2014 has been quite a special year for me. I signed my first contract, published my first book (The Empath), launched my blog, got a runner-up award and met and chatted to some incredible people.
When I started Inky Inspiration, I wanted to do something a little different and try to go into the writing process and minds of industry professionals and authors who had really inspired me. What I hadn’t expected was that I would adore doing it and that other people would enjoy reading deeper into what goes on behind the pen (or print.)
Today I’m going to take a whirlwind tour of the guests, as they appeared, my favourite quote from the interview and my pick of their books.
Salem is a delightful woman to chat to at the best of times but when I got the chance to ask her about her work as a reviewer and her new steps into being an author, I wasn’t disappointed. Reviewers are slightly scary to authors at times. They hold a great deal of sway over the readers who trust their thoughts and some command a massive amount of respect from authors too. Salem is one of those reviewers. Getting to delve into her process and to learn just how much time, effort and research she puts into a review really made me smile. I almost got a cross-purpose functional map from her to demonstrate!
“Sometimes I get nods of appreciation for my reviews, but the very best part is when an author contacts me to say that I really understood what they were trying to say or “got” some point they were trying to get across. Those moments are rare, but they make it all worthwhile. I have been fortunate to get my hands on a few books by debut authors who have gone on to success, and that just makes me feel all warm and happy inside.”
Her novel Hoosier Daddy was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, which isn’t a bad outing for a first book! I really loved Salem and Ann’s ethos when they wrote it,
“For instance, few authors write about the lower Midwest of America, and for the women who live there, they’ve never really run across trust-fund investment bankers who look like super models. We wanted to write a story that honoured these real Midwestern women, with real jobs, and real lives.”
It’s a refreshing point of view and one that I felt inspired by.
Hoosier Daddy: A Heartland Romance
Jill Fryman (Friday to her friends) is a line supervisor at a truck manufacturing plant in a small southern Indiana town. Life on the assembly line is almost as predictable as her love life. When it comes to matters of the heart, Friday always seems to be making the wrong choices.
Things go from bad to worse when El, a sultry labor organizer from the UAW, sweeps into town to unionize the plant right after it’s been bought out by a Japanese firm. Sparks fly on and off the line as Jill and El fight their growing attraction for each other against a backdrop of monster trucks, catfish dinners, Pork Day USA, and a bar called Hoosier Daddy.
I was really pleased that I got to talk writing with Barrett for many reasons. One of them has to be just how humble she is about the talent she possesses. Her books are the kind that you know you can sit down and enjoy. The ones that you curl up on the sofa on a rainy afternoon and lose yourself in. I love her thoughts on the process,
“I’m a visually oriented writer, the stories evolve from the scenes I create in my head using my readily available mental archives. It also helps me personally, to get into the characters heads and see what they see.“
I could understand that and, it is something that you experience in her books. One of the best examples of this has to be in Balefire (My pick.) The way she takes you through the bumpy plane journey definitely has you gripping your seat with her. I loved that she took a protagonist that has a disability and portrayed it without diminishing their coolness. She never backs away from a challenge, Zeke in her Damaged series suffers in another way.
“The data I read about PTSD, and the things that I knew as a nurse, informed the way Zeke deteriorated with each obstacle she faced. Her closed-off inability to communicate exacerbated her isolation and threatened the intimacy she craved with Anne. And her resistance to co-operate with her therapist drove me crazy. Still does.”
To write a character with a physical or mental challenge is no easy feat but it goes to show her skill and talent that she does it so effortlessly.
But as I said before, considering her prowess, my favourite quote of hers just shows her humble nature.
“With every page, and every story, I want to be a better writer.”
Silke Dyson is a sculptor who is dealing with impaired vision as a result of a physical assault. Kirin Foster is a pragmatic travel magazine writer with wonderful opportunities to see the world. Their lives collide at thirty-thousand feet during a tropical storm and they strike up a friendship under the Belize sun.
Much to their delight, they discover they both live in Milwaukee and, back home, they develop an easy rapport amidst common interests and friends. Sometimes a random spark of kindness or caring can spark a small flame. With patience and opportunity, this small flame can grow into a balefire, a beacon of hope to guide a pair of souls to their true home.
There are few writers who are so good at making me want to eat. Whenever I read one of Georgia’s novels, I make sure that I have a slice of cake on hand. Besides the fact that I get hungry, whenever I read a Georgia book, I know that I will end up loving the characters but I will also get that ‘feel good’ factor. It echoes the author herself in many ways. One of my favourite Youtube videos has to be her Day In The Life of A Romance Writer which if you haven’t seen it, you should. The biggest accolade I can give her amazing body of work is that she’ll have put a smile on your face by the time you’ve finished. That’s one of the hardest things to do and one that really shows how an author can make a difference.
She talked about her experience of being published (the first time,)
“I think, more than anything, those experiences gave me confidence. They allowed me to think that maybe I was actually good at this, that it was something I should pursue.”
I love how simple she made that sound. She’s written ten novels and won the Lambda Literary Award, six Golden Crown Literary Awards, and the Foreword Book of the Year Award. I, for one, am pretty glad she pursued it! My pick is down to her use of first person POV. I love it and I felt that the book really shined. Starting from Scratch was a book that made me breathe a contented sigh when I’d finished it. I loved Avery and I loved that she adored her grandmother. Those moments were some of my favourites in the book and the book blurb below will probably show you the power of Avery’s voice. She’s the kind of character I enjoyed hanging out with… even if she did call her dog Steve.
Starting From Scratch
WINNER – GCLS – Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award + FINALIST – Lambda Literary Awards – Best Lesbian Romance.
My name is Avery King and I’m probably a lot like you. I’m a 34-year-old single lesbian and my heart belongs to my rescued mutt, Steve. I work as a graphic designer and my life is quiet and comfortable. I have a handful of very close friends who mean the world to me, and my beloved Grandma King is my only family. Her apartment is a hop, skip, and jump from my place and we spend a lot of time together baking and drinking tea and talking about life. All in all, I’m a pretty regular girl and for the most part, I lead a pretty regular life. Things I look forward to: baking goodies and then sharing them; spending time with my grand- mother; reading anything I can get my hands on; enjoying dinner with my friends; a quiet evening and a glass of wine; hiking new trails and exploring nature with Steve. Things I’d like to avoid at all costs: in-depth discussions with my ex; dealing with children; online dating; babysitting; falling for somebody’s mom; taking my perception of myself all the way back to square one. See that list of I’d like to avoid? Yeah, guess who’s going to hit every single one of them this year…
Ann is the reason I’d heard about Bedazzled Ink and one of the reasons that I knew they were pretty darn cool. She is the AMFA (Ann McMan Famous Author) and if her antics with Lucy online haven’t captured your attention her massive hit Jericho will. Getting to chat to her about her writing and her other incredible talent of graphic design, was a pleasure. (She designed the cover of The Empath…) It was good to learn the knowledge that backs up the success and the hard work that she puts in to earn the accolades she does. Like many wonderful authors, Ann first took her tentative steps in the literary Hall of Fame on the Academy of Bards site. She says,
“I never had any aspirations to publish—all of that came later as a happy side effect of posting the book for free online. I will always be supremely grateful to the readers and followers of those sites—and never lose sight of the debt of gratitude I owe them for granting me such a warm welcome, and providing me with so much kind and useful feedback on my stories. They are, and will, I think, continue to be my dearest and most ardent fans—and I will always strive to be better as a way to honor their trust in me.”
It showed the importance of those places where writers, aspiring and established, could connect to an audience through a mutual love. I love how her success story echoes how TV fed the internet which fed the writer’s soul and gushed out in the form of one of the best-selling books in Jericho. Her thoughts on writing Aftermath touched me and showed her humour, (which would make Jane Austen proud.)
“When the going gets tough, I look for something to make me smile—or for some ironic twist on misfortune that gives me hope because I realize that I can still laugh at myself. And if that fails, I still have twelve-step programs…”
My pick is Jericho because like Ann took that leap and posted her work on the Academy of Bards, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down.”
Jericho was awarded a 2012 Alice B. Lavender Certificate, the 2011 Lesbian Fiction Reader’s Choice Awards for Favorite Romance Book and Favorite General Fiction Book, and 2012 Rainbow Honorable Mention Awards for Best Lesbian Contemporary Fiction and Best Lesbian Debut Novel.
Librarian Syd Murphy flees the carnage of a failed marriage by accepting an 18-month position in Jericho; a small town located in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Intending to hide out and heal her wounds, she soon becomes drawn into the daily lives of a quirky cast of local characters, and she becomes fast friends with Maddie Stevenson, the enigmatic local physician who has returned to the backcountry community to take over her late father’s medical practice.
Carole featured on Inky Inspiration Introduces which is an offshoot of the main feature. I wanted to show a new writer and to showcase their work. Carole’s book Everything is one that has done something unique with POV in the fact that she uses, what is called, first person omniscient. It is a book that urged her to explore new avenues in her own life. She says, “
“Last year, I read the first chapter aloud to one of my best friends, and she demanded that I revisit it. She said it had a unique and instant hook and if I didn’t finish it, I was a blithering idiot. So, to avoid idiocy, I took it back up again.”
That makes me chuckle and yet shows the influence and importance of a good support network!
Jolán Edmunds, an accomplished and well-respected classical violinist, dies suddenly and Myla, her daughter, is convinced she had killed her because she had wished her dead during an argument.
Fiery and charismatic Jolán has many guarded secrets, particularly Rachel Cole, her lost true love. Rachel unexpectedly crosses Jolán’s path and turns her life upside down as they rekindle their romance. Rachel tries to convince Myla she didn’t cause Jolán’s death but Myla doesn’t believe her and wants to know everything. With Rachel’s help, Myla pieces together her mother’s startling past, all of which leads to the most devastating secret of all—herself.
Debi has been one of the biggest influences on me as a writer. She is a woman that exudes joy and lifts writers but with a refreshing honesty that can only come from someone who knows her stuff. Debi is an all-rounder: an incredible writer, an incredible editor, teacher, mentor and person. Her books take you on a journey that is different, that grips you and won’t let you go. Her work has the heart of a thriller writer through and through.
“It gives me huge pleasure to be able to earn a living from working with words and stories, even when they’re not my own… It’s such a privilege to be a part of other people’s authorial journeys.”
Again, her journey really urged me on and instilled a wish to be a better author. My pick of hers is her first, Nirvana Bites, so that you can meet Debi on the page. Her thoughts on her series are simple.
“Most of the people I knew could, in some way or another, be considered to be misfits and I wanted them to be the stars in their own story, not eclipsed by a professional who parachutes in from outside.”
I love that and her way of portraying their stories.
Jen is applies for a job at the BBC but her chances are thwarted by her prospective employer, Stanley Highshore. In a delicate emotional state after being blackmailed, he’s up a ladder in his BBC office clad in very little and with his numerous piercings on show. Jen recognises him as Stapled Stan – a regular on the south London S&M scene. Terrified that his seedy secrets will be disclosed, and with his life as the respectable husband of a Conservative MP in jeopardy, Jen is enlisted to find and confront his blackmailers. After an encounter with two armed men (who she fights off with the judicious use of a couple of fire extinguishers and an axe!) Jen seeks the help of her Nirvana Housing Co-op neighbours. It soon becomes clear that an inconspicuous aquatic shop, Koi Korner, is hiding some dark secrets.
One thing that always sticks in my mind when I think of Karelia is that she rocks a leather jacket. She is cool, funny, friendly and passionate about writing which made my chat with her a delight. It’s easy to learn from an author who has such energy about their work and the intricate detail of her plotting process spoke to me. (Sandra Moran also loves to plot in detail.) Plotters Anonymous aside, the fact that she has broken new ground with her novel Something True is no mean feat. It shows the immense talent that a Grand Central Publishing (one of the big five publishing companies worldwide) has placed their faith in her.
I also got to talk to her about her teaching and involvement with GCLS. In my experience there are very few people who could really be classed as ‘teachers,’ and qualifications are no guarantee of that talent. I would say that Karelia has that. A good teacher creates that buzz in a class or individuals, they’ve learned something, they believe that they can go on to succeed and the subject which was once a bit murky has been illuminated. When she spoke about her process, I loved her thoughts on pacing and the balance of a book,
“The thing I pride myself on most is my ability to balance between opposites. In The Admirer and The Purveyor this ability manifests itself in narratives that speed up and slow down at exactly the right moments and narratives that balance between the graphic and the subtle, the stated and the implied.”
I also loved her advice to aspiring writers. The excitement of the published land can be both a draw and a frustration for some.
“First, don’t give up! Getting published and developing a following takes years, and that is okay. Something this meaningful is worth the time.”
And her books undoubtedly are. My pick of Karelia’s work is one I haven’t read because it hasn’t been released yet. My reason for picking it is that she’s embarking on a new journey that could open doors for the authors who follow in her footsteps. Something True is definitely one that I’ll be looking out for!
Tate Grafton has a tough exterior, but underneath she’s kind, caring, and fiercely loyal. That’s why she first started working at Out in Portland Coffee-it was her way of repaying the shop’s owner for taking her in as a homeless teenager. Nine years later, the coffee shop is floundering and Tate feels like she’s letting life pass her by . . . until she shares an unforgettable night with a beautiful stranger. When the mysterious woman disappears the next morning, Tate doesn’t even know her name.
Laura Enfield was supposed to be in Portland for only a few days-just long enough to oversee a simple business deal before joining her conservative father on his political campaign. But when the closeted Laura romances an employee of the coffee shop her company is shutting down, things get suddenly complicated. Now, the lies she’s told for years are beginning to unravel, and her biggest secret is about to be exposed. Laura can’t stop thinking about the barista with the soulful eyes, but after a lifetime of deception, can she finally embrace something true?
A woman with a lot of talents! Melissa was fun to interview because of her love for the theatre and writing which echoed my own.
“I’d been a news reporter, an actress, a video editor, and a director – all means of passing a story on to another human being. It was certainly time for me to try creating that story for myself. In fact, I’m surprised it took me as long as it did to turn to writing.”
I really loved talking to her about that natural progression from the other arts to writing. She says,
“But when writing the story yourself, like I find myself doing now in the literary world, there’s a lot more power there, which can be a little scary at the same time.”
Melissa had some great advice for any writers who are going to read their work aloud.
“I’d say not to other authors not to be afraid to take your pencil and trim up the section you plan to read for the best possible out-loud transfer possible (create some good looking ice cream). Cut description that may read well on the page, but may sound less exciting when read aloud. Next, I’d advise memorizing at least 80% of the selection so that the majority of the reading is not actually “read” and that key things such as visualization and eye contact happen in large quantities and in the appropriate places. Little things like focal points for characters will make the reading spark to life and wake your audience up.”
As many authors do find reading aloud difficult, I loved this advice and it helped me to look at reading a whole other way. Plus, she used dessert as a reference which always wins me over. It was also interesting to hear her talk about moving from writing in first person to third person for her second book and the difficulties that switching POV had on her.
“The second book (Heart Block) was the hardest book I’ve ever written. Mainly because I was not used to writing in third person. It was a new and challenging experience that I’m so glad is out of the way now. I think I also felt a lot of pressure because Waiting in the Wings had been well received and I didn’t want to disappoint.”
Much like Georgia Beers’ work, Melissa’s novels have you feeling good and remind me a lot of While You Were Sleeping with humour, love and sometimes with difficult situations. My pick for the book is How Sweet It Is because of the way that she portrays the extremes of emotion, there is a baker who makes truffles (which will always win me around,) and the hometown feel. The banter and dialogue also made me really enjoy it.
Some things are better than chocolate…
Molly O’Brien is a sweetheart. Her friends and neighbors all think so. While she enjoys her quiet life running the town bakeshop in Applewood, Illinois, she wonders if there could be more. After losing the love of her life four years prior in a plane crash, Molly thinks she’s ready to navigate the dicey dating waters once again. However, you can’t always pick who your heart latches onto. When Jordan Tuscana, the beautiful younger sister of her lost love, returns to town, Molly finds her interest piqued in a manner she wasn’t prepared for. As secrets are uncovered, Molly and Jordan must figure out how to navigate the difficult terrain of their multi-faceted relationship. Especially when something much deeper seems to be bubbling between them.
Without doubt, Gerri is one of my favourite authors. I’m definitely not alone in that and when Gerri tells you a story, you can’t tear yourself away until it’s finished.
Her career is a distinguished one, another product of the Academy of Bards who just has that special something. Being able to chat to Gerri about her work and her love for telling stories was the perfect way to finish off the Inky Inspiration blog for the year. I loved hearing her take on the books, on her characters and the draw of inner angst that makes her ‘brooding’ characters a favourite to write.
“Perhaps you’re right…it is the “inner angst” of the characters that draw me. I don’t find these characters difficult to write at all. The “brooding” character is one of my favorites.”
I also love that she brings back characters from previous books for her readers.
“…bringing back old characters in new books is a way for readers to keep up with their favorites and know that they are alive and well!!”
I love this touch and the way that her new book Angel Fire uses a crossover of four of the best loved characters she’s written.
“It was a little difficult getting Tori and Sam’s “voices” back after such a long time. And I also wanted to show that they’d grown, too. This book is in all four POVS and I tried to give them all equal time, however, as you read it, you’ll find that Sam gets top billing!”
Readers of Gerri (and there are a lot of us,) eagerly await every release and I learned a lot of my ideas on pacing and what makes a good story from reading her work. Her advice to rookie writers is simple but something that I definitely have taken on board.
“Keep it fun! When it stops being fun, then I think it’s hard to have a “love” of writing.”
Which really echoes the essence of Gerri’s work.
“My mantra, going all the way back to when I first started writing, was to “write for myself”. I write about things I like and I create characters who I would want to be friends with.”
I think she consistently creates characters that the readers want to know, care about and cheer on which really goes to show just how incredible a writer she is. She can take you anywhere, with any character, in any situation whether it’s chasing serial killers, sledding down snowy mountains, running from snipers, enjoying the Hawaiian culture, to saving little birds in a hurricane. Gerri just has that special skill for keeping you hooked. She’s a born storyteller and the awards, the bestsellers, the readership and the critics all agree.
My pick of Gerri’s books is The Target (although check out her new release Angel Fire too.)
It is one of my favourite books and one which story, pacing, emotion and her amazing knack for a cheeky character all come together in one heck of a story.
Sara Michaels is the daughter of a prominent senator who has just announced his candidacy for President of the United States—the same senator who has been receiving death threats against his family for some time. Sara is also the owner of a self-help clinic and is hell-bent—despite the FBI’s warnings—on leading a group of ten women on a two-week sojourn through the Rocky Mountains.
In an effort to protect Sara, the FBI recruits homicide detective Jaime Hutchinson to infiltrate the group and secretly provide the protection they are so certain Sara will need. After some clever maneuvering, Jaime finds herself welcomed by the ten conservative women—who soon begin playing matchmaker with Sara and Jaime. But then Jaime is reminded of the reason that she has joined this group of women when she’s forced to lead them out of the mountains and away from a sniper’s bullets.
Will Sara finally figure out who is behind the death threats? And will Jaime realize the truth…and be able to save Sara before it’s too late?
When Jaime realizes the truth, she must convince the FBI to return to Colorado Springs before it’s too late to save Sara.