Sunday Interview – Jodi Carmichael

Spaghetti has Arrived!

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Jodi Carmichael, author of Spaghetti is NOT a finger food (and other life lessons). If you haven’t read my review of Spaghetti, yet, you can read it here. I’ve run into Jodi on many writing-related occasions and enjoyed every encounter. I hope you will enjoy meeting her, too. Please welcome Jodi Carmichael.

Hi, Jodi! Glad you could join us, today!

To begin, would you please introduce yourself and tell us what makes Jodi Carmichael tick?

I am a children’s writer, a mother of two wildly imaginative daughters, and a very part time school secretary. I am incredibly curious about people and what motivates them to do the things they do and act the way they do. I am constantly asking, “Why?” followed by wondering, “And what if this happened…”

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Pretty much. I knew in 7th grade I wanted to be a writer but was too scared of failure to follow my writing dreams. It took my mom enrolling me in an online writing course that got me hooked. That was 7 years ago and I’ve been writing since.

I love that you are an advocate for Asperger’s Syndrome and I really enjoyed your character, Connor. What prompted you to write his story?

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons

When I wrote the first draft, Connor’s voice was very clear in my head. Once I finished it became obvious to me, that he was quite unique. I explored the possibility that he had ADHD, but it didn’t fit. I was somewhat knowledgeable of Asperger’s Syndrome, and that seemed a better fit. I then had two child psychologists review the manuscript to ensure his character traits were accurate.

How difficult was it to find a publisher and what was the process like for you?

I sent it to 6 publishers in Canada and the States prior to Little Pickle Press. One small Canadian publisher asked to read the entire manuscript after I queried with the first chapter, which was very exciting. Funny enough, I received their rejection long after I’d signed my contract with Little Pickle.

Glad it worked out so well for you! 🙂

What sorts of things have you done to promote Spaghetti?

I’ve done newspaper, TV, and Radio interviews, which were so much fun! Our local journalistic community embraced Spaghetti, which was thrilling. Early on, my publisher arranged a Twitter Spaghetti Party, which was a blast as well.

Spaghetti posters, taken at the C4 Literary Festival where we were both guests.

This past March, we ran a Spaghetti Potluck Dinner for Asperger Manitoba, which was really well attended. We expected 80 and served over 150 people. We were fortunate that DeLuca’s donated the pasta and Little Pickle Press donated book posters which we sold at the event, with all proceeds benefiting AMI. I tweet and facebook quite a lot, although as I get to the final revisions of my next book, that is falling off.

And, of course, the book launch at McNally Robinson, which is every Winnipeg author’s dream come true. We sold all but 5 copies of Spaghetti, which was totally awesome.

I do have one more promotional event coming up on Saturday, August 10th. I am reading 3 to 4 chapters of Spaghetti on MagicBlox Radio, which is an online radio show. You can follow along here:

That spaghetti party sounds awesome! Good luck with the radio interview, That sounds very exciting! 🙂

Do you only write stories for younger children or do you write for other age groups/genres?

I write the story that comes to me, regardless of age group or genre. I have a picture book that I am shopping around, a Young Adult story in revision and my next novel is an older middle grade.

Sounds like a typical writer to me! 🙂

Are you working on anything new at the moment that you would like to share with us?

Yes! My current work in progress is a Young Adult story about a 16 year old girl who is struggling with depression and a verbally abusive boyfriend. It is both funny and poignant and I absolutely adore the main character, Julia. She’s working hard to find the strength to become the young woman she’s meant to be.

Sounds like a great story! I can’t wait to read it! 🙂

And now for the fun stuff! What is your favourite comfort food?

Chocolate. Chewy caramel en-robed in chocolate. Strawberries dipped in chocolate. And cookies, as long as they are soft and as large as your face.

Please describe what your writing workspace looks like. Feel free to include a picture, if you like.

My writing space changes based on where I am. As I type this I am sitting at my dining room table at the cottage, staring out the screen door to sparkling Lake Winnipeg. In my big yellow house in Wildwood Park, I either sit at the dining room table among the kids’ homework or in my office/spare bed room upstairs next to Pink and Floyd, our gerbils.

I love the names of your gerbils! And writing at the cottage must be wonderful! 🙂

Do you have any rituals or objects that help you bring out your muse?

I sign off all internet. No facebook, twitter or email. I am VERY easily distracted, so I have to eliminate those distractions.

Yes, I know what a HUGE distraction the internet is! 🙂

Are there any social media sites you would like to share with my readers?



Twitter: @Jodi_Carmichael


Thanks for joining us, today, Jodi. Hope all my readers enjoyed our little chat. 🙂


Sunday Review – Jan Andrews

storytellers - cupids_brigus - 77

Good morning, dear Readers!

Today, I’d like to introduce to you, Jan Andrews, a well-known Canadian author who has penned many children’s books (Ella: An Elephant–Un ElephantVery Last First Time, Out of Everywhere, The Auction, Twelve Days of Summer, Stories at the Door, Rude Stories, When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew: Tales of Ti-Jean), as well as a Dear Canada story called Winter of Peril: Newfoundland Diary of Sophie Loveridge, and she has, most recently, published The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley. (If you haven’t read my review of it, yet, you can find it here). In addition to the written word, Jan is also a storyteller, sharing stories in the most original way much like our earliest ancestors did around a campfire. She is a fascinating, adventurous woman with a sense of humour, as you will see. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi, Jan! Thank-you for joining us today!

That’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

To begin, would you please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I was born in 1942 and came to Canada from the UK in 1963. I went first to Saskatoon and that was a major culture shock. Nonetheless, I knew I didn’t want to go back to Britain. I wanted to make Canada my home. I’ve done that – completely and utterly. 


Right now I live down the end of a road on a lake about 50 minutes drive from Ottawa. I’m stunned by the beauty of the place — all day and every day. I never take it for granted. The same goes for my partner, Jennifer Cayley. Coming home is always sweet, sweet, sweet.

I’m eternally too busy as the pair of us are prone to altogether too many “good ideas.” The latest is a small company called 2 Women Productions, dedicated to getting storytelling for adults more out there in the world. You can check it out at

A majority of my readers consist of writers who are looking for that big break. How difficult was it for you to get your first book published?

The first one just sort of happened. It was in 1972 and you have to remember there were very few Canadian children’s books being published back then. I had a story I sent to Tundra Books. Tundra was a very new publishing house and May Cutler was very much in charge. They had plans for a series of what they called “mini-books for mini-hands.” Material for three books had been collected and the search was on for a fourth. Ella, An Elephant–Un Elephant was it. It seems to me the paperback version sold for 69 cents and the hardcover for $1.95. 

I don’t know that I’ve ever actually had what you’d call “a big break” although Very Last First Time, which came out in 1985, really did make an impact and is now considered an on-going classic. Mostly though I simply keep chugging along. My books have been shortlisted for most of the big awards, including the GGs (Governor General Awards) but that’s never guaranteed acceptance for the next submission. I have a number of manuscripts sitting in my files for which I’d love to find a home.

One of the problems is that I’m a tremendously slow writer so there are often substantial gaps between one book and the next. I’ve also produced books for all ages so it’s hard to keep readers on the edge of their seats looking for the next book out.

silver birch_2

Accepting the Silver Birch Express Award, 2012

Success comes in such strange ways too. I was flabbergasted that When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew: Tales of Ti-Jean was even nominated for the Silver Birch Express Award in 2012. It never entered my head that a folktale collection could actually win!

Added to all this is the fact that I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the world of arts administration. Jennifer and I founded an arts education organization called MASC for having artists go into schools. This work led to the founding of a Young Authors and Illustrators Conference. Both MASC and the conference are still running although we’re no longer involved. I was the first president of Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada and ran its StorySave project for the recording of elder storytellers through the production of six CD sets. I produced a series of epic tellings every winter for thirteen years and this led to a number of complete tellings of such works as The Iliad and The Odyssey. I directed Ottawa Storytellers concert series at the Fourth Stage of the National Arts Centre – this for six years, also. It’s been fascinating and exciting but has, of course, taken up a considerable amount of my time.

I can imagine! 🙂

Once you’ve been past president of Storytellers of Canada you get inducted into the Loyal Order of Silly Old Persons (which I’m proud to say I instituted) - Jan

Once you’ve been past president of Storytellers of Canada you get inducted into the Loyal Order of Silly Old Persons (which I’m proud to say I instituted) – Jan

(Thanks for the giggle, Jan!)

How does the process of storytelling differ from writing?

Storytelling is much more fluid. With the traditional folktales I learn what’s happening in the story and tell out of its images. There are constant surprises, growing out of the interaction between teller and listeners. I don’t change the main events, of course, but the story does come out of my mouth somewhat differently each time. As a writer, I’m very precise. That’s why I’m so slow. The story seems to rise up out of the words. There are no really “rough drafts.” Tons will get altered/re-shaped/discarded but it still has to “feel right” with each go through.

That seems like a good way to work out any kinks in a story. 🙂

You’ve had several children’s books published. What was it like working with illustrators? Did the publisher assign them to you or did you get to choose your own? 

Mostly the publisher has chosen the illustrator, mostly I’ve had different illustrators for each new book. The thing you have to know is that it’s the illustrator’s job to take the words you’ve written and create the images out of their own response and vision; it is not the illustrator’s job to ask you what you want. You’re a team, each one of you doing what’s yours to do. Respect is crucial. Mostly picture books work through making the text as tight as possible. I sometimes make cuts when the illustrations are done because if something’s in the pictures it doesn’t need to be in the words. I’ve had wonderful illustrators. Their work has often revealed new levels of meaning and emotion to me. Each and every time the collaboration has led to the eventual production of a book that is far greater than the sum of its respective parts. 


Nice! 🙂

Now, on to your most recent work, The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley – what inspired you to write about a foster child who doesn’t speak?

Who knows exactly where what comes from? It’s often very much a mystery to me. I did have three teenage foster kids in my life when my own kids were teenagers. I learned a lot from them and did, I think, gain some insight into their ways and needs. One of the things I realized was that each of these young women had developed some technique which was utterly crucial to her own survival but would also prove a significant block if it couldn’t be let go of when the time came.

I really can’t remember when I decided that Kyle would be silent. I do remember being absolutely amazed when he started painting. I hadn’t expected that at all. I’m hugely admiring of him — of his resiliency and strength. I believe very strongly that we, all of us, have within us whatever it is we need to manage. I believe too we always have choices as to how we will respond and act. Those themes inform all of my work both as writer and storyteller. Whatever I’m producing, they’re always at the heart. I’m sure readers will be able to see the effect that has on Silent Summer.

I started writing the book in 2007 so you can see what I mean by slow. Inevitably, there were times when I thought I should quit but I was always so attached to this kid. There’s a scene in the book where his current foster parent speaks of all she likes about him. I love those things as well. And there’s so much more she doesn’t know about – how through thick and thin he’s stuck to a sense of how he should be in the world, he’s made a commitment. Always and always, Kyle called me back.

There is, of course, also the crow that sounds like a chicken. How delicious is that?

That part was wonderful and I truly believe it’s possible! I have a cat who sometimes ‘twitters’ like a bird! I think it’s a ploy to lure the birds closer. 🙂

What was the most challenging part of writing Kyle’s story?

Finding the voice. I knew everything had to come through Kyle’s perception. This had its own innate challenges – especially as Kyle doesn’t speak till almost the end of the book AND he has a couple of voices in his head as a kind of backdrop to events. One voice belongs to his father – the ultimate put-down creep; the other to a strange sort of personage who appears to him as “an imaginary figment” but who functions as supporter and guide.

I developed a kind of stream of consciousness approach but there was always something missing. Heavens be praised for Anita Daher, my outstanding Great Plains editor. She suggested I try first person present. The results were immediate. Everything was freer, more immediate and alive.

I love Anita! She certainly has a way of helping us dig deeper to make our stories the best they can be. 🙂

Was the publishing/editing process different this time, writing for Young Adults rather than children?

Editing is editing. It’s there to bring out the best in any given work. No matter the genre, the good editor is the one who asks the right questions; notes the weaknesses; celebrates the strengths; respects the author’s vision and abilities; is clear about what he/she thinks. I’ve worked with outstanding exponents of the art/profession and I’m hugely grateful for that. (I should mention that I’ve had great publishers too!)

Are there any media sites you’d like to share? my website recordings I make of traditional folktales. thoughts on literature and life

Having made the list, I should note that my website needs updating and contributions to both my written and audio blogs have been lagging of late. That’s because I’ve been wrestling with cancer and the resulting chemo. I was, in fact, in the middle to the huge re-write of Silent Summer occasioned by the change in voice when I got the diagnosis. Great Plains was wondrously supportive through this, relaxing all deadlines and letting me soldier on as best I could. I lost lots of energy but am recovering that nicely and am definitely planning to do what’s necessary to catch up on what needs doing in the media line. 

I was sorry to learn about your illness, but I’m so glad you’re feeling better. 🙂


Do you have any parting words or advice for my readers?

  • Being a writer isn’t easy. There’s a level of risk involved in everything you do. You have to live with that.
  • Know that the book you’re creating is way more important than you are. Do whatever it takes to make that book as good as it can be.
  • Have a certain amount of faith in yourself, the universe, the world around you but not so much it makes you self-satisfied.

Great words of wisdom, Jan – and speaking of risk, look at you rock climbing! I am very impressed! 🙂

Thanks you so much for joining us, today, Jan. It’s been such a pleasure. 🙂

Thanks to readers everywhere. As you can see above, I’m on Goodreads and would love to know what you think about Silent Summer or any of my other books.

I hope my followers will check out your books and give you glowing reviews! 🙂

Scary October, Day 14

It’s another Off The Wall Sunday Interview day, everyone! Today, I am pleased to introduce another of my writer’s group, Cas Courcelle. If you dropped by on Friday, I posted a taste of her story Down Dark Deep. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Hi, Cas! Welcome to my blog. Please introduce yourself. 🙂

Hi—I’m Cas Courcelles

How long have you been a writer?

My grandmother told me she remembered me writing stories before I knew how to read or write. And I do remember very carefully writing a letter to my parents when I was in the hospital. I was four and not especially precocious—I scrawled a series of loops that I was convinced were the words I wanted to say. (I asked Dad to paint my bedroom pink and blue.)

Why do you think you became a writer?

Simply put, I like to daydream.

Haha! Don’t we all?

What does your writing process look like? Where, when, how (computer, pen/paper or both) do you write?

I use a computer now—the keyboard lets me keep up with my thoughts, something that was very hard to do when I wrote my first book by hand. And I don’t have to worry about deciphering my handwriting later on. Also, I need solitude—and solitaire. Keeps me focused.

Down Dark Deep

Have you written any other scary stories besides Down Dark Deep?

‘Tickle Games’ is pretty scary and gruesome in parts—there’s an axe murdering serial killer on the loose—but it’s really a suspense novel. (It’ll join Down Dark Deep on Amazon within the next couple of months.)

I thought Down Dark Deep was plenty scary enough for me! 🙂

Is this a genre in which you normally write?

I  like to write suspense, but I could do horror in the future. Who knows what might inspire me?

What compelled you to write Tickle Games and Down Dark Deep?

I got tired of being nice. (I used to write Harlequin Romances.)

Then this is quite a departure from your usual type of story! 🙂

Do you normally read stories in this genre? If so, what is it about these types of stories that you like?

I have read many suspense novels, but not so much in the horror genre. But a good story is a good story, although I want to be engrossed, not grossed out.

Ah, a girl after my own heart! 🙂

Would you like to share any social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc) where we can find you?

I have a Facebook page under Cas Courcelles.

I’m on Twitter under the same name.  

Also, you can check out my author page at

In closing, is there anything more you’d like to say?

Read lots, write more!

Always good advice! Thanks for joining us here, today, Cas! 🙂

Sunday Interview #18

Hello, dear followers and those who just popped in to see what’s going on here at ‘mywithershins’!

Karen Dudley

For my Sunday Interview today, I am thrilled to introduce to you, Karen Dudley who, as her website states, is a “writer of fine novels, preparer of fine foods and all ‘round good egg”! Believe me when I say, she is all that and more! Those who have been with me for a while might remember her name from one of ‘My Bookshelf’ posts, where I talked a bit about her bird-titled mysteries. Anyway, without further ado, please welcome Karen Dudley. (Whistle! Whistle! Whoot! Whoot!)

Hi, Karen! To start off with, if someone asks, ‘who is Karen Dudley?’ what would you tell them?

Hi Susan! Who is Karen Dudley, eh? You mean, apart from the all ‘round good egg stuff? 🙂 Well, let me see…I make great food in my kitchen and scented soap in my basement, I love a good laugh, adore the research end of writing, and I’ve been a sci-fi/fantasy/folklore/mythology buff forever. My vices are books and chocolate with almonds. I listen to opera in the concert hall and sing it in the shower. I drink tea instead of coffee, and more often than not, I am covered in cat hair.

I guess that’s why we get along so well – we have so much in common! Just substitute scrapbooking for soap-making. 🙂

I know you have been writing a long time and not just fiction. Please tell my readers what you’ve written in the past.

Great African Americans in Government (Outstanding African Americans)

 A number of years ago, I was working at Weigl Educational Publishers doing photo research when the publisher decided to develop a series of wildlife biology books for kids, ages 9-12. I’d taken a lot of wildlife biology at university, so I asked if I could write the prototype. I did, and she loved it, so I wrote five more in the series. I’m very proud of the fact that I was able to convince her to include in each book a section on the relevant animal in folklore and mythology. All part of my evil plan to bring folklore and myth to the masses!

Bwa ha ha! **ahem**

I also wrote a number of books for the same publisher on Great African Americans. Yep, that’s right, Great African Americans written by a white Canadian.

Hahaha! That is rather ironic! 🙂

What led you to begin writing fiction?

I’d been working on the wildlife biology series and it was bringing back all kinds of memories of studying the subject and of working in the field (I once spent an entire summer living in a tent and gathering data for The Breeding Bird Atlas of Alberta). At that time, there were a lot of mysteries being written in which the protagonist was an amateur sleuth, and it occurred to me, what better profession for an amateur sleuth than field biology? Field biologists are trained observers, up at strange hours of the day and night, and they travel all over the place. And so, Robyn Devara–and my career as a fiction writer–was born.

Every writer I’ve talked to so far has some kind of writing habit and place where they prefer to write. What are YOUR writing habits? 

That’s changed a bit since I became a mum. I used to be most productive first thing in the morning, which came as quite a surprise to me as I’ve never been a morning person. Now, I need to wait until I get my daughter and my husband out of the house before I can settle down to work. I know some writers work in coffee shops or other public places, but that’s never worked for me. I’m too nosy, I always end up eavesdropping on the people around me rather than working on what I’m supposed to be writing. So, I always write in my den, though if the words aren’t coming, I’ll often take a notebook down to the living room and write in longhand. I think I must be using a different part of my brain by doing this because even when I’m really blocked, I can usually get past it just by changing from computer to paper and pen.

Are you a plotter or a ‘seat-of-your-pants’-type of writer?

A bit of both. Writing is really an organic process for me. I start off with a basic plot, but I never stick to it. I tend to plot a few chapters in advance and then wait and see what happens before going any further.

Once you’ve completed a novel, what sort of editing steps do you take before sending it out into the world?

Anal retentive. Is that hyphenated??? Hyphenated or not, this is what I become once I finish a novel. I NEVER let anyone see a first draft. I fiddle and fuss and angst over it, and I only show it to my husband or my writers’ group when I’m happy with it. My editor tells me that I write very clean copy, so I guess it pays off!

You mentioned a writer’s group. Do you make use of other people, like critique partners or beta readers to give you feedback?

Beta readers and my writers’ group. Couldn’t live without ‘em! I would never send anything to a publisher without first running it by someone else. Have I mentioned that I’m anal-retentive? So much so, that I just noticed that I’ve hyphenated it here and not in the paragraph above. Aaaah! Now I’m going to have to look it up to see which is correct!

How did you manage to get your first novel published? Did you get an agent or did you just start submitting your manuscript?

Karen Dudley’s Robin Devarra mysteries

I just started submitting my manuscript. It’s very, very difficult to get an agent–especially if you’re a first time author. Heck, I’ve written five novels and fourteen kids books and I still can’t get one! After I finished writing my first mystery novel, I made a list of potential publishers and started sending out queries. Turnstone wasn’t on my list because at that time they weren’t publishing genre fiction. Then one day, I was leafing an issue of Prairie Books Now and I saw an ad for Alison Preston’s mystery novel, A Blue and Golden Year published by Turnstone Press. So I sent a query to them. It was pure serendipity—and excellent luck for me!— that Turnstone was about to launch a new genre imprint called Ravenstone. My first novel, Hoot to Kill, launched the imprint.

Sounds like the way it worked for me with Great Plains – and I love Alison Preston’s mysteries, too! 🙂

There are many writers who visit my blog. Since you have been widely published, is there any advice you would give a beginning writer?

To quote my website: Persist! Persist in following your dream of writing, even on the days when you have to drag the words out with a meat hook. Persist in trying to sell your work, if that’s the path you choose. Don’t let those rejection letters get you down. Instead, think of all the interesting things you can do with them: wallpaper your bathroom, make a collage, start your very own paper airline, or toss each letter one by one onto a burning blaze while you cackle gleefully and dance naked around the flames (check your city’s bylaws first).

Now for the fun stuff! I know you have a new book coming out, which is totally different from your previous novels. What prompted you to write it? Please feel free to brag about it all you like!

Ah, Food for the Gods! I love this book! It all started a few years back when I was sitting around thinking about the Greek myth of Tantalus (yeah, writers really do think about weird stuff like that. They also work in their pajamas. Trust me.). Tantalus was that guy who thought he was better than the gods and decided to prove it by chopping up his son, Pelops, and serving him to the gods for dinner. The gods were appalled, of course, and Tantalus was punished with everlasting thirst and hunger, and unable to assuage either need (hence our verb: to tantalize). Pelops, on the other hand, was kindly remade by the gods, though they had to give him an ivory shoulder to replace the one that Demeter accidentally ate. 

Well, I was sitting there that day and I started wondering what happens to poor old Pelops after these events and wouldn’t he make an interesting protagonist: a guy with the proverbial chip on his shoulder. I thought at first I might make him a student of Archimedes, that way I could write about some of the more interesting inventions of ancient Greece, but somehow, it just didn’t feel quite right. Then, I was flipping through one of our many reference books—a book called Life of Greece by Will Durant, when I came across a line that said in ancient Athens when people wanted a special dinner, they couldn’t go to a restaurant, because they didn’t exist yet, but one could hire the services of a professional cook who was usually a foreigner. Bingo. Or, more appropriately, Eureka! With that sentence, I had my protagonist, I had his profession, I had the city that he lives in and I had the title of my book, Food for the Gods. After all, that’s what he does and that’s what he was.

If my readers would like to find you, are there any social media sites that you would like to share?

I’ve got a website, which I don’t update nearly often enough (though I’m trying to be better at this!):

You can also find me on Facebook, which I use for professional purposes (i.e. go ahead and ‘friend’ me).

Is there anything else you would like to say before we say goodbye?

Two things, really. The first is that Food for the Gods is launching on October 3rd at McNally Robinson’s at 8 pm. It’s not invitation only, so come on out. It should be a blast!

The second thing is one last piece of writing advice—the single most important piece of advice that I can give another writer! There is only one way to get better at writing, and that is to write more. So, write on, Word Warrior!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Karen, and good luck with your new book! 🙂

 Thank you, Susan! And cheers!

If you haven’t read any of Karen’s books, yet, I encourage you to find one and dive in. Not only does she write a great mystery, there are always points in the story where you’ll find yourself chuckling or laughing right out loud! 🙂

Sunday Interview #17

For this Sunday’s interview, I’d like to introduce Chadwick Ginther, who has just launched his debut urban fantasy novel Thunder Road.

Welcome, Chadwick! Would you please tell my readers a little about yourself?

Certainly! I grew up in the town of Morden, Manitoba, where I quickly became enamoured with all things robotic and draconic. I worked a varied and disparate number of jobs until I stumbled upon employment as a shipper/receiver at an independent bookstore. Now eleven years on, I am the genre buyer (covering Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mystery and Crime Fiction, and Graphic Novels) for McNally Robinson Booksellers.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved stories, so it wasn’t much of a leap. When I was growing up, my great-great uncle lived with my family and he spun original yarns about Tarzan for me and so I became hooked on adventure quite early on. Role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons were my first outlet for creating my own characters and stories, a passion that continued from childhood until (checks watch) what time is it now? It was a few years after becoming a bookseller that I began to write in earnest. Meeting writers in the store, whether they were travelling on book tours, or locals in to do some shopping, helped make writing a book feel like an attainable goal. Bookselling has been an invaluable aid in terms of researching the markets, networking, and just being constantly surrounded by stories.

Thunder Road isn’t the first piece of writing that you’ve had published. Please tell us about some of your other work.

The first story I sold was a sword and sorcery tale titled “First Light” which appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of On Spec Magazine. “First Light” follows a blacksmith’s daughter caught up in murders and missing persons in a world of eternal winter. It spun out of the first full length manuscript that I finished, one that I still have hope to get back to and fix. About a month before Thunder Road released, my story “Back in Black” appeared in Tesseracts 16: Parnassus Unbound. “Back in Black” features an obsessive record collector who is searching for his “Holy Grail” find, an AC/DC bootleg that shouldn’t exist. I have another Sword and Sorcery story in the pipeline, in December 2012 “First They Came for the Pigs” will be appearing in the Innsmouth Free Press anthology, Fungi. This story is about a group of mercenaries hired to deal with mushrooms that have started devouring people. 

Besides word counts, what are some of the differences that you’ve found between writing short stories and novels?

I really feel they are two different disciplines, and not always complementary. I’ve always felt the fewer words you have to say something, the harder it is to do–one of many reasons I’m not a poet, I suppose. Short stories require an economy of prose that I feel I am still learning. As a reader, I always gravitated to novels over short stories, and so I’m playing a bit of catch up there. Speaking strictly as a fantasy writer, I also find them challenging because I can’t take the world as a given. There will always be “worldbuilding” details that need to be slipped in whether the story takes place in a made up world, or our world. It is a balancing act to include your magical elements, or realistically convey cultures and places that the reader may have no context for, while still maintaining pacing.

Thunder Road (The Thunder Road Trilogy)

Okay, let’s get down to the meat of the interview, and what I’ll bet you’ve been dying to talk about – Thunder Road. How do you feel, now that your first novel is published?

It feels great–astounding, really. When my author copies were delivered, I couldn’t stop holding the book. I’d seen the page proofs and the cover proofs, so I thought I knew what the book would look like, but I had no idea what it would feel like. Holding the book, it had a weight I wasn’t expecting. Absolutely a dream come true.

Please tell us a little about the story.

I like to joke that Thunder Road is “oilsands meets Asgard”. Oilsands, because my protagonist Ted Callan is an unemployed oilsands worker and Asgard, because of the novel’s ties to the Norse myth cycle. After the fire giant Surtur awoke in an explosion at Ted’s workplace, destroying it, Ted leaves a failed marriage and Alberta behind for a new life in Manitoba. That new life goes a little sideways when a group of fortune tellers, a trio of dwarves, and the trickster god, Loki, all take an interest in Ted’s destiny.

What was your inspiration for Thunder Road?

The Norse myths have been a huge part of my life almost as long as I’ve been a reader, thanks to finding D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths in my hometown library at an early age. In fact, I checked the book out so repeatedly, that the librarian suggested that perhaps another little boy wanted to learn about mythology, I disagreed (funny story, one of those little boys ended up at my book launch, fortunately as a grownup he was able to laugh about it). The stories of Odin and Thor and Loki always fascinated me. The Norse gods always felt very human to me. Not only could they die, most of them knew when and how it was going to happen.  

Obviously, given the setting, my home province was a huge inspiration as well. The Icelandic community of the Interlake region was the perfect excuse to blend myth to Manitoba. We have a rural municipality named Bifrost; Bifrost was also the name of the rainbow bridge that connects Asgard to Midgard (or Earth, as we like to call it). We have lake serpent and sasquatch sightings, tons of reputedly haunted buildings; so with a little digging into provincial folklore, I saw that the monsters were already here. I just had to put them on the page.

Much of the writing I’d done until I started working on Thunder Road also had ties to myth. But if I think back there were two snippets of early writing that really started the ball rolling: the first was an idea for a short story in which the gods Thor and Sif are living in suburbia and getting a divorce. This was actually the first thing I ever wrote with an eye for being published (it wasn’t–wasn’t ever finished, in fact). The other was another short story where our own lake serpent, Manipogo, was actually Jormungandur, the Midgard Serpent of Norse mythology. That story also didn’t go anywhere, but some of “Jorry’s” dialogue and about a paragraph from the Thor and Sif story ended up unchanged in Thunder Road. Those two ideas pushed me from writing Sword and Sorcery to sticking the gods and monsters in our backyards.  

Finally, I always write to music, and started a playlist for the book, eventually picking twenty songs that seemed suited to the book I wanted to write, and arranged them as if they were my chapter titles, about the only kind of outlining I do, so music was also vital in writing Thunder Road.

Sounds fascinating! I’ve always loved stories based on myths and legends, especially contemporary ones set close to home! 🙂

When writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, a writer needs to create believable worlds in which to set their stories. What type of world-builder are you and how do you start your creations? (I know that makes you sound rather God-like, but don’t let it go to your head! lol)

I am what can best be described as a “pantser,” as in I write by the seat of my pants, discovering the book as I go, without much in the way of a formal outline. I approach my world building in much the same way. I have one huge master document where I dump any scene or idea that doesn’t fit anywhere else. When I start a new project, or if I’m looking for inspiration for a short story, I comb through that file to see if there’s anything I can use. I’ll often write short stories as a world building exercise as much as to try and sell them. Eventually a new world reaches a critical mass of these snippets and stories that allows it to feel fully formed in my head, and as I write, I fill in the blanks. It is especially important (at least for me it is) to keep notes as I go, especially since there’s no handy resource to fact check them for you, and I assure you, fantasy readers will notice those inconsistencies.

Along with your worlds, you must also breathe life into your characters. What advice do you have for new and emerging writers regarding the creation of believable characters?

Read widely, listen deeply, and experience as broadly as possible. That old adage of “write what you know” is certainly true, but I’d prefer to see it worded “know what you write.” Also what is often left out of that tidbit of advice is to never stop finding new things to know.

Once a manuscript has been written, we all know that a lot of editing must go into it before it is ready to submit to an agent or publisher. What is your initial process for editing?

My initial process for editing is hiding from it. All kidding aside, I know writers who loathe the first draft, and can’t wait to get in and fix the book, but I am completely the opposite. I love finding the book, not fixing it. I do recognize that it is a necessary step, but if I am procrastinating on the internet, chances are I’m editing, rather than drafting. As for process, I try to let a first draft breathe for at least a few weeks before diving back in. That distance helps me to identify what needs to be fixed. I do several passes looking for specific things. First is a story pass to make sure the narrative is solid. This is where chapters usually end up getting cut or rewritten. I try to read through clumsy phrasings when I find them at this point, only making a note to fix it later. Once I’m happy with the story, I do a character pass to make sure their actions and reactions are still consistent with whatever changes I’ve made. Once I’m happy with my characters, I get into fixing things on a sentence level. Usually this involves a few more rereads. Thunder Road went through about six passes before it went out on submission. I’m hoping that the process of going through a substantive edit and copy edit will help streamline my editing process a bit for future books.

Once you’re satisfied with it, do you enlist the help of critique partners, beta readers or a writer’s group to suggest improvements?

I do have a writing group. We meet monthly, sharing works in progress. I also have a group of beta readers that look at mostly finished manuscripts prior to my submitting them to editors or agents. There is some overlap in the two groups, but I also find it valuable to have some fresh eyes see the work. I’ve also found it very useful to have a reader who isn’t a writer. Writers can give great critiques (and my group does!) because they are familiar with the elements of the craft, but there is also a chance they will try to rewrite your work as they would have done it. Much like writing, critiquing is a learned skill.

How difficult did you find the submission process, writing the inquiry letter and synopsis, etc?

I don’t find the submission process difficult, it’s something that needs to be done even if it isn’t always fun. I have a spreadsheet that I use to track my story submissions, and record response times and comments, if any. I’m not terribly fond of writing either query letters or synopses, but both are necessary and different skills from writing the work itself. When people talk about all those great and famous books that publishers passed over, I wonder what role a poor query letter might have played in those first rejections.

On your blog, after your launch, you mentioned that the store played songs that you had used for chapter titles. How do you incorporate music into your novel? Do you listen to it as you write or look for songs that would be suitable for a particular scene, like a movie or TV show producer might do?

I do a little of both. I always write to music. I know some writers must have complete silence, others will write to classical or jazz but have to avoid lyrics. Usually, I just put my entire library on shuffle and go to work. It’s led to some interesting serendipity. For novels, I create a soundtrack for the book, trying to have the songs ebb and flow in a way that feels how I want the narrative to progress. Depending on how deeply invested I am in the project, the novel may have more than one soundtrack. Because I’m currently editing the manuscript for the second book in the Thunder Road series and have started drafting the third, there are soundtracks for the later volumes, as well as for all of the major characters.

Are there any social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blog, etc) where we can find you that you’d like to share with us?

I am on twitter:


Thunder Road also has its own page:

My website is:

Is there anything you’d like to add before we bid you adieu?

Tonight, September 23rd, at 7:00 pm, I’ll be reading a passage from Thunder Road at Winnipeg’s writing festival, THIN AIR, as part of the Mainstage event: Voices from Oodena. Oodena is a magical venue, and one of my very favourite spots in Manitoba. If you’re reading this, I hope to see you there!

I definitely plan on being there, Chadwick! 🙂

Thank you, Chadwick, for taking the time to chat with us. I hope your book does well. For any of you who are interested in learning more about Thunder Road, check out this review found in the Winnipeg Free Press:

I should mention, Thunder Road is NOT a YA novel. If you are thinking of picking it up for a teen reader, take the time to read a passage or two to determine if it would be appropriate for the child you have in mind. Other than that, hope you all enjoyed the interview! 🙂

Sunday Interview # 12

Hello, Everyone! Today I’d like to introduce a fellow blogger and writer who loves everything ‘pirate’. He often posts about everyday pirates and is writing a serial-style futuristic story, Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo. Please welcome J. D. Ryan.

Oh, please, call me Jim!  I hear “JD,” I think of either what my brother calls my son, or think of what they used to use ‘JD’ for, short for ‘juvenile delinquent.’  And no, my son does not act that bad…

Okay, hi, Jim! Would you like to start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’m a writer based in New York, waiting for his long evening to end so that he can become an ‘overnight sensation.’  It shouldn’t be more than a few years from now for that to happen…  I’ve pursued the craft for a while between bouts where other things have popped up, like being a husband, a father, having a trade, all the stuff that keeps frustrated writers from ending up like a sad pastiche from La Boheme

What got you interested in Pirates? 

I think you could say I’ve always had an interest in those who didn’t “color within the lines;” even as a kid, the rebels and malcontents tended to get my interest in just about any story.  This applied to pirates, but also to revolutionaries, civil justice crusaders, punk rockers, all the folks outside of the whole “rigid law and order” alignment; hell, as a kid I identified a lot more with Han Solo than Captain Kirk…

Beyond just about every kid’s attachment to Treasure Island and Captain Hook in Peter Pan, I can’t claim that every instance when growing up that someone unfurled the jolly roger got my attention, but there were plenty of opportunities to go on the account when they came up.  I remember being one of the few people who really took notice in Watchmen that when superheroes actually showed up that comic books in that universe would turn instead to pirate stories; I thought it was one of the coolest things about the work.  And to my surprise, no one else I knew thought the whole Tales of the Black Freighter subplot was worth paying attention to; it’s finding yourself all alone out there that can keep you from finding your strengths for a while.

Were pirates the inspiration for your writing, or did you like to write before you were interested in pirates?


I’d been writing for years before I found my muse, at the pilot wheel of a brigantine, doing work in other areas.  I had some success out there with some gaming articles and some fiction in print, and it’s an area I’ve never fully left.  For some time, I was doing a lot of stuff in horror and SF, particular alternate history (AltHis) with some degree of success. 

A few years ago, I discovered an interesting book, The Science Fiction Stories of Jack London.  Apparently, early in his career, before Jack London was Jack London, he wanted to be H. G. Wells.  None of the stories collected in the work were all that bad, but it was watching him trying to find his voice that made me look at what I had been doing, and ultimately something clicked. 

It encouraged me to take a good look at what I had been writing at that moment, which was feeling a little stilted, and when I just let go, Abigail Sanders showed up, probably after killing some time in the same room Harry Potter was hanging out in before he introduced himself to Jo Rowling.  I used to think this whole “character springing up and introducing themselves to the author” thing was just bad PR copy, and yet there she was; our eyes met and a half an hour later there were thirty pages of first draft narrative at my feet…

I noticed on your Author Page that you have published work on many on-line sites. Why did you decide to use this format to publish your stories?

I spent a lot of years sending my stuff to anyone who’d be willing to look at it.  When I started out, there were no online opportunities; the concept of an Internet writing outlet was years away from being a reality when I was collecting my first rejection slips from the likes of Analog and Playboy.  One of my online pieces, Tick-a Tick-a, actually got reprinted physically in an English magazine, The Dream Zone.  If an opportunity came to share a work in that way, any opportunity, I would certainly be willing to go that route.  Paper, electrons, smoke signals, synesthesian odors; hey, I will do it all…

Have you ever considered traditional publishing routes? Why or why not?

You know, I’m of two minds on that.  On the one hand, part of me would love to do the traditional thing, get a book done with a publishing house.  It’d be part of an old picture I used to have as to what it meant to be a writer, which included drinks at the Russian Tea Room with my agent and a few minutes during Carson’s third half hour on his couch to discuss the book.  And yeah, I had this image in my mind for a long time…

But part of my going digital is this fear/belief that Publisher’s Row isn’t going to wait around for me to give them a book they want.  I gave it a pretty good try for years, with a lot of encouragement from reading groups and confidants who’d keep me from giving up, then we would all gripe about something that did get published like Fifty Shades of Twilight or some such and wonder, what the hell?  And with the technology and the market forces actually allowing writers to seize the means of production (and yes, I did go there), the whole question of the underlying relationship between writer and publisher can’t help but be challenged.

And truth to tell, when it comes to inspiration on how to decide this, pirates don’t help as much as you might think.  Yes, every pirate out there all found their fortunes by going their own ways as the flew against all flags, but give a sea dog a chance to have a letter of marque to make it all legal and he or she would often take the opportunity.  Henry Morgan, the pirate who terrorized the Spanish, brutally sacked Panama and got a line of rum named after him?  He ended up Deputy Governor of Jamaica, so there you go…

I read your story Rooftop Sessions! From that, I have a feeling you’re a fan of ‘The Beatles’. What is it about their music that you enjoy?

Where to begin?  When you’re young, you get drawn to the hooks in each piece that just draw you in and get the endorphins running, and when you’re older and start studying musical theory and deconstructing songs you realize what complete geniuses they were when they wrote their own pieces. 

I can’t really recall a moment when the Beatles weren’t around me in some fashion.  I just about grew up on the Beatles, playing my poor parents’ first pressing of Magical Mystery Tour to death; we could have found oil in the gouges I left in that disk.  One of things that drew my wife Susan and I together was our interest in the group; she’s gone on to become a recognized authority on the band, its members and their influence, which means for the sake of shalom bayit  that I just cannot change my mind about them this late in life…

There’s another aspect concerning the Beatles and my fiction:  They were and still are great focal points for historical and AltHis pieces.  Because they were some of the best documented people of the 1960s and later, writing about the history of the time and how that history had changed in a piece, using them as foci, relays a lot of information to the reader very quickly.  And they were so interconnected with their times, with everyone wanting to be with them and they with others, that you can write about a large swath of the 1960s in one story.  So for me, doing pieces like One Ring to Rue Them All, Magneto and Titanium Man, and Act Naturally, they were a way to approach a decade loaded with rebels and questioned authorities and delve into themes of challenge and change.

I’ve noticed in your writing a rather wry sense of humor that I find very amusing. When you’re writing, is humor something that just slips in or do you put it in deliberately to create comic relief in your stories?

I’d have to say it is deliberate, essential even.  On the one hand, there’s so much misery and bad news we all get bombarded with every few seconds, and Lord help you if you depress easily and get caught in a big 24 hour news cycle, as none of those are ever happy affairs…

There’s another reason for bringing in humor wherever possible.  In most of my material, I have characters that are in the process of being under threat of assault, threatened with being stabbed, shot at, blown up, raped, tortured, you name it.  And for most of them, given half a chance they’d flip from being victims to perpetrators if they could.  None of these are folks you’d really want to be caught with on the subway between stations for 20 minutes, so something has to be done to keep it light…

Getting back to pirates, would you please describe the premise for Red Jenny, to those who are unfamiliar with the story?

Well, Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo is a tale that takes place a few years after climate change became undeniable as it rendered major changes in the world we knew.  Hardest hit was the United States, bankrupted from failing to save the East Coast cities from being claimed by the sea and unable to get a good crop from a perpetually dry Corn Belt.  Things are so bad that a war they launched with Canada to claim the Great Lakes solely for themselves ended in defeat with a hostile neighbor to the north, with one of the results of the war being the closure of the border.  And on this border over the lakes, smuggling between two former trading partners has flourished, which prompts a rise in piracy, as practiced by our heroine, Red Jenny DiNapoli.  And we follow Jenny through a rough patch in what’s a rough trade to begin with, as trying to celebrate a successful raid as the book opens just spins wildly out of control for her.  Her luck’s like the weather in Buffalo, if you think this is bad, wait an hour…

You’ve painted a rather dim view of the future and with good reason, I think, with everything you’ve posted about the economy and real life pirates these days. What was the inspiration for Red Jenny, the thing that triggered in your writer’s mind, ‘THIS is what I will write about’? 

The main inspiration actually came to me years ago, with the release of the Schwartz-Randall Report to the Department of Defense.  This was written back in October of 2003, but the administration at the time did their best to keep this paper’s profile lower than an SSBN on station.  The thrust of the report was to raise the possibility of radical climate change as a national security issue, and included as one of its suggestions that the Pentagon “(i)dentify no-regrets strategies,” which is a wonderfully euphemistic suggestion that we get ready to do some nasty things to neighbors we can’t really share with anymore.  

Now, I spent a lot of my life in Northern and Western New York.  Both my folks were from Buffalo, I have a lot of family in and around Erie and Franklin County, and I spent a few years living close enough to the border to be able to cross it casually.  I still come back upstate every chance I get.  Most people, when they get word that their government is seriously thinking about invading their neighbor to claim a resource formerly shared in friendship, feel a little uneasy.  I was shocked, like a lot of people who live on a friendly border would be to find that we actually considered how to be anything but a good neighbor. 

Now by the time word of the paper started getting out there, which was inevitable considering what a better Republican president said about “fool(ing) all the people all the time,” there was growing evidence that climate change might not be as slow a process as imagined, and that we might need to consider “no-regrets strategies” sooner rather than later.  At the time, I was working heavily on writing Raging Gail, but I started to keep notes so that I could get things ready to launch once I wrapped the first book.

Why have you chosen to post Jenny in a short serial form instead of larger blocks, or waiting until the whole story was written before posting it?

Well, most of the writing was done before I started posting.  I have the overall story and most of the key plot points written out.  When I do work on the novel now, it’s a matter of polish and flow to get the individual pieces to “crisp up” and to make the flows from scene to scene work better. 

Putting the work online in this format is actually a business decision that I came to when I started work on the first novel.  I noted the work of other online writers and comic creators who were getting their material out there without the constraints and hassles other distribution channels offered.   Because of the nature of the Internet, the fact that users when they get online expect their content to be in manageable bits refreshed regularly dictated the form, while proving that Marshall McLuhan was right yet again

One could argue that the tradition of a novel coming out in short segments harkens back to an earlier time.  Charles Dickens presented his novels in serial form before ultimately being collected in single volumes.  Rather large volumes, too, as he used to get paid by the word on first pub, which explains some of the extended scenes you find in Great Expectations that seem to go on forever…

That’s true! Do you have any other ‘irons in the fire’, so to speak, that you’d like to tell us about as far as your writing goes?

I’m a little superstitious about pitching upcoming works.  I’ve had stuff previewed by me before it was ready to share, then watched it disappear as something comes up and the moment passes.  There’s footage out there of me at an old Beatlefest previewing a work I was halfway through, a piece with John Lennon growing up in a post-Operation Sea Lion Liverpool; I still have problems living that one down…

What I can mention with some comfort is that I’ve finished work on some short pieces that I’m going to try and offer to paying markets, to try and update my collection of rejection letters going back a few decades.  I have some larger works that are very preliminary right now that keep me distracted in a good way that might some day lead somewhere; some older set pieces from things that didn’t get completed found their way into Red Jenny, so there’s no waste of material on this end.

I do have a few notes for how to follow up both Raging Gail and Red Jenny with direct tie-ins.  Whether I move ahead depends on the reaction when I post notice in the future on the soon-to-be-launched KickBriber (TM pending), where my ardor for the work depends on what goodies I’ll be offered for going that way.  Let me say right up front that yes, booze is always a good enticement, but that I am open to any vice that you may wish to seduce me with…

Well, on that note, I encourage you (my readers) to check out Jim’s website, Raging Gailhere and if you want to read what has been posted of Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo, you may do so by clicking here.

Jim, are there any other links you’d like to share with us, places where we can find your writing, websites you enjoy, Facebook, Twitter?

I am fairly regular over at, where you can watch me make an even bigger fool of myself on a grand scale.  I’m also on Facebook, and maybe a few government watch lists as well...

Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close, today?

Oh Lord, I have always been bad at closing thoughts; there’s a good chance that when my number’s up, the epitaph I come up with is going to be pretty lame.  Which gives me yet one more reason to be careful and not snuff it yet…

Well, let’s hope you don’t ‘snuff it’ any time soon! Thanks, Jim, for taking the time to join us today!

My pleasure; and thank you for hosting me!

Sunday Interview #8

Hello, Everyone! Today I would like to introduce the writer of the Utopian novel ‘Slant of Light‘. Please welcome Steve Wiegenstein!

Hi, Steve! To start with, would you mind telling us a little about yourself?

I’m a native of Missouri, having grown up on a farm in the eastern Ozarks. It’s a rugged and rather poor part of the country, but it’s home. After high school, I went off to university, became a newspaper writer for a while, then returned for graduate degrees and became a college teacher. I’m currently in administration at Columbia College in Missouri, about a four-hour drive from where I grew up. So I guess I’d say I’ve come full circle.

How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?

I started writing as a little kid, inspired by my mother, who wrote freelance feature stories for the local newspapers. I’ll admit, I became enamored with the mythology of the “great novelist,” the superhuman Hemingway- or Faulkner-like figure who created entire worlds in his head. I wrote like crazy when I was in my twenties and thirties, but then got caught up in earning a living, and didn’t get back to real writing–by which I mean serious, daily, disciplined writing–until about eight years ago.

Great writing history, having a mother who wrote for the paper! 🙂
In which genre do you prefer to write?

Until recently, I had always written short stories, but when I got back into the writing saddle this latest time, what compelled me was the idea of an interlocked series of novels, set in the same location, but unfolding over the generations with an evolving cast of characters. That’s the big project I’m working on now, and it will take years. The first set could be called “historical novels,” I suppose, but as I get closer to the present day, I won’t be able to call them that.

That sounds like quite the undertaking. Good luck with it! 🙂
Please tell us a little about your writing process. Do you write daily, at a specific time, in a particular place?

If I could, I’d write all day, every day, but as it happens I have a day job that requires a lot of my time. So I get up early in the mornings and write for an hour or two before anybody else is up. It’s a good time to write, when the house is quiet and there are few distractions. 

What is your strategy with regards to editing? Do you have a writers group, critique partner or beta reader that helps you assess you manuscript?

One thing newspaper work taught me is to be ruthless with my own prose. When I’m writing, I’m full of emotion and love every little word that drops onto the page. But when I’m editing, I put on my green eyeshade and get very cold-hearted. So I mostly edit my own work. I’ve been fortunate to work with careful editors at Blank Slate Press, in addition.

I know you’ve been recently published. Please tell us what that process was like.

Writers are masochists, let’s face it! You spend months and years crafting a book . . . then more months and years trying to convince an agent to represent it! And most writers I know are pretty introverted to begin with, so the task of selling their manuscript doesn’t come easy to them. But if you truly believe in what you’ve written, you have to get over that reticence and develop the thick skin necessary to persist. When I finally found a publisher, Blank Slate Press of St. Louis, Missouri, it was such a thrill! Here were these people, complete strangers to me, who were responding to my work with such a level of enthusiasm and understanding. It was like pushing your way through brambles for a couple of years and finally emerging into a beautiful landscape. Of course, you quickly discover that your work is only beginning, because the folks at Blank Slate had their own ideas about how the book should develop. We had many, many intense discussions, and the book is the better for it. 

What a great analogy, “pushing through brambles”! I’m glad you made it through to the “beautiful landscape”. 🙂
Would you like to tell us a little about ‘Slant of Light’? Brag as much as you like! 🙂

Oh, I’ll brag all right! The novel takes place in the years 1857-1862, which in American history are really fascinating — the trouble times leading up to the Civil War, when everybody in the country knew that something terrible was about to happen, but had no idea of its magnitude, and the leaders were incapable of achieving a peaceful solution to the intractable differences that divided the country. So it’s a time with built-in drama right there. Add to that the fact that this was also one of the great periods of American literary creativity, with people like Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Hawthorne, and others at work, and you get an idea of the amazing ferment that the country was in. So I decided to explore the great themes of that era — nature and civilization, human perfectibility, the American ideal of self-reliance — through a utopian community located in the Missouri Ozarks.

Why did you choose to write about Utopian lifestyles?

They’ve been a scholarly interest of mine for many years. I’ve been particularly interested in a group called the Icarians, who existed in the United States from 1848 to 1898. They were true believers in democracy and communism, but their dreams of creating an ideal community kept getting interrupted by internal strife and by problems with the world at large — not necessarily antagonism from outsiders, but mundane things like debt and crop prices. And yet they persisted, year after year, because they truly believed they had a solution to the problems of the world. That’s the thing about utopians . . . even if you think their ideas are nutty, you have to admire the way that they establish their lives according to a principle and put that principle out there for everyone to see. The big questions about human motivation, social structure, and fate versus free will, questions that most of us don’t think about most of the time, get placed front and center in an intentional community.

History has always been a favorite topic of mine. That sounds very interesting! 🙂
You mentioned Missouri and the Ozarks and on your blog I’ve seen many lovely photographs taken in these areas. Would you like to tell us a little about the places that are special to you?

I think the most remarkable thing about the Ozarks is the number of beautiful wild springs it has. The hills are not tall, but the rivers are amazingly clear and bubble up from springs that are among the largest in the world. Some of my favorites are Blue Spring on the Current River, Greer Spring on the Eleven Point River, and Falling Spring on Hurricane Creek, but there are thousands of springs all over the region, and each is fascinating in its own way. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

To my fellow writers — keep it up! In some small way, writers and artists are the glue that holds civilization together. And to my readers — thank you from a grateful writer. It’s a simple fact that without readers, writers have no reason for existence. I appreciate every comment, review, and e-mail I get.

Are there any links you’d like to share so that we can find you?

You bet! I blog at 

My website is 

I’m on Twitter @SWiegenstein 

On Facebook, just search for Steve Wiegenstein – Slant of Light (or click on the name for the link), and on both Amazon and Goodreads.

My publisher’s website is, and you can order the book directly there, or from your local bookstore or online bookseller. I love to do book signings at local indie stores, so I always recommend them first!

Thank you, Steve, for taking the time to chat with us. Good luck with your book sales. 🙂

Thank you!

Hope you all enjoyed meeting Steve and will stop by to visit his website. 🙂

Interview Sunday #5 – Happy Canada Day!

Since today is Canada Day, I thought I’d introduce a young Canadian writer who has recently published her first historical romance novel through Amazon. I thought you might be as interested in her journey as I am.

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Hi, Cheri! Welcome to my blog.

Hi everyone. Thank you for having me!

Please tell my followers a little bit about yourself.

Well, my name is Cheri Champagne. I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 21 and have been happily married since. I now stay at home with my young sons, aged 3 and 1 1/2. I graduated from university with an Applied Business Technology degree when I was 22 and began working in an office right out of the schoolroom. I left work when I was seven months pregnant with my first son and have not gone back since. It was an easy decision on my part to stay at home with my son; this was definitely where I was meant to be.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was a child, actually. I began with short stories when I was about 7, then progressed to poetry when I was in my teens, and children’s books as I entered my parenting years. Then, roughly eight months ago, I began writing my first romance novel.

What inspired you to start writing?

When I first began writing as a child, it was because I had so many stories and thoughts rattling around in my mind that I had to get them out. For my current novel, however, my answer is different.

I think I could say that this answer could be split between both my husband and myself. I have been reading historical romance novels since I was 15, and have loved them ever since. I adore the adventure, the passion, the rules and customs of Regency England, the image that the books create in my mind, and the happy way that I feel after having read them. After reading several hundred… er… thousand historical romance novels, I began to think of stories that I’d like to read. I began to hope that some of my favourite authors would somehow hear my thoughts and create the books that I wanted to read. I then started writing the plots down in a notebook… I began making notes about where the novel would begin, followed by what drove the characters. Then I wrote the characters’ names, ages, and a short description of what I wanted them to look like. Soon enough I had 8 plots outlined.

My husband knew that I loved to write and missed doing it. I had asked what he thought about me returning to school and taking more creative writing courses (I had taken nine creative writing courses in my first few years of college/university). He suggested that I forget going to school and just begin writing. He said that I didn’t need a professor telling me that I needed to write; I had the drive, the desire to succeed, and the plots. All I had to do was put my fingers to my keyboard. So I did.

That was very perceptive of him!

With two young boys running around your house, how do you find the time to get any writing done?

That was incredibly challenging. And still is! But as every mom knows, there are lulls in the energy that their children have. First thing in the morning, my sons would eat their breakfast and give me time behind my computer. Then during my youngest son’s nap I got between 2 and 3 hours to work, and when my husband came home and my sons clung to him, I had time then. I tried to get some more work done during the day, but I knew that I had to step back from my computer when my kids needed my attention. Any chance I got that my kids were distracted with toys or each other, I quickly sat at my desk and wrote another sentence or two. I found myself needing to re-read and proofread along the way, as the stop/go nature of my writing required it.

My husband and sons were incredibly understanding and my mom and mother-in-law were wonderful. I was able to call my mom or my husband’s mom and ask them if they could watch the boys for a few hours while I get some writing in and they were always more than willing.

How terrific to have that level of support from your family!

What was your strategy with regards to editing? Did you rely on critique partners or beta readers?

I re-read my novel from beginning to end three times before I sent my novel to a beta reader. While it was being read by another, I read through it again myself and found more required changes. I think that having someone else read your work is very important. They find things that you had missed, and let you know when something doesn’t make sense. It may make sense to you (since you’ve got the plot already in your mind), but sometimes without realizing it, you’ve left out some pertinent information.

That is very true!

Many writers have become a little discouraged because of the state of publishing, these days. Please tell us a little about why you went this route and the process of publishing through Amazon.

I had tried to go the ‘traditional’ route at first. I sent query letters to several publishers; many did not respond at all, but I received a couple of rejections. One said that their publishing company no longer took on Romance authors, another said that they had gone out of business, and one said that due to the sheer volume of responses, they could not take my submission into consideration. The literary agencies that I sent queries to all said that they were full of clients and had no room for more.

After being ‘rejected’ (whether by lack of response or otherwise) by 13 publishing companies/literary agents I decided to do more research. I looked into some blogs about publishing and self-publishing and the benefits of both. I spent several hours just searching the web and seeing what my options were, and found several more publishers that take on Romance novels… the problem was that many of them said that they do not accept ‘multiple submissions’ (ie. they don’t want your manuscript or query letters going to any other publisher… and they expect you to wait for 3 months while they deliberate. Many will not even let you know if they have seen your submission and passed on it; they’ll just make you wait the 3 months hoping you will give up). 

Eventually I decided that I had wasted my time by trying to be ‘traditional’. I had previously thought that by self-publishing I would be considered a ‘failure’ for not being accepted by a publishing house, but what I came to understand is that there are hundreds of thousands of authors just like me who are trying to have their novels read, and only one novel PER MONTH get accepted by each publishing company–sometimes less. I also realized that if I go the traditional route I will not have control over my title, my cover, or my story. Publishers tend to follow ‘trends’ in the novel-writing business, and I will stray from historical romance for no one. I much prefer to write what I love to read and, once I have found the perfect story to tell, I would like to keep it genuine. What I write is exactly what I imagined it to be and not what a publisher has moulded it to be.

The process of publishing through Amazon was surprisingly easy. I went on to their site, went to the ‘publish with us’ page, chose the ‘print on demand’, and entered my information. Once I was logged-in to my own page I uploaded my document. They request 24-48 hours to check the format, then they send you a PDF or Word document file to check the formatting yourself and make any necessary changes. Once you have proofread your file, you can move on to the next step, which is creating your own cover. They have many templates that you can work off of. You can pick your own pictures, colours, fonts, etc. and work form there. Once you have created and submitted your cover, the entire book goes to them to check over. They will email you once they are done, and if it all checks out, you are ready to push the “Publish” button. 

They will give you a minimum price point for the size and style of book that you request. Once it has been set, you are ready to be up on the website! They also give you the option to publish through Kindle, which is just as simple as with

If you wish to have editors read through your work or a designer create your cover, however, you will have to pay them for their services. There is a ‘price chart’ on their website.

Did you have to sign any kind of contract, giving them a percentage of your sales? Do you get royalties like traditional publishers? If so, how does it compare with traditional royalties (if you don’t mind my asking)
Yes, I clicked the “agree and continue” button with regards to their contract. I have still retained all rights to my work, but they get a large percentage of every book sold. They claim to be much better than traditional royalties, but I am not so sure. For example, if someone purchases a printed copy of my novel, I make mere pennies (literally), but if someone purchases an e-copy of my novel, I would make a little more. I believe the percentage that I see is 35% for eBook purchases. They offer a 70% royalty option, but I would advise reading the rules and stipulations before jumping into that decision.
That’s actually not too bad. Traditional publishers will give you an advance, but rarely give royalties of more than 10%.

Have you tried using any other e-publishers? What was that like?

I am currently working on this. I Googled many eBook websites and eventually came across one (eBookIt) that publishes to several e-publishers. I decided to take a chance on it, and right now I’m waiting for the email telling me that I need to approve my novel to continue the publishing process. 

Many e-publishers (such as the one I am going through) require payment for publishing through them. It can be a time-consuming and costly process, depending on whether or not you have your own files and book cover already created. I believe it was worth it for me, but it may not be for everyone. I highly recommend doing research when making a decision such as this.

Please tell us about
Love’s Misadventure.

Love’s Misadventure is an adventurous historical romance novel about two best friends. Miss Annabel Bradley refuses to accept life as a childless spinster. Her many years of pouring greedily over gothic novels has put her head in the clouds, dreaming and hoping for the love she reads about. She has come to accept that the man she has always held a tendre for, her best friend. Lane Mason, Seventh Earl of Devon, will never ask for her hand; he will surely have loftier prospects than a miss like her. She, therefore, decides to move on with her life and accept the proposal of the next suitor to ask. 

Lane Mason is an average aristocrat; absorbed in life in general, and content with his status in society. Amid a frequently occurring moment of self-loathing, Lane shockingly discovers his feelings for Anna. Now armed with the awareness of his love for her, Lane decides to perpetrate a devilishly clever scheme. He will pay actors to abduct the two of them in order to give Anna the adventure she has been dreaming of.

Lane’s plans go awry, however, when they are kidnapped in truth…

I understand you are currently working on a sequel. Some writers are a little superstitious about revealing too much about their Works In Progress (WIPs). Would you care to give us a few hints about what yours is about, or would you prefer to keep it a secret until you’re finished writing it?

I’d be happy to tell you a little about my next novel! It is (tentatively) called ‘The Trouble With Love’. Lady Charlotte Mason is hopelessly in love with her best friend, Major Charles Bradley. Since his return from war, however, he has changed. He has stopped returning her letters, he gives her the cut direct, and when forced to interact with her, he is rude and downright mean. Her hopes for a marriage with Charles have been heartbreakingly dashed.

Major Charles Bradley is in a fix. The very same men that kidnapped his sister (Miss Annabel Bradley) and her new husband (Lord Devon) a few months past have given him a warning. They are coming after Charlotte. He has done his best to keep his two identities separate, but they are determined to clash. Despite doing his utmost to push Charlotte away from him for her protection, his love for her has been discovered by his greatest enemy.

 Now comes his greatest challenge; he must protect Charlotte at any cost. But will his actions of the past months prove the task impossible?

I have the plots outlined for the other Mason siblings as well. The novel following Charlotte and Charles is about Lane and Charlotte’s younger sister, Lady Katherine Mason. We know that she loves to design and create clothing, but what we don’t know is that she has been leading a secret life… the life of a tailor! She secretly accepts a position to create a new wardrobe for known recluse, Lord Withington; one unfortunate soldier that lost an arm during the war. Under the guise of a young man, Katherine enters Lord Withington’s home in preparation for several weeks of work. What neither of them expects is the passion that sparks between them. Will it lead to true love?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

For those interested, I can be found on


Twitter @CheriChampagne


Please feel free to visit my website
Thank you for taking the time away from your busy schedule to answer my questions, Cheri.

Thank you very much, Susan, for having me! It’s been fun!

It was my pleasure! 🙂

If anyone has more questions for Cheri, or would like to follow her writing exploits, please use the links provided above. Thanks for joining us, today, everyone!

Something new!


Hi, everyone! I think I will make Sundays my ‘Interview Day’.

A lovely young lady interviewed me a couple of weeks ago for an upcoming blog post, so I thought I would return the favour. She’s currently working on a YA novel. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce Misha from ‘My First Book’.

Hi, Misha! Thanks for joining us, today! Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

Hi Susan! Thanks so much for having me. I’m so honored to be your first interviewee. I’m 23 years old. Been writing since I was 13. I’ve done a variety of things so far in my life, just because I wanted to. Two of them, fencing and learning French, were inspired by The Three Musketeers. I also picked up the habit of checking the backs of antique wardrobes, even though I was already fifteen when I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the first time…

Wow! I’ve always wanted to learn how to fence, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one of my favourites, too!

Your blog name is called ‘My First Book’ and you have a timer counting down ‘until Doorways is finished’.  Is Doorways your ‘first book’? Would you mind giving us a few hints about it?

Yes. More accurately, it’s my first completed draft, but also the first one I want to see published. 

Hints…. hmm… I’m not sure what to share, except that it’s the first in a four-part fantasy epic… 

Keeping it close to the vest, eh? That’s cool. What inspired you to write it?

I was rereading Chronicles of Narnia, actually, in preparation for the release of Prince Caspian. And then… Darrion was there.

How long have you been writing?

Ten years in (I think) August. But I’ve been writing poems since the age of seven and creating stories way before then. 

The writing bug bit you early! 🙂  Have you written anything else?

Yep. A LOT of poetry and a western. I’ll be rewriting the western later this year once I’m done with Doorways. Then I have an urban fantasy waiting to be completed… As well as two dystopians. 

Sounds like you’ve been busy! Please describe a little about your process. For example, when do you prefer to work on your writing? Where do you prefer to write?

I actually do most of my writing in bed at 3 a.m. to 5 or 6 a.m. in the morning. It’s just easier for me to write when the rest of my family isn’t awake. 

You’re quite a night owl! 🙂 I envy you your energy!

Do you have any idiosyncrasies, like writing with a cup of coffee at hand, placing certain items near your keyboard or writing pad, etc?

Idiosyncrasies will be that I draft in long hand in hardcover notebooks with black v-tipped pens. Recently caved and bought an expensive fountain pen and its refills. I was horrified to discover they were all blue. And yes. I know that it’s insane of me.

I think all writers must have a streak of insanity, so you’re not alone! LOL

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Working, singing, blogging, playing guitar… and some other stuff. My hobbies sort of change every now and then, depending on what I find satisfying.

How are you finding the editing process?

Love it. I know a lot of people see editing as a chore, but I just love seeing my (VERY) rough draft turning into something resembling a published book.

Once you’re done with your editing, will you be looking for a critique partner or two or do you already have someone in mind?

I actually use crit partners to edit, because I have an issue with seeing faults in stories that I’ve worked on too long. I am, however, looking for beta readers right now. 

Perhaps one of my readers knows someone who would be of help to you with this.

There’s been a big debate going on in the blogosphere about the merits and problems with traditional publishing versus self-publishing and e-publishing. What are your thoughts with regards to getting your own manuscript published?

My first thought: AAAAAaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggghhhhh!!!! Honestly. I have no idea. Just when I think that I’ve made up my mind, I read another argument to the debate and get thrown for a loop again. I guess that means I’m right in the middle.

Well, Misha, I wish you the best of luck with your manuscript. Please check back with us and let us know how it’s going.

Anyone who might have comments or more questions for Misha please leave them in the comments section, or visit her yourself at ‘My First Book‘. If you use Twitter contact her here.