Monday, August 29, 2011

Interview with Author Gregg Luke

Gregg R. Luke, R.Ph. was born in Bakersfield, California, but spent
the majority of his childhood and young adult life in Santa Barbara,
California. He served an LDS mission in Wisconsin, then pursued his
education in Natural Sciences at SBCC, UCSB, and BYU. He completed his
schooling at the University of Utah, College of Pharmacy.

Gregg currently practices pharmacy in Logan, Utah. He and his wife
Julie have three children and live in Cache Valley, Utah. He has been
published in Skin Diver Magazine, the Oceanographic Letter, and the
New Era Magazine. His fictional novels include The Survivors, Do No
Harm, Altered State, and Blink Of An Eye, three of which were Whitney
Award finalists.

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Gregg: I’ve enjoyed writing since elementary school. I remember my 4th grade teacher once scribbled, “Wonderful imagination” on a short story I wrote. That gave me such a thrill I began writing little stories and tales on a regular basis. It was more of a release than anything; it wasn’t until high school that I thought it would be cool to actually publish a book.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Gregg: My educational background is mostly in the sciences. I actually received a scholarship to BYU in cinematography because I love all aspect of film-making—which I believe helped to hone my writing skills. I changed my major to biologic sciences when I decided to pursue a career in medicine instead. I took a couple of creative writing classes just to keep my hand in it, but I didn’t seriously try to publish until after college.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Gregg: I’ve always been fascinated by the power of words. It amazes me that a few strategically placed words can bring out feelings of anger, fright, angst, happiness, and can even make me laugh and cry. I love being able to elicit those feelings with others through my writing. I also love to teach (but I hate to lecture). I try to share interesting principles of science (and sometimes religion) in my novels in a way that doesn’t bore my readers to tears.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Gregg: I found the pathway to publishing is callous-building. I have an inch-thick stack of rejection slips from my first novel (which is still unpublished). It was a Book of Mormon adventure, and at the time the market was saturated. So I studied the published novels in that genre and found a vacancy I could try. My second novel dealt with the exploits of the sailor Hagoth from the Book of Mormon. It was accepted by a publisher that was on the verge of going under. They put it out without any editing before or after typeset. The story was intact but the final product was embarrassing. I’ve counted close to two hundred typos and grammatical errors—including misspelling my name on the copyright page! After that, I decided to follow the advice of countless experts and “write what I know.” I noticed that there were no LDS authors writing medical thrillers. My favorite author is the late Michael Crichton. I love techo-thrillers of all kinds, so I tried my hand at an LDS medical thriller and was published the first time out. (I hate it when the experts are right!)

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Gregg: I have five published novels under my belt, a few magazine articles, and I still get discouraged. It comes with the territory. I find the biggest discouragement comes with self-doubt. I decided long ago that all authors have to have very thick skin to survive in the market, so I try to battle discouragement with an “I’ll-just-try-harder” attitude. Others out there are doing it, so why can’t I?

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Gregg: Sporadic. I wish I had a set schedule; I’d probably get more done. I have a full time job as a pharmacist and I take an active part in my children’s education and rearing. I write most of my material in my head, then I regurgitate it on the computer when I get a free moment in the evening or on weekends.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

Gregg: I have the very fortunate position of having ideas spring up every day at work. Since I write medical thrillers, any new drug or therapy or new study is fair game for embellishment into a novel. Still, I have hundreds of ideas that’ll probably never become novels because they just won’t fit into an entertaining tale. Some things I find fascinating would bore others to tears. So I do a lot of picking and choosing with my ideas.

Deirdra: Can you tell us about your newest book Blink Of An Eye.

Gregg: BLINK was a difficult novel to write in that it has some very emotional moments that are necessary to the story. The idea came when I noticed the over-abundance of novels that dealt with a protagonist that gets amnesia (usually from a head trauma) and then spends the rest of the novel trying to regain their identity. I wondered if anyone has ever had a head trauma that caused a remembrance of issues they had no clue they had previously repressed. I wrote BLINK during the tragedy of Ethan Stacy in Layton, UT. The entire event appalled me. Any form of child abuse makes me livid. I talked with a psychologist at my clinic and he said childhood abuse is often repressed in adults. The story developed from there—but to keep it from being a totally depressing tale I threw in elements of romance, suspense, humor, and made sure to give it a happy ending.

Deirdra: How do you manage your pharmaceutical career, family life, church responsibilities and being an author?

Gregg: It’s a balancing act that regrettably does not allow for long sessions of solid writing. Like I said, I write here and there. I get a few hours to write on some weekends but not as many as I’d like. What astounds me is how people like you, Deirdra, can raise a family, fulfill church responsibilities, write, work, AND have time to run a successful blog! Do you ever sleep?

Deirdra: I take naps every once in a while. =)

Deirdra: How many beta readers do you have review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?

Gregg: It varies. Usually about three.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Gregg: Because I strive to make all the science, chemistry, and drugs in my novels accurate, I hope my readers frequently stop and wonder, “Is that really true?” or gasp and say, “Holy crap!” and when they finish, I hope they say, “Man, that was a fun ride!”

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

Gregg: Because of the complexity of my stories I probably should use an outline, but I don’t. I usually know where I want to start and how I want to end, and there are a few plot points that have to occur somewhere along the way, but that’s all the outline there is. I spend a good deal of time on each character so that I know how each will react in a situation. Even then, sometimes a character will say or do something that bowls me over. That’s when writing is fun. It’s not so much creating as it is discovering.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Gregg: Oh yeah. Writer’s block is a constant nemesis. When it happens I just keep writing. Sometimes I’ll create a new character and see how they interact with the story. I did that with my latest WIP and the guy took over the entire plot. In the end, his role was simply too complex and I ended up cutting him (and almost 60 pages!) from the ms. But it kept me writing and it opened up a few doors I wasn’t expecting.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

Gregg: I have developed the ability to block out most background noise when I write, but I prefer it quiet if possible.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Gregg: Current events often play a big role in my stories. I also get tons of material from the drug journals I read and seminars I attend to maintain my license.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Gregg: Influence comes from everyone, whether good or bad. My wife was the first to encourage me to submit my novels for consideration. She’s a writer too, and she walked me through the steps to publication. What keeps me going are the generous fans I have who tell me how much they enjoy my stories.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Gregg: I have the advantage of talking with hundreds of people every day at my pharmacy, so I have a generous character pool to draw from. I think the secret to character development is to know them inside and out before you type a single word. Then let them shine. I often let my characters say and do what ever they want, then go back and chop out the stuff that I know will be objectionable to my publisher and audience.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?

Gregg: Michael Crichton—he uses so much cool, real science in his stories.

Tom Clancy—he uses so much cool, real technology in his stories.

Dean Koontz—his material is edgy but his prose and pacing are pure magic.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Gregg: I try not to snack when I write. I’m watching my figure.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Gregg: I sing, I arrange music, I cook, and I used to play a mean game of volleyball and brandished a wicked epee.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Gregg: Okay, here’s my secret: I imagine my story as a movie. We’ve all seen lousy movies. Why are they lousy? Conversely, why do we love to watch some movies again and again? They same logic applies to writing. Do your characters seem real? Are their conversations contrived or natural? Is the situation plausible? Does the tempo keep me enthralled? Does each scene add something to the story? Does the resolve tie up all loose ends? Once I can see the movie has potential, I begin to write it down. That’s the trick: I write the movie in my mind.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Gregg: I’ve just submitted a ms entitled “Bloodborne.” It’s about an evil scientist (duh) who discovers a way to transmit his designer virus using mosquitos. Very creepy stuff. Currently, I am editing my daughter’s fantasy ms about a girl that has the ability to shape shift into a dragon. It’s pretty fun so far.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Gregg: My novels are at Seagull Book, Deseret Book, and online with Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Gregg: My warmest thanks to all my readers for allowing me to share my mindless wanderings with them. And thanks to you, Deirdra, for giving me this interview for your terrific blog.

Deirdra: You are awesome Gregg! Thank you so much for letting me pick your brain!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interview with Author Carolyn Schriber

Carolyn Schriber received her PhD in Medieval History from the University of Colorado. After she retired from a position as a college history professor, she turned her attention to her second love, the history of America's Civil War. She offers a fresh perspective and a valuable new approach to some of the issues of the Civil War. e conflict. Beyond All Price is a historical novel based on the real life story of Nellie M. Chase, a Union nurse. With a clear and engaging writing style, she examines the roles of women during the war, the horrors of medical treatments, and the problems presented by newly freed slaves.

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Carolyn: All my life, I think. I was making up stories in my head when I was just a kid. The real question is when I knew I COULD be an author. That didn’t happen until I actually had a book published. And even then, I wasn’t too sure.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Carolyn: I’m an academic at heart. I spent ten years or so as a high school Latin and English teacher. Then I went back to grad school and earned a PhD in Medieval History. I spent the rest of my working career as a history professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. Academics write books, so that’s what I did – big books densely stuffed with footnotes and bibliographies. They are in university libraries all over the place, but I’m not sure anyone ever read one of them. That career also meant that I learned not to expect to make money from writing.

Then I retired and decided to see what I could do as an independent writer.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Carolyn: I love it when someone falls in love with one of my characters. Nellie Chase now has her own group of fans, and she makes me proud.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

 Well, my first book was a historical monograph on a 12th-century Norman bishop and his impact on the royal family of England. It was ridiculously easy to get it published. I pitched it to an editor in about five minutes at a conference, and she bought it for the University of Indiana Press. They did all the work from there on in. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn much about publishing from the experience.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

 Discouragement came much later. Academic publishing is not a problem. You’re expected to do it, and you do. But then I retired, and learned that without academic credentials, I was a nobody again. My book on the history of the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment was turned down over and over again before a small house took a chance on it. Why? Because it was Civil War history, and my only credentials said I was a medieval historian. I still shrink inside when I remember some of the reviewers’ comments on amateurs trying to write history in a specialized field.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

 I’m very much a morning person. If I can get up, eat a bite of breakfast, and head right for the keyboard, I can write all morning. If I have other errands to run in the morning, I get little accomplished later in the day

I keep trying to use National Novel writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to spur me to a more regular production schedule, but the pressure from a deadline just doesn’t work for me. I’ve just failed spectacularly at NaNoWriMo Summer Camp. I managed 38,000 words out of the required 50,000, and then broke down and quit.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

Carolyn: In my case, I’ve learned to take my historian’s training and apply it to fiction. My books are all set in coastal South Carolina during the Civil War. The area overflowed with colorful characters in that period, so all I have to do is look for someone who catches my fancy. But how do I KNOW? I’m not sure anyone ever knows for sure that an idea can become a book. You have to take a chance.

With my first post-academic book, A Scratch with the Rebels, I chose to write about my great-uncle, who was a Union soldier stationed in South Carolina (and killed there) in 1862. I cared about him, but it turned out that there was not enough information or excitement in his life to sustain a whole book. So I found a Confederate soldier at the same time and place, and played them off against one another.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book "Beyond All Price?"

Carolyn: Beyond All Price is based on the life of a real Civil War nurse, Nellie M. Chase. She appeared—briefly—in A Scratch with the Rebels, because she was the nurse who served with Uncle James’s regiment. I found her fascinating, but she didn’t play much of a role in that first story. She deserved a book all her own.

Nellie was a teen-age runaway, a battered wife, a lone woman trying to survive in world dominated by men. She joined the Union Army with no credentials and little hope, but she became one of the unsung heroines of the Civil War. Determined to atone for the mistakes of her early life by dedicating her life to the service of others, she rose to a responsible position as head matron of a 600-bed hospital in occupied Nashville. Then she retired into obscurity, where she lingered until the world offered her one last chance to demonstrate her remarkable courage.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your book?

Carolyn: As a historian, I hope I have offered some glimpses into the problems of the Civil War that don’t appear in history books. Nellie has to deal with such matters as the state of medical knowledge at the beginning of the war, the limitations placed on women by 19th century society, and the problems raised by freeing slaves who were not ready to handle life outside of slavery.

On another level, I think Nellie will resonate with many readers. There are hints that she had an abusive father, and we know that her first husband beat her and tried to turn her into the madame of a brothel. She had to struggle to support herself and to build up her self-confidence. She’s a modern woman, seen through the lens of an earlier age.

Deirdra: How many beta readers review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?
Carolyn: Well, against all advice, I do my own editing. I must have read the manuscript nearly 20 times, trying to view it through the eyes of the creative writing teacher I once was. Then I sent it to five beta-readers – each one of whom could bring a different perspective to the book. I had a young woman going through a divorce, a Civil War re-enactor who is descended from a member of the regiment Nellie served, a military tour-guide in Charleston, an engineer with an eye for detail, and the head of an association of writers and publishers.
When they finished with their comments, I edited the whole manuscript one more time.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

 The best inspiration for me comes from visiting the locales of my story. It’s a real hardship, you understand, to have to plan a trip to Charleston or Hilton Head, but I struggle through. Once there, just walking through the same streets that my character knew sets all sorts of new ideas flowing.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Carolyn: Oh, I owe so many people. But in the end, the support of my husband matters most. He’s a gem. He cleans the house and runs errands so that I can have free writing time. He travels with me on all those hardship research trips and takes the photographs that will later refresh my memory. He’s my greatest cheerleader and my shoulder to cry on. He makes it all possible.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?

Carolyn: I have lots of favorites and for many different reasons. But if I had to choose one, the prize would go to Carl Sandburg. His poetry is wonderful, of course, but he also wrote a historical novel called Remembrance Rock. In it he manages to show his readers the entire story of American history through the eyes of recurring characters and a recurring cat. I loved it each time I read it, and I still go back to examine how he did what he did. The book taught me the art of story-telling as well as history.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Carolyn: Most of my free time goes to Lions Clubs International, the world’s largest service organization. I’m president of my local club and first vice-president of Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Service, a charitable organization that provides free sight and hearing care to indigent individuals in a four-state area.

Oh, and my four fuzzy wonders are pacing my office, reminding me that I’m also a cat-lover. That’s where the name of my publishing imprint comes from: Katzenhaus Books means cat house (no, not that kind!)

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Carolyn: Slow down. If you are going to do it, take the time to do it correctly. And be prepared for a long struggle. Real success does not come quickly or easily – not if you want it to be permanent.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

 My upcoming novel is The Road to Frogmore. It is based on the life of Laura M. Towne, the founder of the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, SC. She was a Philadelphia abolitionist who came to South Carolina to provide medical care to abandoned slave communities during the Civil War. The book will address her own transformation from doctor to teacher, her efforts to help the freedmen become productive citizens despite military and governmental interference, and her struggle to gain acceptance for the fact that she lived with her best friend and partner, Ellen Murray.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your book and order it?

Carolyn: A Scratch with the Rebels and Beyond All Price are both available on my website at They are also available from and the Kindle Store.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Carolyn: I would like to invite your readers to follow me on the internet. Links to my blogs and social networks appear on my flashcard at

Thank you so much, Carolyn. It’s a real honor to get your insights.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Interview with Book Marketing Expert Catherine Balkin


I’m the Balkin. Well, I’m one of them. I’m one of the Catherine Balkins. My mother was another one, but then a Catherine Balkin in Australiafound me on Facebook. We have no idea if we are related but we hope so, since we felt like sisters when we met during a trip she and her husband made to New York City.

I’m from Buffalo, New York originally, although I lived in New York longer than I lived in Buffalo (about 35 years). Still, that’s where my roots are and where my childhood memories live. Soon I’ll be living in Tampa, Florida, where the Balkin Buddies office will be a bit bigger.

Once upon a time, I worked in advertising, then in publishing. The place I worked at the longest was HarperCollins, where I spent nearly 15 years working with the legendary Bill Morris until he died in 2003. I used to set up author appearances in schools, libraries and at conferences, and handled all marketing activities and events related to HarperCollins' participation in library and educational conferences. If you've ever been to an ALA, IRA, NCTE, ALAN, or TLA, you've probably met me. While at HarperCollins, I also created the first publisher's electronic listserv dedicated to serving teachers and librarians, providing information on awards, authors and illustrators, and the Balkin Buddies blog ( is something of an extension of that.

Soon after Bill’s death, I started my own author appearance business and thus, Balkin Buddies was born. So I’m still arranging author appearances in schools, libraries and at conferences, and I also do a bit of consulting for various publishers from time to time and a bit of freelance work every now and then. But mainly I work directly with authors and artists, and they, of course, are the buddies. Some of them are old friends, some of them are new. All of them are wonderful, creative, fun, unique, and great with kids.

With the economic downturn, many Balkin Buddies authors and artists have also begun doing online chats via Skype or iChat. One university professor in Florida used Adobe Connect to have her distance learning students in Seattlechat with an author in Tennessee. Online chats are a good deal cheaper than onsite visits. The honorariums are much lower because there’s less preparation time for the author or artist, and there are no expenses like hotel bills, airfare, train fare, or even gas mileage for the hosting organization. You can find more information about this on the online chat page at the Balkin Buddies website (, where you’ll also be directed to other pages with even more details. However, if you prefer, you can just phone or email me (718 857 7605, and I’ll be happy to talk to you directly, but please wait till after August 11, as I’ll be in the moving process until then. In the meantime, you can learn more about me on my Facebook page, although I must warn you, there are a lot of pictures of my two parrots.

Occasionally, I give talks myself, sometimes about author appearances, sometimes about online chats, sometimes about specific subjects I’m asked to address. On November 19, 2011, I will be giving a presentation with an illustrator I represent (Jan Spivey Gilchrist) NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) and we’ll be discussing collaboration between writers and illustrators and she will give a brief illustrating workshop. On November 21, 2011 at ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE), I’ll be on a panel with a writer and a couple of teachers discussing Skype chats.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about “Balkin Buddies,” and what your organization does for authors and readers?

Catherine: I set up on-site speaking engagements for about 75 authors and illustrators in schools and libraries and at festivals, conferences, university programs, and any other type of event where they would get paid. I also set up Skype chats for about 40 authors and illustrators in the same types of venues, and for several of them I also set up on-site engagements. I also partially represent a few extra authors and illustrators who basically set up their own speaking engagements but I promote them on my site. Each year, I go to library and educational conferences like ALA, NCTE, and ALAN to promote my business, plus I have a blog which is dedicated to spreading news about my authors and illustrators books and events.

Deirdra: Can you tell us about your experience working with HarperCollins?

Catherine: I was the director of library promotion in the children's book division of HarperCollins and worked with the legendary Bill Morris. I set up speaking engagements for Harper authors and artists (just like I do now at Balkin Buddies). I also published a listserv, of which my current blog is an off-shoot. I also handled all matters related to Harper's participation in library and educational conferences: organizing the booth and autographing sessions, planning author parties, breakfasts, dinners, etc., creating promotional materials for the conferences. Because I worked there for nearly 15 years and Bill was there for nearly 50, we were often the people to go to when no one else knew the answer or where to go to find it. Before HarperCollins, I worked at Macmillan -- the one that was taken over by Simon and Schuster, not the current version.

Deirdra: What is your favorite part of working with authors and illustrators?

Catherine: It's a very personal kind of business, and a lot of them have become good friends. And of course, we all have something in common: we love good books.

Deirdra: How many books on average would you say you read a year?

Catherine: I don't really know. A couple hundred maybe. I have built-in bookcases in at least two rooms because I find it hard to part with the ones I especially like.

Deirdra: What are the worst mistakes authors make while trying to promote their own books?

Catherine: Failing to learn about the industry is probably the biggest mistake. I advise authors and artists to join SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators:, which puts out an excellent newsletter and also offers writers' conferences that feature speakers from publishing industry. The CBC (Children's Book Council: is another good place to go for information.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for traditionally published authors regarding promotion?

Catherine: Every author should have a website that includes a bio, an annotated list of their titles that includes the awards they know it has won, information on how to order their books, information about or a link to their publisher. If they are available for speaking engagements, I'd also suggest they include descriptions of the types of programs they do, how many programs they can do a day, and an honorarium range. I know many people don't like to list their honorariums, but it helps the teachers and librarians a lot to know this kind of information even before they contact you for a variety of reasons (the librarian might be writing a grant, for example, or a teacher may need to let the PTA know how much they need to raise). I'd also suggest contacting their local libraries, schools and bookstores to let them know they're available for speaking and/or autographing. If the author has a publicist at her publishing house, I'd suggest picking his or her brain; and if the house has someone who handles author visits, the author might want to contact that person, too, for the same reason.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for self-published or indie-published authors?

Catherine: To start, I'd suggest hiring an editor to make sure their books are ready for publication. There are some excellent freelance children's book editors available. Here are three: Deborah Brodie (, Emma Dryden of Drydenbks(, Catherine Frank of Catherine Frank Editorial Services, LLC ( For promotion, I'd suggest hiring a publicist. Here are two very good ones: Media Masters ( and ask for Tracey Daniels or Karen Wadsworth), and Raab Associates ( and ask for Susan Raab). For speaking engagements and promotion, every author should have a website with the kind of information I mentioned in my answer to the question above, and, again as above, should contact local libraries, schools, and bookstores to let them know about their books and availability for speaking and/or autographing. Depending on their finances, it would be a good idea to attend some local state library or reading conferences. Also, to make sure their books gets some visibility at these shows like traditionally published authors, I would recommend contacting Combined Book Exhibit ( to find out how much they would charge for various conferences. The contact there is Peter Birch and he'll be able to help the author choose which conferences would be the best venues for his or her book(s).

If the author does not want to hire a publicist, there are a variety of ways to publicize his or her book(s):

  • Contests or raffles – Come up with a contest or raffle (and be sure to base it on some aspect of your book), and publicize it on your website and/or blog, and put up flyers about it at local schools, libraries, and bookstores (be sure to get their permission first – you might even be able to enlist their help).

  • Seek out children’s book awards (CBC can help with some of these), find out the guidelines for each and submit your book for every award it is eligible for

  • Set up a Google Alert for the title of your book and one for your name as well. Google will then alert you when it finds one or both on the internet. If the alert lets you know your book has been nominated for an award or received a good review, publicize this news via your website and/or blog and inform all the librarians, teachers, and booksellers you know.

  • Create bookmarks or postcards of your books (I’ve used and they’re quite helpful). Distribute them at conferences, bookstores, libraries, schools.

  • If you know parents on local PTAs, give them some of your bookmarks and find out if the school would like to have an author visit. If you are self-published, you might offer to do the visit for free if you can sell your books for autographing purposes.

  • This will be hard to do and will take a great deal of time and effort, but you might also try to develop mailing lists – one of librarians, one of teachers and university professors (teachers who teach future teachers), one of booksellers, and one of media contacts. I would not suggest you buy mailing lists, as they don’t always reach the people you want to reach. Truly good mailing lists take years to develop and maintain and the people who own them will sell them with great hesitation – and they will be costly. This is, in fact, why I suggest self-published and independent authors to hire publicists. They have such mailing lists and know the contacts on them personally. (For Balkin Buddies, I maintain a school and library mailing list and occasionally send books out for small publishers.)

Deirdra: What are your favorite kind of books to read and why?

Catherine: I don't really have a favorite kind of book -- or even a favorite age range. My tastes tend to be pretty eclectic. I read my authors' and illustrators' books, of course, and try to read those that have won major awards (Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, etc.), but I've always felt that books are like food. Sometimes I'm in the mood for fine dining (a Newbery winner), sometimes I'm in the mood for home cooking (a good midlist book), and sometimes I'm in the mood for junk food (the latest vampire book).

Deirdra: How do you feel about e-books?

Catherine: My husband used to read books on his Palm, but the Palm is now a thing of the past so some of the books he bought, he had to buy again. When will Kindle or Nook become a thing of the past? How many times will you have to buy the same book? This is the question that bothers me. Plus, okay, I'm old fashioned. I like the way a book feels in my hands. I appreciate how a book is designed and bound. I love that the 1920s paperback copy of Wuthering Heights I found in my parents' attic when I was eight is still intact in my bookcase.

Deirdra: If you could give a message to authors what would it be?

Catherine: Educate yourself as much as possible about publishing. Writing a book is only 10% of the work. Getting it published, getting it promoted, and keeping it in print is 90%.

Deirdra: Have you ever thought about writing a book?

Catherine: Yes, I have. It's hard.

Deirdra: What other talents and hobbies do you have?

Catherine: I have two parrots and, being a reader, I have read every book about them I could find. I am now somewhat knowledgeable about them.

Deirdra: Where is your favorite place to read?

Catherine: It used to be the subway. Now it's my living room.

Deirdra: Do you have a favorite reading snack?

Catherine: No, I don't like to get crumbs on my precious books.

Deirdra: Is there any other message you would like to give the literary community?

Catherine: It's an honor to be in your company.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Interview with Author Lisa Gordon

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Lisa: Actually my best friend at school wanted to be an author and at that point I had no idea I could write and no intention of becoming an author. At the age of thirty and with the advent of email; I became a prolific email writer to my friends all over the world. Many of them said that they enjoyed my emails so much; that I should consider writing professionally. I didn't take them seriously. I happened to go for a psychic reading at that time and the psychic said, "You are going to be a writer!" - I was amazed that she had picked up on my ability and I took it as a sign that writing was indeed for me. I started my novel A Sealed Fate the next week.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Lisa: I first studied law and the graduated in Economics from Warwick University in England. I went on to study Astrology professionally and later accounting - which means I am educationally a real mixed bag. I never studied English or literature and I had always thought I was far better with figures than words; but I was wrong.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Lisa: It was tricky and full of discouragement. I was very naive and knew nothing about the publishing world and how to make professional pitches to publishers and agents. By the time I had learnt all my mistakes I had run out of agents to write to and the rejection letters were coming in thick and fast. I totally believed in my book though and nothing would shake that. Since I had written for a niche market; I was told self publishing would work for me. I went with Janus Paublishing as have been amazed at the support, encouragement and great service they have and still do offer me. They really looked after me and entered me into many competitions.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Lisa: Getting rejected is discouraging; but every author has to go through it - it is almost a rights of passage thing. Even in the music biz the likes of Madonna, Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart were rejected by everyone before they eventually cracked it. It's the nature of the beast so to speak.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Lisa: Mornings before breakfast and in bed or late at night alone and again in bed on the laptop.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

Lisa: Tough question. Sometimes ideas come to me when I am listening to Queen or Bon Jovi full blast on my headphones at two in the morning - music I learned in Astrology is best way to access the spiritual realm and I do find music put me in touch with another part of me, a higher self. Other times via daydreaming and often a news item or anecdote I hear sparks an idea. If I can develop it in my head over a few days and visualise the characters; then I get excited and think; this could be a great story.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book A Sealed Fate?


A Sealed Fate is my debut novel which poses at the centre of the story, the question of fate versus free will.

To escape the pain of failed relationships and careers, both Valda and Larissa take themselves to Dubai seeking not only success but a reason and purpose in life. Valda does indeed find success and to her astonishment, love, but all is threatened when she is introduced to a billionaire Sheikh. Her clandestine relationship with the Sheikh propels her into a murky web of deceit and she turns to Larissa for help.

As an astrologer, Larissa predicts that Valda and the Sheikh’s destinies were sealed from the moment of their first meeting: however she keeps the dire fate that she reads in the charts a secret. Together, Valda and Larissa take a gamble in a game of cosmic Russian Roulette where the stakes are their lives and their adversary, fate itself.

Spiritual in its theme, this debut thriller also looks at the depth of personal relationships and the lengths two women would go to, to protect each other.

Deirdra: How many beta readers do you have review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?

Lisa: Two

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

Lisa: I get a rough plan in my head and then I just start writing. There is a magic in starting writing - ideas come which you could never have planned beforehand.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Lisa: If I do encounter a snag I just leave the book alone for a few days or even weeks and when you get back to it, it flows again. You have to switch off from writing; that it just as important as getting down to it in the first place.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

Lisa: I need quiet other than natural sounds like wind, rain beating on the window, kinds playing outside.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Lisa: News stories are often very helpful. I am a very observant person and when I am writing a book I tend to be alert for anything ie. more info on my plot, location, theme, anything like that which will add substance to my work and believability.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Lisa: My Mom has a very questioning mind and throughout my life she has always looked deeply and probingly into things and this I know has helped me develop tight plots without holes.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Lisa: I visualise them at night interacting with each other. I picture how they look, how they talk, their mannerisms and accents, their personalities - at the end of a book I feel that I have met them, I know them so well.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Lisa: I enjoy acting and I am a great public speaker. I love watching all sports especially cricket and I play tennis. I am very sociable and so enjoy my facebook and writing emails to friends. I am fanatical about healthy eating and love cooking. I really enjoy current affairs and politics.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Lisa: Find some writers clubs near you and go along. Also buy some writing magazines which have loads of helpful tips. Do research on what is required in terms of pace, style and structure for you particular genre. Concentrate on what you want to write and who you are writing for.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Lisa: I am working on my third novel - a crime thriller set in Italy and I also help promote new authors and self published authors.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?


Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Lisa: Nothing is ever achieved if you give up..hurdles are part of the process.

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