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Welcome back, Ines Bautista Yao

Britbear’s Book Reviews is pleased to welcome back author Ines Bautista Yao, talking about her new book, Just a Little Bit of Love.

just a little bit of loveAbout Just a Little Bit of Love:

Three short stories about three young girls: Anita, Ina, and Carla. Each one finding their lives disrupted by a boy. Maybe it’s because he wanders into the coffee shop where she works after school every Tuesday. Maybe it’s because he won’t leave her alone even if she has made it clear that she is crushing on his football team-mate. Or maybe it’s because she’s spent one unforgettable afternoon with him—despite being oh-so-forgetful. Three small doses of love that serve up a whole lot of feels.

Buy Just a Little Bit of Love on Amazon.

Welcome back, Ines!

When we last spoke, it was about Only a Kiss. Tell me a bit about your latest release, Just a Little Bit of Love.

Hi, Elise! Thank you for having me again! 🙂 Just A Little Bit of Love is made up of three stories that are all set in the world of Only A Kiss. What I did was imagine who else could have possibly been in particular settings of the book.

In the first story, “Watching, Waiting”, I used a scene where my main characters were in a coffee shop. Naturally, there will be more people there with their own stories, their own problems, and their own hopeful endings.

The second one, “On The Sidelines”, is about a girl who is also obsessed with Ethan, the boy Katie, my main character in Only A Kiss had a huge crush on when she was a kid.

The last one, “Sticky Notes and Forgetfulness” is about a minor character who comes out in Only A Kiss too. I found her so adorable, I wanted to write more about her.

Both Only a Kiss and Just a Little Bit of Love are sweet romances. What do you like about writing in this genre? What draws you to the genre?

I love this genre! I love reading it and that’s probably why I love writing it.

Just a Little Bit of Love is a series of short stories about three girls. Are the stories connected or related?

They aren’t really related, but they happen in order. And I guess you can say the characters are all basically at the same point in their lives as each other, age-wise — if that makes any sense. The first one happens in high school, the second in college, and the third after college.

I love that as a way to organize your stories!

Your Goodreads bio says you used to be an editor for two magazines and that you currently work as an editor for Summit Books. How does writing compare to editing? Do you find your job as an editor helps you to write? Do you consult an editor prior to publishing?

I believe everyone needs an editor. If you say you don’t, you’re either too full of yourself or you have some magic power I wish I possessed haha! Even the best writers need feedback because they’re too close to their stories and to their words. Sometimes, when something makes sense to me but isn’t too clear to my editor/readers, then I know I have to change it. Because I’m an editor, I know how important it is to have my work edited and I never release something unless I have it edited first.

I prefer writing to editing because it is less technical and it’s more creative. Editing is work. But I enjoy it too. I learn a lot as I go and it also helps me when I write. I have a better idea of what works, what the best practices are, and what I should be mindful of.

Your bio also says you’ve been a teacher in the past. Were your students aware of your status as an author? How did they react when they found out? Have you ever mentored a student to help with his/her writing career?

I wrote and published my first book after I stopped teaching. But my former students are so supportive and so wonderful! They come to my launches, buy my books, and spread the word. It’s wonderful!

I help a lot of people with their writing. I guess it’s because I used to teach? So it comes naturally. When I find out friends have been wanting to write since forever, I encourage them till they finally do it. I love it when people finally realize their dreams!

My last question is a wild card. Choose a question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview. What is it? How would you answer it?

Why do you write?

I don’t think anyone has ever asked me this question. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t need to be asked, or because writers interview me so they too have the same feelings burning within.

I write because there’s something inside me that needs to be satisfied, sated, addressed, acknowledged. It’s not anything I can pinpoint, but it’s there. When I’m not writing, I don’t feel complete. But when I am, I feel more alive—like the world is more interesting, my life is more fun, and I am filled with an enthusiasm I never really knew before—or maybe I did when I was teaching.

But this is different. While writing, I’m lost in another world, yes, but at the same time, something happens to me. Maybe it’s because I’m creating something, maybe it’s because I’m finally doing what God created me to do. Whatever it is, writing makes me happy. That statement is so simple and I feel doesn’t fully capture the wonderment, the vividness, and plainly, how much more alive I feel when I’m doing it. And not just the act itself but while I’m writing something, I pay more attention to what’s happening around me, I’m constantly thinking of what will come next or how I will work a particular scene—I’m more engaged, not so lost, but oh so free.

Refresh our memory as to your social media, please.

| Instragram | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

About the author:

photo-2Ines Bautista-Yao is the author of One Crazy Summer, What’s in your Heart, and Only a Kiss. She has also written two short stories, “Flashbacks and Echoes,” which is part of a compilation called All This Wanting and “A Captured Dream,” one of the four short stories in Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival.

She is the former editor-in-chief of Candy and K-Zone magazines and a former high school and college English and Literature teacher. She is also a wife and mom and blogs about the many challenges and joys of motherhood at theeverydayprojectblog.com. She has recently launched The Author Project, a section in her current blog devoted to the stories in her head.

Welcome Christine Grey, author of “Breathe”

Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming Christine Grey, author of Breathe and the soon to be released Whisper, with an interview in today’s author spotlight.

From Amazon.com:

Breathe-Final Cover (1)Dearra comes into possession of the magical Sword of Cyrus just as the evil Breken attack her island home. Though her people succeed in driving their enemy back to the sea, one of the invaders remains behind, left for dead by his cruel kin. Now, Dearra doesn’t know what to be more surprised by, the fact that her sword can speak to her, or that it has imperiously informed her that the handsome Breken warrior is her destiny. The two are bound together by a chain of events that was set into motion a thousand years earlier, and everything they thought they knew about themselves, their history, and their future is about to change.

Buy Breathe by Christine Grey on Amazon.

Hi, Christine. Your genre is sort of young/new adult fantasy romance. What draws you to write in this genre? 

I think it’s that anything can happen. Nothing is out of bounds. I love that I can create whole new worlds for people, ones where they can experience and feel things that they can’t in the real world.

 I absolutely love your characters and the dynamics between them, especially the Carly/Daniel romance. Where did your characters (Dearra, Darius, Carly, Daniel, etc.) come from? What is your inspiration for them? 

That’s a great question! I wish I had a great answer. I never consciously decided to create characters to behave a certain way. As I wrote, their personalities came through.The story came to me in small pieces. I just sat down one day about eight years ago and started to type. Dearra is such a real and flawed heroine. She has so much love to give, and a spirit that just won’t quit, but she is headstrong and hot-tempered as well. It’s funny that you should comment on the romance between Carly and Daniel. When I was writing the story, I literally stopped typing, stared  at my keyboard, and shouted out loud, “No way!” That relationship was such a surprise to me. My husband and I still laugh about it.

Though I’ve only read Breathe and I’m partially through Whisper, you have impressed me with your overall vision for the series. Where did your story come from? How did you plan such an epic? Did you always know it would be a series?

As I mentioned earlier, the story came to me in pieces. The main piece has to do with Brin, Dearra’s sword. I can’t go into that too much, or I will spoil the story for folks. I would see the story in my head and try to write what I saw. Sometimes I would get it wrong, and go back and tear it apart again and again until the words matched the vision in my head. Originally, I saw the story as a three book series, but then the larger picture came together and I could see that the story was never going to be complete after the first three books. That is the impetus, but it will be the next generation of children that bring everything to its final resolution. Then, I see the seventh book as a stand alone about what came before. You will get to see the beginning of the story a thousand years earlier. 

 Seven books! Your vision amazes me again.

You are a very busy woman, as your Facebook posts attest. How do you find the time to write? What might an average day look like for you? 

I don’t think there is an average day. We have five children in the house and two grown children. Four of our kiddos are foster children that we are trying to adopt, so there are lots of therapy appointments, social workers, court dates, and on and on and on. We also have three dogs and two cats, you know, just so we don’t get bored. I write whenever I can get a minute to myself. My husband is amazing and takes on as much as he can to allow me time to work. Even with that, it’s not unusual to have children come looking for mom three or for times in one paragraph. I recently went part-time at work, and that has allowed me some hours during the day to dedicate to writing.

I can identify with that.

Speaking of writing time, describe your writing process. What do you do in the time you set aside for writing?

whisper coverMy music is a must! I have a pair of really good headphones that allow me to pipe in my mood music. Don’t laugh! There’s nothing like the sorrowful sound of bagpipes to write a funeral scene (not that I’m saying there are any in this book). I have been known to find a song that really brings out certain feelings and play it over and over while I work. I don’t usually tell people what I listen to because it is so personal, but I will break with tradition and share a little with you. I listen to Celtic Woman’s The Voice, Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire, Annie Lennox’s Into the West (wow, that one is sad), and anytime I write about the fairies in book two, I like The Mediaeval Baebes.

So eclectic! 

If you could pick a published author to be your mentor, who would s/he be and why?

There are many author’s that I love, but I don’t think I would ever choose just one to mentor me. I am part of an online Facebook group called Clean Indie Reads, and they are all my mentors. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new. I think choosing a single mentor, no matter how amazing, would be like choosing to listen to only one instrument from a symphony. Beautiful, sure, but there would be no depth.

Well said!

What kind of books do you like to read? Which books do you count among your favourites and why? 

I like fantasy and historical romance, but I can do without the heaving bosoms and ripping bodices. I read some of that because it’s mind candy, but I skip over the parts that I find off-putting. I enjoy some horror, but nothing too graphic.The Stand by Stephen King is wonderful. It is an epic battle between good and evil and incorporates God without beating you over the head with it. Watership Down by Richard Adams. I mean come on! Rabbits as the heroes!  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I always cry when Beth dies. A book that can make me feel something like that is high on my list. Definitely, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. He creates such complex characters, although, I find his battle scenes tedious.

How long have you been writing? Tell us about the moment you first knew you wanted to be a writer.

I started writing when I was a child. It was mostly poetry. My grandparents saved everything I wrote and proclaimed it all gold. Aren’t grandparents wonderful? I tried to write a book about ten years ago. It was one of those bodice-ripping romances, and it was horrendous. I think I burned it. When I started this book eight years ago, I had no idea where it would lead, I just knew I had to write it.

What’s next for Christine Grey, author? Tell us a bit about your next project.

As you know, Whisper is in editing, and I am very excited to get that ready for distribution. I hope to have it available in February or March. I am currently writing Echo, which is the third book in the series. Book four has already started poking me as well, and I have been taking copious notes in anticipation of that project.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview but weren’t asked here? Please ask and answer the question for your readers.

Do you have a favorite quote that means something special to you as a writer?

This quote sums everything up for me, and I can’t wait to see where the road takes me next!

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

About the author:

BookChristine Grey lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Dan, and their seven children, three dogs, and two cats. With a family like that, she knows how important it is to escape from reality from time to time! She and her husband have grown their family through foster care adoption and are advocates for helping children find the permanency and support they all deserve. When she isn’t busy chasing children, running a household, or savoring a hot cup of tea, Christine spends her free time creating worlds of magic, romance, and humor.

Here’s how readers can learn more about Christine and her work.

| Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Email | 

Author Interview with Lisa Bilbrey

Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming author Lisa Bilbrey in an interview about her writing, her books, and her writing process.

AH cover final (1)Hi, Lisa, and welcome to Britbear’s Book Reviews.

When preparing this interview, my research took me to your Goodreads page which lists your genres as romance, young adult, science fiction and fantasy. Which of these is your favourite genre to write in and why?

I don’t see myself as someone who writes multiple genres, even though I do. I simply write the story as I feel it should be told. All of my books have the basis of love overcoming all obstacles. I’m a believer in the power of love, but if I had to pick outside of romance, I would say I love Contemporary Adult books the best.

Your website displays a badge for your status as a 2014 NaNoWriMo winner. Which novel did you work on that year? What did you learn about the writing process by participating?

I actually [worked] on two different books during NaNoWriMo. The first was Forgotten Awakenings, and the second was a new series I’m working on called The Deck of Cards Killer: A Zoe Mack novel. I struggled with both, but somehow managed to snag my 50,000 words. For me, the most important part of NaNoWRiMo is just to keep writing. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it’s most likely not going to be good, but just to sit down every day and write something. Editing comes after the end of the month.

 Great advice for all writers, Lisa, whether or not the participate in the contest. ASeasonOfChangeNewCover

Your bio says you spend much of your “time trying to improve as a storyteller.” What are some of the techniques you employ in this quest?

Well, I’m one of those authors who loves edits. I love getting a MS back that has been marked with red ink because I always learn something I didn’t know. For me, I find that so helpful in my future writing. When I was a young girl, I really struggled in school. I have a learning disorder and often felt I was too stupid to be able to write, but I always had a story inside of me. So, I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and started writing. And it was bad. Like really, really bad. There were simple spelling errors, punctuation errors, [and] plot holes the size of Texas, but I learned from my mistakes, and it’s made me a better writer. I still have a lot to learn, too. I hope I always will because it pushes me to work harder at my craft.

I think you may have already alluded to the answer to this question, but when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know that I ever sat down one say and said I want to be a writer. I’ve always had stories inside my head. I’d lay in bed and let them play out, or I’d be driving and think of the different plot ideas. One night, I had trouble sleeping, so I grabbed my laptop and started one. At first, it was just for fun. I didn’t really think it would lead to anything, but then I found myself with fifty stories written, or at least started, and I found that I couldn’t stop writing. Most of these were badly written Fanfiction, so then I started writing Angel’s Heart: The Keeper. I had half of it written when I pushed it aside and wrote Life’s Unexpected Gifts, which was my first novella. I fell even more in love with the idea of writing.

journey_collection_frontTalk a bit about your writing process. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I used to be a [pantser], but I’ve found over the last couple years that I write better with an outline. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just the basic ideas for each chapter. I also have to have noise when I’m writing. Whether it’s my children, the television, or my music blasting, I cannot write when it is quiet.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively since your first novel?

I think my books have gotten deeper, more emotionally charged. I think as I’ve continued to perfect my craft, I’ve gotten better at writing the details that need to be included, while omitting the ones that don’t.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books and why?

I can read either, but I will always prefer paperbacks/hard copies. There is just something about the way they feel in my hands, turning each page that makes it so much better.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

Honestly, I’d love to have written Harry Potter. The way J.K. Rowling wove all seven books together is masterful.

You have self-published through Amazon. The world of publishing has drastically changed LUG2over the past decade, with the advent of print-on-demand services, such as Amazon’s Digital Service. Where do you see publishing going in the future?

Well, I originally published out of a small publishing house that I co-owned, so I was able to learn the process from the ground up. When I made the decision to sever my ties from the house, I knew that I wanted to be able to fully control my books. I think there are good things, and horrible things, about self-publishing. Too many people take the easy way out by not having their books properly edited and formatted. But I think Amazon has opened a lot of doors for authors who would otherwise never get the chance to see their books in the hands of readers. I see big publishing houses having to change the way they do things in order to compete with the smaller houses that offer authors more control of their work.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t asked so far?

I can’t really think of anything. Just that all of my books are written from my heart.

Thanks for that amazing interview, Lisa.

Here’s where readers can discover more about Lisa Bilbrey and her work. 

| Blog | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads |



 About Lisa Bilbrey (from GoodReads):

Obsessive, compulsive, slightly crazed, but enough about her personality. First and foremost, Lisa Bilbrey is a mom to three and a wife to one. She loves to write, and spends the majority of everyday writing. It’s who she is, and what she’s meant to be doing. Words are her life, the air she breathes, and the nutrients of her soul.

Finding a love in the written word, Lisa Bilbrey started writing as a way to express herself and let her voice be heard. From the first word she wrote, she’d found her heart and soul.Always willing to learn, she’s spends much of her time trying to improve as a storyteller.


Interview with Author James Gordon

Join me in welcoming James Gordon (better known as G.P.A., the Greatest Poet Alive) as I interview him in today’s author spotlight.

bobos book cover nowDescription from Amazon:

Sometimes a weekend can seem like a lifetime to a growing child. He may experience like, fear, anticipation, and other emotions without smooth transition or even realizing it. This is the life of Bobo, a fifth grader, who loves his family, the Superfriends, and chocolate milk. As he introduces himself, get to know him, and you will absolutely love him!!

Buy Hi, My Name is Bobo on Amazon.


I confess: I did a bit of web surfing to learn about James prior to conducting this interview and was impressed at what I found. The first question I asked him was: Children’s literature, poetry, music, acting…your talents are diverse. Do you have a favourite? Why did you pick that particular one?

I thoroughly enjoy storytelling. Despite time limits here and there or judging, there’s nothing like it. I say this because all of stories are typically true, so i don’t have to do much creating.

You are also known as G.P.A. – Greatest Poet Alive. How did that name come about?

I was supposed to perform at a wedding, and I left the poem somewhere. I did the poem off the top of my head and nailed it. Jokingly, i said to my brother,”I’m the Greatest Poet Alive.” My brother said,”Use that.“ Years later, i did, and it has stuck.

That’s a great story. How did the idea for Hi, My Name is Bobo (A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader) come about?

A friend of mine challenged me to write a book for his young children. Plus, Bobo is what my Grandma used to call me, and since the book, people call me now.

You have 62 reviews on Goodreads; that’s quite impressive. Can you share a quote from your favourite review of this book?

From Christine Adrigo “… Life can get so chaotic when you grow up, and reading this with my daughter not only gave us both enjoyable evenings together, but it was a perfect read during the Christmas season, bringing me back home. We still watch cartoons together and play board games and there’s always lots of chocolate milk around.” And I didn’t know Bobo had that many on Goodreads. I always go to Amazon.

I’m still impressed.

Your website has a performance schedule page. What might we expect from one of your performances?

I give my performances everything and something more. You will see how passionate I am about what I’m saying. From the words to the motions, you see why I’m the best in the business.

When did you first know you wanted to become an author?

August 2007

What authors and their works are your favourites. How did they influence your writing?

Nikki Giovanni, and I say her because she’s a poet like me. I really dug Ego Trippin and her latest novel Chasing Utopia. The coming of age tale in The Catcher in the Rye has stayed with me since i read it in the 8th  grade. Brian W. Smith is an author who takes painstaking time to make sure every detail is accurate. And a gentleman who is constant grind is Charles Burgess, so I do my best to constantly grind.

Does Bobo have an underlying theme, message or moral?

Basically, Bobo is more the introduction of a character and his life. But you see the wholesomeness that is missing in our society, especially in the African American community.

I googled you and learned quite a bit about you. In your opinion, what role do you think social media plays in building an author (or performer’s) platform?

Wow, that’s awesome.  If used often and wisely, social networks can aid an author and performer’s reach to consumers, and supporters that he or she might never have. I am a clear example of this.

Is there anything else you’d like for your readers to know about James Gordon and Hi, My Name is Bobo (A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader)?

James Gordon bka G.P.A.(Greatest Poet Alive) is one of the most electrifying and hardworking individuals as an author, poet, actor, storyteller, or host. You will not be disappointed supporting him in any of his ventures, Hi, My Name is Bobo is just the beginning. Summer with Bobo is next.

Here’s where readers discover more about G.P.A. and his work:

| Website | Facebook (Bobo) | Facebook (G.P.A.) | Twitter | Pinterest |

| Amazon Author Page | Goodreads Reverbnation |

 james gordonJames Gordon bka G.P.A.(Greatest Poet Alive) is an award winning Poet and author, as well as a champion storyteller. He hails from the beautiful city of Chicago. When he isn’t using his pen or voice, James can be seen on Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Sirens. He can be followed on Twitter via gr8estpoetalive and his website www.iblowyourmind.net.

Meet Wayne Zurl, Author of “A New Prospect”

Britbear’s Book Reviews is pleased to welcome fellow Black Rose Writer Wayne Zurl to this week’s author spotlight. Wayne is the author of A New Prospect. His guest blog post, Real Cops vs. Hollywood was featured in a 25 Jan 15 post.

New Prospect cover..2 badgesA New Prospect synopsis From Amazon:

Sam Jenkins never thought about being a fish out of water during the twenty years he spent solving crimes in New York. But things change, and after retiring to Tennessee, he gets that feeling. Jenkins becomes a cop again and is thrown headlong into a murder investigation and a steaming kettle of fish, down-home style. The victim, Cecil Lovejoy, couldn’t have deserved it more. His death was the inexorable result of years misspent and appears to be no great loss, except the prime suspect is Sam’s personal friend. Jenkins’ abilities are attacked when Lovejoy’s influential widow urges politicians to reassign the case to state investigators. Feeling like “a pork chop at a bar mitzvah” in his new workplace, Sam suspects something isn’t kosher when the family tries to force him out of the picture. In true Jenkins style, Sam turns common police practice on its ear to insure an innocent man doesn’t fall prey to an imperfect system and the guilty party receives appropriate justice. A NEW PROSPECT takes the reader through a New South resolutely clinging to its past and traditional way of keeping family business strictly within the family.

In putting together the questions for this interview, I noticed that your Amazon page shows you’re quite prolific. How long does it take for you to write each of your novels?

A full-length novel can take about me three to four months to make it ready for presentation to an editor. Of course that requires a fair diligence on my part: no major interruptions, holidays, travel plans, and no one inviting me to go on a fishing expedition. The novelettes (which had an 11,000 word ceiling) took from 2 to 4 weeks under the same conditions.

That’s quite impressive. The key must in your writing process?  Is there anything about it that makes your process particularly efficient?

For a guy who spent much of his adult life in military and paramilitary organizations, I’m not terribly structured or disciplined as a writer. And I’ll admit my writing process isn’t, by modern standards, very efficient. If I had my choice, I’d start early in the morning and continue until I experienced that old burned-out feeling, but with other commitments, that’s not always possible. My inefficiency comes from doing things the old-fashioned way—writing everything longhand on a legal pad. My wife is rather good on a keyboard, but since my handwriting isn’t the most legible, and I would prefer that we remain friends and stay married, I transpose everything to a Word document myself.

I hate to outline, so after roughing out a story, I’ll go back and “flesh out” the details, descriptions or anything which lacks the necessary lustre. Sometimes it takes two or three times to satisfy me. Then I’ll read it again and look for the nits and typos I haven’t seen before.

With all that completed, I’ll follow the advice I give others and attempt to get an even better product. I learned this from Robert B. Parker and from my experience with writing novelettes which were all destined to be produced as audio books. An interviewer once asked Parker why his books were so popular. He said because they sounded good. That might seem overly simple, but I knew what he meant and try to make mine sound good, too. When I think I’m finished, I isolate myself and read the book aloud with the same slow pace a professional reader/actor would use for an audio book. If something “bumps,” I smooth it out. I make sure all the sentences have the correct number of syllables; the paragraphs flow from one to the next. Basically, I want this thing to sing to me. For a guy who can’t dance very well, I pay a lot of attention to rhythm. Of course, after reading anything I write so many times, I hate the sight of it and can’t wait to pass it off to a proof-reader or editor.

Still impressed at your stamina.

Your bio says you were a police officer, soldier, and data processor. How does your work experience influence your writing subject?

Let’s toss out data processing first. When I worked on computers, they were seven feet tall. Discs were eighteen inches across and were accessed with a swinging arm like a record player. We programmed them by writing out commands on a worksheet which were turned into punch cards. Today I’m only a step above clueless when it comes to the modern PC. My experience is absolutely no help unless I wrote about an IBM museum.

My police career in New York provides all the basic storylines for what I write. I use cases I investigated, supervised or just knew a lot about. Sometimes I composite two or more incidents to make things more interesting. My imagination comes into play by figuring out a way to transplant them to Tennessee where I have my retired New York detective working a second career as a police chief.

My main character, Sam Jenkins, shares a few similarities with me—we’re former cops and Vietnam War veterans. Twenty years of seeing the best and more often the worst side of humanity through the eyes of a policeman changes anyone’s personality. And no one goes to war and comes home unaffected. All the little things that affected me often manifest themselves in Sam’s life.

Now I’m impressed at your creativity.

Out of all of your books, which are you most proud of and why?

A New Prospect was my first and the one I struggled with most as a novice fiction writer. When I held what I thought was a completed mystery novel, I hired a book doctor to evaluate the manuscript. He gave me good news and bad news. The good: he liked the Sam Jenkins character, the basic premise of the story and thoughts of a series, and my writing voice. His bomb: “This would have been a hit in 1985, but it doesn’t fit the formula publishers want in 2006.” My reaction: “Ugh!”

With that information and several suggestions from him, I jumped through hoops to restructure the entire novel—minimize the setup, bury the back-story, change the passive verbiage, and get the murder closer to the opening. That accomplished and with the doctors blessing, I took my now completed manuscript and began peddling it to agents. I received so many rejections, most of which came from people who hadn’t read one page of my story, I considered changing my deodorant. Then one of the few rejections that contained more than a terse form letter said, “A sixty-year-old retired New York cop who becomes a Tennessee police chief just isn’t trendy. Consider changing him to a young vampire private investigator from Orange County who fights crime in a vigilante, Batman-like way and we might have something.”

I revised my thinking, abandoned my thoughts of finding an agent, and looked for royalty-paying publishers who would accept submissions directly from a writer.

My pride comes from A New Prospect winning Eric Hoffer and Indy book awards and being named as a finalist in two others. A year after publication I wanted to send “Oh yeah?” letters to all the agents I queried. But that would have been unprofessional.

Most of what you experienced is par for the course, I’m afraid. That’s why so many of us turn to self-publishing.

A New Prospect, the novel you’ve asked me to review, introduces your Sam Jenkins character. How much of you went into creating Sam?

Nothing I’ve written is an autobiographical sketch or true crime story. As I mentioned in question 3, I use my old cases to formulate stories which end up fictionalized and embellished. And I write with a lot of dialogue, so to make my life easier, I gave Sam lots of my personality. If I would say or do something in a given police situation, so would he. Police work involves lots of thinking, lots of instinct—that with which some people are born and that which you develop with experience. My protagonist needed that instinct and I could cash in on the old author’s maxim of write what you know. That’s one reason I write in the first person. The emotions I remember can be transferred and come out in Sam’s speech.

My wife says the other reason is that at my age my short term memory can’t keep track of whose point of view I’m dealing with. But what does she know?

What is it about Sam Jenkins that keeps you writing about him? What about him keeps your readers reading his story?

Sam and I are in it for the long haul. Anyone who worked in a busy police department retires with oodles of war stories, so I’ll keep writing until I run out of ideas for new adventures. And I believe that it’s more than just Sam Jenkins’ character that makes people like these stories. Sure, he does things that many law-abiding civilians would love to do and they can feel a vicarious thrill when he pulls off some unconventional piece of magic, but it goes a bit beyond that. He’s fairly obsessed with his public image and that of his police department. Professionalism is all important. And his Sir Galahad complex requires him to always do the right thing. He’s by no means perfect, that would be boring. But when the chips are down, he pursues the bad guy, cuts corners, knows how to keep himself and the city of Prospect out of trouble, and feels absolutely no obligation to pander to the local politicians. Readers like his irreverent attitude toward the system. Every once in a while he just has to arrest a politicians son, or even a member of the county commission. Things like that keep life at Prospect PD interesting.

Some readers find him likable, even personable. But he could never do the job alone. He needs a good support system within the ranks, and even from several people with whom he has a good professional relationship, specifically, an FBI agent who’s also from New York, and a beautiful TV reporter who holds a special place in her life for him.

Cops are in the people business. It was always the oddballs, colorful miscreants, and otherwise quirky characters I met that made the job worthwhile. I try to litter the pages with people my readers will remember. They may love them or hate them, but I hope they see them as unique and never forget them. Sam is basically a conduit connecting the heroes and weirdoes to the reader. And unlike many of the current crop of police procedural writers I’m compelled to interject some humor into every story no matter how horrendous or serious. That’s authentic to a cop’s life. Without humor (often black humor) a detective would be swapping his Harris tweeds for a straight jacket.

Can you recall how your interest in writing first originated?

Police officers are always writing something. Narrative repots make a department go around, so I always had practice in a technical sense. Although a few defense attorneys called my prosecution worksheets sheer fantasy. When I retired, I volunteered at a Tennessee State Park and wrote publicity for their living history program. That led me to having twenty-six non-fiction magazine articles published. I thought it was cool to get paid for writing. After ten years of non-fiction and being unable to dream up anything new and exciting to say about the 18th century French & Indian War in Tennessee, I handed the torch to someone else and decided to attempt writing fiction.

I toyed with the idea of a Vietnam War novel or something in historical fiction, but settled on cop stories. But someday I still may do a western.

You have so much practical experience. Do you ever have to do any research for a story? If so, how much? What topics did you find most interesting?

I do very little research. Sam Jenkins is what we in the police business call a dinosaur. He does his thing the old way, with methods learned in the 1970s, and to him, proven in the field. When I need up-to-date information about forensic or scientific practices, I call a friend who’s a crime scene investigator for the local county sheriff. Occasionally, I need historical background on a venue mentioned in a story and I use the internet. Last year I had a novelette published called The Sawn Tattoo, which dealt with Malaysian organized crime in the southeast United States. Learning about the ethnic Chinese who immigrated to Sarawak in the early 20th century and reading the history of the crime families or triads who operated in Malaysia and now have satellite organizations in the U.S. was extremely interesting. You never know who you might be dealing with when you eat at one of those Asian buffets.

Do you ever experience writer’s block and if so, what’s your cure for it?

My version of writer’s block often comes when I need a clever way to embellish a real case. Not all police work is a thrill a minute or contains the conflict and tension publishers demand. If I can’t formulate a plausible chunk of fiction to integrate with my reality, I uncork a better than average bottle of wine, grab two glasses, and ask my wife. She’s a big help at times.

What’s the one question you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How might you answer that question?

That’s the toughest question so far. But how about this: Do you believe your portrayal of the operations of a small police department and more importantly the interaction and relationships of the police personnel is realistic?

Remember those hoops I mentioned previously? I jumped through those to please a publisher and get my foot in the door. Getting the details and technicalities correct is for me and all the cops and ex-cops who might read something I write. I’d be embarrassed and feel terrible if another retired cop said, “That’s BS. You couldn’t do that.”

Everyone who writes asks for a reader’s suspension of disbelief at some point. And sometimes those in the mystery business have his or her protagonist take risks no good cop should take. Sometimes they do procedural things that might make a reader grit their teeth and say, “Sam (or Philip Marlow, or Jim Rockford) is a good detective. He should know better.” Occasionally, Sam allows his big mouth to cause seemingly irreparable conflict with the politicos and a reader might observe, “Jeez, doesn’t he know how much trouble he could get into?” Those things are done to create the tension both readers and publishers enjoy.

But let’s deal with what gives the sub-genre its name: police procedure. If you get the details right, you make your bones and can skate through a few requests for a suspension of disbelief. I try hard to not only show the correct way to do it, but in a roundabout way, explain why cops do things in a certain manner.

The second part of the question delves into a philosophy of management, supervision, and interpersonal relationships. As in the military, police line organizations tend to be more formal within the chain of command. But Prospect PD doesn’t have 3000 sworn members like the place where I used to work. And Sam Jenkins spent most of his career working in small units where the rank structure and relationships were more relaxed. Prospect PD has a chief, two sergeants, ten patrolmen, and in recent books, a civilian operations aide. So, Sam operates his department on a first name basis. Everyone seems to like that and the troops still call him boss most of the time.

He believes in the premise that management pays his salary and assigns him certain tasks, but he owes his troops more than he owes the mayor. Without them, no mission could ever be accomplished. If a cop gets called on the carpet from outside the PD, Sam has their back and fights for their preservation. A boss who worries more about promotion and where he wants to go next will probably never gain the respect of his workers nor will he see the above average productivity from his cops which creates a truly superior unit. Sam believes that everyone should strive to be the best (fill in a job title of your choice) possible so they can look in the mirror and be pleased with who’s looking back at them.

Police work is not always, but can be a dangerous business. If you don’t look out for your brothers and sisters, you’re not looking out for yourself. This is true to life.


That seems to be the end of the line. Thanks for inviting me to your blog to answer these questions,provide your fans and followers with a short essay on real police work versus Hollywood’s version, and for offering to review my book, A New Prospect.

The pleasure was all mine, Wayne. I learned so much from your post and now your interview, and I can’t wait to read A New Prospect.

Here’s how you can learn more about Wayne and his work:How can readers discover more about you and you work?

| Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Google Plus | Amazon Author Page |

| Barnes and Noble Author Page | Mind Wings Audio Author Page |

| Independent Author Network Page |

WZ  photo Deadwood, SDAbout the Author:

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Twenty (20) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been published as eBooks and many produced as audio books. Ten (10) of these novelettes are available in print under the titles: A Murder in Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries andReenacting a Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl has won Eric Hoffer and Indie Book Awards, and was named a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His full-length novels are: A new Prospect, A Leprechaun’s Lament, Heroes & Lovers and Pigeon River Blues. They are available in print and various eBook formats.

Look for the all New from New York to the Smokies, an anthology of 5 never before published Sam Jenkins mysteries. Coming in April 2015.

“Beggar Magic” by Heidi Lyn Burke – Author Interview

BEGGARMAGIC - H. L. BurkeIn Beggar Magic, a YA/Steampunk Fantasy, Gelia City, magic is music: a constant ever-changing melody known as the Strains. Hereditary ability to use the Strains divides the city into two classes: the wealthy Highmost, who can access the full potential of the Strains, and the Common tradesmen, who are limited to mundane spells, known as beggar magic.

With the help of the Strains, Common teen Leilani rescues and befriends a gifted Highmost girl, Zebedy. The girls’ friendship opens Leilani’s eyes to the world of the Highmost. She’s intrigued by Zeb’s close relationship with the Strains, and longs to know them as she does. Zeb, in turn, comes to depend on Leilani’s strength and intelligence, making them an inseparable team, ready to take on anything with the Strains at their back.

As their unlikely friendship strengthens and endures, Zeb draws Leilani further into the Highmosts’ intrigues. Beneath the polished, academic façade of the Highmost manors lurks a threat to the Strains. An unknown force consumes their music, leaving only heart-rending silence behind.

Leilani and Zeb will do anything to save their beloved Strains, but as the silence grows, they face danger their previously sheltered lives could never prepare them for. Whoever is behind the death of the Strains is willing to kill to keep their secret safe. To preserve the Strains, the girls may have to sacrifice their friendship, or even their lives.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Heidi Lyn Burke about Beggar Magic and her writing process.

Is there a message in Beggar Magic that you want readers to grasp?

There are a couple, but I think the most important is that being hard working and persistent is more important than being gifted or special. My main character, Leilani, has normal abilities and her best friend is considered gifted, bridging on genius, by their culture’s standards. However, when the world falls apart, Leilani is the one who holds it together, not because of who she is but because of what she does.

There are also important points about not taking people at face value and loving them in spite of differences and difficulties. Mostly it is a book about friendship.

You describe Beggar Magic as a YA Steampunk Fantasy. What is it that draws you to write in these genres?

Fantasy lets me play around with things. It lets me explore possibilities, and I’m a big believer in possibilities. I like fluidity and I like to explore. Steampunk is more a setting than a genre, and that actually came out of playing a lot of Myst when I was thinking up the concept for the book. (Myst is a classic computer puzzle/adventure game with a really immersive world). The aesthetic for those games, being so gorgeous, made me want to play around with something similar, plus I like the mix between technology/hard science and magic/mysticism.

I remember Myst – you’re right about the beautiful aesthetic. Did you do much research while writing Beggar Magic? If so, tell us a few interesting things you learned.

Most of the world of Beggar Magic is made up, but I did have sort of a hot button issue that I knew could be sensitive for some people, in that an important character is deaf. I did do research on this and tried to find beta readers who were either deaf/hearing impaired themselves or had worked with deaf students. I was surprised at how controversial certain things like lipreading were. Even after all my consulting, I’m still afraid I will offend someone somewhere because the community does seem to be divided on some issues. One person simply didn’t like the “mixed” relationship I had between a deaf man and a hearing woman, for instance, which was essential to my plot. I had no idea that would be a problem for anyone, but for at least one beta reader it was.

Really interesting perspective. Give us more insight into the main character(s) in Beggar Magic. What does he/she/they do that makes them stand out in a crowd?

To some extent, Leilani is special because she isn’t special in the eyes of her community. She’s just another “common” girl. No one thinks of her as a threat or an asset because she can’t use highmost magic. However, when the magical system of the world, called the Strains, comes under attack, it is Leilani who has the courage to do something about it.

Of all the novels you’ve written, what is your favourite and why?

It is always the latest one that springs to mind. While I love all my projects (at least the ones I manage to finish. There are some unfinished pieces I’ll never look at again), I tend to finish them up and think about the next piece. However, if I had to pick, it would be Dragon’s Bride, the fourth book in my The Dragon and the Scholar Saga  because I love the ending I made for those characters. I had been with them for four books, so the ending had to be perfect, and I found something that still makes me happy when I think about it (I can’t say what because it would be a spoiler).

What about other writers and/or novels? Which are your favourites and why?

My big three are Tolkien, Dostoevsky, and DiCamillo. They’re just the three I find the most masterful in different ways: Tolkien for the scope and majesty and characters you want to live up to; Dostoevsky because he had this way of taking miserable, wretched real people and turning their lives into works of art, scraping out these huge truths at the same time; and DiCamillo because she always tells a heartfelt story in a simple way.

Those are tough acts to follow. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively since the writing of your first novel?

I’m not sure which to count as my first novel. I’ve been doing this for a long time in one way or another, so if you count the “never to be published” things I wrote when I was in high school, then yeah, in leaps and bounds. I do find I learn a little more with each book, though. For instance, my world building went up several notches between The Dragon and the Scholar Saga which is based in sort of a default fairy tale earth, and Beggar Magic which has an elaborate magical system and society.

Marketing books is tough these days. Do you think that giving books away free as works as a marketing tactic? Why or why not?

I have mixed feelings about it. I find a lot of people grab every free book they see but end up with a huge pile they never actually read. The first few times I did free promotions, I didn’t see reviews out of it and since I didn’t have a portfolio of other pieces to sell, there weren’t any sales from it. However, now that I have a full series available, I plan to put the first book in the series up free. If people like it, they’ll continue on through the remaining three books.

I also think targeted giveaways, to people who are excited about your book and intend to read it, can work to get people talking about your books.

I recently published an article about the significance of character names in literature. How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose character names in your books?

I’m lousy at names. I joke that I look around the room until I see an object and then twist that into a name like Chair . . . lamp. . .desk. . .Charlamdesk . . Chairla! It’s almost that bad. I have a character in my next book named Ketyl because the first thing that caught my eye was the kettle bell I’d been working out with. Sometimes, though, a name will have special meaning, like Zebedy’s last name is Brightly because I want people to get a sunny, effervescent feeling when they think of her, and Brick is strong and dependable, solid as a brick, if you will. With my main character, Leilani, though, I couldn’t come up with a name that fit her. I ended up giving away the right to name her on my blog, so she’s named after a reader’s daughter.

That’s an ingenious marketing tactic!

Moving forward, what are you working on now? What is your next project?

I try to have one piece I’m editing and one piece I’m writing at all times. I’m on late drafts of a middle grade chapter book called Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon, which I wrote for my six-year-old daughter. It’s about a pampered palace kitten who finds himself at the wrong end of a wizard’s spell and has to fight his way back to his beloved princess. However, I’m also about half way through with an epic fantasy with the working title of Lands of Ash, which is the longest most sprawling thing I’ve worked on since I was a teenager. It is a story of survival. The human world is struggling after a prolonged war with a race of fire Elementals. My characters are all a little bit desperate but determined to make what they can out of a ruined world. They’re dealing with the aftermath of lost loved ones as well as lack of resources and the threat of another Elemental invasion.

Thank you so much for sharing your work with us. How can readers discover more about you and your writing?

| Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page |

Goodreads | TSU |

Buy Beggar Magic and Dragon’s Curse on Amazon.

heidi lyn burke imageBorn in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

She is the author of a four part fantasy/romance series entitled The Scholar and the Dragon, featuring the books Dragon’s Curse, Dragon’s Debt, Dragon’s Rival, and Dragon’s Bride as well as the YA/Fantasy Beggar Magic. Her current projects are children’s chapter book and an epic fantasy trilogy.

Sign up for her monthly newsletter at www.hlburkeauthor.com

Author Interview with James DiBenedetto

Today’s Indie Lights Book Parade author is and interview by James DiBenedetto.

jamed debenedetto book 1From the Amazon description:

In Dream Student, college junior Sara Barnes thought her life was totally under control. All she had to worry about was her final exams, Christmas shopping, applying to medical school – and what to do about the cute freshman in the next dorm with a crush on her. Everything was going according to plan, until the night she started seeing other people’s dreams.

It’s bad enough that Sara is learning more than she ever needed to know about her friends and classmates, watching their most secret fantasies whether she wants to or not. Much worse are the other dreams, the ones she sees nearly every night, featuring a strange, terrifying man who commits unspeakable crimes. Now Sara wonders if she’s the only witness to a serial killer – and the only one who knows when and where he’s going to strike next.

Dream Student is the first book of the Dream Series.

Welcome to Britbear’s Book Reviews, James. Tell us what inspired you to write your first book?

DREAM STUDENT came from asking a simple question.  Why, in most mystery stories, do average people try to solve a crime or catch a killer themselves, when most normal people would do the sane thing and just call the police?

I tried to come up with an answer, and what I thought of was: maybe they wouldn’t go to the police if the only evidence was in their heads.  If they saw the crime through the eyes of the killer, and that was the only proof they had.  If they saw it in the dreams of the killer.  So there was the idea: if you could see someone else’s dreams, and that person was committing crimes, what could you do about it?  You’d have no physical proof, the police would never believe you.  You’d have to start investigating yourself, if you wanted to stop them.

Sara, the main character of DREAM STUDENT, came into being along with that idea, and so did the college setting of the book.

Very Eyes of Laura Mars! Are the experiences in your book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The actual story of DREAM STUDENT (and the rest of the Dream Series) is not based on real people or events, but the background settings and some of the minor characters definitely are.  In DREAM STUDENT, Sara attends a (very thinly) fictionalized version of my college; the apartment building she lives in in book four, DREAM FAMILY, is basically the building I lived in when I moved down to Washington, DC, and so forth.

What book are you reading now?

I’m finishing my yearly re-read of my favorite novel ever, Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin.

What projects are you working on currently?

I’m working on the latest book in the Dream Series.  This is the ninth book, and it’s called SHATTERED DREAM.  I hope to have it released by the end of April.

Best of luck with it. Back to Dream Student. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Absolutely.  Every time I read my work over, I see things I would change.  But I think every author feels that way.  Leonardo Da Vinci said it best – “art is never finished, only abandoned.”

Who designs your book covers?

The original covers for my first six books were hand-painted by a local artist who also was the head graphic designer at my old employer, Ami Low.  She did a fantastic job, and gave me exactly what I wanted.  But unfortunately, what I wanted was not what readers in my genre were looking for.  So I had to change the covers, and the new covers were designed by Emma Michaels, who’s also done an amazing job.

She certainly did. While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?

Not exactly.  What I feel like, sometimes, is that the characters are actual people, and I’m only passing on the stories that I’ve heard from them, rather than creating them myself.

Thanks for stopping by, James.

You can read more about James and his writing by visiting

| Website | Amazon Author Page | Twitter | Facebook |


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“Girl of the Book” by Princila Murrell – Author Interview

Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming author Princila Murrell, author of Girl of the Book in today’s author spotlight.


In Girl of the Book, Twelve year old Courtney Parker is devastated to have to leave her friends and South Africa behind when her father accepts a lucrative contract and the family relocate to Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah feels like a different planet to Johannesburg. In spite of her initial reluctance to venture out of the comfort and security of their new home, she quickly forms friendships with Nizar Bukhari and Lana Alahmadi. However, not everyone is happy with the situation.

Courtney must learn to adapt to an alien, seemingly unforgiving culture and stand up to the bullies that are making her school life hell.

Nizar and Lana must both try to overcome their family prejudices in order for their friendship with Courtney to survive. Will they succeed? Will they be able to set aside their differences? Can they bridge the cultural divide?

“Girl of the Book” is a compelling, contemporary story that will get older children thinking. More than that, it is a story of friendship and forgiveness that will tug at your heart.

Princila, is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?


The main message that I want older kids to grasp is that we shouldn’t judge people because of their cultural or religious beliefs. I think it is fun to make friends with people of different backgrounds and learn about their culture and/or beliefs. Besides, we are all humans and empathic by nature. We can learn how to accept those who are different from us or who do not share our beliefs and still live peacefully with each other.

That’s great advice. How did you become involved with the subject or theme of Girl of the Book?

As someone who has faced, and is still facing, several prejudices in Saudi Arabia, I couldn’t help writing a story about racial and religious discrimination. Although we, expatriates, usually avoid talking openly about the forms of discrimination that we experience, these issues exist and persist. Unfortunately, our kids are exposed to such issues and risk growing up with the belief that it is OK to not love your neighbour because of racial, cultural, or religious differences.

Writing about your own experiences must be difficult. What was the hardest thing about writing Girl of the Book?

The hardest thing about writing Girl of the Book was to write from the point of view of children with different cultural/religious beliefs. Besides, Muslim-Christian relationships have always been a difficult subject to discuss, and I tried to maintain a certain balance in the book without being preachy or condescending towards any religion.

What are some of the references that you used while researching and writing Girl of the Book?

I do not remember specifically reading any books to write Girl of the Book. I did, however, get a lot of help by speaking with several young Saudis to understand how they perceived their non-Muslim peers and how their families would react if their befriended a non-Muslim. My knowledge of certain teachings of Islam and the local language also helped.

When writing, what’s more important to you, characters or plot, and why?

I think character and plot are equally important because they are closely related to each other. A well written story should have well developed characters and a good plot to capture the reader’s interest.

Speaking of readers, what authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

I like to read Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, and Jeff Kinney. I’m not sure if any of these authors’ books had a strong influence on my writing. However, while I was rewriting Girl of the Book, I had hard time writing about the other protagonists’ feelings from the main character’s point of view. I struggled with this for close to one month until I read Wonder by RJ Palacio and said to myself, “Gee! Why hadn’t I thought that I could write this story from multiple points of view?” I thought it was very risky because as an aspiring writer, it would be challenging to tell Courtney’s story from multiple points of view.

You’ve kind of already alluded to this, but what other books are similar to your own?  What makes them alike?

I have searched for other middle grade novels set in Saudi Arabia, and until now, I haven’t found anything similar to mine. I can’t, however, say that I have performed an extensive search. Maybe there are books out there that are similar to mine, but I just haven’t come across them yet.

Because there isn’t a lot out there on the topic, what is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject and/or genre, that isn’t so?

I guess the main misconception that people have about books that discuss Muslim-Christian relationships is that the author will preach about a particular religion and/or try to convert his/her readers by demonising followers of the other religion.

For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?

Those who are interested in exploring the subject of my book don’t need to look far. They should look around and ask themselves the following questions: Who is my neighbour? Are they people of a different race? Are they people with a different cultural or religious background? Do I think they are any different from me because they do not share my beliefs or have a different skin colour?

What a great message to impart to the next generation!

What can we expect from you next? What project(s) are you working on at the present?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Girl of the Book and a dystopian novel.

Thank you, Princila, for participating in this interview.

Here’s how you can find out more about Princila and her work:

| Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Smashwords |  Wattpad |

Twitter PicPrincila Murrell lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with her husband and two kids. Besides being a nerdy dreamer, doodler, busy mum, and housewife, she is also an avid netizen and reader of children’s books. She loves to cook, shop and, most of all, play with her kids.

Girl of the Book (released on December 1, 2014) is Princila’s debut novel.

Buy Girl of the Book on Amazon.

“The Apple of My Eye” by Mary Ellen Bramwell – Author Interview

Britbear’s Book Reviews is thrilled to feature fellow Black Rose Writing author, Mary Ellen Bramwell in today’s author interview.

cropped high res coverWhen Brea Cass, a young mother, is awakened in the night by the news that her loving husband, Paul, has been shot during a robbery, she is stunned.  Arriving at the hospital to discover he has died shakes her whole world.  When she finally emerges from the fog of her life, it dawns on her that something is amiss in the way her husband died.  What was really going on?

As Brea searches for answers, she discovers things she never knew, things she’s not sure she wants to know.  Delving into the mysteries that surround her brings several questions to the forefront of Brea’s thoughts.  Can I move forward despite heartache?  Am I loved?  Is someone who has made mistakes redeemable?

I asked Mary Ellen with which of the characters in The Apple of My Eye does she most most closely identify?

The main character, Brea. She has moments of weakness, but in the end she is strong and determined to live life on her own terms.

What inspired you to write The Apple of My Eye?

I love book endings that surprise, yet make sense and put a satisfied exclamation point on the book. The idea for the beginning and ending of The Apple of My Eye came, and then it begged to be written.

“A satisfied exclamation point” is a great way to describe a satisfying book ending. How would you describe the genre of The Apple of My Eye? Is this your preferred genre in which to write?

It is a romantic suspense – emphasis on the suspense.  I like writing human dramas filled with mystery. Whether that ends up including a romance becomes apparent as the story reveals itself.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

When I was in 5th grade, my teachers offered an after school creative writing class. I joined it and wrote a story about a tiny girl who lived in a rose. I’ve been writing stories ever since.

So many authors have been writing since childhood, but that doesn’t mean it gets any easier to pen a good story. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

I struggle with slowing down enough to fill out the story. I get anxious to get to my favorite parts.

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

They are many and of varied genres: Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), Richard Adams (Watership Down), James Herriott (All Creatures Great and Small), Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), and the short stories of Oscar Wilde (to name a few).

What a great mix of old and new classic literature.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

It is ultimately a book about love, hope and forgiveness, so I hope that resonates with my readers.

Writing is a creative process, but it’s also a learning process. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That sometimes the story weaves itself. I’ve had holes I needed to fill. When inspiration finally came, the new idea wedged itself so perfectly into the text, it was as if it was there all along.

Great advice for those of us who suffer writer’s block–inspiration does, eventually, find it’s way to us. What are you working on now? What is your next project?

I’m writing a book called When I Was Seven. It is a family drama, full of mystery, as seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy.

Sounds interesting. One more thing: what question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

“Who in your life is most critical to your writing?” I would answer – my husband. He has a chronic illness but can work in small spurts. So, he has taken over the running of the household to free me up to write. A close second would be my daughter. She is an excellent content editor, and takes my work from good to great.

Thank you, Mary Ellen, for your candid answers. 

Readers can check back at Britbear Book Reviews for my review of The Apple of My Eye and guest posts by Mary Ellen in the future, but in the mean time, here’s how you can learn more about Mary Ellen Bramwell and her writing:

| Website | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads |

DSC_9671 smaller, cropMary Ellen Bramwell has been writing stories since she was ten years old.  After working in other fields and raising five children as a stay-at-home mom, Mary Ellen has returned to her first love, writing, working for magazines while completing her debut novel, The Apple of My Eye.  She resides in Northeast Ohio with her husband, Allen, and her two youngest children.  You can visit her website at www.maryellenbramwell.com.

Buy The Apple of My Eye on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Black Rose Writing.

I Am Completely Beside Myself – My Interview with author Karen Joy Fowler


Image from http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2013/06/09/books/review/0609-bks-KINGSOLVER-cover.html

While planning a blog tour for my YA novel, The Revenant, I was humbled, not only by the number of gracious people willing to help, but at the variety of blogs that are out there. A few in particular stood out for me, about three of them, maintained by a mother and child. I thought this was an amazing way for me to share my love for reading and writing with my own children, and Britbear’s Book Reviews was born.

When sales for The Revenant dipped, I decided to seek out blogs with high patronage on which I might post regularly. Instead, I learned iIf I wanted the publicity, I had to create the opportunity for myself. To that end, I opened my blog up to blog posts from other authors; I was overwhelmed by the number of responses. Though it’s time consuming, I put together personalized questions to interview all requesting it.

That’s when it came to me: why not shoot for the stars and contact best-selling authors for interviews as well? I sent query emails to the authors of a handful of my favourite books. To my surprise, Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, graciously responded.  I’ve been saving the interview for a special occasion, and I think the first post of 2015 qualifies. Here’s the email “transcript” of my interview with author Karen Joy Fowler, followed by my review of her novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

I absolutely loved We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, I think because it spoke to me as a former Anthropology major. What was your inspiration in writing this novel?

My inspiration was an actual experiment done by Winthrop Kellogg in the 1930s.  My other inspiration was my daughter who, upon hearing about the Kellogg experiment, said I should write a novel about it.  This is the only experiment I’m aware of in which an infant human and an infant chimpanzee were raised together in a compare and contrast effort, although home-raising chimpanzees as if they were children was more common.  Because my father had worked in animal behavior, I’d heard about this experiment all my life.  What I’d always heard was that the focus of the experiment was the chimp – the main question:  how many human behaviors would the chimp pick up, what linguistic abilities? – but that the experiment ended when the human child began to display chimp behaviors.  It was that fact, that prompted me to write We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

I remember reading about the Kellogg experiment in school. That’s partly why I found the novel so interesting. How much research did you do as a part of the writing process? What was the most interesting thing you learned from your research?


Image from http://www.parnassusbooks.net/event/nash

I did enormous amounts of research.  I started by reading the many books about home-raised chimps, then I began to look at studies in the wild, then I began to get interested in other animals – horses, elephants, crows, bees.  Before I finished, I’d taken a university class on animal theory.  To try to encapsulate everything I learned:  we have underestimated the creatures with whom we share this planet at every possible opportunity.

After completing all that research, what overall message do you hope your readers will take away from this novel and your writing in general?

That we have more in common with our fellow animals than we might care to believe.  That they are not the Other, but that we are all part of the same world; that we all evolved for this same world.

Writing the book was an exercise in expanding empathy.   I could argue that the expansion of empathy is one of the great projects of literature in general – not just my own books, but the books of many of the writers I read and love.

Great advice!

So many people I talk to online are beginning authors. I’m sure they’d be interested in learning the story behind getting your first novel published. How did you find an agent and/or publisher for the novel?

My first agent came to me at the recommendation of several friends whom he also represented.  He was a great guy, a smart reader; I have nothing but gratitude toward him.  But he was unable to sell my first novel.  He retired and I got a different agent, Wendy Weil.  I had no connection to her, but she came highly recommended.  By the time this happened, I had racked up about 23 rejections and had been trying to sell the book for three years.  Wendy did finally manage a sale, to the awesome Marian Wood.  Marian has been my editor for most of my career and I also stayed with Wendy until her death a couple of years back.

I’m sorry to hear about Wendy’s passing.

It’s difficult to remember when you’re in the middle of trying to sell a book, but you’re proof–persistence is key.

How involved are you in the publicity of your novels? What sorts of things have you done to help publicize your novel and build your author brand?

I came into publishing before there were all these additional expectations of a social media presence and I’ve not done too much to change.  I figure I can either write books or I can raise my social media profile, but I can’t do both.  So Putnam has a publicist and I do what she tells me to do.  But I’m old fashioned enough to think that marketing the book is their job – I’ll help in any way I can, but the overall strategy is up to Putnam.

It’s so hard for new authors to strike a balance between the two.

On a different tack, which of the books you’ve written is your favourite? Which are your favourite character(s) and why?

I will always be especially fond of my first novel, maybe because it was so very hard to sell it and everything about writing it was new and unexpected.  That cast of characters – a Chinese railway worker, an escaped lunatic, and a suffragist (the novel takes place in 1873) will probably always be my favorites.

What books and/or authors have had an impact on your writing and why?

For me, the pleasures of rereading outstrip even the pleasures of reading.  I return often to Austen and Dickens.   Middlemarch.  I reread The Once and Future King, Mistress Masham’s Repose and The Lefthand of Darkness, The Lathe of Heaven and Brat Farrar and Ilywhacker and The Woman Warrior and many, many others.  These books are part of my DNA now and these authors are a continual, reliable source of inspiration and consolation.

I love the way you phrased that. As authors, so many of our favourite and admired books really do become part of our DNA!

Most readers of my blog are probably indie and self-published authors. What advice do you have for them about their writing and publishing journeys?

When you start writing, you do it because you love it.  This pleasure can be taken away from you in so, so many ways.  So I think you have to pay attention to that, be sure to protect it.  Check in with yourself regularly and ask, am I still loving it – the writing part?  If the answer is no, figure out what’s gone wrong.  Get the love back.

Thank you so much to Karen Joy Fowler for taking time from her writing life to answer my questions. I hope my readers will find inspiration in her words. Writing should be a pursuit of passion. It is my hope that each and every one of you still has the love.

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Image from https://images.contentreserve.com/ImageType-400/0887-1/686/849/C4/%7B686849C4-DE10-4BAA-9BBF-780157C15F67%7DImg400.jpg


Here’s my review of Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, originally published at http://eliseabram.com/we-are-all-completely-beside-ourselves-book/ on 22 Aug 2013.

In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, Rosemary Cooke begins her story in the middle. She is in college in a cafeteria where she meets Harlow who is angry at her boyfriend and having a tantrum. Rosemary defends Harlow during her arrest and gets arrested herself. We soon learn Rosemary is broken in a way. She is not close with her parents and estranged from her brother and sister. It is the mystery of Rosemary’s relationship with her parents and how her brother, Lowell, and sister, Fern, go missing that drives the story forward. When Rosemary’s narrative circles back to the beginning of the story, we learn that her “sister”, Fern, is a chimpanzee brought into the home to be raised as her “twin” for an experiment her scientist father was conducting in the seventies.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a wonderful coming of age novel that is interesting both in the style of the narrative and in the story, containing a powerful message. The title refers to the fact that, when placed beside humans, animals—particularly apes—are not that different. Growing up, Rosemary’s father’s lab assistants endlessly compare Fern’s progress with her own. While Fern reaches certain landmarks before Rosemary—such as walking and “talking” (really signing)—Rosemary’s growth soon outperforms Ferns with little fanfare, and she grows jealous of Fern’s attention, which leads to Fern’s removal from the family. In doing this, Rosemary asserts her [role as alpha-child] in her family pack, not unlike how later, Fern becomes the alpha animal in her lab “family”. When Rosemary tells us the end of her story, we learn the reason for her brother’s disappearance. Everything, from Rosemary’s inability to fit in with her peers to her brother’s absence, her mother’s emotional distance, and her father’s depression, traces back to Fern’s removal from the family and Rosemary spends the remainder of the book trying to set it right.

Fowler has penned a page-turner here. Her prose is artful and easy to read, something to which, as an author, I aspire. The narrator is so candid in her guilt, the story reads like a written confession, which is where the interest lies.  We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a book with social conscience, prompting us to think about the connection between people and animals and how, when we compare them side-by-side with ourselves, we are not so essentially different.