Tag Archives: Author Interview

INTERVIEW WITH INDIE AUTHOR DEREK MILLER

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Allow me to introduce you to Derek Miller. Derek is a good friend of mine who also happens to be one of my critique partners. His debut novel Divinity was released two days ago. Derek decided to self-publish his novel instead of going the traditional route and is excited for others to read his work. He is a talented writer who I predict will go far in the writing world.

This is one of my favorite author interviews I’ve done. Not only because Derek is *ahem* one of my critique partners and complimented me in one of the questions but because Derek provides such well-thought out answers.

Divinity Cover Ibook (1)

Divinity is the first book of many that will follow the lost years of Jesus Christ. Please feel free to leave Derek a comment at the end of the interview wishing him luck and success. (Anyone who comments will be entered into a giveaway).

Hi Derek, thanks for stopping by Writing Like Crazy.
Thanks for having me.

Okay, let’s jump right into the interview.

Can you please describe in greater detail what Divinity is about?

Divinity is the first installment of The Lost Years of Jesus Christ, which is story of Jesus’ life between his twelfth and thirtieth years. This entire span is not covered at all in the Bible. The final story of Jesus in the Bible shows him preaching to the Pharisees and Sadducees outside the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Divinity picks up shortly after that. I don’t want to give away too much, but here is the description that will accompany the book when I release it.
Joshua of Nazareth, better known today as Jesus Christ, is about to celebrate his thirteenth birthday and become a man in the eyes of his people. After witnessing young Joshua’s charisma and speaking ability at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a power hungry Sadducee priest named Moloch journeys to Nazareth hoping to recruit the boy for his own purposes. Unaware of the priest’s impending visit, Joseph prepares to divulge secrets that have been kept from Joshua since his birth, secrets that will change the course of his life forever.

What inspired you to write this novel?

I’d love to say that it was divine inspiration, but sadly that’s not the case. I’ve always been curious about the missing years of Jesus’ life. Even as a young child in Catholic school I couldn’t understand why so much was known about his birth and death, but nothing was known about the majority of the time in between. How could eighteen years of his life be completely unaccounted for? What was he doing? Who was he with? The answers just weren’t out there, so I decided to come up with my own ideas.

Do you try and stay true to the facts the bible has provided us with. Are all of your characters ones that have been mentioned in the bible?

I did try my best to stay true to the Bible whenever possible. The problem is that the Gospels are littered with inconsistencies.
For example, in the Gospel of Matthew it is claimed that Joseph is a descendant of King David. In the Gospel of Luke it is said that Mary is descended from David. I couldn’t keep true to both, so in that case I went with Matthew. Joseph being a descendant of David is a central theme in the story.
Another good example is Elizabeth, Miriam’s (Mary’s) aunt. If you look in the English translated Bible you will see that Elizabeth is referred to as Mary’s cousin. However, if you look at the Greek text the word is suggenes, which is a vague term that means relative. So I took the liberty of making Elizabeth her aunt in this story.
Luckily, most of the story deals with a time that the Bible gives us little information about, so I didn’t have to worry about it too much.
Many of my characters in my story are mentioned in the Bible as well as in the chronicles of history, these include: Jesus (Joshua), Miriam (Mary), Joseph, Elizabeth (Mary’s aunt), Yohan (John the Baptist and Jesus’ cousin), Joseph of Arimathea, Annas (High Priest during this time), Caesar Augustus (Emperor of Rome), Cleopatra (Last Pharaoh of Egypt), Herod the Great (Last King of Israel), and the list goes on.
However, there are several characters that I made up as well, these include: Moloch (Sadducee priest and brother of Annas), Amara (Lethal archer with a sordid past), Thea (Female bounty hunter).

You and I have discussed the possibility of controversy (readers may not have the same thoughts on what Jesus did or the situations he encountered in the eighteen years that are not mentioned much in the bible) how do you plan on handling this if it occurs?

First, I’ll remind everyone that this is fiction. I welcome a little controversy, and fully expect there to be some. I don’t mind if people disagree with me, in fact I welcome it. All I want to do is make people think.
This is the first book of many, do you have an idea of how many additional books there will be?
At this point I’d guess a minimum of five. When I first began writing Divinity I intended it to cover 1-2 years, but once I started writing I realized that would be impossible unless I wanted it to be as long as the Bible. Divinity only covers a few months, leaving over seventeen years to go. I’ll be taking a small break from The Lost Years of Jesus Christ to work on another story I have been itching to write. My plan is to write a piece of The Lost Years in between every other story I write. Since this one took me about a year and a half, you can expect a new piece of the story every 2-3 years.

Can you share with us the research you did while writing this book?

There was a lot of it. I read a few books on the history of Judaism because that is probably the most important aspect of this book. Jesus was Jewish. I had to be very careful to make sure my characters followed the proper customs. I’m sure I overlooked something, sorry about that. I also had to read up on the Pharisees and Sadducees, two major factions of Judaism. These two groups had wildly different belief structures, which I explain in the book. Most of the names for Roman officials and Hebrew leaders are real. Some of it I found online, some through traditional books.
What made you decide to self-publish rather than going the traditional route for publication?
It might be silly, but the thought of dealing with agents and publishers fills me with dread. The book is finished, and I’m working a new project. I found it impossible to concentrate on the new story while this one remained in limbo, so I decided to self-publish. Many people have questioned my decision and said that I might not make as much money doing it this way or it won’t reach as many people. The money doesn’t matter much to me, and I think if it’s good it will get recognition. I just want my story out there for people to, hopefully, enjoy. If I make a few bucks in the process, woohoo!

What is your writing process? Some of us need coffee in order to write, others do it with a glass of wine. Do you have any necessities you need in order to sit down to write?

I have no rituals for when I write. No special foods, drinks, or places. I hate writing in coffee shops, but other than that anything is fair game. I’ve written in cars, on airplanes, at home, and even on my tablet while out for a walk. I do tend to get a lot done when I write on my lunch hour at work because my brain is already in work mode. One thing I do is I try to write an entire chapter whenever I write. It doesn’t matter how long it is, it just has to be a full chapter.

There are many writers out there struggling with the idea of self-publishing, can you offer any advice or tell them some of the steps that need to be taken when deciding to self-publish (eg. Is it expensive? How do you get your book out there? Do you get to choose your cover?)

Deciding whether or not to self-publish is a big deal. I can’t say yet whether or not I have made the right decision, but I’ve enjoyed every step of the process.
Self-publishing is more for people who like to do things themselves. I’ve run a few small internet businesses over the years, and always did everything from accounting to marketing to manual labor myself.

Here’s a small list of the things I had to do on the road to self-publishing:

1. Design a cover – I purchased a custom cover from an online service. I won’t use the name, but most of them are more or less the same. They created the cover, but I had to tell them what to create. Not as easy as it seems.
2. Learn e-book formatting and conversion – I wrote the book in Word for the most part, and there are many features of Word that don’t convert properly to e-book formats .epub (Nook and I-books format) and .mobi (Kindle format). I had to watch several tutorials and practice to get it right.
3. Editing – I had to rely on friends and family when deciding what edits needed to be made to strengthen my book. I was lucky. I had some really good editors helping me out, people who didn’t sugar coat the truth to make me feel good, including you Maribeth. Be very careful about who you allow to edit for you.
4. Marketing – See below
Do you have a marketing strategy?
Since I don’t have a publisher, I will be relying mainly on social media and word of mouth to promote my book. I have a Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr that I will be maintaining for the book. I’ll also be going around to popular religious message boards and posting descriptions and links to my book. My mom has probably done a better job of marketing it than I have thus far. She’s already talked about 20-30 of her friends into buying it when it comes out. Thanks Mommy!

Do you plan on offering this book as a hard copy as well as an e-book?

It’s a possibility, but it really depends on the demand. If the book is successful I will certainly try my best to also offer a printed version so that people who don’t have access to or, as in the case of my grandparents, have no idea how to use a kindle. I hope eventually I can make it available to anyone who wants to read it.

Okay Derek, it’s time for some rapid fire questions. Are you ready?

Shoot

What book are you reading right now?

Little house on the Prairie. I bought the first five novels as one leather bound book at Barnes and I’m working on that right now. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt the show was better than the book.

Do you have a thinking spot?

The shower. My poor landlord has to pay the water bill too.

Who is your favorite author?

Stephen King, but if not for George R.R. Martin I never would have become a writer. I got so annoyed waiting for him to come out with the next Game of Thrones book that I decided to write my own story!

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

Not until two years ago. I always enjoyed writing, but I wrote a really bad short horror story in eighth grade, and my teacher crushed my hoped and dreams by telling me it was garbage. I’ve always had ideas that I wanted to develop into stories, but the truth is I never gave it a shot until I met you Maribeth. You encouraged my ideas and gave me the strength to give it another try. So any success I have is thanks to you and George.(AAh, I’m blushing over here.)

Do you have a favorite genre?

Fantasy in general, specifically anything dealing with medieval or magical elements.
Finally, I always end my interviews by asking what your favorite word is and why? Mine is Believe.
Balance. It is something I strive for in every aspect of my life. Whether it means trying to keep an even temperament, not drinking too much (or too little), or trying to stand on one leg for prolonged periods of time (I take Kung Fu).

Can you please share with my readers where they can find you? Twitter, Facebook, Website etc.
Facebook
Twitter
Tumblr

https://twitter.com/DivinityTLY
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Derek-Miller/511696372274078?ref=hl
http://www.tumblr.com/blog/divinitytly

Where can we purchase Divinity?
Divinity will isavailable for purchase right now on the Kindle, Nook, and Ibooks.

I mentioned above there would be a giveaway for one commenter. If you leave Derek a comment you will be entered into a secret giveaway (Okay, secret sounds fun but the truth is I haven’t decided what the surprise will be yet, but I promise it will be well-thought out).

An extra added bonus, Anyone who comes back and tells me they purchased Derek’s book will also be entered into another giveaway. Come on guys, let’s rally together and help Derek sell some books.

Derek, thank you for giving such detailed answers. I wish you nothing but luck and success.

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Filed under A to Z, Author Interview, books, writer's life, writers, writing

Who Wants Chicken Soup? Blog Giveaway

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Today, is a good day. I just received my copies of the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul book -Miraculous Messages from Heaven. I am honored to have a story about my father published among the pages. My father left this world June 8th 2008. I feared his death ever since I was a little girl. I can recall many nights where I crawled onto his lap and started to cry. “Mar, why are you crying?” He would ask. “I don’t want you to die,” I replied. Back then he knew or at least thought that death was a ways off. But, I grew up, he grew old and death came knocking at his door. My father and I talked about death many times on his swing in the backyard. He told me he was excited to see his parents and siblings once he crossed over but it saddened him to know he wouldn’t see his grandchildren anymore.
I feared that I would lose my sanity once he was no longer a part of my every day. I shared my fears with him. I told him, I may seek to find him again through a person with a gift. He laughed and assured me that if he could come through he would. On September 15, 2008 he stayed true to his promise and connected with me and my three sisters when we attended a reading at The Kirby Center with world-renowned Lisa Williams. It was a life changing moment that will stay with me until the day I die.
When I stumbled upon a call for submissions for Chicken Soup for the Soul regarding miraculous messages, I knew I had to submit my story. I sent it and didn’t hear anything so assumed they didn’t accept the story, that was four years ago. A few months ago, I was driving home from work thinking about my writing career when I decided to pray to my dad for help. I prayed that he’d help put me on the map of the writing world. That very day I received a comment on my old blog from D’ette Corona saying she was looking for the Maribeth Graham who submitted a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul. I was speechless! He heard me again.
I believe life is full of small miracles. Open your eyes to the symbolism all around you and you may discover magic.
Today, I’m giving away a copy of the book where you can read my story. Have you ever received a miraculous message from Heaven?
Anyone who comments on this post will be entered to win a free copy of the book.

UPDATE******* I’M LEAVING THE COMMENTS OPENED UNTIL SUNDAY. I WILL ANNOUNCE THE WINNER ON MONDAY!

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO COMMENTED 🙂

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Filed under Author Interview, books, Giveaway, writers, Writing

Interview with Medeia Sharif

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It’s time for another author interview. I am super excited to be interviewing Media Sharif. Last year Medeia was the person who commented on my blog the most for the year. She has lifted my spirits on many occasions. Today, it’s time to find out more about this fabulous author.

Hi Medeia, thanks for stopping by Writing Like Crazy.

Thank you for having me, Maribeth. I’ve been following your blog for a long time and was pleased when you asked for an interview.

Let’s start out by asking- When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I started writing poems and short stories in middle school, so I knew back then what I wanted to do.

You are the author of BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. –Can you tell my readers a little bit about the book?

It’s about a girl named Almira who’s observing Ramadan for the first time, but she’s also experiencing a major crush when she’s not allowed to date, plus her best friend is also in love with the boy. She’s figuring out the divide between what she wants and what she’s been taught.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write about the holiday. At first it was going to be centered on two boys, but then the main character came into my head and I wanted to write about her.

Almira seems like a spit-fire of a character. Is she anything like you?

She’s 16 and my high school self doesn’t resemble her in any way. She’s more sociable, happy, and talkative. I was more into wearing black, reading Sylvia Plath, and writing dark poems.

If Almira could change places with someone for a day, who do you think it would be?

She has a thing for Robert Pattinson, so probably Kristen Stewart.

Can you tell us a little about your road to publication?

I wrote adult manuscripts for many years and after I became a teacher I dabbled in middle grade. Then I wrote BRE, my first YA novel. This all happened in 10+ years, so the road was very long. I have many drawer manuscripts behind me.

What was it like to read reviews of your book?

At first it was an emotional rollercoaster, with the highs of a good review and the lows of a bad review. I’ve put things into perspective because you’ll find people who loved it, liked it, and hated it—that’s normal. Some of the more nitpicky reviews are strange to me, because the elements mentioned weren’t even things I thought about while writing the novel. Sure a novel in many ways is a reflection of the writer, but reviews can be a reflection of the reader.

What are you working on now?

I have several MG and YA manuscripts in various stages of drafts, revisions, edits, recently beta read, etc. Some are very different than BRE. One is horror, one is historical, and one is extremely edgy.

Your blog http://www.medeisharif.com is filled with great content. You post tons of book reviews. How many books do you read in a month?

I try to read at least three books a week, so at least twelve a month.What is your favorite genre?

Contemporary YA.

You do it all. You have a blog, you write novels, you constantly update your Goodreads page, you are on Twitter. Where do you find the time?

When I’m on the internet I have many tabs open and try to update things as fast as I can. Having a smartphone also helps. I’ll check on things while I’m waiting in line and for appointments. Also, I’m careful how I spend my time. I don’t watch much TV. If I do, I’m doing something else, like organizing things or cleaning. I have a weekly to-do list and by Saturday I try to cross off most things on it. I’m also careful about whom I spend time with. I surround myself with positive, productive people, not the light stealers and soul drainers. I’m determined to do exactly what I want and need to do without anyone getting in the way.

How many hours a day do you dedicate to the craft?

I aim for an hour, but many times it doesn’t happen. I end up cramming several hours on weekends. I also look more to my weekly and monthly writing goals. Some goals or projects are easier, while some require more time.

I think many of my readers would be fascinated to know you are also an English teacher. What do you love most about teaching?

I love that writing and teaching complement each other. I find myself teaching and grading essays with a different eye after learning the craft. I also have a stronger appreciation of literature and am more likely to notice the little things since I write and review books and participate in a critique group.

Okay, on to the rapid fire part of the interview. I hope you don’t mind answering a few more questions.

1. Do you have a writing spot? I have a desk, but sometimes I move to the couch.2. What was the first book you remember reading? I think it was about a dog and that’s all I remember.
3. What was the last book you read? Cynthia Voigt’s MISTER MAX #1.
4. Do you journal? Sometimes.
5. Where do you come up with your character names? Baby name websites.
6. Do you have a motto you try and live by? Everything happens for a reason.
7. What is your favorite word and why? Defenestrate, because it’s unique and I like saying it.

Medeia, I had a blast interviewing you. I look forward to watching your career grow. May your journey be filled with love, success, and contentment.

Thank you, Maribeth. Those words warm my heart.

Before leaving will you share with my readers where they can find you around the internet.

Blog – http://www.medeiasharif.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/sharifwrites/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sharifwrites
Tumblr – http://sharifwrites.tumblr.com/Instagram – sharifwrites
Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4086531.Medeia_Sharif
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/sharifwrites/

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Filed under Author Interview, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing

CONGRATULATIONS

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Congratulations Medeia you are the winner of the signed copy Road to Tater Hill! You have commented on many of my giveaways prior to this but this is your first win. I will be sending you the book asap. Please send me a comment after you read the book letting me know how you liked it.

Readers, if you are interested in me interviewing you for my blog leave a comment an I will arrange everything.

Thanks for stopping by.

4 Comments

Filed under Author Interview, books, Fiction, Giveaway, middle grade fiction, writer's life, writers

Interview With Edith Hemingway and Book Giveaway

IMG_6393 CopyingimagesRoad to Tater Hill

Today’s author Interview is with Edith M. Hemingway, author of Road to Tater Hill. I met Edith aka Edie at an SCBWI event in October. Edie was our teacher for the day. She talked about many great things especially settings and what makes them great. I enjoyed every second of Edie’s mini workshops and knew immediately I wanted to purchase her book.
But, I couldn’t just buy one. I needed a second copy to give to my readers (yes that would be you). So, sit back and read another great interview and don’t forget to leave a comment at the end so you can be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Road to Tater Hill.

Hi Edie, how are you today?

Thank you for stopping by Writing Like Crazy.
It’s my pleasure.

Edie or would you rather we call you Edith?
All my friends call me Edie.

Can you tell me when you fell in love with writing?
I had a wonderful fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Virginia Ormsby, who was a published children’s book author. She read her manuscripts to our class before sending them off to her editor, and she set aside quiet writing time after lunch everyday. I won a creative writing contest that year and decided some day I would be a published author. I’ve had other teachers who have inspired me since then, but Mrs. Ormsby was the one who planted the seed.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue writing professionally?
As I mentioned above, I first decided to pursue writing back in fourth grade, but for many years it took a backseat in my life. I got back to writing in my 30s when I had young children at home. My first co-authored book, Broken Drum, was started in 1989 and published in 1996. I’ve been writing steadily ever since.

If I remember correctly, I think you mentioned that you met your agent at a writer’s conference. Can you please tell us a little bit about this meeting and how it set things into motion?

Actually, it was my editor at Delacorte Press/Random House, Michelle Poploff, whom I met at a SCBWI conference in Maryland. She critiqued the first 10 pages of Tater Hill (my working title at the time) and asked me to send her the entire manuscript when I finished it. Nearly a year later I sent her the completed manuscript and after several telephone discussions about revisions, she offered me a contract. I never submitted it elsewhere. It was one of those amazing contacts that aspiring authors dream about.

Okay, let’s get to Road to Tater Hill. This book deals with a young girl named Annie who starts off being excited about the birth of a new sibling but ends up having to come to terms with the baby’s death.
In the beginning of the book you write in memory of my baby sister Kate. Did your experience with losing your sister (I’m truly sorry for the loss) inspire this story?

Yes, that experience during the summer I turned eleven left a lasting emotional impact on my life. Near the start of my MFA program, I had an assignment to write about an emotional event in my childhood. The resulting ten-page memoir later became the basis for Road to Tater Hill, which includes many events from my childhood (not all experienced during that same summer) as well as some fictionalized events and fictional characters. I realized that a plot had to involve more than just my grief over the loss of my baby sister.

Can you tell us a little bit about Annie’s character?

Annie began very much as I was at that age, but when I was several chapters into the book, my faculty mentor in the MFA program suggested I change from first person POV to third person in order to give myself a little distance from my character and the emotional events. This advice allowed Annie to become a character in her own right, and she became a bolder, more adventurous girl than I was–much more interesting, I think. It wasn’t until I was in my final round of revisions with my editor that I had the idea to switch back to first person POV in order to dig a little deeper into Annie’s emotions. I’m glad I did.

In the mini class I took with you, you passed around a rock and had each of us hold it. Annie is attached to her rock in this story. How did the idea of the rock baby come to you?

The idea for the rock baby actually evolved from the scene I was writing. It’s amazing how characters take on lives of their own the better you get to know them, and sometimes do things you don’t plan or expect. The rock baby became a tangible means for Annie to deal with the loss of her baby sister and was very much a part of the healing process. Plus, I have to admit I love rocks–maybe I was a geologist in another life.


I love that Annie journals throughout the book. Do you journal?

I have journaled on and off throughout my life–mainly when traveling or when going through a difficult or unusual time. I have used those journals as a source for descriptive details of different settings and emotional situations for a number of different stories. I still have the journal I kept when I was 14 and traveling through Europe with my parents and brother. It was actually a school asignment to keep the journal since I was out of school for 6 weeks. I’m amazed at the details I included in those daily entries, and it’s fun to look back at that exciting time in my life.

There are a lot of memorable characters in this book, especially Miss Eliza. Would you mind telling my readers a little about the mountain lady?

Miss Eliza is the one truly fictional character in Road to Tater Hill, but she has some of the heartwarming characteristics of a lovely mountain woman, who was a dear friend of my grandmother. That friend was a weaver, and I used to sit in her home and watch (and listen to) her working away at her loom. I also wanted to incorporate more of the Appalachian mountain heritage into Miss Eliza’s character, so as I got to know her better, I realized that she also played the dulcimer (better known as the “hog fiddle” in the book). I won’t tell any more about Miss Eliza’s character because I want the readers to learn her story as the book unfolds.

Do you have a favorite character in the book?

Miss Eliza is definitely my favorite character in the book, but Grandpa is a close second and the one truest to life. My grandfather really did waltz with me, just as Grandpa waltzes with Annie in the book.

In your class you spoke about the importance of setting. Can you let my readers know some of the things you do to familiarize yourself with your books settings? You gave great advice that stuck with me.

Setting is very important to me, both as a reader and as a writer. I like to make setting integral to my stories, and I always travel to the places I write about because it’s not enough for me to research online or in books. I want to smell the smells, taste the food, walk the roads and paths, touch the trees, meet the poeple, listen to the way they talk, and so on. I always advise writers to look at setting through the eyes of their characters, look for specific details that their characters would notice, and let the emotions of their characters help dictate how they react to the setting.

I also remember talking about the cover in your class. What was your first impression of the book’s cover?

Many people think that authors have a say in the design of their book covers. In most cases, they do not.
However, my editor did ask me for my thoughts, and I wanted it to reflect Annie’s love of the mountains and the creek. I also hoped that the cover would not show Annie’s face because I like readers to come up with their own image of what they think the main character looks like. So my first impression was that I loved the picture of Annie sitting on the rock by the creek, but I was disappointed that it showed her face. However, I have come to love the cover, and I know the art director read the book and worked very hard to find a young girl who fit Annie’s description very well!

Road to Tater Hill won a Parent’s Choice award. Can you tell us how you felt when you received notification that your book won such a great award?

I was very excited about this honor and happy to know that not only the intended audience of 9 to 12-year-olds liked the book, but also parents and other adults of all ages. I think part of the draw is the intergenerational plot. A school in Boone, North Carolina (the actual setting of the book) used Road to Tater Hill as their family reading project last year, and families (including children, parents, and grandparents) read the book together and then came to a group discussion that I led at the end of the 5-week project.

Congratulations, that’s a huge accomplishment.

Thank you!

What is the biggest emotion readers of Road to Tater Hill walk away with?

Oh my, that’s a hard one to answer. I know there’s grief involved, but overall I think of the book as a story of healing and, ultimately, of hope. One of the nicest reviews the book received was written by a 13-year-old girl for Stone Soup magazine. This is how she described it: “Road to Tater Hill is a heartwarming, fulfilling story of friendship, family, hope, home and the bumpy road through grief.”

Do you have any upcoming books?

I am working on a book set on an island off the coast of Maine, and I have a number of other story ideas brewing in my head.

In addition to being a successful author, you find time to teach workshops to aspiring authors. How did you begin doing this? Where can my readers find more information about your workshops (which are great)?

I began teaching non-credit creative writing classes at a community college after I graduated from Spalding University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program (MFA). When a friend said that my 1930s log
cabin home was the perfect writing retreat, I came up with the idea of teaching writing workshops in my own home. However, in the last few years I’ve been so busy as the Co-Regional Advisor for the MD/DE/WV region of SCBWI that I’ve taken a hiatus from the home workshops. And I have recently joined the MFA faculty at Spalding University. I love the teaching and will be on the faculty at their residency abroad in Ireland this summer.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?Read, read, read!

The best writers were avid readers first. And advice always comes back to the fact that you first have to sit down and write. Once you have that first draft on paper, then the real meat of writing begins. Don’t be too quick to submit your work before it’s been through a number of revisions, and you’ve had some feedback from readers/writers whose comments you trust.

Okay, I like to end my interviews with some fire questions, I hope you’re ready.

1. Do you have a favorite author? Richard Peck, Deborah Wiles, Audrey Couloumbis, Gary D. Schmidt, Katherine Paterson, Patricia MacLachlan to name a few. It’s very difficult for me to narrow it down to one because I’m always finding another good book to read.

2.What is the first book you remember falling in love with?

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

3. Do you have a writing spot? I have a wonderful little writing cabin that my husband built for me in the woods behind my house. I’ll attach a photo.

4. Have you ever written down an idea on something odd? (I once wrote an idea on a matchbook because there was no paper to be found) Well, I’ve definitely jotted notes and ideas on napkins or any little scrap of paper I can find in my purse. I generally try to keep a small notebook with me–especially when I’m traveling, and I’ve emailed notes to myself on my cell phone.

5. Finally, do you have a favorite word? (Mine is Believe) I’d say “connections.” The connections you can make in a writing community are amazing!

Please let my readers know where they can purchase your book. they can find you, blog, twitter, facebook, web page, etc?
My website is www.ediehemingway.com. You can find me on FaceBook, but I’m afraid I don’t spend much time there. I’m a contributor to the One Potato…Ten blog, which is a wonderful group of 10 authors and illustrators found at onepotatoten.blogspot.com.
And you can buy my book through Amazon, Random House, or ask for it at your favorite indie bookstore.

I loved reading through all of your answers and can’t wait to give one lucky reader a signed copy of Road to Tater Hill. Thank you for taking time to chat.

Thank you very much, Maribeth. I’ve enjoyed it!

And you can buy my book through Amazon, Random House, or ask for it at your favorite indie bookstore.

Okay guys, ready, set, comment! It’s as simple that. One person will be drawn randomly. This is a great book (and did I mentioned it’s signed) and if you win it’s free! I hope to see tons of comments. 🙂

UPDATE: I’M LEAVING THIS CONTEST OPENED UNTIL WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 27TH. IN ORDER TO BE ENTERED FOR A CHANCE TO WIN THE SIGNED COPY YOU MUST LEAVE A COMMENT. 🙂

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Filed under Author Interview, books, Giveaway, stories, story writing, writer's life, writers, Writing

Interview With Indie Author Jozef Rothstein and Signed Book Giveaway

11

Signed Book Giveaway and Interview With Author Jozef Rothstein

 UPDATE: This giveaway will be open until Tuesday August 28 th.  

 

On Sunday, August 5th, I had the pleasure of meeting Jozef Rothstein, author of As the Matzo Ball Turns at our local Barnes and Nobles. As we charged his table (yes, my sister-in-law and I bought five books) I knew immediately by his huge bright smile that he was going to be fun and interesting. Talking to Jozef was like chatting with an old friend. I had so many questions (maybe too many) and Jozef eagerly answered every one of them. His sense of humor shined through the entire conversation which I adored because as I told Jozef, I tend to bond with people immediately if our sense of humors match, which his and mine definitely did. I had to pull myself away from his table, because I didn’t want to sabotage his book signing, but it took every ounce of restraint not to run back every five minutes to chat. He was that much fun.

Jozef was totally cool in agreeing to answer some interview questions for my blog. Be sure to include a comment at the end of the interview because you will have the chance to win a signed copy of Jozef’s awesome book As the Matzo Ball Turns. One reader will be chosen at random. All you have to do is comment. I’d love for you to follow my blog or me on twitter @Yolaramunno but you don’t have to in order to win. If you don’t comment you can’t win.

As with all interviews on this blog, answers from authors don’t necessarily reflect my views regarding the industry.

Okay, let’s get to it.

Hi Jozef how are you?

Dandy. Now that’s a word you don’t hear much anymore!!! I am just dandy!

First, I’d like to thank you so much for stopping by Writing Like Crazy.

Thank you for having me Maribeth. It was so much fun rapping with you at the book signing I was chomping at the bit to do the interview!

 I like to start right from the beginning, if that’s okay with you. First, did you always want to become a writer or was your journey (living in Hollywood with stars in your eyes) what inspired your writing career?

Wow, that’s a loaded question!!!! I really have no idea. Hmmm. Let me think about it. How much room do I have? Okay well, I remember writing funny stories in my fifth grade creative writing class that the teacher would read aloud. (And then there was this time at band camp … ) I would pick one classmate per week to build a story around and put him/her on the spot. My teacher and my peers found them humorous, as long as they weren’t the subject of my ridicule that week. AND everybody looked forward to my holiday cards. They didn’t get me any after school kisses but I really enjoyed writing them.

Then came high school. I was a gangly teen who looked like a praying mantis. That has nothing to do with your inquiry but I thought I’d mention it anyway. I really got into sports for a while but I eventually wandered out to Hollywood where my writing career was born out of necessity.

I have always admired people who could pack up everything to go follow their dreams. Can you tell us a little bit about your choice to leave your small town in Pennsylvania to go to Hollywood?

I equate it to the first time I went skydiving. I am six feet five inches tall and as we climbed to five thousand feet, the altitude for my first jump, I was crammed into a tiny little Cessna with like seven other people. I was scared as hell but I was so boxed in for so long I couldn’t wait to jump out of that sardine can and stretch out a little.

How did that first year go?

Well … It depends on who you ask. First, a little background. I ended up taking a liking to the game of football but one crazy life story later I ended up taking a year off after college and then tried to get back in the game. I was acting as my own agent and I got so insanely obsessed with obtaining an NFL career I would call people like Mike Ditka and I don’t know, threaten to eat him and his children if he didn’t bring me into training camp. Believe it or not, this approach was somewhat successful and almost landed me on a couple of rosters. An NFL career just wasn’t in the cards so I exploded onto the Hollywood scene like a clown shot out of a circus cannon.

At first, I grabbed the attention of every big player in the business. But this quickly backfired and worked against me. After my first year in town, unbeknownst to me, I believe my aggressive approach, which had worked so well in football, landed me on every blacklist in Hollywood. It did, however, get me several recommendations for the crème de la crème of acting teachers who were an interesting case study in and of themselves. I spent five years immersing myself in the craft learning various techniques with the best coaches in the business. I worked so hard, I actually became quite good at it.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

It’s the story of someone entering the dog eat dog world of Hollywood wearing milk bone underwear. The pitch line for it is “An aspiring actor’s ten year encounter with hit men, celebrities and old Jewish ladies.” To sum it up, it is the story of someone who arrives in Hollywood with a suitcase and announces to the world, “I want to be in movies!” This is the real story, not the E! True Hollywood story, of what 99.9% of people go through, for as many years as they can stand it, before they are sent back to where ever it is they came from with their shattered dreams folded up in their suitcases.

And like almost everyone in LA LA land the only way to earn a decent living while aspiring for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is to become an indentured servant, oops, I mean waiter. And since everybody and his brother Harry is trying to do the same thing, (If you throw a rock you hit two hundred of us), you are a very disposable commodity at best. I just so happened to pick a very notorious Jewish deli for my ten years as professional whipping boy where most of the hilarity and hijinks in this story occur. And, of course, that’s where the backdrop for the book is set.

How did you come up with the title for the book?

It started out as a joke because everyday at the deli there was so sort of heavy drama going on, much like a soap opera. In a deep announcer’s voice I would observe, “Today, on As the Matzo Ball Turns, John’s boyfriend threatens to leave him if he doesn’t stop performing at the local drag queen bar.” On my way out of Hollywood doing 120mph the title kept repeating itself in my head. With lots of time to think while driving across country with my two dogs, the rest of the story started punching its way out of me. In all my years as a writer I believe every great story starts with a great title. I believe the title has to excite you about your story and from there the rest just falls into place.

Readers get an immediate hint at what type of work you landed out in California by the books jacket. Clad as a beaver in Speedo trunks and Scooby Doo cape while surrounded by beautiful women dressed to the nines. Can you give us maybe a small snapshot of this moment?

It is the equivalent of stepping into a nice warm shower only to have it interrupted by ten federal agents in riot gear who mistakenly arrest you and drag you out into the middle of the street stark naked while the entire neighborhood watches on in horror. All the while your turtle is in the shell, if you know what I mean.

You and I connected on a couple of things. You wait tables in your spare time; I waited tables since I was thirteen years old so I can relate to the waiter/waitress stories. There is a part in the book where you had to wait on a very famous person on Christmas day (I won’t say who the celebrity is-we will make the readers curious ;)) who wasn’t very nice. Your description of standing in front of her asking if she would like a drink while she ignored you hit home for me because I myself have had those moments while waitressing, many times, but never by someone famous. Did you know at that moment that incident would end up in your book?

You mean before or after I imagined myself cutting her in half with a chain saw? I honestly had no idea at that point in time there would ever be a book, let alone a book written about those types of experiences. As a matter of fact, I simply wanted to move on with my career in entertainment and never re-visit them again. Back then, I would have never believed a Hollywood career would not happen for me. But when the light finally turned on after ten years of beating my head against a cement wall and other factors (that are listed in the book) sent me flying out of Los Angeles with a ball of flames shooting out from behind me that’s when the idea of looking back and having one last laugh became very appealing to me.

Okay, now on to some industry questions.

Can you tell us about your journey to publication?

It was like giving birth to a hippopotamus, but I truly believe when it’s your time it’s your time. I had been raging against the machine for quite some time so it only made sense that my publisher would be detached from the Hollywood establishment and the crony media conglomerates. After getting anywhere from 50-100 rejected query letters and exhausting my Hollywood insider connections I put a call out to an independent producer friend who knew a lot of people. This guy really liked my previous writings and I thought to myself what can it hurt? He was actually planning a dinner meeting with a good friend who was in town and whose mother is a successful publisher. A few weeks later they were reading my work and I was getting the green light. The rest is history.

Do you remember the moment you declared yourself a writer?

The day Universal Studios returned my call based on a pitch I left on someone’s answering machine for my first screenplay which was written entirely in pencil. I didn’t have a computer at the time so I had to have a friend who worked at MGM type it up for me so I could present a professional copy.

You are a semi self-published author is that correct?

Yes, even though I’ve bared some of the up-front costs, I had to have their stamp of approval on the material in order for them to publish it and the book had to be good enough for them to want to distribute it. Again, I absorbed most of the costs (which is very typical today for almost any first time author unless you are Paris Hilton writing your memoirs) but the upside is a bigger back end for me. I have an unbridled entrepreneurial spirit and a very clear and concise artistic voice. I refuse to have it compromised for any reason whatsoever and this situation allows me to have the best of both worlds. I couldn’t be happier.

Can you share with my readers how you went about getting your book out there and what resources you used?

At this stage of the game, I just used my instincts and the relationships I had built over the years. I am definitely a one man army when it comes to tireless self-promotion and I believe in my work so I am also like a used car salesman gone wild. There are days when I wish I had an off button but overall I am very proud of the book which makes me want to get it out to people even more. If I have to spray paint the title on the side of my car I will, but I will not stop until As the Matzo Ball Turns reaches the New York Times Best Seller List.

Before you decided to take this route, did you try the traditional methods of querying agents?

Yes, but quite honestly, I knew from my previous encounters with these brain dead drones that they would never in a million years accept my work. It doesn’t fit into one of their neat little boxes and it also exposes the very same industry that sends their kids to the finest schools and gets them invited to all the trendy parties. Well, I am kicking in the door and saying, “Here’s Johnny.”

*I’d like to clarify if any agents are reading my blog, that Jozef’s comments are not my own. I don’t think of agents, editors or publishers as brain dead drones*

If so, how many queries did you send before deciding to do your own thing?

Again, even though I sent out 50-100 queries I knew in my heart of hearts I had to take the grassroots approach but I had no idea how I was going to accomplish it. There is no doubt in my mind that this publishing and distribution set up is the right thing for me because I have never had things fall into place so naturally in my entire life.

Do you have more books in the works?

If I started writing them today I wouldn’t finish them all in this lifetime. But, right now, with my work schedule and the non-stop promotion of this book, I have absolutely zero time to write. I already thought out a sequel to As the Matzo Ball Turns and have another more serious book to scribble down after that. But, I would honestly like to take a stab at making another movie. I worked on one film while I was in LA and learned so much from it I just have to get my hands on another one. And I have a great screenplay to boot.

Okay, I know your head is probably spinning from all of these grueling questions but I like to end my interviews with some fire questions. You ready?

Yikes. Go for it!

*Do you have a thinking spot?

On the john or on the floor while petting my dog, Charlie, who is also a character in the book. He made one public appearance for a book signing and it will most likely be his last. I left him out of my site for just one minute and he scared the death out of two middle aged men entering the store. He was dressed in bow tie but acted more like he was wearing a pin striped suit.

*What is your writing ritual?

Playing solitaire before and after each writing session. I know I just drew ire from the entire writing profession for falling into the lonely writer stereotype but what can I say it relaxes me. And what writer isn’t a little bit of a loner?

*Do you keep Journals?

I scribble down notes. My desk looks like that of a mad scientist. I call it organized chaos.

*What is the strangest thing you ever wrote an idea on because you didn’t have paper available? (I once wrote an idea on a matchbook)

Hahaha. I like yours. For me, it would have to be a bible.

What are you reading right now?

Besides all of these silly questions, I am reading Redemption 4th edition. Long story. It’s not so much for enjoyment as it is personal knowledge. But the truth of the matter is, with this latest endeavor I barely ever get time to read for pleasure. I squeeze it in when I can.

*Do you have a favorite author?

I am very into the freedom and truth movement so two people come to mind. Both are people I loosely know. Sheriff Richard Mack and G. Edward Griffin are incredibly insightful, courageous and intelligent. If you care about the state of the world and value freedom and prosperity you should read their works. It is your duty!

*What is your favorite word?

Duty. Only because the comedic side of my brain just doesn’t want to turn off right now.

Okay, one last thing I promise. Can you tell my readers where they can purchase your book?

I thought you would never ask! Well, if you live in either the Wilkes-Barre or Allentown area you can walk into the Barnes and Noble store either in the Wyoming Valley Mall or Whitehall Mall and snag one right off of their shelves. Other than those two locations (at this point in time anyway) you can order it from a store clerk at any Barnes and Noble store across the country and just about any other book store nationwide. But being that it is the 21st Century, you can also order it through amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com or by simply going to my blog at www.asthematzoballturns.com . Links are provided on the blog for the other online sellers as well and the book is also available for download.

Jozef, I wish you nothing but tons of success. You are an awesome, funny writer and I hope we stay in touch.

Thank you very much Maribeth. I hope so too.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for Jozef. Anyone who comments will be entered in a random drawing to receive a free signed copy of his book As the Matzo Ball Turn

Jozef, please let my readers know where they can find you. Your blog, twitter, facebook, any social networks.

My blog is www.asthematzoballturns.com  , you can friend me, Jozef Rothstein on Face book and my email is jozefrothstein@yahoo.com . Thanks for your interest and happy reading!!!!!

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Filed under Author Interview, books, Giveaway, platform building, Uncategorized, writer's life, writers

Supporting Rachel Harris-Cover Debut and Book Exerpt

Today’s blog is dedicated to the upcoming book My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by author Rachel Harris. A few weeks ago I was blog surfing when I was introduced to this book. Rachel was super excited that she would soon be able to reveal her book cover and asked fellow writers and bloggers to help her celebrate. I love witnessing other writers dreams come true so I thought Why Not!

Isn’t this book cover AWESOME ? I would love to own that dress.

Being that I am Italian, this book already piques my interest.

                                                                       EXCERPT

I hear their muffled whispers and understand every Italian word. Every witty comment made at my expense.

It’s like my brain is automatically translating.

I bunch the soft fabric of the dress in my hand and then reach up to feel the ribbon in my hair. I lightly skim my fingers over my chin and feel my lack of zit. I take in the costumes of the crowd, the stench of the animals, and the Italian I can now speak and understand. And suddenly it hits me.

Reyna must have pulled some kind of gypsy mojo.

Maybe this is one of those nifty “change your life” magic scenarios like in the movies. I mean, mostly I’m still expecting to blink and be right back in the midst of overpriced, gaudy tourism, but for now, the gypsy-time-warp explanation is infinitely better than thinking I’ve lost my mind. As I decide to go with that option, I feel my frantic tension melt away.

The growing crowd seems to notice my change in demeanor and begins shooting one another amused looks, but I don’t care anymore. A smile stretches across my face. Evidently, I was wrong earlier; Reyna is a psychic mind reader, because if this is her special brand of bibbity-bobbity-boo, then she made my exact daydream from earlier in the courtyard come to life.

The long red gown, the braided hair, the Italian merchant’s daughter, the time period. I am in Renaissance Florence.

I stare dumbly at the ground, the words and reality sinking in.

I’m in Renaissance Florence!

 

Sounds great right? This book  goes on sale September 11th, 2012. You can pre-order at Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Don’t forget to go on Goodreads and add it to your TBR list.

Don’t forget stop by and wish a fellow author luck.

www.RachelHarrisWrites.com
www.twitter.com/@RachelHarrisYA
www.facebook.com/RachelHarrisYA
www.goodreads.com/RachelHarris

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Filed under Author Interview, books, Inspirational, platform building, writer's life, writers, Writing