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Karen Harrington Interview

Earlier this month, I was checking out Scobberlotch, Karen Harrington’s blog, and she offered to guest blog for anyone interested. Karen is the author of Janeology.

I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions; questions I’ve always wanted to ask a writer and questions that are just quirky enough to get her attention and yours. Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Karen to Savvy Verse & Wit and to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

1. How do writers work out to stay in shape and healthy?

As for me, I try to get up and stretch several times while I’m writing. My husband is a PA for a spine surgeon and I asked him what the best, ergonomic position for writing was, he said “The best position is the NEXT position.” This has been great advice. I also plan my housework around my writing. Vacuuming is my warm-up, believe it or not. And of course keeping up with my toddlers is like having a health-club membership. I also try and drink a lot of water during the day. I admit, I am not a super healthy eater because sometimes, when my kids are in preschool, I forget to eat altogether. When they are here, I find myself eating whatever they have left on their plates (a lot of half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.)

2. Do you find there are particular foods that make you more creative or that keep you inspired?

I don’t know if coffee is what inspires me, but I cannot imagine my day without it, so it must have some bearing on my writing. Interestingly enough, when I read a scene in a novel about a big feast and what all the characters are eating, I feel hungry and want to make a big dinner. That’s one of the reasons reading/writing is so powerful. It can influence all your senses.

3. If you were to pick a playlist for your latest writing project, what are the top five songs on that list?

Right now, I am writing a piece called Prodigal Son, which centers on a very disillusioned son of a mega-preacher. I created an ITunes playlist specifically for this book (something I do for every project.) Here’s a sample of what’s on it:

  1. Wake Up Call – Maroon 5
  2. Human Wheels – John Mellencamp
  3. Viva La Vida – Coldplay
  4. If Everyone Cared – Nickelback
  5. Over You – Daughtry

What’s funny is that if my husband hears me rockin’ any of these songs, he now knows that I’m working on Prodigal Son.


4. What rituals or steps do you use to remain confident in your writing?

Reading a lot is the best reinforcement. You read some stuff and you think, “I can do better than this.” And you read other stuff and you think, “I want to write like THIS!” As far as general confidence, that wavers a great deal. When I first completed JANEOLOGY, I had the overwhelming sense of “Hey, I’ve got something very interesting here. Something I would personally love to read.” And then, I remember the fear I had the day before my book was released. I had a moment or two where I didn’t want it to go out into the world, but then I got a few positive reviews and it eased the process. I can see a day, perhaps when I get to book 5 in my writing career where I will trust my instincts more.

5. In terms of friendships, have your friends shifted since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have they stayed the same?

I’ve never thought about this until now, but the answer is yes, I do now have more writer-ly friends just since the publication. I’ve networked with many of them through my publisher and we have built a very supportive network of sharing information and encouraging each other. Also, I’ve met several local writers as a result of MySpace. I’m thankful for this because writing can be very solitary and it’s good to meet others who know what you’re going through.


6. (Because I love this question) Can you describe your ideal writing space and how it
differs from your current writing space?

In terms of aesthetics, I have a pretty ideal space right now. My office has a huge window that looks out on our pool. There are three fountains running in the morning. I’m able to listen to the sounds and rest my eyes on the blue water. The desk and the computer could be anywhere or any kind, just so long as I have my dictionary and synonym finder nearby. I used to be a corporate speechwriter and had to write under all kinds of, um, interesting conditions in interesting situations. This experience taught me how to write anywhere, with any level of noise or distraction or screaming (which is why I can write with toddlers nearby.) One day, I would love to have this kind of space near an ocean or lake. Anything with a view of water.

Check out what else she had to say about her current writing space.

Thanks to Karen for joining us today and for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

Q&A With Abigail Reynolds, Author of Pemberley by the Sea

Abigail Reynolds, author of Pemberley by the Sea, kindly agreed to answer some questions about her novel, her writing space, and her holiday gift ideas for writers and readers. I reviewed her novel this month, check it out!

Without further ado, here’s my Q&A with Abigail Reynolds. Stay tuned for a giveaway from Sourcebooks. Thanks to Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks.



1. Pemberley by the Sea is called a modern day Pride and Prejudice, but were there other literary couples or storylines that inspired Calder and Cassie’s romance?

My original inspiration was to see what would happen if I put Darcy and Elizabeth together in the modern world, and that’s pretty much the way it stayed.

2. Elizabeth Bennet is considered to be a strong female heroine, much like Cassie. Was it hard not to outdo Elizabeth Bennet’s strength and sharp wit when creating Cassie? Was it hard to keep Cassie vulnerable?

I found Cassie fairly easy to write, which is interesting since she is nothing like me. I had to give her a different kind of strength from Elizabeth Bennet, whose strength was displayed by turning down eligible men who could save her family from an impoverished future. That’s a bit hard to translate to modern day, so I changed Cassie’s struggle to one against an impoverished background. I think most women have vulnerable points, and Cassie does, too – especially around people she loves.

3. Did you feel obligated to maintain the happy endings Jane Austen continued to use in her novels?

Interesting question! I don’t feel obligated to maintain happy endings, but they seem to be a natural part of my writing. My goal is to write books that capture readers’ interest and leave them with a smile on their face at the end. A happy ending is part and parcel of that. Over time, I’ve moved towards endings that are happy but not fairy tale.

***This section of her answer may contain spoilers***

At the end of Pemberley by the Sea, Cassie’s brother is still in prison, and Joe Westing is lurking in the wings, bound to create some trouble sooner or later.

4. Politics is a touchy subject for novelists to tackle. Was there a great deal of research that went into those aspects of the novel?

It’s not only a touchy subject, it’s also changeable. At the time I wrote Pemberley by the Sea, Republicans were firmly in power, the Iraq war still had wide public support, and nobody was talking about national health insurance. But it was published in a completely different political climate, which takes away some of the power from Calder’s political rebellion, since he’s just saying things that are more mainstream than radical.

I didn’t do much political research, but I like to stay up to date in the news. If you listen to Senator Westing’s speaking style, I borrowed it pretty liberally from several different politicians. I didn’t intend the book to reflect a particular political reality – I left the war vague so that it could be Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf War, or some conflagration yet to come – because I didn’t want it to be dated.

5. Is the Westing family modeled upon a real-world political family?

It isn’t, but people usually think it is, because it’s set on Cape Cod and involves a wealthy political family. The Westings are quite different from the Kennedys, though – they’re Republican, Southern, old money. But I considered several prominent political families as I wrote it, including the Rockefellers and the Bush family.

***I didn’t see a resemblance to the Kennedys at all, but I’m a New Englander, so that could be why.***

Right now I have a dilemma with Morning Light, the sequel to Pemberley by the Sea, which has been complete for several years, because a key part of the plot is that Senator Westing is diagnosed with a tumor and pulls some strings to get special experimental treatment. If I’m not careful, I think readers will assume I’m modeling the whole episode on Senator Kennedy’s recent diagnosis and treatment – life imitating fiction.

6. I loved the novel within the novel aspect midway through Pemberley by the Sea, very reminiscent of Shakespeare’s play within a play. Writing this section must have been a joy. What prompted you to include this section and were there any particular triumphs or struggles you encountered while writing it?

When I first started writing, I was looking for some kind of plot device to parallel the letter Darcy gives to Elizabeth in Pride & Prejudice. But in Jane Austen’s day, an unmarried woman couldn’t respond to a letter from an unmarried man – it would have been a scandal if anyone discovered Darcy had written to Elizabeth – and Elizabeth had no expectations of ever seeing or hearing from him again. It was Darcy’s one and only chance to explain himself. It was hard to come up with something equally unanswerable in modern society. If Calder wrote a letter to Cassie, she’d be expected write or email back, to ask him questions about it. Having the letter be a novel established some of the distance I wanted.

There were two hard things with writing those sections. The first was keeping it from slowing the pace of the story. Originally there were far more excerpts from Calder’s book, but it ended up feeling repetitious because the reader had already seen those scenes from Cassie’s point of view. In the end, I cut a lot out. The other challenge was writing the part where it cuts back and forth between Calder’s book and Cassie’s reaction to it. The pacing was really challenging there, not to mention that I had to make sure that Calder’s book was written in Calder’s writing style, but that Cassie’s reactions were in my own style.

7. Please describe your ideal writing space and how it compares to your current writing space.

They’re dramatically different! My ideal space would be sitting quietly at a table with a water view. It would NOT involve being constantly interrupted by two kids, dogs wanting to come in and out, cats who think that I should type around them as they sit on my lap, and chaos everywhere, which is how I usually write.

8. With the holidays approaching, do you have any gift recommendations for those of us with writers and readers on our lists?

My writing friends are all getting small blank books to leave scattered around the house, car, purse, wherever, because you never know when you’ll suddenly come up with the perfect line, and if you don’t write it down that second, it’s gone forever.

For the Jane Austen lover, I’d recommend In the Garden with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson, the author of Tea with Jane Austen, and, of course, any of my Pemberley Variations! In the next couple of weeks, Affinity and Affection by Susan Adriani will be available, which is a Pride & Prejudice variation by an excellent new writer.

My favorite book about writing is Annie LaMott’s classic Bird by Bird.


Thanks again to Abigail Reynolds! Thank you to Danielle at Sourcebooks for sending me this fantastic read.

And now for what you’ve all been waiting for. . . the contest to win your own copy of Pemberley by the Sea, which I highly recommend for the Jane Austen book lover on your holiday list.

1. For one entry, leave a comment here–something other than “enter me” or “pick me.” Don’t forget an email address or active blog that I can use to contact you.

2. For a second entry, leave a comment on the review post, here. If you’ve already posted on the review, I will count it as a second entry into the contest, but only if you enter on this post first. Boy, I’m diabolical!

3. For the ambitious few, blog or post the contest in a sidebar, and you get a third entry.

Deadline is December 10, Midnight EST. Sorry U.S. and Canada addresses only!

Because I am a dumbass, I am going to let you know about a contest that ends today at Diary of an Eccentric for a copy of Off the Menu by Christine Son! Don’t miss the Deadline, which is December 3, tonight! HURRY!

Q&A With Richard Roach, Author of Scattered Leaves

Welcome to my interview with Richard Roach, author of Scattered Leaves. I want to thank Richard for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with me about his writing process, inspirations, and publication journey. I also want to thank Dorothy Thompson from Pump Up Your Book Promotion for placing me in contact with Richard Roach.

1. How long did it take to write Scattered Leaves? Did you have an outline of the plot beforehand or simply start writing and let the characters guide you?

About three months for the first draft.

2. Do you have a particular spot that you like to write in (i.e. behind a desk in an office, in a comfy recliner, outside on the porch, etc.)?

Nowadays, I have an office in my house that’s quiet. There’s a desk with the computer, keyboard, and printer on it, and I sit in a chair somewhat like typists used to use in days long gone by. (I don’t know what they sit in now.) Years ago when I wrote Scattered Leaves, I used the typewriter that was on a small table beside my desk where I conducted my business. (I owned an oilfield service equipment manufacturing company before I retired.)

3. Was it difficult to find a publisher? What was the process you went through?

I hope to tell you it was difficult to find a publisher. The process I went through was very simple. I’d spent my working career, after the service, in the oilfield and didn’t know anyone in publishing. So, I procured a book of publishers and started writing to them. Mostly, I got rejections but a few, very few, asked to read the manuscript. But, finally, one said okay and that was it.

4. When did you decide to write full-time? Was it a tough decision?

More or less in 2000. No, it wasn’t a hard decision, I was retired in the sense that I no longer worked in a nine to five job. I had been writing off and on since 1985 but in 2000 I decided to get something published. (Prior to that the publishing bug had not bitten me.)

5. I’ve read that you were once in the Air Force. How did that prepare you for your writing career? And how did this experience provide you with insight into the criminal mind?

The Air Force gave me the opportunity to grow up! The service sent me to schools taught by Trinity University (This was all conducted on Lackland Air Force Base. Not at the college.) I spent my years learning what made people tick—being a drill sergeant is not like in the movies. You are in command of sixty young men and the responsibility is like a heavy weight bearing down on you, get smart or it will crush you. Being in the training command is ninety percent mental, you must win the competitions or you will not advance. You have to use your brain, that’s why you spend so much time in various schools.

I first got into the crime end of it when a recruit allegedly slit his wrists in a barracks next to my flight. I was appointed (ordered) to investigate and ascertain if it was a crime or if the recruit had committed suicide. As I mentioned, basic training is stressful. The squadron commander must have liked my work because after that he had me do various chores of this sort.

However, the way I learned about corporate thieves was by having my hard earned cash in the form of common stock stolen from me by experts in the oil business. You learn quickly about fraud when it’s your money. I had no idea that corporate offices were filled with criminals. I was a lamb ready to be fleeced. It was a wonderful, but costly, education.

6. Please describe you writing style and influences.

My writing is for the common man; therefore, it’s written in shirtsleeve English, the kind I use. Erle Stanley Gardner and John Dann MacDonald have the most influence on my writing.

7. Do you have any favorite authors and why?

The ones mentioned above. They transport me to a land where everything comes out right and you don’t have to worry about the real life and death experiences of tomorrow. No matter how black the night, or how cold the day—in Perry Mason’s world, he’s in control and everything is jake.

8. What are you reading now or do you have any book recommendations for my readers?

Lawrence Sander’s McNally’s Luck


Thanks again to Richard Roach for taking time out of his schedule to talk with me about his writing process.

Would you like a second entry into the contest for Scattered Leaves?

Leave a comment here about what you liked best about Richard Roach’s interview.

If you forgot to leave a comment on the Scattered Leaves review post, you better do it to make sure you get that first entry, otherwise the second one doesn’t count!

Also don’t forget to leave an email or working blog for me to get into contact with you if you win! Good Luck!

Don’t forget to enter the contest: Win a copy of Off the Menu by Christine Son (Deadline is Today Nov. 18)

The Sighing of the Winter Trees by Laura Grossman

Laura Grossman’s The Sighing of the Winter Trees is a collection of poems I received from Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Following my review, you will have a chance to see what the poet had to say in an interview and a chance to win one copy of her book.

Grossman uses familiar images to tackle loss, love, and many of the emotions we feel. Her sparse language and short poems attempt to evoke emotion from the reader without relying upon complex lines, concepts, or too many literary devices.

Many of her poems have a conversational tone, as if she is speaking directly to the reader. This tone can generate a warmth in the reader, like it does in her poem, “Waiting Warmly Beside Orange Flowers,” or it can evoke sadness, like that found in “Wait, Wait I’ll Be Back.”

Some of these poems tell stories, but those stories leave the reader hanging, waiting for a resolution. Others simply confuse the reader, like “Wooden Ship.” Although I was not overly impressed by this volume, it does have a lot to offer the “everyman” and parents may find some poems in this volume to help introduce their children to poetry. Readers looking for poems that are less daunting than those read during high school or college will discover verses in this volume that will tap their hidden love of poetry.

My Interview With Laura Grossman:


When did you realize you wanted to be a poet? Was there a particular event that started you writing poetry?

I realized I wanted to be a poet when I was a child and I loved describing the winter days in a form of a haiku. The particular event that started me in writing poetry was after my father died and the professor at college had me read a stanza that captured the way I felt about the death of my dad. Suddenly there was beauty and meaning in the way I felt about my late dad.

Is The Sighing of the Winter Trees your first published book of poetry? Could you describe your path to publication?

The Sighing of the Winter Trees is my first published book of poetry. I took books out on how to achieve my goal of getting published and that helped my path to publication.

Do you have a set routine or do you write when the mood or inspiration hits?

I usually write when the mood or inspiration hits.

What are your favorite poetic forms? And are those forms that you find yourself using the most?

My favorite forms of poetry are haiku and rhythmic and I use those forms quite often.

As a poet can you describe your role in the current literary world and what you see your poetry accomplishing for yourself, readers, and other poets?

I describe my role as a poet to bear meaning and shed light to others about the world in which we live. I also use my writing skills as a way of making lemonade out of lemons until the sun come out again into my life and my readers’ lives as well.

How do you view the current state of poetry in terms of public recognition?

There should be more public recognition of poetry for poetry can heal and sooth us and leave a positive impact on our lives.

Could you describe your favorite writing space?

My favorite writing space is by my fall mums by the window in early morning hours.

Do you have any favorite poets, and if so, why?

Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet. Her words touch my heart with wonder.

What are you currently reading and do you have any particular book recommendations?

I am currently reading The Flowering by Agnes Sligh Turnbull and would greatly recommend this book to others.

****

I want to thank Dorothy Thompson for sending me Laura Grossman’s book and for allowing me to interview her for this post. I also want to thank Laura for taking time out of her schedule to answer my questions.

For the inside scoop on how Laura Grossman got her volume published, check out this article at Book Publishing Secrets of Authors.

About the Author:

Laura Grossman graduated from Lehman College with a degree in English literature and won several awards from poetry contests. She has attended poetry readings and has enjoyed positive feedback on her work.

And now, for the contest; This is open to international entrants as always.

1. Leave a comment on this post with an email or a blogger profile that works for one entry.

2. Put this contest in your sidebar or in a blog post for a second entry and leave me a link to it on this post.

Deadline is Nov. 17. I will draw the winner through Randomizer.org.

Also Reviewed By:
Cafe of Dreams

Contest Reminders:

Want to win a copy of Off the Menu by Christine Son, go here; Deadline is Nov. 18

Win a copy of Karen White’s The House on Tradd Street here; Deadline is Nov.14

Interview with Poet Nikki Giovanni

Welcome Nikki Giovanni, a poet and author, to Savvy Verse & Wit. She was gracious enough to take time out of her busy touring schedule for Hip Hop Speaks to Children to answer some questions about her writing process, the book, and poetry. Thanks to Sourcebooks for sending Hip Hop Speaks to Children to me for review, which you can read here.

1. What prompted you to become involved with the Hip Hop Speaks to Children? And do you think poetry is important for children and adults and why?

I became interested a long, long time ago because my son listened to hip hop. I began even then to try to learn where this “new sound” was coming from since I well know everything old is new again, as the expression goes.

2. Poetry and music seem very akin to one another; do you feel that other genres can apply the rhythm of Hip Hop and other styles to generate passion among children, such as a passion for reading?

I think there is an ebb and flow to everything; there is a rhythm to all speech whether spoken or written. The most important sound is always silence. It is the pauses that make up the meaning. I wanted to give some sense of that rhythm to young people as well as a bit of history.

3. Do you believe that writing is an equalizer that can help humanity become more tolerant and collaborative?

Writing is an equalizer only in so far as what is being written is truthful. Written lies promote hatred and we’ve seen a lot of that lately. Writing is only a tool of the truth, and we who believe in a more tolerant world need to keep putting that truth out.

4. Do you see spoken word, performance poetry, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why?

I think all art has its moments and reasons. I don’t see any special reason to rank effectiveness since we all cross over and learn from each genre. (Well said!)

5. Do you have a set writing routine? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I am a early morning or late night writer. I am more comfortable when I know I will not be disturbed. I must say that mood has nothing to do with professionalism. All writers study all the time; learning something all the time; looking at things differently all the time. That’s what is important.

6. Can you describe your writing space?

I write in essentially a tight space. It is a small room with lots of books, a CD player, some photos, and my computer. I have a phone in here but it seldom rings. Also my fax and xerox machine. I sit on a rocker.

7.
Do you have any advice for writers/poets just starting out?

The only advice I have is you, the young writer, should always be reading something. A book, a magazine, a newspaper, anything. A writer who is not reading isn’t doing her homework.

Thanks again to Nikki Giovanni for sharing her unique perspective with us.

Also, here are some reminders about the latest Savvy Verse & Wit Contests:
(Deadlines are Nov. 5)

1. Win a copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

2. Win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

3. Win a copy of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe

Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby & Giveaway

Welcome to Hachette Group’s Early Birds Blog Tour for Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby, a book that examines one young genius’ struggle to find himself and his place in his own family and society; Thanks to Miriam Parker at Hachette for sending the book along for the tour.

Theodore Mead Fegley’s father runs a furniture store and funeral home with his brother Martin, while his mother’s main goal in life is to push her son to achieve as much as possible and not squander his intelligence. The pressure mounts for Mead as he speeds through his elementary and high school years, reaching the University of Chicago at age 15.

Mead is an awkward “geek” who tries to keep his head down and make it through what he believes is the roughest period of his life, high school. Despite attempts by his cousin, Percy, to pry Mead out of his shell, Mead stuffs his nose in his studies to graduate high school and head off to college away from his overbearing mother and the small town that despises and ridicules him.

The narrative easily shifts from the present to the past, and the chapter breaks make it easier to keep the timeline in perspective with details about what period in Mead’s life is witnessed and what location he is in.

Mead is a young teen thrust into academic life with peers who are much older and experienced. Even though he looks forward to college life and mingling with his peers, he finds the experience to be as difficult and confusing as his high school years. Mead’s life takes a stark turn when he meets Herman Weinstein, a fellow mathematics student at the university.

Mead meets Dr. Krustrup, who agrees to mentor him and Weinstein at least until Weinstein’s family fortune and connections convince him otherwise. Mead is easily pushed aside when Dr. Krustrup becomes chair of the mathematics department. While he is initially angry, he learns that his new mentor, Dr. Alexander, is much more inspiring. Under the tutelage of Dr. Alexander, Mead throws himself into the Riemann Hypothesis, and he hopes to either prove or disprove the hypothesis, which has been debated for more than 100 years.

Jacoby carefully intermingles events from Mead’s past into his present as a way to show how Mead’s character has developed and explain the reasons behind some of Mead’s reactions and behaviors at the university. As Mead grows closer to a solution, Herman insinuates himself further into Mead’s life. Tensions between the two friends–and I use this term loosely–continue to intensify, until a family tragedy and university pressure mount, forcing Mead to run home to rural Illinois several days before graduation, his major mathematical presentation, and his valedictorian speech.

While math problems make me cringe, this story brought me back to high school with the discussions of matrices–math I actually understood at one point–but Jacoby does a great job of including this information without burdening or boring the reader. As Mead’s life unfolds and the mystery grows more intense, the pages flow quickly, making the reader more anxious to learn the reason why Mead flees his sanctuary at the university when he is on the verge of success. Although this novel is dubbed an academic thriller that portion of the story fell flat. The descriptions, perceptions, and events in Mead’s life point the narrative more in the direction of a coming of age story. Jacoby’s academic thriller plotline did not have the foundation or twists and turns necessary to a successful thriller narrative. However, at the conclusion of the narrative, the reader will be pleased to see Mead find himself, what’s important to him, and how to cope with his reality.

About the Author:

M. Ann Jacoby has been an art director at Penguin USA for more than two decades. Life After Genius is her debut novel.

Without further ado, here is M. Ann Jacoby about her writing process.

Do you have a set writing routine? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I do have a routine. After getting my errands out of the way Saturday morning, I sit down around noon and write for about six hours. The first hour or two involves a lot of staring out the window and getting back into the world of my novel. By Sunday I’m into it. I get started around 8 or 9am and can go all day. I have to remind myself to stop and eat. Then, reluctantly, I have to put it all away and go back to my Mon-Fri job. I commute to work on the train and usually wait till midweek to read and edit what I wrote over the weekend. I don’t write during the week. I need large blocks of time without interruption to get lost in the world of my characters. I usually get 12-15 pages written over a weekend. It’s a long, slow process but I find the breaks in between give me a chance to step back from my work and rethink before plunging in again.

Was the research and writing process for Life After Genius different from your normal writing process?

Research takes time away from writing. And I find that I write too much of my research into the story at first. I want to put all that new information to good use! But eventually I edit most of it back out so that the research feels more like a natural backdrop.

Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?

It’s very hard to sort out criticism in the beginning. What to listen to, what not to. For me, there was a lot of trial and error. A lot of crying. Try not to let the negative remarks destroy you. Look at them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

What are your favorite rewards for reaching your writing goals and why?

To create something that speaks to another person is a reward in itself. Immeasureable. Plus, it means I can go back and create more characters and more imaginary worlds. To get to do what I most love and get paid for it is like winning the lottery.

Are you working on any other projects, and if so would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

The novel I’m working on now is loosely based on my mother’s parents who were bookies in West Palm Beach, Florida. The main character is Libby Freybaker who shared the pants in the family with her husband, my grandfather. She’s funny and smart and unconventional. It opens with them being handcuffed and arrested, then flashes back to tell the story of what led up to that point.

***Want to win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby from Savvy Verse & Wit and Hachette Group?

I will pass along my copy to one International winner, please let me know in the comments if you are international! Hatchette Group will pass along a copy to a winner with a U.S. or Canada address.

***Make sure you leave me a way to contact you either an email address or through your blog. Those not leaving emails or blog links, will not be entered. Deadline is November 5, 2008.

1. Leave a comment on this post for one entry telling me what you find most interesting about the book or Jacoby’s writing process.

2. Post this contest on your blog or sidebar and return here to leave me a link to where you posted it for a second entry.

3. For those of you that do not have blogs, email five friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com for your second entry.

Check out the other stops on the Life After Genius tour!

Marjolein Reviews
The Book Nest
Seaside Book Worm Blogger
Books by TJBaff

Linus’s Blanket

The Optimistic Bookfool
The Printed Page
My Friend Amy
Shooting Stars Mag
Books, Pungs, and More
A Novel Menagerie
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog
medieval bookworm
Book Critiques
B&b ex libris
Sharon Loves Books and Cats
At Home With Books
A Circle of Books
Book Line and Sinker

***More contests from Savvy Verse & Wit:

A copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

A copy of The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel! Deadline is Tonight at Midnight EST. Go here, follow the rules, and enter.

Interview with Author Shannon Burke & Contest

I want to welcome Shannon Burke, author of Black Flies and Safelight, to Savvy Verse & Wit today. In case you missed my glowing review of Black Flies, check it out! Anna at Diary of an Eccentric also reviewed Black Flies, here, and interviewed Shannon Burke, here.

Stay tuned for your chance to win a copy of Black Flies.

Welcome, Shannon and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me and my readers.

1. How long did it take you to write Black Flies?

Black Flies took me an absurd amount of time for such a short book. I think it was over ten years from the first sentence to the final copy edit, though for a lot of that time it was lying dormant. When I first started working as a paramedic I came home every night and wrote about the things I heard and about the things that happened to me. Slowly, these impressions formed themselves into scenes and characters and events. That is, they turned into a novel. I had a draft by the end of my first year on the ambulance. But it was hardly the finished copy. It was unfocused, jagged, and angry. It had passion and energy, but overall, I didn’t know what it meant. I ended up trying to rewrite it three times, and finally, I put it away and started working on an ambulance love story that wound up being Safelight, which became my first published novel.

So, after Safelight came out, I was working on another novel called Stragglers, but my mother and my older brother kept saying, “What about that book Black Flies.” “It doesn’t work,” I said. “No, we like it,” they said. They kept bugging me about it. So finally I went out to the shed where the book had been sitting for four or five years. I didn’t even have a computer copy of it. The hard copy in the shed had mushrooms growing out of it. I brushed the mushrooms off and started reading. The first thing that struck me was how bad a writer I’d been. Also, I thought two things right away: one, that I’d made the book worse every time I’d edited it, adding wordy, florid revisions that edited the rawness out of it, and secondly, I felt like I’d been flailing around, trying to say something, but had never really gotten around to saying it. After five years as a medic, and five more years of writing, I had a lot more perspective and experience and I thought I knew exactly how to do it. So, I went back to the book. I stripped the style down to give it that initial blunt, raw feeling that I’d always liked about it, but kept some of the philosophical parts as the chief sections. Basically, it was a total rewrite, but with some good material to work with, and with the basic story staying the same, though with many small changes. I finished that draft in about eight months, and with the normal editing and copy editing afterwards, that ended up being the final version of Black Flies.

So, from the first attempt at a draft to the final version might have been ten or eleven years, though for probably six of those years I didn’t look at it at all.

2. What character in Black Flies do you most identify with and why?

Well, I guess I must identify with Ollie most, but there were moments where I identified with all the characters, including LaFontaine. I mean, I think one of the points of the book is that anyone is capable of really bad behavior given the proper circumstance, and my guess is that anyone who’s been in the circumstances I’ve been in can look at all the characters and see parts of themselves in those characters, while also recognizing the characters as “types” that you find in an EMS station. But, like I said, Ollie’s character is definitely the closest to my own.

***If you have not read Black Flies yet, please SKIP this question and go to Question 4 because the answer to Question 3 contains spoilers.***

3. What was the hardest section in Black Flies to write or what was the hardest part about writing Black Flies?

The part before and after Rutkovsky’s death was the hardest part, and also the very beginning. I had trouble with the beginning because it was hard to know what to tell and what not to and what events would represent the whole. The pre- and post-Rutkovsky death sections were really hard to write because I kept making them too long. I wanted to dramatize the emotion and make it serious and the way I saw to make it serious was to make it long. The problem was that that section was not particularly dramatic, and it took me a while to realize it, and I only did with the help of friends and family.

Basically, at a certain point in a book’s progression I hand the book to anyone who’ll read it and let everyone have a say. One of the questions I always ask is, “What is the worst part and what is the best?” My sister and my friends and my parents all pointed to that section after Rutkovsky’s death as the dullest and the hardest to read. So I rewrote and reworked it about fifty times. Even in the very last edit I was still reordering it. I think it’s a little rough there still, but it’s much better than it would have been.

Also, it occurs to me that when you ask what was the hardest part to write you might really be asking if it was hard emotionally to write parts of the book. I have to say it wasn’t hard at all in that way. If anything, it was cathartic. In general, emotion makes it easier for me to write because I have some really strong feelings inside to compare to the writing and to judge what is truthful and what is not and to drive me forward. So, at least for me, I’ve always found the most traumatic things are the easiest to write about.

4. Are you still a paramedic, and if not, why did you decide to leave that career to become a writer?

I still have my license, but I haven’t worked since the very beginning of 2001.

In January of 2001 I got hired to work on a movie script and since then I’ve more or less had regular movie work that has kept me from having to work a real job. At the time I was really glad to quite being a medic. For about twelve years I’d been spending forty hours a week writing, and then forty or fifty hours a week at a job. I was always busy, always in a rush, never had time to do anything. So, when I had a chance to cut my frenzied schedule in half I was really relieved. Afterwards, though, I missed being a medic, and I still think of going back into medicine at some point. I’m going to follow the writing as far and as long as I can, but you never know what is going to happen in the future, and I could see going back and working as a medic. I definitely miss the contact with patients, and the feeling that what you’re doing serves an absolute, immediate good.

5. Often writing experts and authors suggest to amateur writers that they write what they know, and it seems in your case this was true. Do you plan to branch out into other genres/topics?

For five or six years before I wrote about the EMS stuff I was writing ordinary literary fiction. The stuff I wrote was terrible: timid, dull, and didactic. But over that time, if nothing else, I was definitely becoming a better stylist and getting comfortable with my own abilities. I think T.S. Eliot said that he sat down to write everyday and threw out eighty percent of what he wrote, but he still always sat down to do it because when inspiration hit, he was ready. I’d like to think that those years of struggle were some sort of preparation rather than a complete waste. Anyway, the EMS subject really interested me, and I’m really glad I had that experience and I wrote those EMS books, but my heart is in straight literary fiction, and there is a slight feeling of compromise when I think of Safelight and Black Flies, like I leaned on this naturally dramatic subject more than I want to admit to myself, and that to really prove myself as a writer I need to be able to write outside that arena and see what I can do. And I’ve done it. Or at least I’ve tried to. I have three other novels in various states of disrepair. They will be coming to market eventually and I hope they don’t disappoint.

6. Do you reward yourself when you reach a particular writing goal? If so, what are some of your favorite rewards?

Not really. I’m very boring this way. I may have gone out to dinner a few times and maybe gotten some drinks or something like that, but I’m always so cautious of reversals, and also, I’m always so aware of the next step, that there never seems to be a definitive endpoint. I mean, you finish a draft of a novel, but it’s just a draft, and then you give it to friends and they read it and there’s always suggestions, so you write again and send it to your agent. And then you write again and it goes to editors and you sell it but there’s still the rewrites. And then the copy editing. And then you have a final version and it’s a book but you’re waiting for reviews, and there can always be an unpleasant review, and so it all slides by and there never seems to be a definitive point to celebrate. That is not to say that at times I haven’t felt accomplishment inside. I guess the best moments have been a feeling that someone else, a reviewer or reader, has been affected and swept up in the exact way I wanted them to be. But the question was about special rewards I’ve given myself. No. Not really. I probably should.

7. Could you share your publishing experience with my readers, such as did you get an agent before seeking a publisher, etc.? And how did that process unfold for you?

Yeah, I did get an agent, and it seems to me that having an agent is essential, as, for better or for worse, the literary people in New York all know each other, and the agents get to know the tastes of the various editors in a way you could never do unless you lived in that world. The agent funnels the book to the editor who would most likely want to read it, which is hugely important. Having said that, getting an agent isn’t even close to the first step, and at least for me, it came after years of solitary struggle.

I started writing seriously in the fall of 1989. I was really diligent. I didn’t know anything. I hadn’t taken writing classes in college or anything like that. I read all the time, but I had no idea how to do it. So, I just started writing. And for about three or four years I wandered around the country, worked menial jobs, lived in the worst places you can imagine, and wrote stories. Maybe I wrote fifty of them. They were terrible. No one wanted to read them. The last few, maybe, were a little better, but then I switched over and started to write novels before I really got the hang of the stories. It was an odd decision, but probably fortuitous, as I think most people are, at heart, either short story writers or novelists, and the chances of a novelist having an audience are perhaps slightly greater than that of a short story writer. Anyway, for some reason I thought I was a novelist, so I started writing novels. I wrote three of them in the early nineties. The first wasn’t terrible for a first novel. The second was not as good. The third was so awful I didn’t even type it up. At this point it was around 1995. I’d been writing everyday for six years with absolutely nothing to show for it except hundreds of worthless pages.

This was around the time I started to work as a medic and I started writing about my experiences on the ambulance. My fourth novel was that early version of Black Flies that I mentioned before and the fifth was Safelight, which I finished a draft of in 1998. I decided to concentrate on Safelight which I had to rewrite four times. The story stayed the same. But the way I told it, and the style, became more and more spare with each draft, which was probably appropriate for that story. Anyway, I think I finished that last draft in the spring of 2002, and I finally thought I’d been at least somewhat successful in entertaining, and that the novel said what I wanted it to say. I got an agent that summer and the book was sent out in the fall. I think it went out to about twenty publishing houses. Three editors showed real interest. Two were young editors and were both shot down by the marketing departments, who said (correctly) that the book wouldn’t sell.

The third editor was Dan Menaker, the head of Harper Collins. He made an offer. Then he also got into it with the head of marketing and after a battle was very reluctantly forced to withdraw his offer. I thought the hopes for the book were dead. But then a few months later Dan became editor in chief of Random House and one of the first things he did was renew the offer and buy my book. So, if Dan hadn’t gotten the job at Random House shortly after that brawl with his marketing department, who knows, Safelight might never have been published. It was lucky. It was a break for me. I feel really fortunate.

Basically, it’s a tough business, and everyone who’s succeeded does so with a combination of luck, resilience, and talent. But of those three, it seems the thing that’s most in one’s own control is resilience. Regardless of what happens, the only thing to do is to keep writing.


8. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers about their writing process or the publishing world?

I think my advice for aspiring writers is, like I said above, to keep writing. Do it everyday. Get comfortable with descriptions and dialogue and summary and the various pieces that make up a novel. Get comfortable with your style. And just start trying to do it. As for the publishing world, I think my number one rule would be you get one first shot, so use it wisely. But if it doesn’t work out, keep trying. It’s a tough racket. There’s no easy way into it. Everyone I know faces rejection more than acceptance, but you write and do what you can and sometimes there are little victories.

9. Are you currently working on other projects? Would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

I have drafts of three other novels. In general, I don’t like to talk that much about what I’m working on. It takes me a long time. The books evolve along the way. But I can say that one is a “high school book,” one is historical and takes place in the west, and one is a small drama about my time in New Orleans. I would say a general theme in most of my books is good versus evil, though manifested in different ways.

10. Finally, What are you currently reading? And do you prefer fiction, non-fiction, or poetry and why?

I just finished reading Henderson the Rain King. It’s a book I’ve read before and went back to. Bellow’s voice is so engaging that the reader would follow Henderson anywhere. A great book. I don’t know what I’ll read next. Maybe American Wife. Or maybe The White Tiger. Or maybe a long Russian novel called Life and Fate. In general, I definitely prefer fiction, though I like everything, particularly biographies and travel writing. I tend to read a lot on the subject I’m writing about, so I end up reading histories, scientific texts, whatever. Also, my wife writes poetry, so I read some of that, though I hardly have a wide knowledge of contemporary poetry. Basically, I like to read, and so I read a little bit of everything. I usually have seven or eight books along my bed.

About the Author:

Shannon Burke was born in Wilmette, Illinois and went to college at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He has published two novels, Safelight and Black Flies, and has been involved in various films, including work on the screenplay for the film Syriana. From the mid to late nineties he worked as a paramedic in Harlem for the New York City Fire Department. He now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Amy Billone and their two sons.

Check out his website, here.

Thank you, Shannon for taking the time to share with us these helpful insights. Good luck to you in your writing career. We look forward to your engaging novels yet to come.

***Want to win a copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke? I’ll send one lucky winner a copy of Black Flies. Here’s how to enter: (Remember, you must leave an email address in your comment or make sure there is another way for me to contact you to make your entries count!)

1. Leave a comment on this post about what you liked most about the interview for one entry.

2. Leave a comment on my review post for a second entry. (Those who have already commented do not need to comment again!)

3. Either blog about this contest on your own site and return here to leave me the link or email the contest details to five friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com for a third entry.

Deadline is November 5, 2008 at Midnight EST and is open internationally.

***Another giveaway from Savvy Verse & Wit. Win a copy of The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel! Go here, follow the rules, and enter.

Kindred Spirits by Marilyn Meredith, Interview & Giveaway

Thanks to Cheryl at Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Marilyn Meredith for sending this great mystery book, Kindred Spirits, my way. Keep reading to learn about the giveaway.

Kindred Spirits is part of the Tempe Crabtree Series, and Tempe is a deputy in Bear Creek, who is part Native American and married to a Christian minister Hutch Hutchinson. Her police counterparts in Dennison don’t seem to take her seriously, even though she takes care of business in Bear Creek and beyond.

The main case in this mystery is the death of Vanessa Ainsworth, formerly the wife of Acton Ainsworth, a major furniture shop owner and philanthropist. While a wildfire rages in Bear Creek, displacing many residents, Deputy Crabtree and firemen discover a body–Vanessa Ainsworth–after having contained much of the fire. Crabtree is on the case even when her legal counterparts push her to the sidelines. She’s quickly sent to speak with Vanessa’s family and friends in Crescent City, which is when the real twists and turns begin. You’ll meet some intriguing characters along the way, including my personal favorite, the trench coat, VW bus driving Lanny Hargrove.

The twists and turns in this novel will keep you guessing most of the way, but even if you figure out who the killer is before Tempe and the other detectives do, the way Meredith meshes in Tempe’s troubled marriage and her questions about her heritage will keep you interested. What worked best for me about this novel is the evolution of Hutch from the beginning to the end; he grows even more compassionate and grows to understand the importance of Tempe’s drive to find the truth. He also learns to open his heart to issues and situations he normally would disapprove of, fear, and dismiss. Tempe is easy to love and her drive to discover the truth is addicting.

I’d like to thank Marilyn Meredith for taking the time to answer a few questions about her writing process, and to thank Cheryl at Pump up Your Book Promotion for sending Kindred Spirits and putting me in contact with Marilyn Meredith. Without further ado, here’s Marilyn:

1. Was there a great deal of research involved in terms of the Tolowa and the other Indian tribes and the tinges of discrimination found in the novel?

The book came about because I met a Tolowa woman four years ago when I was giving a workshop at a writers conference in Crescent City. We spent a couple of hours together before a booksigning event held in the Gushu Galleria–a real place that’s in the book.

In merely a few minutes as she told me about herself, her life as an Indian, some of the history of the Tolowa and a few legends, I knew I had to write a book that included some of this information. My first thought was Tempe has to meet a woman like her.

I grew up in California and never heard anything about the Indians like I was hearing from her. However, I do live quite near our local reservation, have met quite a few Yokuts, and had researched their history so was well aware of the discrimination and prejudice the Indians have faced.

I also did more research about the Tolowa as I was writing, but Junie Mattice, the Tolowa woman in Crescent City was my major resource for Kindred Spirits.

2. What character do you most identify with and why?

I don’t identify with any of the characters in the way that you mean. As I’m writing, I get inside the head of whoever I’m writing about. I know Tempe Crabtree better than I know anyone in my family because I know how she thinks. Tempe Crabtree lives inside my head whether I’m writing about her or not.

I’ve lived for a long, long time, had many experiences–good and bad–and I do draw on them as well as the emotions that go along with them.

3. Could you explain the significance of your title, Kindred Spirits, in terms of the plot, characters, or themes in the novel?

Kindred Spirits just seemed to be the perfect title. Some titles reveal themselves almost immediately as this one did. I recognized Junie as a kindred spirit not long after we began talking to each other. We kept in contact via email through the years and I told her what I was writing and she answered questions I had. The book launch was held in Crescent City and she signed books right along with me. It was a special time for both of us.

In the book, Tempe realizes she is a kindred spirit to the two Tolowa women in the Crescent City part of the story. And then, I also thought of the ghost of the murdered woman as being another kindred spirit. There are several books with the same title, which I knew, but Kindred Spirits was definitely my only choice.

4. Do you have a set writing routine? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

When I am working on a book (which is nearly always) I try to work on it at least three or four hours a day–and mornings are best–unless I’m on a roll, then I might just keep plugging away.

5. Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?

Learn the writing craft by going to writers conferences, reading books on writing, reading the kind of books you hope to write, then write, write, write.

6. What are your favorite rewards for reaching your writing goals and why?

I always feel terrific once I’ve actually finished a book, had it edited and send it off to a publisher. Of course then it means I have to get busy on the promotion.

7. Are you working on any other projects, and if so would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

My next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery is scheduled to come out a year from now. It’s titled “Dispel the Mist.” Tempe has an encounter with the Hairy Man, who is similar to Big Foot. I loved writing that book.

Want to win a copy of the latest Tempe Crabtree novel, Wingbeat, which is a book about a hidden marijuana farm and the murder of a long lost granddaughter that keep Tempe busy, while her husband has troubles of his own–when the description of a man who exposes himself to school children sounds just like Hutch.

1. Leave a comment here about what you found most interesting about the book or the interview

2. Blog about the contest on your own blog or spread the word in another way and leave me a comment with a link to where you posted it.

If you don’t have a blog or another way for me to contact you, PLEASE leave an email address or you will not be counted for the contest. Thanks!

Deadline for the contest will be Oct. 22 at Midnight EST.

Also Reviewed By:

Bermudaonion

Douglas Abrams, Writing, & Don Juan


It is my pleasure to introduce my guest post and short interview with Douglas Abrams, the author of The Lost Diary of Don Juan, and he will talk about what inspired him to write the novel, what his daily writing routine consists of, and what he’s working on now. If you missed my review of The Lost Diary of Don Juan, go here.

Doug is currently making his rounds of the blogosphere on a virtual book tour, and you have probably already seen him on Paperback Writer and Review Your Book. He has tour dates selected for Booking Mama, Novel Menagerie, and Literarily, among others. Check out the other dates, here.

Without further ado, here’s Douglas Abrams:

One night I went to bed asking myself a question that I believe every married man or woman asks eventually: how could I stay happily and passionately married for the rest of my life?

The next morning I awoke as if I had been shaken. It was then that I first thought of Don Juan, the universal symbol of passion. I wondered what if he had kept a diary. What secrets would it contain? What could we learn from him about the nature of passion? And ultimately, what might cause the world’s greatest seducer to forsake all women for one woman? I left my wife’s warm sleeping body, walked past our three sleeping children, and sat down at the dining room table. It was as if a voice was whispering the story in my ear.

This is how I decided to write an historical diary exploring Don Juan’s life, his passionate relationships, and his eventual fall into the madness of love. I spent over four years reconstructing the world of 16th century Sevilla, including several trips to Seville itself. The book, which began as an inquiry into the nature of love and lust, took on a life of its own and led me on thrilling adventure into the rich and dangerous world of Golden Age Spain.

So what, you may ask, is the secret to lasting passion and devotion? In the novel, Don Juan finds his answer. I hope that within its pages you will find yours.

For a quick look at the book, check out his sample chapters.

Here’s my brief interview with Doug Abrams about his writing process.

Do you have a set writing routing? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I’m a whenever-I-can-steal-the-time writer, which means I write in the morning and at night, whenever I’m not juggling my three children, my other work as a literary agent, or the responsibilities and joys of marriage. What has really been a lifesaver is going away periodically on long writing retreats. The challenge with novels is that you are working with a very large canvas, sort of like an enormous Delacroix hanging in the Louvre, so it is essential for me to step out of daily routines to immerse myself in the fictional world.

Are you working on any other projects, and if so would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

Yes, I am currently finishing the second novel in my two-book contract. Although quite different, all of my novels will attempt to tell dramatic stories that also convey some of the ancient insights about how we can live on this planet with greater joy and wisdom. My next novel is a contemporary diary, an ecological thriller, and a mythic fiction about a love that is even more powerful than passionate love. I began with the question: can we survive as a species, and if so, how?

I want to thank Doug for taking time out of his busy schedule to write a guest post and answer a few questions about his writing process. I also would like to thank Zoe and Michelle for their help as well. If you haven’t read his book, you should grab a copy from a local bookstore, an online bookstore, or your local library.

The Magic Lasso of Jill Celeste

Day 2 of Writing in Metaphor and Imagery for Book Blogger Appreciation Week

As part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW), many of the participants were asked to interview a fellow blogger, and it was my honor to interview Jill of The Magic Lasso. (That’s her on the right after donating her hair.)

1. What prompted you to start a book blog?

One of my friends that I met through Library Thing has a book blog on LiveJournal. I liked how she could document her thoughts about her completed books. I often read books but don’t remember details, and more importantly, how I felt about the book once I was done. So, I followed her lead and started The Magic Lasso in May 2007.

2. How would you describe your blogging experience?

Therapeutic, intellectual, compelling and downright fun. When I look back at all of my posts, I sometimes can’t believe that I wrote this stuff. As I reread a review, such as my one for Middlesex, I can remember how angry I was that I wasted my time on a book that I didn’t like – and how therapeutic it was to bang out those mad feelings somewhere.

It’s also been interesting to “meet” other book bloggers. There are some wonderful people out there with book blogs. It’s my pleasure and honor to cross paths with them.

3. Can you describe your reading and review process? Do you have a specific routine or questions that you keep in mind while reading?

As an English Lit major, literary tropes and devices are engrained in my brain. When I read for pleasure, it’s understandable how my brain wants to dissect a book for literary criticism. For that reason, I try not to read with any design. Just read, enjoy and reflect.

When writing reviews, I typically have a standard format: book summary, my thoughts and then my recommendation. Most of my reviews are 3-5 paragraphs in length.

4. Do you find that the reading challenges you accept play too large a role in your book blogging?

In a way, I am a slave to reading challenges. They determine the order that I read books and put some pressure on my reading habits.

Next year, I need to commit to less reading challenges so I can enjoy non-challenge books without the guilt of reading a book that is not earmarked for a challenge.

5. What are your favorite things about blogging?

a.) Meeting other book bloggers
b.) Getting comments from people, including authors. I have received comments from Anne Rice, Alan Brennert, Chris Bohjalian, which was absolutely thrilling
c.) Participating in The Sunday Salon – a group of bloggers who blog every Sunday about what they’re reading
d.) Just the ability to write. I like to think of myself as a writer. I write at work but not in a creative way. My blog gives me an outlet to write something besides Web copy and ads.

6. Are there any features that you think are unique to your blog, such as challenges, giveaways, contests, etc.?

I have never hosted a contest or an official challenge. I did start Orange July, which was a personal challenge where I read books that have won or been nominated for the Orange Prize throughout the month of July. The idea caught on, and I think about 25 people participated with me. We’ll be repeating in January.

7. Do you find it difficult to juggle your blogging pursuits with motherhood and your other obligations?

No, in fact, I would argue that my reading and blogging hobbies make me a better mom because I have a hobby that’s my own. My kids are a bit older and self-sufficient, which helps.

8. How did you come up with the title of your blog and why or what does it signify?

I grew up watching Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. I was intrigued that a woman could be a superhero of equal strength as Superman or Batman. One of Wonder Woman’s weapons was The Magic Lasso. When someone was ensnarled in The Magic Lasso, they must tell the truth, could remember repressed memories and was protected from others.

My Magic Lasso is a place of truth. At least that’s always my goal.

(I used to love watching Wonder Woman myself, and I’ve even ordered Season 1 on DVD.)

9. Who are your favorite authors?

Margaret Atwood, Geraldine Brooks, Dan Brown, Sarah Dunant, Khaled Hosseini,, Margaret Mitchell, Anna Quindlen, Anne Rice, Mary Doria Russell, Diane Setterfield, Shel Silverstein, Nicholas Sparks, Anne Tyler and Markus Zusak

(Seems like Jill and I have similar tastes in authors; I also enjoy Zusak, Sparks, Brown, and Silverstein)

10. What are some of your hobbies and what need to they fulfill?

Being married with two sons; working a high-pressure, full-time job; driving long commutes – it doesn’t leave a lot of time for hobbies. Obviously, my biggest hobbies are reading and writing on my blog. That just leaves my vices, which are my favorite TV shows: Prison Break, Lost, American Idol and Survivor. I always make time for them!

(We may have more in common than I realized. My latest favorite television show is Prison Break, and this season is shaping up to be even more twisted than the last. And readers should know I have loved and LOST! LOL Ok, that joke was lame, but you get my point.)

11. Why did you join Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW)?

When I read about BBAW, I thought: “Well it’s about time!” Not only does it celebrate us as a community of like-minded people, it also recognizes our contributions to the book industry. How many of us heard about a book through a review on a book blog? If I was not a book blogger, I probably would never read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak or The Colour by Rose Tremain – and my reading is certainly more enriched because I’ve read both. I like to think that in some small way, I am influencing readers to select their next books too.

I know that many professional literary critics look down their noses at book bloggers. However, I would argue that we’re a force to be reckoned with. Just like those literary critics, I have a stack of ARCs directly from publishers that reinforces my point. Grassroots marketing can be powerful if used effectively. I am glad that many publishers see it that way too.

Thanks to My Friend Amy for hosting BBAW and special thanks to Serena for being my interview partner!

I also want to extend a thank you to My Friend Amy for hosting BBAW and to Jill for answering my questions.

***Today’s Contest: You can win 1 Copy of “A Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti by leaving a comment on this interview post and an additional entry by commenting on Jill’s Interview post or another of her blog posts and leave a comment here with the link to your comment.***

DEADLINE: Sept. 19, midnight EST.

Another friendly reminder about these contests:

1. Diary of an Eccentric is holding a contest for The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and The Choice by Nicholas Sparks Deadline is Sept. 30

2. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding a contest for Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg as the first contest for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Deadline is Sept. 19

3. Book Club Girl has a new contest today as well.

Please also double-check the list of giveaways that continues to grow at My Friend Amy’s blog.