Friday, July 29, 2011

Author Spotlight: David Baboulene

In today’s Author Spotlight, UK author David Baboulene has joined us to talk about his writing and his new book entitled The Story Book: A writers' guide to story development, principles, problem resolution and marketing.  David’s vast writing experience and educational background has given him a wealth of knowledge which he generously shares with others.  If you write, The Story Book is definitely a book worth checking out!

JLR:  Hey, David!  As a writer myself, I’m really interested in your writing process.  What type of writing routine do you have?  Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer?  Any tips you want to share?

DB:  There is a saying that goes: ‘write with your heart, rewrite with your head’. This is exactly right. Many writing courses and guides provide formulae and rules for writing. These should be ignored. Don’t go near. The creative process is about letting your imagination run wild and letting the story just flow out of you. It’s YOUR story. Don’t listen to anyone else. Let it out how YOUR heart wants it to come.

Once it’s there on the table in front of you, you will have issues with it. You’ll perceive problems, you’ll want to change things, integrate new events, perhaps make it longer, find out what it is that’s bugging you about some aspect of the story, and, yes, perhaps make it more commercially viable. At THIS point a knowledge of story theory can massively speed up the process of fixing problems and turning your story into everything you want it to be.

JLR:  What a great saying.  I’ll have to remember that one.  So, how have you been able to balance your writing with your day job and your family responsibilities?  What sacrifices have you had to make? 

DB:  Writing itself is not so onerous. Even pro writers rarely write more than around 4 hours and, say, 2000 words per day on average. When I had an office job, I’d hit that word count just by getting up early, grabbing a half-hour on the train, another half-hour lunchtime, thinking in the bath and so on.

I advise writers to plan their writing into their daily lives. Don’t plan for a year out or some mythical magical time when you can turn pro and forget everything else in life - that’s the dreamer talking. The pro writer in you needs to get real. Actually do it. As little as 500 words a day - that’s a side of A4 - and you’ll have a 100,000 word book in seven months’ time. Polish it for another five months. That’s a book in a year. Do that every year, and you will succeed.

JLR:  Personal blogs and websites almost seem like a requirement for authors these days; yet, they are time consuming to keep updated and don’t bring in any direct revenue.  How important do you feel a personal blog or website is, and how much time do you spend on these projects?  What are the benefits that you have seen? 

DB:  Marketing your work becomes your life once you have something to sell, and yes, new media are important - critical, even - because they work and are very cheap to set up. Publishers like them because it is the author that puts in all the legwork. The problem is they take up all the time in the world.

I try to turn off the phone and the email and Facebook and Twitter and set time aside to write but it’s all so irresistible. It’s also just about impossible to make a decent living as an author, so you end up working harder than ever on selling to try and make enough money to live. Becoming a writer turns you into a workaholic salesman. That wasn’t the plan!

JLR:  What three books have most influenced you to become a writer?

DB:  Interesting one, this. PG. Wodehouse is my hero. A genuine genius. I read 15 minutes of Wodehouse before a writing session in order to get my humour in the right place. And his real active influence on me came when I got hold of a book of his earliest work. It was material written before he was published, and then put out as a book years later.

And it was rubbish. This was such a whack for me. The thought that my hero could have ever been so bad... But then it really inspired me. I realised he got to be great by working hard - harder than anyone. He wasn’t successful because he was a ‘genius’ - labelling him that way was not doing him justice. He was a normal human being with a drive to write and a fantastic work ethic. I realised if I worked hard, maybe I could make it too.

JLR:  Have you had the opportunity to meet any famous writers?  Were there any who made you star-struck?

DB:  As you can see on my website, I’ve met and worked with many famous writers. But the one who made me star-struck was Bob Gale, the writer of my favourite film, Back to the Future. Going to his home in Los Angeles and talking story theory with him for a couple of days - I felt like a teenage girl meeting the Beatles or something. I think there’s every chance I stood on his front step and just screamed at him for the first five minutes, and quite possibly made some terribly inappropriate jokes and comments from nerves after that. He’s a great bloke though, and really easy to get along with - and very, very knowledgeable on story theory.

JLR:  So cool!  That was one of my favorite movies when I was young.  Speaking of our young selves, if you could give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?

DB:  Focus. I have always been interested in so many things that I don’t push any one thing all the way to fame and fortune. And it’s the same today; I write books and screenplays, I work as a story consultant, I give seminars, I’m making a film, I manage and produce a band, I’m developing a software invention, I’m doing a PhD, I have four kids - the list goes on - and although my life is fun and busy, I know that greater success would come from picking anyone of these things and stripping out the others. Focus, people. You can’t give 100% to six different disciplines...

JLR:  What are you writing now that The Story Book has been released? 

DB:  I’m writing the next book on story theory. The Subtext Book, which will show writers just how critical subtext is to a story power and how to use subtext to make stories that grip and intrigue. It builds on one of the chapters on this topic in The Story Book.

I’m also writing my PhD thesis - also on the topic of the importance of subtext to story power. My research is proving that the more subtext there is in a story the more popular that story is with an audience. Fact. The Subtext Book will be a more accessible, practical, applicable version of my PhD that writers can use to understand and improve their stories.

I’m also writing a film script for a story called HeartStoppers, due to start filming in the Autumn. I’m blogging the progress of this story development and film-making on

Then I’m writing two more humour books - one about an idiot working in the Fire Brigade, and the other is A Ship Called Wander - the third book in my humorous series recounting my world travels. See? I have too much to do, and not enough focus!  

JLR:  Great title!  Where can readers go to learn more about your work?

DB: is a good starting point, and there`s a link to my story theory blog from there.

JLR:  Aside from The Story Book, what other titles do you have available and where can readers go to find them?

DB:  I’ve written two illustrated children’s book’s, but they are only available in the UK. I’ve also written two humorous travel books. is my humour and travel blog.

My books are published in hard copy and available everywhere in the UK. The rest of the world are best off getting the ebooks direct from my website ( or from

JLR:  Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.  I wish you lots of success with your writing. 

DB:  Thanks so much, Jesi, for the fun I’ve had with you and for the work you do. You are wonderful!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Author Spotlight: Elsie Love

Please join me in welcoming author Elsie Love to the Author Spotlight! Her new book, Confessions of a PTA Mafia Mom, released last month and has been earning great reviews on Amazon!

JLR: Thank you for taking the time to speak to my readers, Elsie! With advancements in technology, self-publishing novels has gotten a million times easier and more affordable. What are your thoughts on the trend?
EL: None of my books have been self-published. My first two books were published by a small publisher (Wings e-Press) & CONFESSIONS was published by an Aussie publisher (Dare Empire). I was so happy with Dare, that I negotiated with them to pick up my first two books when my contract expires next spring for a re-release of both.

Self publishing is a really interesting/enticing trend. Better royalties (much better...typically 70% vs. 30 w/ a small publisher) sounds good to me. However, I really like having an editor/cover artist/isbn taken care of. Plus, I have found that a good small publisher can help your books get into some places that would be off limits to self published material. Not to say that I'd never self publish...just not yet.

JLR: So much of book promotion today is done through blog tours. Tell us about your blog touring experience.
EL: This is my first official blog tour. I'm really glad I chose to spend my marketing budget on it! Before my tour even kicked off, I was contacted by the Editor-in-Chief of PTO Today Magazine asking if I would give them a copy of the book to be read/reviewed in their national magazine! They found me doing a general internet search on the PTA. It lead them to Chick-Lit plus...then me/my book. Money well spent, for sure.
JLR: There is so much advice given by authors about the writing process. What type of writing routine do you have? Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer? Any tips you want to share?

EL: I'm gonna let you in on a secret: the correct writing formula is...whatever works for you. Writers are like snowflakes. No two are the same. I write as much as I can. When I tire of the story I’m working on, I blog. It keeps my wit sharp & it's fun. I plan and I wing it. There is a method to my madness, barely.

JLR: How have you been able to balance your writing with your day job and your family responsibilities? What sacrifices have you had to make?

EL: I wrote my first two books while working full time. It took up most of my weekends, but really, nobody missed me (sniff). I had finished & submitted CONFESSIONS while working full time as well. Come to think of it, I have yet to finish a novel while being a stay at home writer. Uh-oh. I better get to work before somebody notices...

JLR: I’ve always felt that to be a good writer you must first be a good reader. What types of books do you read and how have they influenced your writing?

EL: I love to read―I always have. When I was about eight or nine I was stealing books from my mom, so I was ingesting books like , “IT” & “Amityville Horror”, you know, the classics. Now I read whatever grabs my attention. My influences come from far & wide. It might be something as simple as one word, or a sentence. If it sticks in my craw―I tuck it away for later.

JLR: They say good reading habits are developed at an early age. Have you always been a reader? Can you pin-point a particular book or author who solidified your love of reading?

EL: I remember crying when I read THE OUTSIDERS, by S.E. Hinton. I loved the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series (I thought a roasted pig tail at Christmas sounded delicious. I was a weird child) and as I said before, anything off limits I had to have. Picture a fifth grader reading the V.C. Andrews FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC series. Yep, that was me.

JLR: Ha! I was in grade school when I read the V.C. Andrews books too.  Obviously, my mother wasn't paying attention.  :)  In the past year or two, e-publishing has soared in popularity. What made you decide to publish in e-book format? Do you worry that you won’t achieve as much success as you might in traditional print?

EL: My book is available in both e-book & print format. But, let it be known, that I am a firm believer that print books are fast becoming dinosaurs. I know that there are people that really 'love the feel of holding a book'. To them I say, get a will fall in love all over again.

JLR: I completely agree! Never thought I'd give up my paper books, but What are three things that your fans would be surprised to find out about you?

EL: I'm funny, sexy, and gosh darn it―people like me.

JLR: Are you involved in any other projects aside from your novel writing?

EL: I spent about five years fostering German Shepherd's for a local dog rescue. I also have a passion for working with children who fall on the autism spectrum. I hope I live to see the day we cure it. I'm a sucker for a cause―any cause―so I donate frequently.

JLR: Where can readers go to purchase Confessions of a PTA Mafia Mom?

EL: Paperback:


1 Place For Romance


Coffee Time Romance


(I'm hosting a Goodreads giveaway that runs through October 1st. Come on & friend me…and don't forget to enter to win a copy!)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: 'The Constant Princess' by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory takes on Cathrine of Aragon in her historical fiction The Constant Princess.  Catalina was born the youngest daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain.  At a young age, she was betrothed to Prince Arthur of England, the son of King Henry VII.  Because of this, she felt destined to be Queen of England when she grew up. 
For me, the important word to remember here is "fiction."  History says that Catalina married Arthur but he died before the marriage was ever consummated  dubbing her the Virgin Widow.  Because of this, she was able to go on to marry Arthur's brother, Harry, who eventually became Henry VIII. 
Gregory's story turns history on it's head by turning the brief marriage between Catalina and Arthur into a great tragic love story, where Arthur forces his bride to swear an oath that she would lie and say they never had sex so that she could marry his brother and fulfill her destiny to be Queen.  Readers should be aware that no evidence of this romance ever existed and that everyone, including Catherine and Henry VIII himself swore in court that the King took her virginity on their wedding night. 
Historical inaccuracies asside, it was a pretty good book.  I found Catalina's childhood experiences, first on the battlefield and later living in the amazing Alhambra Palace, to be fascinating.  Her Moorish influence is also something I never thought of before.  To go from a palace with modern plumbing and frequent bathing to England where the people only bathed a couple of times a year must have been serious culture shock.  I love the conversations she has with a Moorish doctor about her fertility and pregnance issues. 
Overall, I give The Constant Princess...
Plot - 3 1/2 bookmarks
Character Development - 4 bookmarks
Love Story - 3 bookmarks
Historical Accuracy - 2 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as how I pictured while reading) - Demi Lavato (Catalina), Logan Lerman (Henry VIII), Alexander Ludwig (Arthur), Jason Statham (Henry VII)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: ‘Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature’ by Robin Brande

** Note to my super cool readers:  I’ve decided that my book summaries suck.  Don’t worry, I can admit it.  I get too impatient to write really good summaries, so I’m sure authors would rather I just use the publisher approved book blurbs instead.  For that reason, I will be using the Amazon summaries whenever possible. **

“All because you did the right thing.

Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her—not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.

And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.

From the Hardcover edition.

Okay, so this summary sort of sucks, too, but basically, Mena is from a super strict, evangelical Christian family and some controversy at church has her questioning her beliefs.  Her new biology teacher is really cool and has an almost cult-like following of science geeks.  When the evolution unit begins, the members from her former church group decide to boycott the lesson, putting Mena in the middle, unsure what she believes.

I have a low tolerance for extremism and narrow-mindedness, whether it is done by Christian fanatics or by anti-Christian scientists.  This book makes a strong point that science tells us how the world works, not why is works that way.  The theory of evolution is science formed by observable facts.  Religion is philosophy formed by faith.  These are large concepts for a high school freshman to have to draw conclusions on.  Mena handles her precarious situation with maturity and thoughtfulness.  Readers on both sides of the debate will be able to appreciate the way the author takes care to present multiple sides to the issue. 

On the other hand, there is a plot which occurs prior to the story’s action that I would have loved to see fleshed out more.  This involves this same church group harassing a suspected homosexual teenager until the boy attempts suicide.  Mena felt guilty by what her friends did to the boy and she writes him a letter of apology.  As a result, the boy’s parents decide to sue the parents and the kids involved in the harassment.  To me, this storyline was fascinating (partly because I am an insurance nerd) and I would have loved for this to have had a more central role in the book.

There is a romantic subplot between Mena and her science partner, Casey.  Casey has an incredible personality and is really smart.  I appreciate that the author created a love story for the “nerds” or “outcasts,” rather than between the popular kids.  We need more books which emphasize the personality and intelligence over good looks.  Their love story was sweet and realistic.  A definite plus to the book. 

Overall, I give Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character development – 5 bookmarks (We see Mena really turn from a child into a woman)
Love story – 4 ½ bookmarks
Handling of controversial topics – 4 ½ bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Okay, I just saw the movie Easy A, so I couldn’t help drawing my cast partially from the movie.  Emma Stone (Mena), Amanda Bynes (Theresa), Aaron Johnson (Casey)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Author Spotlight: David Hulegaard

In the Author Spotlight today is Author David Hulegaard, whose debut novel Nobel released in October 2010.  His latest book, The Jumper, will be coming soon.  Join me in welcoming him!

Author of "Noble"

JLR:  As all aspiring authors know, writing the novel is the easy part—getting published is where the real work comes in.  Tell us about your road to publication.  Is there anything you would have done differently?

DH:  I’ve always wanted to write, but the path to finally publishing a book was a long one. I think the hardest part is simply finding the time. After 40+ hours of work, you learn to crave your weekends, and it’s hard to motivate yourself to do more “work.” I’d stalled long enough and finally forced myself to commit to my dream. After I wrote my first book, the decision to self-publish was an easy one. There are many challenges that come bundled with self-publishing, but at the end of the day, you have 100% control of the content of your book. No one can force you to take something out, or stick you with unrealistic deadlines. I absolutely wish I had the marketing support of a major publishing house, but I wasn’t interested in being rejected over and over again simply because my books don’t deal with the “hot trends” of the moment.

As for what I would have done differently, that’s easy. I’d have done far more research before investing in a PR company that did absolutely nothing for me but cash my checks for six months. Kids, it’s important to learn from your mistakes, just don’t let your mistakes cost you thousands of dollars. J

JLR:  There is so much advice given by authors about the writing process.  What type of writing routine do you have?  Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer?  Any tips you want to share?

DH:  I’ve discovered two things as a writer: 1. An outline is an absolutely invaluable thing to have. 2. An outline is worthless because your story will inevitably change without warning. J That said, I still do recommend that you build a timeline of events and have an idea of how your story lays out from start to finish. It will make it easier to determine where your story has weak points, or poor pacing. Even more importantly, make sure YOU know who your characters really are. Readers are looking for a good story, but they’re even more invested if they can become attached to your characters.

JLR:  As readers of my book reviews know, I have a habit of casting real people, usually actors, in my mind as the characters when I read.  As you are writing, do you base your characters on real people?  If Hollywood made a movie of The Jumper, who would you like to see playing the leading roles?

DH:  I think that all writers borrow little bits and pieces from their real lives when they’re telling stories, and that every character contains a trait or two that the writer recognizes from a real-life counterpart. In my case, I don’t typically think of actors when creating my characters, but sometimes I do see them afterwards. When I shot the trailer for my first book, Noble, I was very lucky to actually cast Liam O’Brien as the voice of my protagonist, Miller Brinkman. Liam is an exceptionally talented actor and there is no doubt in my mind that he was perfect for the role. If Hollywood came knocking with a movie deal, I can only ever see Liam as Miller.

As for The Jumper, I see Keith David as the ideal man for protagonist R.C. Dawson. R.C. is feisty—you might even say curmudgeonly—but he also has a knack for delivering occasional lines with charm and a subtle hint of humor.

JLR:  Do you feel it’s necessary to read a lot in order to be a good writer?  Why?

DH:  I do. I think that no matter what your skill level is, you can make your own writing better by reading other bodies of work. Sometimes you’ll have an idea, but aren’t sure how to implement it structurally, or grammatically. Then as you read books, you start to see how other writers have tackled the idea. I think you can learn a lot by reading good literature, but I also think that sometimes even more can be learned from reading unpolished work. It’s good to know what to do, but it’s even better to know what not to do.

JLR:  They say good reading habits are developed at an early age.  Have you always been a reader?  Can you pin-point a particular book or author who solidified your love of reading?

DH:  My parents encouraged me to read from the time I was old enough to hold a book. Like most kids, I started out with “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, but then I moved on to R.L. Stine and Beverly Cleary as I got a little older. A teacher gave me a book in the sixth grade that she thought I’d like called A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith. If you’re familiar with the book then you can probably imagine how my little uncomplicated world was instantly shattered. J It’s pretty deep for a kid’s book. I actually stopped reading for a while, but then got really into Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King in high school. From there, my brain was forever irreversibly twisted.

JLR:  If you could give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?

DH:  David, it’s me. I need you to listen to me and listen well. Frozen pizzas are delicious. Corn dogs are delicious. However, do not roll your corn dogs up into a frozen pizza like a burrito and call it a snack. Your future arteries will thank you. Also, your precious long hair that you love is going to start leaving you by 25, so reconsider how you feel about hats.

JLR:  Do you have any hidden talents? 

DH:  In addition to writing books, I am also a singer-songwriter. I’ve been writing music and performing since I was 16 years old.

JLR:  So, what do the next twelve months have in store for you?

DH:  Excitement! As this interview is hitting the web, we’re only a couple more weeks from the release of my second book, The Jumper. Once released, I’ll immediately get back to work and start plugging away on Bloodlines, which is the second book in the Noble trilogy. It should be out by the end of this year. Then after that, my next two projects will be a second novella, and then the yet unnamed finale to the Noble trilogy. It’s going to be a busy twelve months, but so much fun!

Also, Liz Borino doesn’t know this yet, but I’m actually penning a piece of fan fiction based on the characters from her Taylor Twins series. Shhh…  J

JLR:  Where can readers go to learn more about your work?

DH:  Please come visit! I try to blog as often as I can, but I also feature book reviews, guest blogs from other authors, and of course, all the updates and information about my books.

I’m also a part of the Independent Author Network, which is an AMAZING collection of talented indie folks currently publishing books. Come check out my page to learn a little bit more about me:

Thanks for having me! I had a blast!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: ‘Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila’ by Jeannette Katzir

The difficulty with reviewing memoires is that you are basically reviewing someone’s life.  The author is actually a character in the story.  The other characters are their loved ones.  For that reason, I’m going to try to separate out the personal and try to review this solely on its merits as a book. 

Broken Birds is a family drama revolving around two Holocaust survivors who emigrate to the U.S. and raise their family of five.  The beginning of the book tells the interesting story of Channa & Nathan’s childhoods and war time experiences.  While Channa and her brother were living as outlaws in the forests of Poland, Nathan endured the horrors of the concentrations camps.  After the Nazi defeat, their families were gone and they each sought out new lives in New York City, where they met and fell in love.

This portion of the book was incredibly interesting.  I especially liked Channa’s story, because I didn’t know much about the Partisans, a group of Jews who hid from the Nazi’s and committed acts of sabotage on the Nazi infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the other 85% of the book revolves around an endless stream of family bickering.  The characters keep repeating that the only people you can trust is family, yet these people continuously screw each other over.  The worst part is that none of them learn from their mistakes, and continue entering into business deals with each other.  I’ve heard the definition of insanity is doing something over and over and expecting different results.  If that is the case, all of these people are insane! 

The worst occurs when the mother dies and her will has to go to probate.  This miserable woman, whom for some reason the narrator idolizes, tears her family apart with her grossly unfair final wishes.  First, Channa completely cuts her husband Nathan out.  He worked his whole adult life for this woman, and trusted her to handle the family finances, only to have her leave him penniless.  Then comes the properties.  Channa and Nathan owned two homes, the one they lived in and a rental property.  She ends up leaving one home to her five children in an even split.  The other property she leaves solely to her son Steven.  This sets off a long, drawn out squabble between the siblings where they all act like super greedy five-year-olds.  Honestly, I hated them all by the end.  In fact, I saw the book as just another way for the author to try and win people to her side in this childish argument. 

One other note… This is a self-published book on Kindle, and the author has it priced at $9.95.  This is grossly over-priced!  (I got my copy free in exchange for an honest review.)  The author might want to re-evaluate this.

Overall, I give Broken Birds

Plot – 2 bookmarks
Characters development – 1 bookmark
Historical information – 4 bookmarks (I would have liked the parent’s experiences during the war to be fleshed out and expanded.  It was really the most interesting part of the story.)
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Honestly, I have nothing.  I didn’t care about any of these people enough to think about it.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review, Interview & GIVEAWAY! 'Click: An Online Love Story' by Lisa Becker

Today's Author Spotlight is on Lisa Becker, whose novel Click: An Online Love Story takes the reader through the ups and downs of online dating.  As a special treat, Lisa has agreed to give THREE e-book copies away to our readers.  See below for details!!


When I first picked up Click and saw that it was written entirely in email format, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get into it.  People generally don’t write very formally or creatively in email.  I was concerned that the email format would fail if the emails didn’t sound authentic.  This can also make characterization difficult.  Thankfully, author Lisa Becker pulled the novel off wonderfully!

As Renee Greene approaches her 30th birthday, her friend Mark convinces her enter the world of online dating.  Click chronicles a year of bad dates, fabulous friendships and a new love.  Something I loved about this book is that I could relate to the characters.  (I think I actually might know some of these people.  J)  Becker is able to infuse plenty of personality in each of the friends, making them distinct and memorable.  I wish we would have gotten a little more of Mark though.  I thought since he was the one who convinced Renee to start online dating, that he would have played a more central role in the story.  It didn’t take long before her sex-obsessed friend Shelley swoops in to steal the show.  Shelley was cool and everything, but I kept wondering what Mark was up to. 

As far as the dating itself, Renee meets the usual cast of characters; the dude just out for sex, the partier, the name-dropping D-list celebrity.  The ending was a bit predictable, but overall, Click was a fun summer read. 

Overall, I give Click

Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks
Character development – 4 bookmarks
Love story – 4 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Anne Hathaway (Renee), Lizzy Caplan (Shelley), Emily Blunt (Ashley), Andrew Garfield (Mark), Henry Cavil (Ethan)

Meet the Author:

JLR:  Thank you, Lisa, for joining me on my blog today!  As all aspiring authors know, writing the novel is the easy part—getting published is where the real work comes in.  Tell us about your road to publication.  Is there anything you would have done differently?

LB:  I explored the traditional publishing route and got feedback from multiple literary agents. One in particular explained the current economic state of the publishing industry to me. Due to the large investment to edit, produce, distribute and market a work by an unknown author, many large publishers won’t take the risk. Self-publishing is a way to get your work out there.   I'm also reminded of some advice I was once given. I had interviewed Charles Rosen, one of the producers of the original Beverly Hills 90210, for an alumni magazine article while I was in graduate school. And I'll never forget what he told me, "Don't fall in love with your words, because somebody above will probably change them." One of the great benefits of self-publishing is that you can really take control of the process.

JLR:  So much of book promotion today is done through blog tours.  Tell us about your blog touring experience.

LB:  It’s been great so far.  I’ve been energized and motivated by the experience as bloggers are taking an interest in the book, enjoying it, recommending it, etc.  The feedback and enthusiasm has been so positive, I’ve started writing notes for a sequel, tentatively titled Double Click.  I would love to incorporate reader feedback.  So, if someone has an idea of what they would like to see happen next for Renee, Shelley, Ashley or Mark, please stop by the Facebook fan site and post suggestions. 

JLR:  There is so much advice given by authors about the writing process.  What type of writing routine do you have?  Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer?  Any tips you want to share?

LB:  I started writing the book after my husband and I married but before we had kids.  Then I had to take a break from writing due to the rigors of motherhood.  But I had always told myself – even as a little girl – that I would write a book one day.  So, I made the commitment to finish the book.  I wrote in the mornings while the girls were at school or at night after they went to sleep.  I made it a goal to write – even if only for a half hour – every day. 

JLR:  How have you been able to balance your writing with your day job and your family responsibilities?  What sacrifices have you had to make?

LB:  In addition to writing Click, I wear many different hats.  I’m a full time mom and wife to the best family ever; part time public relations professional for an international PR firm; part time professor of public relations courses at a state university in California; and I’m bringing to market a children’s education product that I’ve invented.  Needless to say, there’s never a dull moment around here.  But, as mentioned above, it was always on my “bucket list” to write a book, so I just committed to doing it.  I think the biggest sacrifice has been sleep.

JLR:  I’ve always felt that to be a good writer you must first be a good reader.  What types of books do you read and how have they influenced your writing?

LB:  I love to read.  Always have.  Always will.  My favorite genre is chick lit, which is probably why I felt compelled to write a novel the way that I did.  Sadly, I’ve been so busy writing my book, I haven’t had much time to read lately.  But, I’ve got a vacation planned this summer and top of my list is The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I’m hoping to finish it before seeing the movie.

JLR:  Do you feel it’s necessary to read a lot in order to be a good writer?  Why?

LB:  I do believe that reading a lot can help someone become a stronger writer.  Reading other works can help you to identify interesting narratives, teach character development techniques or inspire a storyline or plot.  For example, many years ago, I read a book called e by Matthew Beaumont which tells the story of a fictitious ad agency vying for a big account, with the story all told in emails.  I thought that narrative style would work really well for the story I wanted to tell about the online dating world.  It was a modern way of storytelling that fit the topic and the times. 

JLR:  They say good reading habits are developed at an early age.  Have you always been a reader?  Can you pin-point a particular book or author who solidified your love of reading?

LB:  I remember always reading and having books around in my house.  And, one of my favorite books as a child was Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie (Andrews) Edwards.  I bought a copy several years ago for my nephew and he recently gave it back to me so I could give it to my daughters when they get older.  It’s a wonderful, fanciful story and I still smile when I imagine the Whangdoodle who has a daisy on his sweet tooth. 

JLR:  I’m always a sucker for a good love story.  Who is your favorite fictional couple of all time?

LB:  I don’t think it gets any better than Rick and Elsa from Casablanca.  It’s such a beautiful story of love, regret, tragedy and sacrifice. 

JLR:  What are three things that your fans would be surprised to find out about you?

LB:  1. I've never had a cup of coffee in my life...ever!
2. I make the most amazing jalapeno artichoke dip, but won't share the recipe with anyone; it's my secret.
3. I've always wanted to learn to professionally decorate cakes and once I finish writing the Click sequel, I intend to do just that. 
JLR:  Where can readers go to purchase CLICK AN ONLINE LOVE STORY?

LB:  Click: An Online Love Story is available in print and Kindle versions on Amazon.  E-reader versions are also available on Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and other online bookseller sites.  


Lisa has offered to giveaway copies of Click to three lucky readers.  All you have to do it leave a comment below.  Tell us about your experiences or thoughts on online dating.  If you have never tried it, would you under the right circumstances?  Don't forget to leave me your email address!  Winners will be drawn on this Friday.  :)   

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Author Spotlight: Suzan Still

Today’s Author Spotlight Suzan Still, whose debut novel Commune of Women will be released on July 16, 2011. 


JLR:  As all aspiring authors know, writing the novel is the easy part—getting published is where the real work comes in.  Tell us about your road to publication.  Is there anything you would have done differently?

SS:  You’re certainly right about that! I was very fortunate. Lou Aronica was just starting the Fiction Studio imprint. He had several months previously looked at the manuscript for Commune of Women in the capacity of an editor. One day I just received an email from him, asking if I would like to be one of his first twelve Fiction Studio publications. Would I! I might still be writing query letters, if not for that marvelous stroke of good fortune!

JLR:  There is so much advice given by authors about the writing process.  What type of writing routine do you have?  Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer?  Any tips you want to share?

SS:  I’m a mixture of the two. I generally have a fairly full idea of where the book wants to go. But I also truly revel in my characters’ willfulness in taking off in unexpected directions. I wrote biographies of my characters that were never used in the actual novel, in order to get to know them better. For me, the best process is to work almost daily and to write where the heat is, instead of in a linear fashion. Later, I can go back and link these spots where the true passion of writing takes me over. So I guess my advice would be not to delay writing something, if it’s insisting itself on your consciousness. Even if it’s out of sequence, let it come!

JLR:  How have you been able to balance your writing with your day job and your family responsibilities?  What sacrifices have you had to make?

SS:  I’ve always had to sandwich my writing into a very busy life, often staying up late at night to squeeze in a little writing time. As a consequence, my writing has for many years been sporadic—which is why some of my works-in-progress have been so for decades! Two years ago I retired from teaching at the university and I was suddenly able to invest myself fully in my writing and that’s when I flew into the completion of Commune of Women with real relish.

JLR:  As readers of my book reviews know, I have a habit of casting real people, usually actors, in my mind as the characters when I read.  As you are writing, do you base your characters on real people?  If Hollywood made a movie of Commune of Women, who would you like to see playing the leading roles?

SS:  Only one of the characters in Commune of Women, Heddi, is based on a real person—a dear friend who is the epitome of chic and who is brilliant, to boot. Fortunately, she doesn’t have the neurotic tendencies I’ve given to her fictional counterpart! Pearl, the ancient bag lady, may have accreted around the gritty person of a friend’s grandmother who was, by his account, a truly resourceful, tough and compassionate pioneering woman. The rest are purely figments of my imagination—although my husband insists he sees parts of me in every one of them! I’d love to see Cicley Tyson play Pearl, the bag lady, and Emma Thompson or Meryl Streep as Heddi, the Jungian analyst. Kathy Bates would be perfect for Betty, the histrionic housewife, and Julia Roberts would make a lovely Ondine, the artist.

JLR:  Setting goes a long way toward establishing the feel of the book.  What made you to decide to set your story in such an unusual place?

SS:  The setting for Commune of Women is rather unusual: a small staff room, where the women are trapped for four days. I wanted to create a psychological pressure cooker that would bring out both the best and the worst in each character and also inspire them to look deeply into their lives, in remembrance and self-evaluation. The flashbacks into their life stories provide windows into the greater world.

JLR:  World-building requires the author to do a lot of planning and inventing.  Can you tell us a little about your world and your process for creating it?

SS:  I wanted the characters in Commune of Women to be as diverse as possible and that necessitated the invention of seven wildly differing worlds: a plush home in Malibu, a wild mountaintop shanty, a piece of cardboard on a city street, a subdivision house in LA, the substandard world of a Palestinian refugee camp, and an aristocratic home and garden on the Atlantic seaboard of France. These worlds are vivid, in my imagination. Each partakes of some part of my own life experience, mixed with a large dollop of imagination, a handful of research and several pinches of reverie.

JLR:  I’ve always felt that to be a good writer you must first be a good reader.  What types of books do you read and how have they influenced your writing?

SS:  I devour both fiction and non-fiction. Currently, I’m reading To Die In Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War by John Gibler, as research for my novel-in-progress. And I just finished Katherine Stockett’s The Help, which I loved, and now am tying into In Memory of David’s Buick by Bob Saar—a rollicking road trip novel. One of my favorite literary works is Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, in which four characters experience the same events from very different perspectives. That kind of psychological relativity interests me, so in Commune of Women the reader gets to see events from the perspective of each of the seven main characters. 

JLR:  Do you keep a journal? 

SS:  I’m an avid journal keeper. I have about three yards of old journals on my library shelves! There are journals there from age 5, onward. I record my dreams, primarily, and then the events of the day—the first flowering of forsythia in the snow, the capturing of a swarm of bees, or my very first sighting of a Mourning Cloak butterfly in my garden (I thought I’d seen a tiny angel!). I often mine my journals for ideas and descriptions that become part of larger works.

JLR:  So much about our real-life influences our writing.  Are there any specific things in your past which influenced Commune of Women.

SS:  I suppose that each character in Commune of Women partakes of some of my  life’s experiences. For example, Heddi, the Jungian analyst, reflects my fascination with depth psychology. Pearl, the ancient bag lady, has many of the pithy, honest and hard-working characteristics of the people I grew up knowing, who were remnants of California’s Gold Rush or migrants from the Dust Bowl. Ondine’s love of art and color is my own—and I have to say quite frankly that I’m envious of her situation at Quatre Vents! I live rurally and so Sophia’s way of life is very familiar to me. And I’ve been involved with dream groups for over twenty-five years and know that women come together in times of trouble to exercise great depth of wisdom and compassion for one another, which is a main theme of Commune of Women.

JLR:  Tell us a bit about your childhood.  Where did you grow up?  What was your family like?  Has your childhood influenced your writing?

SS:  I had a pretty unusual childhood. My parents pioneered on a remote mountaintop in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. My first home, as a newborn, was an 8-by-12 foot miner’s shack with no interior walls, plumbing or electricity. My father later built the house where I still live. I never felt alone, growing up, because of two great loves: nature and reading. I was always out in the woods roaming around, as a child, and if I wasn’t there, I was curled up in a chair, reading. In Commune of Women, Sophia’s character expresses some of that experience. There’s no doubt that the closeness I experienced and still enjoy with nature has had a major influence on my writing.

JLR:  How did your formal education prepare you for becoming an author?  Is there anything that you feel you’re your schooling could taught you to better prepare you for the publishing process?

SS:  My masters degree is in art and writing and that period of my schooling was tremendously freeing, creatively. I spent two years in a bliss of writing, painting and sculpting. That experience opened new, previously unimagined depths in my creative process. My doctorate is in depth psychology and that field of study has given me a fascination with personality, the formation of character and the archetypal underpinnings of psyche—all very useful when writing characters. I’m not sure that anything can prepare one for the publishing process, however! All kidding aside, though, I do think that the perseverance that higher education requires, the discipline and the ability to take the long view of things, definitely prepare one for the long and arduous publication process.

JLR:  What other works have you published?

SS:  I have a non-fiction piece, “Prison as Cultural Shadow,” in the anthology, Psychology at the Threshold and, of course, my doctoral dissertation, Dark Persephone: Soul’s Descent to Eros. I’ve had essays, short stories and poetry published in various literary journals, most recently, in Stolen Island Review. Commune of Women is my first novel.

JLR:  Have you had the opportunity to meet any famous writers?  Were there any who made you star-struck?

SS:  I have the good fortune to know James Hillman and his son, Laurence Hillman. James has published so many books that I’ve lost track—25 or 30, maybe? His book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling was on the NY Times Best Seller list. He’s one of the most dazzling intellects on the planet. His son, Laurence, is also a writer, of Planets in Play - How to Reimagine Your Life Through the Language of Astrology and the co-author of Alignments - How to Live in Harmony with the Universe. He’s an archetypal astrologer and a  truly deep and charming person. The two of them are among the most profound and delightful people I know.

JLR:  I’m always a sucker for a good love story.  Who is your favorite fictional couple of all time?

SS:  Oh, it has to be Scarlett and Rhett, of Gone With the Wind. They had tremendous chemistry—although I was always annoyed with Scarlett for being so difficult!

JLR:  Do you have any hidden talents?

SS:  I love to dance, to sing when no one’s around (especially along with Julio Iglesias, in Spanish), and to speak in public (which makes it, I guess, not such a hidden talent!).

JLR:  If you and I went on a road trip across the country, would you rather drive or navigate?  Any favorite car games?

SS:  I love road trips! I like to drive and am really comfortable and competent behind the wheel. But I’m also a happy passenger because I’m a born voyeur—I want to see everything! My friend and I did a 4000-mile road trip through Mexico and my eyes were like one of those scanning cameras you see in stores, taking in every detail. But please, no car games. I don’t want to be distracted from the passing scene or the conversation, which should be deep and soulful or riotously hilarious! Singing along with favorite CDs is allowed, however!

JLR:  What are you writing now that Commune of Women has been released? 

SS:  Now that Commune of Women is released, I’m working on Fiesta of Smoke, a love story that spans five decades and is entangled in the intrigue of a coming revolution in Mexico. Earlier, you asked who my favorite romantic couple of all time is and I have to tell you that, truthfully, Calypso and Javier are. Their relationship is complex, emotional, humorous and fated. And they have undying sexual attraction for one another! When I’m writing the scenes in which they’re together, I’m touched by their truly deep love for and understanding of one another and also by their sizzling chemistry.

JLR:  Where can readers go to purchase Commune of Women?

SS:  Commune of Women is available in both paperback and e-book from:



Barnes & Noble 

JLR:  Thank you, Suzan!  It’s been lovely meeting you!