Monday, December 5, 2011

interview with Author Melissa Ann Goodwin

Melissa Ann Goodwin treasures fond memories of a happy and carefree childhood growing up in beautiful Andover, Massachusetts. She is especially grateful for the many wonderful teachers there, who encouraged her to read the books that inspired her to become a writer. She now lives in Santa Fe, NM, with her husband, artist J. Richard Secor. Melissa has written many stories, poems and articles for children’s magazines, and her non-fiction work has appeared in national magazines that include Guideposts’ Angles on Earth, Caring Today and The Caregivers’ Home Companion. The Christmas Village is her first novel for children.

The Christmas Village story summary: When Jamie Reynolds comes to his grandparents' Vermont home for Christmas, he just wants things to go back to the way they were before his dad disappeared. Time and again he is drawn to Grandma's miniature Christmas village, where he imagines that life is perfect. Late one night, the village comes to life before Jamie's eyes, and his fantasy of escaping into it becomes very real indeed. He discovers that the village is called Canterbury, where the year is 1932. Jamie becomes fast friends with Kelly and Christopher Pennysworth, and is taken in by Ida, who runs the local boarding house. But he also makes a dangerous enemy of the mysterious and menacing Jim Gordon, whose return to town is nothing but trouble. As Jamie desperately races against time to find his way back home, he is suddenly faced with a terrifying choice: to go ahead with his plan to leave, or to stay and help his friends, at the risk of never going home again. The Christmas Village is an adventure the whole family will love, filled with suspense, secrets and surprises to the very last page.

The Christmas Village is available in paperback from and select independent bookstores and as a Kindle e-book on It is also available for a wide variety of digital downloads (Nook, Kindle, IPad, etc. from Smashwords.

There is a really fun video book trailer that my nephew, a film student at Columbia created:


Smashwords page:

Blogs and Facebook:

Book blog:
My personal blog:
The Christmas Village Facebook page:


Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Melissa: As a kid I loved to read – everything! I have a very distinct memory of being around age eight or nine, having just read, The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, and thinking, “I want to write books like this.”

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Melissa: Even though I knew that I wanted to be a writer from a young age, I didn’t really get down to it until about 10 years ago (age 45!). Before that, I worked in the corporate world for 25 long, tedious, painful years. Did I mention tedious? And painful??
I started by writing stories and articles for children’s magazines and expanded to writing for magazines that deal with aging and caregiving, because I worked for a non-profit in that field. I was fortunate because my work was accepted quickly and often. So, in a way, it took a long time for me to get published because I started so late, but once I got going, things happened quickly.
I started working on The Christmas Village about four years ago. It was sporadic, because my parents were failing and it was a sad time for my family and me. Then last year, I committed to finishing the book by fall. I did finish, and fairly quickly, two agents offered to represent it. I chose one, and earlier this year we edited and got it ready for publishers.
About two months into the submission process, I started to think seriously about self-publishing. I could see that the traditional route might be possible, but that it would take a long time and would most likely drive me crazy. A friend of mine has successfully self-published three books and he offered to be my mentor. So I decided to take the leap and do it myself. It couldn’t have been easier and smoother. The book is doing really well, and I have absolutely no regrets.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Melissa: My discouragement actually occurred more during the long time in my life when I wasn’t writing. I felt like I was letting myself down; that I wasn’t fulfilling the promise of my potential. Once I started writing, I had enough regular success to keep me encouraged. I sometimes feared that the dream of seeing my books in print might not happen, but honestly, deep down I always believed it would.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
Melissa: For me, it doesn’t work to be strict about schedule. I’m self-motivated, so I don’t feel the need to set goals for a certain number of hours or words written. I write until I’m tired – that might be two hours or it might be five. I actually think that rest and escape from a project is very important. I often take several days off and then come back to my writing with a sense of lightness and renewed energy.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book The Christmas Village?
Melissa: It’s about 12-year-old Jamie, whose world has fallen apart because his father has left under rather mysterious circumstances. Jamie is hurt and furious with his dad. He and his mother decide to spend the holidays with Jamie’s grandparents in Vermont. Grandma has one of those miniature Christmas villages, and Jamie becomes fascinated with it because he imagines it to be a place where everything is perfect, bad things don’t happen and nothing ever changes. He wishes he could live there, and …..

Magically his wish comes true, and from there it’s an adventure to get him back home in time for Christmas. Along the way, his experiences teach him some important things about people, life, family, friends and forgiveness.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?
Melissa: Well, first of all it’s a good adventure filled with suspense and surprises all the way to the end, so I hope that readers of all ages will be thoroughly entertained. Kids will love the magic, the adventure, and the fact that the kids are the heroes. Adults will like the nostalgic feeling and the positive and hopeful themes. They’ll be able to feel good about the messages the book has for the children in their lives.

Now a little more personal question I noticed your husband is an artist. What is a marriage like with two incredibly creative and talented people? Do you ever compete artistically against each other? Do you work on projects together? How do you manage a creative life-style and a creative marriage?

When we first met 30 years ago, we worked for a bank! We both worked in the corporate world into middle age. Our careers took up most of our time, so I don’t think we even knew the depths of each other’s creativity until much later.

Dick started painting when he retired early from banking at age 54. I started writing when I left the corporate world 10 years ago. I think that because we worked at other things for so long, we realize that no one thing in life should be everything, all the time. Now we have pretty good balance – we are industrious for a while and then we like to goof off.

We never compete and we are each other’s greatest supporters – which includes being each other’s most honest critic. We depend on each other to say when something isn’t quite right. Sometimes we react defensively, which is human nature. But usually, once we’ve thought about it, we realize the other person picked up on something that needed fixing.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?
Melissa: I love to read, of course. But I also enjoy gardening and I really to decorate! If I could have lived parallel lives, I would have lived one as an interior decorator.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Melissa: You can do it! If other life demands are getting in the way of your writing, don’t despair - look how late I got started! I’ve learned that everything counts and I honestly believe that my book is better for having the benefit of my life experiences. And, I’d tell them that the world of writing and publishing has changed in ways that empower writers and enable them to be the masters of their own destinies. You can choose to stick to the traditional path, or to publish on your own. One is not better than the other, but now you have real choices. Don’t be scared to make them.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?
Melissa: My next book will be young adult historical fiction, inspired by my mother’s experience as a 14-year-old in England at the start of WWII.
Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Melissa: My book is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon, and for every kind of digital download on Smashwords.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Thank you so much for letting come here and visit with you. I love how the world of blogging has opened the doors for people to connect and share their common interests. I can’t wait to chat with your followers, answer any other questions they might have for me, and make some new friends.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Interview with Author/Editor Nicole Zoltack

Deirdra: What made you decide a career as an editor?

Nicole: First and foremost, I’m a writer but as a writer, you also have to be an editor and self-edit your own novels. When I saw some epublishers were looking for editors, I thought it would be a great experience for me. By reading and editing other people’s stories, you learn what works and what doesn’t. I work as both a content and a line editor for MuseItUp Publishing, and a content editor for eTreasures Publishing. Finally, I’m a freelance editor for Passionate Writer Publishing. It’s very rewarding work to be an editor and help an author make his/her story the best it can be.

Deirdra: When you are not wading through massive amounts of query letters what do you like to do in your spare time?

Nicole: Family is very important to me. I’m married to a wonderful man (we just celebrated 4 years!) and I have two wonderful sons that keep me on my toes! The oldest is three soon, the youngest is one. And in February, another one will be coming - another boy. I really hope the next one (our last) will be a girl! I also love to watch movies with my husband. And, of course, I love to read!

Deirdra: How does one become an editor?

Nicole: You don’t have to have a degree in English, although I’m sure that would help. My degree is completely unrelated to my writing and editing careers. Basically, any writer can become an editor. Start out small and help other writers by being a beta reader and critique partner. Learn or relearn all of the grammar rules. Take a course, if you need too. Then you can start to apply for editing positions at smaller publishers and work your way up.

At two of the publishing houses that I work for, I’m paid a portion of the royalties; at the other one, I get paid a flat fee for each manuscript.

Deirdra: What is the most challenging obstacle editors encounter when working with authors?

Nicole: Some authors are easier to work with and willing to learn than others. I think the biggest challenge is to have an open channel of communication between the editor and the author. Communication is a two way street, though, so I would say that authors that are hard to get a hold of are the most challenging ones for editors.

Deirdra: What kinds of books are currently in demand?

Nicole: All kinds. As long as a book is well written, there is a place for it somewhere.

Deirdra: Are there any genres that publishers in general shy away from?

Nicole: Most publishers have their niche so it’s important to read their submission guidelines so you aren’t submitting a romantic suspense to a publishing house that only publishes fantasy and science fiction. It’s a waste of both your time and the publishers. There are so many publishers out there that you can find a publishing house for any genre.

Deirdra: Do you prefer to find your authors through query letters, live pitches or as references from other authors or agents?

Nicole: Through query letters. At two of the three publishing house, I’m not an acquiring editor, but for the other one, I do read query letters and manuscripts. Visit for what the editors are looking for specifically at MuseItUp Publishing. I mentioned paranormal, but really I’m up for anything that’s well written and interesting.

Deirdra: What’s the best part of your job?

Nicole: Helping an author make his/her story the best it can be.

Deirdra: What’s the hardest part of your job?

Nicole: Making the time to edit. With two little ones, it’s hard to find time for myself, let alone for my work.

Deirdra: Would you ever consider representing a new client who previously self-published? Why or why not?

Nicole: As I said before, I’m not really an acquiring editor, but I would have no problem working with a client who previously self-published. Some authors choose to only self-publish, some use it as a means to be published by a publishing house. In publishing, there are more options for authors than ever before.

Deirdra: How do you think the growing popularity of e-books will impact the literary market?

Nicole: I think ebooks are wonderful. The more options there are for readers, the better it is for authors. The literary market is going to have to change and expand to better include ebooks and epublishing.

Deirdra: On average, how many query letters do you receive each year?

Nicole: Me specifically? Not many, although I am involved with submissions at MuseItUp Publishing.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for someone aspiring to become an author?

Nicole: Read in your genre. Find a trusted beta reader and critique partner (or two or three). Polish and edit your story until it’s as perfect as you can get it. Then have another reader look at it. You can never have too many eyes on your story before you submit it.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for someone aspiring to become an editor?

Nicole: Make sure you know your grammar rules and be ready to defend yourself to an author who wants to break the rules for no good reason.

Deirdra: I also noticed from your blog that you as an author as well. When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Nicole: Since I was a little girl. I’ve been writing stories since I was six. I’ve always wanted to be an author.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Nicole: I love creating stories and making up lives for my characters. I’ve been reading a lot of picture books to my sons so lately, I’ve been working on some picture books. Now that is one tough market to crack from what I’ve heard, but I’m willing to try!

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Nicole: It varies from day to day. I’m very lucky that my two boys take a nap together every day from 2-5 or so, so that’s built-in time to edit or write. But sometimes real life and chores get in the way and I end up staying up until 2 am in the morning writing. I’m trying to get as much done writing and editing-wise before the next baby is born.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about Woman of Honor and Knight of Glory.

Nicole: Sure!

Woman of Honor is about Aislinn, a young girl who wants to become a knight to take her fallen brother's place. She's willing to give up everything for the Kingdom of Arnhem - her childhood, her life, even her heart.

Knight of Glory takes place immediately after the events in Woman of Honor. This book focuses on Sir Geoffrey, a knight who trained alongside of Aislinn. War has come to the Kingdom of Arnhem, and Geoffrey is trying to recruit allies in the fight. Along the way, he finds his heart torn between two different and mysterious ladies.

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

Nicole: I want to provide my readers an escape from their troubles and worries. I want them to love the characters, for them to immerse themselves into the world I created. Most of all, I want them to finish each story with wow, I'm glad I read that.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Nicole: Good question! I would have to say my mom. If it weren't for her sitting my sister and I down and giving us papers and pencils, neither of us would have grown up wanting to be a writer.

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

Nicole: I love to sing. I was involved in choirs in high school and college and I miss it. I also enjoy horseback riding, but I've stopped my lessons for now until I'm done having kids. It's not a good idea to ride while pregnant.

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

Nicole: Read, read, read, write, edit, polish, edit, polish, edit, polish. Writing isn't about writing so much as it is about rewriting and editing. It's a process.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Nicole: I'm waiting to hear back from beta readers on my MG fantasy story which I hope to start querying before the end of the year.

I'm also working on another MG fantasy. This one is an adventure story about a princess who likes to lie and loves to sneak out of the castle.

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

Nicole: Here's the link to my books on Amazon:

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Nicole: Never write to trends. Write the book of your heart. I also strive to write books that I would like to read.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Interview with Author Kindal Debenham

Bio: Telling stories has been a part of Kindal Debenham’s life ever since he first put down a book, looked around and asked himself ‘But what happened next?’ That question led him to write his own stories to find the answer he was looking for, and from then on he was hooked. Writing became a passion that followed him through school and led him to the writing group where he met his incredible wife-to-be, Emily. Somehow, she continues to tolerate him, and they recently had their first baby girl, born in March 2011. Writing has brought him this far, and he hopes it will continue to accompany him for the rest of his life. He’s still trying to find the answer to what happens next, and he is grateful to all those who are supporting him in his journey. Thanks for your support, and he hopes you enjoy the story!

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Kindal: I think the first time I wanted to be a writer was back in high school. I had a project that I worked on for years that I always wanted to publish, but I never thought much about trying to make a living as a writer. It took me a long time to realize that writing was the way I wanted to make a living for myself and my family, but I figured it out eventually.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Kindal: I majored in Molecular Biology at Brigham Young University. At that point in time I had more or less resigned myself to being a doctor or a researcher, so the biological sciences made sense. On the side I took just about every creative writing class I had access to, as well as joining a writing group at the Quark Science Fiction and Fantasy club. Of course, knowing what I do now, I would have gone back and taken a lot more of those writing classes, but that’s hindsight for you.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Kindal: It’s a combination of things, really. Writing is one of the best ways to explore new ideas and concepts, and I love the feeling of creating a totally new world for my characters to run around in. The independence a writing career gives me is incredibly nice as well. Not having to accommodate other people’s concerns or schedules just to do my work is a really big bonus as well. Combine all of that with the sense of satisfaction that you get when you finish a good story and the enjoyment that other people can get out of it, and there’s no better career path than this one for me.

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

Kindal: Well, it was a bit different than it would be for a traditionally published author. I basically had to find my own cover artist and copy editor, as well as get my own writing group started so that I could get content revisions done. Fortunately, thanks to my dear loving wife (she’s going to read this right?) I was able to track down the right people for each of those things and create a finished product.

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

Kindal: Part of writing is getting discouraged every now and then. The fact is, most people are going to look at you like you’re a bit crazy, and to be honest most of us are. Rejection can get pretty rough sometimes as people disagree with the way you are writing something, or want to ‘help’ you choose an alternate, more profitable career path. That’s just how it goes.

In dealing with that sort of thing, I’ve found it useful to keep in mind that there is discouragement and obstacles in every career path. For every starving writers and artists out there, there are just as many doctors and lawyers scraping the bottom of the barrel or dropping out to pursue other careers. You have to remind yourself that not everyone is going to like what you write, and that not everyone is going to appreciate what you’re trying to do and how. The important thing is to remain committed to your course and find your own way through the obstacles you face. Don’t let a few failures ruin your vision.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Kindal: I think that depends on your point of view. My wife thinks I’m mildly crazy, but I’m betting people like Brandons Sanderson wouldn’t be very impressed. I typically write about twelve thousand new words a week when I am working on just one book. Most of the time I tend to be rewriting one book while I write the first draft of another one. That means I usually write about six to eight thousand new words on one book while I rewrite about ten to twelve thousand words on another one. I’d write more, but the full time job kind of takes up too much of my time for that to work.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book Wolfhound?

Kindal: Wolfhound is an action adventure story written from the perspective of Ensign Jacob Hull, an officer in the Celostian Navy on his first cruise. Pretty much everything goes wrong for Jacob. He’s assigned to a hard luck crew testing an experimental vessel, members of the crew don’t take too kindly to him, and to top it all off, a disaster puts every person on board in mortal danger. It’s a story about heroism and adventure, and about remaining true to your responsibilities even when it is hard.

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

Kindal: Well, I wrote Wolfhound at a time when I was feeling a bit discouraged at the course my life was taking. In essence, it is a story about how someone can face all the obstacles and disasters that this life can throw at us, and how that person can choose to rise above those challenges instead of being crushed by them. In a way, that’s what I came away with from writing Wolfhound, and I would hope that my readers are able to have that as well. Along with an intense appreciation for railguns and explosions, of course.

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?

Kindal: I come up with a lot of story ideas a bit out of the blue. I typically have a bunch of facts, possible plots and story ideas all running through my head, and occasionally some of them just happen to mix together and form an idea compelling enough that I have to write it down. From there, I tend to sketch out a rough outline of where I am going to go with the story, but I never consider myself bound to it. If the story starts to bend a bit out of line from where I was originally going to go with it, I let it happen. Writing is always at least half structured planning and half lucky discovery for me.

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

Kindal: I hit writer’s block for one of three reasons. Either I’ve burned out, I don’t know where I’m going next, or the previous section is bad enough that I need to rewrite it before I move on. Burning out is a result of my own reckless behavior; I’m still new enough at this career path that I look at a project and say “Hey, I can work a full time job and still revise half a book this week.” It…doesn’t always work out that well. Rest can really help with that problem. If I don’t know where I am going next, it is a very good time to sit down and sketch out a better outline of where the story will go, which will get me excited enough to start in again. As for writing the occasional bad section, that happens every so often when I am working on a first draft. It’s like replacing a bad foundation so that the rest of your building can stand strong.

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

Kindal: My wife. Without her none of my efforts would have ever amounted to much. She’s the one who has always encouraged me in this career path, and she has never questioned my ability to do what needed to be done. Of course, she also seems to have ended up with the marketing brains as well, so that helps me be able to focus on the writing while she helps me that way.

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

Kindal: Well, good dialogue is one way that characters can kind of show their personalities. My friends and I tend to banter comments back and forth, and I borrow a lot of that for the dialogue in my books. I also tend to give each of my most important characters a kind of theme song. In fact, some characters and even some of my books are pretty much inspired by a particular song that fits them in my mind. Kind of weird, probably, but it works for me.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?

Kindal: Well, there’s a lot of them out there. Michael Stackpole was always one of my favorite authors, even since I was a kid. I think his I, Jedi, and Rogue Squadron books will always be among my cherished possessions. Brandon Sanderson is another author I’ve come to enjoy. My wife introduced me to the Mistborn series, and from there I’ve kind of been hooked on his work. There are a lot of other authors out there, from Dan Wells to Patrick Rothfuss, Timothy Zahn to John Scalzi, David Weber to Jack Campbell. Too many to mention everybody, but there’ve been a lot of authors that I have loved to read.

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

Kindal: I like to read, obviously. Unfortunately I have a weakness for videogames (the nerd is strong in this one), but I’ve managed to avoid getting sucked into any MMORPGs. Otherwise I’d never get anything done. Running has always been a hobby of mine as well.

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

Kindal: Don’t give up, and don’t overlook the opportunities you are given. There are plenty of people willing to help you learn what you need to know, and the nature of publishing today is open enough that anyone who is willing to work hard enough at it will have at least some success. Just don’t let the occasional failure or discouraging friend turn you away from what you really love.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Kindal: Currently, I am working on revising the sequel to Wolfhound, a book called Badger. At the same time I am writing the first draft of a sequel in another series. It’s about a steampunk detective named Hector Kingsley. As the first book is titled The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, the second is appropriately The Continued Adventures of Hector Kingsley: Mysteries in Whitechapel. Or at least those are their working titles for now. And waiting in the wings is another series, with the first book called Iron Angels. It’s another science fiction adventure novel, though it’s in a completely different universe.

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

Kindal: Wolfhound will be going up on Smashwords and Amazon. People can also order my books through Wandering Leaf Publishing’s website.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Kindal: Just thanks for the interview! I really appreciate the chance to talk about my work. Anyone else interested in what I’m up to can visit my blog at Hope all goes well for you!

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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saltwater Taffy by Eric DelaBarre

Check out the videos from the road with Saltwater Taffy by Eric DelaBarre

Monday, October 24, 2011

Interview with Author Jaclyn Hawkes

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

Jaclyn: Only three years ago. I think I'm a fluke that way. Then I wrote 9 books the first year. At the time it didn't seem strange, but when I tell people that, they kind of freak out. Apparently, one is typical. Now that I realize how long it takes to get through publication, I've slowed way down and am masquerading as a wife and mother again.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Jaclyn: I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography and was a cartographer and have a minor in Equine Management. So unless you count A s in English--another fluke. But, I love to read. Way too much! And now, I love to write.

Deirdra: What inspires your writing and stories?

Jaclyn: People and experiences. Sometimes I feel prompted. A good rain storm. Sunsets. Hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. Music. My adorable husband. (Don't tell him I said that.)

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Jaclyn: Once I decided it was something I wanted to do, I checked into how to submit. I submitted the first book and it went all the way through to the final approval comittee. I did a rewrite upon the publisher's request and then ultimately got rejected. Dang it!
But then the second publisher I tried loved it and accepted it and five others for publication. Unfortunately, they published Journey of Honor, (not the first one, by the way), and then went under financially. It wasn't because of my book, I swear it.
I then had another publisher pick up The Outer Edge of Heaven, but they ended up stringing me along until I walked to the fourth publisher. I'm thrilled with Spirit Dance Books and their plans to publish two of my books per year for the next while. Now that I'm settled with a publisher, I'm learning just how much goes into marketing. Frankly, it's not nearly so fun as writing.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Jaclyn: Of course! Many times. Honestly, the only reason I didn't quit over and over was because I felt this was what I was supposed to be doing. Plus, I have a funny personality. Sometimes, instead of getting discouraged, I get mad! I get this, "Fine! Watch me succeed in spite of you!" attitude that comes in very handy in life! You don't want to get me ticked off, because I might just decide to buy the company you work for someday! Of course I wouldn't ever fire anyone--like the guy who signed the rejection slip--I'd just secretly enjoy signing his check. It works.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Jaclyn: I should preface this answer with, "Caution, this is definitely not what the pros say to do." I write when I can fit it in around mothering and wifing and my church callings and business demands. (You'll notice I didn't mention housework. I couldn't keep up with that even before I began to write. When I grow up, I'm going to have a maid.) It's funny, because everyone says, "Be sure and stay current on what's happening in your genre." That's a joke. There's absolutely no way. I have graduated to a full four page, legal size to-do list. Now, I simply do the best I can and don't beat myself up about it anymore. Thank goodness for wonder boy husband and very durable kids.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Jaclyn: The ideas come from life, or dreams, or boredom while I'm waiting for the dentist. Or God maybe. Probably. Who knows? I start by simply writing down bits of ideas and if they take on a life of their own and become intriguing enough, I'll do an outline. If I ever have time, I'll write that sucker. I've got several outlines stashed away, just in case life eases. Or in case I get upset enough that I'll start one even when I don't have time. It's amazingly therapeutic.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book The Outer Edge of Heaven?

Jaclyn: The Outer Edge of Heaven is a fun, entertaining, easy read! This is definitely not War and Peace. This is the ultimate "Mom needs a time-out" book.
It's about a sweet, happy college coed, Charlie,who has tough, driven, professional parents who expect their baby daughter to become a heavy hitter like their other children. The story centers around how Charlie decides to go to Montana for the summer with her childhood buddy, Fo, instead of home to Connecticut and her all-powerful parents and the future spouse her parents have picked out,--who happens to be a divorce lawyer named Elroy. In Montana, she meets Fo's uncle's nutty family and his strong, silent, hunky cousin.

It's good! it's funny. It's safe from the smut and grit and stuff in most mainstream writing these days, but it's still a great, interesting story with a few twists. I think it's an awesome book! And it's gotten excellent reviews! Try it! I think you'll like it.

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

Jaclyn: I hope they get a pick-me-up. I hope they're good for another ten thousand miles of reality, with a breath of enthusiasm thrown in. I hope they close the book with a sigh and have a greater desire to do something good with their lives. But I also hope they don't realize that they've been pulled upward. I hope that updraft is basically subconcious and that they simply enjoyed the book.

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

Jaclyn: Uhhh, talents . . . I have marvelous children, but I fear it's in spite of their mothering. I train horses, although I don't have any right now. I'm a fine wife, if you don't count a margin of lunacy in our home. I do lots of things reasonably well and nothing perfectly. When my children are raised, I'll work on the talent thing. Until then, I'm perfectly content to excel at dinner and laundry and a safe, secure landing pad where you can always take your armor off. How's that? Oh, and I am an excellent writer!

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

Jaclyn: Don't give up! If it truly matters to you, don't ever give up. Ever. There's always room for greatness. Just make sure that your stuff is great before you submit it.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Jaclyn: A sweeeeet medieval story of knights and princesses and intrepid heroines with incredibly strong and romantic heros. It's going to be great!

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Jaclyn:, and all manner of bookstores from Amazon to the locals, but, if they buy directly from my site, I'll make more money, so go there!

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Jaclyn: Be happy and enthusiastic. Or at least peaceful. Dance even if it rains. Smell the flowers. Smell the cows. Watch your children dance. Hug each other when you cry. Ski if it snows. If you don't, life gets tedious.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Interview with Author Mandi Tucker Slack

Mandi Tucker Slack was born in Price, Utah, and grew up in Orangeville, Utah, where she developed a great love of the outdoors. She enjoyed adventure novels as a child and has always been fascinated by books and writing. Mandi attended Utah State University, where she completed a four-year degree in special education. She currently resides in Santaquin, Utah, with her husband and family. In her free time, she enjoys camping, hiking, and rockhounding with her children.

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

Mandi: The interest to become a writer started when I was 12. I wrote my first full-length novel that year. It’s terrible, but I’ve held onto it through the years because, really, I am very proud of that tattered manuscript. Writing my very own adventure story was such a thrill, and since that time, I’ve always aspired to become a published author.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book Alias?

Mandi: Jacey Grayson is a recently divorced mother, who learns some frightening news about her ex-husband, John. Frightened, she and her son Blaze flee to Utah to hide among rural Mormons. The main theme in The Alias is Jacey’s attempt to overcome years of abuse and develop a sense of who she really is. As the story progresses we see her desire to change and grow. She struggles with feelings of guilt and remorse for staying with her ex-husband so long and exposing her son to abuse, but as the story progresses we also see how she uses the lessons from her past to move forward into a more promising future.

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

Mandi: To be quite honest, I’m a very private person. I always have been. I didn’t let anyone read The Alias before I sent it to the publisher. I wish now that I had and since I’ve been published, I’ve really opened up and grown confident in my abilities as a writer. I feel more confident in letting other people read my material now and I can handle constructive criticism with a lot more grace.

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

Mandi: My first purpose in writing is to entertain and inspire. I have always loved books that touch me in a personal way. I like to read about characters that stay with me long after the story is finished. I hope my readers feel this. I hope that my characters and my stories will inspire and entertain.

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?
Mandi: I outline, absolutely. I’m a little jealous of those writers who can sit down and see what happens next, but unfortunately, my mind gets muddled easily and without an outline, my manuscript turns into a jumbled mess. I mix up dates and ages, and I’ve even been known to mix up names. Just last week I sat down to write and I felt too lazy to sort through my outline. I started writing and when I’d finished for the day, I realized that one of my characters, who started out as Gary, soon became Gregg and by the end of the last chapter, I’d named him Glen. When I don’t sit down and write out a very detailed outline, I’m a mess.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Mandi: Yes, all the time! Each book I write has a certain mood. Right in the beginning, I always create a playlist. I pick songs and scores that match the mood of the plot. Then, whenever I get stuck, I jump in the car, crank the music and I drive. I never have a destination in mind. I just drive wherever I feel like and I let the music and the views re-inspire me. Usually this works. If that doesn’t work, then I simply walk away until a moment of inspiration hits, because I know eventually it will.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Mandi: Most of the time, yes. When my kids get too loud, sometimes I’ll use headphones and listen to my playlist while I write, but not very often.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Mandi: Again, mostly music, but there are so many things that inspire my creativity when trying to brainstorm new ideas for stories.
My story ideas usually come from a conglomeration of different events that touch my life.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Mandi: My mother. My mom encouraged me every step of the way. When I was a child, she loved to read my stories and she always encouraged me to follow my dreams. When she learned I was going to have a book published, she was so proud. My book was released in May, but my mom passed away in April. A month before my book came out. I wish she’d lived to see it, because she was my biggest fan.

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

Mandi: Once I find the story's personality, the characters just sort of take shape and as the story evolves so do the characters. If I change a scene, my character’s reaction changes as well and little-by-little their individuality develops.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Mandi: Dorothy Keddington is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her books are just fun. Her descriptions are so vivid and appealing and her characters are easy to relate to. Also, Jennie Hansen is another favorite, along with Kerry Blair. Blair’s books just make me giggle. I love her sense of humor and easy-going characters.

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

Mandi: Muffins. I’m not sure what it is about muffins, but they seem to be my brain food. I also like to munch on popcorn, although that isn’t very healthy for my keyboard.

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

Mandi: I collect fossils. I’m a rock hound and most weekends, I drag my family across the state in search of new fossil locales. We spend a lot of time in Delta, Utah, and my house is literally decorated with fossils and minerals. It drives my husband crazy.

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

Mandi: Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to try. I was afraid to try for many years. I was afraid of rejection. Don’t be. Not everyone is going to like your book or the way you write, but you can’t live your life afraid of rejection. I wish I had tried sooner. Just keep trying and give it all you’ve got.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Mandi: I am currently in the process of editing a crime thriller that takes place in Seattle, Washington. Tarrin Grace has come through a very difficult divorce, and just when things are beginning to look up, her young daughter, Lexie, is witness to a heinous murder. Suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, Lexie is unable to recall details of the crime or the murderer. However, the killer remembers her, and Tarrin must risk all she has to protect her family.

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

Mandi: My book is available on Amazon and right now you can purchase The Alias on Amazon kindle for only $3.99. You can also find my book in Deseret Book Stores or Barnes and Noble.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Mandi: Thank you for taking the time to interview me and giving me the opportunity to share a little bit about who I am. I hope you all enjoy my book, The Alias.

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

Share |