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An Interview with Author Sharon Vander Meer

Retired journalist and editor Sharon Vander Meer is a poet and author of five novels, a book of daily inspiration, and two poetry chapbooks. Her contemporary fiction and sci-fi novels feature strong female protagonists. Sharon’s latest release is Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light (2019), the sequel to her 2009 novel The Ballad of Bawdy McClure. You’ll find Sharon on Facebook and her website Visit her Amazon author page for a list of available books.

What is your elevator pitch for Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light?
In Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light, sci-fi action and futuristic politics combine in the story of a young transport captain in search of her mother who has been missing for more than 20 years. Pella Soames believes Trish is alive and will not stop until she brings her home, even when she realizes her own freedom, perhaps her life, is at risk.

What sparked the story idea for the book?
It is the sequel to an earlier book, The Ballad of Bawdy McClure. At the conclusion of the first book, Pella Soames is twelve, an orphan it would seem, the victim of circumstances beyond her control. She has no intention of remaining a victim. She is now an adult with a transport business of her own. Pella uses all resources available to find out if her mother is alive and a captive of the ruthless Chandorian slave trader Brutus Tauk.

How did the book come together?
It was 10 years between publication of The Ballad of Bawdy McClure and Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light. I wrote a couple of contemporary novels in between, but Pella kept coming back to me. I wanted to tell her story, which has taken shape in the years since Bawdy was published. I published a digital literary magazine for a time, and used it as a platform for telling Pella’s story through serialized episodes. Consequently, when it came to writing the book, it was a matter of deciding what to throw out.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Expectations. Character development. I expected the story would be about a young woman and her quest to find her mother, which it is, but I wanted the story to be linear—getting from point A to point B. It isn’t, because (as happens in life) the characters connected to the protagonist have their own agendas, which impact her decisions. Each of these influencers are unique and have their own stories to tell. The difficulty came in knowing how much to reveal without going off on tangents.

Tell us about your main character and why readers will connect with her.
We all want the stability of knowing the people we love are trustworthy and that they will always be there for us. Helplessly watching the rape of her mother and the destruction of her village when she was a child was heart wrenching enough, and then Pella learns of her father’s betrayal. Every decision she makes from that point forward drives her to find out if her mother is alive, and if so, to rescue her. Pella surrounds herself with a crew she can trust. Her goal is singular. She has no time for anything that will interfere with her quest, especially the attentions of a man she only wants to think of as a brother.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light?
The Ballad of Bawdy McClure was based on the idea that in 500 years, religion as we know it will not exist. So, what might the world—earth and beyond—look like? This set the stage for the human race going off-planet and seeding the galaxy with human DNA combined with the DNA of other species on planets far and wide. How religion as we know it is preserved, and how humankind perpetuates a different religiosity, is a thread that runs through both books. The Bawdy setting was Earthside because the main character, a transport pilot, had no desire to travel beyond Earth. Many of the characters or species were introduced in Bawdy. Thunder Prime reintroduces a character from the earlier book whose aim is to prove himself worthy of being named Chosen, the deity of deities. Keeping the storyline of Pella’s quest and the political machinations of the sect leader and other galactic leaders, which impact that quest, are the cogs that keep the wheels of the story turning. In terms of difficulty, my goal is to stimulate the reader’s imagination. I hope I’ve accomplished that.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Character development and keeping each one true to who she or he is, and telling Pella’s story.

Of all the books you’ve written, which one was the most challenging, and which was the easiest (or most enjoyable) to write?
Thunder Prime was the most challenging. At the beginning, I spent too much time trying to tie it to Bawdy. Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light is the continuation of a Bawdy character — Pella — but is its own tale. I had to let go of Bawdy and start fresh with Pella’s story. The easiest and most fun to write was Finding Family, the story of a widow whose quiet life is interrupted when an estranged niece arrives on her doorstep with three children and a dog of questionable breeding in tow. From the moment they blow into her life on a windy fall night and the dog pees on her carpet, Lilly Irish begins a life-changing journey.

What first inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always loved to read and am utterly flabbergasted that a gifted writer can use words to wrench every kind of emotional response by putting those words together in just the right way. I’m not there yet, but hope it happens from time-to-time.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
Never apologize for your art. Mistakes happen. Correct them when you can. Move on. Persist. Learn from criticism but don’t be hampered by it.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Nothing is easy; be ready for surprises.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I blog regularly at and will begin posting episodes of Future Imperfect, a futuristic novel about nature gone wrong. It was previously published, but is no longer in print, nor is The Ballad of Bawdy McClure. I have copies of both if anyone is interested. Bawdy is available on Smashwords under the title Thunder Prime Fog Island. I’m also working on a third novel in the Thunder Prime series featuring members of Pella Soames’ crew. And more about Bart. Will Pella’s relationship with Bart blossom? Stay tuned.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Jacqueline Murray Loring

Jacqueline Murray Loring is a playwright, screenwriter, and poet. She is the 2012 winner of the Doire Press Irish International Poetry Prize for her collection The History of Bearing Children. Also an editor/author, she has contributed to several other books including The Storyteller’s Anthology (2013) and KiMo Theatre: Fact & Folklore (2019), both publications of SouthWest Writers. In June 2019 McFarland Books released her newest project, Vietnam Veterans Unbroken: Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency. You’ll find Jacqueline on her website

Who did you write Vietnam Veterans Unbroken for?
In 2012, when I first began to interview in-country Vietnam Veterans for this book, I would have told you I was writing the book to give Vietnam veterans a vehicle whereby they could share their life experiences with newer veterans and offer new vets a chance to learn from their trials and successes. That’s right, but simple answers frequently disguise complicated truths.

The nuance between your question (Who did I write the book for?) and a question my publisher asked me in 2018 (Who will read the book?) forced me to consider why a reader would be interested in a book about Vietnam veterans written by a non-military woman. I dug more deeply into my personal motives and the promise writing the book made to the reader. I had to tell the stories in a way that would be appreciated by both fiction and nonfiction readers.

During the getting-ready-to-publish phase, McFarland & Company Inc., Publishers, sent me a form that asked a similar question, “What do you see as the books primary, secondary, and tertiary markets?” After intense research, I listed my markets as History–United States, Military History, War, Vietnam War. I also chose Social Sciences–Human Services and Body & Mind–Health. As I researched, I knew the book would appeal to veterans and their families, as well as military history buffs, colleges/university students, and a host of non-military readers. Self-help book readers would include veterans and healers, and non-military women with lingering questions about the soldiers they shared their lives with. I also included the children of Vietnam veterans who in their 40s are questioning how their parent’s time in Vietnam may have affected their youth.

After all the interviews, the writing and editing, the research and market dissection, the answer I was looking for came in response to a question asked of me at a presentation I did in May 2019 for the Albuquerque Veterans for Peace. A non-veteran woman asked me if I’d found the answers I was searching for when I started the book. In front of a room full of veterans, their wives/husbands, family members, and guests, I finally took that internal journey. My answer to her was, “Maybe. Partly.” The answer to your question is I’m still looking for the answer.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The first challenge that presented itself in 2012 was the surety that I couldn’t write the book. I’m a poet, a screenwriter, a storyteller. I write fiction. When you create a story, you can enjoy the fun of making up characters, dialogue, situations, locations, plot. The writer decides who is good and what situation is to be avoided. Telling the truth is difficult and complicated and demands attention to factual details. I wasn’t sure I possessed that discipline. Nonfiction requires you know your subject, research constantly, have an end game before you begin as to where the truth will take you. Not for the faint of heart, I discovered.

Beyond that, I didn’t want to write the book. I wanted the veterans in Vietnam Veterans Unbroken: Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency to tell their own stories. This took nonfiction writing skill to a complicated and unwieldy place. My plan? Let the veteran’s lives unfold on paper without interference from the thoughts, ignorance, preferences, or prejudices of the writer. The title tells the reader they are about to have a conversation with a veteran. For me to be successful in writing this book, I wanted the reader to envision themselves sitting comfortably across from a vet, sipping coffee, listening to the vet talk about Vietnam, and finally hearing about life after war.

But before that gathering of stories began, I had to find Vietnam veterans who would confide in a stranger intimate details of their lives. For me, asking them to share their war experience after 40-plus years was stressful and delicate.

What prompted the push to begin the project?
In 2011, my husband asked me a difficult question for which I had no answer. He wanted to know why more than a dozen of my editorial clients had published books but my plays and poetry remained hidden in my computer. I thought, “Surely, no one was interested in the moaning/groaning of the wife of a Vietnam veteran.” To prove this to him, I sent poems and stories to every listing in the “Deadlines” section of Poets and Writers Magazine (Jan/Feb 2012 issue). By March, my poems were accepted by three magazines. In April 2012, I received a call from Ireland saying my work, The History of Bearing Children, had won an international prize and publication of a chap book. I was headed to Galway for the book’s launch and an opportunity to read in places like Galway, Westport, and Achill Island. My husband was right, I needed to write about a subject I knew well—surviving the peace after war.

Tell us how the book came together.
In 2012, my Vietnam veteran husband and I lived in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where he was president of the Nam Vets Association of the Cape and Islands in Hyannis. The board of the association allowed me to place a notice in their newsletter that asked for volunteers to be interviewed for a new book. All the veterans self-selected. Most of the interviewees did not know me. At first, they had no reason to trust me or my reporting. Most of the vets I met with stayed with the project, but a few found remembering to be too difficult.

Initially, I sent the veterans informal questionnaires asking for family facts and military dates. From there, I preceded to personal interviews, more questionnaires, and dozens of emails and phone calls. The impersonal tools of questionnaires, phone calls, and emails worked well to gather information, but I found observing body language (especially with the vets I didn’t know) to be an important element in interviewing. Before my husband and I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2012, I invited a dozen veterans to a Cape Cod cable access television station to be interviewed and taped. The recorded panel lasted several hours and was hosted by Jack Bonino, the counselor at the Nam Vets Center in Hyannis. With Jack’s support, the veteran’s discussions were frank, emotional, confessional, intimate, and on occasion, angry. Jack made himself available to those veterans after the panel if they needed to talk privately. In 2014, I returned to the Cape to conduct one more round of intense interviews.

For the next three years back in Albuquerque, I transcribed the in-person interview questions as well as all the taped interviews and edited more than 200,000 words. I knew early on I wanted to divide the veterans’ life experiences into four categories: before Vietnam, experiences upon returning home, and an overview of the past 40-plus years. The end of their stories would be their feeling of reaching out to newer veterans. It took me four months to write a 30-page book proposal. (During the years it took to complete Vietnam Veterans Unbroken, I wrote and/or edited other books including The Storyteller’s Anthology and KiMo Theatre: Fact & Folklore for SouthWest Writers.) I researched and wrote query letters to agents, university presses, and publishing houses. I received 42 rejections before McFarland offered me a contract in April 2018. On September 1 of that year I delivered the manuscript to the publisher. The book was released in June 2019.

What was your favorite part of seeing Vietnam Veterans Unbroken completed and published?
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers is a leading independent publisher of academic nonfiction. I am thrilled and honored to be one of their clients. Their contract stipulates they are responsible for the cover art and the title. Originally, I called the manuscript Project Resiliency: Conversations with In-Country Vietnam Veterans. I trusted McFarland’s design team when they said they had an idea for a cover and a new title. After all, they were brilliant enough to accept my manuscript for publication. Right? When the email came with the new title, I was stunned. I think I emailed McFarland within minutes with, “Yes, the title is acceptable.” They couldn’t see I was breathless. Then the cover art arrived, and I was again taken aback. I took a moment to brush away tears before I responded. McFarland had chosen a photograph for the cover from the 90 I had submitted for inclusion in the book. They could not have known that photo was of Preston H. Hood III, a Vietnam veteran friend since the late 1980s. Preston and I met at the summer writers conference at UMass Boston’s Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequence. He and I read poetry at veteran occasions including several Vietnam Veteran Moving Wall events in New England. We teach at colleges together and have read to hundreds of community members. Preston is an award-winning poet, speaker, educator, mentor, and an inspirational person. I’m expecting the book’s launch on Cape Cod in July 2019, with all the interviewed veterans, to be a major moment.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for the project?
The whole process was more difficult than I expected, especially interviewing. I also learned: 1) writing nonfiction is truly an art form; 2) nonfiction book authors must compose the index; 3) the last edit of a manuscript is excruciatingly stressful, demanding, and time consuming; and 4) gaining permission to use a quote for the epigraph takes months.

Do you have a favorite quote from the book?
Many of the memories shared with me by the veterans will stay with me every day of the rest of my life. Forty-plus years after returning from serving his country in Vietnam, Peter O’Donnell (U.S. Marine Corps) told me, “No Red Sox games for me! Stop & Shop? Only after it was near empty. One artillery shell would get us all.” Matt Ribis (U.S. Army) said, “After Nam, I played guitar and sang in night clubs. And I clowned. I clowned professionally. It was a great thing for me to live in anonymity. It let my soul breathe. I could go up to a kid and not worry if his parent had a grenade.”

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
A beta reader told me the sections of the book were perfectly organized. Another reader said the sections written by a Vietnam nurse brought him to tears. Another reader said the discussions by the vets describing the discrimination they received from World War II and Korean War veterans broke his heart.

You’re also a screenwriter and playwright. What is it about these forms that draws you to them?
If I had to label my writing preference and process, I’d claim (should I be so bold?) to be a poet. Writing poetry forces me to find that one exact word to express a complicated emotion or event. I think I bring that discipline to the dialogue I use in my movie scripts and stage plays. Exact, powerful, and unexpected nouns and verbs draw the reader into the emotion or the surprise of the poem. The best dialogue is short, specific, gripping, and unexpected. Each word must carry the weight of expressing exactly what the situation requires. If that one word is perfect, additional words, sentences, paragraphs are superfluous. Exactly the opposite of writing a novel. Finding that one word (or words or line) is such pleasure. That feeling keeps me heading back to my writing room each morning. I think writing poetry should be the first building block a fiction or nonfiction writer plays with.

What started you on your writing journey?
In my junior year of high school, my civics teacher told me to forget my intended career as a nurse and look into politics or writing. Took me years to heed her advice. I bless her every time I remember.

What writing projects are you working on now?
My next project is something to make me smile. I’m turning a movie script into a stage play. BUT…If I had a financial backer, I’d write a companion book to Vietnam Veterans Unbroken: Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency where the spouses, children, and family members of Vietnam veterans tell their truths about life lived with a Nam vet. That’s the book that hasn’t been written. I’d love to be the author. But it took me eight years to write and publish this book. 76 plus 8?

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: E. P. Rose

Author, sculptor, and poet Elizabeth Rose received more than a dozen awards for her first book—her father’s story—Poet Under A Soldier’s Hat (2015). Her second nonfiction release, The Perfect Servant…Nope (2018), chronicles her years caring for her husband after his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. You’ll find Liz on Facebook and at See all of her books on her Amazon author page, and for more about her writing, read the 2015 SWW interview.

What is at the heart of The Perfect Servant…Nope?
People speak for the sufferer—Parkinson’s Disease in my husband’s case—but what of the caregiver? Who speaks for them? By sharing our story, our private horrors, my hope is my voice will be an advocate for the plight of us Caregivers. Without any training, we are forced by circumstance to take on the 24-hour care of our loved ones. Strong, feeble, old, young, rich or poor, caregiving is a soul-body-marriage and bank-account-breaker. I want to voice all those taboos people fear to speak.

When readers turn the last page in the book, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
Forget giving advice such as “take care of yourself” and other irritating platitudes. What I, as a caregiver, cried for was practical and financial help for respite, some training to make our lives easier, and actual hands-on support. Isolated social pariahs, society needs to hear us.

You began sharing your caregiving journey on your blog in 2016. How did the book itself come together?
In order to reach a wider audience, I realized if I wrote at least 1000 words a week, in 18 months I’d have enough material for a book. I decided to edit only glaring grammatical errors and spelling mistakes so as not to lose the raw passion that breaks through the writing. The agonizing facts speak for themselves. By leaving the blog posts as they were written, and in order, readers can travel the daily agonizing ups and downs along with us, and so gain better understanding.

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go?
I planned to continue until my husband died. Before our last holiday in France, my husband and I both knew that time together would be our last. And that’s what happened. He passed a month after we returned, leaving me free but grieving in an empty nest.

What did you learn from writing your father’s story, Poet Under a Soldier’s Hat, that you were able to apply to The Perfect Servant…Nope?
The power of dialogue and the first person voice.

Of the four writing projects you’ve published—two nonfiction books, a collection of poems and artwork, and a book of children’s verse—which one was the most challenging?
My first book, Poet Under A Soldier’s Hat. As my first I knew nothing of the mysterious craft of writing (arc, POV, reversals, etc.), but also the subject, the places, and my father’s thoughts were unknown.

You began your writing career later in life. What did your mature self bring to the writing table that your younger self never could have?
As a visual and younger artist I was not involved with words. My mature self was better able to bring to writing the aesthetic sense of expression and critique I used for my sculpture.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
How much my blog helped a long-time blog visitor (Carol) and her husband to accept the hell they were living and their way of coping. Carol hadn’t lost her mind or turned into a monster—her uncharacteristic screaming outbursts and weeping were symptoms of anticipatory grieving. I used one of her responses to my blog as the foreword to The Perfect Servant…Nope.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
I’m attracted to unusual personal stories of unconventional people, like Rachael Joyce’s Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Alexander Frater’s Chasing The Monsoon, that transport me to places and experiences outside my normal life.

What writing projects do you have coming up?
My next book has the working title When Cows Wore Shoes. It records a time under Franco when people had no use for money or machines and cows really did wear shoes. The project after my book about Spain will be one about my life growing up in India, A Raj Baby Speaks. Better get busy. Too much to do, in too little time.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to her speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Ruth Baird Pollard

Ruth Baird Pollard’s first book, Loving Gordon: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journey (Citrine Publishing, 2018), is based on the journal she kept during the final years she shared with her husband. Ruth is an active volunteer with her local Alzheimer’s Association and a facilitator for two support groups where she encourages other caregivers. You’ll find her on Facebook and on her website

What do you hope readers will take away from Loving Gordon: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journey?
I hope they take away that they can be effective and loving caregivers during a very difficult period in their lives and that of their loved ones. But getting help, support and education is vital. Do not try to take this journey alone.

When did you know you wanted to share your experiences with the world? What sparked the push to begin the project that became Loving Gordon?
I had read many books on dementia and caregiving during my journey as a caregiver, but I hadn’t found any that were based on a journal and gave personal, intimate stories of what it’s like on a day-to-day basis. Since I had kept a journal, after my husband died I kept getting “nudges” to write a book. Then I found a writing coach and she really helped me take my dream to an actual book.

During the process of reading through your journals to write the book, it must have been difficult to relive your experiences. Were you ever afraid you would reveal too much about yourself, your husband, or your journey together?
Yes, reading my journals was difficult, but also brought back many good memories. At first I could only read a few pages at a time, but once I started transcribing my journals it became easier. Yes, I was mindful of revealing too much about my husband and me, especially because I knew our children and grandchildren would be reading the book. When you write a book on a personal topic, you really do put yourself out there.

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go, that it was finished and ready for an editor or publisher?
I was very fortunate in finding a publisher way before the manuscript was finished. A friend of mine with editing experience offered to edit it at no cost. Also, after about a year, I just knew it needed to get out there.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together? What was the hardest part?
During the process of writing my book, I gained a deeper respect for my husband and really saw how he handled his illness with acceptance and humor much of the time. I also saw that I was a pretty good caregiver and did everything I could to make our journey easier. The hardest part was just getting started!

Tell us more about how the book came together.
I actively worked on my book for about a year, but it took me over four years to get started. I did a lot of editing myself and took the suggestions of my publisher and editor without getting defensive about their suggestions. My writing coach had published a book and she suggested her editor, so I sent a few chapters to her, and right away she said it was a project she could get behind. I realize I was very fortunate to find a publisher so quickly. She worked with a graphic designer who suggested various cover designs, but I had the final say in the finished project. I knew the cover would be right when I loved it right away.

Why do you think people enjoy reading memoirs and biographies?
People like to read about the lives and experiences of other people. We also learn a great deal about ourselves by reading about others’ lives.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?
Just get started and stay with it. Work with a writing coach if possible. Take classes on writing. Join SouthWest Writers. Read, read, read!

What would you say to people who don’t understand the benefits of keeping a journal?
Keeping a journal helped me maintain a little bit of emotional distance from the arduous tasks of caregiving. It was a release for me and allowed me to record my thoughts and feelings in the privacy of my journal. A journal is invaluable if you want to write a book, but it is also a record of what you and your loved one went through. It’s also a good way to pass down family history.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Scott Archer Jones

Scott Archer Jones is the award-winning author of four published books. His articles, essays, and short fiction can be found in over 40 publications. Scott’s latest release, And Throw Away the Skins (Fomite, 2019), is described by Anne Hillerman as a “hopeful and heartbreaking story of love and scars and fresh starts” told “with graceful prose and a beautiful appreciation for the complication of both place and the human condition.” You’ll find Scott on Facebook and Twitter, and on his website Visit his Amazon author page for details on all of his books.

What would you like readers to know about And Throw Away the Skins?
Bec is entangled in a broken marriage, a life-threatening cancer, and a mish-mash of veterans returning from war physically and mentally chewed up. She’s drafted into running a retreat center for veterans—and donating the land for it. Her village is filled with quirky people who all have an opinion on her life and choices. And finally, she is having an affair with a Marine wearing two prosthetic legs and toting a belief that he carries death like a pathogen.

What sparked the initial story idea for the book?
The book began as a short story of a woman living alone in the forest in northern New Mexico—and her stalker. As I played out her psychic fear of rape and, above all, her fear of being alone and vulnerable, I grew to know her. Authors do a lot of work thinking offline. The backstory, in this case Bec’s childhood, became an integral part of her narrative. The short story definitely didn’t work because she needed the long form to hold her eloquence.

Tell us more about your main character, Bec, and why readers will connect with her.
Bec’s story is about the illusion of independence and inner strength. She solves the problems that beset her by isolating herself and tackling them. Instead of this working for her, she is constantly inundated by people who want to intrude and, indeed, rope her into their lives. These folks have their own agendas and humorous flaws. They see her as a fixer, and she’s actually someone just hanging on by her fingertips.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for And Throw Away the Skins? Do you consider the setting a character in the story?
I contrasted Dallas and the Church of a Thousand Pews—the book’s beginning—with northern New Mexico—as a flawed form of sanctuary. I didn’t romanticize the mountains and their poverty, but I hope I portrayed New Mexico as a more authentic life than the rest of the U.S.A. So, yes, New Mexico is embodied as a force and a theme.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
This is the first work I’ve written in the point-of-view of a woman. To avoid demeaning her in any way, I made her completely unsentimental. I myself am very sentimental. I purposely made her bad choices very different from mine.

What was the most satisfying part of putting this project together?
Third drafts are great. By then I finally understand the protagonist. My writing circle has explained many painful mistakes to me. The first chapter finally comes together. Theme and motif have sorted themselves out, and I can remove the heavy-handed preaching and drop them into subtext. (Fourth drafts are more tuning and nurturing than the grand leaps of the third.) Holding the first proof copy in my hand is also splendid.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they’ll take away from the book?
Humans are inherently survivors, and they can find happiness and small satisfactions out of the most difficult and grinding lives.

What do many beginning writers misunderstand about telling a story?
E.M. Forster said that story was merely chronology, and when we turn it to plot then we give it meaning. Just a list of things that happen doesn’t constitute a fictive work. The author’s job is to interpret story into meaning. Oh, and start as close to the action as you can.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
Scenes that come out of (and feed emotionally on) a trauma from my own life or family are the hardest for me to write. They’re the best, but they are also the work that demands personal honesty.

What typically comes first for you: A character? A scene? A story idea?
I think every author starts each project from a new perspective. I’ve written forty pages of character and then found the beginning of the book and discarded the write-in. I’ve started with a single image ending the story and then written towards it. I’ve scribbled out the opening paragraph and the final scene and then tried to connect them. These all work, and they all keep the writer fresh.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m in final draft on a book about an East Los Angeles pawnbroker, and I’m taking a historical novel to workshop in a master class. There is also a novella in second draft called Celestino in Paradise.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Neill McKee

Author Neill McKee hails from Canada but lived and worked around the world for 45 years as a teacher, filmmaker, multi-media producer, writer, and program manager. After settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2015, he dedicated himself to chronicling his experiences in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and (more recently) Russia. Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah is his first book in the memoir genre. You’ll find Neill on Facebook and Twitter, and on his website

What is your elevator pitch for Finding Myself in Borneo?
Finding Myself in Borneo is an honest and buoyant chronicle of my adventures during 1968-70 while teaching secondary school as a Canadian volunteer in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo). It’s a journey through vibrant Asian cultures in an exotic land: adjusting to life in a small town, learning local customs, how to teach and how to speak Malay language. My book documents many adventures, for example: climbing the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, having a love affair, navigating Borneo’s backwaters to make my first documentary films, and hilarious motorcycle journeys with my American Peace Corps buddy. It also covers my second two-year Sabah sojourn and other return trips which offer readers the opportunity to match the early anecdotes to what in fact happened to the land and people who touched my life as a young man.

Why did you want to share this part of your life with the world?
It was a dramatic change from what I had known and, therefore, a story worth telling. Kind of a “sea change” or “hero’s journey” for me worth imparting to others, I believe. Borneo couldn’t be more different from Canada. I grew up in a small Ontario town with a good deal of chemical pollution. The chemical factory there manufactured DDT and the herbicide 2,4-D, as well as Agent Orange for America’s Vietnam war in the 1960s. I had always dreamed of escaping to a cleaner, greener world full of sunshine and less stinks. When I was posted to Sabah through CUSO (Canadian University Service Overseas), I discovered Borneo was the third largest island in the world—a land with a mysterious sounding name and reputation, mainly due to what western visitors had written about it (Joseph Conrad being one of the first). Borneo was no disappointment. I loved it despite the many challenges and conflicts I faced. But that was really part of the fun.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I didn’t keep a diary, as advised by CUSO (an NGO slightly older than the American Peace Corps), but I did write detailed letters home and to friends. I made carbon copies of some of these, and my mother kept many for me knowing I would want them someday. I had no plans to write a memoir—too busy with my career. But I’m blessed with a good memory, especially of those formative years and experiences. I also had old photos which triggered memories.

Tell us how the book came together.
I had written the draft of what became Chapter 6 in the 1990s. People who read it, loved it, and encouraged me to write more. It wasn’t until I fully retired that I had time to study a new genre (outside of technical communication books and articles) and try my hand at it. In 2014, I attended a creative nonfiction evening course at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland where I started drafting pieces of my book and got feedback. After moving to Albuquerque in 2015, I enrolled in a graduate-level workshop in creative nonfiction at the University of New Mexico. That’s when I began to write, revise, get feedback, and revise again. I also attended presentations and workshops at SouthWest Writers, which continually gave me new ideas. After about 25 revisions (and a year into the process), I thought I had a pretty good manuscript. It was only then that I hired a good literary editor for in-depth feedback. Boy, was I wrong about being finished! It took me over a year, and at least 25 more revisions, to finally complete the manuscript for publication in mid-2018. I had submitted earlier drafts to about 10 publishers and received lots of rejection letters. After two “strange” offers from commercial publishers (they wanted to have full control but put up little or no money for publicity), I decided to self-publish through IngramSpark. I hired a good book designer and marketer and took control of the process myself.

Is there a scene in your book you’d love to see play out in a movie?
Yes, probably in Chapter 4 when my Peace Corps buddies and I take LSD and go to see the movie Camelot with Chinese subtitles. The whole experience opened up my senses, broke down barriers in my perception, and made me see the land I was living in as a much richer and more magical place. Since we were reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings at the time, we noticed many of the features of North Borneo were similar to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. We created the North Borneo Frodo Society and gathered members from all around the world, including Prof. Tolkien himself—one of only two such societies he patronized according to letters we received. The myths of Borneo and Middle Earth become humorously paralleled in Finding Myself in Borneo. Maybe good for an animated film!

What makes Finding Myself in Borneo unique in the memoir market?
There are other memoirs and travel books on Borneo but most of them are based on “Wild Men of Borneo” or adventure travel themes. Many of these reinforce stereotypes of the land and its people. P.T. Barnum was the first to come up with the wild men theme in the 1800s through his freak show promotion of a couple of little people from a Ohio farm. My book is based on entertaining stories of what it was like to live in coastal Borneo in a multi-cultural society with ancient traditions. I cover some history, politics, and religion of the place, but in a lighter, entertaining way to help explain the overall story arc. My book is different in that it covers my 40-year relationship with the land and its people, not just the impressions of a single journey or sojourn.

What was your favorite part of putting the project together?
I enjoy writing the most and sharing my work with reviewers—trying to understand how my words are perceived and how I can improve. Writing this memoir has also connected me with a lot of people who have lived in Borneo as volunteers or have traveled there, or who want to go there. It has also re-connected me with many old friends and colleagues from around the world.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
A number of readers and reviewers have said that my writing is refreshingly honest.

While you were writing Finding Myself in Borneo, were you ever afraid you were sharing too much of yourself? If so, how did you move past this feeling and continue writing?
At first I did not tell the whole truth—such as losing my virginity and the other sexual experiences and attractions. I wondered if readers would be turned off. I also wrote guardedly about people about whom I had something negative to say. But I was persuaded to just change names and other details of these characters and write from my heart. This helped me construct a story about how I found out who I really am and what I should do with my life.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I spend six to seven hours each day writing, researching, revising, and communicating or promoting. It’s a huge amount of work if you want to do it well. I’m writing two other memoirs at present. One is on my childhood and youth, with a theme of “going elsewhere”—escaping the polluted town I grew up in. At the end of the book I leave for Borneo, so it’s a prequel of sorts. The other project is a travel memoir on searching for stories of my ancestors in Canada and the US. It’s an entertaining account of finding (through my maternal grandmother from Wisconsin) that I have ancestors who fought in just about every American war, beginning with the bloody wars with Native Americans in New England in the 1600s. I travel to the places where they lived and battlegrounds where they fought. I found out my ninth great-grandfather was a passenger on the Mayflower. I previously thought of myself as just a peace-loving Scots-Irish Canadian.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a  speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: Larry Kilham

Larry Kilham is an entrepreneur, retired engineer, and author of four novels, two memoirs, and five other nonfiction books. His most recent release, The Perfectionist: Peter Kilham and the Birds (2018), sheds light on designer, inventor, and visionary Peter Kilham (the author’s father). You’ll find Larry on, Facebook and Twitter, and his Amazon author page. For more about Larry’s work, read his 2017 SWW interview.

At its core, what is The Perfectionist about?
This book is about an artist and inventor who brought nature’s beauty and function to the public and did this with complete integrity.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The story is told as my father and I growing up together. But the challenge was to convey his point of view rather than dwell on mine.

When did you know you wanted to write your father’s memoir? What prompted the push to begin the project?
When I realized that my father’s life story was more important than the subjects of my many other books and only I could adequately address it. Also, due to my advanced age, if I didn’t do it now it might never be done.

Tell us how the book came together.
After I pulled together several boxes of files, I recycled through this content many times until I found an accurate and logical outline of the story. With this done, it only took four months to write the 121 pages and a month to edit. For the cover design, I engaged a very talented book designer who had just gone freelance after working for a university press. She grabbed my notes and photos and I went on vacation.

Do you have a favorite quote from the book you’d like to share?
“Be guided by purpose, truth, and perfection, and the rewards will come.”

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for this book?
Until I researched this story, I never realized how much his wife Dorothy understood him and his business and how much she helped him. My father never said much about her when we talked. That itself is another insight about him.

What was your favorite part of putting The Perfectionist together?
Looking at the old photos, newspaper clippings, and letters to bring back almost-lost memories and to see other people’s perceptions of Peter Kilham.

Which do you prefer: the creating, editing, or researching aspect of a writing project?
The creating and researching feed on each other and I enjoy both. I endure editing like, say, physical therapy.

What does a typical writing session look like for you? Do you have any writing rituals or something you absolutely need in order to write?
I write in the morning when my mind is fresh, and I read in the afternoon. I like long walks in the forest to recharge my mind.

Who are some of your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
My list of favorite authors constantly changes. Right now it is Loren Eiseley, T.S. Eliot, and D.H. Lawrence. It’s kind of fun and educational to resurrect Alexander Pope.

What advice do you have for beginning or discouraged writers?
If you’re having trouble getting going, maybe you’re writing about the wrong thing. A story that you should write will make you blossom.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m intrigued with Native American poetry, especially Pueblo, and I am experimenting with integrating its thought and style into my poetry.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Cornelia Gamlem

Cornelia Gamlem is an expert in employee relations and human resources. She is also a consultant, a speaker, and the founder/president of the management consulting firm The GEMS Group, Ltd. Working with colleague Barbara Mitchell, Cornelia has co-authored four business resource books. Their newest release is The Manager’s Answer Book: Powerful Tools to Build Trust and Teams, Maximize Your Impact and Influence, and Respond to Challenges (Red Wheel/Weiser, 2018). You’ll find Cornelia at and as well as on Facebook and LinkedIn. Follow her and Barbara’s weekly blog at

Who did you write your newest book for, and what will they get out of reading it?
The book was written for managers at all levels in organizations of all sizes and in all industries—this includes small business owners. Recognizing that while most managers have expertise in their own field, there are so many other areas and situations that they’ll encounter. New and seasoned managers can be overwhelmed by new situations, and those are the issues the book addresses.

Tell us how the book came together.
The concept for the book was proposed by our publisher, and my co-author and I thought it would be a fun book to write. The contract was signed in August 2017, the manuscript due on January 31, 2018, and publication scheduled for June 2018. From February through April 2018, we went through the editing process with the publisher, and received the galley proof in early April with two weeks to review and respond. Our publisher works on a pretty tight schedule and the challenge was coordinating our time with theirs.

What makes this book unique in the business market?
It goes beyond the people side of management and introduces the reader to getting started in their management role, developing skills, building credibility, working with other managers and functions, and avoiding areas of risk and conflict.

Do you have a favorite quote from the book you’d like to share?
“Curiosity is one of the most important tools you should be using in your management journey. Curious people are always learning, asking questions, and exploring.”

Did you learn anything new from writing/publishing this book that you can apply to future projects?
Each of the books I’ve written with my co-author has been published through a traditional publisher who provided a small level of publicity. We’ve learned traditional publicity is waning and we didn’t get as many requests for articles or radio interviews with this book. Social media and podcasts are clearly dominating the publicity space and the way to get your books noticed. We are focusing our efforts in that direction for all of our current and future books.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
Ironically, finishing it. During the writing process, both my co-author and I moved our homes. She moved seven miles and I moved 1,800 miles across the country. So there were lots of challenges and distractions along the way.

What are some of the more interesting facts you discovered while doing research for The Manager’s Answer Book?
Unlike the other books we wrote, this one drew from our collective experiences working in large organizations as employees and with smaller organizations as consultants. We saw many of the challenges managers faced and drew on our work with organizations and knowledge of organizational and management development to respond to these challenges. It was similar to writing an advice column for managers.

Would The Manager’s Answer Book work outside of a business environment?
People who work with volunteers or on volunteer boards would find certain sections helpful. “Developing Your Management (and leadership) Skills”—especially communication skills—is essential in these roles, as is “Creating Your Personal Brand”—your image, credibility, and effectiveness. Another section, “Managing Up, Down, and Around” talks about the importance of understanding the organization, as well as working with, and influencing others, to get things accomplished.

Of all the books you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most, and which was the most challenging?
Writing The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook, which was our second book, was enjoyable because we incorporated scenarios to describe the situations we were discussing. It was a different approach from our first book. The follow-up to that book, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book, was probably the most fun—coming up with things to say and not say in a conflict situation. The most challenging was the second edition of The Big Book of HR. It involved a great deal of revision which required moving text and footnotes around. We had to be focused and take extra care explaining all the changes to our virtual assistant and editors.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
Writing a book is like having your own business—you have to constantly and continually promote it. You’ve got to have a marketing plan even if you are working with a traditional publisher. Having had my own consulting practice, much of the promotion came painlessly. Connecting with other writers, especially those who write in the same genre and learning what they are doing, came as naturally as networking. The challenging, but rewarding, part was learning about the publishing industry, public relations, and about social media and related technology.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?
Definitely creating. I leave the editing to the experts, plus it’s so hard to see your own mistakes. In your head, you know what it’s supposed to say. The research I’ve done for my books has been painless since I’ve written about subjects that I’m very familiar with in areas where I’ve worked. When it came to doing research, I knew where to find the most relevant information.

Do you write other than nonfiction or have you ever wanted to?
Funny you should ask that. An idea for a book took hold when we finished our first book. When we wrote our second book together, my co-author and I wanted to integrate more scenarios to illustrate lessons, and a whole new storytelling voice emerged. We’re now working on a book that’s creative non-fiction. It’s a series of stories based on actual situations that have occurred in organizations.

What writing projects are you working on now?
In addition to the creative non-fiction book, my writing partner and I write a weekly blog called Making People Matter.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Timothy Curtin

Author Timothy Curtin was a volunteer advocate for the poor before finding his life’s work in unionizing factory workers. A long-time writer, Tim has written about politics and the status quo, and his short stories can be found in three volumes of Keystrokes, an ongoing publication of Oak Park Writers Group. A series of essays about his experiences growing up became the basis for the memoir My Five & Ten Cent Life (2018).

How would you describe My Five & Ten Cent Life?
The book is a memoir of my teenage years growing up in a small town in Southern Wisconsin in the early 1960s. It’s a story of survival of me and my family who were thrust into a hostile environment we were not prepared for.

When readers turn the last page in the book, what do you hope they take away from it?
I want the readers to understand how difficult it was to have lived in such an environment. Also, it was a cold, sterile place in which I was forced to invent my own limited world of enjoyment through an occasional escape or by tricking those around me.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Writing a memoir takes more thought than anything else. No two people remember events exactly the same way because everyone experiences things slightly differently based on their previous experiences and memories. It took me ten years to understand what had happened and why. As the only son, my experiences and memories are very different from my three sisters. They are all angry at what I wrote about the actions and motives of my parents.

What prompted the push to begin your memoir?
I had the opportunity to visit this small town again approximately twelve years ago. At the time I was thinking only of a short story about getting revenge from this town for what they had done to my family all those years ago. Over time, I plowed further and further back and ultimately the idea of the memoir took root.

Tell us how the book came together.
It took ten years to write. The process of rewriting was handled by submitting each story to the Oak Park Writers Group in Illinois. They would discuss it, critique it and then I would rewrite it again. I hired an expert for final editing and layout in the winter of 2017, and the book was self-published in early 2018.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for the book?
I discovered things about myself that I didn’t know. I realized I took an incredible amount of chances with my life in those days largely because I didn’t see any better choices. I also learned about the incredible sacrifices my parents made to help their family and the indignities they suffered at the hands of local people.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing My Five & Ten Cent Life?
Finishing the book and seeing my hard work in print has been rewarding. I don’t know if this is true for all writers, but I write because I have to tell my story my way. Otherwise, the story is incomplete or not entirely true. It is a labor of love. Writing is mental exercise and is a form of working out.

In a memoir, does a writer’s responsibility lie with the truth of the facts or with the perception/feelings about what occurred?
You cannot separate this answer as either/or. The writer’s responsibility must lie with his memories of the facts because you cannot honestly have a memoir without truth. What happened over time, however, was those memories and what they meant then and what they mean to me now changed because I’m much older and my perception about what happened evolved over time.

What first inspired you to become a writer?
My mother inspired me to become a writer. I have always written, but the bulk of my writing had to do with politics of the day and my anger and frustrations with the status quo. That took me into independent politics as a candidate.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m currently writing essays on the need for alternative energy, such as solar power for New Mexico. I’m also deep into writing my second book which is more of an autobiography.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I strongly believe that everyone, if they dig deep enough, has a story to tell. Tell it and it will set your mind and spirit free.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: Sarah H. Baker

Author and retired engineer Sarah H. Baker (writing as S. H. Baker, Sarah Storme, and Lydia Parks) has released 20 novels, numerous novellas and short stories, and three audio books. Her publishers include Kensington, Harlequin, Five Star, and Siren Audio. S. H. Baker’s Return to Marshall’s Bayou, a full-cast audio version of the first book in her Dassas Cormier Mystery series, was recommended for an Edgar Award. In 2018, Sarah released four books from her Sarah Storme backlist including the romance novel The Long Way Home. You’ll find Sarah on Facebook and her website at, as well as her Amazon author pages for S. H. Baker and Sarah Storme. Read more about Sarah in her 2015 interview for SouthWest Writers.

Who are the main characters in Return to Marshall’s Bayou, and how did you develop them?
The main character is Dassas Cormier, a young man whose father was Acadian and whose mother was European. Dassas returns to southwest Louisiana after a disastrous end to his law-enforcement career, only to find out the local chief of police has been murdered. The other main characters are Alcide (Dassas’ brother), Becky (Alcide’s wife), and Frank, the oldest of their children. Dassas formed organically and truly told me his story. His is the strongest voice I’ve ever heard when writing. And the family relationships grew out of his character. As an older sibling myself, I often identified with Alcide, but Dassas will always be close to my heart.

What would you like readers to know about the story?
The story is a mystery, but it’s also about coming home to the comfort and support of a family. Dassas has suffered a terrible emotional trauma that he likely wouldn’t have survived without the love of his brother and sister-in-law. Return to Marshall’s Bayou is the audio book based on the first in the Dassas Cormier mystery series, Murder in Marshall’s Bayou. When Siren Audio bought the audio rights to the first book, they changed the title because they wanted to focus on the homecoming. I’m thrilled with the result.

You’ve written four books in the Dassas Cormier Mystery series (with a fifth in the works). What sparked the original idea for the first novel?
My grandmother was born in 1901 in Johnsons Bayou, Louisiana. The area was as remote as an island; people traveled in and out on the mail boat. When my grandmother died, she left behind a dresser drawer of letters she and her family had exchanged. The letters were the equivalent of our phone calls and held all kinds of insights into daily life in the 20s in that area. I couldn’t help but use them as background. I pulled names from my grandfather’s Acadian family of twelve children—Dassas Broussard was the oldest. I never met the man, but I liked his name. I used Alcide for the same reason and put the two of them together. Ironically, I found out after writing the book that Dassas and Alcide had been close in real life and even worked together. And I also found out one of the sisters had married a Cormier. Life imitating art?

Return to Marshall’s Bayou takes place in 1920s Louisiana. What is it about this time and place that makes the perfect setting for the book?
The 1920s was one of the most exciting decades in US history. Women were getting the vote, automobiles were replacing the horse and buggy, and Prohibition sent people to speakeasies for fun. Southwest Louisiana was so remote, it still had some of the Victorian values, but the rest of the world was intruding. It was also the home of the Cajun cowboys and European Protestant settlers, which sometimes sparked societal friction. What could be more interesting?

You’ve done two full-cast audio books now. How did that experience affect your writing going forward?
Working on the full-cast audio books was the highlight of my writing career. I didn’t expect to hear the actors’ voices in place of the characters’ in my head, but I do. I pay more attention to the rhythm and sounds of my writing than I did before. I’ve also realized how important it is to get those sounds right. An added bonus to the whole experience is I ended up with some really great friends from the publishing house and the actors who participated.

The Long Way Home is one of four books you released from your Sarah Storme backlist in 2018. At its heart, what is this story about?
The Long Way Home is about finding a second chance for love, and understanding that home isn’t a house but a place where you truly belong.

Tell us a little about your main characters and why readers will connect with them.
Sam is a veterinarian in a remote area of Colorado. He’s dealing with a teenage daughter who spends the summers with him and always shows up carrying her mother’s anger. Although Sam has been burned by his ex, he still expects the best from those he meets, and that endears him to me and (I hope) to readers. I think readers will appreciate his kindness and tenderness, wrapped in strength of character.

Allie is a woman running from an emotionally abusive marriage. When Allie’s car breaks down in the Colorado mountains, she realizes her husband has so isolated her that she has no one to turn to. Sam gives her a place to stay until she can get back on her feet. Allie’s one true desire—having grown up an orphan—is to have a home. Although her wealthy husband provided her with a nice house, it was anything but a home. As she tries to repay Sam’s kindness by helping him connect with his daughter, Allie discovers that Sam’s place is the real home she seeks. Even if readers haven’t suffered the trials Allie has, I believe they’ll understand her desires and will cheer for her.

Why did you choose Colorado as the setting for the book?
I lived in a small town in western Colorado for a few years, and I appreciate the beauty of the state and the remoteness of the area. I based Sam’s office on the office of our local veterinarian, who even had a cat he’d found frozen to the sidewalk, like Popsicle in the book. The vet wasn’t exactly Sam (more like Doc from Gunsmoke), but he was a nice guy.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I’d moved from Colorado before I started work on this project, so I had to spend time thinking back on the setting and reviewing photos. Other than that, the story flowed. When I was young, I wanted to be a veterinarian, so it was fairly easy to get into the role.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
My very favorite part of this project was Sam, the main character. He was so full of emotion and conflict, and yet so kind, it was easy to fall for him. After having more than a dozen romance novels published, he’s still my favorite hero.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
Everything I know now I wish I’d known then! I had no idea what I was doing when I started my first book. Still, I think I learn best by doing, so maybe I started at the right place for me. Because I had no illusions around my level of knowledge, I was open to learning from every editor with whom I had the opportunity to work.

What do many writers misunderstand about telling a story?
I think many writers who are just starting out do the same things I did at first: they don’t start in the middle of the action, and they feel the need to tell the reader all the backstory. I had the opportunity to work as an acquiring editor at a small press for a short time, and I learned just how quickly you have to grab the editor’s attention. If you can’t grab an editor’s attention, you won’t be able to grab a reader’s. Jumping into a story mid-stride isn’t natural. It takes practice, but it’s very important to do.

Are you working on any new writing projects?
I’m currently working on speculative fiction set in the future. Having recently retired, I’m anxious to share what I learned about how we’re changing our ecosystem. I think the best way to do that is to paint a realistic picture of the future through fiction. This is very different for me, so we’ll see how it goes.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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