Author Spotlight: Brenda Drake

 Name:  Brenda Drake

Author of: Analise Rising (coming January, 2019)

The Library Jumpers series: Thief of Lies; Guardian of Secrets; Assassin of Truths

The Fated series: Touching Fate; Cursing Fate; Seeking Fate (coming June, 2018)

Thunderstruck

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

I was eight, I believe, and it was a story about a rabbit looking for his lost carrots. It was horribly illustrated, but my grandmother loved it.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I always loved writing, but it wasn’t until I was home with the kids that I decided to give publishing my stories a try.

 

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

My journey to publishing started out without having anyone to talk to about writing. It wasn’t until I found Twitter and blogging did I find writer friends. I guess it’s been my many writer friends and my current editors who have read and critique my work that have helped and advised me on my publishing journey.

 

Do you exclusively write books with a  paranormal/fantasy twist  or have you written in other genres?

Currently, all my books have a paranormal/fantasy twist. I love being in the fantastical. I may try other genres one day, but for now I’m happy what I write. I think that’s the most important thing. You have to enjoy what you write because other parts of the publishing journey is difficult but writing should be enjoyable.

 

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I’m so off balance when I’m writing a book. It’s all I concentrate on. I’ll write from morning to night, only stopping when I have to, when something needs to be taking care of. I keep trying to follow a schedule, but it never works. I’m just not good at being hemmed into a schedule. I write when the inspiration hits me.

 

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

It usually takes me four to six weeks to write a first draft and about a month for revisions. Then if I have time, I have a critique partner read it and revise it again.

 

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

Each book is different and has varying amounts of preparation and research. With fantasy, much of it is made up from your imagination and things come to me as I write. Mostly, I have to research real places that are in my books, maybe weapons and techniques for fighting and things like that. I do a plot graph of each book and it takes me several hours to only a few hours to plot out a story.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

I have to have some sort of noise going while I write. Usually, it’s music. Sometimes it’s a movie that inspires me that I’ve seen so many times that I know what’s going on in it because I don’t pay attention to it while I’m writing. It’s weird, but I think it has to do with feeling lonely in the quiet.

 

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I haven’t done a pilgrimage. My dream is to do a tour of libraries around the world. That would be the best bucket list ever!

 

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

I can! With the Library Jumpers series it was in a book store and I came across a coffee table book on libraries. I thought how great it would be if I could jump into the photographs of each library to see them for real. For my Fated series, it was during a tarot card reading in New Orleans.

 

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I prefer reading young adult fantasy. It’s my favorite, but I read in all categories and genres. For me, it’s about the story. If it interests me, I’ll read it.

 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

Yes, I do. No one has pointed them out yet, so I may have hidden them too well. Ha!

 

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

They’re somewhat inspired by people I know in real life. I borrow traits and quirks from the people around me.

 

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

I can’t think of any one book. There are so many books I feel that don’t get enough marketing behind them that should.

 

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I’ve thought and thought over this one and I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure or not, but I loved Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

 

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Yes. And sometimes it’s sad. Ha!

 

As a writer, what animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

I’d say an owl. They’re beautiful, quiet, and they look as if they’re always contemplating their next move.

 

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Spelling and pronunciation. They’re my Kryptonite. After an accident, I had difficulties hearing sounds while growing up and it continues to this day. I’ll have my friends repeat a word several times so that I can get it. And I never mind being corrected because it helps me with it. I’m a little self-conscious speaking in front of large groups. I struggle, but I still do it.

 

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Learn your craft. Read widely. The key to success is perseverance. If you give up, you’ll never accomplish your dreams.

 

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Relax and enjoy the ride. Don’t spend too much on swag. And remember all authors get bad reviews.

 

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I founded Pitch Wars and #PitMad as a way of paying it forward to others. I also mentor in Pitch Wars sometimes. Giving back to the community is rewarding and will make you life long friends.

 

Interested in learning more about Brenda or her books?

 

Thunderstruck

Stevie Moon is famous…at least to the subscribers on her comic review vlog. At school, she’s as plain as the gray painted walls in the cafeteria. So when Blake, the hot new guy at school, shows an interest in her, she knows trouble when she sees it. Been there. And never doing it again.

As the son of the god Thor, Blake Foster’s been given an important mission—to recover the Norse god Heimdall’s sacred and powerful horn before someone uses it to herald in the destruction of the entire universe. But while Blake is great in a fight, the battlefield that is a high school’s social scene is another matter.

Blake knows his only choice is to team up with the adorable Stevie, but she’s not willing to give him even the time of day. He’ll need to woo the girl and find the horn if he hopes to win this war. Who better to tackle Stevie’s defenses than the demi-god of thunder?

Get Thunderstruck from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

The Library Jumpers Series:

 Thief of Lies

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels-magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books-rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Get Thief of Lies from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Guardian of Secrets

Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

Get Guardian of Secrets from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Assassin of Truths

The gateways linking the great libraries of the world don’t require a library card, but they do harbor incredible dangers.

And it’s not your normal bump-in-the- night kind. The threats Gia Kearns faces are the kind with sharp teeth and knifelike claws. The kind that include an evil wizard hell-bent on taking her down.

Gia can end his devious plan, but only if she recovers seven keys hidden throughout the world’s most beautiful libraries. And then figures out exactly what to do with them.

The last thing she needs is a distraction in the form of falling in love. But when an impossible evil is unleashed, love might be the only thing left to help Gia save the world.

Get Assassin of Truths from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

The Fated Series:

Touching Fate

One touch is all it takes…

Aster Layne believes in physics, not psychics. A tarot card reading on the Ocean City Boardwalk should have been a ridiculous, just-for-fun thing. It wasn’t. Aster discovers she has a very unscientific gift-with a simple touch of the cards, she can change a person’s fate.

Reese Van Buren is cursed. Like the kind of old-school, centuries-old curse that runs in royal families. Every firstborn son is doomed to die on his eighteenth birthday-and Reese’s is coming up fast. Bummer. He tries to distract himself from his inevitable death…only to find the one person who can save him.

Aster doesn’t know that the hot Dutch guy she’s just met needs her help-or that he’s about to die.
But worst of all…she doesn’t know that her new gift comes with dark, dark consequences that can harm everyone she loves.

Get Touching Fate from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Cursing Fate

There’s something strange about the Layne sisters, and Wade Diaz wants nothing to do with them. Especially the one who ripped his heart out and set it on fire before tossing it in the garbage several months ago. Iris. He can’t even think her name without unconsciously rubbing the spot in his chest where she left a gaping hole. But now her sisters are claiming some evil spirit is after his soul, and Iris is the only one who can save him. Well, at least his heart would stop hurting, right? Didn’t sound so bad.

Iris Layne has always been the sweet sister. She’s kind to everyone, including her best friend Wade… Until she makes a horrible mistake and breaks his heart. All she wants is to go back to before ‘the dumping’. Of course, Wade would rather see her in hell first. But then Iris touches her sister’s tarot cards and unleashes an evil curse intent on playing a deadly game where no one Iris loves is safe, especially Wade.

How do you convince someone they need your help when you’re the one who hurt them most?

Get Cursing Fate from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

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Author Spotlight: Barbara Quinn

Name: Barbara Quinn

Author of: The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me (Lakewater Press)

Speed of Dark; Hard Head (Eternal Press)

36C; Slings and Arrows (DiskUs Publishing)

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

I started writing early; at five or six years old. I remember my brother and I put plays on for my parents and the rest of the family. The first piece I wrote that was “produced” was for my Girl Scout Troop.

It was a “fractured fairy tale” in which Evil Red Riding Hood tormented the sensitive Big Wolf. It was a musical. I wrote the songs and directed too! Much polite parental applause made me feel wonderful.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I’ve never stopped writing. For a number of years I practiced law which paid the bills. I drafted laws and briefs and contracts but even then in the mornings I’d carve out a little time to work on a short story. I also worked for a few local papers covering trials and writing a legal column for laymen.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

The author Noel Hynd encouraged me to keep at my writing. He discovered a piece I had written in a writing area I used to manage and we became friends. I learned to write the parts I know from him and not worry about the rest, and to up the emotional impact of my story.

Do you exclusively write contemporary women’s fiction or have you written in other genres?

I’ve written in several genres: Fantasy, paranormal, romantic suspense, chick lit. I’m currently working on a steampunk novella. And a big women’s fiction that’s eating me alive.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

It’s very hard for me to find time to write, but I do set aside time in the late afternoons to sit down and let out whatever it is that is pent up. I’m not working full-time any longer, but life and family do occupy a lot of time. As does procrastination.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

A first draft usually takes me a year to complete, sometimes more. I can spend another year revising.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

I do a lot of research as I hate to be inaccurate. I recently spent hours learning about hot air balloons. And for my Springsteen book I spent hours poring over his lyrics and listening to songs to find the right match to what my main character, Sofia, was experiencing.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

I need quiet to write. And not much life chaos spinning in my brain to distract me. Once I start rolling, I lose track of time and place. I used to set an alarm when my son was in school so I’d remember to pick him up. I began using an alarm after I did once get lost in a writing fog and forget the time. I rushed to school to find him waiting alone outside his classroom. Never again!

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

One of my books, Hard Head, has a scene set at the Palio in Siena, a fascinating horse race around the town square filled with intrigue and pageantry.. They bring in dirt to cover the square to make a track. I devoured every article I could about this ancient race. After publication, I visited Siena and enjoyed walking around the square. I didn’t see the Palio as it’s held only twice a year, but I did get to imagine it right there.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

For me inspiration is an amorphous fog that’s always with me and I never know what’s going to pop out or when. At some point everything starts to gel.  I can’t control it but I have to sit down and trust the process  can happen.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I read mostly fiction. I love anything by Anne Tyler, T Coraghessan Boyle, Christopher Moore.I also loved Enders Game by Orson Scott Card. My favorite books of late are the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan trilogy. What a consummate body of complex but entertaining fiction she’s written.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

I tend to name characters after people who have helped me out along the way. I do try to make those characters nice ones and not kill them off!

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

For sure! I often reach back in time to my own childhood and to the advice given by my parents and grandparents. The grandfather in Hard Head is a blending of my father and my grandfather. They were from Calabria and the Calabrese who are known for their stubborness and hard heads, literally and figuratively ,are called Testa Dura, which translates as hard head. The Summer Springstgeen’s Songs Saved Me is a tribute to the healing power of Bruce Springsteen’s music and I’ve always been a Bruce fan. My book 36C is a story of a gal who sells lingerie. I did that for a summer job once.  And Speed of Dark opens with a scene of kids pedaling their bikes behind a DDT truck that’s spreading it’s poisonous gas to kill mosquitos. Amazingly, the kids in the neighborhood, incuding me, used to do that.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s the funniest novel. It’s received many awards,but I think it deserves more widespread acclaim.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

Nope. Don’t have one. I’m a picky guilt-free reader.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Haw! I have a Google alert set for my name in case it’s ever mentioned. But there are other Barbara Quinns out there so I get more of those than about me!

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

The dolphin! I see them quite a lot in Florida and at the Jersey shore. Recently I took a boat ride with a dog that knew where to find them and manatees. It was  fascinating and magical to see the interaction of these different caring and protective species.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

I wish I were more productive. I work very slowly.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Persist. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Enjoy! It’s real.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

For many years I published an online literary ezine called The Rose and Thorn. It was staffed by volunteer writers and we gave many, many, writers their start in fiction and poetry publication. I enjoyed that venture. Now, aspiring writers write to me asking for advice and I’m happy to help them along the path.

Interested in learning more about Barbara?

 

The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me 

Catching her husband with his face between the long, silky legs of another woman is the last thing Sofia expects–and on today of all days.

So, after scratching an expletive into his Porsche and setting the cheating bastard’s clothes on fire, she cranks up her beloved Bruce and flees, vowing never to look back.

Seeking solace in the peaceful beachside town of Bradley Beach, NJ, Sof is determined to divorce and start over. And, with the help of best friends, new acquaintances, a sexy neighbor, and the powerful songs of Springsteen, this may be the place where her wounds can heal. But, as if she hasn’t faced her share of life’s challenges, a final flurry of obstacles awaits.

In order to head courageously toward the future, Sofia must first let go of her past, find freedom, and mend her broken soul.

 

Get The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Speed of Dark

There are some people you never forget. In the summer of 1964, Luke D’Angelo falls for one of them–a mysterious girl named Celeste. Like Luke, Celeste is an outsider struggling to find her identity, but unlike Luke, Celeste has special powers that have the potential to destroy everything Luke and his friends believe in.

Luke and his mentally challenged sister become fast friends with this curious girl. Set in upstate New York, in a town that is home to a shrimp cocktail plant that belches a foul-smelling tomato and fish fog, this coming of age tale about a girl with a dream and the teens who want to help her fulfill it, is a balance between the comic and the profound. The story resonates with the message that inside each of us is a light that burns so bright no dark can extinguish it. But at what cost?

 

Get Speed of Dark on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

 

Hard Head 

A mother and daughter discover some things can be more deadly than the Mafia…

Rosanna Sweeney defies her father’s deathbed order that she never go to Italy. She and her teenage daughter journey across Italy to the Calabrian town of her father’s birth. In their quest, they find romance, learn about one another, and uncover a past that links them to secret societies far worse than the Mafia. Can they survive their dark legacy?

 

Get Hard Head on Amazon or from Barnes and Noble

 

 

 

36C 

Tressa Connell dreams of finding the right fellow, of putting her graphics art degree to work, and of traveling to Venice. The reality is that she’s stuck in a dead-end job selling lingerie to rail-thin women who prowl the high-end Manhattan boutique where she works. Hounded by a helmet-haired boss, befriended by a troubled Latina makeup artist, and wooed by a Jewish cop, Tressa also has a giant grandfather clock strapped to her back, a bushel of eggs in her arms, and her mother cracking a Pampers whip over her head.

 

Get 36C from Amazon 

 

 

 

Slings and Arrows 

When massage therapist Ellen D’Este separates from her husband her life begins to unravel. In an attempt to reinvent herself, she encounters a female spiritualist and a handsome stranger who turn her world upside down. Can she find love, faith and meaning in life or will she be the unwitting pawn of a charlatan?

 

Get Slings and Arrows from Amazon

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Author Spotlight: Gloria Chao

Name: Gloria Chao

Author of: American Panda (Simon Pulse) and Misaligned (coming fall 2019)

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

I remember writing and illustrating a lot of stories as a kid, and here’s a sneak peek at one of them involving a…dun dun dunnn…missing snowglobe!

 

 

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

My husband saw how passionate I was about writing and was the first to suggest I pursue it professionally. It had never occurred to me before that moment that it was an option for me, and his belief in my words was what set me on this path. There were years of doubts that followed, but there is no regret.

 

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

On a whim, I submitted my query to The Book Doctor’s NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza, and The Book Doctors became an important part of my publishing journey. They gave me invaluable advice about where my book fit into the market, and it was their idea to age Mei down to seventeen and write the book as young adult. I am forever grateful to them for their expertise and for also being the first in the industry to believe in me.

 

Do you exclusively write contemporary YA or have you written in other genres?

Fantasy was my first YA love, and there will always be a special place for it even though contemporary is my main love now. Most of my future book ideas are YA contemporary, but sometimes I do have a fantasy idea that will pop in. For now, I want to continue exploring realistic fiction, Asian American characters, and struggles with identity, but perhaps I will write in another genre in the future.

 

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

Because I’m lucky enough to write full-time, I don’t find it too difficult to achieve a life/write balance. While drafting and revising, I tend to live and dream my book to the point where I’m always thinking about it, but it’s more because of passion than necessity. Sometimes I do have to work around the clock to meet deadlines, but it’s a privilege I’m grateful for.

 

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

American Panda was drafted in one month for NaNoWriMo. I revised for a year and a half on my own, two months with my agent, then another five months with my editor. Misaligned was drafted in spurts over a three-month period during which American Panda was released, and most likely I will be in revisions with my editor for five or six months. Misaligned feels like the speed of light compared to American Panda!

 

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

For me, the book doesn’t start flowing until I find the protagonist’s voice. Most of my preparation involves free writing to try to figure out exactly who they are and how they talk. For Misaligned, I also did some research on 19th Century China!

 

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

Hmmm…my writing habits are: cup of tea, music in the background, two screens (one for Word, one for research). Because I live in Chicago, I need fingerless typing gloves and a mug warmer in the winter (and sometimes spring because our cold season is way too long!).

 

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

Nothing interesting, but for Misaligned, my husband and I have explored Indiana farmland. I’m hoping one of my future books will be set someplace more tropical 😉

 

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects? For American Panda, it was my husband telling me I needed to tell my story combined with my desire to write the book I needed as a teen. For Misaligned, my mother told me about a newspaper article she’d read describing a phenomenon in China. I immediately thought, This needs to be in a book, and the idea formed from there. My third book idea actually also started from a newspaper article.

 

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites? YA contemporary is my main love. Some favorites: The Hate U Give, The Sun is Also a Star, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, They Both Die at the End, Starfish, You’ll Miss Me When You’re Gone, Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, It’s Not Me, It’s You.

 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? Yes! I leave a lot of inside jokes to my husband in my writing. I also have some jokes for my family in there.

 

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life? Yes, almost all of my characters are inspired at least in part by people I know well, people I’ve met in passing, and people I’ve heard about from others.

 

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated. Starfish. I know it was a William Morris finalist and is critically acclaimed, but I think it deserves even more attention.

 

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure. Twilight!

 

Be honest: Do you Google yourself? I don’t. I just don’t want to know.

 

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus? Panda, of course!

 

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Write your story and focus on what makes you unique!

 

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Congratulations, you did it!!! Figure out what works for you, and it might be different from others (i.e. how much social media, whether or not to look at reviews, etc).

 

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?
When I have time, I offer critiques of queries, Twitter pitches, and opening pages to aspiring writers. I also have a blog where I give my tips and share my publishing journey: https://gloriachao.wordpress.com/blog/. All the resources I used during my journey can be found here: https://gloriachao.wordpress.com/writers-nook/.

 

Want to know more about Gloria?

 

American Panda 

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth—that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

From debut author Gloria Chao comes a hilarious, heartfelt tale of how unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.

 

Get your copy of American Panda from Amazon or Barnes & Noble  

 

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Author Spotlight: Jeri Baird

 

Name: Jeri Baird

Author of: Tokens and Omens; Curses and Warfare (Jolly Fish Press)

Upcoming:  Barnabas and Bird Run Away From the Circus

 

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

In grade school, I was obsessed with writing stories where I flew to Mars. But my first attempt at writing as an adult was a chapter book called Brother Rabbit, Brother Skunk where a skunk was adopted into a family of rabbits.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I’ve always loved reading, but I was in my 40’s before it occurred to me that I could write. I was in a group setting where the ice-breaker question was “What is your secret dream?” It surprised me that what came out was “I want to be a published children’s author”. It was few more years before I actually started writing.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

Lots of people helped me become a better writer through workshops and critique groups. SCBWI has been instrumental in my writing journey.

Do you exclusively write young adult or have you written in other genres?

I write young adult and middle grade.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

It’s hard to achieve any kind of balance when writing a first draft. I’m either obsessed or too tired from work to do anything but think about it! I can revise in short time frames, but first drafts, for me, require time and energy. And I frequently have to go somewhere else to write, as home distractions keep me from being productive. I don’t want to know how much I’ve invested in local coffee shops!

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

Each book is different. I wrote and revised Tokens over a few years. Curses was done in a year (I had a contract to fulfill). Barnabas and Bird was written in two months and didn’t take much revising.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

With Tokens, I read a lot about the middle ages and the Romani people. Eventually, I abandoned that setting in favor of a tribal one. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on researching names!

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

Not a big secret – I always write by hand with a pencil and notebook. I don’t plot, so I seldom know ahead of time what’s going to happen. I usually “get” the end about 25% of the way in, and I write toward that. I’m often surprised at what happens. Sometimes I’m appalled at a plot twist, but I leave it in, thinking I can always take it out later. I’ve never taken one out. Poor Zephyr in Curses had one of those.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

No, but I’d love to see England, Scotland, and Ireland in person!

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

When I’m close to finishing a novel, I always get an idea for my next book. Who knows where those come from? Not me. My novels have varied from contemporary to fantasy.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

Fantasy is always my favorite, but I also read contemporary, especially in middle grade. You can check out my Goodreads bookshelf to see all the books I’ve read in the last few years. I often re-read my favorites. And here’s a quirk – I almost always read the end before I get there. Especially in a tense section, I need to know that things are going to turn out all right. It never spoils the book for me to know how it ends.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

Yes.  🙂  What? You think I’m going to tell?

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Nope, but there are parts of myself in each character I write.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Stoner by John Williams. I loved it so much, I’ve read it twice. No one I’ve recommended it to has had anything good to say about it.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

Fifty Shades of Gray

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Of course! I want to know what other people will see if they look me up.

As a writer, what animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

A spider. Metaphysically, the spider is the guardian of language and the magic of writing.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Setting is something I struggle with – finding a balance between too much and too little.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Read.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Write the next book. (couldn’t do it in one word!)

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I share my story of becoming a “published author”. It wasn’t quick or easy, and I hope I encourage other writers to never give up. I remain a part of my critique group, letting the others know that I still need help, and I’m always happy to meet with aspiring authors.

Where can people find more about you?

 

Tokens and Omens 

In Puck’s Gulch, sixteen-year-olds undergo a dangerous trial known as the Quest. During a time of magic, Fate hands out tokens and omens based on their behavior. Zander trusts Fate. Alexa only trusts herself. Now, Fate has given them each a special gift—Zander sees secrets he doesn’t want, and Alexa’s thrilled to find she can control events through her embroidery scenes. After Zander and Alexa each earn a omen that makes surviving the quest nearly impossible, they must break the rules and challenge Fate together. If they don’t, one will die. And Fate has made it clear—she won’t be cheated.

 

Get Tokens and Omens on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

Curses and Warfare

The day twins Zander and Alexa became adults, Moira, the embodiment of fate, revealed that Zander would become a leader of warriors and Alexa would be a fortuneteller of great power. Moira instructed the twins to use their talents to prepare their village, Puck’s Gulch, to fend off an imminent invasion.

Now, six months later, Zander is struggling to convince the quarrelsome villagers of the impending danger and unite them in a single cause to protect the village. Meanwhile, Alexa struggles to get along with her mentor, the fortuneteller Melina Odella. As the battle draws near, the twins and their few allies are further than ever from their goals, and all the while traitors lurk in the shadows, taking every opportunity to bring Puck’s Gulch to its knees.

Get Curses and Warfare on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Barnabas and Bird Run Away From the Circus

In the tradition of timeless stories, BARNABAS AND BIRD RUN AWAY FROM THE CIRCUS blends humor and poignancy to create a story of friendship and loss.

Barnabas is self-centered and a bit too verbose. His best friend, Bird, loves him anyway. Devastated to learn he’ll never grow big enough to join his family in the world’s largest elephant act, Barnabas struggles to show Papa he can be big in other ways. Challenged by his older brother, Barnabas embarks on a quest to prove he’s brave. Of course, his tiny canary friend joins him.

With top hat, goggles, a map, and a lucky peanut, the duo fly across the country on a raft guided by a wind that whispers destiny, destiny. Barnabas encounters a whale, a herd of bison, crows, and cows, but they aren’t enough to make him feel brave. The duck, duck, and goose confuse him with their questions. And those s-s-s-snakes on the island in the Great Lakes! Shudder!

Then, Barnabas discovers Bird’s big secret. It’s almost too late before Barnabas learns that becoming a true friend might be the bravest thing he could do.

(coming soon)

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Author Spotlight: Victoria Gilbert

Name: Victoria Gilbert 

Author of: The Blue Ridge Library Mystery series

Book One: A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS (out now) Book Two: SHELVED UNDER MURDER (July 2018), Book Three: PAST DUE FOR MURDER (early 2019)

From: Crooked Lane Books

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

As soon as I realized that those marks on paper made words, I was writing little stories and poems. I don’t really remember the first one, but a short story about a girl who gets a black kitten as a Halloween gift sticks in my mind.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

Even though I continued to write poetry and stories throughout my life – and I always wanted to complete a novel, although not necessarily for publication – I didn’t decide to pursue writing professionally until about six years ago.

I actually had a long career as a librarian before pursuing writing professionally.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

I can’t list one person, but I will acknowledge my two wonderful critique partners, who have offered friendship and support along with advice. Both are published (or soon to be published) authors: Richard Taylor Pearson and Lindsey Duga.

I also received a lot of information and support from the other authors over on the writing website, Agent Query Connect. http://agentqueryconnect.com/

Do you exclusively write mystery or have you written in other genres?

As Victoria Gilbert I write only mysteries. However, under my other penname (Vicki L. Weavil) I have also written and published YA and adult Fantasy and Scifi

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

It was definitely difficult while I was still working full-time as a library director at a small university. However, I have been fortunate enough to retire a little early so now I am writing full-time.

I write for several hours a day. The rest of the day is devoted to maintaining my author social media presence and undertaking writerly promotional activities, as well as walking, cooking, and keeping up my house and garden. Once I meet my current deadline (on book three of my series) I hope to also add in some volunteer work at my local food bank.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

Although I prefer a six month window, I can write a 80,000 to 85,000 draft in approximately four months – sometimes I’ve done it in three! I then spend about a month on revisions, although for my current book I’ll need to cram that into two weeks. (Life got in the way and put me behind schedule this time).

Of course, that’s just my original revisions. My publisher is great about doing extensive editing passes, so I often do much more revision later, based on my (very talented) editor’s suggestions. Then there are copy edits, proofing, etc. So the book undergoes a lot more editing and revision than just my initial pass.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

It depends upon the book. As a former librarian, I am pretty well versed in research (and actually enjoy it). I do some preliminary research before I begin writing the first draft, but there’s always stuff that crops up while I’m writing so I never say my research is done until the book is complete.

I use a mix of resources – library books, online sources, and even original source material in archives.

I am a planner – I create character lists, family trees, age charts, and so on, and I outline each book fairly extensively. (However, I do adjust the outline as I write the actual book).

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

Not really. (But then, if I don’t want anyone to know them, why would I share them here, ha-ha?)

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

My current series is based in the area where I spent a large portion of my life – rural northern Virginia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have gathered some information when visiting family in that area to add to what I already know.

As for a dream destination – I have planned a future book in this series that (partially) takes place in the Tuscany region of Italy…

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

Yes, but for most of them it was just one little thing I saw or heard or read that formed the kernel of an idea. I tend to do a lot “what if?” thinking and that’s often how I take the kernel and grow it into a book.

Now, there was a very specific situation that inspired an important component of A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS but I can’t tell you what that was, because that would actually be a spoiler!

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love mysteries and thrillers – I enjoy everything in that genre, from hard-boiled detective novels to psychological thrillers, to cozies. I also enjoy some fantasy and science fiction, and literary fiction. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll basically read anything if it is well-written!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

Yes. There is a word I include in every book at least once. Only my husband and I know what it is. It’s our private joke. (And no, I’m not telling).

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Not really. I do draw inspiration for characteristics, appearance, and behavior from people I know or have known. They are not necessarily people I’ve known well, though. I also collect information from simply “people watching” or other observations of strangers.

But none of my characters are ever specifically based on a real person. They are always their own unique selves!

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Anything by John Crowley, but especially LITTLE, BIG and his latest, KA: DAR OAKLEY IN THE RUINS OF YMR. I mean, he IS acknowledged as a master by many people in the writing world, but I think he should be more well known by the general public too.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE by Anne Rice. I really am not much into vampire stories (and don’t enjoy some of the later books in that series) but I do love that one.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Rarely. I did that more when I started out, but I have learned (the hard way) that sometimes, especially when it comes to online comments and/or reviews, ignorance truly is bliss!

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

It would have to be a wolf. First – because I admire them and believe they are majestic, wonderful, but often misunderstood creatures. And second – in honor of Luki, my snow queen’s beloved wolf companion in my first published book (written as Vicki L. Weavil) – CROWN OF ICE

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Promotion, promotion, promotion. I really dislike dealing with the “advertising” side of publishing, which is why – although I have tried it – I have not been very successful with self-publishing. Honestly, I do NOT look down on self-publishing and truly admire people who do it. Well. But I’ve found that I am happier – and more successful — when I’m simply assisting my publisher with their publicity efforts rather than doing it all myself.

Also – waiting. There is a LOT of waiting in this business, and sometimes I really struggle with my need for patience!

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Experiment – don’t close your mind to other genres, ideas, age categories, or opportunities. Maybe you love speculative fiction and want to write in that genre, but for some reason your work keeps being rejected or ignored. Well, maybe it’s time to try something different. Write that picture book or middle grade contemporary idea that you think is just something you doodle on “for fun.” Jump into a new genre, or switch from YA to adult (or vice versa). Don’t think you’re funny? Try to write a humorous story anyway. Think you’re too cynical to write Romance? Throw aside all those doubts and spin the most romantic yarn possible. There is no penalty for experimenting with new things, and you never have to show your creations to anyone if you don’t want to.

But you know what? You may find that your true niche is quite different than you imagined. Your humorous middle grade contemporary may garner you the agent and incredible deal you couldn’t get with another genre. Expand your horizons and allow yourself the freedom to “play” a little. You may be pleasantly surprised!

I say this because it definitely happened to me. When I seriously started writing, I never thought I would end up as a cozy and light mystery author. But here I am, and very happy too!

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Persevere – there are a lot of ups and downs in this business, and things can change in the blink of an eye. You may think you’re headed down one path but encounter a roadblock that propels you onto another road. It’s okay – change is okay. Being up one day and down the next is normal. Go with the flow and plan to be in it for the long game. Your career isn’t over if your first book (or books) don’t do that well. Neither is it guaranteed if you have one “hit.” Continue to write, to experiment, to hone your craft, and to expand your horizons. Over time you will find YOUR way, and that is the career you want.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I am a mentor for the Sun vs Snow writing contest; I offer presentations on query writing and finding the right agent to local writing groups; I beta read and critique manuscripts for a few people, including my critique partners; I share writing advice and support on social media; and I sometimes critique queries and first pages for aspiring authors who I’ve met via social media or in person at conferences and other events.

Where can people find more about you?

Find out more about Victoria on her website

Like Victoria and connect on her Facebook page

Follow Victoria on Twitter

Find out what Victoria is reading–and writing!– on her Goodreads page

See what has caught Victoria’s interest on her Pinterest page

 

A Murder For The Books

Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain 

town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble.

Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families… including her own.

When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest in A Murder for the Books, the first installment of Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries.

 

Buy Links for A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS

 

Shelved Under Murder

October in Taylorsford, Virginia means it’s leaf peeping season, with bright colorful foliage and a delightful fresh crew of  

tourists attending the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates local history and arts and crafts. Library director Amy Webber, though, is slightly dreading having to spend two days running a yard sale fundraiser for her library. But during these preparations, when she and her assistant Sunny stumble across a dead body, Amy finds a real reason to be worried.

The body belonged to a renowned artist who was murdered with her own pallet knife. A search of the artist’s studio uncovers a cache of forged paintings, and when the sheriff’s chief deputy Brad Tucker realizes Amy is skilled in art history research, she’s recruited to aid the investigation. It doesn’t seem to be an easy task, but when the state’s art expert uncovers a possible connection between Amy’s deceased uncle and the murder case, Amy must champion her Aunt Lydia to clear her late husband’s name.

That’s when another killing shakes the quiet town, and danger sweeps in like an autumn wind. Now, with her swoon-inducing neighbor Richard Muir, Amy must scour their resources to once again close the books on murder in Shelved Under Murder, the charming second installment in Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries, perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Miranda James.

Available July 10, 2018. Buy (preorder) Links for SHELVED UNDER MURDER 

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