Category Archives: Authors in Focus

5-Q Interview with Author Karen Lange

(Because I have three extra blog tour posts that fell this week, I’ll be skipping Indie Life this month. But if you want to read other great posts about being an inde author, head over to the Indelibles.)

Monday I introduced you to Karen Lange and her new book, Homeschool Co-ops 101. Here’s a little more from Karen…

karenHello, Karen. Can you tell my readers what prompted you to write this book?

Thanks so much for inviting me over to your blog! I’m looking forward to visiting with you and your followers.

About ten years ago, I was encouraged by a good friend in the homeschool community to write a booklet about co-ops. She was the director of a statewide homeschool support network, and she knew people often asked me about how a co-op works. The booklet seemed like a good way to share the info, so I self published it. In May of 2013, Helping Hands Press offered me a contract to expand it, so here we are!

What can readers expect to find in the book?

The book offers info on how to start a co-op and weighs the pros, cons, and creative options available for homeschool families. One thing I emphasize is that parents have options when it comes to co-oping. Co-ops come in all sizes and sometimes an existing one is not a good fit for a family. Parents shouldn’t feel bad or be intimidated if this is the case; they need to know that it’s okay to either not participate and even start their own co-op if they wish.

Another thing to note is that HC 101′s usefulness is not limited to just homeschoolers. The how to section offers helpful setup and structure tips for other K-12 student groups. The activity segment has lessons, games, and hands on projects that suit these groups as well.

Give us a breakdown of each section.

Section 1 includes info on co-op ingredients such as planning and organization, schedules, teaching, finances, and addressing conflict and burnout. Section 2 has a sampling of co-op games and activities, and Section 3 contains five hands-on unit studies. The topics include lessons on Leonardo da Vinci, Birds of Prey, Public Speaking, Tall Tales, and Creative Writing, and are suitable for co-op or individual home use. Section 3 also includes unit study guidelines that are easily customized to suit any topic. Section 4 offers suggested books, curriculum, and other resources.

Tell us a little about your homeschool experience.

My husband and I homeschooled our three children (two sons and a daughter) in grades K-12. We chose to homeschool because, among other things, we wanted to personalize our children’s education and felt home was the best place to do that. During this time, we were active with our local homeschool support group’s events such as field trips and science and art fairs. Co-ops played an important role too. These activities helped supplement our studies, provided balanced socialization, fellowship, and fun. They also offered a broader worldview as our children interacted with not just homeschool families, but the surrounding community.

If you happen to be interested in more info about the ups and downs of homeschooling, socialization, higher education, and other related topics, visit this link:

What would you like readers to take away from Homeschool Co-ops 101?

No one plan fits everyone, so I encourage families, whether they decide to co-op or not, to find the right balance and fit for them. My hope is that they would find ideas and encouragement for their children’s educational journey.

Thanks again for sharing your space with me today. It’s been a pleasure!

Thank you, Karen.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101, venture back to Monday’s post for buy links.

5-Q Interview with Lars Hedbor

I haven’t posted a 5-Q interview since last year. It’s time I ended that streak. Joining me today is historical fiction author and Revolutionary War buff, Lars Hedbor. If you missed it, on Monday I posted a review of his novel, The LIght, which is the second book in his Tales of a Revolution series and his first self-published title. I’m so glad he made the transition. I’ve been waiting a long time for this one!

Lars HedborHi, Lars. The Light is your second stand-alone book in a series that explores little-known corners of the American Revolution. What inspired the Tales of a Revolution series? And what do you hope your readers take away with them?

I have always loved history, but not as it’s taught in classrooms. The exigencies of grading dozens, even hundreds of tests cause most history instructors to resort to focusing on tidbits that can be reduced to multiple-choice questions–dates, names, casualty counts and the like.This approach to history is inherently boring–it’s no wonder that so many students hate history classes!

I find that I learn history best through spending some time in the shoes of those who lived through moments in time that turned out to be pivotal–and for that, the American Revolution is tough to beat, as it represents a shift in the entire relationship between government and society.

The main thing that I’d like my readers to take away from my stories is that, while there were great figures who shaped the Revolution, the real shift–from British subject to American citizen–took place in the kitchens and fields of everyday people, folks whose names are largely lost in the mists of history.

Too, I think it’s crucial for my readers to understand that great events in history can be deeply affected by the actions of just a few people. While The Prize‘s Caleb Clark and The Light‘s Robert Harris didn’t make it into the history books, actions of people like them were instrumental in the outcome of the American Revolution. We don’t have to have our names on monuments to leave a legacy.

Can you tell us how much time it takes to research a book in such a long-ago era? What are some of your favorite sources or methods?

I’ve done a great deal of general reading about the era, so I’ve got a solid grounding in the events surrounding the Revolution. I love it when I come across some aspect of the Revolution that I’d not previously encountered. My best story ideas tend to come from this general reading.

I write extremely quickly–I started my novels as part of the National Novel Writing Month–and I do much of my research just as quickly. The resources available online are incredible! Given that my focus is on Colonial and Revolution-era America, there are many primary sources available through Google’s book scanning projects, and a great many terrific histories, many of them written in collaboration with the still-living participants in the events being documented.

Because it’s a time period that fascinates a wide audience of reenactors and armchair historians, there are many terrific articles available, and no small amount of scholarly research. It helps that I’m a voracious reader, as well–as I was preparing to write about Captain Mallett’s experiences as a French privateer, I read an entire thesis about the economics of Caribbean piracy of the 1750s in a couple of hours!

Verisimilitude is of great importance to me, so as my characters move through their world, I am prone to stopping and chasing down details that they’d see as commonplace, but which would interest and inform my readers as to the flavor and texture of their lives. It may not fascinate everyone that the transition from charcoal to mineral coal-fired forges revolutionized the blacksmith’s life, but it’s of deep interest to a working blacksmith, so it gets a mention in Robert’s story.

I’ve also been very fortunate in finding folks who have personal knowledge of the details of my characters’ world. For example, this past summer, I had the opportunity to speak with a blacksmith doing demonstration work at an historical museum, and I was able to watch his work, and ask him directly about details that I wasn’t sure I’d gotten right from just reading about it. Subject matter experts are generally thrilled to find out that I’m not only writing about their area of interest, but that I’m determined to get it right for my readers.

the lightIn The Light, I was intrigued by the plight of the colonial Quakers. They were opposed to conflict, yet to do nothing might mean the loss of their freedom to worship as they desired, as in England. How did you come up with this unique scenario?

I decided to look at the experience of the Quakers primarily because my own family goes back to members of the Society of Friends who lived that challenging question personally. When I began my research, it didn’t take long for me to find references to the Free Quaker movement, and from that schism, the rest of the story coalesced.

The setting of Trenton came about almost by accident. I knew that my family had had a large house in Camden, New Jersey during that period–indeed, it’s still there!–but the research I did about New Jersey Quakers seemed to place more of them in Trenton. Given that there were some interesting events of the Revolution there, I settled on Trenton and let the rest of the story form on that basis.

I do tend to keep the well-known historical figures “off stage” in my writing, as their stories are, by definition, already thoroughly told, and I’m trying to tell new stories. So General Washington’s presence in Trenton is seen, but mostly in reference to the way that the residents would have experienced his passage through the area as he routed the Hessians.

I love the way your books bring the human story of the past to life. I’m curious how many more books are planned for the series? Can you give us any hints as to upcoming titles or subjects?

Thank you! I work hard to project the basic human needs and emotions that we have in common with every person who’s ever lived onto the tapestry of the society and events in which my characters found themselves. For most all of us, we’re motivated less by a sense of historical purpose than we are by what’s immediately before us, and I strive to write my characters in a way that reflects that.

My plan is to write a novel for each of the original thirteen states, plus a few bonus volumes, such as The Prize, which is located in the Republic of Vermont (which was disputed between the New Hampshire and New York colonies prior to declaring its own separate independence in 1777). I think that it’s important to remember that the Revolution didn’t take place just within the confines of Philadelphia, Boston and New York City. It was, in fact, the first global war, though I’ll probably content myself with just examining the events of the American colonies themselves.

I’ve already drafted The Declaration, which details the experience of an upland South Carolina tobacco farmer as the brutal British occupation of that colony began. I just finished the manuscript for The Wind, covering the amazing exploits of the Spanish forces in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the British loss of East and West Florida to Spain. The next volume in the series to be published will be The Smoke, which looks at the experience of the Tuscarora tribe as the Iroquois Confederation in modern-day upstate New York splintered under the pressures of the Americans and British to take sides in the Revolution.

After that, I haven’t decided quite yet which of a couple of stories I’ll be writing next. I’m particularly intrigued by the experience of the Loyalists, who backed the Crown against their friends, neighbors and family members, and were ultimately on the losing side of the war. I’ve come across some really compelling incidents, which I think will make for terrific novels…

And finally, I always love to ask authors to list a few of their own favorite books and authors.

I grew up primarily reading science fiction, believe it or not, and Robert Heinlein remains one of my absolute favorites. He got his science as right as was possible when he was writing, but never lost sight of the fact that his characters needed to be fully human (even when they weren’t). His character-driven approach sets his work apart from the gadgeteers and the slobber-fest writers who have come to represent sci-fi today. In many ways, my own writing is informed by the same basic needs of getting the facts right, and then letting my characters experience them.

In terms of non-fiction, I’ve lately been reading a lot of cookbooks–or, in the parlance of the time, “receipt books”– that document the cooking that would have been done to feed the people of the Revolutionary era. I’ve been writing a regular column for the Journal of the American Revolution derived from what I’ve learned about the foodways of the time, which have been both very rewarding to create, and popular with their readers. Hannah Glasse, Elizabeth Smith and Amelia Simmons are in pretty frequent rotation on my e-readers as a result.

In my own genre, I’ve long been a fan of Michener’s deep-roots approach, and I fairly recently discovered (and devoured) Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin series. O’Brien’s incredibly detailed and historically-correct writing is a great inspiration–and had me pretty intimidated about writing anything naval, although I wasn’t able to entirely avoid it in The Wind, and will probably have to touch upon it again in future volumes. As an “indie” writer, too, I make an effort to seek out new authors whose works I haven’t previously encountered. Some of the best new books out there are being self-published or released through small publishing houses, and it’s a treat to find a new and vibrant voice among our number.

Thanks, Lars! I’m looking forward to the release of more books in the Tales series!!


Grab a copy of The Light:
Kindle ebook

Visit Lars at…
Twitter: @LarsDHHedbor

5-Q Interview with Author Christina Daley and GIVEAWAY

Today I’m talking with Christina Daley, author of Seranfyll and Eligere.  If you missed either of those reviews, click on the links.  

Christina, I’ve been very impressed with the overwhelmingly positive messages in the Seranfyll series. I wonder if you’d share your inspiration for developing it. Oh, and please include how you came up with the character of Domrey. I love him! Especially in the first book. From drinking himself into oblivion, to taking the lash for a friend, to knitting on the roof of the house, I never knew what he’d do next!

Thanks so much your lovely compliments, Michelle! I actually don’t remember how I came across this story. I just had a nameless slave girl who was bought and freed by a very rich and very drunk man. I didn’t know anything else about them, not even if the man was a villain or not. But I wanted to know more, so I started writing their story in early 2009. I got about 20 pages in, but since I didn’t know the man very well, I ran out of ideas and set aside those pages to work on another book.

Some time later, I came across a biography of William Wilberforce, the 18th century MP who spearheaded the effort to abolish the slave trade in the British empire. He was an extremely interesting, eccentric, generous, and flawed fellow. I liked him right away, and he was the perfect model for Domrey.

Of course, I didn’t want Domrey to be the predictable “knight in shining armor” sort of hero–more like a “knight in slightly tarnished armor.” So, I threw in all sorts of things about him that I’m personally not acquainted with, like the excessive drinking, the knitting, and the enviable shoe collection. Having more definition to Domrey’s character brought me back to those 20 pages, and I completed the rest of the book in early 2010.

That makes me like Domrey even more!

I bet a lot of the folks reading this don’t really know what an author does every day. Do you have a day job? When do you write? And do you have any “tricks of the trade” that help you in your writing? (Sorry, that was three questions!)

My background is in journalism, and I work full time as an editor. Considering all the typos that make it into my own books, you probably wouldn’t think that :) I don’t write everyday, but when I do, it’s usually very late at night (or early in the morning, depending on how you look at it).

I’m not sure about any “tricks of the trade” necessarily, since different things work for different people. I personally don’t force myself to write. If I’m trying to work out a particular scene, for instance, and it’s just not coming, I take a break that can last a couple hours to a couple weeks. Once I’ve figured it out, though, I’ll go back and the words will flow better.

One thing I do know that works for every writer is to read as much as possible, and not just in the genre you’re writing in. For me, at least, I risk getting “tunnel vision” that way. And I think it’s good to read both popular and not-so books. The books I don’t really care for are the best at teaching me how I don’t want to write. I seriously question anyone who wants to be a writer and doesn’t like reading.  (I so agree!)

As an indie author myself, I’m always curious to learn how others reached the decision to self-publish. Can you briefly describe the road that led you to make that decision?

That’s an interesting question and one I actually haven’t been asked yet. When I had finished the manuscript in 2010, I queried several agents and editors and got a lot of requests to read it and some great feedback, but ultimately no takers.

But I took all that feedback and nearly rewrote the whole book. Then, a couple friends of mine (who don’t know each other, actually) sent me the USA Today article about Amanda Hocking and her self-publishing success. I figured I’d give it a shot, and I released Seranfyll as an ebook in May 2011 and the paperback that July. I’m definitely no Amanda hocking, but Seranfyll did surprisingly well in my opinion, and I’ve been very pleased (and touched a few times) with the comments and emails I’ve gotten from readers.

I had ideas for more books, but I hadn’t actually planned on making Seranfyll a series since I didn’t know how it would be received. Then, several pretty awesome readers said they were looking forward to the next book, and I was like, “Oh, sweet. I guess I’m writing a sequel now.” I was glad about that, since I really enjoyed writing Seranfyll. So, that’s how Eligere came about, and that released this past March.

I reserve question number four to ask something really random, just to keep things interesting. So, describe for us your ideal vacation spot. (I’m guessing it isn’t the steamy, buggy jungles of Amyrania.)

I’ll be honest; my idea of “roughing it” is going out, enjoying some hiking, and maybe burning something over a campfire before returning to the hotel for a hot shower. That’s probably why I wrote about Amyrania the way I did, since it’s the type of place that would completely pull me out of my comfort zone. But I love going anywhere I can explore, do something fun, meet good people, and eat great food. I’m not the type of person who can lie on a beach; I’d get bored and want to go surfing or something.

And lastly, I always like to ask for a sampling of authors and works that have influenced my interviewee. Care to share a few?

My two biggest influences are probably C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling–the former for his insight, the latter for her style, and both for their imaginations. I also read a lot of comic strips when I was young, especially Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson and Garfield by Jim Davis. Whether one acknowledges that they’re literature or not, they did teach me a great deal about humorous set ups and pay-offs, as well as writing to-the-point dialogue. But simply, I just had fun reading them.

Calvin and Hobbes

I have the highest respect for both of those authors, and I’d be lying if I said they haven’t influenced me as well.  I have never thought of comics as literature before, but you’re right, they really are, and you actually named my top two!  (I also like Peanuts.) 

Thanks so much for joining us today, Christina!  I love getting to know the people behind the stories.  And thank you for setting your books at such affordable prices.  The very best of luck with both of them.

Seranfyll (book one) is priced at only 99 cents!  Eligere is just 2.99.  Find them here:



And now the promised giveaway!

Christina has generously offered a signed paperback copy of Seranfyll to one lucky winner.  To enter, simply comment below.  Be sure to include an email address where I can reach you to get your address should you win.  I’ll draw the winner next week Monday (May 14).  Good luck!

5-Q Interview with Author D. Robert Pease

Today I interview D. Robert Pease, author of the uniquely fun MG book, Noah Zarc.  If you missed my review yesterday, go back and read it! This story ranks high among of my favorites this year, and at 2.99, it’s a steal.  And now, Mr. Pease…

1.  This is your first book.  What road led you to writing, and more specifically, to writing for kids?  Share with us some of the events that got you here.

I’ve loved reading since since I was a kid, and I love story telling, so it was only natural I’d become a writer. But it wasn’t something I jumped into until later in life. I tried my hand at it in college, but frankly it was awful. Then life got in the way, jobs, marriage, kids. Then about ten years ago I read a biography of Tolkien, and I just fell in love with the idea again. I was so impressed by how he just immersed himself in his world to the point where he was practically “discovering” the story instead of telling it. This idea blew me away, so I sat down at my keyboard and started discovering worlds of my own. The first book I wrote was an epic fantasy. My ode to Tolkien. Not really a kid’s book. I actually think it has some good aspects to it, but have realized it just may be a little TOO Tolkienish. About this time my son had become a voracious reader. My wife was having a difficult time keeping him in books. I thought it’d be cool to write something he’d enjoy so I started writing Noah Zarc. I actually wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) A crazy challenge in the month of November which simply says write a whole book in one month. So I took the challenge and wrote the first draft in thirty days. The most enjoyable part was every evening, my son would read what I wrote that day. So I literally wrote it for him. As I wrote I thought: “What would he like?” “Would he think this is funny? and so on. And it was so rewarding to hear him snicker, or worry when things got hairy. I was hooked. I’ve just come to think that there is no greater audience than this age group. Just imagining kids smiling, or laughing, or reading parts out loud to their parents, gets me through the tough spots when the words won’t flow.

2.  Every major culture group has its own version of a Flood story.  I even ran across one in the research for the Civil War book I’m currently writing (who’da thought?) and included it in my story.  But you have created a very unique spin.  You start with Noah’s Ark, which most people relate to Sunday school class, and finish with Star Wars!  How did you ever arrive at such an unlikely idea?

The idea for the book simply came from the name, Noah Zarc (which in actuality came from a friend of mine, I think.) It was a fun play on words, and brought up all kinds of cool, science fictiony images. I loved the idea of a look at the Noah account in space. It’s funny though, since I wrote Noah Zarc I’ve actually started thinking about this kind of story in an even broader sense. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Rick Riordan’s new spin on old Greek mythologies in his Percy Jackson series. I love this concept and began to think, why couldn’t I do the same thing with stories from the Bible. All these great stories I grew up listening to in Sunday school could make fantastic fodder for new stories. I’ve got the first draft of a book based (very loosely) on Joseph and the coat of many colors. And I just finished a short story based on the book of Job. The story ideas are almost limitless.

3.  Every author writes a book with some take away value in mind.  It may be simple entertainment or, in my case, a hope to teach a little history along with the adventure.  What do you hope kids will take away from Noah?

Well, first and foremost I did just want to write a book that kids would have fun reading. But, I also wanted it to be a story with some “meat” in it. At its core, Noah Zarc is about family, and everything they do to show their love for each other. And since this was a story I wrote to my son, I really wanted to give a little glimpse into how much I love him and would do to protect him. I hope that comes across to kids. Of course it is impossible for them to really know how much their parents love them until they have kids of their own, but maybe this’ll give them a little glimpse. I also am a huge believer in being good stewards of the world we have been given, but approaching that stewardship in a balanced fashion. I think too many people today go to the extremes, either believing that above all else the earth’s resources should be protected over the rights of humans, or should be exploited do the detriment of Earth. I hope kids take away from Noah Zarc that somewhere in between is the best approach.

4.  And now, in an effort to spice up interviews that can get a little routine, I’m going to start throwing in a totally random question.  Here’s my first-ever:  Describe for us your perfect sandwich.  (Guess that wasn’t technically a question, was it?  Ah, but that was!)  Oh, and no synthburgers, please.

I do love a good hamburger, I’m not sure I’d be too happy with synthburgers either. But I’m not sure hamburgers count as sandwiches. So my perfect sandwich would be turkey, lettuce, swiss cheese, sweet pickles, green peppers Miracle Whip, and mustard on homemade bread. Tasty, but maybe a little hard to fit in my mouth. 

5.  And now the request I always end with, please share with us some of your favorite books and authors.

Number one for me is The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was the master when it comes to creating worlds that you are convinced must exist somewhere. Others would be: Dune, by Frank Herbert, The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny and The Dragonriders of Pern, by Anne McCaffery. More recently, I’ve really enjoyed Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer. He just cracks me up.

Thanks so much, D. Robert, for stopping by and chatting with us!

You can find Mr. Pease at his website (which includes his blog).  He’s a cool guy, so stop over and say hello. Or find him on Facebook or Twitter. And if you haven’t done it yet, get your fanny over to Amazon and buy Noah Zarc!!!  It’s available in paperback and Kindle editions.  

5-Q Interview with Lois D. Brown

Today, author Lois Brown has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for my readers.  Here’s a link, just in case you missed my review of her excellent new YA thriller, Cycles.

Lois, you’ve written extensively in the  nonfiction arena.  How did you decide to make a change to fiction, and how has your background played into this new writing experience?

I studied journalism in college, which is a great degree for those interested in becoming both non-fiction and fiction writers. Some very well known fiction authors–Truman Capote for example—have been journalists.

When writing non-fiction, I learned to quickly organize my thoughts and write a good “lead.” Those two skills are paramount in newspaper writing. That experience, I feel, has helped me write good first chapters because I know how to put lots of “good stuff” up front.

Journalism did not help me, however, learn to write visual descriptions. Instead, my work tends to be very plot driven. That is something I’m working on.

I switched to writing fiction because it was always a dream of mine to write a novel. When my youngest child started school, I knew now was the time to do it or I never would.

The idea for Cycles came about as a combination of unique factors.  Would you share those briefly with us?

I had the idea for Cycles at the same time I was diagnosed with Simple Partial Seizures. These seizures don’t affect motor skills, but they can affect all of your five senses (hence their other name: sensory seizures.) My seizures created an odd mesh of symptoms, the most disconcerting of which was massive déjà vu. For those who are saying to themselves, “huh?” take a minute to read this article about the different types of seizures.

As part of my seizures, time would slow down to a crawl and everything around me faded in and out. It was like I had lived that moment a thousand times before in a different life. Needless to say, it was weird.

I went to bed one night thinking about my recent trip to the neurologist. In my sleep, I had a vivid dream about a girl who had frightening feelings of having already experienced things before but in another lifetime. It wasn’t like reincarnation—the same soul coming back to earth to live as someone or something else. Instead, it was like her life just kept repeating itself and she had moments where these “other-life” memories were intensely strong.

I woke up and knew I was going to write a book about it.

Gamma Didi simply leaped off the page for me.  She’s unlike anyone I’ve ever met, yet she balances the two teenage main characters perfectly.  How ever did you come up with such a unique character?  Do you ever use bits of people you really know in your characters?

I have to be honest, Gamma Didi wrote herself. I know no one like her. I simple knew I needed to create a “mentor character” for my two teenage protagonists. When I started writing her, she literally appeared out of nowhere, and I instantly fell in love with her.

A sequel to Cycles, entitled Spaces, is due to release sometime this year.  Can you give us brief hint into what we can expect, and when we might expect it?

Spaces is outlined and about a fourth of the way finished. A one-sentence plot of the sequel is:  Renee and Sam try to find where Dr. Dawson, who is missing at the end of Cycles, has gone.

My plan is to release Spaces in Fall 2012, which means I have to work very hard.

Like Cycles, the crux of Spaces is based on real scientific facts that I twist to create fantasy. Cycles’ plot is loosely based on the Saros Cycle from astronomy and quantum physics. In Spaces, I use Space-Time theories found in physics and mathematics.

It may be no surprise that my father was an amazing physicist who taught for decades at a university. Even though science was my worst subject at school, I actually think it is fun to integrate real scientific principles into fiction. Who knows? Maybe I would have been better at science if I could have learned about it in a fiction book.

Please share with us some of your favorite books and authors.

I read a variety of books, so what I’ve done is listed books I’ve recently read from several genres. I really appreciate books that “keep it clean” so to speak. I found that the following books do just that:

Historical fiction: When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

Recent Newberry: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Fantasy: First book in the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson

YA Humor: Anything by Janette Rallison. Many of her books are light and simple, but I feel completely at ease when my teenage daughters read them.

Mystery/Thriller: This is a hard category. I love a good scare, but so many thrillers these days are so gory that I rarely read from this genre anymore. However, I have found that author Lois Duncan keeps her language and descriptions fairly clean. Warning: some of her topics, however, are too intense for younger readers.

Thank you so much, Lois, for taking time to talk with us!

5-Q Interview with Author Will Granger

Today I’m interviewing Will Granger, author of the Anabar Trilogy.  If you missed my review of Anabar’s Run (book one) yesterday, go take a look, then come on back for some insider details!

Hi Will.  Thanks so much for agreeing to answer a few questions for us.  Anabar’s Run is the story of one boy’s journey to manhood.  He makes some difficult choices and overcomes tremendous obstacles in pursuit of his dream to become a Scout.  Can you tell us what inspired such an encouraging tale, and what do you hope your readers take away with them?

I began writing Anabar’s Run with the basic idea to tell a story that everyone is capable of doing great things. Anabar is not a prince, or rich. He also does not have special powers, nor is he a hero predestined to save the world from some evil force. Instead, he is a typical young man trying to find his way in the world.

In your Goodreads bio blurb, you mention that your writing has been influenced by some extensive traveling.  Will you elaborate on that for us?

I feel fortunate to have traveled throughout much of my life. When I was in middle school, my family and I lived in Geneva, Switzerland, one of my favorite places in the world. I spent time in the Alps and found I really love mountains. I think that is why I include so many mountain scenes in Anabar’s Run. Plus, climbing and passing through mountains is challenging, and this seemed like a suitable setting for a young man like Anabar struggling to grow up. I have also traveled to Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and many countries in Europe, and I think this led me to write a story in which the protagonist must travel a great distance.

I’m particularly impressed with all the detail involved in Anabar’s training.  In your bio, I also noticed that you spent 20 years in the Air Force.  First I want to thank you for your service.  Next I want to ask if, indeed, you drew on those experience in creating Omalof’s training “course,” and just how they helped you craft your story.

I never did go through any serious survival training like some people in the military; however, my career in the Air Force did teach me the importance of preparation. I believe that is why I included so many details about Anabar’s training. I do have three sons, and we spent quite a bit of time camping and hiking over the years. I think that helped me to make the outdoor training scenes authentic.

You have already finished a second book in the Anabar Trilogy called Anabar Rises.  Can you give us a brief synopsis?  And you mentioned to me that you have some thoughts lined up on the third book, though it is still in the beginning stages.  I understand an infant story is very unpredictable, but when do you hope to have it completed?

In Anabar Rises, Anabar begins his duties as a fully qualified Scout. He is initially successful and even gains some fame, which he likes, but this brings him in conflict with Omalof, his mentor from Anabar’s Run. The problem is that Scouts are supposed to remain secretive, not attract attention. Omalof eventually banishes Anabar to the border near the neighboring country of Ricamareth. Anabar gets captured, becomes a prisoner, but eventually is freed when he saves the queen from a dangerous snake. Anabar then meets, and falls in love with, Princess Astrida. During all these events, Anabar sees signs of an approaching war between Ricamareth and Semdela, the nations linked to his past in Anabar’s Run. He struggles with the choice between his loyalty as a scout and his love for Astrida. He ultimately decides that the war is futile and risks everything to try to prevent and stop it. In the end, my real message in the Anabar books is peace. I believe Anabar’s solution to simply just stop fighting is really the only solution to conflicts like the one between Israel and the Muslim countries in the Middle East.

I have the basic idea for the third Anabar book, and I hope to get started soon and finish it by the end of July. I’m a teacher, and I have much more time to write in the summer.

Finally, will you share with us some of your favorite books and authors?

The Call of the Wild, by Jack London, is my all-time favorite book, and I believe it turned me into an avid reader as a child. Today, I love all types of books and do not stick with one genre. Tom Wolfe is my favorite modern author. I think his portrayals of people are accurate and hilarious.

Thank you so much, Will!

For links to download Mr. Granger’s books, to connect him, or to visit his really cool Anabar website, head back to my book review and scroll to the bottom.  

Author Gloria Whelan, and What I Did This Weekend

The Mighty Mac

I just spent a beautiful weekend on Michigan’s Mackinac (pronounced Mack-in-awe) Island celebrating my fifteenth anniversary.  It’s located in the little-known Straits of Mackinaw, right where the state’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas meet, and in my opinion, there aren’t many places more beautiful in all of America.  The whole area is sparsely populated, with lots of quiet forests and miles of secluded beaches.  In fact, most people don’t even know much about Big Mac, the huge suspension bridge that connects the peninsulas.  According to the Mackinac Bridge website, at five miles in length, it’s the third longest suspension bridge in the world.  It held the record for nearly 50 years!

Michigan played a huge part in the fur trade and the resulting conflicts between the French and English nations.  Mackinac Island, with its central location, served as a meeting area for the trade, exchanging millions of dollars worth of furs each spring.  The British Fort Mackinac was built to guard the trading town.  Three times it swapped hands, first after the Revolution and twice during the War of 1812.  The restored fort still overlooks the harbor and is now a popular tourist attraction.

Victorian hotel on Mackinac Island

After the decline of the fur trade in the 1800’s, Mackinac Island became a resort town for the well-to-do.  Today, Mackinac Island still attracts millions.  It preserves the Victorian feel of the original resort era.  No cars are allowed on the island.  Horses and carriages pull tourists as well as haul items for the island’s 500 permanent residents, pick up trash and recycling, and provide the only means of transportation other than bicycle.  Victorian cottages line the island’s narrow streets, and the town looks almost exactly as it did a hundred years ago.  And while fudge wasn’t developed there, the town of Mackinac Island has become famous for the yummy confection.  (I left with three thick slabs!)

I write this post for three reasons:  First to share my super-fun weekend and second to introduce my readers to this well-kept Michigan secret.  But my third and main reason is to pique your interest in a fabulous Michigan author.  (You should have guessed, huh?)  Gloria Whelan is in her 80’s now, and she’s a master of the craft, with a lifetime of wonderful books on her resume.  Today, because of my recent visit, I especially want to highlight her Mackinac Island trilogy.  She brings the history of the area to life with this series that features a young girl who lived on the island during the War of 1812.  If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend you pick it up.  The series is YA, but appropriate for a younger audience.

Once on This Island
Farewell to the Island
Return to the Island

Michigan Author Gloria Whelan

I also want to feature a few of Mrs. Whelan’s other most notorious works.  Today, ironically, I bumped back a scheduled review of her new book See What I See to make room for this post.  The review will post next Tuesday.  Also check out:  Listening for Lions, an ALA notable book;  Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award;  Mackinac Bridge: The Story of the Five-Mile Poem, a picture book about the making of the Mackinac Bridge and Michigan Notable Book award winner; and her trilogy of easy reader historical fiction about pioneering in Michigan:  Next Spring An Oriole (review), Night Of The Full Moon, and Shadow of the Wolf.

And just for fun, I’ll close with a recipe I found this weekend.  Don’t eat it all at once.

Basic Fudge Recipe from Mackinac Island, 1890

Fill your copper kettle with the following ingredients to create your 35-pound loaf of fudge.

  • 23 pounds sugar
  • 2-1/2 pounds unsweetened chocolate
  • 5 quarts 1/2 and 1/2 cream
  • 3-1/2 pounds corn syrup
  • 18 ounces shortening
  • 2 Tablespoons salt

Cook to 230 degrees, pour on to marble slab. Let it cool to approximately 96 degrees. Work by paddle or hand approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Voila – 35 pounds of fudge!

5-Q Interview With Author Lisa Rivero

If you missed yesterday’s post, check out my book review of Oscar’s Gift: Planting Words with Oscar Micheaux, by Lisa Rivero.  You won’t want to miss this one.  Ms. Rivero has graciously donated a paperback copy for my readers.  Click here for giveaway details.

Before reading Oscar’s Gift, I was not familiar with Oscar Micheaux. What inspired this story?

I stumbled on to the historical figure of Oscar while doing research on the area where I grew up so as to understand the background of family diaries that I am transcribing. From the beginning, Oscar’s life fascinated me, in part because of his experience as an African-American homesteader (a part of the homesteading era I hadn’t known much about) and in part because of his later literary career. He took hold in my mind, somehow, and I knew I needed to find a way to write about him.

What kind of research did you have to do to recreate this time in Oscar’s life and place him in an authentic setting?

The setting was the easiest part to write about because it’s where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. The geography of the Great Plains is a part of who I am, even more so the longer I live elsewhere. The research for Oscar’s life and the time period happened slowly over the span of a couple of years. I read biographies of his life, analysis of his movies, and two of his novels, which are semi-autobiographical. Some of the other aspects of the story specific to the time period (for example, the 1904 issue of The Youth’s Companion) were little gifts that popped up along the way.

I especially enjoyed the character of Tomas. He was an excellent way to  “see” and “hear” Oscar, but he was also an unforgettable character in  his own right. How did his creation come about?

I’m so happy that the character of Tomas came alive for you! He’s the part of the story whose origin I can’t quite explain, except that he was inspired by several young people I’ve known and worked with, all of whom were sensitive and curious and idealistic in the best possible way. Tomas was my first experience with a character’s leading me through what was supposed to happen in a story, rather than the other way around.

Is this your first work of fiction? What other titles have you written?

This is my first published work of fiction, and I have a lot of other in-progress pieces lying about. I’ve written two previous non-fiction books about homeschooling (Creative Home Schooling, Great Potential Press, 2002, and The Homeschooling Option, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and two non-fiction books about intense, creative, and otherwise gifted teens (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Teens and Smart Teens’ Guide to Living with Intensity, both 2010 Great Potential Press books). I also blog for Psychology Today.

And lastly, list some of your favorite books and authors.

There are so many! Here are a few titles and authors, in no particular order and from varying genres:

The Voyage to the Bunny Planet Trilogy, by Rosemary Wells
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, by Kathleen Norris
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
Anything by Willa Cather or Eudora Welty
Dubliners, by James Joyce
What the Dog Saw, by Malcolm Gladwell
Heidi, by Johanna Spyri

Lisa, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, and thank you also for your book donation.  I’ve no doubt the winner will enjoy it as much as I did.

Click here for your own copy of Oscar’s Gift.

Lisa’s website:

5-Q Interview with Author Elise Stokes

If you missed yesterday’s post, click here to see my review for Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula then zip on  back here for a few questions and answers with author Elise Stokes.  By the way, Ms. Stokes donated some Kindle editions of her book.  Click here for giveaway details.

Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?  How did it come about?

Trixie Belden gave me the writing bug. I devoured that series in fifth grade, and then decided to write a mystery series of my own. I still have the first book, written on lined paper in pencil, a proud 150 pages front and back. I wrote a couple short stories for my high school newspaper and a couple more my freshman year of college, but then got caught up in the busyness of life and put my passion to write on the back burner. Twenty years and four kids later, I read an article about Stephenie Meyer and learned that she had written Twilight with three little boys underfoot.  Right then and there, I decided if Stephenie could find the time so could I. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula is the result of that decision. It’s amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it.

What inspired the Cassidy Jones Adventures?

My husband lit that spark. After determining to write again, I couldn’t come up with any solid storylines, so he suggested we brainstorm. While throwing ideas back and forth, one of his struck me: a boy superhero whose senses, strength, and speed are radically enhanced. Needless to say, I loved the idea, with one stipulation: the superhero had to be a girl. Once the seed was planted, the story quickly unfolded.

You were once an elementary school teacher.  What was your favorite part of that job?  Was writing a natural outgrowth?

Though I adored my students, my favorite part of teaching–believe it or not–was writing lesson plans.  I taught at a small Christian school that had a very loose curriculum, which was wonderful for me since it allowed room to really let my creative juices flow and build a fun literature-based curriculum. Those years of teaching were a blast!

I wouldn’t say writing per se is a natural outgrowth of having been an educator, however, my desire to produce quality, age-appropriate literature is. My children are also a huge motivating factor in this regard.

When can we expect the sequel, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift?

Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift will be released this fall and I can hardly wait! In book two, I develop one of my most favorite characters: Jason Crenshaw, Cassidy’s twenty-five-year-old neighbor who had decided that he never wanted to grow up. Plus the new super villain is awesome!

Thanks, Elise, for your time and for creating such a great series.  And also thanks for donating a few Kindle copies to my readers!

Click here to buy your own copy of Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula.

Check out Elise’s website:

Jules Verne (1828-1905), Author Biography

Before this year, I never read a book by Jules Verne. I read lots and lots of American and British classics for my English major, but Verne was French. I’ve been missing out! Since I’ve enjoyed two of his book this summer and added a third to my to-read list, I thought I’d learn a little more about him.

Verne was born in Nantes, France in 1828 and died in 1905. He studied law but, lucky for us, soon turned his writing hobby into full-time work. He wrote scores of books and became quite famous in his day. It’s a fame that has lasted, as many of his more popular works are still in print today.  Some have even been turned into movies. He, along with England’s H.G. Wells, of whom Verne reminds me greatly, is one of the founding fathers of the modern sci-fi genre.

Verne writes imaginative adventures, but he includes in them great detail about the natural world and about futuristic inventions. I was especially impressed with his submarine vessel, The Nautilus (from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), which included functions such as an air reservoir and circulation system, a means to purify sea water for drinking, an underwater exit and docking system, realistic steering and propulsion mechanisms, and the ability to run the whole thing off electricity generated from sea water. And this long before a working, life-sustaining sub had ever been invented. I was also blown away by Verne’s descriptions of the South Pole, made decades before it was even discovered. And though I haven’t read it yet, his novel Five Weeks in a Balloon, I learned, contains remarkably accurate details of space exploration. What an amazing prophet Jules Verne was!

I gleaned a few interesting details about Verne’s life which I’ll share before I close. When he was 12, he sneaked away and signed onto an ocean-going vessel as cabin boy. His father recovered him before the ship sailed, however, and Verne promised his parents that “in the future he would travel only in imagination.”  Fitting, don’t you think?

Verne had a mischievous sense of humor, but basically he was a shy and solitary man. He also had a strong religious faith, which can set one at odds with the scientific world. I noticed and appreciate his blend of faith and fact in his novels; neither negates the other. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Biography, Verne also “showed himself aware of the social dangers of uncontrolled technological advance” in his work The Purchase of the North Pole. And Verne himself wrote, “If I am not always what I ought to be, my characters will be what I should like to be.”

As a writer, that’s a mantra I can appreciate, from a man I have come to respect.

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