An Interview with Jordan Rosenfeld

February 20, 2015

Bloggers Note: Jordan will be speaking at the March 14th meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club. The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Cost is $35 members and $45 for guests. Sign-in is at 8:30 am–9:00 am, full breakfast at 9:00–9:30 am, and program at 9:45 a.m.–12:45 pm.  Reservations required. RSVP by 3/11/15. Use PayPal from our Mt. Diablo website: http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program (add $2 handling fee).
Or contact Robin via email ragig@aol.com or by phone 925-933-9670.

1. Can you give us some highlights from your book: Making a Scene?

I consider the scene the “essential DNA” of any good story—if you learn how to balance and wield the ingredients of a scene, you have the most fundamental pieces of story. My forthcoming book with Martha Alderson, Writing Deep Scenes” will go further and show you how to stack your scenes, and what kinds, to build a strong plot.

2. What do you think is the best technique to create tension?

The greatest technique may be uncertainty; creating a“push-pull” energy in every scene. That means nothing comes easy—dialogue is never flat or simple, the reader is always wondering what is coming next. You never “give” the reader exactly what s/he wants, but keep something up in the air, keep yearning alive. This also means paying attention to your language.

3. What authors have most influenced your writing?

I just wrote a piece about the “awkward female heroines” of my youth for DAME [http://bit.ly/1KSsPoD] and I’d have to say that I was strongly influenced as a child by writers like Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatly Snyder, Louisa May Alcott, and when I grew up I gravitated to Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Donna Tartt. I like strong female writers with a propensity toward darkness.

4. Describe your path to publication.

I often call it my “stumble and bumble” path to success. I have a BA in Liberal Arts and an MFA in Creative Writing—not exactly highly employable degrees. I’ve always just thrown myself in the path of what I loved. Did a lot of volunteer gigs that put me close to writers: led a literary salon, hosted and recorded a literary radio show (in which I got to interview some of my literary heroes like Louise Erdrich and TC Boyle). I tend to ignore advice that says “you should” or “you can’t” and go my own way. When I sold Make a Scene to Writer’s Digest Books, I had no platform, not much name for myself and no agent. If I listened to the advice I should not have been able to do that. My motto is “practice, polish, persist.” And also: “Say yes to new opportunities even if they scare you.”

5. What are the biggest mistakes you see in the manuscripts that you edit?

Lack of craft. People rush their stories out and don’t take the time to care about their sentences, their character development, grounding a reader in a scene, working on dialogue. To me, this is the one downside of the speed by which self-publishing moves—people have begun to sacrifice the work needed to revise and get feedback.

6. Do you think a social media presence is necessary to get a book deal?

In this day and age, it certainly helps. I don’t know if it’s necessary as much for fiction, but for non-fiction, yes.

7. If you were to describe yourself as a breed of cat what would it be?

Siamese. Because they are alternately graceful and annoying. They are the “snobs” of the cat world, but when you actually get to know them, they’re quite cuddly.

8. What is your greatest writing weakness?

Over-writing. I have to work on my own wordiness, over-use of adjectives, and imagery.

9. In this changing industry, do you think self-publication is a good career path for an author?

If by “career” you mean is self-publishing a good way to make money, the answer is: sometimes. But I can’t, in good faith say: quit your day job. Amazon, which is in many ways the overlord of self-publishing, no matter what service you use, since they do everything better, faster and cheaper, and ultimately control the price points, and the search algorithms, is making it harder for self-publishers to make as much money as they did when it all blew up several years ago. But like any aspect of publishing, if you find a niche and you’re good at it, sure, you can make some income off of it.

10. How do you handle rejection and what advice do you have for authors facing their 10th, 20th, 50th rejection?

The very basis of my forthcoming book A Writer’s Guide to Persistence is that you must find the joy and the meaning in your work so that you can weather the rejection and discouragement. It has to matter to you beyond approval, publication and praise or you will fall prey to discouragement. I also say that if you’re facing more rejection than anything else, it’s probably a good idea to revisit the work and go deeper into it. Otherwise, maybe look at the places you’re choosing to submit, and rethink them, as well. I’ve been pursuing a writing career for twenty years and most of my biggest success has come in the last year. There has been plenty of small success along the way, but this year, something shifted. So, above all: persist!

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Jordan Rosenfeld. To learn more visit her website): http://jordanrosenfeld.net/publications/


An Interview with Mystery Writer Susan Shea

February 7, 2015

Bloggers Note: Susan Shea will be speaking on the topic of Write What You Know at the February 14th meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club. The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Cost is $20 members and $25 for guests. Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm. Reservations required. RSVP by 2/11/15. Use PayPal from our Mt. Diablo website: http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program (add $2 handling fee).
Or contact Robin via email ragig@aol.com or by phone 925-933-9670.

1. In one paragraph, summarize your book, The King’s Jar.

When an anthropologist she had just met in San Francisco is killed in his lab and a priceless artifact he was studying is stolen, Dani O’Rourke is drawn into the hunt for the thief and killer. She is the chief fundraiser for the museum that was about to receive the King’s Jar, and an exhibit and black tie dinner in Manhattan to honor the billionaire donor are up in the air. As she juggles imperious donors, flustered volunteers, a charismatic TV host, a nervous boss, and her impulsive ex-husband who seems to show up everywhere, she edges closer – too close – to identifying the real villain.

2. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

It’s the same advice we all get, but that doesn’t make it less important: Keep writing. Don’t give up the first time it doesn’t come easy or the first time you get feedback that says you have further to go. We all start at the beginning – all of us. It’s the ones who grit their teeth, chain themselves to the chair, and gut it through to “The End” who learn and grow into really good writers.

3. Who inspired your character Dani O’Rourke?

Dani’s a combination of real women I know or read about, with something of me in her voice, and a lot of the professional skills I have admired in my colleagues over the years. One big difference between me and Dani is her failed marriage to a charming but highly impulsive man with $450 million, two Porsches, and a pied a terre in Paris!

4. What has been the biggest challenge on your path to publication?

The first one was finding the time, energy, and focus to finish a full length novel while holding down a demanding job that also required writing. The second was finding a publisher (I got lucky and found a great agent early on) in the dark days of 2008 after the market crash, when a lot of imprints were temporarily suspending their buying.

5. How did you find your agent?

Kimberley Cameron was on the faculty at the Book Passage Mystery Writing Conference – a first-rate program, by the way – and was among the faculty willing to read our first 20 pages. By that time, Murder in the Abstract had gone through lots of revisions and a writing group’s crits, so it was pretty polished. She signed me on the spot. I was speechless!

6. What authors have most influenced your writing?

Start with Jane Austen, whose character portraits, romantic tensions, and funny bits delight me again and again. Anthony Trollope’s wicked satire, Agatha Christie’s devilish plots, Janet Evanovitch’s breezy first person prose, Sue Grafton’s modern woman… the list goes on and on.

7. If you were to describe yourself as a character in a murder mystery (e.g., sleuth, police investigator, etc.) who would that be?

Well, I guess it would be what I did with the series: I’d be a fundraiser who works with the uber rich (entitled), artists (also entitled) and fascinating, creative people, but whose slightly cynical interior commentary is best kept to herself.

8. What is your greatest writing weakness?

The discipline to do rewriting and to work every day even when the garden beckons.

9. What is your writing routine?

See above. Sketchy at best. I’m not a morning person, so the best time is usually from about 2 p.m. until 7 or 7:30. My study gets messier and messier until things begin slipping onto the floor when one of my cats marches across the desk, and then I have to set aside a day to get rid of paper.

10. What drew you to writing crime fiction?

I like crime fiction. I love series. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series delighted me and gave me an idea that I could at least try it. Mysteries have a format, a structure on which to build, and for me coming into fiction after a long career writing other kinds of prose, it was a real help and confidence builder.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Susan Shea. To learn more visit her website ( http://www.susancshea.com or follow her on Criminal Minds (http://7criminalminds.blogspot.com). Her print and e-books and the Audible version of The King’s Jar are available on Amazon and at some indie bookstores.


Self-Publishing Tips from Smashword’s Jim Azevedo

January 31, 2015

1. In one paragraph, summarize the services of Smashwords.

Smashwords provides free ebook publishing and distribution services for self-published authors. When you click “Publish” at the Smashwords site, you’ll be asked to upload your original document as either an epub file or a Microsoft Word .doc file (we recommend a Word .doc file). Once your book is uploaded, it’s converted into every important ebook file type (e.g. mobi, epub, pdf, etc.) and then checked for any formatting errors. This process takes about 5 minutes, after which your book is available for immediate sale and sampling at Smashwords.com. If no formatting errors are detected, the book is ready for distribution through our global retail network–including Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, Oyster and more–as well as to libraries through our partnerships with OverDrive and Baker & Taylor. I should point out that Smashwords is free to join, free to publish, free to distribute, and the ebook conversion is also free. Authors can also make unlimited changes to their books at no charge. Smashwords only makes money if our authors’ books sell. We take a 10% commission, and the author earns 60-80% of their ebook’s list price as their royalty.

2. Besides writing a super awesome book, what is the most important thing a self-published author can do to promote their books?

Besides writing a super-awesome book, the most important thing an author can do to promote their books is to make their books as findable as possible. To make your books as findable as possible, distribute all of your books to all the places where readers go to find books. This means a reader should be able to find your books at any of the major online ebook retailers, subscription services and at libraries. On your website, blog or favorite social media platform, if you’re only providing a link to one retail store, you’re missing out on all the readers who prefer to shop elsewhere. So, don’t just link to one store where your book is for sale–link to all of them. Make your books as accessible and affordable as possible. Remember, within every ebook you have the opportunity to promote your other titles, link to your website, etc. Think of every book that you write and every hyperlink that you provide as paths that lead the reader back to you, the author, and to your other books.

3. What is the most important “lessons learned” that Smashwords has discovered since it started in 2008?

I’ll answer this from a Smashwords business perspective first, which I believe also applies to the business of being an author. The most important lesson learned is that everything is changing all the time. You can ill afford to rest on your laurels or stop innovating or stop learning. In the same vein, you also can’t afford to be paralyzed by fear, so don’t be afraid to experiment with your style or your marketing, and don’t be afraid to fail. From an author perspective, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that finding time to write must be your number one priority. This isn’t just my advice, but advice culled from dozens of bestselling authors I’ve either met or who I’ve had the pleasure to hear speak at conferences.

4. You trained to public speak through Toastmasters, what other advice would you give to writers faced with giving talks to promote their books?

Boy, this could be the topic of a completely separate interview. I’ll boil it down to three key pieces of advice. First, jump into the fire. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way and proactively seek out more. I know it’s scary, but nothing alleviates fear more than experience. When I started public speaking, I transitioned from 5-7 minute Toastmaster speeches to presentations that were at least 45 minutes long. But two years later, I’ve spoken at 40 different events and presented about 60 hours worth of material. To gain experience, seek out opportunities to speak at CWC meetings, at work, at school, at Toastmasters, and even at writers’ conferences. Consider submitting a speaking proposal for a panel session at a writers’ conference with some of your fellow author friends sitting on the panel with you. That way, you’re exposed to a live audience but you have backup if needed.

Second, rehearse as early and as often as you can. Most of our nervousness derives from some internal lack of confidence. However, the more prepared you are the more confident you’ll be. While different speakers have developed different techniques to help prepare, what works for me is reading through my slides several times out loud, so I can get used to the sound of my voice. I’ll also project the slides onto a wall and pretend like I’m speaking to an audience. Audiences appreciate a prepared and knowledgeable speaker. Remember that your presentation isn’t about perfection. It’s about providing information to an audience that’s on your side and eager to hear what you have to say.

Third, show up early and chat with the attendees and the other presenters. When I first started publicly speaking, I convinced myself that everyone in the audience was smarter than me and that I would be exposed as a fraud. Talk about pressure! However, whenever I found the time to meet the other presenters or members of the audience, I learned that they were normal, very friendly people who weren’t out to get me. Another advantage you’ll have by chatting with others before you start, is that you’ll find you have friends in the audience when you begin. They will be the people who are smiling brightly at you as you cover your key points.

5. What is the most common formatting error that you see?

The most common formatting error continues to be a hodgepodge of different paragraph styles within the same document, prior to ebook conversion. If writing in Microsoft Word, the author might have Normal Style for one paragraph, Body Text in another paragraph, and possibly even multiple Heading styles. Often, in Microsoft Word, the author may not even realize they have multiple conflicting paragraph styles. Once converted into an ebook, this formatting error can cause the ebook to have inconsistent font sizes from one paragraph to the next. As you can imagine, this can make for an annoying read. Fortunately, the fix is easy. Simply by unifying the entire document under a single paragraph style (e.g. Normal) can take care of the issue. The author can still create custom sections to enhance the appearance of their book. For more detailed advice, be sure to download our free formatting guide, the Smashwords Style Guide, here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52

6. When not working at Smashwords, you are a drummer in a band called Rivals, if you were to describe yourself as a famous musician who would that be?

I don’t know that I can describe myself as Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, but I’ve admired his career for years. Dave reached celebrity status as the drummer for Nirvana, the gritty punk rock band widely credited for launching the so-called “grunge” movement of the 1990s while simultaneously destroying the “hair metal” scene of the 1980s. Nirvana’s raw, authentic sound was refreshing to music fans that had grown tired of a manufactured look and sound. After the demise of Nirvana, Dave founded the Foo Fighters, now recognized as one of the most successful bands in history. More recently, his passion for music led to his producing and directing of two critically acclaimed films, Sound City in 2013 and the HBO series Sonic Highways in 2014. My drumming style is similar to Dave’s, but what I admire about the man is how he’s stayed true to his passion throughout his life. I think there’s a lesson there, whether you’re a musician, an author or a bricklayer. If you love what you do, keep doing it no matter what.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Jim Azevedo. To learn more about Smashwords visit http://www.smashwords.com or follow their blog at http://blog.smashwords.com/


Winning and Not Winning During NaNoWriMo

December 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is over. I did not “win,” because I did not write 50,000 words, but I won is so many other ways and I did write 41,314 words! In truth, I hadn’t really set out to “win,” My goal was to finish my YA novel project – but sadly, I didn’t achieve that goal either. I had 23 chapters under my belt with what I thought was only 8 more to go, but my muse had other ideas. I am currently writing Chapter 39 and while there is an end on the horizon, I’m not going to predict how many more chapters it will take to get there.

Here’s a few things I learned so much from the NaNoWriMo process:

1). It takes me about 2 hours to write about 1600 words.
2). It doesn’t work for me to focus only on word count when I am writing historical fiction. I need to spend the time on research. (Maybe next year I will choose a different sort of project).
3). My pre-made muse board was a huge help to keep me on track.
4). My story has more depth and I think is more cohesive because of the discipline of writing something on a daily basis, even if I skipped a day now and then or didn’t get a chance to write down the words that I’d conjured. I was more grounded in the world I created.
5). I love, love, love to write.


An Interview with Andrew Benzie of Andrew Benzie Books

November 28, 2014

Bloggers Note: Andrew (as well as Melanie Denman and Dina Colman – see previous posts) will be speaking on a panel on Top Ten Tips on self- and independent publishing at the December holiday banquet meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club. The meeting will be on December 13, 2014 at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Cost is $20 members and $25 for guests. Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm.

1. How did you get involved in the self publishing business? Did you take classes? Was there a part of your educational background that helped you pursue this career?

My art degree from UC Santa Cruz combined with 25 years’ experience in the design/print industry has prepared me well for the self publishing revolution. I first became involved in self publishing when I designed, published and marketed my father’s first novel The Elusive Immigrant in 2008—since then I have published over 20 books for local Bay Area authors.

2. Have you written a book? If not, what would you write about if you had all the time in the world to do so?

I have written bits and pieces here and there, but haven’t managed to complete a book just yet. If I had unlimited time, I might explore creating an interactive animated children’s ebook.

3. What is the most common problem you’ve encountered with manuscripts submitted to you, i.e. formatting? What do your clients do that makes Andrew nuts?

After I enter a client’s manuscript into one of my templates, I always go through the text and check for things like the number of spaces between sentences, indents instead of tabs, make sure the use of em and en dashes is consistent, do a final spell check, etc., so I really don’t run across anything that drives me nuts formatting wise. I tell my clients not to worry about the formatting—that’s my job, just focus on the writing.

4. What is your favorite color and why? How many walls in your home are painted your favorite color? Is your car that color?

Blue, because my wife’s eyes are blue. Yes, she told me to say that. Sorry, I have no blue walls or cars.

5. Who is your favorite author?

That’s a tough one, it changes all the time I suppose . . . but I recently enjoyed plowing through Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.

6. Other than Curious George, what is your favorite book? How many times have you read it? (Not Curious George but your favorite book.)

I have probably read the Lord of the Rings trilogy more than any other book as it was the first book I really enjoyed reading as a child. And that was way before the movies came out!

7. You play the drums. Which rock star would you like to be?

There are a lot of drummers out there who I admire, but I think I’ll just stick with being me. Even if that means I still have to lug my own drums around. One of these days I’ll hire a roadie.

8. What is your favorite food?

Pizza. It’s the whole food pyramid served in the shape of a food pyramid.

9. What advice would you give someone who is considering self publishing, other than seeking the expert services of Andrew Benzie?

I would suggest anyone considering self-publishing do as much research as they can about the many options available to them, and to learn as much as they can from others who have been through the process before. And don’t forget to have fun, it can be a very rewarding process!

10. From your point of view, what is the most challenging or difficult thing about self-publishing?

Often its the marketing side that’s most challenging for my clients. To offer assistance, I offer marketing consultation services to help authors find ways to promote and market their books.

To learn more about Andrew Benzie Books, visit http://www.andrewbenziebooks.com/Home.html.


An Interview with IPPY Winner: Dina Colman

November 19, 2014

Layout 1 (Page 1)Bloggers Note:  Dina will be speaking on a panel on Top Ten Tips on launching a book based on her indie publishing experience at the December holiday banquet meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club.  The meeting will be on December 13, 2014 at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.  Cost is $20 members and $25 for guests.  Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm.

  1. In one paragraph, summarize your book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life.

Many people worry about getting cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or heart disease because it “runs in our family.” Four Quadrant Living is about nourishing the four quadrants of our lives – Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment – to create our new health destiny. Four Quadrant Living shows us how to take responsibility for our health and make healthy living a part of our daily routine. Everyday we make choices that impact our health—the foods we eat, the products we use, the exercise we do (or don’t do), the stress we allow, the people we surround ourselves with, and the environment we live in. Four Quadrant Living offers practical suggestions for nourishing the four quadrants of our lives, including ways to reduce stress, live mindfully, eat well, exercise more, sleep better, engage in healthy relationships, and detoxify our environment.

  1. What advice do you have for nonfiction writers?

Write about your passion. Bring your personality into your writing. Share your story as to why you are writing about your topic. Use examples to help illustrate your point. Believe in yourself. Don’t try to please everyone, write your truth.

  1. How important do you think social media is to a book’s success?

Social media was critical to my book’s success in several ways. First, it helped me get really powerful endorsements such as Dick Bolles, John Robbins, Ken Wilber, Sarah Susanka, Guy Kawasaki, and more. I used every way possible to contact people – LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Second, it helped me hit Amazon Top 100 at book launch. I had a 24-hour promotional campaign on the day the book was published. My book actually hit #2 in its category! You can see what readers received if they bought my book in the first 24 hours on my website at http://fourquadrantliving.com/book/book-extras. I have changed the marketing of the page to have it be an ongoing offer, but you can see what I gave away. Readers actually sent me their Amazon receipt to get their free book extras. Social media worked!

  1. What has been the biggest challenge on your path to publication?

As a new writer, every step of the way felt like a challenge. It felt like I was constantly at the bottom of a new learning curve with each new step of the way – getting a publisher, getting endorsements, editing, designing the cover, launch, and so on. It was a hard road, but so worth it. My book has won 11 awards. The biggest reward is hearing from readers on what chapters or ideas resonate the most with them and how the book has inspired them to live a healthier life.

  1. Do you write organically or do you outline? If you outline, how close is the finished product to your outline?

I write organically. I did have a Table of Contents that was in the book proposal so I did know most of the 48 chapters ahead of time. Most of that stayed true in the final book. I didn’t have any sort of order for writing the chapters. My book is organized into four sections: Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment. I did not have a plan for how I chose which chapter to write. For example, I could have written one chapter in Mind, then Body, then Relationships and then Environment, and then repeat. Or I could have written all Mind chapters, then Body, and so on. I just looked at my table of contents and wrote what I felt inspired to write on any given day.

  1. If you were to give any one of your four quadrants more priority, what would it be?

That’s like being asked to choose your favorite child! The essence of Four Quadrant Living is that all four quadrants are integral for our health and happiness. In this country, we tend to focus on the Body quadrant when we think of health, but this only tells us one-fourth of the story. We may be eating well and exercising, but we cannot truly be healthy if at the same time our mind is stressed, our relationships are toxic, and our world is sick.

  1. What is your greatest writing weakness?

My biggest writing weakness is just to make the time for it and not let life get in the way. I love to write and I love to edit my work. I have fond memories of spending hour upon hour sitting on my couch with pen and paper editing my book. I write at the computer and edit with pen and paper. Perhaps because I wrote my book as a new writer, I didn’t have expectations or know to follow any specific way of doing it (either the process or the content). I just wrote my book as I wanted to without any preconceived notions of how it should be done.

  1. Do you think owning a dog affects your health? What about another pet (cat, bird, etc.) that doesn’t require exercise?

Yes! There is a chapter in my book entitled “Four-Legged Therapy” about the health benefits our pets give us. It’s not just about the exercise a dog can give us, it’s about the love and nourishment any pet can give us. As I write in my book, “Is there a prescription drug that can make us feel as good as a puppy licking our face or a kitten cuddling in our arms?” Spending time with our pets has physiological and psychological health benefits including lower resting heart rate, improved mood, lower anxiety, and less loneliness. The chapter goes on to explain some studies with other shown health benefits including higher survival rates after heart surgery and fewer doctor visits. I will always have a four-legged animal in my household. I can’t imagine life without my furry friends.

  1. Writing is a sedentary pursuit. How do you balance writing with a healthy lifestyle?

What a great question as I type the answers to these questions as I’m walking on a treadmill! I have a treadmill desk so I can walk and type at the same time. I found myself spending so much time at my computer that when I heard about a treadmill desk, I knew it was for me! I’ve walked over 80 miles on my treadmill desk. Some people wonder how you can type and walk at the same time, but it is pretty easy. You walk at a much slower pace than you do if you were walking for true exercise, but in an hour of work I can walk 1.5 miles. Even if you can’t have a treadmill desk, there are ways to balance writing with a healthy lifestyle. I had a timer that I would set and after an hour of writing or editing, I would be sure to get up and stretch. You can do five minutes of jumping jacks, jumping rope, lifting weights, squats. I have a very active lifestyle so I’m pretty motivated to get out and exercise. Running is my exercise of choice, especially outside on the many local trails with my pup Kora.

Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an award-winning author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her Amazon Top 100 book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at dina@fourquadrantliving.com


An Interview with Melanie Denman – 2014 IPPY Award Winner

November 15, 2014

VTS Front Cover

 Bloggers Note:  IPPY Award Winner Melanie Denman will be speaking on a panel on Top Ten Tips based on her indie publishing experience at the December holiday banquet meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club.  The meeting will be on December 13, 2014 at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.  Cost is $20 members and $25 for guests.  Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm.  Reservations are required.  Contact Robin at ragig@aol.com or by phone 925 933-9670 by 12/10 to secure your seat.

1. In one paragraph, summarize your new book.

Set in the Bible Belt of Deep East Texas, Visiting the Sins is the story of three generations of women whose lofty social aspirations are exceeded only by their unfortunate taste in men and a seemingly boundless capacity for holding grudges. A legacy of feuding and scandal lurches from one generation to the next with tragic consequences that threaten to destroy everything these feisty but perennially dissatisfied women have sacrificed their souls to build.

2. Tell us about the signature drink that was developed for your book.

The “Pokeyteeny” is a drink named in honor of one of my main characters Pokey, the love-starved, pistol-packing matriarch of the Wheeler clan. Like its namesake character, the “Pokeyteeny” is nicely aged, a little dirty, and packing heat! It’s made with tequila and will liven up a book club discussion, for sure.

3. Who are your favorite authors? 

William Faulkner, Larry McMurtry, Leon Uris, Paul Bowles, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. I like Katherine Anne Porter’s short stories. All of Mary Karr’s memoirs. And mysteries by James Lee Burke.

4. What has been the biggest challenge on your path to publication?

Learning to appreciate criticism.

5. Where did you come up with the idea about your devil painting? 

I grew up with a big painting of the devil hanging on the wall in our living room.

6. If you were to describe yourself as a type of southern food, what would you be?

My favorite southern food is Mexican food, so maybe I would be an enchilada with mole sauce.

7. What did you think the major advantages to doing a professional program like the Stanford Writing Program as compared to being involved in a critique group?

Actually the writing program and my critique group were both instrumental in the development of my book, just in different ways. In the Stanford novel program, we dissected a lot of novels and worked on improving specific aspects of our own novels, such as character development, dialogue, point of view, setting, and plot arc. It sort of forces you through a process that refines all aspects of your novel. Within a critique group, the writer chooses what to submit for critique, so you can really drill down and work on whatever aspect of your novel you think needs the most work.

8. How did growing up in east Texas influence your writing? 

It probably infused me with the joy of storytelling. Humor, suspense, cadence, irony, the element of surprise.

9. Since you are writing about an East Texas family, do you fear any repercussions? Will anyone write you out of their will? Will you ever be able to go “home” for Thanksgiving after your book is released without someone trying to poison your turkey?

No, all my characters are fictional. But I think all my female family and friends harbor a secret wish that I will write a book about them that gets turned into a movie so they can play themselves and have a kissing scene with George Clooney.

10. What have you done (will you do) to broaden the appeal of your book since it reflects a specific area in Texas? Are there common themes or threads with which people in other States can identify?

In my experience, people enjoy reading about settings and cultures different from their own. Most people can relate to personal struggles with ambition, forgiveness, and self-destruction. And some things about human nature are universal, such as the ability of mothers and daughters to make each other homicidal.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Melanie Denman. Learn more about the book and purchase Visiting the Sins at http://www.melaniedenman.com.


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