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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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




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 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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Jack Woodville London

Award-winning author Jack Woodville London studied the craft of fiction at the Academy of Fiction, St. Céré, France and at Oxford University. A former U.S. Army quartermaster officer and courtroom lawyer, he has authored nonfiction articles and reference books, as well as novels and short stories. Jack shares his love of writing at national and international conferences and teaches veterans who want to pen their own stories. Meticulous research of World War II and its affects on the home front play out in his French Letters historical fiction series praised for its authentic portrayal of the culture and the times. Children of a Good War (Vire Press, 2018) is the third book in that series. You’ll find Jack on his website at JWLBooks.com and on Facebook.


What is your elevator pitch for Children of a Good War?
Hamilton and Burr. Grant and Lee. Custer and Crazy Horse. Nixon and Kennedy. And the Hastings brothers, Frank and Peter, each of whom detests the other. Peter accuses Frank of being a bastard their father brought back from WW2. Frank believes Peter stole their parents’ home and dumped them to die in a soulless retirement center. Neither will learn who the other truly is until he learns who he is himself, quests that take Frank to France and Peter into the cockpit of a hijacked 747. Included in the Kirkus Review edition of Best Books 2018, SouthWest Writers’ own Parris Afton Bonds says the novel is “Beautifully written, a paean to humanity and a masterpiece of insight.”

When readers turn the last page in the book, what do you hope they take away from it?
Are we who others think we are? Or who we have decided for ourselves to be? We often wear masks to make others see us as we want them to see us or as we think they see us, but hide inside who we really are. We even take for granted who our parents are, rarely knowing who they were before us, people who had their own loves and suffered their own tragedies and who kept hidden their own secrets. And, of course, we are usually wrong about thinking we know all there is to know about others. Two of life’s most important quests are to find out what is behind these masks to discover who our parents were and who we really are.

What would you like people to know about the story itself?
The brothers’ mother, Virginia, gave birth to Peter when their father, Will, was an army doctor in France during WW2. The brothers grew up assuming they were married and also assuming that their parents had cozy lives together when in fact WW2 cost each of them the people they deeply loved. Four decades after the war, when the United States had become rich, urban, self-centered, and polarized, the brothers discover their parents did have secrets and that they may not themselves be who they think they are.

Tell us a little about your main characters. What is it about your protagonists that will make readers connect with them?
Peter was a star athlete, great student, Air Force Academy graduate who loved flying gunships in Vietnam before becoming a Pan Am pilot, the golden child everyone wants to be growing up. Frank was an ugly duck who was kicked off school teams for mooning Peter and for using chicken manure napalm to scorch the school rival’s initials into the football field, a skill he came to regret in Vietnam. His good quality was to question why things are the way they are. Their last argument arises from putting Will and Virginia in a nursing home. Candace, Peter’s wife, was a child of the sixties who becomes a loving suburban mom. Eleanor, a doctoral student from England, sees and brings out the goodness in Frank’s inner core. Their father is Will, a doctor who dies while on a walk from his retirement home and leaves the boys to fight over what will happen with their mother, Virginia, who has become aphasic and alone. And in France, four bitter widows use their medicines to play poker, remembering what really happened in WW2 when Will saved lives in their apple barn as a young army doctor. And one lonely, wonderful French nun in an Irish convent…

What sparked the initial story idea for the French Letters series?
A combination of Bible stories (Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau) and the observation that all of us put on our best face to others. We may lapse into being who others think we are or we may hide who we really are to make others believe we’re better or different from the person who (deep down inside) we would like to be. I framed the issue with three stories. In the first book, Virginia is a single woman in a small town during WW2 who hates being gossiped about and taken for granted, and who gets pregnant. In the second book, Will is thrown into mortal combat in Normandy and loses everything—Virginia, family, friends, and nearly his life, because he refuses to be who his commanders consider him to be. Their Children of a Good War, Peter and Frank, know nothing of their parents’ pasts or secrets and are comfortable baby boomers, happily hating one another over mistaken beliefs about each other’s supposed bastardy and treachery.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Integrating into the story historical details—rationing of food, gasoline and gossip in a small town during the Second World War, landing on Omaha Beach and struggling through France, the barely perceptible shift from small town to big city America, and the polarizing division between Americans. The long story arc also includes more recent history: the AIDS fright of the 1980s, bank failures, hijacking of Pan Am airplanes in Pakistan, the discovery of DNA. All of these shaped us as a people while we soldiered on in the comfort of thinking we know who we are. Among my personal favorite episodes are two backstories I wrote: the Navy losing its goat at a football game and Pakistani government ministers trading a hijacking captive for a box of helicopter parts.

What do many beginning writers misunderstand about telling a story?
When readers pick up a book they look for three things: what is the story about, who are the characters, and where do I come in? Telling a story is a contract between the storyteller and the audience. The reader has to become invested in the story for it to succeed. To invest readers, the story must be something they can see themselves being a part of. The story must make the reader expect the conflict to come out a certain way and continue reading until the conflict does come out, although not necessarily as expected. The story doesn’t get better with clever phrases and lots of adjectives.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?
I prefer creative writing and love research, and don’t so much love real editing. Whatever I have written that has become readable is so because I have wonderful editors.

How has your experience writing nonfiction benefited your fiction writing?
It has taught me to be precise. Care with language, with accuracy of details, and writing the fewest words possible to convey the story all come from practice in nonfiction. Having said that, and reading what I wrote above, one could reasonably argue that I should practice what I preach.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I was the John Snow of beginning writers. Criticism is painful, but not fatal.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
It hurts when people take us for granted. It hurts when we lose people we care about. It hurts when we discover that our lives and the lives of people we care about are messy and uncertain. People do have secrets, often for good reason. And, everyone we know is more complicated, richer, deeper, better but also sometimes meaner and nastier and greedier than we see on the surface. Know yourself; whether you choose to let others know that self is up to you.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
Sex scenes. I vastly prefer to invite the reader to imagine any necessary details.

What writing projects are you working on now?
A lighthearted and funny (I hope) Popeye versus Bluto story set on a WW2 troopship in the Pacific, in which the Popeye character disappears overboard and Bluto washes up on a desert island—next to a Japanese POW camp. Their names are Bart and Olafson and, despite the improbability of the story, the historical backdrops are accurate.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Don’t write for money. Write for the art of writing. There isn’t much money and what little there is will disappear fast. But, the satisfaction you will have from your artistry will be with you always.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




Call for Submissions: 2019 Prose & Poetry Contest

SouthWest Writers is proud to announce a Call for Submissions to the 2019 Short Prose & Poetry Contest.

This competition encourages first-time writers as well as seasoned professionals. You do not have to be a member of SouthWest Writers to enter.

First-, second-, and third-place winners will be awarded in sixteen categories: 7 fiction, 8 nonfiction, and 1 poetry. All entries must be original, unpublished, and in English.

Deadline: Contest entries may be submitted through midnight April 30, 2019 (Mountain Time).
Entry fees: $10 for each entry submitted through April 1, 2019. $15 fee applies for each entry submitted April 2-April 30, 2019.
Submission: Online submissions only. Acceptable files: doc, docx, or pdf.

CONTEST RULES

Prose: Limited to 3,500 words. For nonfiction categories, footnotes are not part of the word limit. The body of the submission should be in 12 pt. Times New Roman, Ariel, or Courier, with the title in 14 pt. Submission should be double-spaced and have one-inch margins.

Poetry: Limited to 250 lines. The submission should be in Times New Roman, Ariel, or Courier. Font sizes can range from 12-18 pt. Spacing is at the author’s discretion. Poem form/style (freeform, haiku, etc.) must be included in the manuscript above the title.

Other:
A total of three entries allowed per author. The three-entry limit can be in one category or a combination of categories. First-place manuscripts from previous SWW Contests are ineligible.

Go to the SouthWest Writers contest page for more details and to enter the contest.




An Interview with Author Benjamin Radford

Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and a Research Fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He has seen his nonfiction work published in over 20 books (as author, co-author, or contributor) and has written thousands of articles on topics such as urban legends, mysterious phenomena, critical thinking, and media literacy. His newest release is the award-winning Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits (2018). You’ll find Ben on his website at BenjaminRadford.com and on Facebook and Twitter. For a list of all his books stop by his Amazon author page.


What is your elevator pitch for Investigating Ghosts?
Investigating Ghosts is an in-depth look at scientific attempts to contact the dead, from historical, cultural, and folkloric perspectives. From Shakespeare to the Victorian era to modern-day ghost hunting, people have always tried to find ghosts, and this is a look at their methods and how to bring science to them. I’m open-minded but skeptical.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
This book is a culmination of about 20 years of research and investigation into the subject, and it’s probably one of the broadest topics I’ve written about. My previous books were often on narrower topics (such as New Mexico mysteries, the chupacabra vampire, and evil clowns) which allowed me to do a deep dive and analysis into them. But with ghosts, there’s an enormous amount of information I needed to tackle, from early ghost-based religions (such as Spiritualism) to ghost folklore, the psychology of a ghost experience, ghost hunting devices, ghost photos, the scientific process, and so on. In all these cases I wanted to bring something new to it, not just copy and paste information or third-hand sources but give readers factual, science-based information. That’s why there are eight pages of references; it’s not just a book of spooky, told-as-true ghost stories, but evidence-based analyses, including my own investigations. Even with all that, I couldn’t get everything into 320 pages.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Throughout the book I describe my firsthand investigations, including many here in New Mexico. I’m not just an armchair investigator! I love to get out in the field, go to haunted locations, interview witnesses, examine evidence, and try to figure out what’s going on. So I enjoyed describing some of the investigations, for example at the KiMo theater, the Albuquerque Press Club, courthouses in Santa Fe and Espanola, the tiny town of Cuchillo, and so on. I have also done haunted house investigations for television shows in Los Angeles, Jamaica, Canada, and other countries. It’s part memoir, which was fun, and I’m especially pleased it won the New Mexico/Arizona Book Award.

Tell us how the book came together.
Investigating Ghosts is actually a follow-up to a previous book titled Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries which came out in 2010. In that book I cover pretty much what the title states: How to investigate—and more importantly, solve—seemingly unexplained mysteries. I cover a wide variety of phenomenon, including crop circles, lake monsters, psychic detectives, and ghosts. But I realized that ghosts are so popular, and such an often-investigated phenomenon, that they really deserved their own book. There really are many different aspects to ghost investigation (photos, experiences, so-called EVP or ghostly voices, etc.) that I couldn’t do it justice in just a chapter or a few articles. Plus I kept meeting well-intended amateur ghost hunters who were going about it in completely the wrong way—often influenced, unfortunately, by “reality” TV shows—and honestly I felt badly for them. This book is partly an attempt to help sincere ghost investigators, whether skeptic or believer, to improve their methods so that if ghosts do exist, it can be proven. Or, by the same token, if ghosts aren’t real, we can help prove that, too.

Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share from Investigating Ghosts?
“If you prefer that mysteries remain unsolved and would rather not look too closely at a phenomenon lest its secrets be revealed through logical deduction and perseverance, this book is not for you…. Everyone—skeptic and believer alike—benefits from clarifying the situation, improving the quality of evidence, and distinguishing fact from fiction.”

Any “Oh, wow!” moments when doing research for the book?
I think what surprised me most was the variety of phenomena that can be, and have been, mistaken for ghosts. When most people think of ghosts they imagine dramatic depictions on television and in films, but in fact most ghostly phenomena are very mundane and subtle. It’s more like missing keys, feeling watched, or odd sounds and odors. For many people, ghosts are comforting, not scary.

Of the eleven nonfiction books you’ve written, which one was the most satisfying to write?
I’d have to say my 2011 book Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore (University of New Mexico Press, 2011) is probably among my favorites. It was challenging because it took me five years to investigate and another year to write. But it’s by far the highest-profile mystery I’ve ever solved. It’s satisfying to be able to do good research and bring it all together into a sort of real-life vampire mystery. Plus the book has sections of memoir, such as my experiences in the jungles of Puerto Rico and Nicaragua looking for the creatures.

Tell us about your writing process.
I need silence to work and write. I’m always jealous of, and astonished by, people who can somehow write amid chaos. I begin by determining the scope of the book, so that I have a clear picture of what’s relevant and what’s not. I usually outline the books, at least informally, and make changes as I go along. I usually do about four drafts: the first is just to get the words on the screen, the second is to organize them, and the third is more editing. Then I print out a hardcopy of each chapter and edit with a red pen, like an old-school copyeditor. It gives me a tactile sense of working the words. Then I make those changes on the computer files, and set it aside for a week or two. Then I come back and do another few rounds of edits, and with any luck I’m 90% of the way there. The last 10% is always the hardest, for some reason.

How do you choose which writing project to tackle next?
I’ve been fortunate that as a writer I’ve mostly been able to choose projects that interest me and that I’m passionate about. I have to, since I often spend years on them and I’ve only got so many years, so many books in me. I’ve done plenty of freelance writing, but I don’t think I could do a whole book unless it was something I cared about. Although if it was a huge check, I could probably make myself care enough to do a good job and get through it… That’s what a writer does; you can’t wait for the muse to sing. As Tom Waits says, you “got to get behind the mule in the morning and plow.” So I do that, but I choose which field to plow.

You released a dark satire, The Merchant of Dust, in 2015. How did your experience writing fiction compare to writing nonfiction?
I enjoy both fiction and nonfiction, but of course they’re different beasts. I hope to return to fiction someday, but for now I’ve made my niche in nonfiction. I wrote a first novel set in Ecuador titled Jungle Green, which—quite justifiably—will never see the light of day. Well, I shouldn’t say that… I think it’s a decent first novel but it’s one of those you have to write before you can write, as they say. Organizing a nonfiction book is much easier than organizing a fiction book, at least for me. There are so many narrative threads to quality fiction, so many things that need to be right, and you have a little more leeway with nonfiction. I’m better at editing and improving other people’s work. Part of that is being an editor for twenty years, and part of that is having the necessary emotional distance to objectively tell what’s good and bad.

What is the best advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
There’s plenty of writing advice out there, so much to choose from, but one of my favorites is, “Writing is rewriting.” They’re not separate things. Nobody’s prose is good in first draft, I don’t care who you are. You may be typing, you may be scribbling, you may be blurting out words, but you’re not really writing until you’re rewriting, editing, and shaping what you’ve done.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on a long-gestating book about the role of fear in American culture. It’s partly about the politics of fear, but also how science and critical thinking can help improve the world. I’ve been working on it for well over a decade in one form or another, and I’m feeling added pressure to finish it and get it out there because of the current social and political climate. There is light to be found in the dark forest of negativity, but you have to know where and how to look. The book won’t solve the world’s problems, of course, but it might help bring a positive message of unity and optimism if I can help fight phantom fears.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




Author Update: D. E. Williams

D. E. Williams began her writing journey at an early age but didn’t consider being an author until later in life. While working full-time as a software trainer, she honed her writing craft on her off-hours and went on to publish an award-winning science fiction novel, Child of Chaos, in 2015. Chaos Unleashed (2018) is the second book in the Chesan Legacy series. Visit Dollie on her website at DollieWilliams.com and on Facebook, and read about book one and the journey to publication in her 2017 SWW interview.


What is your elevator pitch for Chaos Unleashed?
“A young assassin risks everything to save her friends and find the truth about her past—and her future. The cost could be her life, but will it be enough?”

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Connecting this continuation of a complex story without dropping important lines was the most difficult challenge. Because the story is told from two perspectives, the other big challenge was to keep the story moving without crippling the suspense in one point of view or the other. There was a ton of rewriting and moving scenes around.

Your main character in the Chesan Legacy series is Tridia Odana, a 17-year-old assassin. What are her flaws and strengths, and why will readers connect with her? Brenden Aren, a former Master Assassin sworn to kill Tridia, is the main antagonist in the story. What is the most difficult aspect of writing from his point of view?
Tridia is fiercely loyal to her friends and selfless in her determination to help them. Even though some allies could become enemies, she’ll do whatever it takes to free them. Her loyalty and sense of duty are also flaws, causing her to take risks on her own that may not be necessary. I think her most endearing quality is her deep desire for an innocence that she lost long ago, but the one that makes her unforgettable is her utter refusal to give up—even when there appears to be no way to go on. Brenden Aren becomes more complex and mysterious every time I write about him. People keep telling me they don’t know what to think about him. Is he one of the good guys or one of the bad guys? Keeping that suspense going is a real challenge. Tables get turned in this book and Brenden becomes more dangerous than ever.

What was your favorite part of putting together Chaos Unleashed?
Seeing my characters come to life once more for other people has been my favorite part. Working with my first and second readers was an amazing experience this time, and I’m looking forward to working with them again with book three.

In your previous interview, you said it took seven years to write what you thought was one book. After realizing it was really two books, it took another four years to separate them and refine the first novel into Child of Chaos. How long did it take to refine the second book? When did you know book two was finished and ready to publish?
It took an additional two and a half years to refine Chaos Unleashed. My first readers—three amazing friends: Clare Davis, Shari Holmes, and Kevin Cooley—had to help me decide when it was finished. Letting go of a project like this can be really hard. And when I was ready to quit too soon, Kirt Hickman had to remind me that a good book is worth the revision time. So, I had lots of help!

Now that you’ve written two books in the Chesan Legacy, what are the challenges of writing a series?
Those who’ve read my books know they’re very complex, and I’ve got a lot of small things running in the undercurrent now that will become significant later. Not dropping those threads is the biggest challenge. Keeping the story moving at its established pace is also huge. (My books don’t slow down.)

You consider yourself a pantser. After taking more than 12 years to bring two books to market, do you see the benefits of being a plotter or will you remain a diehard pantser?
Book three is already swarming in my head. There’s no way for me to tame it with an outline at this point.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
My best compliment has come from several readers at Comic Cons who’ve come to the table to tell me they’ve been waiting for book two. The first time it happened, I was stunned. The next several times were only slightly less of a shock. I’m just humbled by the enthusiasm when they see the second book. I’m looking forward to giving them a third and fourth!

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I would have encouraged my first and second readers to be more forthright a lot sooner. I wouldn’t have waited so long before deciding to self-publish. And I would have let go of the first book about three years earlier.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m currently working on Chosen Son, The Chesan Legacy Series Book Three, and a couple of short stories about the other Chesan survivors.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




2018 Releases for Authors Robert D. Kidera, Sarah Storme, and D. E. Williams

Robert Kidera, Sarah Storme (aka Sarah Baker), and D. E. Williams are three of the most active members of SouthWest Writers (SWW) who continue to provide stories their fans adore. Each of these authors represents a different genre, but all have new releases (or re-releases) for 2018 and all have one or more interviews posted on the SWW website.


Robert Kidera is the author of the award-winning Gabe McKenna Mystery series with four books released through Suspense Publishing since 2015. His newest novel is Midnight Blues. You’ll find Bob on his website RobertKideraBooks.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Read more about him and his series in his 2015 and 2017 interviews.

Midnight Blues
What kind of person would harm a child? Neophyte P.I. Gabe McKenna and his buddy The Onion find out the hard way, when their plan to ransom a kidnapped boy goes terribly wrong. Finding themselves in a battle against international human traffickers, they rely on the help of unlikely friends in a race against time to rescue dozens of enslaved young victims. In a final, deadly showdown at a New Mexico ghost town, Gabe faces his ultimate challenge. How high a price is he willing to pay? Can he risk death and his own conscience to save the innocent without turning into his enemy?

Available on Amazon.


Sarah Baker writes mystery as S.H. Baker, romance as Sarah Storme, and erotica as Lydia Parks, and currently has 20 novels, numerous novellas and short stories, and three audiobooks available. Her publishers include Kensington, Harlequin, Five Star, Siren Audio and others. In 2018 she released four books from her backlist. You’ll find Sarah on Facebook and Twitter. Discover more about her writing in her 2015 interview.

The Long Way Home was originally published by Five Star and reviewed by Library Journal. Hardbacks are in libraries worldwide, but this is the first time in e-book.

Sam Calvert is the only veterinarian within a hundred miles of Rocky Butte, Colorado. He doesn’t have time to get involved with anyone, but when a stranger appears at the local bar, he can’t let her walk out into the night alone. Allie Tate has hit rock bottom. The only thing she really wants is a home, but life won’t cooperate. When she discovered her husband cheating, she ran. Her car, however, died in the mountains, so she’s on foot without money or a friend…

Available on Amazon.

Strength of a Promise was also published by Five Star. This is its first time in paperback or e-book.

Diana Duncan left New York to find a safe place to raise her daughter. She hopes Hillton, Texas will be that haven, but the house she inherited needs more work than she realized. Thad Crowley has returned to Hillton to care for his aging mother. Repairing a roof for Diana Duncan is the first decent job he’s had in a year. Diana thinks Thad is good-looking and hard-working, but the town hates him and no one will tell her why. Can she trust him around her daughter? Thad can’t tell Diana about his past. A twenty-year-old promise is still a promise. And if he breaks his promise, he won’t be worthy of Diana’s love.

Available on Amazon.

Just Kiss Me and Bayou Rhapsody are books one and two in the Hearts of Marshall’s Bayou historical romance series, originally published by Echelon Press. Book four, Angel in My Arms, is only available in audio, and book three, Moonlight on the Marsh, has not yet been released.

Just Kiss Me: In 1918 Marshall’s Bayou, Louisiana is being ravaged by a drought, but no matter how bad things get, Alberta Strickler will never leave her home and family. And she’ll never let a man rule her life the way her domineering father has. Isaac Broussard, an easy-going Frenchman, is eager to find a place to settle down. He isn’t impressed with Marshall’s Bayou until he meets the woman who steals his heart. Problem is, she’s determined to send him away. As Isaac works to win over Alberta, it isn’t just her stubbornness that gets in the way. Her father is certain Isaac is no good. Can Isaac win Alberta’s heart? And even if he can, will they be able to overcome the social prejudices of those around them in order to be together?

 

Bayou Rhapsody: Daniel Griffin is the new minister in Marshall’s Bayou, Louisiana. This post is not a prestigious one, but it offers the opportunity to examine his faith and maybe prove himself worthy of returning to Atlanta. Unfortunately, his faith seems to be on the verge of abandoning him altogether. Mae Strickler doesn’t intend to stay in Marshall’s Bayou for long. It’s 1920 and there’s a whole world waiting for her. The appearance of the handsome stranger on the boat home promises to make her visit more fun until she discovers he’s the new Methodist minister. Mae finds Daniel more than a little attractive. And Daniel is drawn to her strength, independence, and wild beauty. Mae soon realizes her reputation could ruin his career if they give in to the attraction…

Just Kiss Me and Bayou Rhapsody are available on Amazon. See Sarah Storme’s Amazon author page for more of her books.

A note from Sarah: The Cold Hand, the last of the Dassas Cormier Mystery Series (by S. H. Baker) will be released in 2019 or 2020. I have also outlined a new series, The Tru Mystery Series, set in the near future in Albuquerque. The first book, Dying of Thirst, may be published in 2019. My current passion is for writing short stories; I’ve submitted several to magazines and contests, and I’m working on my critique group’s self-published anthology.


D. E. Williams began writing at the age of 10 but didn’t pursue it as a career until later in life. Between working full-time as a software trainer and honing her writing craft on her off-hours, she managed to publish an award-winning speculative fiction novel, Child of Chaos, in 2015. Chaos Unleashed (2018) is the second book in The Chesan Legacy series. You’ll find Dollie on her website at DollieWilliams.com and on Facebook. Read more about her writing in her 2017 SWW interview.

Chaos Unleashed:
Tridia Odana faces a death sentence if her hidden memories reveal she committed the crimes she’s denied. Her forgotten past is not the only danger. The Chaos Vision foretold that she could destroy the galaxy through a brutal holocaust. Brenden Aren stands ready to execute her to save the galaxy from a nightmarish future. Only reaching an exiled prince to recreate the vision could prove Tridia’s innocence, but she’s forbidden to approach him. And a Hierarchy officer always obeys orders — doesn’t she? As Tridia and Brenden rush toward their inevitable confrontation, an ancient enemy prowls at the edge of the galaxy, preparing to launch an invasion to enslave Tridia’s people and conquer the known worlds. Encountering these foes plunges Tridia and her allies to the brink of a war that will bring the Chaos Vision to life. Her sacrifice could save them all—or guarantee a horrific outcome. Does she dare take the chance?

Available on Amazon.

Coming Up: An author update interview in January focusing on Chaos Unleashed.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




2018 Releases for Authors Steve Brewer, Joyce Hertzoff, and Larry Kilham

Steve Brewer, Joyce Hertzoff, and Larry Kilham are just a few examples of the prolific members of SouthWest Writers (SWW) who pound away at their keyboards to produce new work for their fans. Each of these authors represents a different genre, but all have new releases for 2018 and all have interviews posted on the SWW website.


Former journalist Steve Brewer teaches in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico and writes books about crooks. He’s published 31 books spread between several series including The Bubba Mabry Mysteries and Jackie Nolan thrillers, as well as a dozen-plus standalones. His newest crime novel is Cold Cuts (April 2018). You’ll find Steve at SteveBrewerBlogspot.com, on his Amazon author page, and at Organic Books, his family run used bookstore located in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill area. For more about Steve and his books, read his 2017 interview.

Cold Cuts
Some people in the Southwest love the Rojo brand of Mexican bologna, but it’s illegal to bring it into the United States. Smugglers sneak rolls of the bologna across the border, trying to get rich off the food fad.

Enter Lucky Flanagan, such an unlikely smuggler that he’s perfect for the job. But others in the smuggling ring are up to no good, and Lucky is unlucky enough to get caught in the middle of a deadly scheme.

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Coming up: Though Organic Books is taking all his time and energy at the moment, he has short stories coming out in three different anthologies in 2019.


Joyce Hertzoff retired from a profession grounded in fact and science and now writes short and long fiction in a variety of genres including science fiction and fantasy. Her two new releases for 2018 are the YA novel Beyond The Sea (March 2018) and the middle-grade book So, You Want to be a Dragon (April 2018). You’ll find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as FantasyByJoyceHertzoff.com and HertzoffJo.blogspot.com. Discover more about Joyce and her writing in her SWW interviews for 2015 and 2017.

Beyond The Sea (The Crystal Odyssey Series, Book 3)
The artificial satellite retrieved from the bottom of Lake Dulno points to Fartek as the source of Madoc’s mysterious books. Nissa, her siblings Madoc and Carys, and a group from the Stronghold set out for the journey across the Great Sea to that unknown continent. After stops at Holm Manor and Fairhaven, they sail east on the royal ship and a freighter.

Besides the books, the expedition hopes to determine what technology still exists anywhere in Fartek. What people and machines will they find? How much have they preserved? And why haven’t they contacted the people of Leara or Solwintor?

Most important, will they be willing to share all that they know with the visitors or anyone else?

Available on Amazon.

So, You Want to be a Dragon
When the harbor of Lorando is torched by three dragons, Bekka, her little sister Cora and their neighbor Derry devise a plan to keep the dragons away. They will parlay with the dragons, plead with them. But to get close enough to do that, they must transform themselves into dragons. They ask a shapeshifter for help, and he reluctantly tells them the steps needed to take on the form of a dragon. Can the three children achieve their plan to convince the dragons to leave Lorando alone? If they do, how will they shift back into their human forms?

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Coming up: Joyce has four novels in the works, including the sequel to Beyond the Sea, which will be the fourth and final book in The Crystal Odyssey Series.


Larry Kilham is a retired engineer and entrepreneur who has authored four science fiction novels, two memoirs, and five other nonfiction books with topics ranging from creativity and invention to artificial intelligence and digital media. His most recent nonfiction work, The Perfectionist: Peter Kilham and the Birds (June 2018), sheds light on his father who was a designer, an inventor, and a visionary. You’ll find Larry on LarryKilham.netFacebook and Twitter, and his Amazon author page. For more about Larry and his work, read his 2017 SWW interview.

The Perfectionist: Peter Kilham and the Birds
His muse, Leonardo da Vinci, would have been proud. This is the story about Peter Kilham who constantly sought perfection to bring beauty and function to the public through his nature records and bird feeders. His son Larry reveals their many conversations about life and creativity. Peter’s ultimate revelation is that nature is the greatest creator and it is up to the dedicated artist and inventor to reveal nature’s beauty.

The story is told with humor and insight by Larry Kilham who is an accomplished inventor and business person. There are many insights and life lessons revealed for aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs. The book includes many illustrations.

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A Note from Larry: For about the last six months I have been writing poetry because I think it is a better medium for my current experiences and thoughts, and because many of my readers have requested it. You can read most of my current poems on my website’s poetry page. I also post on allpoetry.com.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




2018 Releases for Authors Joseph Badal, S.S. Bazinet, and Kit Crumpton

Joseph Badal, S.S. Bazinet, and Kit Crumpton are great examples of the diverse and prolific members of SouthWest Writers (SWW) who work hard to produce new books for their fans. Each of these authors represent different genres, but all have new releases for 2018 and all have interviews posted on the SWW website.


Joseph Badal, best-selling and award-winning thriller author, has published dozens of articles and short stories as well as 13 novels split between three series and three standalones. Obsessed is his newest release from Suspense Publishing (2018) promising his signature fast pacing and dynamic plot populated with engaging characters. Visit Joe’s website JosephBadalBooks.com and Amazon author page, and read his previous interviews for 2016 and 2018.

Obsessed (The Curtis Chronicles, Book 2)
Obsessed brings back Matt Curtis and Renee Drummond and their villainous nemesis, Lonnie Jackson. This second installment in Joseph Badal’s The Curtis Chronicles takes the reader from Rio de Janeiro to the mountains of New Mexico to the Mexico/United States border, following a crazed Jackson on his single-minded quest for revenge against the two people he blames for the deaths of his mother and brother and for the destruction of his criminal empire in Hawaii.

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Coming up: Joe’s next novel, Natural Causes (third in the Lassiter/Martinez Case Files), is due to release in the first quarter of 2019. He is currently working on Justice, the third book in The Curtis Chronicles.


S.S. Bazinet has authored 10 novels across four series with a supernatural bent, two of which were published through Renata Press in 2018. Book five in The Vampire Reclamation Project, Tainted Blood, came out in March, and A Warlock Under The Mistletoe was released in October. (And for anyone with emotional vampires in their life, check out her self-help book Vampires Suck but You Don’t Have To). Read her 2015 and 2017 interviews to find out more about Sandy and her books. You’ll find her at SSBazinet.com, on Facebook and Twitter, and on her Amazon author page.

A Warlock Under the Mistletoe
Pippa has a wonderful fiancé named Chester, and she loves him dearly. However, when she decides to write a romance book and fantasizes about kissing a dashing warlock under the mistletoe, she realizes something is missing in their relationship.

In a teary confession, she blurts out her concerns to Chester. Her fiancé, a studious psychologist, understands what she wants. Not only that, but he promises to do everything he can to be the man that Pippa is dreaming about. Still, the question remains: Will Chester have what it takes to release his “inner warlock”?

Available on Amazon.

Tainted Blood (The Vampire Reclamation Project, Book 5)
Ex-vampire Arel is determined to find the perfect woman. He believes his search is over when he meets the gorgeous Claire. She’s not only beautiful, but she’s smart, dedicated and determined to make the world a better place. However, Arel soon learns that perfection comes with a staggering price tag.

Available on Amazon.


Kit Crumpton is a history lover, public speaker, and former engineer who writes historical fiction inspired by her family’s past, whether based on her father’s WWII experience (Raiding the Empire of the Sun: Tinian 1945) or the tragic life of her mentally challenged uncle in The Fading of Lloyd. Her third and most recent release is The Fading of Kimberly (2018) which “continues the story of the mentally and physically disadvantaged who were institutionalized during the early twentieth century.” To find out more about Kit and her writing, visit her website at KitCrumpton.com and read her 2016 and 2017 interviews. All of her books are listed on her Amazon author page.

The Fading of Kimberly
Kimberly, a beautiful narcissist, commits a murder of passion and ends up in an insane asylum. Her father agrees with the doctor’s recommendation for her cure. Riley Nacht is a criminal psychopath whose heinous crimes lands him in the same institution. When Kimberly was a child, she had watched one of Riley’s murders. Eddie Fisk, a hospital assistant working in the asylum, knows both patients and is drawn into their circumstances to his own demise. This historical novel is set in the early twentieth century at Elgin State Mental Hospital. The director and hospital doctors struggle in providing care for those they believe can be cured amongst those who are forever dependent upon the hospital’s care.

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




Author Update: Jeanne Shannon

Jeanne Shannon’s poetry, memoir pieces, and short fiction have appeared in numerous small-press and university publications as well as in full-length collections. She has called herself editor, technical writer, and publisher, and now adds novelist to her resume with the release of The Sourwood Tree (Mercury Heartlink, 2018). You’ll find Jeanne on her Amazon author page.


What is the story at the heart of The Sourwood Tree?
One woman’s life—its hard times and hard-won emancipation.

Tell us how the book came together.
The book is based on the life of a cousin, “Anna May,” who lived next door when I was growing up, though much of it is invented. One of the scenes that is not invented is the one in which she went out into the woods and lay down under a tree when she was about to give birth to her out-of-wedlock child. When my mother told me about that more than forty years ago, I knew I had to write about it. I had to tell Anna May’s story.

Anna May was in her teens when I was younger than ten, and I was fascinated by her clothes, her pompadour-style hairdo (think Betty Grable in one of her famous pin-up shots), her high-heeled shoes, her bright red nail polish. She lived on and on in my memory as the years went by—another reason I wanted to write about her.

I made a few not very successful attempts to write the story about five or six years ago, and it started coming together about three years ago. I worked on the beginning sporadically for a while, then the narrative just took off and steered its own course, almost without any help from me.

Who is your main character? Why will readers connect with her?
The main character is Anna May Osborne, who tells her life story from birth to death. Because she was the victim of sexual exploitation by her stepfather (and by another man who impregnated her and deserted her), women will connect with her, particularly those who have been the victims of male entitlement and sexual misconduct. But several men have bought the book and seem to empathize with the challenges of Anna May’s life.

What is the main setting, and how does it impact the story and the characters? Do you consider the setting a character in the book?
The setting is far southwestern Virginia, four miles from the Kentucky state line where Anna May and I grew up. Many of the scenes are set on or near the farm where I lived as a child and where Anna May had lived a few years earlier before her family moved a short distance away. Yes, the setting is definitely a character in the book. Even the sourwood tree of the title is a character in its own right. It’s an invented character, for though sourwood trees grow in southwestern Virginia, I don’t know that such a tree ever played a role in the real events of Anna May’s life.

I took care to include information about the social history of that place and time (1920s to 1990s)—that is, what it was like to live in that isolated area without the amenities of electricity, plumbing and telephones, and where mail delivery was on horseback. And where the catalog of Sears, Roebuck & Company was the Amazon.com of its day (I write this on a day when Sears is closing its last store in Albuquerque). And what it was like for Anna May to be a child in the country, playing in the fields and woods and happily exercising her imagination, unencumbered by technology.

I also wanted to show the importance of guns in that culture. Every householder owned a gun, if only for hunting rabbits and squirrels to put food on the table, or to eliminate foxes that were killing their poultry. But guns were also an accepted way of settling arguments, and those confrontations sometimes resulted in the death of one of the parties. In the book, one of Anna May’s brothers died in such a confrontation, and that was true, not my invention. Another aspect of the social history of that region is the importance of religion and spirituality, and Anna May’s religious beliefs (and doubts) are an important aspect of her journey.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book, and what was the most enjoyable?
It was a challenge to get the “voice” right. That is, to have Anna May speak in an authentic southwestern Virginia voice, making sure she did not use any words that would not have been in her vocabulary. Along with that was trying to make sure her voice, her dialect, would not become a distraction to the reader. That was a very fine line to walk. Also, it was a challenge to get the timeline exact. I chose to use some dates that were the actual dates of events I knew to be true, and I had to work forward (and backward) from those, and had to be careful to make sure the timeline made sense.

The most enjoyable aspect was going back in memory and revisiting the world where Anna May and I grew up, and presenting it to the reader. When I had Anna May go to a molasses stir-off and watch the horse pulling the cane-mill spools around and around, I was doing that once more myself. When I had her put her dolls in a dishpan and sail them on the pond (as I used to do), I was doing that myself. And with her I was once again watching “Esau Colley” riding by on horseback, carrying the mail.

Did you discover anything surprising while doing research for The Sourwood Tree?
I didn’t do much research for the book, since it is about a time and place I remember well, but I did want to make sure I understood about automobile production in Detroit during and after World War II. I found that it essentially stopped during the war, so the production lines could be used for building munitions and tanks and Jeeps for the war effort, and started up again soon after the war ended in 1945. That was not surprising; it was just something I wanted to confirm before I had a character say, “Now that the war’s over, they’re building a lot of cars.”

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go and it was ready for publication?
After a certain point fairly early in the story, it just took over and “wrote itself.” I had no idea how the plot was going to unfold after I included the few things about Anna May’s life that I knew or believed to be true. Now that I look back on it, I ask myself, “How did I come up with that turn of events?” I can’t remember analyzing the story to see whether it was finished or not. I just knew when Anna May had said all she needed to say. Some readers have complained that they wanted the story to be longer, but Anna May was in control. If I had tried to force her to say more, the result would have been unsatisfactory.

In your writing career you’ve focused on poetry, short fiction, and memoir essays. What made you decide to give long fiction a try?
I had wanted to write a novel for years, but could never think up a plot that could be sustained throughout a long work of fiction. Anna May’s real story gave me the foundation of a plot and demanded to be told.

Reading Lee Smith’s novels and short stories over the years had shown me a path into “writing what I know” about life in southwestern Virginia. Lee grew up in the same area, and her characters are often women speaking in a first-person voice, like Anna May.

What are your hobbies or creative outlets?
Gardening, which these days consists mostly of growing flowers in pots. And studying the Tarot and doing readings for friends.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Pay attention to the Earth, the natural world, especially vegetative nature. Shut out the clamor of the world and listen to nature. It’s what sustains us. It’s what will endure, despite some greedy people’s efforts to destroy it.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received on your writing journey?
When I was in Freshman English in college in the 1950s, the professor told me, in so many words, that I was a “born writer.” It made me determined to live up to that. In later years, rejection of my work by magazine editors served as encouragement—rejections made me more determined than ever to be published. Rejections of some of my poetry submissions were a stimulus for me to found my own poetry magazine, Blackberry, in the 1970s, which in turn led eventually to my starting The Wildflower Press.

What writing project are you working on now?
A long memoir of my early life disguised as a novel. Right now I don’t see it as something I will ever want to publish; it’s a way of revisiting details of my life that I want to reexamine and that may be of some interest to family and friends.

Read more about Jeanne, her views about poetry and quantum physics, and Summoning (her 2015 collection of poetry and hybrid works) in part one and part two of her previous interview for SouthWest Writers.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




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