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Q&A and Giveaway: The Tourist Trail by John Yunker

Ashland Creek Press has a giveaway for my dear readers after the Q&A with John Yunker. I hope that you’ll give him a warm welcome and check out his new environmental thriller, The Tourist Trail.

About the Book:

The Tourist Trail is a literary thriller about endangered species in the world’s most remote areas, and those who put their lives on the line to protect them.

Biologist Angela Haynes is accustomed to dark, lonely nights as one of the few humans at a penguin research station in Patagonia.

She has grown used to the cries of penguins before dawn, to meager supplies and housing, to spending most of her days in one of the most remote regions on earth. What she isn’t used to is strange men washing ashore, which happens one day on her watch.

The man won’t tell her his name or where he came from, but Angela, who has a soft spot for strays, tends to him, if for no other reason than to protect her birds and her work. When she later learns why he goes by an alias, why he is a refugee from the law, and why he is a man without a port, she begins to fall in love—and embarks on a journey that takes her deep into Antarctic waters, and even deeper into the emotional territory she thought she’d left behind.

Against the backdrop of the Southern Ocean, The Tourist Trail weaves together the stories of Angela as well as FBI agent Robert Porter, dispatched on a mission that unearths a past he would rather keep buried; and Ethan Downes, a computer tech whose love for a passionate animal rights activist draws him into a dangerous mission.

Please welcome, John Yunker:

The Tourist Trail was released by Ashland Creek Press in 2010. What has and has not changed in the past eight years in terms of animal protection in the regions you write about?

Sadly, not very much has changed. Japan still hunts whales, as does Iceland. Fortunately, the Sea Shepherd Society, the inspiration for the Cetacean Defense Alliance (CDA) organization in the book, continues to fight back. As for the penguins, Argentina has made some efforts to protect them at sea, but their numbers continue to decline. The fishing industry continues to extract entirely too much from the oceans, including penguins that are caught up in nets and on longlines.

You’ll be going to Argentina with Adventures by the Book in October to take readers to visit the Magellanic penguin colony that inspired the novel. What are you looking forward to sharing with readers on this journey?

I’m most looking forward to the sounds the penguins make. They (and a few other penguin species) are often referred to as “jackass” penguins for the noises they emit. And it can be quite a chorus during breeding season. Seeing them in their element — standing in or alongside windswept, dirt burros — is an experience that will stick with you. It certainly has with me.

You write in many genres — fiction, nonfiction, plays — and yet your works usually focus on animals. Why are you drawn toward animal themes?

Humans have used animals for thousands of years — for food, labor, entertainment. It’s time the animals got much-deserved break. Much of what I write centers around the conflicted and slowly evolving relationships between humans and animals, and I’d clearly like to see that relationship continue to evolve, and rapidly. I’d like to see animals, and not just the animals we keep in our homes, treated with empathy. They’ve earned it.

The Tourist Trail is set in some of the most remote places on earth — Antarctica, Arctic Norway, the Patagonia region of Argentina. For readers who love the animals and their human heroes in your novel, what can they do from where they live to help animals and the planet?

First, stop eating seafood. The only way to put an end to fishing is to put an end to demand. It’s simple, really. And, honestly, seafood is no good for anyone. The oceans are polluted, fishing practices are dangerous, and you can’t even be confident that the seafood you purchase, no matter what the label says, is sustainable. Due to 90 percent of the oceans having already been depleted, here is no such thing as sustainable seafood. Second, try to give up eating meat. I know it’s not easy for many people — I certainly never imagined I would one day give it up. But once
you do, it’s really not a big deal, and it does so much good for the planet and for the animals. There are plenty of health benefits for doing so as well.

The sequel to The Tourist Trail, WHERE OCEANS HIDE THEIR DEAD, comes out in February. What can readers expect from this new novel?

This book picks up where The Tourist Trail leaves off, with Robert in Namibia searching for Noa. But there are new characters as well, and a story that will transport readers from Africa to Iowa to New Zealand to Australia. It is a darker novel than the first, but more ambitious, and I
hope readers will enjoy the journey.

Thank you, John.

Please enter below for 1 print copy of The Tourist Trail. U.S. addresses only. Deadline for comments is Oct. 1, 2018, at 11:59 PM EST.

Giveaway & Interview with Liz from In Good Conscience by Cat Gardiner

I’m gobbling up the final Cat Gardiner adventure with Iceman Fitzwilliam Darcy and his leading lady, Liz. You’ll have to wait for my review!

As part of her kick-off blog tour, I had a unique opportunity to interview Liz about her life and the adventure.

Don’t worry there’s an international giveaway for my readers, too.

Please give Liz a warm welcome.

I’m seated here with Liz Darcy, on her private balcony overlooking a magnificent estate. Imagine my surprise when, after only a few days following her dangerous trip to Europe, she consented to an exclusive interview just for my Savvy readers. There’s a certain twinkle to her eye, even a quirk to her lips like she’s holding onto a doozy of a secret beyond the private plane and the secrecy of our locale. She’s radiating an inner joy. Maybe its love or maybe it’s something else. Don’t worry, friends, I’ll find out!

Hi Liz, how are you today? I’m dying to ask how your life has changed for the good and bad since meeting Iceman?

Hi, Serena! I’m really honored that you’d want to get to know me and Fitzwilliam a little more. Most people want to know about the dangerous adventures we’ve taken, so this is refreshing. I’m sorry we had to blindfold you when you got off the Cessna, but I’m sure you understand—we’re still working out the security details having only just arrived ourselves.

I do understand you’ve been through a lot recently. It’s quite an estate!

It is gorgeous here—isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever been happier! *grins*. This setting—this place—I have goose pimples!

Albeit, there were a few months there where we’d been sort of hiding out following Paris and Moscow, and, of course danger wasn’t far behind, but that time secluded in Pemberley with Fitzwilliam was a blissful paradise. And if you can believe it, it’s already promising to be even better after the hell we’ve been through!

*Shrugs* Dark clouds messed up this past summer, but, now … I love it here with him, and honestly, there’s not much that I’d consider bad anymore—not even the fact that he still leaves the toilet seat up and that he hangs the t.p roll the wrong way. He’ll always adore his head-banging music and grunt his displeasure about something, and, of course, there’s his need to control certain things, but that’s not bad, per se. Heck, it’ll take some time before he completely shares everything he’s locked away in his mental Icebox, but those are all little things, things that’ll take time to work out. We’re not yet married a year, you know. As for the good: I feel soooo loved—and safe—and valued like I never have. It’s a different kind of “value,” different from the value in how my father viewed me.

My opinion matters; Fitzwilliam completely respects me and thinks of me as his equal. I’m one with him—but independent—if that makes sense. Gosh, last year’s adventure really taught us both some things and this year’s adventure took our relationship to a whole new level. Fitzwilliam lets me spread my wings to fly but I get that he needs to “coach” me on certain things. It’s his nature and it’s mine to rebel a bit. Any discord we work out either in a one-minute shouting match, tango-ing, or between the sheets.

How much have you learned from Darcy since the last book? And what are you most eager about in your life with him?

Goodness! I’ve learned so much. And I don’t just mean about self defense or weapon usage. We practice those things every day, particularly knife throwing—and, yes, he’s still trying to teach me to be a horsewoman, but I’ve learned so much about him, the man beneath Iceman. He has this patient, confidence-building manner about him. He helps me to feel impervious, skilled and self-assured in everything I do.

It’s that nurturing characteristic that answers your second question … I’m so looking forward to parenthood. We’d been trying to get pregnant after our trip to Santorini last year. I just know that Fitzwilliam Darcy (not Iceman) will make an incredible father one day. It’s our dream to have the family-life we were denied in our “before each other” meager existences. We hope to be the kind of parents that we missed out on in our own lives.

All the ladies are dying to know if he’s as sizzling hot in In Good Conscience as he was in the previous book. And are you still riding your bike?

*Blushing* I don’t kiss and tell, but … it’s—as you say—sizzling (giggles). The man is so damned hot that even when I’m angry—and I mean blazing angry enough to kill him—I can’t stay angry with him … if you know what I mean! That smoldering gaze of his defuses my time bomb! And then his touch gets me all worked up again. *Another blush*

I am definitely still riding and, given the incredible landscape of this area, we are looking forward to the exciting twisties—pushing the limits beside each other.

Do you feel like you’re ready to step into his darker world and adequately protect yourself and him?

His darker world is low light and bright … but if I had to go there again, I’d say: Absolutely. I think—after what we’ve been through over the last two months—Fitzwilliam has that same confidence in me. And although I don’t think we’ll find ourselves in a dangerous situation again, he does remind me to practice situational awareness and has honed into me that paranoia is the height of awareness. LOL If trouble does come, we have each other’s six. Protecting our family is paramount, above all things.

And right now, he’s not at his 100% physical best. So as we get settled here and until our full security team arrives, he’s truly dependent on me.

Give us a glimpse into your relationship with Iceman and his family.

*Snort* Let’s start with his aunt. On second thought, let’s not. She irritates me, so I never speak of her. The last time I saw her, I was at my worst and her facelift made it difficult for her to talk, which was fine by me since I could barely even form words myself.

Fitzwilliam’s family (apart from his aunt) is my family as much as his. And as much as I hate to admit it, they are Obsidian. It’s weird … we’re all broken in some way, yet made whole by our commitment to each other. It’s hard to explain.

Rick is more a brother than a cousin to both of us and that’s true of John Knightley as well. Both guys understand Fitzwilliam and I don’t know—maybe it’s also a military mindset—but where he (or I) go, they’d go, even if it meant to the death. And that holds true for how we feel about them. Charlie, what can I say of Charlie? He’s solid gold in every way and I’m glad my sister has finally wised up to that!

Even Caroline in some strange way is part of our family. She might be the evil step-sister, but she’ll always have our back if needed; she proved that this summer. Sarah, Rick’s girl is awesome and will be staying in America. I’m glad because they are perfect for each other.

We also have new family members who came to Pemberley as our security team. All former military. But, I tell ya’, I couldn’t have gotten through some of the things I have without one salty Marine named Dixon. He’s so much more than my personal bodyguard: good friend, confidant, uncle, brother. He’s awesome.

And then there’s Gigi and Justin my sister and brother-in-law. They are loving life in California. I hadn’t seen her since her wedding last year, but we reunited during the horrific circumstances over the summer, but now that the clouds have packed away, we’ll be getting together soon at an upcoming wedding. Even the Reynoldses will be in attendance!

So what is on the horizon for you two love birds?

Just living every day beside each other, appreciating even the smallest of things, remembering only the good things of the past, and forgetting about everything else. We live in the moment and all that matters is that we’re together, taking each day as it comes. It’s amazing, Serena–seven weeks changed our life, and we had to get through it to experience this absolute complete joy. As Fitzwilliam is always singing … “It’s a
new dawn … a new day … and he’s feelin’ good.” We both are!

Okay. Here’s my last question. Do you have secret to share because I sense you’re holding something back. You’re positively glowing.

*Giggles* You’ll have to read the book!

Thank you, Liz, for joining us today! What a wild ride it has been and here’s to a calmer future together for you and your husband.

Dear readers, here’s a picture of the swag Cat Gardiner is offering:

1 ebook for an international reader and 1 paperback for a U.S. reader.

Also an exclusive IGC mug, Bottle of Cabernet, a woman’s journal with inspirational quotes, series bookmark for a U.S. Winner.

Giveaway info:

Leave a comment here for Liz and Cat or ask a question.

Winner will be selected on Sept. 21, 11:59 PM EST.

Literary Book Gifts & Promo Code for You

I wanted to share with you a unique gift find for the book lover in your life. Have you ever wanted to find that perfect t-shirt or tote bag for your best friend?

Literary Book Gifts might have just the thing for you and your friends.

I talked with Melissa about her store and she’s generously offering my readers a 20% discount on their orders. You’ll find out the promo code later on.

Why did you start your shop?

I started my shop because I love the stories that come out of novels. Books are rarely expressed in the visual medium. Book covers often capture the essence of a novel, but these days with the rise of eBooks you don’t often see many book covers around. Wearing a book on your shirt or on a tote bag makes it tangible and allows you to experience the artwork during your daily life. A simple reminder of our attachment to the narratives of our own lives.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the ability of some of the stories to make it’s readers feel such complex and often powerful emotions.

What’s unique about your gifts?

The massive variety of sizes and colors makes these gifts really unique in the industry. Each print is available in tons of colors, anywhere from about 8 to 15 (it varies based on the design itself). And women’s shirt sizes range from XS – 3XL and men’s sizes from S – 5XL. Beyond the print itself, I think color and sizing are the most important factors involved when buying clothing.

Why you think people should buy them?

Self expression is a primary part of the human experience. It allows for you to connect with others on a more intimate level than simply not expressing yourself at all by wearing a blank shirt. However, you cannot just wear any random clothing, you must feel as though it matches your personal style, and that is what these shirts are aiming to do.

Thanks, Melissa. I agree, self-expression is a big part of what makes us human.

Now, for the promo code and details, dear readers. I know you’re salivating.

The promo code SAVVYVERSEANDWIT20 is good for 20% off anything in the store, no minimum, and can be used unlimited times.

Go shop.

Interview with Carly Severino, author of Bruised Brain: A Poetic Memoir

Welcome readers. I’ve had a very long few weeks at work in which the work just kept piling up and I felt like I was going to drown.

I want to apologize to Carly Severino for not getting this interview up in a timely manner. I hope you’ll forgive me.

First here’s a little bit about her new memoir, Bruised Brain: A Poetic Memoir:

“bruised brain” is a poetic memoir that explores themes of child abuse, self harm, depression, mother-daughter relationships, healing, and more. Examining hardship through poetry, this debut work serves to let readers everywhere know they are not alone.

Please give Carly a warm welcome:

1. When writing, do you outline how you want to structure your books or do you just go with the flow?

I’ve tried to be better about outlining but I find it distracts from the creative direction the writing wants to go in. When I try to outline, it feels like I’m trying to tell the story what it should do when really I should be listening to what the story thinks I should do to make it happen the way it’s supposed to. I try to write as soon as inspiration strikes so I can ride the creative wave and let the story take shape. I’ll worry about the technical stuff during editing.

2. Explain a little bit about your day job in PR and how it relates to your other writing pursuits.

I love books and reading and writing, and so a lot of people think I should be in publishing. For a while, I really wanted to do just that but after working for a few literary magazines and working at a literary agency, I sort of realized I didn’t want to make what I was super passionate about my job because then all the things I loved the most became work. So I compromised by working in PR and advertising, and honestly it was the best decision. I get to work with some really creative people and the work is never the same. I have such interesting clients that do all sorts of different things, so the material is never boring and I’m always learning something new.

I really love working in PR because it’s a challenge. I have to do a lot of research about things I never thought I’d be writing about, and to me, that’s the best when a job can teach you something new every day. Then on the weekends or at night after work, I take an hour to do the kind of reading and writing I really love.

3. Your memoir deals with some very tough and traumatic issues. Did you find the process of writing the poetic memoir cathartic? How so?

It’s funny; I never wanted this to be my first book. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as the writer with “mommy issues.” But the more I let it fester inside, the more I felt like I needed to let it out. I started writing this accidentally, to be honest.

I just wanted to compile a bunch of poems to sell at slams, but it just morphed into something else altogether. I realized I had a poem for every traumatic event in my life that described my relationship with my mother, so I wrote them and then compiled them in chronological order starting with my birth.

Cathartic is a really great word to use; it’s how I describe most of my writing—especially this book. It was great to sit down and unpack all this emotional heaviness.

I love poetry because even though it tends to deal with some tough topics, ultimately what you’re doing is taking that pain and trauma and making it into something beautiful and artistic, and I think that’s really important. If you let your pain sit there, the pain wins and gets worse with time. But if you try to paint it in a different light, you’re understanding it in an entirely different way and are able to move on from it.

Thank you, Carly, for answering my questions and best of luck with the new book.

Giveaway & Interview with John Kessel, Author of Pride and Prometheus

It has been quite some time since I’ve conducted an interview with an author, but today, John Kessel, author of Pride and Prometheus, will answer a few questions. And there is a giveaway to be had.

First, a bit about the book:

Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein as Mary Bennet falls for the enigmatic Victor Frankenstein and befriends his monstrous Creature in this clever fusion of two popular classics.

Threatened with destruction unless he fashions a wife for his Creature, Victor Frankenstein travels to England where he meets Mary and Kitty Bennet, the remaining unmarried sisters of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. As Mary and Victor become increasingly attracted to each other, the Creature looks on impatiently, waiting for his bride. But where will Victor find a female body from which to create the monster’s mate?

Meanwhile, the awkward Mary hopes that Victor will save her from approaching spinsterhood while wondering what dark secret he is keeping from her.

Pride and Prometheus fuses the gothic horror of Mary Shelley with the Regency romance of Jane Austen in an exciting novel that combines two age-old stories in a fresh and startling way.

Now, for the interview; give John a warm welcome:

1. When did you start writing and what was the first story or poem you wrote?

I was writing stories as early as grade school and sent my first submission to a magazine when I was in seventh grade. It was a terrible little one-page science fiction story that ended with a pun. I sent it to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and it was rejected, but I was very excited to have the form rejection slip, which meant that some editor had read my story. I was not discouraged.

I did not send another story out until I was in college, and did not sell a story that actually appeared until I was in my late 20s. Ironically, my first sale that eventually got published was to the same magazine, Fantasy and Science Fiction, where I have since sold eighteen stories.

2. Why Jane Austen as a basis for a novel?

I love Austen’s novels but I would not have considered writing a novel based on Pride and Prejudice if I had not seen the opportunity to fuse Austen's characters with the characters and plot of Frankenstein. I became intrigued as much by the differences between Jane Austen’s and Mary Shelley’s writing as by the similarities, and in writing the book thought a lot about the differences between the novel of manners and the gothic, and the odd ways in which they might speak to one another. Also, it was fun, a kind of challenging puzzle, to make them come together in a satisfying way without disrespecting either writer or her work.

3. What character surprised you the most when writing Pride & Prometheus?

Mary Bennet surprised me the most. The Mary portrayed in Pride and Prejudice is a minor character, the most socially maladroit of the Bennet sisters, the only one who is not pretty. She’s the bookish one who quotes morality at her sisters and who cannot see how odious Mr. Collins is. Every time she appears in the book she says something pompous or clueless and everyone ignores her.

But I picked her to be my heroine, so I had to try to understand her and imagine how she might have an interior life that would not make her obnoxious or tedious even though others might see her that way. I had to grow her up—my story happens 13 years after Austen’s, so Mary has had a chance to evolve and mature. She became a stronger and more admirable character the farther the story went, and I liked her more and more. She
struggled to make things better in situations where others would give up, and she said and did a few things that surprised even me.

4. What was left on the cutting room floor during the editing process that you love most?

I don’t remember having to cut anything very substantial that I regretted losing. Mostly the story grew with successive drafts. There were some options I considered early on—notably a number of different endings—that I let go of as I worked through the story, but I think the ending I came to is the right one for this book.

5. What is next on the writing horizon? Future book?

I have been working on a story about the assassination of President William McKinley by the anarchist wannabe Leon Czolgosz at the Pan-American Exposition, a world’s fair, in Buffalo, New York in 1901. I grew up in Buffalo. Czolgosz was the son of Polish immigrants; my father was a Polish immigrant. The turn of the 20th century was a time of great wealth and poverty, political, and social change—like our own time. The fair was designed to promote electrification and the wonders of the future, a subject of interest to a person as obsessed with science fiction as I was as a young man.

There was an attraction at the fair called “A Trip to the Moon,” the first “dark ride” ever designed, like the ones at Disneyworld or Universal. One could take this ride to the moon and meet the underground Selenites, modeled after H.G. Wells’s novel First Men in the Moon. I think maybe Leon Czolgosz went to the moon before he shot the president. I think there’s a story in this, an opportunity for comedy and tragedy and social comment, though I am not sure exactly how it will work out. My tentative title is The Dark Ride.

Thanks, John, for taking the time to share with us your latest work and how Mary Bennet surprised you.

ENTER the U.S. giveaway below:

1. Leave a comment on the post with an email
2. Share on social media #giveaway #Pride&Prometheus @SavvyVerseWit #JohnKessel for another entry

Deadline to enter is March 14, 2018, 11:59 PM EST

Photo Credit: John Pagliuca

About the Author:

Born in Buffalo, New York, John Kessel’s most recent book is the new novel Pride and Prometheus. He is the author of the earlier novels The Moon and the Other, Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and in collaboration with James Patrick Kelly, Freedom Beach. His short story collections are Meeting in Infinity (a New York Times Notable Book), The Pure Product, and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence.

Kessel’s stories have twice received the Nebula Award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in addition to the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Locus Poll, and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. His play “Faustfeathers’” won the Paul Green Playwright’s Prize, and his story “A Clean Escape” was adapted as an episode of the ABC TV series Masters of Science Fiction. In 2009 his story “Pride and Prometheus” received both the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. With Jim Kelly, he has edited five anthologies of stories re-visioning contemporary short sf, most recently Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology.

Kessel holds a B.A. in Physics and English and a Ph.D. in American Literature. He helped found and served as the first director of the MFA program in creative writing at North Carolina State University, where he has taught since 1982. He and his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler, live and work in Raleigh, N.C.

Interview with Toni Stern, author of As Close as I Can

It’s been 2 years since I reviewed Toni Stern’s work when WET appeared on my blog. I cannot wait to read her new collection, As Close as I Can.

About her new collection:

The eagerly awaited new poems from the author of Wet. Toni Stern enjoyed a highly productive collaboration with the singer-songwriter Carole King. Stern wrote the lyrics for several of King’s songs, most notably “It’s Too Late” for the album Tapestry. Here, with affection and insight, she examines the breadth and boundaries of family, place, language, and self. As Close as I Can is her second volume of poetry.

Today, please give Toni a warm welcome as she answers questions about her poetry and her hobbies:

Tell us about your latest book, As Close as I Can.

These poems, written over the last three to four years, continue to explore the recurring themes of family, place, language, and self. There are stories in As Close as I Can that have followed me my entire life. It’s been a cathartic experience, examining, through poetry, the emotional and formative impact those experiences have had on me.

What are your favorite poems in As Close as I Can?

I’m fond of “State of Emergency” and “As Close as I Can.” They surprise me. I’m especially fond, too, of some of the shorter poems: “Self Portraits,” “Pyrolysis,” “The Paved Road,” “Everything is Singing.” I enjoy their directness and economy. My favorite poem though, is always the next one. The one I’ve yet to write.

Wet, your first volume of poetry was well received. What has been the most rewarding part of the publication process so far? The most challenging part?

Working with my editor, Trish Reynales, was divine. I loved the few readings I did. I especially loved the laughter. I discovered I’m an unapologetic ham. The most challenging part is explaining myself outside the medium of poetry.

What made you decide to release the poems in As Close as I Can and Wet in book formats? Will any of these poems become songs?

After having written a hundred or so poems, I decided I wanted to create a chapbook-size book; something that looked beautiful and fit happily in the hands. It was a very tactile desire. The poems were never intended as songs.

When did you begin writing? Did you initially decide to write “straight” poetry and transition into music, or was music always the goal?

Music was always the goal. Carole King was my very first reader. She was looking for a new writing partner after her divorce from lyricist Gerry Goffin. I’d recently written four lyrics and sent them to my friend and producer, Bert Schneider, who, during a meeting with Carole, showed her what I’d written. I was a complete unknown. You might say I started at the top. I didn’t even know if the lyrics I created could be fashioned into song. I think it speaks to Carole’s prescience that she chose to work only with me, an opportunity I am forever grateful for. I was twenty-three years old.

How do you structure your work day? Do you work in an office.

I work at the dining room table. I get down to it early, especially if I’m working on a poem I’ve already begun. I can’t sit still for long, so I also work standing at the banquette. Vera, my Jack Russell terrier, often lays on the table, beside my laptop, overseeing my efforts.

You are also an artist. When did you begin painting?

I began painting in the early nineties. I wanted to know, if possible, what it felt like to paint something wonderful. I painted myself off my feet for twenty years. I made pilgrimages to New York city twice a year, for several years, to work at the Art Students League with master Knox Martin. Painting has informed me more than any other art form about the creative process and the commitment it requires.

What advice do you have for aspiring poets and songwriters?

Read and listen to the best. Only the best. If you have something to say, say it. Keep your chops up. Art is noble and necessary. It is akin to love.

What are you working on now?

My next book. The poems are structured very differently. They’re story-poems, in paragraph form. The autobiographical “I,” evident in my last two books is absent. It’s very engaging territory.

Thanks, Toni.  I cannot wait to read the latest collection.

About the Poet:

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Toni Stern enjoyed a highly productive collaboration with singer-songwriter Carole King. Stern wrote the lyrics for several of King’s songs of the late ’60s and early ’70s, most notably “It’s Too Late,” for the album Tapestry. The album has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, and received numerous industry awards.  In 2012, Tapestry was honored with inclusion in the National Recording Registry to be preserved by the Library of Congress; in 2013, King played “It’s Too Late” at the White House. That song and Stern’s “Where You Lead” feature in the Broadway hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  “Where You Lead” is also the theme song for the acclaimed television series Gilmore Girls.  Stern’s music has been recorded by numerous artists throughout the years.

As Close as I Can is her second volume of poetry.  She lives with her family in Santa Ynez, California.  Her website is https://www.tonistern.com.

 

Meet Meg Kerr, Author of Devotion, and Giveaway


Please welcome Meg Kerr to the blog today and stay tuned for the giveaway.

About the book:

Georgiana Darcy at the age of fifteen had no equal for beauty, elegance and accomplishments, practised her music very constantly, and created beautiful little designs for tables. She also made secret plans to elope with the handsome, charming and immoral George Wickham. Will the real Georgiana Darcy please stand up? In Devotion, Georgiana, now twenty years of age and completely lovely, does just that. Taking centre stage in this sequel to Experience that sweeps the reader back into the world of Pride and Prejudice, she is prepared to shape her own destiny in a manner that perplexes and horrifies not only the Darcy-de Bourgh connexion but the whole of fashionable London. The arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a clandestine journey, bring Georgiana and her fortune into the arms of an utterly wicked young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and an amorous quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given—perhaps—an opportunity to re-make some of her disastrous romantic choices. Meg Kerr writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen gives Pride and Prejudice fans the opportunity to visit the year 1816 to re-unite with favourite characters, and meet some intriguing new ones.

Please give Meg a warm welcome:

Hello readers of Savvy Verse & Wit! My name is Meg Kerr, and I’m thrilled to be here with you. First, I’d like to thank Serena for allowing me to contribute this guest post on my writing process, writing quirks, and my life-long love for Jane Austen. My new book, Devotion, explores events after Pride and Prejudice ends through fan-favourite characters including Georgiana Darcy and Mrs. Bennet, and I think you’ll find it an interesting read as I’ve added several twists.

Also, in celebration of Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary, I’m offering Devotion for FREE on July 18th. To get your free copy of Devotion, click here to visit the giveaway page!

Can you describe your writing process? Is it difficult to write in the style of Jane Austen?

Jane Austen said in a letter to her nephew J. Edward Austen, “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Writing in the style of Jane Austen is indeed “much labour”! There is nothing slap dash or stream-of- consciousness (or manly and spirited) about it. The overall plot and chapters’ place within it and the characters themselves have to be meticulously considered and planned out before any actual “writing” takes place. Each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence have to be constructed with care. And the result has to look as though no effort was required!

Do you have any writing quirks?

I would love to say that when I work I retire to my drawing room and sit at a mahogany writing desk, with fine linen paper, a quill pen, blotting paper, a pen knife and a pot of India ink. It sounds so elegant! However, I write at my computer, which has a dual screen. I could use three or four screens to keep all the information I need right under my eye! But the room I write in has French doors looking out onto a beautiful garden, so I glance outside every now and then to refresh my soul.

What is it about Jane Austen and her writing that most interests you? Are there any themes you’ve found influence your own writing?

I think the great underlying theme that draws me to Austen is one of “quiet desperation” (to quote Thoreau rather than Austen). Many of Austen’s characters are in genuine danger of penury and/or social degradation (that would be all of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice; Jane Fairfax and her family in Emma; the Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility, as well as Colonel Brandon’s ill-fated first love and her ruined daughter; Maria Rushworth (née Bertram)—and Fanny Price’s mother who married “to disoblige her family”—in Mansfield Park; the Watson sisters in The Watsons. (Just a partial list!).

The apparent calm and graciousness of Regency life can be a thin cover atop a terrifying reality for Austen’s women, and even some of her men (such as Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility, who is disowned by his wealthy mother). Austen and Mrs. Bennet’s family in Pride and Prejudice hold Mrs. Bennet in contempt, but really, she is the only person who appears to appreciate the peril she and her daughters are in.

On a livelier note, I am fascinated by Jane Austen’s bad boys. Clearly, she was too. Wickham (Pride and Prejudice), John Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility), Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park) are chief among them—young men with serious problems with their moral compasses … but in the latter two cases, with some hope of redemption. Austen couldn’t quite bring Willoughby or Crawford into the light although she came close.

I decided to try my hand at it: Devotion is the story of a bad boy (John Amaury) who seizes on the idea of marriage to wealthy, lovely Georgiana Darcy to extricate himself from a life of poverty and petty crime. Will he destroy Georgiana or will he be redeemed? As you can imagine, with Austen as my guide, it’s up in the air right until the end of the story.

If you’re so inclined, Devotion will be available as a FREE digital download on July 18th as my way to commemorate the life and literary contributions of Jane Austen. You’ll find the link to get your copy near the top of this post. I’d love to hear your feedback on the book!

Thanks, Meg, for sharing your writing practices with us and for the wonderful giveaway.

About Meg Kerr:

What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.

Interview with Beth Kephart, Juncture Workshops Co-Founder

In case you missed my review of this must have workbook — Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit — you must check out my review.

Today, Beth Kephart stops by to answer a few questions about her workbook and Juncture, memoir workshops and a newsletter.  Please give her a warm welcome.

After teaching memoir at Penn, what prompted you to create your own series of workshops focused on writing memoir?  Was the process from idea to launching your first workshop long? And what obstacles did you face and how did you deal with those?

Serena, I helplessly love memoir. I read it with real hunger, deep interest, open questions. I have been asked by many adult writers if I could work privately on individual manuscripts. I have given memoir talks across the country and run one day memoir workshops in communities and seen what can happen when adults gather to write about their lives. It felt like it was time to create something like Juncture. It took more than a year to roll this out. We wanted to make something beautiful. Find the right sites. Create a gorgeous web site and brochure series. Build a robust syllabi. It took a lot of time and love.

Juncture is a joint project with your equally talented husband; how has that journey been?  How do you find artistic balance when you’re working closely together?

Bill is enormously talented. I love his art, his eye, his interest in building meaningful and artful communities. We have collaborated on many projects throughout the years. The creation of Juncture, which involves an Illustrated newsletter, videos, and the workshops themselves, has been deeply engaging and very personal and something we talk about and plan together. We rarely disagree on any aspect of this initiative.

Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook is a collection of exercises or more.  Are these the same exercises you use in your workshops?  What have been the reactions from participants to those exercises?

I actually never teach the same thing twice. I develop themes for each workshop and work towards them. I may teach some version of some of these exercises but mostly what is in the book was created for buyers of the book. The exercises are holistic. One thing builds to the next and the next. You can do each exercise as a singular experience or you can progressively build toward key elements of your memoir. I loved thinking about the accretive process.

While I never teach the same thing, while I build an intense curriculum that creates many opportunities to study memoir and to write multiple pieces, while I supplement all teaching with excerpts I have on hand and use to develop ideas that rise spontaneously … I always see incredible growth in the Juncture writers over the five days we have together. The kind of growth that makes me cry. And because these writers most often come back for another session months later, I see how they have continued to find their voices and stories in the meantime. It is hugely emotional to be a part of this. We memorialize the experience with a book each writer receives. Portraits Bill will take. Final pages published. Proof of our community and process.

You’ve included illustrations from your husband in this workbook. Did you give him the freedom to create anything he wanted or did you offer him guidance?  Are there plans to include photography in future editions (I know there will be second and third editions)?

Bill has absolute freedom with the art. I am surprised by each sketch he shows me. I love each sketch. His work makes me happy. No plans for another version, but yes, as I have established, I can’t stop thinking about memoir. 

For those interested in signing up for your workshop, what advice would you give about preparing for the workshop in advance? How should they approach the experience? Do you expect them to have a memoir project already in mind?

I prepare my workshop goers. Two months ahead of time the participants are sent PDF packages with excerpt readings, assignments, a guide to the one full book we all read as part of the process, and so much more. I run a workshop for those who have not yet defined their memoir project and one for those already deep into their book. They are entirely different and very respectful of where each writer is in the process.

Thank you, Beth, for sharing your thoughts with us.  If you’re looking for a great memoir teacher, Beth is your lady.

Interview with Poet Sandra Hochman, author of Loving Robert Lowell

Poets are often an intriguing bunch, and Sandra Hochman is no exception.  She was on the front lines of the women’s movement and even interviewed Gloria Steinem.  She also directed 1973 documentary Year of the Woman.

Her first book in 40 years is a memoir, Loving Robert Lowell (Turner Publishing, June 27, 2017).  Lowell also was a poet and a married man.  The book description says, “Sandra Hochman was 25 when she received a journalism assignment that changed her life: interview Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Lowell. She called him to set a time to speak and he suggested they meet immediately at the Russian Tea Room in New York. There, he confessed he had just left his wife. Many martinis later, they began a heady and disorienting affair with more heat than city asphalt baking in the sun.”

I was lucky enough to send her a few interview questions.  Please give her a warm welcome.

How did you begin as a writer? What inspired you to write, how did you keep going, and what stumbling blocks did you face and overcome?

My parents hated each other. They got divorced when I was young and they sent me to boarding school. In boarding school, I was lucky. God blessed me. I had a great teacher who took an interest in me and encouraged my writing. I was so lonely. His encouragement meant everything to me. I kept writing to get his attention. I found that by writing I was able to get a lot of attention.

Later, having a child of my own was a stumbling block to my writing career because it was expensive to support her. Because her father didn’t support her, I had to write to make money, rather than write for pleasure.

I wrote novels to make money to send my daughter to private school and pay for her nanny. With every book, I got paid. Jogging was Ariel’s 6th grade payment. Happiness Is Too Much Trouble paid for her 10th grade. Each book represented 2 years of her private school. Only my poetry I wrote for pleasure.

You’ve interviewed a number of famous celebrities and feminists in the past, particularly as part of the Year of the Woman documentary.  How did that experience influence or not influence your writing?

Making Year of the Woman with the producer Porter Bibb was the most fun I ever had in my life. I was the co-producer, director, and star. Art Buchwald plays the chauvinist pig and I play the revolutionary feminist.

I had an all-woman crew long before that was a fashionable thing to do. The difference between making a documentary and writing is the difference between going to Pittsburgh or to Paris. Making a film is Paris. It’s so much fun. Especially when you are in charge. Porter let me call the shots.

I also learned the unglamorous parts of making a film: hiring lawyers, making contracts. I loved it all. Movie making made me feel good. It was a boost to my ego, and when you feel good it’s easier to write. When you feel like shit it’s hard to write.

Your memoir, Loving Robert Lowell, will be published this month, what should readers take away from it about being a poet and how the relationship shaped your future?

Robert Lowell gave me wonderful advice. He said, “Sandra, never compete with your peers. Take your poem and float it down the stream of history. The greatest poets don’t compare their work to their peers’.  They compare it to the greatest poets of all time.” It was interesting advice and an important takeaway for me.

The other thing I learned from him is how he framed his problems as “grist for the mill.” He joked that the problem was the mill itself (his mind).

After our affair ended, I was very depressed. Then a few years after Robert Lowell and I broke up, I realized I could not have handled the problems of his illness. I was glad that I was no longer with him. But it took a few years. I never was as happy with any man as I was with Robert Lowell. It was the only time in my life when I had a really great relationship. I admired him more than any other man on earth.

Thank you so much, Sandra, for answering my questions.  I have so many more!

About the Poet:

Sandra Hochman is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet with six volumes of poetry. She also authored two nonfiction books and directed a 1973 documentary, Year of the Woman, currently enjoying a renaissance. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and she was a columnist for Harper’s Bazaar.

Interview with Teddy Durgin

TeddyDurginPicIf you missed my review of The Totally Gnarly Way Bogus Murder of Muffy McGregor by Teddy Durgin, you’ll have to check that out here.

1. I know you’ve been writing this one for a long time, so how long did it take you to write the first draft and then edit it into the final product?

I actually treated the book like I was making a movie. I had started novels before, gotten halfway or more into them, realized the stories weren’t quite working, and gave up. The old cliche. But with “Muffy,” I really knew I had something. I had pretty much the basics of the entire story in my head for years, and I didn’t want to screw it up. A good story really does seize you. It almost becomes a responsibility to tell!

So, I spent nearly six months before I even started writing the book plotting out each beat of the story, outlining each chapter, jotting down lines of dialogue and character exchanges I knew had to be in the novel in a notebook. So, by the time I was ready to “start production” — i.e., writing the first draft — I was totally ready. That was September 2015, and I finished the book in February, on President’s Day of this year. And then I spent the next three months in “post-production,” revising, tweaking, getting it proof-read (four minor typos still slipped through … aargh … but there’s always the 2nd edition in August).

2. Why self-publish? And are there plans for more with Sam, Chip, and Buddy?

I liken independent publishing in 2016 to where indie filmmaking was in the late 1980s and ’90s. With all of the consolidation going on in the publishing industry, all of the bricks-and-mortars stores closing, less risk-taking in general, some of the best and most daring work is not coming out of Random House or the other biggies. When I also saw the success some other authors I greatly admire who have gone this route were enjoying, both creatively and financially, it just seemed like the right way for me.

I am friends with Gus Russo, the best-selling, non-fiction crime author. One of his last books, “Boomer Days,” was published via CreateSpace and he raved about the process and the people involved. It was a niche book, very different from his previous titles like “The Outfit” and “Supermob.” But it became really successful, too. Then, when I saw the kind of numbers and the following authors like Patti Davis, mystery author M. Louisa Locke, and the very witty Jennifer Tress were attracting, I was 100-percent convinced.

Now, it has helped that I have been able to build off my own audience via my weekly film reviews that run in Teddy’s Takes, the East County Times in Baltimore, and ScreenIt.com, as well as my monthly column in the Maryland and Washington Beverage Journals. My readers’ support has gotten “Muffy” off to a great start!

As for turning this into a series, if I were to do another, I would pick a similar goofy title; probably keep the action in the ’80s in my hometown of Laurel, Md.; but introduce new characters. Some of the minor ones from “Muffy,” like the gossipy mall geezers Mel and Rodney, would cross over. But that would be about it. If I did a direct sequel, it would be set 20 years later with a grown-up Sam as a dad to a teenager who’s similarly flirting with danger.

3. How many times did you re-watch episodes of “Magnum P.I.” to get that scene just right with Rabinowitz, Sam, and Chip when they enter that office?

HA! No, that was all from memory. I’ve sworn over the years to my wife that somehow, some way I was going to make money on all of this “useless” ”70s and 80s pop culture trivia knowledge I have. Personally, I wish there was a purely ’80s cable TV channel. You really can’t find reruns of shows like “Magnum” or “Riptide” or “Remington Steele” anymore.

Follow-up question: Were you listening to all that 80s music you referenced in the acknowledgments on repeat while writing?

I would listen to those tunes before I would write to get me “in the zone.” I can’t listen to music while I type … not even abstracts.

4. How much of Sam Eckert is you? And are any of these characters based on real people? How do you meld fact and fiction?

It’s an old, OLD saying, but you really are most successful when you “write what you know.” Like Sam, I really did work as a 15-year-old stock boy at the Laurel Centre Mall’s 16 Plus clothing store for plus-sized women during the summer of 1986. Like Sam, I was a Lutheran attending the local Catholic High School. And, like Sam, I would get together with a couple of buddies whenever I could at the mall food court and talk flicks, pop music, bad TV, and we’d lament about our social status (or lack thereof). Unlike Sam, I am not a child of divorce, and I never lived in an apartment. He is also VERY different from me physically.

Most characters in the book have elements of people I knew growing up. But then I would add other quirks to them to make them their own people. Collette was my boss at 16 Plus, but she was not a former BBW supermodel. There really were about a half-dozen senior citizens who would gather at the mall each day and bust each other’s chops. And they knew EVERYTHING that went on in the mall. I condensed them down to Mel and Rodney. Rabinowitz is modeled more after my college journalism professor, Tom Nugent, than anyone. But Bernie Sanders was growing in popularity as I was writing the novel, and so I kept hearing his voice and tenor as I was writing Mervyn.

And then, I would just throw in last names and first names here and there of people I knew and grew up with to delight those who I hoped would one day read the book. In fact, I’ve actually had a few people e-mail me from my past who have asked, “Hey, why didn’t I make it in the book in some way?!” So, yeah, I am definitely going to have to do some kind of sequel or follow-up!

Laurel5. Now that you’ve moved out of Maryland into another state, did you find that you could finish the book more easily because you missed your former home?

Writing this book was actually a way to deal with whatever residual “homesickness” I was feeling for Maryland (and, uh, my lost youth). The Laurel of 2016 is VERY different from the Laurel of 1986. It’s silly to say, but I actually got to a point when I was still living in Maryland where I would kind of mourn all that had been lost and was no longer there in my hometown. The mall? Gone. Woolworth’s and its legendary lunch counter? Long gone. The Laurel Twin Cinema? It’s almost impossible for a two-screen theater to survive today. But it was wonderful to remember and “rebuild” each of these places again on the page.

6. Readers always want to know about writing routines, so did you have a specific time set aside to write this novel, as I know you have a full-time writing job and do other projects as well? How do you fit it all in?

I am one of those writers that absolutely has to compartmentalize pretty much all aspects of my life in order to be productive. I can’t mix and match. I never pen movie reviews during my day-job hours. I don’t write news articles immediately after coming back from a film premiere, when I really need to write about the movie I just saw while it’s fresh in my head.

But tackling a novel?! There was only one way that I could do it. Because I had plotted out the chapters and story beats so specifically for months, I would clock out of my day job on Friday afternoons, my family and I would go to a nice dinner (I never feel like cooking on a Friday), and then I would come home and write the novel until about 11 p.m. or midnight and then throughout the day on Saturday and parts of Sunday whenever I had a free hour or two.

My goal was one chapter a week. If I maintained that pace, I would have the planned 16 chapters done in 16 weeks. Well, it took me about 22 weeks with the holidays and various life happenings. But on the weekends, I would just bang it out. Rather than being tired from a week of writing and editing, it would energize me. I would look forward to writing “Muffy!” It actually became the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything!

One other thing that I don’t recommend, but I did it. I didn’t tell ANYONE! Not even my wife. It’s not uncommon to find me pounding away at the keyboard, writing at all hours of the day and evening. So, I never attracted any suspicion. I thought I would tell her at some point. But it was so much fun having a little secret, and I was really moving at a good pace. She was remarkably understanding when I finally told her I had finished it on President’s Day. Just to be safe, though, I told her in a crowded public restaurant!

7. I ask this question of all interviewees: Do you read poetry? If not, why? If so, Who or what collections would you recommend?

I don’t read as much poetry now as when I was young. I was an English major in college. And, I tell you, one of the most fun times I have EVER had was taking a 200-level summer Poetry course as an elective. Summer classes were a couple of times a week for six weeks, I recall. So, each of the classes was three hours long. And it was just bliss. We would read poetry, write poetry, read each other’s poetry, act out poems. It was the summer of 1989, and “Dead Poets Society” was a big movie that summer. It felt almost fourth-dimensional.

I did find I was not very good at writing poetry. But it was still so much fun. There was a real “intimacy” to that class and a few other summer writing courses I took over the years at UMBC that I still miss to this day. My favorite poet, by the way, will probably always be Dylan Thomas. “Do not go gentle into that good night!”

8. Did you read a lot of mysteries before writing this one, and do you have favorite mystery authors?

I read a LOT of Sherlock Holmes mysteries growing up. I had seen the 1939 Basil Rathbone-starring film “The Hound of the Baskervilles” when I was maybe 10 or 11 on Saturday morning TV (one of the DC-area UHF channels ran it) and then started checking out volumes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle whenever it was “library day” at school. There was about a two- or three-year span where my teachers were, like, “Read someone else!”

Then, years later, Data on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” did several Holmes-holodeck episodes, and I had a whole second “Sherlock” era.

First, I have to say, Dylan Thomas is awesome.  And Second, I cannot believe he didn’t tell his wife he was writing a novel until it was nearly done!

Thanks, Teddy, for this fantastic interview, and I wish you great success!

Interview with Jenetta James, Author of The Elizabeth Papers

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Hello readers,
Welcome to today’s interview with Jenetta James, the author of The Elizabeth Papers.

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About the book:

“It is settled between us already, that we are to be the happiest couple in the world.” —Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice

Charlie Haywood is a London-based private investigator who has made his own fortune—on his own terms. Charming, cynical, and promiscuous, he never expected to be attracted to Evie Pemberton, an emerging and independent-minded artist living with the aftermath of tragedy. But when he is hired to investigate her claims to a one hundred and fifty year old trust belonging to the eminent Darcy family, he is captivated.

Together they become entwined in a tale of love, loss, and mystery tracing back to the grand estate of Pemberley, home to Evie’s nineteenth century ancestors, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy.

How could Evie know that in 1817 Elizabeth Darcy began a secret journal? What started as an account of a blissful life came to reflect a growing unease. Was the Darcy marriage perfect or was there betrayal and deception at its heart?

Can Evie and Charlie unearth the truth in the letters of Fitzwilliam Darcy or within the walls of present-day Pemberley? What are the elusive Elizabeth papers and why did Elizabeth herself want them destroyed?

Without further ado, please give Jenetta a warm welcome:

When did you first read Pride & Prejudice? And what about the story stuck with you enough to write The Elizabeth Papers?

I first read Pride & Prejudice in the autumn of 1995, when I was 13. The reason I can be so specific is that a school friend and I decided to read it whilst watching the now famous mini series which was on BBC 1 every Sunday evening for 6 weeks. Our goal was to read ahead of the TV programme. We didn’t quite get it right every episode, sometimes reading too far and sometimes not enough. For this reason, it was slightly disjointed, but we loved it none the less. Since then I have enjoyed re-reading the book many times.

The narrative arc of Pride & Prejudice is so simple and elegant and it is a really deft example of character revelation and development. For that reason I think it is a novel which inspires its readers to write – to try to live up to that standard. I also suspect that the number of novels inspired by Pride & Prejudice are many more than those that are openly promoted as such. It is the kind of book that when you read it you think “yes, that’s how you do it”.

When I wrote The Elizabeth Papers, I had already written one Pride & Prejudice variation story, Suddenly Mrs. Darcy. In both cases the basics of the story came to me in a bit of a flash. The Elizabeth Papers commences with a letter written by Mr. Darcy to his solicitor in 1860. When I am not writing, I am a practising barrister and so I have a tendency to pick up on the legal issues in books I read. I had in my mind the far reaching consequences of the entail on Longbourn in Pride & Prejudice and that is an idea that I have tried to play with in The Elizabeth Papers. I hope that readers enjoy it!

Many fans of Austen often do not like to read the Brontes. Do you read the Brontes and enjoy their work? If not, why?

I love the Brontes. I first read all of the novels as a teenager and then re-read Jane Eyre, which is my favourite in my early 20s. All of the Bronte novels are of course very different to Jane Austen, but I don’t see them as mutually exclusive in terms of enjoyment and value. Another favourite classic author is Thomas Hardy – I love his novels and especially the somewhat under-appreciated “Woodlanders”.

When working with someone else's beloved characters, what do you keep in mind when writing new stories for them? What are the challenges? advantages?

It is a real balancing act, and one I’m sure I have not yet perfected! On the one hand, I want the characters to be believable versions of the originals. So, I have to constantly check them against the originals, asking what would Elizabeth do here? What would she say? How would the character from the original have been changed by age and events?

The character features from the original act like a metronome, clicking away in the background, keeping me on track. On the other hand, I don’t want to be too straightjacketed about it and there is a danger of the quest for authenticity inhibiting creativity. I am striving for faithfulness but I want to tell a new story of my own creation as well. That is the challenge.

In The Elizabeth Papers, there are two halves to the story. In the Regency half, almost all of the characters are drawn from Pride & Prejudice. In the modern half, all of the characters are people who I have made up. I feel far more at liberty to do what I like with those characters that I do with Austen’s creations. So, I suppose that I have tried to have my cake and eat it in this department.

If you had to describe Mr. Darcy as readers know him, not as he is perceived by Elizabeth Bennet, what four words would you use and how did you come to chose those terms?

Honourable. This is the first word that jumped into my head when I read your question and it cuts through everything that he says and does in my view. His sense of honour is of course not appreciated by Elizabeth until very late in the day, but once it is understood, it is the glue that sticks his other characteristics together.

Reserved. This is very important in terms of how other people see him, including Elizabeth at the beginning of their story. He is basically rather introverted while Elizabeth is extraverted. I am a chronic introvert and so very ready to spot the same in others, real and fictional.

Romantic. Not to be underestimated although of course this is something that Austen suggests quite lightly and has been subsequently greatly embellished by readers (me included).

Observant. Mr. Darcy is a watcher, not a talker and he observes carefully everything that goes on around him. This, like his reserve, can be misconstrued.

Do you read poetry? Who or what collections would you recommend?

I’m afraid that I do not read poetry very often, and this question has inspired me to think about poetry which I have enjoyed in the past.

The last time I was a regular poetry reader was in my teens. I grew up in Cambridge and had a bit of a Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes thing going on for many years. I bought Birthday Letters on the day that it came out and still have it now. I also recall enjoying William Blake and T. S. Elliot. For A-Level, I studied John Donne and his work manages to be sexy, funny *and* 17th century. You have inspired me to go back and read it again.

I have 2 very little children and several of their favourite books are written in verse. My favourites are Bunny Fluff’s Moving Day by A. J. MacGregor and Appley Dapply by Beatrix Potter. I don’t think these is quite what you had in mind, but I do recommend them.

Thanks, Jenetta, for joining us today.

jjames headshotAbout the Author:

Jenetta James is the nom de plume of a lawyer, writer, mother and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary and Trinidad as well as her native England.

Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. Suddenly Mrs. Darcy was her first novel. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Interview with Paula Margulies, author of The Tao of Book Publicity

Book publicity is something book bloggers are well aware of these days, and even as many of us prefer to stick to reviews, many authors are relying on our blogs to get the word out about their books.

Paula Margulies, a publicist for more than two decades, has created a simple guidebook for authors, The Tao of Book Publicity.

About the Book: (GoodReads)

In The Tao of Book Publicity, publicist Paula Margulies outlines the basics of book promotion and explains how the business of publicizing a book works. Designed for beginning authors but also useful for those with some experience in book publishing, The Tao of Book Publicity provides information on the importance of writing a good book and the need for developing a platform, as well as how-to explanations for developing publicity material, including front and back cover text, press releases, Q&As, media and blog tour queries, and newsletter and media lists.

The Tao of Book Publicity also covers social media, book pricing and sales, book tours and media interviews, and author websites. In addition to explaining how book publicity works, this valuable handbook explores practical topics such as publicity costs, timing, and considerations when hiring a publicist.

Please give her a warm welcome.

You have been a book publicist for more than 25 years. What made you finally decide to write a guidebook on promotion for authors?

In the course of my publicity work, I’ve received calls from hundreds of authors, many of whom ask the same questions: When do I start my publicity campaign? How much should I plan to spend? Do I need a website? How do I build a platform? What price should I give my book? Do I have to use social media and,if so, which sites are best? Should I print a hardcover version, or will a paperback suffice? Do I need to enter contests? How can I get more reviews?

These are all important questions, and since so many authors seem to have the same concerns about their books, I decided to share what I’ve learned over the years as a publicist in one convenient, inexpensive resource guide.

The Tao of Book Publicity has a Zen look and feel to the cover and title. How does understanding the Tao principles help authors to promote their books?

I chose the Tao as a way of offering authors a practical philosophy on how they might approach book marketing. There are many authors who find promotion crass and time-consuming; a good majority would rather be writing than spending time trying to develop promotional material and schedules for themselves and their work. But I’ve found that book promotion can be a rewarding and fulfilling activity if done with the right perspective in mind.

As I describe in the book, most book publicity comes from a place of not-knowing; there are people we approach, for example, for reviews or interviews, but we cannot strong-arm those individuals into giving us what we want. Instead, we take the time to think about what our message is, who we are targeting with that message, and how to propose it in the most succinct, relevant, and motivating way we can. We then present our message (what most in my business call our “pitch”), and then follow-up with persistence to try to get a yes response. Our results are never guaranteed – it is up to the reporters or editors we contact to decide if the message we’re sharing is right for them. But when we come from a place of humility and unattachment, we tend to do a better job of both preparation (in which case, we usually achieve the goals we’re attempting) and managing our expectations.

What other aspects of book publicity to do you cover in the book?

I provide how-to explanations for developing publicity material, including front and back cover text, press releases, Q&As, media and blog tour queries, and newsletter and media lists. I also cover topics such as social media, book pricing and sales, book tours and media interviews, and author websites. In addition to explaining how book publicity works, I also discuss practical topics such as publicity costs, timing, and considerations when hiring a publicist; I’ve found that many authors want to know upfront about fees for services and what steps they should have completed before they contact a publicist like me.

If you have one piece of advice for new authors, what would it be?

That’s easy – write a good book!

Of course, that’s easier said than done. I’ve found that oftentimes authors, especially those who have chosen to self-publish, are in a rush to get their books out. In their hurry, they forgo important steps like work-shopping the book, spending time on revision, hiring a professional editor and cover designer, and developing their platforms. As a result, many of their books, sadly, don’t sell. If authors want their books to be well-received by booksellers, the media, and (most important) readers, they must take the time to carefully edit, polish, and package them well – there is no substitute for these steps in the publishing process.

Can you describe how an author might use this book as a guide to his or her own publicity plans?

Authors can read the chapters in any order they like (each chapter is designed to be read as stand-alone unit) and see what sounds as if it might be a good fit for them and their books. If something doesn’t sound right, they don’t have to use it. The information in the chapters is there to provide guidance and insight into what I believe are the common practices of most book publicists, but none of what’s there is meant to be a hard-and-fast prescription for any author’s individual book publicity plans.

Are you working on another book? If so, what can you tell us about it?

In addition to this latest book, I’m also the author of the short story collection, Face Value: Collected Stories, and two novels: Coyote Heart, which is a modern-day romance about a married woman who falls in love with a Pala Indian man, and Favorite Daughter, Part One, a first-person retelling of the life story of the famous Native American legend, Pocahontas. I’d like to get back to writing fiction and plan to spend the next year completing Part Two of Favorite Daughter.

Thanks, Paula, for spending time with us today.