured into libraries and bookstores asking for something that I thought everybody knew. Not so, in spite of (the statue) standing in front of everybody’s eyes in Philadelphia. I started digging out information about St. Tammany and living with this image in my mind and heart. Two other similar questions came my way about related topics: one through a movie (Squanto), the other through a Native American legend (the Iroquois legend of the White Roots of Peace). This led to my passion for writing and to the first book Hidden America.
What does your writing routine look like?

Writing, reading, musing at images, legends, biographies, reflecting at life questions that have accompanied me for more years than I can tell … I help myself with notes, I draw connections. If it is a myth or a legend I make sure I read it slowly and fully; read as many versions of it as possible; let the images live vividly in my imagination; let them converse to me on a daily basis. Depending on how large the question this process can take from months to many years; I don’t have control over the length of it. At other times it is a matter of living through some life experience, especially socially transformative processes which are what I am most interested in.
When the material starts to settle I generally start thinking of an artistic form to give it, something like a thread or a structure that can give the reader added interest and that helps me organize the material in a way that offers me support, creativity and fun. This is the most creative part. After that it’s a matter of iterations; going through the parts and making sure that the material is organized coherently; returning to the whole and see if the parts add up coherence; returning to the details and polishing them, etc.

I can do this while working on more than one project at a time since I don’t give myself deadlines.

Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.
Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) for an inspiring book written by a first time doctor-turned-author. It is thoroughly engrossing, a page turner. At the same time it is universal.

Atwater, P. M. H. (Beyond the Light: The Mysteries and Revelations of Near-Death Experiences) for sound common sense and for taking on daringly original perspectives, casting light on the fascinating topic of near-death experiences.

Nicanor Perlas (Shaping Globalization: Civil Society Cultural Power and Threefolding) for wresting a coherent image of hope from a world in which I could see little.

Brown, Juanita and Isaacs, David. (The World Cafe: Shaping Our Future Through Conversations That Matter) for a book that is a delight of originality, practicality, stimulus for thought.

Greaves, Helen. (The Dissolving Veil, Testimony of Light, The Wheel of Eternity) She writes of her own spiritual experiences with sobriety and discernment, avoiding sensationalism and self-aggrandizing.

Wheatley, Margaret J. (Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World) for an engaging synthesis of natural scientific discoveries and what they mean for social science, particularly leadership.

What are you working on next?
I want to continue the work I started with Spiritual Turning Points of North American History with a sort of twin volume about South America. The first work places in parallel historical research with myths and legends of North America about a figure that is known from all of North and Central America, a civilizing hero of the Americas who is known as far south as Patagonia.
The book will be an attempt to show that the Western scientific mind can be reconciled with the Native American consciousness; in essence that the natives know what they talk about when they speak about their history in the language of myths and legends. Now that I’ve done the first part for North America I want to do the same for South America, taking Peru as the starting point, since this is where we can find the largest historical and mythical record. This is exciting because I am partly Peruvian by my mother and because I know many of the places and legends that I am exploring, plus have a natural passion particularly for the legacy of the Incas and for the Native culture of the Peruvian mountains (particularly Cuzco and the high plateau of the Titicaca).

What made you decide to write this book?
Of all the questions I wanted to write about those I confront in A Revolution of Hope are the ones I initially wanted to answer for myself alone. I had been a social activist from my early youth, and the questions of social consciousness, right livelihood and spirituality have accompanied me lifelong.

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
Trust that your life questions are important. Let them lead you to the goal and give them the time that they need, not the time that you need. It doesn’t matter if a book takes ten years while another may take six months. You can write more than one in parallel.

Trust that you will have access to artistic creativity in the process. You don’t need to be a ‘Ulysses’ Joyce or Shakespeare, but you can still find ways to render your material interesting, and discover resources you didn’t know you had.

Your own growth is what matters: don’t measure yourself up to unrealistic yardsticks.

Favorite Links:

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 ALMOST finished with her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Writing Porch Author Q&A with Frankie Y. Bailey

Frankie Y. Bailey is an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY). She specializes in crime history, and in crime and mass media/popular culture. She is the author or co-author of a number of non-fiction books, most recently (with Alice P. Green) "Wicked Albany: Lawlessness & Liquor in the Prohibition Era" (The History Press, 2009). Frankie is also the author of a mystery series featuring Southern crime historian Lizzie Stuart in four books, including "You Should Have Died on Monday" (Silver Dagger, 2007). Frankie is a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and Mystery Writers of America (MWA). Frankie is the 2009-2010 Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America.

Her book, "African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study"
(McFarland, 2008, 271 pp) examines the works of modern African American mystery writers in the context of the long history of African Americans writing about crime and justice. The first section provides historical context; the second focuses on issues such as sleuths, settings, victims, and offenders; the third section includes the results of a survey of readers and interviews with mystery writers and scholars.

How did you get your start in writing?
My parents allowed me to sign up for the Famous Writers School correspondence course when I was a teenager. Then later at college, I had a double major in English and Psychology, both provided me with an opportunity to write. The first time I actually sat down and tried to write a book was when I was in the Army (between college and grad school). I was living in Seattle, where I was assigned as a food inspector. I came home every day, had dinner, and spent the evening pecking away on my typewriter. I managed to produce two romantic suspense novels that would require a lot of editing before they could be sent out. But I did prove to myself that I could write a book. I wrote my first non-fiction book around 1989-1991 when I was living and teaching in Frankfort, Kentucky. The book was about black characters in crime and detective fiction, and to my utter disbelief was nominated for an EDGAR.

What does your writing routine look like?
It more or less depends on the day. On some days, I don't write at all.
Instead, I spend the time preparing to write by doing research or just thinking. Or procrastinating. I generally write my mysteries at home -- or in a hotel room when I'm really stuck and need to focus. I like to write late at night. That works when I don't have to get up the next morning. But if I'm really tired, I go to bed and get up early the next morning and write until around 11. Sometimes I get my best ideas when I wake up and stagger to the computer and write while I'm still almost in a dream state. I like to wake up while I'm writing. Since I don't drink coffee, it's sometimes my substitute for caffeine.

With the non-fiction writing, I spend afternoons/early evenings in my office at school most days. Because U Albany is a public research university and I teach in a grad school, I spend a lot of time doing research and writing in my area of specialization. I do much of my non-fiction research and writing in my office. However, if I'm pushing a deadline, I will work at home so I don't have to drive home in the middle of the night. But, psychologically, I can focus best on fiction at home, non-fiction at the office.

The only caveat to this is that my own research as an criminal justice professor often yields the true crime cases that inspire the plots in my mysteries. So, often when I'm doing research, the fiction and the non-fiction research will overlap. Of course, I also need to go "on location" for the mysteries to get the settings right. So the last book, I spent time in Chicago, Wilmington, NC, and New Orleans. This past fall, I spent time in Maine and on Eastern Shore Virginia doing research for the book I'm working on now, "40 Acres and a Soggy Grave."

Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.
I admire many of my mystery writer peers. I think that modern mystery writers are masters at both character and plot. They also often deal with social issues while providing their readers with great page-turning entertainment. However, since I can't mention all my favorites, I won't mention anyone by now. I'm also a fan of historical romance, and one of my favorite writers is Mary Balogh. She is one of those writers who can keep me up all night turning pages.

If I could take only one book with me to a desert island, it would be my worn, tattered "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare." I did three quarters of Shakespeare as an English major and I am still in awe of his ability to create characters that live and breathe. I love some poets for the same reason. For example, Edwin Arlington Robinson. His "Richard Cory" was the inspiration for a character in one of my books. Actually, I'm completely scattered when it comes to reading. I will read almost anything if it grabs my attention. I have more books piled up on tables then I will ever be able to read.

What are you working on next?
My next Lizzie Stuart mystery, "40 Acres and a Soggy Grave." The first book in a new historical mystery series set during World War II. A non-fiction book with the working title, "Strip Search," about clothing, crime and impression management. And (with Alice Green) a book about African Americans in Albany, 1919-1965.

What made you decide to write this book?
"African American Mystery Writers" is really the sequel to the first non-fiction book I wrote back in 1991, "Out of the Woodpile: Black Characters in Crime and Detective Fiction." That first book came out just as what has been called a "renaissance" of black mystery writers began.
Although African Americans began publishing in the genre at the turn of the 20th century, it wasn't until the late 1980s/early 1990s, that more than one or two at a time began to be published. So, now that there are enough of these writers to allow analyze of their works -- and because I had an invitation from the editor at McFarland to submit a proposal -- I decided to write another book.

What challenges did you face with this book?
I went astray in writing my first draft because I didn't realize until it was done that I needed to go back to the beginning and provide historical context. I started again and added another section to the book that began with African Americans as slaves or ex-slaves writing about "crime" and "justice." Of course, having to take additional time to do this research and write another section of the book meant that I missed my original deadline and the one after that. I was grateful to have a publisher willing to wait until I felt the book was done rather than demanding that I get it in on time or else.

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
Write only about a subject you love or would love to learn more about. Books take a long time to write. Writing about something that bores you silly or that is simply alien to who you are is a recipe for frustration.

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 ALMOST finished with her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Writing Porch Author Q&A with Margot McDonnell

Margot McDonnell is the author of Torn to Pieces (Delacorte Press, 2008) and has been nominated for an EDGAR award in the young adult category. She lives in Arizona.

About 'Torn to Pieces':
When her mother disappears, Anne learns that everything she once believed true about herself is a lie and she is in grave danger.

How did you get your start in writing?
As a kid, I was always an avid reader with a big imagination. By twelve I had written two books, a collection of short stories, a musical comedy, and a drama. I think I liked to show off because my teachers always picked my stuff to read to the class. The first published book, 'My Own Worst Enemy,' Putnam, 1984, materialized when my sons were teens. They and their friends were so amusing that I used them as inspiration.

What does you writing routine look like?
First, as an online college instructor, I read and evaluate lessons. Shortly after, I take a walk and think about my current writing project. Back home, it's straight to the computer for several hours. If I can't get past a snag in the plot, I sleep on it, and the problem usually resolves itself. Once in a while I take a few days off and make a quilt.Some writers whose work I admire. William Faulkner is the kind of mystery writer ('Light in August' and 'Absalom Absalom') who buries clues in all those dense sentences worth wading through. I also admire Harlan Coben's books. He's got it going with crisp prose and irresistible mysteries I can never quite figure out. Laura Lippman's well-thought-out psychologically focused plots and excellent characterization make her books fascinating.

What are you working on next?
Another mystery, but I never talk about a current project although I think about it constantly.

What made me decide to write this novel?
'Torn to Pieces' began when I saw a guy play with the hair of the girl in front of him in my English class. I wrote a few pages, then challenged myself after retiring from high school teaching to finish the thing. At first, the book explored young girl's issues at a large high school. When I kept falling asleep from boredom, it morphed into a mystery. With no idea where it was going, I put obstacles in my character Anne's path and let her figure them out. It really annoyed her.

What challenges did you face with this book?
I had to take out some stupid content and rewrite the whole manuscript because no editor liked it. Then, when an offer came, my editor requested two major (and I mean MAJOR) plot changes. I almost cried, but changing the book actually made it better. The hair playing part is still in it.

What advice would I have for other writers/would-be writers?
Today, the book business is tough, writing is tough (what else is new?), and getting a foot in the door is tough. So a manuscript must be finished, topnotch, and free of errors, at the least. But first it has to tell a gripping story. Readers other than family members who are known for their honesty should read the manuscript and critique it. They should be brutal and blunt. This can help find rough spots and fine tune the work. Then comes the query letter. I worked on mine every day for a month and secured an agent in a few days. In short, the writing and the approach to finding a publisher must be professional, and that includes reactions to requests for revisions by the agent and editor. Both have the writer's best interests in mind, and it's not productive to balk.

Where can someone find my work?
'Torn to Pieces' is available on almost any online bookstore and in dozens of public libraries. I am excited to see it in so many libraries because my focus is to write stories for kids who might not care to read but pick it up, enjoy it, then read another by someone else, and another...

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.'

The Writing Porch Author Q&A with Caron Goode

Dr. Caron Goode is the author of Raising Intuitive Children: Guide Your Children to Know and Trust Their Gifts (2009, New Page Books) and The Art & Science of Coaching Parents (2007). A licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, Goode has written 10 books. Her 15-year psychotherapy practice served dozens of people considered to be intuitives. In 2003, she founded the Academy for Coaching Parents International, which provides training and certification for professionals to run parent-coaching businesses.
Her co-author is a certified coach for parents of intuitives, Tara Paterson of Round Hill, Virginia.

How did you get your start in writing?
In fourth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Mendenhall said that if any students wanted extra credit, we could complete a writing project. I went home that Friday afternoon and spent six hours writing a child's poetic accolades to Catholic figures: "Dear Mary, dressed in blue. I love you." I woke up early saturday morning and rode my bike across town to deliver my book of poetry. I surprised her at her brunch, but she was gracious and accepted my efforts. In high school, creative writing classes kept my interest alive. And my employers always encouraged my writing creativity at work. I started writing professionally for others besides myself when I worked for Special Olympics International and interviewed athletes, collected research, but mostly was inspired by the success stories of the athletes. Thereafter I authored my own books in the educational an trade fields. As recently as 2003, I started ghostwriting for others, again fascinated by human history and people's stories. I've complete forty ghost-written projects, mostly nonfiction, parables, and several family sagas.

What does your writing routine look like?
I write six days a week. I am "creatively compulsed" at this phase of my life.

Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.
I admire Danielle Steele because of the intricacy of her plot details. I love Taylor Caldwell's story telling ability because I felt I was there in her scenes.

What are you working on next?
I am currently writing 'Kids Who See Ghosts' for a fall, 2009 release.

What made you decide to write this book?
I determined to write this book about four years before I actually did. I had always taught the special needs children who might have been intuitive, right brain thinkers, or learned differently from the left-brain oriented educational models. Then as a psychotherapist, I seemed to attract families who had sensitive children, psychic some way intuitive. Over the years this model developed, and I felt Raise Intuitive Children would provide insight for parents about how their child learned and how to nurture and encourage those sensitives and intuitives who break the mold for educational and traditional parenting models.

What challenges did you face with this book?
Knowing when the time was right. I couldn't think this evolved in its own time, and when birthed, was sold overnight to a publisher who also saw that the time was right.

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?
Work from intuition, that is where I find the passion.

Favorite Links:

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 revising her new novel, 'At High Tide.'