Thursday, July 30, 2009

Author Interview: Lindsay Maddox

Today, I spoke with Lindsay Maddox, winner of one of the Accentuate Writers Short Story Anthology contests and whose story will appear in the upcoming book, Elements of the Soul.

Jennifer Walker: Tell me about the work you have in Elements of the Soul. What is it about, and what inspired it?

Lindsay Maddox:
My piece, titled Love and Loss, touches on pregnancy, miscarriage, and the breadth of emotion that goes along with loving and losing your baby and surviving through the grief. It was inspired by a friend of mine who experienced the devastating loss of her daughter, Janell Victory, who was stillborn at 31 weeks 3 days. My friend and her husband took their grief and turned it into an amazing organization (A Small Victory) to help others through the grief and loss of their babies. Hearing Janell's story and seeing what an amazing impact she has had on the world inspired much of the emotional impact behind my story.

Jennifer Walker: Did you have any misgivings about entering the contest? How did you get over them?

Lindsay Maddox:
Initially, I was quite nervous about entering the contest. The contest prior, I had ignorantly assumed I had written the best story ever, and didn't place. This was a necessary, but still crushing blow to my ego that had me questioning my abilities. I worried that I was like one of those American Idol contestants that thinks they can sing, but in all actuality are completely tone deaf. I eventually decided that I was good enough to place in a contest and gave it another shot. Glad I did!

Jennifer Walker: Have you entered any more contests since the one that got you into the book? Do you plan to enter any more?

Lindsay Maddox:
I have entered nearly every Accentuate Writers Anthology contest since winning first place with Love and Loss and have fared quite well in some of them and not so well in others. I will most definitely enter in future contests and have a few stories in the works for the current themes!

Jennifer Walker: How have the Accentuate Writers Anthology contests helped you grow as a writer?

Lindsay Maddox:
Through the Accentuate Writers Anthology contests I have learned the unpleasant but still necessary lessons of rejection, undergoing critiques, and that fact that not everyone will enjoy my work. For me, these have been essential to creating more effective pieces. I am still learning so much, and hope to continue learning with each contest I enter and critique I receive.

Jennifer Walker: Tell me about other writing projects you have going, unrelated to the contests.

Lindsay Maddox:
I have a novel in the works for preteens, though I have taken a bit of a break from it for a while. I also have an adult fiction novel outlined and ready to be written. Other than that, I write on my blog for fun and inspiration.

Jennifer Walker: Is writing your full time job, or do you have a "day job"?

Lindsay Maddox:
Writing is my creative outlet. My full-time job is as a stay-at-home mom to a 4 and 2 year old and newborn twins coming soon!

Jennifer Walker: To what do you attribute your success as a writer so far?

Lindsay Maddox:
My success as a writer stems from a number of areas. First, my mom, who instilled in me a love of reading and drilled proper grammar and spelling into my head from a young age. I am so very thankful for that, even though it may have annoyed me as a child. Second, my family and friends, who have cheered me on with writing since before I even attempted a writing contest, following my blogs, complimenting my writing, and pushing me to do more. Third, my husband, who has never once thought of my desire to write as silly or a waste of time. He has taken the kids so I can write in peace and is always there to give me a hug with a rejection or a hug with a win or accomplishment.

Jennifer Walker: Tell me about your family. Are they supportive of your writing?

Lindsay Maddox:
Yes, very much so. I can't tell you how many emails or phone calls I have received from family members who can't wait to hold Elements of the Soul in their hands and see what stories I will concoct next.

Jennifer Walker: What was the last book you read?

Lindsay Maddox:
Oh, dear. As a mom, I don't get to read as much as I would like and have had to settle for easy reads as of late. Sadly, I think the most recent was Stephenie Meyer's New Moon.

Jennifer Walker: Tell me one thing about yourself that you think most people don't know.

Linsay Maddox:
I have never watched Survivor. Never. Not one single episode. Can you believe that? I have also never watched a single soap opera, and that includes the teeny bopper ones like Dawson's Creek, 90210, and Party of 5.

Oh, and I hate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as well as seafood. Yick. Blech. Ew!

Thank you so much to Lindsay Maddox for stopping by! Be sure to pick up your copy of Elements of the Soul so you can read her story.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guest blog: Pat McDermott on the writing process

Pat McDermott, author of A Band of Roses,stopped by today to make a guest post about the writing process. Be sure to read her interview and my review of A Band of Roses!

Guest Post by Pat McDermott

Every writer goes about crafting stories in unique ways. For me, the first step is gathering research, a process much like setting out the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I link the straight edges together to form the outline, and little by little, different pieces fill the empty middle as only their exact colors and shapes can.

Missing pieces are always a problem. For a jigsaw puzzle, I usually find them on the floor. A missing piece in a plot means I’ve hit a spot that requires more research. I usually find what I need online or at the library—unless what I need concerns Ireland.

Then, I visit my aunts. Both have been avid collectors and readers of Irish books for as long as I can remember. Their frequent trips to Ireland over the years have filled their home with other treasures—Belleek pottery and Waterford crystal, copper sculptures and paintings of the Aran Islands—but it’s the books that draw me.

From Aunt #1's side of the shelves, my choices include poetry, literature, ancient laws and customs, music or mythology. Aunt #2's section displays modern history, biographies, politics, and current events. All the puzzle pieces any author of Irish fiction could ever want are there.

I’m grateful for my aunts’ generosity in sharing their bibliophilic jewels. My current “check out” is an antique whose thick yellowed pages overflow with wonderful old Gaelic names like Gormflaith, Meave, Macha, and Dervorgilla. Pirate Queen Grace “Grainne” O’Malley, the inspiration for my current writing project, has her own chapter.

My efforts to create my own Irish library have lured me across the sea. Sadly, many of the small Irish bookshops my aunts once haunted are gone, but I’ve discovered wonderful new bookstores in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Killarney, and Westport. I’ve brought home titles I’d never find in New Hampshire, or even in Boston.

Despite my many acquisitions, I doubt I’ll ever achieve a library comparable to the collection my aunts have amassed. Yet the hunt is exciting, a great adventure that not only helps solve my research dilemmas, but inspires new ideas as well. As they say in Ireland, “Seeking one thing often finds another.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Author Interview: Pat McDermott

Yesterday, I posted my review of A Band of Roses, by Pat McDermott.
Today, I had the chance to find out a little more about her. Read on!

Tune in tomorrow for a guest blog post from Pat about the writing process.

Author Interview: Pat McDermott

Jennifer Walker: Please tell us about any other book projects you have, past, present and future.

Pat McDermott: A Band of Roses is my first full-length novel, though I’ve been writing short stories forever. One of my tales received an honorable mention for children’s fiction. That award gave me the boost I needed to finish A Band of Roses. The sequel, Fiery Roses, is with the editors now and is set for release around the end of the year. The inspiration for Fiery Roses came from an ongoing struggle in Ireland over a gas pipeline an oil company wants to run from the ocean to an onshore refinery. My current writing project, the third book in the Roses trilogy, is a pirate story.

Jennifer Walker: A Band of Roses is very detailed! Did you spend much time conducting research before writing the story?

Pat McDermott: Yes, both before and during the writing, as questions arose as I wrote. Whether I was writing about Japanese kimonos, attack helicopters, or Irish mythology, I wanted to get it right. As for Brian Boru, I knew enough about him to realize I didn’t know enough. Digging into his history became an enjoyable challenge, one that took me to Ireland. Not only did I visit Clontarf, the site of Brian’s battle with the Vikings and now an upscale Dublin suburb, I also spent a day in Killaloe, his hometown in County Clare, to see the new Brian Boru exhibit.

Jennifer Walker: You seem to have a great grasp of British and Irish culture, language and people. What is your background--education, family, interesting places you've lived?

Pat McDermott: I attended Catholic schools and the University of Massachusetts and have taken several writing classes over the years, but the wealth of stories I heard as a child is something schools simply don’t teach. My grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from County Sligo in the 1920s, and I grew up in an Irish-American neighborhood in Boston hearing the tales, loving the music, wanting to see Ireland. I finally did after my kids were in college.

Jennifer Walker: Are any of the people, organizations or events in A Band of Roses based in reality?

Pat McDermott:
The Boru clan is a cast of completely imaginary characters who sprang unbidden from a blend of old legends and current events. A Band of Roses opens with English commandos claiming a tiny uninhabited island hundreds of miles off the Irish coast. Sounds ridiculous, but it happened. Current events drive my plots, though I tailor the facts to fit the story.

Jennifer Walker: How did you get started on your writing career? Have you always wanted to write, or is this a recent development? How did A Band of Roses come about?

Pat McDermott:
Back to those family stories. I have two wonderful aunts who are devotees of Irish history. From one of their trips to Ireland, they brought me a copper statue of Brian Boru. In my quest to learn more about him, I found several opinions stating how sad it was that he perished at Clontarf, that Ireland would be a very different place today if he’d survived. I couldn’t help thinking . . . what if he had survived?

Jennifer Walker: Do you have a "day job,” or do you write for a living?

Pat McDermott:
I’ve taken a hiatus from “real work” to dedicate time to finishing the “Roses” trilogy. At this stage, writing is a full-time hobby.

Jennifer Walker: What is your favorite movie? Book?

Pat McDermott: My favorite flick is an oldie: Casablanca. It’s my kind of story, as it has a touch of everything: action/adventure, romance, mystery, comedy. I named my son Rick after Humphrey Bogart’s character. As for a favorite book, how can anyone have a favorite with so many wonderful authors out there? I enjoy historical novelists like Leon Uris, Edward Rutherford, and Diana Gabaldon, but I like to think I haven’t read my favorite book yet.

Jennifer Walker: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be, and with whom?

Pat McDermott: Again, so many choices! Besides visiting the pyramids with my husband, I’d love to have my grandparents back long enough to treat me to a tour of the Ireland of their youth.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Book Review: A Band of Roses, by Pat McDermott

A Band of Roses,by Pat McDermott

Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 938 KB
Publisher: Red Rose Publishing (February 12, 2009)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Rating (1 to 5 *): ****

Be sure to come back tomorrow to read the author interview with Pat McDermott!

Review of A Band of Roses

Intrigue. Royalty. Visits to other worlds. Really cool Irish talk. A Band of Roses takes us through the political struggles of the Irish royal family (fictional, of course), fighting off invasion from England. The story begins of the fateful political marriage of Princess Talty to England’s simple-minded King, which soon reveals a plot from two competing factions in England to grab Irish oil wells…or to take over Ireland completely.

Talty, a trained warrior, survives a nearly-unsurviveable attack and is sent into hiding. Her adventures take her first to Japan, then to California to participate in a fantastic experiment where she travels to other worlds that are similar to, but with different history than, her own. It is through these travels that she finds vital information to help her family fight off England’s attack. Of course, like any good story (particularly one about Ireland), there is also a case of incurable love to deal with.

A Band of Roses is a fascinating tale that firmly pulls the reader in, making you want to get to know the characters and spend time with them. The manner of speech and interactions of the characters transports you right into Ireland, pulling for the good guys in the fight against those who would harm her.

I must say that I had two issues with the book: the first is that Talty is just a little too perfect. She’s not only beautiful and loved by all, but she is ridiculously good at everything she does, picking up and mastering every new skill with ease. She seems to have no flaws or holes whatsoever, which makes her almost annoying…except that she’s also pretty cool, so I didn’t mind TOO much.

My second issue is that the story line with traveling to other worlds seems a bit out of place and unnecessary. While it does tie in to the main plot, it does so weakly, and it seems wasted—like it should be its own book, fully developed.

However, these issues were really a very mild distraction from the quality of the book and enjoyment of the story. I greatly enjoyed reading A Band of Roses and would love to read more by Pat McDermott.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Still Life with Elephant now available in paperback!

A few months ago, I posted a review of Still Life with Elephant, as well as an interview with author Judy Reene Singer. At the time, the book was only available in hardback, but it is now available in paperback! Check it out.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Author Interview: Janis Herbert

Today I had the opportunity to sit down with author Janis Herbert. This was quite a treat for me, because most of the authors I review and interview live across the country from me! However, Janis lives right here in my town and we had the most delightful conversation. Her eyes genuinely sparkle when she talks about her passions—it is truly inspiring!

Books by Janis Herbert

Although this was the first of Janis’s books I have read, she actually has seven. Her “For Kids” series includes The Civil War, The American Revolution, Leonardo da Vinci, Lewis and Clark and Marco Polo in addition to Abraham Lincoln (reviewed below).

Her first book, however, came quite by accident. She was the booking manager for Honeyboy Edwards, and during her travels with him, he told her some amazing stories of his life. She decided that someone needed to write a book about him, and who else to do it but her? And so, The World Don't Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards was born.

She spent hours researching the right publishers to send her work to and sent each an eight page letter detailing her book and her marketing plan for it. She received three offers and settled on the Chicago Review Press.

“I felt they had the same heart for it,” she said.

She was in the process of finishing the Honeyboy book when her editor suggested she write a book for children about Leonardo da Vinci.

“In my ignorance, I said yes,” she quipped, but the idea took off and she has been quite happy with the series. She has chosen all of the subjects in the series since the first one.

“The Civil War has always been my passion,” she said, “but all of them have brought something…not expected.”

Lincoln, however, was her hero and she greatly enjoyed writing about him. “I love, love, love Abraham Lincoln,” she said. “I miss writing about him.”

Janis is undecided about her next project. She is hoping to work on some fiction this summer, but she is likely to revisit the For Kids series soon.


Each of the books in Janis Herbert’s For Kids series required a great deal of research, which provided the opportunity for Janis to visit many of the sites she wrote about. She and her husband camped at many places along the Lewis & Clark Trail and visited many of the sites in Lincoln’s life and the Civil War.

“Standing on those historic sites was amazing,” she said.

Some of the photographs in the books were taken by Janis and her husband, while others came from museums. She also came up with all of the activities in the books. In addition to visiting historical sites, Janis also spoke to a lot of experts and read a lot of books. Each book took one to two years to research and write.

Janis Herbert, the Woman

Janis lived in Chicago for most of her life, but recently moved to Folsom, California (near Sacramento). She lives a quiet life, working as a library assistant at the nearby Cameron Park Library. She loves to read, to which she attributes her writing ability since she does not have a high school diploma or college degree. She reads a lot of histories (“Grown up ones,” she pointed out) and adores Mark Twain. This summer, she is dedicating herself to reading all of the Newberry Award winners.

Janis also loves to camp, hike and birdwatch—anything that lets her spend time out in nature. Her husband, Jeff shares her passions and accompanies her on her research trips.

About Being Published

“I never set out to be an author,” Janis said. However, once she became one, she loved it and would never turn back. She likes working with her editor and the staff at Chicago Review Press. They take care of the media contacts for her and assister her in setting up events like book signings and a summer camp she conducted for kids at a book store. They also give their authors a very useful packet that teaches them about book promotion.

Although she does not live off of her royalty income, it is a nice supplement. Although it’s conceivable that her books could support her at some point, she likes to work and thinks she will always have a job in addition to writing—even if it is very part time.

As for her advice to would-be authors? “No one should ever lose hope. Just write your heart out and find your way in the world. If I can do it, you can do it!”

Janis’s recommended reading: Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell. Visit the sites of presidential assassinations…with a hilarious flare!

Thanks again to Janis Herbert for allowing me to review her book and get to know her a little better!