Category Archives: Author Interviews

Tin House to Close; Sunspot to Open

books-2158737_1920June of 2019 will see the last Tin House literary magazine roll off the presses. After twenty years publishing original fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Tin House is saying goodbye.

The move was done in the face of mounting costs associated with print publishing. Rob Spillman, the co-founder and editor, is moving on to other areas. The closing brings an end to a very long stretch of quality contributions to the literary arena.

While some new works will still be published on Tin House’s website, the loss of yet another print publication is difficult for writers. Much of the industry still gives more weight to credits in print publications, so the loss of even one magazine can be bad news.

There is a bright spot, however. Sunspot Literary Magazine is launching in January of 2019. For the first year, one print edition will be published. The magazine hopes to add additional print editions in subsequent years.

Meanwhile, digital editions are scheduled for every quarter. The founder is also considering adding frequent special editions that focus on a single author or a single category.

The magazine’s mission is to “change the world through words,” and is open to new and established authors and artists. Submissions of short stories, flash fiction, poetry, essays, art, interviews, and reviews of books, movies and galleries are being accepted through Sunspot’s Submittable portal.

This is an excellent opportunity to be heard and to enact the change you want to see.

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Dr. Culp, Author and Educator, in the News

Culp ParentsHere’s another update on a client who has published seven titles through a leading educational publishing house.

You’ve seen a few of Dr. Barbara Culp’s educational titles on this blog before. Now she is receiving coverage from other sources, including this article in Voyage ATL. 

The interview touches on her motivation for writing all of the books. As an educator with over forty years of experience, she found that retirement didn’t suit her very well. There was still too much to be done to help parents, teachers, principals, and students. Culp Teachers

So she started writing books targeting all the different groups involved with K-12 education. She even wrote a book for school superintendents. The “words of wisdom” style series has tips and truly heartfelt advice that can empower while turning up the heat on passion.

Vintage Knowledge for Principals has all 5-star reviews on Amazon. Students who reviewed Choice Knowledge for Students called the book “awesome!” What more could an author…or a reader…want?

Check out all Dr. Culp’s titles at Rowman & Littlefield, on Amazon, or ask your indie bookseller for a copy today! The best thing about Dr. Culp’s work is that she is also working to bring students to their maximum academic potential through the tutorial service she founded. You can visit Amyra, the tutorial company, at their website.

Keep up the great work, Dr. Culp! And I’ll keep readers informed of new books from this talented, warm, and caring author as they are released.

Culp Students

Author Interview: Mark Noce

Mark NoceLast week, I posted a book review for the second title in a historical series by Mark Noce. The first two titles are Between Two Fires and Dark Winds Rising. Both feature Queen Branwen of Wales, an original empowered woman!

Today the author has been kind enough to answer a few questions. So, here we go!

MC: Hi Laine, and thanks so much for having me here!

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

Hmm. My advice would be…don’t take too much advice. I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot of good advice out there, but it’s crucial for each author to find what works for them, and what doesn’t. Experiment, trying things, learn the hard way. It’s what I do. Try writer’s conferences, creative writing groups, online forums, and see what speaks to you.

As for the writing itself, I adhere to Ray Bradbury’s advice to write a lot and often, otherwise, “if you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

I dream about writing (seriously I do), so I’m not sure that I ever really do take a break. Writers are readers, so if you feel you need a break, make sure to plug your time with as much reading as you can. It’s grist for the mill, and there’s so much good stuff out there to enjoy. Writing’s work, but it’s fun too. So long as you keep it fun, you won’t want a break from it.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

There are plenty of challenges, but it wouldn’t be worthwhile if it was easy either. One of the big challenges is simply getting your message heard through all the white noise that fills everyone’s everyday lives. When you promote a book or even get your novel into someone’s hands you probably still don’t have their full attention, i.e. the TV is on, they’re multitasking at work, their kids are interrupting them, etc. All you can really do is try to connect with them right from the get go with those first few lines so that they make the conscious choice to dive into your story. It’s part skill, part luck, part faith.

What books are you currently reading?

Everything! There’s nothing I won’t read. I try to read about 3-4 books a week (and during the summer I try to reread some of my favorites). I’ve been diving into history books lately, fiction and nonfiction. Stuff by James Jones, George Orwell, and even Katharine Hepburn (yes, you read that last part right).

Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? (The authors do not have to be living.)

It’s difficult to say, as you never know what books are being loved in people’s homes across the world, but aren’t bestsellers. I’m a big Lawrence Durrell fan, so if you haven’t read Justine or any of the Alexandrian quartet, you’re in for a treat.

Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

One book that really blew me away this year was Cherie Reich’s stories entitled People of Foxwick. If you enjoy fantasy, check it out. When I read it, I was shocked that a major press hadn’t picked it up yet, it’s that good.

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

Everyone is different. If you do something 60 days in a row though, it typically becomes a habit. Then you simply do it without thinking. Also, it’s key to develop your own regimen. For me, I write on weekdays, but give myself weekends off to read and absorb life. By Monday I’m always chomping at the bit to get writing again.

Dark Winds RisingCan you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

Sure, I’ve got lots. The sequel in my Queen Branwen series, Dark Winds Rising, came out this month, but I’ve got two manuscripts for two different series already with my agent. One is set during the Viking age and another in WWII London. They both feature female protagonists, and I’m really excited to get these out there with publishers.

Do feel free to tell me anything else you think people should know about you, the book, the writing lifestyle, or your process.

I love writing, especially historical fiction. I work by day as a tech writer in Silicon Valley, and when I’m not writing, I’m with my wife raising my kids. My little redheads are great, but looking after them makes writing and the corporate world look easy by comparison. 😉

I hope you enjoy Dark Winds Rising, and I look forward to connecting with all of you. Please feel free to drop me a line at marknoce.com any time. Thanks!

Author Interview: Dr. Barbara Culp

As mentioned in last week’s post about great books for the back-to-school season, now we’re going to hear directly from Dr. Barbara Culp herself.

Culp Teachers

Dr. Culp started out as a preschool teacher before teaching at the elementary and middle school levels. The area superintendent promoted her until she became the principal of one of the largest elementary schools in Georgia.

After retiring, she found that education was a field she could never leave. She returned to work as a field supervisor of aspiring teachers before founding a tutorial service. The books she has written allow her to reach out to everyone who is focused on academic excellence.

More than four decades of experience have been distilled into this series. Each of the comprehensive books targets teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, and students with thoughtful, relevant advice. Readers empower themselves with wisdom from an educator who has been where they want to go.

She kindly took a break from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for this blog.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

To a new writer, I would say it takes time to fine tune your writing skills. Don’t give up, because your passion and purpose will take you places you never dreamed of.

To a seasoned writer, I would say you owe it to your voice in the world to mentor others who have a calling on their lives to write.

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

For me, my mind is constantly at work searching within and without looking for more thoughts and information to fill the void with respect to the project I’m currently working on. It resembles an outline or table of contents; it is part of the whole that inspires more.

It makes me feel that I have something of value to add to the big picture of reading and writing and, as an artist, I am challenged to always put my best foot forward.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

I think the greatest challenge to publishers is to get people reading again. In a world where technology rules, reading a book seems to be the last thing people want to do.

I hate to offer this suggestion, but the right incentives usually motivate people to doing things they might not do on their own…so, hide messages in books that lead to monetary rewards/incentives or put books on audio to be listened to as we travel to and from.

What books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading the Bible and The Moses Code.

Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? (The authors do not have to be living.)

I think James Baldwin was an underappreciated Black author during his time, and that was one of the reasons why he left America and moved to France. If he were living today, his novels would probably be bestsellers as he had a tendency to speak about human sexuality as it exists in the world today.

Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

Michelle Alexander is a new author, civil rights attorney, and Professor of Law at Ohio State University who wrote a book titled The New Jim Crow. She spotlights racism based on her insight as a civil rights lawyer. In her book, she helps us to see the imbalance in our justice system when it comes to race in America.

Culp Principals

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

Believe it or not, I believe I write best when I am bored or depressed. When I am feeling low, I can write my way back to a place of happiness, self-acceptance and self-reliance. The ideas, words, and thoughts seems to just flow.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

Again, my next project is school/workplace related, and it centers on building highly effective and efficient operating teams in support of greater student success.

 

Interview with Christopher Zoukis, Author of Federal Prison Handbook

Interview with Christopher Zoukis, prison rights advocate and author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

When it comes to those new to professional writing, I would say that you need to read what you want to write and also read a lot about how to refine your craft and market yourself. It’s hard to get going in this industry. But with a lot of time and effort, it is certainly possible to make a name for yourself. The key is in understanding the type of writing that you want to write and how to market your brand within that arena.

As for those who have been in the industry for a while, the game is changing. It used to be that if a book wasn’t published by one of the Big Six that it didn’t stand much of a chance. Now, even if a book is published by a large publishing house, it still might not stand much of a chance. New technologies and avenues of connecting with readers are the wave of the future. Harness these tools, think outside the box, and figure out how to get your expertise (or flavor of fiction) to the end user in a manner that they want. The current era is that of the hybrid author — an author both traditionally published and self-published. There is a strong argument for pursuing the hybrid path in today’s market.

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

As a writer I feel that I’m an odd sort. I’m all on or all off. So, when I’m all on, I write like my life depends on it. I outline, create a self-imposed quota system, and muscle to the finish line. I’ve found that when working this way it is important to take time off. This is why I try to vary my tasks, and to cycle whenever I can. I go from books to articles to book reviews to interviews and so forth. I also try to build in projects that aren’t writing-related. I work out, play Ultimate Frisbee, and try to schedule a little time each evening to hang out with a friend to decompress.

One word of wisdom that I would offer aspiring book writers (and those who have already published their works) is to really think about what type of book the world really needs. I always have five books in the back of my head. They are all worthy, at least in my not-so-humble opinion. But when it comes to devoting a year of my life to something, I need to select a project that is going to succeed. So, when deciding what to do next, a writer should really think about the reader and the industry. What is missing? What do readers crave? And is there a book that readers don’t even know that they want, but won’t be able to live without once they have it? This is the book that you need to write next.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

Making money as a writer is a challenge. Most of us will never be New York Times bestselling authors. That’s the truth of it. So, we need to find a way to make our writing work for us and pay the bills. As a nonfiction author, one way to do this is to use your book as a business calling card, which draws attention to your primary product — which may not be your book. Writers who want to live a comfortable life need to plan on not making a whole ton of money on their books, but to structure their books and businesses in such a way that a revenue channel can be capitalized upon.

What books are you currently reading?

I tend to read a lot of school books these days due to being a graduate student at Adams State University. So, typically I’m reading a lot of business textbooks. I just finished a book on organizational behavior last week and am about to start a book on managerial finance shortly.

I also engage in a healthy amount of non-school reading. Right now I’m reading the Magisterium series of novels by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. These are phenomenal books. They remind me a lot of Harry Potter. I’m also reading Journalistic Writing by Robert M. Knight to help hone my craft a bit and Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews to upgrade my fitness knowledge.

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

I try very hard to cycle my projects, because I find that I get burned out very easily. So, the best “get writing” technique that I have is to vary my projects. A close second is to outline and implement a self-imposed quota system. If I’ve outlined a 20 chapter book, then I might push myself to complete a chapter every week or two. Then, after the rough draft is down on paper, I might set a quota of polishing one chapter every week. This quota-based system helps me push myself to project completion. In this respect, I’m very business-like with my writing projects. I like to think of myself as a project manager who needs to ensure that the writing project is done on time, at an appropriate level of quality, and that it fulfills my readers’ needs.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

Sure. If you swing by PrisonerResource.com you can check out my Federal Prison Handbook. In this book I’ve tried to answer all of the questions that a new or seasoned federal prisoner, as well as their loved ones, may have. You can also use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.com. This provides readers with a sample of the book prior to purchase.

Author Interview: Cory Groshek

This author interview arrives in time to help with the new year and all those new projects you want to tackle. Cory Groshek has written the first book in a series that teaches readers young and old how to create abundance.

Breaking Away is a ton of fun with warmth that you’ll feel every time you read and reread this book. Here’s what Cory has to say.

What was your motivation to write this series?

It was the fact that our public schools are not teaching our children what they really need to know to be successful later in life—how to dream big, why risk-taking is necessary, the importance of trusting their gut, and why they should always make decisions based on faith (or on what they do want) and not out of fear (or on what they don’t want).

Growing up, I wasn’t taught any of this, and I really wish I had been, because had I been, I believe I wouldn’t have taken 33 years to release my first book, or to achieve the success I’ve achieved in the last couple years in general. My hope with the Rabylon Series is that it will inspire children (and their parents) to not only dream bigger, but to act on their dreams and thereby see them become reality, as mine have.

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

I am constantly engaged in deep thought, so while I may take a break from writing to focus on, say, marketing or promoting my work, I never take a break from creativity. I couldn’t shut my mind off or stop its gears from turning even if I wanted to (which I don’t), and I am always brainstorming new ideas for stories, books, blog posts, etc. As such, I keep my smart phone or a notebook handy at all times, just in case I need to write down or text some of my ideas to myself.

Being bombarded with so many ideas all day, every day can leave me feeling overwhelmed at times, but overall I find it exhilarating. I love the warm, fuzzy “rush” I feel when a strange, new thought pops into my head, and I feel very blessed that so many such thoughts dawn upon me, because I know a lot of people who struggle very hard with writer’s block and/or who try (in my opinion) too hard to force ideas, instead of just letting them come to them (as I do).

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone out there struggling with coming up with new ideas (or “fodder”, if you will) for books, stories, etc., it would be this: Be not only open-minded, but openhearted as well, when it comes to the thoughts and ideas that come to you. Don’t worry about whether they are “good” or “bad”—just let them come to you. And when they do, your job is not to judge them, but to simply absorb them (like a sponge), so that you can use them later as the raw material from which you may craft your next story, book, etc. That’s what I do, and it’s worked out great for me, not only in terms of book- and blog-writing, but in terms of general, all-purpose brainstorming as well.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

The biggest challenge is getting noticed—in “separating ourselves from the pack” or “rising above the noise”, so to say, that surrounds us in this busy world we live in. In Robert Greene’s brilliant book (and one of my personal favorites) ‘The 48 Laws of Power’, one of the laws is ‘Court attention at all costs’—which basically means “do whatever you have to do to get everybody to look at you instead of someone else”—but judging from what I’ve seen, that is far easier said than done.

Today, we are drowning in any ocean of Tweets and ten-second sound bites, and it is much more difficult to “cut through the clutter” and get peoples’ attention than it used to be, especially if you are an introverted author, and especially whereas Amazon.com is filled with millions of self-published books that are really nothing more than glorified blog posts written not for the sake of enriching the lives of others, but for the sake of making a “quick buck.”

The way to solve this challenge—in my opinion—is to stop thinking like an author and start thinking like a shameless self-promoter (as “bad” as that may sound); to start thinking like, dare I say it, a Kardashian. As much as we as authors don’t want to make “it” (this whole “selling books” thing) about us, we have to if we want to be successful. You see, people don’t just buy books these days—they buy the author, just like how people go to see movies because, say, Matt Damon (or whichever actor or actress they love the most) is in them, regardless of what the movie is about.

We as authors need to stop thinking of ourselves as authors and to start thinking of ourselves as brands, like the Kardashians do. While this doesn’t necessarily mean putting out sex tapes to generate publicity for ourselves (although it worked for Kim Kardashian), it does mean thinking outside the box, doing things that other authors wouldn’t even consider doing, and being just as creative with our marketing and promotion of ourselves as we are with the stories we tell in our books.

If you think you’re simply going to throw your new book into the Amazonian Sea of Mediocrity that surrounds us, like it’s some sort of message in a bottle, and have this lead to millions of dollars in book sales, a movie deal, and a billion-dollar net worth like J.K. Rowling’s, then I’m sorry, my friend, but you are sorely mistaken. If you want to be like J.K., you can’t just be a “writer” or an “author” , and you can’t just leave your success up to luck or random chance (which don’t exist, by the way)—you must become a brand (like McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Apple) that people know and love, like they love their cheeseburgers, lattes, and laptops. As for how you can go about becoming such a brand, well, I guess you’ll have to visit my blog, ManifestationMachine.com, for help with that!

WR Note: Anyone who signs up for the blog is going to get freebies!

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you? 

For me, finding the motivation to write is not about discipline—it’s about knowing, first of all, what I want to write and, second, why I want to write it. If I don’t know the what or the why, then I don’t even bother trying to write, because without the what and the why, then the how (the actual process by which the writing physically happens, or by which the story or book we have in mind comes to fruition) cannot manifest itself. I find that once I’ve got the what and the why down, then the how (the sitting down and actually writing) takes care of itself.

When I hear other writers complain that they don’t have “enough time” to write, it’s not that they don’t have the time; it’s that they haven’t created the time. And if I hear them complain that they find it very difficult to force themselves to just sit down and write, the problem isn’t a lack of discipline—the problem is that they either don’t know what they want to write, or they simply don’t care enough about what they claim they want to write to actually write it (or both). Simply put, if you have clarity on what you want to write and conviction to get the writing done, it will get done—if not, then it won’t. End of story (no pun intended).

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

My next project is a book I’ve had in mind for the last year or so, which is a self-help book for adults named after my personal growth and development and brand, Manifestation Machine. It will focus upon a metaphysical process (involving what I’ve labeled “The Four C’s”) for achieving our dreams and creating what I call “a life worth dying for” that I’ve personally used to go from a working part-time in a dead-end job, living at home with my father, and being in debt up to my eyeballs to self-employed (doing what I love), living in a fully paid-off house of my own, and having a net worth of over $300,000.

Guest Post by Author Herta Feely

Today we hear directly from Herta Feely, author of Saving Phoebe Murrow. 

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It’s September. Crickets and cicadas screech in full chorus as I sit on a small third-story balcony overlooking a forest of oak trees, trying to imagine what readers might like to know about the writing of Saving Phoebe Murrow.

1) Are you wondering how I chose Phoebe’s name or Isabel’s?

2) Because Phoebe was bullied, do you wonder if, perhaps, I was ever bullied, or if I was a bully?

3) Do you want to know why the story is set in DC in 2008?

4) Do you ask: What are you working on next?

So, question one. The characters’ names. I’ve always liked the name Phoebe. It contains a kind of vulnerability and softness that I wanted for the eponymous 13-year-old character. As for Isabel, her character actually began with the name Susan in a short story, which then became part of this novel. In that story, which you’ll recognize in Saving Phoebe Murrow, a woman is getting a manicure and while there experiences anxieties about her teen daughter, from whom she feels estranged yet is dying to understand.  After changing Susan to Isabel, I also changed the last name from Winslow to Winthrop, which helps reflect Isabel’s rigid upbringing (as in the Puritanical Winthrops of Massachusetts), hence her rigid father, John Winthrop.

#2: Yes, in fact, I was bullied as a young girl when fresh “off the boat” from Germany and new to the U.S. It was quite painful and stayed with me for many years. I only remembered this after writing the novel when someone asked me about bullying. I imagine that experience allowed me to tap into emotional truths for 13-year-old Phoebe in the novel. (I don’t recall being a bully. Bossy, yes. Bully, no!)

#3: The story is set in DC , where I’ve lived since 1982. Though this novel reflects certain peculiarities of DC culture, perhaps even exaggerates them for dramatic effect, the essential aspects of the story could take place anywhere. I chose 2008 because teens still heavily used Facebook then and it was an interesting election year, which allowed me to bring certain aspects of the city to the fore.

#4: I’m working on All Fall Down, a novel about Charlotte Cooper, a woman about to reach the pinnacle of her career, until everything falls out from under her. It’s also a love story between a London-raised Nigerian sculptor and Charlotte, the human rights activist.

 

To hear more from Feely, check out her website. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the giveaway!

For another novel that features a strong female protagonist in a unique setting, try Beloved: A Senual Noir Thriller