Author Interview: In Coversation with Samiksha Bhattacharjee

Hello all my lovely readers!
I hope that you are all doing well.

I am back with an Author Interview post, this time with Samiksha Bhattacharjee, the youngest YA author in the UK. Her debut novel, Legal Crime, was released on February 18, 2021.

Read all about my thoughts in my review post.

It has been a real pleasure chatting with Samiksha. She gets candid in this interview and even hints at an upcoming novel *excited dance*! We talk about her journey towards writing, her inspirations and all about her characters. It is quite interesting to see how she and her book evolved through the journey.

Thank you Samiksha for reaching out and giving me this chance to talk about your book!

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  1. Hello Samiksha, hope you’re doing great! Thanks for agreeing to this interview. To start off, tell us something about yourself that is not in your bio! 

Hi Namrata, thank you for having me! Well… I love reading, I love enjoying life as a teen… oh, and I love eating food! I don’t think that’s in my bio. Such a shame that my love of food doesn’t reflect in my cooking… I’m pretty terrible 😂

I’m an extrovert, I love meeting new people and gushing over amazing books with fellow fangirls/boys/theys/people, and when I decide on a book ship, I stick with it. Forever.

2. So, as the youngest YA author in the UK, how do you feel about the title? 

I never expected to get the title when I first published the book, to be honest. I genuinely thought that there were many more teens out there who had published YA novels, but I was wrong. I’m really honoured to have the title, but I want to see other teenagers with published novels out there in the world too! The extremely low number of child authors, all around the world, really shocked me and I hope that after reading Legal Crime, teenagers feel more encouraged to start writing, and maybe even get published!

3. Let’s go back to the beginning. What prompted you to start writing? 

I’ve always loved writing, in fact – I wrote my first little book when I was five! When the idea of Legal Crime first came to me in the bathroom as a seven year old (I was trying to think of an idea for a short story), I never expected it to be any longer than ten pages, let alone be published! Legal Crime was originally meant to be just another one of my short stories that I would keep in my notebook compilation, but it ended up being far more than that. I wanted to write a story about a girl who runs away from home and, through her experiences, comes to appreciate her family. The story really stuck with me and I wanted to continue, even after I had passed my self-imposed usual ten page limit.

4. What challenges did you face while writing about a sixteen-year-old and her emotional journey? 

Well, the story was originally meant to follow a ten-year-old girl, but I changed it very soon after because I didn’t feel like it would be very realistic. Instead, I went with sixteen-year-old confused teenager Fiona Watson, a victim of peer pressure and high school dilemmas.

It was challenging, because I wanted to convey her emotions and feelings – happiness, anger, grief… as accurately as possible, and I really hope that I succeeded! Fiona is older than me, so I had to think a little outside the box, but overall, I thought: ‘if person 1 were in this situation, what would they do?’, or ‘I think that person 2 would take this route, but person 3 might do this… how about I combine them?’.

I really wanted to encapsulate raw teenage emotions in the book, and I think that being a child really helped with that. However, at certain points it was very difficult because I wasn’t sure what would happen next. I managed to face writer’s block and continue with the story though, and I’m really happy that I stuck with the story and created a new universe to add to the multiverse of books!

5. How much of yourself or your life did you draw inspiration from while writing this book? 

Legal Crime is a novel that focuses on emotions, as well as peer pressure and friendship problems. These things are issues that affect most high school students… if it hasn’t affected you, you’re really lucky. I have to say, a lot of the book was drawn from things that I have seen or heard happen to others, and even myself.

The pressure to fit in and be popular and whatnot is a problem that, for quite a lot of teens, orbit around them in their daily lives. It’s really sad to see people change themselves and who they are just so that they can fit in with the crowd… and those who don’t do that are seen as ‘weird’ or ‘loners’. I don’t think that uniqueness is very much appreciated in high school, everything is in uniform – and by that, I mean everyone’s behaviour. I say this as if it’s not a problem that affects me, when, in reality, it does. I’ve changed myself and how I act around people before, because I don’t feel like I can be my true self. By that point, I had forgotten who I really was… but I realised my mistakes. I’m still learning to embrace myself, and so is Fiona, and so throughout the course of the book, we were also taking a similar emotional journey together.

6. Who or what led to the creation of Fiona Watson? 

A lot of things and people, really. I wanted to create a relatable teenage character and Fiona Watson is the result. Oh my gosh, it sounds like Fiona is the product of a chemistry equation… but really, she’s far more than that to me. I’ve stuck with Fiona and seen her ups and downs, watched her make stupid desicions…  and just live her life as a teenager, but I suppose that that’s what makes me want to be friends with her. I still want to ask her certain questions about why she did certain things, so I hope that I’ll be able to explore her further in a later book but… no promises.

7. Why did you choose to address serious issues like drug abuse, suicide and others in this book? 

These issues are key parts of many teenager’s lives. Unfortunately, especially in this day and age, many teens feel the need to turn to other forms of ‘comfort’ eg. alcohol and illegal drugs. Bereavement too is an extremely sad thing that might sadly happen in a teenager’s life. Also, and this is because of many reasons, suicidal thoughts are, unfortunately, very high among this age group – mental health problems are rising and the stress of our lives can lead to things like depression. Peer pressure and the need to ‘fit in’ really don’t help the problem.

I wanted to address and give a small glimpse at some of these problems so that I could resonate and send a message to my readers – other children and teenagers like myself. I wanted to speak to my readers and make them think, if they ever do turn to drugs or whatnot: ‘should I really be doing this? Is this going to actually help me?’.

8. Why did you choose to write the book as diary entries? Is there any significance here? 

Well, it started off by accident, really. I labelled each part with time and date stamps and realised that it was actually similar to diary entries. Fiona’s diary is quite a key part to Legal Crime, so that also ties into it. I haven’t really read any books in this style, so I also wanted to bring my own style and tastes into the writing of Legal Crime and make it different from other books out there… some with very similar writing styles.

9. How much research went into the planning and plotting for the book? 

The thing is, I never particularly liked planning. I’m more of a panster and write what comes to my mind, then edit afterwards. Although I did plan out the last few chapters of Legal Crime and am currently (quite) extensively planning my next book (which is a YA dystopian fantasy… more details soon!), Legal Crime was mainly not planned out and was written straight from my mind.

However, I did a lot of research about things like the psychology of teenagers and also spent a lot of time asking other children and teenagers how they felt about certain issues eg. underage drinking. Although not all of this research directly features in the book, it helped me to keep these things in mind whilst writing certain scenes and influenced quite a bit of my writing.

10. How much time did you spend, on average, in writing the book? 

I spent a lot of time with the Legal Crime characters, and I really hope that this isn’t goodbye! I started writing Legal Crime when I was seven and finished it when I was twelve – so it took me five years! Obviously, I wasn’t writing continuously for five years and I also took some breaks for exam preparation etc.

Legal Crime was accepted by the first publisher my book was submitted to, two days after my thirteenth birthday! I’m nearly fourteen now, but am still working with the characters of Legal Crime, even though my next book will not be following them.

11. How did you decide which characters to keep in the story and which to ignore? 

I didn’t really kick any characters out of the story, seven-year-old me thought that that might be a bit mean 😂

However, the characters did change around a bit – at the beginning I experimented with different names for the different characters. Also, a lot of the characters that exist in the final version didn’t actually exist when the idea first came into my head. I never thought that Legal Crime would be a published novel, so I played around with it and changed a lot of characters, but never ignored them.

12. Did you already have a character chart ready or did the number of characters evolve as the story progressed? 

No… I didn’t have a character chart, they kind of just spoke for themselves and I decided that ‘oh, there should be a character who comes in over here’. I’m not doing that for my next novel though, because sometimes things can get a little hectic… but it was fun to add characters in and see how they reacted to different things and to really make ‘friends’ with them, in a way.

13. If you had to choose one moment from the book which was most important, which would it be? 

That is a very tricky question… I need to think hard about that one.

Well, some of the moments I have in my mind are pretty spoiler-y so skip this part if you don’t want spoilers.

I think that the saddest part was definitely Evelyn passing away, and her life struggles might resonate with quite a few readers out there too. I’m not saying that everybody has to go through depression, being diagnosed with terminal cancer and also having really big family issues… but her story will still stay with me and if I ever write anything in the Legal Crime universe, it will probably be a prequel exploring her story further.

But I can’t just choose one moment! I think that the part where everything changed for Fiona is when she stopped being friends with Luna, and so in the Legal Crime universe, that’s a very important part even though there’s no exact date and time to pinpoint it to.

To be honest, all the parts in Legal Crime are important to me and to the story!

Let’s come down to some simpler things about you now… 

14. What is your favourite genre? 

Anything YA is amazing, even though currently I’m loving dystopia and fantasy!

15. Which is your favourite book?

I can’t choose! I love so many different books… but The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is an absolutely brilliant start to an even more brilliant series!

16. Who is/are your favourite author(s)? 

All authors are an inspiration to me for doing what they do the best – creating fantastic worlds and bringing them to life with writing. I am honoured to have received messages and best wishes from so many of my favourite authors including Karen M. McManus (One of Us is Lying), Louis Sacher (Holes), Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns), Cathy Cassidy (The Chocolate Box Girls), Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give), C.L Taylor (The Island), Renée Watson (Piecing Me Together), J.Elle (Wings of Ebony) and Kathryn Evans (Beauty Sleep). Thank you all!

17. Who would you say is your inspiration to start writing? 

My parents, for encouraging me to write short stories and for teaching me the basics in writing so that I could continue further in my journey. Thank you, love you both so much!

18. Which was the last book you read that you would recommend to fellow readers? 

Wow, that is hard! I am currently loving They Both Die At The End, We Were Liars and am reading Tower of Dawn which is part of the Throne of Glass series. I think that they’re amazing books and I would definitely recommend them!

19. How has the journey of writing this book shaped who you are today? 

Well, I guess that it’s changed quite a lot of things… if I wasn’t an author, or even just a writer… who would I be? Publishing Legal Crime has made me aware of a lot of things that I didn’t really know in the book world and also has made me develop as a writer. I’m happy that I took the leap and decided to get Legal Crime published. I really hope that I can also inspire other children and teens to get into creative writing, and even get published.

 20. Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

Love you all so much, it makes me so happy to know that somewhere out there people are reading and cherishing my book, and welcoming it into a new home. I hope that you enjoy reading Legal Crime and that the story stays with you. Keep on reading, and keep on writing!

In Conversation with Sverrir Sigurdsson

I have the pleasure of talking to author Sverrir Sigurdsson on the blog.

His book, Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir is a prize winner of The Wishing Shelf Book Awards organized by a group of UK authors.

“Not only a well written memoir, but an interesting take on Icelandic history from post-World War Two until present day. A RED RIBBON WINNER and highly recommended.” – The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

Get the book on Amazon.

Read on to know more about Sverrir Sigurdsson, his book and advice for all his readers!

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m originally from Iceland, born and raised there.  At the age of 19, I left my country to explore the world.  My first stop was Finland.  After getting an architecture degree there, I took on an international career so I could see the world and have somebody pay for my travels.  I’ve visited 60 countries on 5 continents, and done work from building a harem for the ruler of Abu Dhabi to building schools in poor countries in Africa and elsewhere.

What prompted you to start writing your memoir?

I love telling stories of my international adventures.  My friends encouraged me to write them down.  So I did and saved them as “episodes” on my computer, kind of like dumping photos in a shoebox.  Then I showed some pages to my wife, Veronica Li, who’s a published author.  She read them and was surprised to discover what an interesting guy I was.  She helped me put my episodes into a memoir called Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir.

We wanted to make it a human interest story that appeals to a wide audience.  At the time of our writing, Iceland was a tourist hot spot.  (In a country of 360,000, we had 2 million tourists in 2019!)  The literature on Iceland, however, was mostly travel guides.  We decided I could tell tourists about my country by introducing them to my family, our way of life, and the road we’ve traveled to be where we are today.

How easy/difficult was it to write your memoir?

Writing is never easy, but fortunately we were two heads working together.  We make a good team because we’re so different.  I’m a hardware person good at brick and mortar stuff, while Veronica is a software person, in tune with feelings and human relationships.  Our strengths and weaknesses complemented each other.

During the pandemic lockdown, we were most happy to have our writing to obsess about.  We would have gone crazy otherwise!

Sverrir and his wife, Veronica

How much time did you spend on writing on average per day?

Veronica and I both like to write in the morning.  From around 9am to noon, we would be at our respective desks.  When something needs to be discussed, we know exactly where to find each other.

What is one thing you discovered on this journey that you did not know beforehand?

I’ve always known Icelandic fishermen have a tough life, especially before the advent of modern technology.  But I didn’t know how tough it was until I listened to a recording of my uncle Óli, which was part of the National Library’s cultural heritage project.  My uncle, a fisherman since the age of 10, talked about the blustery, icy weather, the cramped conditions on the boat, the monotony of the food (fish and potatoes), the nonstop work once the boat reached a fishing ground, and the danger of storms.  Many have perished, including my own grandfather and his first-born.

Reliving the hardships of previous generations makes me appreciate all the more the progress Iceland has made in a short time.  From a dirt poor nation, it has become one of the most prosperous in the world.

The fishing boat skippered by Sverrir Sigurdsson’s grandfather

How do you feel about your Viking ancestry?

First of all, are Vikings good guys or bad guys?  To Icelanders, they’re heroes, adventurers who brought home wealth and glory.  To people of the British Isles, they’re definitely villains who pillaged and plundered.  This type of Viking, however, lasted only 200 years.  After that period, Icelanders left home to serve a foreign leader and prove themselves in battle before returning home.

Modern-day Vikings are yet another breed.  Being a small nation Icelanders have to go overseas to study and learn from more advanced nations.  I think of myself as an example.  I left Iceland to study architecture in Finland, and afterwards I traveled the world to acquire experience.  Except that I didn’t return home as planned.  I’m now settled in the US.  My heart, however, will always be Icelandic.  Be they heroes or villains, I admire my Viking forefathers for their self-sufficiency, resilience, and endurance.

What kind of impact did this journey of discovery have on you?

My friends often call me a Viking for running around in short sleeves when they’re shivering in jackets.  I never took their joking to heart.  But writing my memoir made me discover how truly Viking I am.  My childhood in Iceland taught me all the skills I needed to survive in the world.  The moment I finished high school, I left my homeland to make my fortune.  Retracing my journey makes me realize that I’ve indeed found my fortune, not in riches but in the wealth of experiences gathered from the places I’ve visited and people met.

What kind of books do you like to read? Give us some examples or recommendations.

I like to read thrillers, especially those that involve international politics and intrigue.  Some of my favorite authors are Frederik Forsyth, John le Carré, and Richard North Patterson.

Which is your favourite place to visit or talk about?

Despite my worldwide travels, my favorite place is still Iceland.  I guess you’ve heard about the volcano eruption going on there.  Icelanders call it a “tourist eruption,” spectacular fireworks that attract tourists but does no harm.  This area is part of the volcano belt that gave Iceland its name, “land of ice and fire.”  In south Iceland, where I spent summers working on a farm, glaciers lie atop volcanoes gurgling and biding their time to erupt.  My book cover shows the scenery of this area: in the foreground stands a cliff with a doorway carved by the sea, in the middle a mountain that was once an island, and in the background the snow-capped volcano that shut down Trans-Atlantic air travel in 2010.  The landscape is the wild and wonderful creations of violent volcanic activity.  Each of these features was formed when fire met ice or seawater, causing the rapidly cooling lava to turn into a rock formation called “tuff” or palagonite.  Iceland is full of such fantastic landscape.

Sverrir Sigurdsson’s book cover

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

My true love is carpentry.  In my youth I’d aspired to become a carpenter when I grew up.  My older sister nudged me to take it one step further and become an architect.  I’m most grateful to her for helping me choose my career.  In my heart, though, I remain a carpenter.  One woodwork project or another is always on my plate.  I just finished building a fence around my backyard to keep out the deer.  Hope it works!

Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

I encourage everyone to travel, not just as a tourist, but to live and work for a spell in a foreign country.  You’ll be surprised what kind of opportunities you’ll find.  Most of all, you’ll be surprised to find out who you are and what you’re capable of.

In Conversation with author Natasha Murray

Hello everyone!

I have the pleasure of hosting author Natasha Murray on my blog. Her latest book, 58 Farm End was released in Dec 2020 and has been getting some pretty good reviews!

In this blog post, we talk about her latest book, the inspiration behind it and also get to know her a little better! I love how interactive and enthusiastic Natasha is and this inspired me to spice up this blog post and convert it into a conversation instead of an interview. 

Thank you Natasha for reaching out to me and for connecting with me! I look forward to reading more of your books in future!

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Connect with Natasha:

 Author website

https://cutt.ly/5fR483w

Book marketing journey and guest author website: www.nmurray.moonfruit.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/NatashaMurray3004 or

Twitter https://twitter.com/UKBookShow_2018

Instagram @natashamurray1426

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Namrata: Thanks for joining us! Tell us a little about yourself.

Natasha: I grew up in North London in Crouch End which has in recent years become a trendy place to live. My best subjects at school were art and English. These subjects I excelled in and I wanted to become an animation artist for Disney. This was not to be. Home life was turbulent so at the age of eighteen, I moved out into a mansion house flat and took on various administrative jobs to pay my rent and survive. My dreams of becoming an artist slowly faded as children came along and the desire to write took over. As the years went by, I drifted south and I now live by the sea in Little hampton with my husband and soul mate, Martin. I work at night picking shopping at a supermarket and after a morning snooze, I write, publish, market my books and read and review. My dream is to sell enough books so that I can write full time.

Namrata: So, what inspired you to start writing books?

Natasha: I have always loved writing stories, plays and poetry. Writing is both a compulsion and a pleasure. I decided to write my first book when my son was about ten and was having difficulty moving on from reading the Captain Underpants series. He wanted to read a book that didn’t have wizards or magic in it. He wanted to read a story that was believable and could actually happen. His need to read a book like this inspired me to write 3004 a dystopian adventure story. It took me six years to write this book as I had two children to look after and an alcoholic partner (not Martin) The Book Guild published my book 3004 in April 2011. My son didn’t actually read it until he was eighteen. He said he liked it but preferred to read autobiographies! 3004 is permanently free on Amazon and thousands of copies have been downloaded.

Namrata: Oh my! That’s quite a journey! Let’s talk about genres! How or why did you choose to write in the Mystery and Thriller genre with a dash of Romance?

Natasha: Last year I decided to experiment and write in a new genre. I chose Romantic suspense and hoped that my book would appeal to more people. I got carried away and wrote two books during lockdown, 58 Farm End and Julia’s Baby. The third book Waterfall Way is being written at a slower pace as I really don’t like saying goodbye to my characters. These three books form the Waterfall Way series. I really enjoyed writing these books and crafting thrilling twists and turns. 58 Farm End was published on 18 December 2020 and is getting some really great reviews. Thank you Namrata for your wonderful review!

Namrata: You are quite welcome! I did enjoy the way the story was written! Let’s continue to talk about 58 Farm End, where did you get the inspiration for the plot from?

Natasha: 58 Farm End came to me in an early morning dream. In my dream, I actually watched the two main characters play out chapter two. I could hear Julia Bridgewater and Seth Hearn talking to each other. There is a road near to me called Long Furlong and there are farms along this road. In my dream, Julia and Seth live on similar farms next to each other and in this chapter they meet in the lane for the first time and Seth helps Julia stop his brother and Ivy Brown from riding Julia’s old pony. I woke up and wrote everything down. The rest of the book just unfolded. This may sound crazy but sometimes Julia and Seth tell me what is going to happen or if I think of a twist and they don’t like it then they will suggest another path. I really am quite sane.

Namrata: Wow! That must have been quite some dream! It’s interesting how you remembered it. One point that intrigued me is the title of the book. Without giving away too much, could you tell us why you decided to specify the number ‘58’ in the title? 

Natasha: Oh dear, 58! This number has haunted me since I was a child for the same reason Julia’s Dad had trouble with it. I will say no more!

Namrata: That’s a good one! So, moving to the people in the story, let’s talk about the inspiration behind the lead characters. How did they happen?

Natasha: As I said Julia and Seth appeared in my dream. Jules is petite with wild curly blonde hair and Seth is tall, dark and handsome.

Namrata: Ah yes! I am quite a fan of Seth!

Do you base any of your characters on people you know? If yes, would you share an example?

Natasha: Seth’s family remind me of a distant Irish connection I had many moons ago. This large Irish family were the kindest people you would ever wish to meet but many of them were quite crazy. Perhaps they influenced my writing.

Namrata: When you started this book, did you plan out the entire series at the beginning or did it evolve as the story evolved?

Natasha: I never plan my storyline and yes my books do evolve organically. I do however think about the next chapter and what I am going to write. This usually happens when I am picking shopping for customers. I see what is going to happen and then play out the scene like a movie in my mind. I get home and write an email to myself and type out the chapter on my phone. I then send it to myself copy and paste it into my book and edit it at my desk. That way I can write anywhere I want to. On the bed or by the sea are good places to write. I usually write half a chapter a day.

Namrata: I find the way you approach writing to be quite unique! So, what is an average writing day like for you?

Natasha: Being an administrator for so long, I like to be organised and I have a daily planner to keep to. This way I don’t forget to do the dreaded marketing side of things. Here is my weekly plan.

85 MONDAY

WRITE

TUESDAY

WRITE

WEDNESDAY

WRITE

THURSDAY

FULL WRITING OR EDITING DAY – GET LOST IN YOUR PARALLEL UNIVERSE

 

WRITE AN ARTICLE OR BLOG POST AND PUBLISH IT ON YOUR BLOG AND LINKEDIN. SHARE WITH FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

 

FRIDAY

WRITE

SATURDAY

 

SUNDAY

 

EVERY WEEK AFTER

THANK EVERYONE FOR REVIEWS AND SHARING ON SOCIAL MEDIA

 

CREATE A VIDEO AND THREE STILL FACEBOOK & TWITTER POSTS AND SCHEDULE THEM FOR THE WEEK & LINK THEM TO LINKEDIN

 

PUBLISH ANY REVIEWS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

 

FIND REVIEWERS ONLINE WILLING TO REVIEW YOUR BOOK

 

PROMOTE YOUTUBE TRAILERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA (MONTHLY)

 

COMMENT ON FACEBOOK GROUPS

GO OUT SEE PEOPLE, EXPLORE AND GET INSPIRED TO WRITE.

 

TAKE PHOTOS TO

POST BOOKS, TRAILERS & ART PHOTOS ON INSTAGRAM  USING 30 HASHTAGS  LINK TO FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

 

MONITOR YOUR ADS, CREATE OR REPLACE

EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS WITH NEWS AND OR OFFER BOOKS FOR FREE. CALL TO ASSIST YOU TO PROMOTE & REVEIW YOUR BOOKS.

 

GROW YOUR SUBSCRIBER LIST ON SOCIAL MEDIA OFFERING FREE GIFTS FOR EMAIL ADDRESS

LIVE EVENT

 

BOOK

SIGNINGS

FAIRS

MARKETS

BOOK SHOWS

READINGS & CHATS

 

IF NOTHING IS BOOKED SHARE A SOMETHING PERSONAL ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR WITH SOCIAL MEDIA SITES

DAY OFF

 

READ READ READ READ

 

Namrata: WOW! That is wonderfully informative and great of you to share some of your planning. I wish I could be as organized! Thank you for this glimpse!

Let’s move on to lighter topics! What are you currently reading?

Natasha: I read and review books too. I am currently reading Meat Ladder to Mars by San Jose satirist Eugenio Negro. It is about pigs being transported to Mars. My mission this year is to read and review my two hundred books in my ‘to be read’ pile. I have got so behind because the desire to write keeps taking over.

Namrata: I have a huge TBR too and I am trying to work my way through it. It is not such an easy task, but I wish you all the best! I do read a lot of different kinds of books and would love to know which is your favourite genre?

Natasha: I love a psychological thriller or a classic book like Wuthering Heights

Namrata: That’s amazing diversity. Who is your favourite author?

Natasha: I read a lot and I think my favourite author is D.E. White. She writes crime fiction and I really love her Dove Milson series and her descriptive writing.

Namrata: I am going to add the books to my ever-growing TBR! If you had to pick one book to take away with you on vacation, what would it be?

Natasha: This is hard. I find it very difficult to read a book a second time so I would probably write my own.

Namrata: I can very well imagine you sitting down to write and enjoying a beautiful view! To wrap up this conversation, what message would you like to share with your readers?

Natasha: I hope that you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoyed writing them. If my writing makes you emotional then I have done my job. A good book feeds the soul. Happy reading.

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Do share your thoughts and check out 58 Farm End, a romantic suspense story!

In Conversation with author Ben Gartner!

It is my pleasure to host author Ben Gartner on the blog.

His middle grade fiction books have been doing the rounds and I have had the privilege to read and review them on the blog! They are quirky, fun and full of historical adventures that speak to imaginative minds!

Read on to know more about Ben and to connect further with him!

What prompted you to start writing?

Like many writers out there, I’ve been living in the world of my imagination since I was a kid. I’ve always loved to read—anything I can get my hands on, pretty much. I’ve often said the day I stop learning is the day I die, and I think we can learn a lot from both fiction and nonfiction. I think that is why, in my writing, I tend to meld the two. Fantasy, science fiction, but with some historical trivia that makes it interesting to learn.

How did the book “The Eye of Ra” happen?

This is a fun story. J I had been working on an adult thriller at the time. Around the dinner table, my kids kept asking me about it and, well, it wasn’t exactly suitable for them. I mean, I could discuss the overall process and such, but not the nitty gritty plot details and the more fun stuff like that. So we decided to work on a new story together! They helped outline and brainstorm and sketch out the characters, their motivations and quirks, and the overall storyline. Then I went and wrote out a draft, all while discussing challenges over dinner. They were great sounding boards. I could run an idea by them and tell immediately if it hit or not. They do NOT pull the punches! Which is exactly what I need, their absolute candor. So it started as a fun “side” project, but then in writing it, I realized… well, I think that dovetails into your next question. 😉

Why did you choose to write middle grade fiction?

How it started: As a fun bonding activity with my sons.

How it’s going: The more I got into the middle grade niche, I realized I really have a passion for this age group and this time in our lives. Not only for my own personal reasons, but also for scientific ones. I love neuroscience and to think about thinking, and the middle grade time period is one of immense growth in the brain. In fact, I wrote another blog post about that here: https://mgbookvillage.org/2020/03/25/why-mg-books-and-the-authors-that-write-them-are-so-important-by-ben-gartner/

But mostly, because it’s FUN (more on that later).

Why did you choose to base the books on historical events/settings?

I really enjoy the nooks and crannies of any subject. The ones that make you go “huh!” And our own human story (history) is full of those, so there is plenty of material that spurs ideas. In looking at the archaeological record left by those who came before us, we can find a lot of commonalities, a lot of intriguing differences, and—most importantly for a writer—a lot of mystery. Holes. Gaps in our understanding where we can only make speculative, educated guesses. Those gaps give birth to story.

What inspired the book titles?

Well, as you read them you will see there is a running theme around the sun. Not only because it is a source of reverence throughout different cultures and eras, but also because it is a powerful force! Ra was the ancient Egyptian sun god (book 1 title being The Eye of Ra). And Sol Invictus translates to the “Unconquered Sun,” which was the Roman god of the sun (John and Sarah travel to an ancient Roman frontier town in modern-day Switzerland called Aventicum). Book 3 will carry on this tradition when John and Sarah travel back to the time of the ancient Mexica people (now commonly referred to as the Aztec). I have a working title for book 3 too, but I’m going to save that for now. 😉

How much research went into the writing of the two books?

The setting for both is quite different and in different time frames.

Lots! Fortunately, I love research rabbit holes. I am a proud researcher, Word Nerd, and lover of etymology. The research often gives rise to the core story itself, but also fleshes out the time and place and characters with idiosyncratic details of that era. So, while I do take artistic liberties, I also try to make the details realistic. The clothes, the culture, the games, the daily life—I try to make those as authentic as possible and even enlist experts in the field to verify my writing. (There is one tiny inaccuracy in The Eye of Ra. Email me if you find it and I’ll give you a bonus prize!)

How much does your day-to-day life inspire your characters?

It is important to note that I have two boys, who are now thirteen and ten. They were eleven and nine when I started this process. In some important ways, I wrote these characters so that they would be relatable to them (they did help create them, after all!). In other equally important ways, I did NOT want these characters to be mirror copies of my own children. I’d say that both John and Sarah share some attributes from both of my children, but myself as well, and others I’ve met. They are definitely fabrications of their own. But the more I write and think about them, the more realistic they become to me. I can easily imagine having them over to sit at a dinner with us.

What do you like best about writing a story?

The immersion of imagination. Time skips by faster when I’m writing than any other thing because I become so engrossed in the world and the plot. I am the creator and it is a powerful feeling. Mwahahahaha! Plus, I love a good turn of phrase. Words are powerful.

What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

This is a great blog question, and one I’ve never been asked before. Nice one. I’ve done a lot of therapeutic writing over the years. Journals, stories that I knew would never be shown to another person, that sort of thing. For me, I love to think (often, over-think, but that’s a different topic), and writing is a very helpful way for me to process my own feelings and thoughts, whether they be emotional or more concrete. So, I’d say that my stories and I have a symbiotic relationship. We both need and feed from the other.

Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

I hope that reading is FUN for you. That doesn’t mean it can’t cover difficult topics. That doesn’t mean escapism is bad. But if you are enjoying a book, that is the best. And if you’re not having fun with it, then you should probably pick something else. My sincere wish is that you have FUN with John and Sarah on their adventures through time.

And I love to hear from my readers, so don’t be shy about contacting me at ben@bengartner.com!

My website is https://BenGartner.com.

I’m active on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BGartnerWriting.

I post occasionally on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/BGartnerWriting and even less so on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BenGartnerAuthor.

Don’t forget that book two, SOL INVICTUS comes out on Groundhog Day, 2.2.21!

Or you can pre-order now from your local bookseller here: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781734155235 or from everywhere else like Amazon and Barnes & Noble here: https://books2read.com/sol-invictus-ben-gartner

And thank you so much for having me, Namrata! Always fun to talk shop. Happy reading!

In Conversation with Ronald Crouch

I have the pleasure of hosting author Ronald Crouch on the blog. I recently read his first book, a middle grade adventure book titled Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins.

The book truly is the beginning of an adventure for people of all ages and has an educational aspect to it.

Read on to know more about Ron and his experiences with writing this book.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a child psychologist, married 22 years, and I am the father of a little critical thinker who constantly fact-checks me and asks for evidence. That’s both wonderful and a lot of work. He keeps me on my toes. We are Americans but we live in Germany, where I work at a hospital. We live in a tiny little village on the edge of the black forest, which can be pretty spooky. We bought an old church and we are rehabbing it into a house, which can also be pretty spooky. It is a good thing that we like spooky.

What prompted you to start writing?

For my son’s tenth birthday I looked for a fun adventure story that had the themes he loved and which we often talked about in our family. Themes like critical thinking, cognitive biases, psychology, and being skeptical. It is something we have really emphasized for our son because the world seems to have transitioned from an information age into a misinformation age, and as parents we felt we have to prepare our kid for that. But when I looked for middle reader books with these themes there wasn’t anything that I could find that really dug into these topics and talked about them directly in the context of a fun story. I had a good idea of what an age-appropriate adventure story with those themes would be like. So I thought it would be fun to write one. I always wanted to write for kids, and so this was the perfect excuse to pursue that dream while meeting what I think is an important need.

How did the book “Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins” happen?

Because the book was originally a birthday gift for my son, I thought about what would be fun for him to read; what would make him excited. I remembered that before moving to Germany, when we lived in Washington, one of our favorite things to do was take what we called “critical thinking field trips.” We had this book, Weird Washington, and he would look up places where strange things were happening, choose a place, and then we would go on a road trip to investigate it. He absolutely loved it. For example, we visited a place called “gravity hill” just outside Prosser, Washington. It is one of those hills where cars are supposed to run uphill. And you know what? It worked! It really seemed like the car was rolling up the hill. But he figured out that the hill was very slight and that the wind was blowing strongly up the hill. We tested his idea by opening the car doors and using them like sails. If it was the wind, we thought, then the car would roll faster with the doors open. And it turned out it did. Afterward, we had lunch in Prosser and he told the story of that adventure to folks at the pizza parlor with so much excitement and pride. I kept thinking of that excitement and pride when I was coming up with the scenes and places in the book. I wanted the main character to feel that, and hopefully, the reader might catch a little of that too. 

Why did you choose to write middle-grade fiction?

I primarily work with children ages 6 to 13. I really enjoy the way their imaginations work and the things that fascinate that age group. Thanks to my work I also have a good sense of what they wish for and what developmental conflicts they have. So writing for that age group felt like a natural choice for me.

What is the ideal target age group for this book?

I think that most children from 8 to 12 will enjoy this book. But it isn’t too scary, so precocious young readers can enjoy it too. But to be totally honest, my ideal target group is actually adults! That is because I really want parents to read this book to their children so that they can have conversations about critical thinking, cognitive biases, and deeper things like how we know what is true. So sprinkled throughout the book are scenes and characters that I hope adults will love and find funny.

Why choose to write about paranormal investigation?

A paranormal investigation is a perfect thing for middle-grade readers because they have one foot in the world of a child and one foot in the world of an adolescent. For them, ghosts and scary things might still be real, but reality is coming into focus with each passing day. Part of the developmental task for this age group is to make that transition from the spooky world of magical thinking into a world that is grounded in reality. It is a hard transition to make. A big part of it is investigating, asking questions, testing assumptions, and finding how the world really works. So a paranormal investigation team seemed like a natural choice. Plus, I thought it was a lot of fun to write about.

How important do you think it is for children to start to relate to and understand psychology?

It is so much more important than most people understand. Psychology is all about knowing why we feel, think, and act the way that we do. If you listen to the kinds of questions that kids ask their parents and teachers, many of them are about exactly these things. The nice thing about psychology is that it actually has some answers to these questions that make sense and are rooted in science. If you give those to your kids then they can better understand themselves and others. 

How old would you say the main character is?

I purposely left that vague in the book so that kids could make the character the age that want him to be. I know that most young readers like to follow the adventures of a kid who is slightly older than themselves. But in my mind, he is ten because that is the age of my son and that is who that character really is to me.

How much research went into the writing of this book?

Most of the research went into studying the places and scenes where the book takes place. For example, there is a scene that takes place at the McMinnville UFO festival in Oregon. This is a festival that takes place once a year. Even though I have been to McMinnville, I have not been to the festival. So for my research, I got to watch hours of hijinks from the festival online. It was actually a lot of fun.

How easy or difficult was it to write this book and create the characters for it?

I found that it was surprisingly easy, and I think that is because these characters are all people that I know already, and they are either close family or famous people who inspire me. For instance, I based the character of Uncle Freeman on James “The Amazing” Randi, who sadly just passed away. I have read so much about him, watched hours of his magic acts and TED talks, and so when I wrote that character it was simple to do. Uncle Freeman was already a character in my life, so to speak. 

How much does your day to day life inspire your characters?

It has a big effect on my characters. The things that I hear my son say, the kinds of questions children ask in my work, the research I read on psychology for my job each day, all these things come together to make my characters come to life. 

How much time do you spend on your writing on average per day?

It varies considerably. I find that if I don’t write for at least half an hour a day then I begin to lose momentum in my writing and it starts to get hard to get back into the story when I return to it. But when I’m in the thick of writing I can spend five or six hours at a time really digging in. As a parent that is hard to do, and it means a lot of negotiating with my wife. Luckily, after 22 years of marriage, I have a lot of support from her.

What do you like best about writing a story?

This is the first book I’ve written, and what I have discovered is that, although writing is work and you have to discipline yourself to do it, I actually have a lot of fun coming up with the twists and turns in the story. That sense of fun is the thing I enjoyed the most and it is one of the things I look for now when I’m writing. I’m almost finished with the next book in the series and I used that emotional sense of whether I’m having fun writing it as a kind of north star guiding my process.

What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

This story brought me a lot of joy because it connected me to a lot of new people. Since publishing it I have heard from children that have read it that they love the book and can’t wait for the next one. One parent reached out and said that her son couldn’t stop talking about the book. Another said that her teenage son had “his mind blown” by how fun psychology could be. I laughed a lot at that one. I had a teacher in the states contact me because she wanted the children in her class to read the book and talk about its themes. We are trying to set up an online book reading for them, which I’m really excited about. I didn’t know how much those connections would mean to me, but I have really cherished them. For the next book in the series, I’ve reached out to these young fans and offered them a look at the next book. I’ve even had some of them become early readers, giving me their feedback. I think the value of that connection, and that chance it gives me to foster confidence and a love of reading in children, has been the most important thing for me. 

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I am working on turning a former church into a proper home. That is a big job. When I’m not writing I’m often fixing old doors, building bookshelves, installing plumbing, or trying to get fifty-year-old lights to work. I also do a lot of hiking around the black forest, and I have a feeling that at least one book in this series is going to happen there.

Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

My message to readers, especially parents reading to their children, is don’t stop the conversation when you reach the end of the book. Use it as a springboard to learn more about critical thinking, psychology, and science. I know that children are naturally hungry to learn more about these things if they learn them through a story or with a parent. Keep the discussion going. That is really important because there is no sign that the misinformation out there is going to let up anytime soon. This book can be a chance to start the process of protecting your kids from it by teaching them to stay skeptical and think critically. And that is my final message: stay skeptical and think critically!

In Conversation with Author Smita Bhattacharya

I had the wonderful opportunity to pre-read Smita Bhattacharya’s upcoming novel. In addition, I have been lucky to collaborate with her on an interview.

Read on to know more about Smita and her upcoming novel Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney?

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Threw-Draco-Chimney-Nandkarnis-Misadventures-ebook/dp/B08FR4JL3J

The two previous books in the series are

Kiss of Salt: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SB4MIn 2M6

The Secret Angels: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZMR9MB4

Tell us a little about yourself

Author of cosy and psychological thriller mysteries, management consultant, coffee lover, gipsy-in-my-head, living in Mumbai for over 15 years, have travelled to over 40 countries, about 30 of them solo. I have about five published books and counting. I have too many stories to tell, and not enough time.

From where do you draw inspiration for the books you write?

There is no straight path, no direct answer; different books have had different birth stories. It could be piece of gossip someone told me over lunch; I might make a different ending to it, and give a whole new spin to the story. Or it could be a movie I watched and thought about a side character; how interesting she might be if she were to be the main one and what kind of a life might she have. I endure the joys of an overactive imagination. I say endure, because I never sleep well. I have so many stories in my head all the time.

Which book(s) are you currently reading?

I am reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I intend to also take it on my vacation to Goa soon. Yes! Finally! The lockdown eases and we can live as normal people. I am loving this book. It is engrossing, warm, and witty, and a welcome break from the sort of dark books I usually read.

Which is your favourite genre?

I like psychological mind twisters and atmospheric cosy mysteries. They are my ‘go-to’ books, i.e. when I don’t want to focus too much and want the pages to simply turn. I’m specifically fond of British and European fiction thrillers. Something about the dark dreariness of the surroundings, a trickle of blood on the snow, the brooding actors, languages I can’t follow, fascinate me. A few of my favourite authors in this genre are Tana French, Henning Mankell, and Andrea Camilleri. I know most people love fast action, gun fights, and sharp dialogues, but I love soaking in the rolling hills, empty streets, and a small town vibe. ‘Atmospheric’ is the word to describe the kind of books I like. I feel like I’m wrapped in a blanket, drinking a warm cup of coffee during Christmas when I read them.

Who is your favourite author?

That’s a tricky question because I doubt anyone has ONE favourite author. But if I have to mention someone whom I admire because he has managed to blend in good writing with a genre that’s otherwise difficult to master i.e. horror—yes, you guessed it right, it’s going to be Stephen King. He has been churning good content, never losing his touch, rarely getting boring. I think he has the pulse of the market and so, does very well in it. He is an inspiration for authors who aspire to be mass market, and yet, want to be taken seriously.

On the other hand, I have evergreen favourites, those whose books I cherish and will remember all my life. Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Donna Tartt, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Seth, Chimamanda Adichie. Most recently, I was impressed with ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller and ‘Where the Crawdads sing’ by Delia Owens. I love a mix of authors and genres as you can see, and I can go on and on listing them because I read voraciously.

If you had to pick one book to take away with you on vacation, what would it be?

To reread? One in the Harry Potter series. Or maybe Calvin and Hobbes. Or Agatha Christie.

To read for the first time? If it’s a global location, I try and buy local fiction, if possible local crime fiction. I have shelves filled with books from all around the world, inscribed with postcards and notes from book keepers and store owners. Sometimes, traveler friends.

With reference to your new book, Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? How did you get the idea for the plot?

I don’t know how. I am serious! It all just came together. I wanted a story that referenced the strange eyelets on the roofs of Sibiu—they were everywhere, and they looked so eerie, just as if eyes were following me around. I was also fascinated by the gypsies in Romania. Did you know these nomadic people landed in Romania during the seventh century and they came from Punjab (India)? In addition, I knew Romania had loads of old stories and legends. Of course, you’ve heard of Dracula. So, I decided to mix everything: crazy legends, unfounded rumours, gypsies, eclectic local characters, and the beauty of its villages and towns. A true potboiler of a story!

Why did you decide to focus on Draco in the title of the book?

Naming a book is a tough task, I suppose somewhat like naming a baby: you fear you can never get it perfectly right, and once you’ve given it, it’s stuck for life. Draco is a distinctly Romanian name, and it would be easy to guess where the book is based. Also, a question in the title always piques my interest and that’s what I wanted to do.

Did the town of Sibiu inspire the plot for the book? If so, how?

I already had the basic plot in mind. The town embraced it into its arms and gave it a shape of its own. As I roamed the streets or wrote in my Bed&Breakfast, I could almost imagine Darya walking on the cobbled streets, staring in wonder at the eyelets on the roofs, wondering why they came about.

What did you like the most about Sibiu and why?

Sibiu is a ‘big-small’ city. I had read a lot about it, and when I landed there, I had 6 days to kill, and, so I thought to myself, why not here? Darya could well have come to Sibiu and stayed for her break, as I had myself had come for my sabbatical.

Sibiu is a Romanian city from the 12th century built by the German settlers known as Transylvanian Saxons. It is located in central Transylvania and has a population of around 400,000. Despite the flurry of tourism after being designated European Capital of Culture in 2007, it has retained much of its old world charm and grandeur. In 2008, it was designated Europe’s 8th-most idyllic place to live. It has great people, lovely food, and many many things to see and do. And you will not have tourist feet trampling your own as you explore.

Moreover, the Romanians are extraordinary people: blunt, warm, garrulous. Their inimitable personalities and rich culture and traditions added a whole different flavour to Draco’s story.

Where did you get the inspiration for the main protagonist of the series: Darya Nandkarni?

Three years ago, I wondered why there were not too many books with normal female leads in them. What I mean is, the women in the books I read were usually tragic, struggling, or getting over some difficulties, or simpering women waiting for a glance from a hard-hearted (but rich!) man. I wanted to create a normal female lead, like you and I, who did not have to have suffered in their lives and could do fun things. Hence, was born a series and a couple of standalone books, with strong-willed women, who are imperfect and gutsy, not waiting for a man to rescue them, using their cleverness and wit to navigate through their life and its many mysteries.

Do you base any of your characters on people you know? Would you like to give an example, if yes?

I often always do that, but never one hundred per cent. I am guilty is using names of my friends, and selecting their quirky mannerisms, but never replicating any one whole. I think all authors are guilty of being inspired by their near and dear ones, and also their selves. Some parts of Darya are definitely me. Some parts of Alina and Irina are my girlfriends. I often also replicate my real-life situations in my books, because ‘Fact is stranger than fiction’ has not been vainly said.

What about your other books, where did you draw inspiration for them?

My very popular mystery ‘Dead to Them’ was inspired by my workplace. The first of the Darya Nandkarni series – Kiss of Salt – was inspired by my many trips to Goa. ‘The Secret Angels’ is based in Chapel Road in Bandra, a lane I find fascinating and close to where I live in Mumbai. And Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? is based on superstitions and old stories, the kind I read and heard in my trip to Romania. Inspiration can come from random comments, unfinished stories, a book or a movie watched accidentally. One merely needs to pay attention, use one’s imagination, and have the will to write.

What is an average writing day like for you?

I write every day, even if it’s for 30 minutes. I write for at least 3 to 4 hours on weekends. Creating is a lot of fun, but getting out a good book is continuous effort and dedication. A lot of discipline! Rewriting and revision takes up a lot of time and that’s where it becomes a bit of a grind. Don’t even get me started on the marketing aspect of it. In conclusion, what I’m trying to say is this: writing is a lot of fun and I can do it every day. I have too many stories in my head and not enough time to jot it down. But if only writing was enough, and we didn’t have to do all the peripherals.

What message would you like to share with your readers?

You have everything. You are enough. If you have a dream, you have everything to do it already within you.

In Conversation with E.B. Roshan

I have the pleasure of introducing E.B. Roshan on the blog. Her latest book Last Chance was released on the 4th of July.

Read on to know more about her and her book.

1.  Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello, I’m E.B. Roshan and I’m delighted to be able to share a little bit about me and my books with you all today. In addition to being an author, I’m wife to an exceptional man and mother to two sons. After spending several years living in the Middle East and Asia, our family has settled in Missouri. I’m a Goodreads Author, so please do check out my profile there and leave me a note, or ask me a question: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20265632.E_B_Roshan As a new author, I’d love to connect with more readers. I want to to hear from the people who loved my stories, and the ones who didn’t, since obviously I can’t learn and improve without feedback.

2. What prompted you to start writing?

I’ve been writing nearly all my life. When I was very young, I would write letters that were really just wobbly scribbles to my great-grandmother telling her about what I was doing. Writing runs in my family, I think. Nearly everyone seems to enjoy doing it on some level. However, it wasn’t until relatively recently I decided to take the plunge and write a series for publication. Two books in, three to go…

3. Tell us about your latest book?

          My latest book, Final Chance, is suspense with some romantic elements. It’s about a young woman’s search for her estranged and missing husband, and the trouble she gets into because she’s convinced she’s the only one who can           save him. I like to give as many people as possible the opportunity to read my books, so Final Chance is available on Kobo, Barnes&Noble, and Apple Books as well as Amazon.

4. How much research went into the writing of this book?

To be honest, I haven’t done any research for my current series. The settings and characters are based on imagination and personal experience rather than research. Though I’ve spent time in some of this world’s most troubled places, for the Shards of Sevia series, I’ve chosen to create my own setting, inspired, but not based on, any place I’ve actually lived. This is partly because I loved the challenge of creating a whole world from scratch, but mainly because some of the major themes in this story, like war and racial hatred, are very sensitive topics. I did not wish to entangle my fiction with real-world conflicts or political issues. I would like any reader, regardless of background, to be able to enjoy these stories.

5. How easy/difficult was it to write this book and create the characters for it?

My latest book, Final Chance, was actually not as easy or enjoyable to write as some of the others, because it’s the story of a difficult person going through an incredibly difficult situation. I really wanted to write the story, and I felt it had to be told the way I chose to tell it, but when I sat down with my computer and a cup of tea I didn’t say, “Ahhh, now I get to write!” The protagonist of Final Chance is a young girl named Preen.  Everyone (including her) believes her husband, Rama, is dead, but when Preen realizes he isn’t she goes against her family’s wishes, leaves her young daughter behind, and returns back to the city where he’d been living to find him. An early reader of the story summed up Preen very well: “She’s not mean-spirited, but she’s too self-focused in a way, even though she’s doing it for someone else. She also lets her common sense be blinded innumerable times in pursuit of her goal. She could be a really strong character, if she could just get over herself…”

6. How much does your day to day life inspire your characters?

Certainly I’ve gained inspiration for plots and characters from my daily life, but since I am writing fiction I take care not to use details in a way that would be offensive, making someone I know who reads the story wonder, “Yikes, is she writing about me?”

7. What do you do when you aren’t writing?

Actually, the majority of my life comes under the heading of “Not Writing,” though I really enjoy the times I have a quiet hour or two to capture the next scene in a story. As a housewife and mother, I’m usually busy with cooking, cleaning, and taking care of my boys. We have a small house and sometimes things get a little wild, but I can always settle them down by reading a good story.

8. How much time do you spend on your writing on average per day?

That really depends—some days I have time to write a lot, other days hardly at all. Since I’m not trying to make a living off my books, that takes away a great deal of pressure, I think. Writing stories is a relaxing, creative activity.

9. What do you like best about writing a story?

I love the satisfaction that comes from creating anything new, and I really love it when other people read my stories and for a short time find themselves living in the world I created.

10. What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

Writing keeps my brain fresh and active in a way that washing muddy shoes or picking grains of rice out of the rug just doesn’t. You other moms/authors out there know what I’m talking about, I’m sure.

11. Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

          Thanks for reading! Writing wouldn’t be much fun for me if I didn’t know there were people out there who really enjoy my stories. And thank you, Namrata, for giving me the opportunity to share this interview.

Introducing Author Roy Huff on the blog!

I am delighted to host Author Roy Huff on the blog. Roy has also contributed a guest post on Time Travel!

Read on to know more about the author: his thoughts, his books and the genre of SF/Fantasy!

Author Bio:
Roy Huff is a Hawaii-based best-selling author, peer-reviewed research scientist, and teacher. After overcoming significant childhood adversity, he moved to the islands and hasn’t looked back. He’s since earned five degrees, trained on geostationary satellites for NASA’s GOES-R Proving Ground, and written numerous bestsellers. He stumbled into writing, but what he didn’t stumble into is his love for all things science fiction and fantasy. Later, he contributed a series of fiction and non-fiction books as well as widely shared posts on how to design life on your terms. Despite early challenges, he embraces optimism, science, and creativity. He makes Hawaii his home, where he creates new worlds with the stroke of a pen and hopes you’ll come along for the amazing ride. You can download Roy Huff’s free sci-fi short at https://www.royhuff.net/salvationship or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, & Instagram @realroyhuff
Follow Links:
Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook @realroyhuff
In conversation with Roy Huff:

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the South very poor. My family suffered through many challenges, and I lost my father when I was 21 to HIV/AIDS. Mental illness inflicted and continues to inflict pain on many immediate family members, but I’ve personally been fortunate. I moved to Hawaii to go to college, and after a delay and initial financial hardships, I was able to complete five degrees. I’ve had the privilege to work on some amazing projects including a grant for NASA/NOAA related to geostationary satellites (GOES-R). I’ve since begun writing and teaching.

What prompted you to start writing?

I’ve always been an academic, so nonfiction and academic writing was something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. That accelerated in college. In my early 30’s, I began writing fiction, in part inspired by a professor Jayson Chun and UH West Oahu.

How did the series ‘Everville’ happen?

I was working concurrently on my fourth and fifth degrees, writing a creative paper titled Everville for an English class. We had to share the paper with other students in the class, and one student commented she wanted to read an entire book on Everville. The rest is history.

What inspired you to write SF/Fantasy?

I’ve always loved science, so there is a natural love for imagining how technology will evolve from science in the future. In both science fiction and fantasy, I find an element of both escapism and wonder. They offer an avenue to plan new ideas and revisit societal constructs that aren’t always possible in the present environment. Speculative fiction can also be therapeutic, a place to go to recharge one’s mind and separate oneself from anxiety, abuse, or the realities of a harsh life. Of course, you have to come back to reality at some point, but fiction can provide an outlet in an often unforgiving world.

How much research went into the writing of this series?

The amount of research just depends on the topic. I have some level of background knowledge, but there are always times when I have to sketch an idea or thought and jump onto a search engine to find what I need. It’s usually not an awful lot, but research is still necessary from time to time.

How easy/difficult was it to write this series and create the characters for it?

Super easy, but the real challenge is making those characters compelling and the story engaging. Doing that requires asking the right questions and adding interesting flaws and motivations. How long that takes depends on a host of factors that can span hours or months.

How much does your day to day life inspire your characters?

All of it.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I love traveling, hiking, movies, and fiction on both the screen and in books and audio. I enjoy walks, spending time with family, learning, and good conversation with interesting and kind people.

How much time do you spend on your writing on average per day?

It varies widely. I’ve tended recently to write between 30-90 minutes daily if possible, or about 2-10 pages. But I used to be more of a marathon writer with 8-12 days of up to 45 pages a day. I wrote book three in the Everville series in six days. Recently, I feel more comfortable with 3-4 weeks for a rough draft if that’s my sole focus. But I’ve tended to stretch that out over months to gather a more sustainable routine within life’s other constraints. I’ve always done more traveling recently (the current pandemic excluded) which aligns to a more moderate but consistent pace.

What do you like best about writing a story?

There is no one thing. But, I like leaving a legacy behind. I enjoy creating new worlds and exploring ideas that haven’t been fleshed out by other works of fiction.

What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

Writing encourages me to grow, pay attention, and listen. It forces me to consider reasons and motivation but also to question the effectiveness and validity of societal expectations and rules. I usually write more optimistic fiction, so my own stories can give me reasons to hope and make me feel like I’m leaving something constructive behind to positively impact other people.

How much inspiration do you draw on from real life experiences, with respect to plot, characters etc?

All of it. Every thought, experience, feeling, or emotion provides subconscious or explicit inspiration for every part of the story.

Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

I wish to inspire my readers and give them a glimmer of hope for a brighter future. It may not seem like it, especially in trying times, but the arc of humanity has moved towards greater tolerance, reduced poverty, less violence, and longer life spans. Expect this trend to continue. I’ve woven that belief in my writing.

Additionally, I’m launching Seven Rules of Time Travel mid-July. You can find it on Goodreads here https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54130441-seven-rules-of-time-travel

I’m also giving away a free space opera short at https://www.royhuff.net/salvationship

Guest Post by Author Roy Huff

So why write about time travel? Fiction is a great way to explore what could be and what might have been. Time travel in particular allows the writer to fix mistakes as an individual and as a society. Who hasn’t thought about changing something in the past? Why not take advantage of that?

And what about the future? Why not imagine seeing the future and steering it in a direction that benefits you? In essence, it’s the most direct way to blend the benefits of fiction with real human desires and emotions. It’s escapism combined with the ultimate reality check. It forces you to confront your demons and develop a solution to vanquish them.

Time travel takes on many flavors. Writers can use the paradox trope as a literary tool to show character growth, forcing them to face reality instead of fantasy. I generally don’t like the paradox because it takes some of the fun out of the genre, and there are other more intriguing options to show growth that is unique to time travel.

Lifting time travel constraints allows the writer to explore those human conditions that usually don’t get explored. It forces the writer to find compelling motivations and character growth to engage readers.

Depending on the mechanism of time travel, one unexplored prospect is immortality. Humans, and all creatures, are limited by a finite lifespan which provides a sense of urgency. What happens when that urgency is removed.

And what about power? They don’t call Doctor Who a Time Lord for nothing. If you were immortal and could manipulate time, what would you do? What would your story look like? This is mine.

In conversation with Uday Mukerji

Dead Man Dreaming by Uday Mukerji will release on 25th September 2019.

I have had the privilege of interviewing him. Read on to know more about Uday.

 

Paperback: 252 pages
Publishing date: September 25, 2019
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1-951214-46-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-951214-46-3
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches

Price: $19.60 (paperback) $7.99 (e-book)

Pre-order at: https://adelaidebooks.org/dead_man_dreaming.html

 

 

Advance praise for Dead Man Dreaming

“Part love story and part life story, Dead Man Dreaming does an outstanding job of capturing the dilemmas posed by advance knowledge of the future in general and medical conundrums in particular. Uday Mukerji excels at closely examining confrontation’s roots in ideology and clashing belief systems. . . .

How characters handle what circumstance gives them—even life-threatening diseases—is one mark of a good read if the story is done right. Dead Man Dreaming is particularly thorough and poignant in its discussions of life, death, and the choices that lie in-between.

It’s a solid, absorbing read highly recommended for readers interested in the foundations of choice in navigating the pitfalls of life and medical challenges—one that superbly examines the foundations of good choices that stem from bad situations.”

— Midwest Book Review (Diane Donovan)

 

Author Interview

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in India, and I had worked as a creative director in advertising agencies in Singapore for nearly twenty years. However, in 2009, I left all that to pursue my long-time dream—a career in writing.

My first literary fiction—a 2017 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner—Love, Life, and Logic was published by Harvard Square Editions, NY, in November 2016.

My next book, Dead Man Dreaming, published by Adelaide Books, NY, is due out in September this year.

I’m also an ardent nature lover, and I am very passionate about environment protection, pollution control, and the developing technologies in the field. So much so that I was given the full responsibility to run the Singapore Environmental Technology Yearbook—a pet project of the Singapore Ministry of Environment—for eight years.

2. What prompted you to start writing?

Frankly, I never thought I could be a writer. I had always been more of a reader. Although I didn’t major in literature, I always loved reading classics. Some of my all-time favorite books are Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Castle, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and The Outsider. I worked all my life in Advertising. But all that had suddenly changed a couple of years ago when I was vacationing in New Zealand. Throughout my whole life, one question had always haunted me: Why am I here? And during those few days, the peace and serenity all around amplified that voice in my head. But instead of jumping on to Google for an answer, I decided to dig deep inside and explore. Soon I started writing, and that’s how it all started in 2009.

3. How did the book “Dead Man Dreaming” happen?

In 2016, Shivani Nazareth, a genetic counselor in New York, published a piece in the US News: ‘Genetic testing before pregnancy should be as common as taking folic acid’. She wrote, while medical societies agree that preconception is the ideal time to offer carrier screening, a recent study showed that only 1 in 6 family physicians or OB/GYN providers offered carrier screening in preconception care. She also wrote that many parents learned they were carriers of rare diseases only after their child was born.

To me, parenting is undoubtedly the hardest job in the universe. Her writing got me thinking why the would-be parents weren’t doing their part before giving birth? Why do we make innocent kids suffer? Was it the lack of information or something else? …I wanted to find out more, and I jumped in.

And that’s how Dead Man Dreaming came about.

4. Why did you base your book on genetic diseases?

Genetic disease is a worldwide problem. Many of those diseases have no cure till date, and thousands of people are dying every day. But I strongly believe it’s avoidable in most cases. Maybe, gene editing isn’t legal yet in many countries, also, kind of expensive for many, but a carrier screening test is legal, and it’s right here. With awareness, maybe, someday we will be able to completely remove many of these single-gene diseases from our gene pool.

5. How much research went into the writing of this book?

Well, I needed quite a fair bit of research for this book, including gathering some personal experiences from victims and their families.

6. How easy/difficult was it to write this book and create the characters for it?

Writing this book has been an emotional journey for me. In spite of having a carrier screening test in place, why weren’t people taking the test? I had to get close to some of the victims to understand the issues. Talking to people who are suffering from irreversible diseases isn’t easy. Basically, I wasn’t offering them anything, except for taking their sufferings to my readers. I’m ever grateful to everyone I came in touch with in this process, and I wish them the best. Their smile, strength, and their support kept me going.

7. How much does your day to day life inspire your character sketches?

How about—almost all? Of course, with some additions and alterations. We experience high-voltage drama 24/7 in our daily life. And like our thumbprints, each person’s life is so different from the next person. Capturing any one of those has the potential of a great novel.

8. What do you do when you aren’t writing?

Just the regular things, I guess—reading a book, listening to music or an audiobook, going out with friends, and stuff like that. But more importantly, I love traveling and nature gazing, so if there’s an opportunity, I’ll be out in the hills or on a beach, chilling.

9. How much time do you spend on your writing on average per day?

I usually write about three/four hours in the morning and again two to three hours after lunch.

10. What do you like best about writing a story?

I can escape to my own world, and every time, it’s a new place with new surroundings.

11. Are you working on any new book now?

I have just started writing another novel exploring—a metaphysical view on life—how everything isn’t like what it seems to be.

12. Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

I would love everyone to take a carrier screening test before having children. A positive result isn’t really the end of the world. We can then sit down and discuss our options: sperm or egg donation, gene editing, or even adoption. …Why let the kids suffer? If we all stop transmitting the disease, maybe, someday, those diseases will be totally out of our system. Wouldn’t that be nice?

In conversation with Roland Colton, author of Forever Gentleman

Forever Gentleman by Roland Colton

ISBN: 978-1681142296

Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press

Release Date: July 11, 2016

$29.99

http://www.amazon.com

http://www.rolandcolton.com

http://www.anaphoraliterary.com

In Conversation with Roland Colton

  1. At the beginning of Forever Gentleman, struggling architect and pianist, Nathan Sinclair, encounters the glamourous and beautiful heiress, Jocelyn Charlesworth. What draws Nathan to Jocelyn, and how does she respond to him when they first meet?

Although he has no expectation of an introduction, Nathan is intrigued enough to see if Ms. Charlesworth’s beauty is as extraordinary as the Sunday Times portrays it. Despite his protestations, the mistress of the estate insists on introducing Nathan to Jocelyn.  Once he observes her beauty firsthand, an intoxication of senses sweeps over him—never before has he seen a woman of such unimaginable beauty. Jocelyn’s reaction to Nathan is one of boredom, having endured countless stares from past star-struck suitors. She toys with him, looking for any opportunity to end the interview. Once she believes him to be a common servant, she rebukes him publicly, appalled that a servant would have the audacity to seek her acquaintance.

  1. Nathan also meets the simple and plain social worker, Regina Lancaster. What’s special about Regina, and why does Nathan feel such a deep connection to her?

Though her outward appearance is ordinary, Nathan initially feels a strong attraction to Regina’s eyes and senses a kindred spirit.  Her dark brown eyes convey a journey through unspeakable tragedy, resulting in a deep appreciation for life and depth of character. Nathan is also attracted to Regina’s modesty, simplicity and inner beauty, qualities he admired in his mother. Once he learns of Regina’s selfless service to London orphans, he wonders if any man could possibly be worthy of her.

  1. Music plays an important role in the story and in Nathan’s life. How do the musical elements in the novel tie together the themes in Forever Gentleman?

Nathan’s life has been steeped in music since his operatic mother gave birth to him. His pianistic bravado opens the door of London Society, and he becomes comfortable in a world far different than his humble abode. The music in Forever Gentleman accompanies the story as a soundtrack does a movie, enhancing both drama and mood. Women are attracted to Nathan’s musical genius, fostering love and romance in the story.

  1. The Victorian Era was a time of contradictory wealth and poverty, along with great change, in England. What drew you to write a story set in this time period in history?

I’ve always been intrigued by a world where great beauty and brilliance could exist in the midst of poverty and misery.  While writing the story, I imagined what it would have been like to have lived in both worlds, as does Nathan in the story.  Also interesting is the sanitation miracle that occurred in the 1860’s, pulling London literally out of the squalor and stench of rotting pipes and sewer overflow into a world free of cholera and other dread diseases. And I wanted the timing of my story to coincide with the advent of the modern piano and creation of some of my favorite compositions.

5. How would you describe your writing process? And can you tell us about some of the research you did when you were writing Forever Gentleman?

My writing recipe involves equal amounts of struggle and ease. Sometimes the words flow in abundance; other times, I labor over every word in a sentence. I try not to let my writing get in the way of the story, and my goal was to have the reader lose himself or herself in Victorian London.  Many hundreds of hours were spent in research in my attempt to evoke the sights, sounds and smells of that bygone time. I strove for authenticity in events and venues, including authentic references to concerts, plays, performers and other events depicted in the book. I wanted to capture the times as they were, which is no small task when we live in a world far removed from that melancholy era.

  1. Are you working on another novel? If so, what can you tell us about it?

Yes, I’m writing a new novel that highlights another passion of mine—my love for the sport of baseball. The book begins in 1911, highlighting the exploits of the wonder of the baseball world, Ty Cobb. Using newspaper reports from the time, the reader experiences some of the most incredible sports feats ever accomplished, usually thanks to the genius and skill of Mr. Cobb. After the opening chapters, a hit-and-run accident victim is discovered in modern times (with a face damaged beyond recognition), who purports to be Ty Cobb, mysteriously transported into the future. As the plot continues, this mystery man eventually shows exceptional baseball talent and ultimately plays a brand of baseball unlike anything in modern times, turning the sports world on its head. Is it possible that this baseball ace is truly Ty Cobb, or is it some imposter who has taken upon his attributes?  Only time will tell.