Spotlight with Mita Balani

A Spotlight with Mita Balani

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mita Balani was born in a small town of India and has been living in the United States for several years. Growing up, she cherished writing stories and reciting poems. In engineering college, where most of her classmates published technical papers, she enjoyed taking part in storytelling contests, debates, and poetry competitions. Today she has a successful career in Information Technology, but she still loves writing stories and poems. This book is her first foray in writing a novel. This novel is inspired from parts of a true story. Life experiences of an Indian origin lesbian friend living in the United States inspired her to write this story.

You can connect with author on her website at www.mitabalani.com
You can follow the author on social media:
Facebook: @MitaBalaniAuthor
Instagram: mitabalani
Twitter: @MitaBalani
Pintrest: mitabalani 

ABOUT BREAKING NORMS

Breaking Norms is a story of two Indian girls living in Mumbai. It’s a tale of friendship, love and the struggle to be together as a same-sex couple. The book depicts their romantic love (non-erotic) and emotional journey from Mumbai to New Jersey through the social/cultural/family tussle and anguish. 

Description:

What if you fall in love and your family thinks you are crazy? Sonia too gets in a similar situation.

Sonia, a submissive and people-pleasing girl falls in love with the chirpy girl Esha. Their common passion for painting brings them closer. Sonia realizes that no one in her family will accept her relationship with Esha. But her heart and emotional state are beyond the control of her own mind. At first, they keep their relationship on the hush. Unfortunately, their secret comes out in an ugly way and havoc breaks loose. Will Sonia stand up for herself and withstand the pressure of not following the cultural norms? Are they destined to meet? Can Sonia and Esha live happily ever after?

Breaking Norms is a captivating and engrossing tale of love, agony and tolerance.

Book Video Teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4aWt8Up6tQ

Find this novel on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. Links given below for more details:

Amazon Australia Kindle

Amazon USA Kindle

Goodreads

A Few Quotes from Breaking Norms 

“The silence of the house gives the feeling of loneliness, broken hearts, and perhaps damaged relationships.”

“Abruptly, the promise of not leaving your husband until death hits me hard. I feel as if I am a demon who doesn’t want to play by the rules of marriage.”

“My own mind turns into my clever foe, leaving me miserable and unhappy, dropping me at the corner of a bifurcated road, for me to decide one path over the other to walk on.”

“A relationship with sadness is not new to me by now. But this time around, the depth of it is beyond anything I ever witnessed or even imagined.”

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Review: Teri Terry – contagion

contagion
Teri Terry

Shay saw Callie the day she disappeared. But it’s years later by the time Shay realises that she might remember something important, something that could help Kai to find his sister Callie. With a strange epidemic crossing the continent, Shay and Kai need to be careful to find Callie… or maybe she will find them first.

I felt so cheated by this book! Trilogy, grumble, grumble. Doesn’t anyone ever write a decent stand alone novel these days? I even bet that when the second in this trilogy comes out, it won’t have the blood red page edging of this first novel, so it doesn’t match the rest! Sure, the author has written other trilogies, but honestly! How hard it is to write a fantastic standalone novel.

I hated, hated, hated that I tricked myself. I was happily reading along for at least a quarter of the novel, thinking that Shay (Sharona) was embarrassed by HIS name. So then when Kai came along, and Shay wasn’t sure if Kai was into HIM, I was thinking ‘Yay, two gay characters that aren’t even making a big deal out of it, this is how fiction should read’. Then I suddenly realised that Shay was a GIRL. And I cracked it and got really grumpy and frustrated at the novel. There was so much potential there, and it seemed like the environment was what it should be. Ugh. 

I honestly didn’t get much of a sense of ‘suspense’ or ‘thrill’ from this novel. I guess after my initial mistake, I was no longer attached to the characters. It’s exciting to read a novel that isn’t set in the US, and instead is limited to England and surrounds. However, you would expect a bit more to be made of the presumably more scenic bike rides and so forth that Kai and Shay get to do.

3 stars. I disappointed myself on this one on two counts: the main character wasn’t gay and it was the first of yet another trilogy. Another plague novel? I’ve seen it done better.

Hachette Australia | 1st May 2017 | AU $16.99 | paperback

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Review: Leonie Thorpe – Archie’s Adventures

Archie’s Adventures
Leonie Thorpe

Young Archie Roach is new in town and has nothing remarkable about him. At least he was famous for a hideous bone fracture at his last school… Doomed to obscurity, Archie’s life is filled with being a pathetic Roach – until he makes friends with a local smuggler.

Archie is a fine character, I’m not really sure what else to say. My partner’s mother got me to read this book – in fact she handed me two different copies at two different times! Honestly, I wasn’t that excited by it, because I’ve sworn off reading children’s fiction now. It’s fine as a novel, I’ve just moved past it, and my (female) young reader wouldn’t be interested in it.

It’s a typical ‘reluctant reader’ boy novel – fishing and football! But then there is a bit of sailing as well. Typical team building activities with an old man and a useless hanger-on. Anyway, I shouldn’t be so disparaging. This is why I can’t read children’s fiction any more! Unless it is Isobelle Carmody, and it’s The Red Wind series. Standby for a review of the newest novel, The Ice Maze.

Three stars from me. Fine for kids, not worth it for adults. Not enough ‘meat’ here to make it a chapter book to read at bedtime to your kids.

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Review: Lily Bailey – Because We Are Bad

Because We Are Bad
Lily Bailey

Lily’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was out of hand from nearly in her childhood. Without a point of reference, she thought that everyone thought this way. Eventually, OCD was ruling her life to the extent that she couldn’t function. A series of doctors, medications and therapy later, Lily can live an almost normal life.

Anything that could go wrong? She was going to be responsible for it. Anything that did go wrong? She had cursed the person and made it happen. Only by using rituals could Lily overcome some of her limitations, and it was a hard struggle the whole way along.

Dr Finch makes a huge impact on Lily’s life, and this relationship that Lily explores in depth in this novel shows the complexities of patient-doctor interactions. A good doctor can bring patients a long step forward, and bad ones can set patients’ progress back by many years and even prevent them from seeking help.

This memoir is less ‘meaty’ than The Man Who Couldn’t Stop, but still a good addition to someone’s library who has an interest in OCD and how it can manifest in a variety of ways. It might be a ‘read once and pass it on book’, but it’s well worth that read. If it was a fiction novel, I’d give it 4 stars.

Allen & Unwin | 10th May 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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Review: Scott Pape – the barefoot investor

the barefoot investor
Scott Pape

Scott Pape is a fiercely independant general financial advisor who is the reason that I tear apart my neighbour’s Sunday newspaper just to read Scott’s column. With the advent of it being online, I can just wait for the email to arrive instead.

This book is for people who know how to manage their money at a basic level and also those who don’t know how to manage at all. Scott takes people through money in 9 easy steps – with date nights and beers so that you and your partner are on the same page about your goals.

I regularly follow Scott’s column, and honestly this book didn’t offer much new for me. I had already implemented most of the strategies that he suggests – I’ve even started stepping into the scary world of shares! But for people who are in debt or don’t own their home, this novel is a match made in heaven! It has simple, actionable steps that anyone can carry out and should be on a list of books to buy young adults as they get their first credit card (and then chop it up on Scott’s orders) and move into independent living.

I pre-ordered this book before Christmas to take advantage of both a discount on the purchase price and an online webinar with Scott. The discount was nice, but the webinar was worthless. I’ve now purchased a membership in Scott’s online Barefoot Blueprint. I’d recommend this for people who are ready to move into their next stage of investing.

If you’re terrified of opening your mail, or just want to help out a person struggling with money in your life, this is the book for you.

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Reviews: Catherine Lacey – The Answers

The Answers
Catherine Lacey

Mary suffers from unexplained body pains. Left in pain with no money, no hope and no answers (haha), she’s willing to try anything. Her oldest friend in the world suggests a pricy wholistic treatment – and the first session seems to help. But Mary is going to need to finance it somehow – she’s going to be the Emotional Girlfriend.

I’m really frustrated by this book because it started off quite promisingly with a woman that is suffering from unexplained body pain, who then was able to recover by using this special psychic therapy. Which of course manipulates her emotions, and her practitioner’s emotions, lining her up perfectly to be the…

EMOTIONAL GIRLFRIEND for self-suffering, stuck up jerk of an actor who thinks that he can change the outlines of love. What starts out as an experiment as far as she knows sort of goes more weirdly the further along you get. I was reading along very happily because they hadn’t fallen in love yet (my partner pointed out this has two hearts on the cover, one of red and one of blue) and it didn’t seem to be another irritating straight romance. Since there were lots of girlfriends and the blurb said things about unexpected relationships developing, I got excited! Then clearly nothing happened: basically she didn’t fall for the guy which was AMAZING, but then it’s all the scientists’ fault they were manipulating them. I basically want to give away the whole story because otherwise, like me, you will read two thirds of it and then say “Wow I wasted a lot of time reading that, when nothing has actually happened!”

I didn’t actually feel a connection with any of the characters. I hated the main actor character which may have been because he was a man. But perhaps I was supposed to hate him… or maybe it was because I just never emotionally connected with any of the characters. This was due to a number of factors, including jumping around between perspectives; a bit of the main character’s perspective, then a bit of each side character acting. These characters weren’t even 2D, the other girlfriends weren’t important and they were just distractions. That space could have been used to resolve Mary’s whole complicated emotional background about being an orphan, but instead the read is left drifting along aimlessly.

I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t recommend it and all I can think of is that maybe this is written so that people who have read The Secret can say “Oh look, perfect, this book says it has The Answers”. Maybe if they were suckers enough to get into The Secret then they might be suckers enough to enjoy this novel. I didn’t. I finished it, but it was a struggle and I freely admit I speed read the last couple pages. I wish I hadn’t wasted my precious reading time on it. 1 begrudging star.

Allen & Unwin | 28th June 2017 | AU $27.99 | paperback

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Review: Irfan Master – Out of Heart

Out of Heart
Irfan Master

Adam is the darkness, joined only to the rest of the world by a thread, bound within his own drawings and head, barely speaking. His sister doesn’t speak, and neither does his mother or grandfather. After his grandfather dies and donates his heart to William, William becomes a fixture in Adam’s house and life.

This novel felt disjointed and fast. Somehow, 7 months passed and I didn’t notice. There’s hardly enough pages in there for any details. Trying to fit in an abuse/transplant/love/damage storyline was too much, and instead I was left feeling cheated about the whole lot.

I felt disconnected from Adam, and couldn’t even get excited about the fact that he grew a spine somewhere between his childhood (where it wasn’t his fault and it was safer not to have one) and now. Simply, even the violent scenes left me cold, because the prose wasn’t compelling, and I felt distant the whole time. So did Adam, but it’s hard for me to care to keep reading….

The word plays that Adam uses could have been used even more effectively, or perhaps some more images that he drew. Anything! I actually really loved the idea of what he drew on the trains, but it wasn’t clear at all what the point was – if you can only see it from 24 floors in the air! That being said, yet another tortured artist student novel right here.

Does Farah not go to school? What’s wrong with doing dot-to-dots? How long has it been? School seems to feature so little in anything, despite readers listening through a set of school parent-teacher meetings. What are the two jobs Adam’s mom works? How does Adam get to work on time? Where do they live?

Something I hate, and maybe it’s just because I perhaps need glasses, is when thoughts or memories in a novel are included in a special type of script that isn’t just printed text. It almost guarentees I will dislike the novel,

Nothing remarkable to see here. There wasn’t enough substance, it took me about 1 hour to read it, and I didn’t feel like I had gained anything after it because I hadn’t become attached to the characters. I’m giving it 2 stars – I’m not feeling that kindly about it because I have many other novels to read that are (hopefully) way more exciting. I think I need to be more wary of Hot Key books (such as Fly on the Wall), no matter how intriguing they sound.

Allen & Unwin | 28th June 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Julie Randall – Patient 71

Patient 71
Julie Randall

Julie Randall went from being a partying 50 year old to having major surgery to remove a tumour from her brain in less than a month. Following that, Julie had to fight to get the treatment she needed in order to survive and be with her kids – whether she’s in Australia or not.

So it’s a reasonable enough memoir but not exactly what I was hoping for. As long-time readers will know, I’m a scientist by training and so I was hoping for more juicy details about everything – the science behind the new treatment, the ‘magic pill’ that might have cured everything, what’s it’s really like to be a scientific guinea pig. Instead, I got a bit of a repetitive heartthrob tale that I didn’t really feel any inclination to keep reading. Instead I would have thought that “breakfast, school run, chemo” is actually a more relatable story even if that one doesn’t actually have a happy ending so to speak. Cancer is hard.

I appreciate that the author is a real person, with real problems, and I would hate to read a negative review of a novel I had probably put a lot of time into crafting. But honestly, some of the fault must also lie with the publishers. This book could have benefited from some significant editorial guidance. There’s a lot of inconsistent tenses and it would have been really useful to define who is alive/dead earlier in the novel. Additionally, I know the author actually wrote letters to her dead mother while undergoing treatment, but I actually found the letters quite distracting and not actually very useful.

The author makes it sound like this wonder drug is a complete cure but at any time, as far as I can see, the cancer could return. She seems to say that she has monthly treatments on a maintenance dosage. I really hope she’s making the most of life that she has left, because knowing about drugs and cancer, they always have the capacity to surprise you.

I’d also like to complain about the repetitiveness of Julie’s little chant about ‘My body is healthy, my organs are healthy’. I’m all for mindfulness and appreciating what you have, and supporting your body mentally, but arg! it just was very irritating for me. There is some useful things to take from this because it promotes still having a healthy lifestyle and remaining active as much you, but also really pushing for the help that you need.

Thankfully no need to provide stars for this one. Look elsewhere for an Australian cancer memoir.

Hachette Australia | 27th June 2017| AU$32.99 | paperback

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Interview with Charles McCormack

An Interview with Charles McCormack, author of Hatching Charlie

From your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

I only have one other published book. It’s a book detailing what to do and the why of doing it in treating couples with one or both spouses in a state of regression, i.e. a borderline mental state. The book, Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression, and Severe Resistance (Jason Aronson 2000), was well received and is still used in training programs in individual and couples psychotherapy.

It is not written for lay people, but I did have lay beta readers to help me write it in a more readily understandable fashion. I have been contacted over the years by people who found the book helpful in understanding their own issues or a family members. For those interested it is available in paperback and on kindle through amazon.

What do you like best about Hatching Charlie?

That it’s raw and it’s real and that it’s a book everyone can relate to. To paraphrase one reviewer: it’s fascinating read and an invitation for the reader to consider his or her own life as they are reading. I particularly appreciate the Midwest Book Reviews critique: “Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, “Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale” is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, “Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale” will also prove to be of immense interest to the supplemental studies reading lists of psychology students as well.” That review, so succinctly delivered, assured me that I had accomplished what I set out to do.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Hatching Charlie is my first novel. I couldn’t put it in the drawer no matter how hard I tried. It was inspired by my elder daughter asking me to fill out one of those books for the grandchildren so they would know a bit about me. I liked the idea, I just didn’t like the venue. Then there was my son who, very successful, at an early age, asked me “Dad. Is this [life] it?” I responded that life was about the pursuit of happiness. Though my answer is accurate, my ability to make the case for it then and there was lacking. So those two seeds, planted by my kids years earlier, sprouted and grew until I could no longer ignore them. This book strives to answer the questions “Who am I?” and “What’s life about?” Along the writing, I discovered that the answers to these questions unfold across the years in the changing roles we each assume. For me it was from abandoned boy to young delinquent, to married man, to father, to grandfather and from psychotherapist, to lecturer, to author, to patient, and beyond. Along the way I discovered not only the cratering impact life’s troubles can have upon us but also the fact that it takes great courage to be happy and that most of us are as happy as we can stand.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I’ll let you know. I suspect I’m the type of writer that needs to let ideas percolate, but I’m not completely sold on this. In fact, I’ve already been asking myself the question, what now?

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I write at home, in my office, and when I’m traveling. I use my laptop but will make notes of ideas on my cell phone. When I write I often enter a trancelike state that is so captivating that I have been guilty of missing several patient appointments when I’ve actually been in my office. I snapped out of the trance to observe a note slid under my door stating, “We were here. Did we have the wrong day?” They hadn’t wanted to knock on the door fearing that I might be dealing with some emergency. In those circumstances, feeling terribly guilty about wasting their time, I make amends by giving them their next session for free. After all, their time is as important as mine.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

Finding Beta readers is as difficult as getting people to review a book. I recruit family and friends but often they either take forever or are rather parse in their commentary. Then there’s the problem of people “wanting to be nice.” They don’t want to criticize, not recognizing that the true gold of a beta reader is the one that will tell you the real deal. As to editors, I had several friends edit and then explored editorial services. I finally hit upon Margaret Diehl because of the reviews garnered for her editing, the fact she had three books on the honorable mention list of the New York Times, and in our early emails demonstrated a dry wit and great integrity, challenging plot logic and so on. She was tremendously helpful in teaching me to develop the characters to she could see them in her mind and in rearranging chapters and suggesting the creation of chapters to ease the back and forth between my life as a psychotherapist and my life personal life. I learned a lot from her.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I use to read printed books all the time. I didn’t find the kindle books as welcoming, although they were easier and quicker to obtain. More recently, having a long commute to work, I started listening to audible books and fell in love with them. Some times they don’t equal what I might have created in my mind but many times they add an element I hadn’t considered. My book, Hatching Charlie, is in audible format as well as kindle and print. I prefer the audible because I narrate the book and that gave me the opportunity to “read it” the way I wanted it to be read. Indeed, I did two versions of the audible book because I realized, while recording it, that I could “hear” the book in a different way that led to me to major edits and rewrites. I then updated the kindle and printed formats to accurately reflect the wording in the audible book. I love it!

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from:
1. childhood? I was a poor reader in childhood. I had to go to summer school. “See Dick run!” was about all I could handle.
2. adolescence? Hardy Boys
3. young adult? Trilogy of the Ring; Watership Down; anything by Anais Nin. Books by D.T. Suzuki on Zen Budhissm; Carlos Castenada; Michael Chilton Pierce.
4. adult? For years I only read books on psychoanalytic theory and practice. Then I stopped reading professional stuff and started writing. Since then I’ve read books for personal enjoyment. The Power of One; The Boys in the Boat; any action thrillers that Arnold Schwartzenager could star in and that don’t involve a lot of character development. In other words, I like escape reading to get out of my own mind.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I manage social media on my own and if I do say so myself I am perfectly terrible at it. My main motivation of late is trying to promote awareness of Hatching Charlie. As an independent author I can’t compete from the top down as they can, so my strategy is to promote my book from the bottom up and hope that people get enough out of it to recommend it to their family and friends, or simply as a support to anyone having a hard time in life and relationships.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

I haven’t been at it long enough to feel that temptation. And, even if tempted, I doubt that I would do it. Even when I give talks each one is freshly written—I never give the same talk twice. I think the reason is I would get bored with myself. In addition, everything keeps moving, keeps changing, and so my answers to questions today will be slightly different from my answers tomorrow.

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Interview with M. N. SNow

An Interview with M. N. SNow, author of The Helper

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

The Helper is my first novel and it was shelved for some time. I originally wrote the first draft, if memory serves, in 2004 or 2005. I then rewrote it a variety of times over the next four or five years. I’d pick it up for awhile and then stick it back in the drawer. After giving up on finding a publisher, say in the year 2010 or 2011, I put it way for good, or so I thought. Then in 2015 I was motivated to comb through it once more, update it and finally publish it in time for Christmas 2016!

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Writing does not come easy for me. I usually let an idea percolate, but that’s more due to writing laziness, than lack of ideas. My trouble is getting started and staying started. I do have two new novels that I have started and stopped. On one of them I am completely stumped as to how to continue. The second novel is one I will pick back up writing soon, I hope. I also have ideas for another three of four novels floating around in the background.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I write on my PC, and only on my PC. So wherever it is, is where I write. The majority of my novel The Helper was written in a small motel where I was staying after relocating from south Florida back to Superior, WI. I stayed there during the winter while I was looking for an apartment.

However, if an idea comes to me, I’ll grab any writing utensil at hand and scribble it down before I lose it! Unfortunately that happened the other night. I woke up out of a dead sleep at about 3am and had a great idea for a novel. I lay in bed, half-asleep, thinking of it for a few minutes, and even after some thought it seemed like a good premise for a book. I fell back asleep and cannot remember the idea at all!!! So, once again, I put a pen and paper next to my bed so I can write what comes to me when I wake up.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I’ll try to hook up with any beta-readers I can!!! Usually they are friends and acquaintances. If I trust their instincts, and respect their views I’ll ask them to be one of my “readers.” As to an editor, I’ve used people on the website Fiverr, as well as a friend who is a writer and teacher.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I am not an e-reader fan. I’d rather read a physical book. And I’m a public library geek!!! I enjoy independent bookstores, but I love public libraries. And the vast majority of books I read come from the library.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind?

I read in a variety of genres, but Magical Realism/Speculative Fiction would be my favorite, along with certain SciFi and Fantasy books.

As a child I read a lot of biographies—some sports, some general.

By adolescence I was starting to head toward sci-fi and horror. Stephen Kind was always a favorite of mine. I probably read The Stand seven times before I was 25. But also Catcher in the Rye was a biggie for me and The Drifters by James Michener. Voyage by Stirling Hayden really impacted me. Another book that really stayed with me was Valhalla by Jere Peacock—about peace-time Marines after the Korean war. The sections on “red-line brigs” alone was brutal but overwhelming.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I don’t have anyone manage my work for me. What managing that gets done, I do. I don’t blog or tweet. I do have a Facebook page for my book, and of course, I love to have my book reviewed and mentioned in others people’s blogs, websites, etc.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

I haven’t done all that many interviews, so I’m good so far! And the live ones I’ve done, for newspapers, etc, have all had a variety of questions so I haven’t had to repeat myself to much yet. I’ll gladly do it, however, as long as people are interested in asking me questions about my work!

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