Blog Archives

An Interview with Author William J. Fisher

After William J. Fisher retired from the United States Air Force, he worked for twelve years for two Indian tribes in New Mexico as an economic and land development planner. In his debut release, Cruel Road (October 2020), he uses his knowledge of native culture and history—and his insight into military and historical political issues—to paint a picture of the struggles, privations, dangers, and drama of the mid-eighteenth-century historical period. You’ll find Bill on his Amazon author page.


What is your elevator pitch for Cruel Road?
John Fraser, Scots-Irish gunsmith and militiaman, faces a difficult dilemma when a local tribal chief abducts his new and pregnant wife. He searches for a year to find her and return her to safety. After he does not find her, he remarries, but shortly after, she returns on her own. Cruel Road is the story of real-life John and Jane Fraser, among the first settlers of western Pennsylvania. Indian conflicts, French and English fighting over territory, and survival in the Pennsylvania wilderness are major challenges for the couple. John and Jane Fraser are my direct ancestors.

When readers turn the last page in the book, what do you hope they take away from it?
I hope the reader has a better sense of this colonial period that is little known to the general public. Also, the lesson in the story is that the love between two people can be a powerful motivator.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The story is about my sixth great-grandparents. I wanted to tell the story with the limited historical facts available and fill in with my own ideas about what really happened. I wanted to honor the main characters as my ancestors.

Who are your main characters, and what will readers like most about them?
John and Jane Fraser are the main characters. They are tough and flawed. They survived situations and dangers that most people could not.

What is the main setting, and how does it impact the story and the characters?
The setting is mid-eighteenth-century Pennsylvania. The place is a wilderness populated by native peoples who are mostly unfriendly, French and British armies fighting over territory, and new colonists who are trying to survive in a strange unknown land. The characters must deal with all of this.

Tell us more about the book.
The book took 16 years to finish after I completed most of the research. I started it and then put it aside when I went to work for Cochiti Pueblo in 2006. I had a long commute and 12-hour days until 2016, when I retired. I started in again in 2017 and hired an editor. I finished it in October 2020. I designed the cover myself and self-published to KDP.

What makes this novel unique in the historical fiction market?
I believe most historical fiction novels are mostly fiction in a historical setting. My novel is mostly history, but I wrote it in a novel format with dialog and some new characters and scenes that I created to tell the story. I did this to be true to my ancestors’ story and not put in contrived story lines to exploit the events and setting to sell a book. The book may not fit the usual historical fiction guidelines but is factual and true to the historical time.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
I am proud that I could tell the story of my great-grandparents and provide it to my extended family, as well as to readers who enjoy American history. The book is also a good action/adventure piece that readers in that segment would enjoy.

What inspired you to become a writer?
I wanted to tell the story of my great-grandparents that is little known today but had a great impact in their time. The book started out as a gift to my family but was entertaining to others as well. Finishing this book has inspired me to write more historical fiction and other genres.

Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you started your writing career today?
I could not change much that has happened. I finished the book at the right time. I sometimes wish I had started earlier and finished it before my parents passed, but now was right for me.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?
I worked as a researcher and analyst in the Air Force, and I had college courses that taught those areas, so I am comfortable with research. Creating the story is the most fun. Editing is especially important but not my favorite activity.

What sort of decisions did you make about including or portraying historical figures or events in order for Cruel Road to work?
My main character, John Fraser, was a captain under George Washington during the French and Indian War. There is a lot written about Washington that includes details about John Fraser. I had to get the part Washington plays in the story correct or readers would complain. I spent a lot of time on this.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
I had a hard time with romance scenes, so I limited them. I also had to write war, killing, and death scenes. I did these subtly without being gory or overly dramatic.

How have your previous careers impacted your writing?
I wrote technical documents and reports for 40 years. Since then, I learned that kind of writing differs from novel writing and that I was not a brilliant writer. I have belonged to SouthWest Writers for almost twenty years. With their courses, lectures, workshops, and encouragement, I am becoming a better writer.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
The best advice is that writing is hard, and it takes a long time to get it right. Keep writing and it will come to you.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am writing a historical/crime novel based on a true story that I came across by luck. I took possession of the legal documents and personal papers of a man who died over thirty years ago. He was a nice, ordinary man, but he had a hidden past that I have uncovered. It is shocking, unexpected, violent, and heart-breaking. I am having fun uncovering this man’s past and writing his story.


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




Author Update 2021: Melody Groves

Author Melody Groves is a retired teacher and former gunfighter who uses her love for the Old West to inspire her nonfiction books and articles, as well as two historical fiction series (the Colton Brothers Saga and the Maud Overstreet Saga). TwoDot Books published her newest nonfiction release, When Outlaws Wore Badges, in April 2021. Melody is a member of SouthWest Writers, Western Writers of America, and New Mexico Press Women. You’ll find her on MelodyGroves.net, Facebook, and her Amazon author page. Read more about Melody and her writing in SWW’s 2016 and 2018 interviews.


What is your elevator pitch for When Outlaws Wore Badges?
Fourteen men of the Old West walked both sides of the “blue line”: some at the same time.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Finding characters to write about was easy, but writing enough for their ploys to make sense was tough. I had a limited word count so keeping in pertinent information, but not too much, was a challenge.

Of the fourteen outlaws you write about in the book, who is your favorite?
That has to be Burt Alvord in Arizona who, as a deputy sheriff and his gang, robbed a train then formed a posse from that gang. He deputized them all and rode out looking for the robbers. Totally dejected, they appeared in town the next day when they couldn’t find the outlaws. Now, that takes a lot of hutzpah!

Tell us how the book came together.
I’m not sure where the idea came from—I’ve always liked to write about unusual aspects of the West. A couple of my historian friends made suggestions about who I should include. The research, writing, editing on my part took about eight months. The hardest part was finding photos that would work. I bought a few and took a few others off the internet, which isn’t the world’s best resolution. It took a bit for me to understand that while all old photos are in the public domain, not all can be printed for free. Also, getting permission to use some took forever—people were really slow to respond.

Any “Oh, wow!” moments when doing research for this book?
My closest “Oh, wow!” moment was when I started putting together the connections most of these men had to each other. Especially those in the Dodge City Gang that worked out of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Favorite part? That’s easy. When it was done.

Your writing takes many forms—articles, nonfiction books, and novels. Is there one form you’re drawn to the most when you write or read?
I do enjoy writing all three forms. I’m drawn to reading more nonfiction magazine articles because, truthfully, I’m not constantly editing them, as I do fiction novels when I read them. I don’t worry much about that in nonfiction!

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?
Editing or creating? Both have their places. At times I’m happy to already have the words written, I just need to “fix” them. Other times, I love the freedom of putting brand new words on brand new pages. And I love research. I much prefer going there, seeing it, but that’s not always do-able. I try hard not to go overboard on research—you can spend all day researching and not get any writing done.

How has your experience writing nonfiction benefited your fiction writing?
I’ve learned that using the details in nonfiction is equally important in fiction. I judge a ton of Westerns each year and am amazed at one or two that insist the Rio Grande is in a different place than it really is or a pass looks a certain way when it doesn’t. I’ve also read stories in which the facts are just plain wrong. And even in fiction, the facts are the facts.

If you’ve ever suffered from writer’s block, how did you break through?
I don’t get writer’s block, I get writer’s apathy. However, I do dread that blank sheet of paper in front of me. What I do is simply start. If it’s a magazine article, I’ll look for a quote and that always leads me. A novel…I start with where the hero’s life changes. Nonfiction book…chapter one. And I also use deadlines as great motivators!

What writing projects are you working on now?
Glad you asked! A Billy the Kid book—all about him as a person (coming out June 2022). Also a magazine article on Albuquerque’s first town marshal (Wild West Magazine, Dec 2021) and an article on Billy the Kid’s mom (Wild West, August 2022).

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
To be a successful writer, however you define success, you absolutely must write every day. You’ve got to think like a writer—edit what you read in newspapers, books, etc. Look for story ideas. And support local writers (and bookstores) by buying their books and writing reviews on Amazon. So important!


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




Author Update 2021: Robert D. Kidera

Robert D. Kidera is a retired teacher turned award-winning author of the Gabe McKenna mystery series. A LONG TIME TO DIE (May 2021), released through Black Range Publishing, is the fifth and final book in that series. Bob is a member of SouthWest Writers, Sisters in Crime, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and International Thriller Writers. You’ll find him on his website RobertKideraBooks.com and on Facebook. Read more about Bob and the Gabe McKenna series in his 2015, 2017, and 2019 interviews.


What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in A LONG TIME TO DIE?
A LONG TIME TO DIE is the culminating novel in the Gabe McKenna Series. It relates the final reckoning for Gabe in his struggles against evil that began six years ago in RED GOLD. He faces daunting questions about himself and all that he has done. Ultimately, it’s the problem of how we can confront and combat evil without becoming evil ourselves.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Since this book concludes the series (at least for now) it presented the challenge of how to tell a taut, self-contained story while at the same time wrapping up the story arcs that have been going on for all five books in the series.

Who are your main characters, and what would their best friends and worst enemies think about them?
Gabe Mckenna is my protagonist, as he has been throughout the series. In each of my books, I have given him a different “side-kick” and a different challenge. Gabe’s best friends know him as a guy to be counted on, one who has a basic honor and decency to him, even if he does tend to go off recklessly from time to time. His enemies are frustrated in their desire to put an end to Gabe’s efforts to thwart them once and for all. A former boxer, Gabe is the kind of guy who can be knocked down, but not out.

When did you know the protagonist or his story was strong enough for a series?
I realized this when Suspense Publishing not only accepted RED GOLD for publication but asked me to make at least a three-book series out of Gabe McKenna.

How did A LONG TIME TO DIE come together?
This book came together more gradually than its predecessors. It took me about two years to get the concept together, tell the story, and go through the editing cycle, and this process was further stretched out because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a resulting backlog at my publisher. This was one of the reasons I came to the decision of forming my own publishing company and taking greater control of the process.

Tell us about the “journey” of choosing the title.
I had several different working titles before settling on A LONG TIME TO DIE. Gabe has struggled with accepting loss throughout this series. I wanted this book title to reflect what he has come to realize. That is, Gabe realizes that the toughest loss is the loss of love in his life, and that pain takes a long time to die.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
The best part was putting it out under my own imprint, and then reissuing all the previous Gabe McKenna novels through Black Range Publishing, my new company.

What do you want to be known for as an author?
Most of all, I’d like to be known for my latest book being my best.

What is the greatest tool in a writer’s arsenal?
Aside from the ability to tell a good story, the writer’s greatest tool is the willingness to put in their best effort every day.

What typically comes first for you: a character, a setting, a story idea?
The characters always come first. Always.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am currently working on a historical novel, HELL SHIP, about a young man from Northern New Mexico who endures captivity as a Japanese POW during World War II.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I now have my own publishing company, Black Range Publishing, and will be starting my own twice-monthly podcast, THE BLACK RANGE PUB, at the end of August. I hope my readers will also enjoy my podcasts, which celebrate the people, history and culture of the American Southwest.


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




An Interview with Author Elaine Soto

Author Elaine Soto is a retired psychologist and an artist originally from New York who now makes her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her debut release, My Journey to the Black Madonna: A Memoir (November 2020), is an exploration of her search for healing — a journey that “helped her to become whole and to integrate and transform her feelings of pain, grief, and anger into strength and compassion.” You’ll find Elaine on her website at ElaineSoto.com and on LinkedIn.


What is your elevator pitch for My Journey to the Black Madonna?
This memoir weaves pantoum poems, paintings of the Divine Feminine, and vignettes about my search for the Black Madonna in Puerto Rico, Spain, China, Italy and France with stories about growing up Puerto Rican in the United States. I became aware of the Black Madonna as a child and it became a metaphor for my search for my father and for a positive identity as a Puerto Rican woman. As I accomplished my goals to become a psychologist and an artist, my unconscious memories of separation and betrayal became more and more conscious. I had visions and dreams of the Black Madonna. According to Jungian Psychologists, one becomes aware of the Black Madonna when dealing with the dark experiences of one’s life. Meditation, poetry and art were some of the tools I used to help myself and others to heal.

When readers turn the last page in the book, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
I want the reader to be placed for a time in my life (the good and not so wonderful events in it) and to learn from my experience that one can heal from the past. And also to learn about the Black Madonna and early Christianity.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
My life story and my search for the Black Madonna evolved as I wrote. It took 30 years to write.

How did the book come together?
I started writing from an inner desire to tell my life story from my point of view. It started as como fue — how it was. The stories I heard about my father did not match my inner experiences, and I searched for the truth about him. I was also curious about the Black Madonna who I saw as a positive symbol of my Puerto Rican culture. When researching the Black Madonna, I took notes and kept them in a folder. I also painted the Black Madonnas I found while I was an artist in residence at the Puerto Rican workshop in New York. I took several workshops with Natalie Goldberg in New York and in Taos, and I kept daily journals for many years. Art and writing were healing for me and I shared these tools with clients and counseling students.

While you were writing your memoir, did you ever feel afraid you were revealing too much about yourself or your life? If so, how did you move past your fear?
I was painting and writing to express myself. I did not plan to publish this work. In my writer’s group, I shared my writings and they listened. It was healing for me. I was concerned about sharing trauma and abuse stories. In Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy I was able to clear some of the trauma so I didn’t need to share it anymore. When I finally integrated my searches for my father and the Black Madonna, I was able to share stories that were truthful and relevant to my journey.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Being able to look at my life experiences and what I learned and to share those that might be helpful to others on their life journey.

How did your art and your writing help you work through your life issues?
Writing my memoir helped me to bring together unconscious and conscious memories of my childhood and life. Art helped me to express myself and to share images of what I learned about the Black Madonna and early Christianity.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
The best advice I received as a writer was “just sit down and write anything on the page” and “let it rip.” The first was by my college English teacher and the second by Natalie Goldberg.


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




Author Update: BR Kingsolver

BR Kingsolver is a prolific author of 19 novels published in the speculative fiction genre since 2012. Readers find Kingsolver’s books to be “engrossing with great world building, believable characters who enlist your emotions, and masterful storylines.” BR’s latest release is Soul Harvest (June 2021), the third and final installment in The Rift Chronicles. Find all the author’s books on BRKingsolver.com and Amazon, connect on Facebook and Twitter, and read SWW’s 2020 interview.


What would you like readers to know about The Rift Chronicles?
It’s a science fiction fantasy cross, set about two hundred years in the future. The premise of the book was having technology that can be manipulated by magic.

Between the three books in the series, which was the most challenging to write?
The last one—Soul Harvest. The first book in a series is always the easiest. The premise, the characters, are all new and exciting. By the time I get to the last book, there are a lot of things that have to be dealt with. Plot lines, characters, things that have happened in previous books, and making sure I tie up all the loose ends.

What was the inspiration for the first book, Magitek?
The idea of magic manipulating technology. In most fantasy, you either have technology or magic. Very rarely do the two things interact.

Tell us a little about your main characters.
Danica James is a cop, a detective, who deals with the Magi—the magicians who rule the world—and the Rifters, the monsters who crossed a rift in space-time from other dimensions. She’s from one of the wealthy ruling families, but feels like an outsider because she’s a magitek. Her best friend is her roommate, Kirsten, a witch who owns a shop that sells magical potions, charms, and that sort of thing. Kirsten thinks Dani is too serious, works too much, and has too little love life.

What is the main setting, and why is this the perfect place for your story to unfold?
The primary setting is Baltimore, which is a place I know well after living there for a dozen years. The books take place after a series of nuclear wars and pandemics. Washington was bombed, but Baltimore and Wilmington, Delaware, survived as two of the only major port cities on the East Coast. Since the ruling magical families are all about business, trade, and wealth, seaports are central to control of trade and wealth.

How did the books come together?
I started Magitek in the spring of 2020 and published it the end of August. The second book, War Song, was published in December, and Soul Harvest was released in June 2021. So, three books in a year. That’s a little slow for me. I prefer to publish four to five times a year. The editing cycle usually takes about a month. I send a manuscript to my editor, she returns it with corrections and comments, and after I work through that, she takes another swing at it. I’ve worked with the same editor for twenty-three books, so we know each other pretty well.

What did you do to make your world, with its social structure and magic system, believable and logical?
The big thing with world building in science fiction and fantasy is consistency. Reality has rules, and so should a fantasy world. An author can’t violate the rules or just use handwavium to get around problems unless that handwavium fits within the rules. The social structure I used in these books is an oligarchy with a magical class system. As in most social systems, the powerful rule and reap the riches. Everyone else serves them.

You have five complete series so far. What key issues do you focus on to keep readers coming back for more?
Relatable characters and an interesting story. Good writing is third. There are lots of poorly written best sellers, but they tell a story that interests people.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
Sex scenes, so I stopped trying to write them.

Any advice for beginning or discouraged writers?
Some of the best advice I received when I started was BICHOK—Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard. There is no substitute for writing. You have to do it to get better at it.

What writing projects are you working on now?
My new project is an urban fantasy novel in a cozy mystery setting. I know there’s a market for that kind of book, but I have to pull it off. I’ve read lots of mysteries, and I think they’re difficult. Cozies are very hard because the tropes are so specific. I’m hoping to catch people who read both urban fantasy and also like cozy mysteries.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I didn’t start writing fiction until I was sixty years old. I always wanted to, but didn’t think I had any talent. Whether I do or don’t, people seem to like my stories. You’ll never know if you can do something until you try.


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




An Interview with Author Holly Harrison

Retired university research scientist Holly Harrison devotes her time to writing mystery novels set in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Her debut novel, Rites & Wrongs (Golden Word Books, January 2021), has been called “a thrilling mystery” that keeps “readers riveted with a great story, fascinating characters, and exceptional writing.” You’ll find Holly on her website at HollyHarrisonWriter.com and on her Amazon author page.


What is your elevator pitch for Rites & Wrongs?
Pascal Ruiz, a Santa Fe detective, becomes disenchanted with his job after solving a high-profile case that involved a stolen Stradivarius violin. That is, until the captain asks him, off the record, to look into the disappearance of his niece’s boyfriend, Bobby Pilot. Ruiz finds Pilot alive but unconscious in an abandoned pueblo, clothed in a Jesus costume and tied to a cross. It’s Holy Week and Ruiz suspects the Penitentes. He also believes the costume is the one recently stolen from the Santa Fe Opera Storage Building. In desperation to link the two cases, Ruiz crosses the line and puts his career in jeopardy.

Who are your main characters, and what do they have to overcome in this story?
The main characters are Pascal Ruiz, a Santa Fe police detective, and his friend Gillian Jasper. Ruiz needs to solve two crimes that are linked, by discovering who broke into the Opera Storage building and took the Jesus costume and who dressed Pilot in the costume and tied him to the cross. Jasper needs to decide whether to stay in New Mexico with Ruiz or return to her life in Washington, DC.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the book?
I wanted to write a mystery rooted in New Mexico’s history, land, and people. I placed most of the action south of Santa Fe between the town of Golden on Route 14 and San Felipe’s Black Mesa Casino off of I-25. I set the story during Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Easter, so I could write about the Penitente reenactments and the Good Friday procession to Chimayo.

What sparked the story idea?
The story idea came to me one day as I worked in my garden. I uncovered an old brick from the Tonque Tile and Brick Company. Part of it was broken off but the name Tonque was etched on the front. The brick factory had been built in the early 1900s and remained active for thirty years. In the 1980s I had picked up the brick near Tonque Pueblo, a fourteenth century pre-Columbian abandoned pueblo. I decided that Ruiz’s next case would take him to that area south of Santa Fe.

Tell us how the book came together.
I spent three years writing the book. Then another year editing, getting feedback, and rewriting. When I started looking for a publisher, the pandemic hit. The world of publishing came to a halt, book conferences were cancelled, bookstores closed, book releases were pushed back. Pitching the book to editors and agents unsolicited became a daunting process. I decided to go with a hybrid publisher. The publisher does the edits, layout and design, publishing and distribution. The author shares some of the costs but reaps more profit from sales.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for Rites & Wrongs?
Growing up on the East coast, before coming to New Mexico, I had never heard of the Penitentes or their practices. I was intrigued with the group’s devotion to God as well as their community. There is an abundance of lore surrounding the Brotherhood’s beliefs and practices. My research on the lay Catholic group revealed how and why they came about and dispelled many of the myths and negative stereotypes.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Writing. I love the writing process, creating characters and turning them loose in different situations, letting them get themselves in and out of trouble.

Why do you write in the particular genre you’ve chosen?
I find mystery the perfect genre to unfold crimes and misdemeanors in New Mexico’s multicultural landscape.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Ann Patchett, Louise Penny, Tana French, Lily King, Susan Orlean, Patti Smith. I guess I have been reading a lot of women.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
Sex scenes. I find them tedious to write and easy to leave out. When writing mysteries, sex often takes a backseat to murder and mayhem.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am trying to balance the promotion of Rites & Wrongs with work on New Territory, the third book in the series. Ghost Notes (about a stolen Stradivarius violin) is the first book in the series but it hasn’t been published. I have finished a draft of New Territory and am in the process of editing and rewriting. Next task will be to find a publisher.


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




Author Update: Lynne Sturtevant

Lynne Sturtevant is primarily a nonfiction author of how-to guides. But in her most recent release, Fairy Trouble (September 2020), she takes readers into the fantasy genre with a different look at fairies and their folklore. Find all of Lynne’s books on her website LynneSturtevant.com and Amazon author page, and connect with her on her blog HiddenNewMexico.com and on Facebook. Read more about her work in SWW’s 2020 interview.


What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Fairy Trouble?
Fairy Trouble is a different kind of contemporary fantasy. It’s a story about what happens when magic bubbles up in a normal place and disrupts the lives of ordinary people. No witches, wizards, vampires or misunderstood teenagers with magical powers. Just an overweight middle-aged woman and some feisty elderly residents in double-wide trailers trying to tamp down an outbreak of dangerous magical beings.

What sparked the idea for the book?
I was reading a lot of Celtic fairy folklore, not fairy tales, but 19th century rural folks’ descriptions of fairy encounters. My tag line for the book — “People used to know the truth about fairies and they were afraid of them.” — grew out of that research. I wondered what kind of situations would arise if a group of these self-absorbed, capricious, obnoxious creatures appeared in our world and refused to leave. Once I started imaging them roaming around the hills of West Virginia, I was off and running.

Who are your main characters, and what will readers like most about them?
My main characters are strong, smart older women. The narrator is Ginger. She’s blue collar, snarky, smokes and drinks too much and has financial problems. She is a home health aide traveling the countryside calling on elderly clients. And that brings us to Violet, a wealthy, erudite lady in her late 70s. Fairies have taken up residence on Violet’s property, but she doesn’t want anyone to know. Ginger discovers her secret when the fairies vandalize her car. There’s Henry, a retired banker who is romantically interested in Violet, as well as an assortment of other eccentric clients scattered through the hills. And, of course, there are the fairies themselves. They are not tiny, glamorous, sparkly creatures with gossamer wings that flit from flower to flower. They’re scrawny, about four-feet-tall, and they have personal hygiene issues. Plus, they really like artificial sweetener.

People love Ginger for her voice, her attitude, and the fact that she tries to apply a normal world problem-solving approach to an otherworldly dilemma: How to neutralize the increasingly violent and aggressive fairies before they create even more mayhem than they already have.

What is the main setting, and how does it impact the story?
The story is set in and around Parkersburg, West Virginia. I needed a place that was decidedly unmagical but within striking distance of an area that was remote, hidden, and possibly enchanted. Those are the sparsely populated hills and the village of Oberon, which is completely imaginary, about an hour south of Parkersburg. The setting reinforces the contrast between the regular world and the magical one, which is the theme underlying the entire story.

Tell us how the book came together.
I wrote the first version of this book about 20 years ago. I had a literary agent at the time who tried to sell it for two years. No takers. My favorite complaints from publishers were the fairies were too folklorish and Ginger was too old. I was disappointed, but I put it away. I never forgot about it, though.

The years went by, as they say, and I ended up in Albuquerque. I had several short nonfiction titles I wanted to self-publish. I took the SWW workshop on publishing last year and learned how to do just that, as we discussed in an earlier interview. I highly recommend that workshop, by the way.

When the nonfiction titles were finished, I took a deep breath and read my fairy novel for the first time in ages. I was surprised how much I still liked it. The good news was I saw flaws that I couldn’t see before. The even better news was I knew how to fix them. So, I did a rewrite, added two subplots and intensified and expanded several scenes. It only took a few weeks. Then I published it.

Is there a scene in Fairy Trouble that you’d love to see play out in a movie?
The fairies live in a mound. Even though the entrances are concealed, and no one is supposed to come inside, Ginger figures out a way to get in. The Fairyland she manages to get herself trapped in is not the magical realm described in classic fairy tales. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll mention a few elements: A dented Walmart shopping cart. Filthy shag carpeting. An amateurish sunset painted on black velvet. Lots of mud.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together? 
The bottom line is this story is fun. The characters are funny. The fairies are despicable. Crazy things happen. I loved writing it. I loved rewriting it. Taking the flawed original version, turning it into something better and helping it finally find the light of day was a very satisfying experience.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Several women told me they wanted to hear more from Ginger. They hoped she would have further adventures in the world of the paranormal, the supernatural, and the just plain weird. So, I’m writing a sequel! It will be book two in a series. I started it in November 2020 during NaNoWriMo. Ginger has a new territory. She’s been assigned to a small college town, which just happens to be the most haunted place in West Virginia. Rather than Celtic fairy lore, this time she’s steeped in the food, legends, folkways and magic of Appalachia. She’s also dealing with an increasingly frantic ghost. I plan to publish by the end of September. After that? I have one or two more ideas . . .

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I love helping other writers develop web content and copy, a totally different writing style for many of us. I also design beautiful websites. You can find out more at www.magicwordscreative.com or visit my author’s site at www.lynnesturtevant.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 posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




Author Update 2021: Larry Kilham

Retired engineer and entrepreneur Larry Kilham is a novelist, poet, and nonfiction author based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His latest nonfiction release, Destiny Strikes Twice: James L. Breese Aviator and Inventor (November 2020), is the biography of his grandfather who was the flight engineer on the first transatlantic flight in 1919. James Breese went on to develop 130 patents for home and military space heaters and built an oil burner business in Santa Fe with millions of dollars in sales. Lessons from Breese’s adventure-packed life will appeal to all readers, including aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs. You’ll find Larry on his website LarryKilham.net and blog, on Facebook and Twitter, and on his Amazon author page. Read more about Larry’s work in his 2017 and 2019 SWW interviews.


What would you like readers to know about Destiny Strikes Twice?
Although Jim Breese was a great achiever in aviation and technology, he was challenged to find a lasting relationship with a woman. This deeply troubled him and led to some degree of self-doubt. With his last wife (whom he did love very much) and the sale of his business, he ultimately restored his sense of self-worth.

Why did you feel compelled to share your grandfather’s story?
The primary reason I wrote my grandfather’s story is that he was an important 20th-century industrial entrepreneur in Santa Fe who seemed to be slipping away into obscurity. I also hoped he would be an inspiring role model for current emerging entrepreneurs.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
One unique challenge was talking to family members about taboo events. One was my grandmother’s apparent suicide. Another was gathering enough evidence to convince a family member that their version of an event was wrong. For example, my grandfather landed his plane in Santa Fe because he was down to his last spoonful of gas. Years later he drove me to the spot where it really happened—not where and how family legend said it happened. There’s no airport there now.

Did you have any “Oh, wow!” moments while doing research for the book?
My “Oh, wow!” moment was to discover that without hesitation my grandfather decided to give up a successful and glamorous naval aviation career to become that most uncertain of pursuits, an inventor. I never found a rationalization of why he decided on this abrupt career change.

Tell us how the book came together.
The basic research and organization of files took about three months. Some of that was talking by phone and by email to historical societies, museums, and individuals who had special knowledge. That process was more tedious than normal because most places were essentially closed due to Covid-19. The writing took another three months—there’s only 127 pages—and my wife was the editor. Luckily, all the family photos had been digitized so they were easy to retrieve, review, and edit.

How did you choose the title?
Of course, I wanted an attention-grabbing title for an adventure story. I thought of all those early comic books and broadcasts of heroic adventures and recalled that many had “destiny” in their title such as Destiny Rides Again. For my grandfather, with his first transatlantic crossing and loads of lucrative patents, destiny struck twice.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Destiny Strikes Twice?
Reviewing all the boxes of family files, letters, news clippings and books forced me to put all the people and incidents together. Sweeping family history came alive, and I will certainly understand those reclusive relatives and other characters better.

You’ve authored 13 books among the genres of science fiction, memoir, and other nonfiction. Which of your books was the most challenging to write, and which one was the most enjoyable?
My science-based novel Free Will Odyssey was the most challenging to write, based on emerging science and events from my life, and it was fun to compose. Unfortunately, it was my worst seller. Ah, well.

You’re also a poet. Do you think writing poetry has helped you become a better writer overall?
Definitely. Poetry forces the discipline of the economy of words to make an engaging but succinct story.

What do you want to be known for as an author?
Honesty. I didn’t make anything up and in my novels, I tried to stick to what reasonably could have happened. I have revealed nature, technology, creativity and invention based on personal experience in ways that will make the greatest impact on readers.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’ve just released a new poetry collection called Dirt Road Poems (April 27, 2021). It’s available on Amazon along with my other books.


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




Author Update 2021: Sarah H. Baker

Sarah H. Baker is a retired engineer turned author of more than 20 published novels and numerous novellas and short stories. In 2020 she released The Prisoner, book one in her Promise Me Tomorrow speculative fiction series. Visit Sarah’s website at SarahHanberryBaker.com and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Read more about Sarah in her 2015 and 2019 interviews for SouthWest Writers.


What do you want readers to know about the story you tell in Promise Me Tomorrow?
I wrote Promise Me Tomorrow in order to create a positive picture of the future of human beings. I spent much of the last decade of my career working in sustainability and studying issues like climate change. The whole thing can be depressing. But I believe humans will live on after society as we know it now changes to something totally different.

Who are your main protagonists, and why did you choose them as point of view characters?
Kole is the Protector of New Village. He protects a society based on love and kindness. Shylah, who starts out as a bandit injured and left behind when a group of bandits raids New Village, has never known the concept of love. All her life she’s had to fight to survive and can’t imagine a different world. These two characters represent opposite views of humanity, so they are naturally in conflict.

What is the main setting? How does it impact the story and the characters?
The main setting, New Village, is in the mountains of Colorado, founded at the opening to a cave housing a hot spring. After New Village is attacked, Kole leads a group into the ruins of Denver, looking for the rest of the bandits. He must find them in order to make New Village safe again.

Staying in New Village and watching the way villagers treat each other has a profound effect on Shylah. After a while, she realizes she doesn’t want to go back to her violent past. And when chasing the bandits, Kole must face the fact that he, too, can be violent when he’s protecting the villagers and their peaceful way of life.

Tell us how the book came together.
The spark for the story was the setting—a world based on love and peaceful coexistence. Kole came to me quickly; Shylah I had to work at. The story came together over several months, but then I had a break from writing while battling cancer. Several years later, I picked it back up and finished the story. After editing with beta readers’ feedback, I self-published the book as the first of a series.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for the book?
The most difficult aspect was putting a group of people with a modern understanding of the world into a stone-age existence. I did a lot of research on edible plants and making clothes from native fibers.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Creating the vision of New Village. I’d want to live there if I were alive at that time.

Promise Me Tomorrow is a departure from your romance releases. Why did you choose to go in this new direction?
The book isn’t a romance, but it certainly has a central romance running through it. Still, you’re right; it is a departure. I chose this because of my need to create a vision of the future that didn’t include zombies or a nuclear apocalypse.


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




An Interview with Author Gina Troisi

Gina Troisi decided to become a writer in third grade and went on to complete an MFA in creative nonfiction in 2009 through the University of Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Program. Since then, her stories and essays have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. The Angle of Flickering Light (Vine Leaves Press, April 2021) is her debut memoir that Domenica Ruta calls “a story of powerful recovery in the truest sense of the word, the journey of a woman who reclaims a sense of home in the sanctity of the self.” You’ll find Gina on her website at Gina-Troisi.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Why did you write The Angle of Flickering Light, and who did you write it for?
I didn’t initially set out to write a memoir, at least not at first. But in many ways, I’d been writing this book my entire life. Since I was a child, I have scribbled in notebooks and journals. I have escaped into art in order to make sense of the world around me—to process what I could not yet understand, and to make meaning of all that was beyond my control.

While working on my MFA, I began crafting and shaping stand-alone essays, and after I completed school, I began publishing them. However, many of the essays had overlapping themes and subject matter, and featured the same characters again and again. It became all too apparent that these essays wanted to come together as a book—that there was a larger story, an overarching narrative that wanted to be told.

At first, I was writing the material for myself—to question and make sense of my experiences, to assess my choices and find lessons from my mistakes, and to think deeply about circumstance. But as I began to shape the book, I saw that my personal experiences were clearly universal. This book speaks to the societal expectations of both girls and women; it addresses body image and eating disorders and trying to fill the roles that have been established for us by society. It explores the way we attempt to find our places in our families and in the world. But it is also meant for anyone who has ever struggled with addiction, or who has loved someone afflicted by addiction. Ultimately, I wrote this book for those who have experienced great despair or loneliness or confusion—anyone who has tried desperately to find their way out.

When readers turn the last page in the book, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
Hope, and the power of perseverance. I think we are at such a place in time where people are hungry for something to believe in—perhaps it has always been this way, but the pandemic seems to have brought this even closer to the surface. I think, as humans, we want to recognize meaning and purpose in our lives, and we want to find fulfillment. My great wish is that readers will walk away from the book inspired and encouraged, with the belief that no matter how difficult things may become, they have the ability to emerge from their darkest moments, and to find their own truths.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The structure was tricky. Since I had originally compiled the book as a collection of essays, in order to convert it to a memoir, I had to think deeply about the narrative throughline—the heart of the story I wanted to tell. I had to think, in the most traditional sense, of a beginning, middle and end, even though I was compiling essays that covered a huge span of time, and that sometimes varied in tone, voice, and style. And this took much experimentation, much study of other works, and of course much trial and error.

When did you know you wanted to write your memoir? What prompted the push to begin the project?
At first, I was very resistant to the idea of writing a memoir. I began writing much of this material as fiction, but of course it was completely autobiographical. When I entered my MFA Program in 2007, the mentors there encouraged me to focus on creative nonfiction, since it was clearly what I was writing, so I decided to be open to that, and to explore.

I was not only resistant to sharing such vulnerable parts of myself with the world, but I was sensitive to the negative connotation the word memoir can have, how some believe the genre is indulgent, or that it has oversaturated the market. For this particular project, it was as if the genre chose me rather than the other way around. In 2011, a couple of years after I had generated much of the material that eventually became this book, I went on a three-week writing retreat to Western Massachusetts, and I immersed myself in putting together a book-length work. At that time, I was thinking of the book as an essay collection rather than a memoir. But in 2013, I received interest in the book from a small university-run press, and the editor there encouraged me to transition the book from an essay collection to a memoir, so I began to do so.

Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.
In 2012, I began sending the original version of the manuscript to agents and small presses and book contests. In 2013, when I received interest from the small press, I restructured the book so it became a memoir with a narrative arc. In the end, the press passed, so I was left with two versions of the book: an essay collection and a not-quite-complete memoir version. In 2014, I attended the River Teeth Nonfiction Conference in Ashland, Ohio, and I had a consultation with the fabulous author, Sonya Huber, who was kind enough to read both versions of the book. What I wanted to hear is that one version of the manuscript was working over the other, but in the end, she and I agreed that the final version should contain elements of both of the working manuscripts. I knew I needed to gain some distance and clarity in order to see the work with fresh eyes, so I put the book away for almost five years, and continued to work on other projects.

In late 2018, I decided it was time to return to the manuscript. I began exchanging work on a monthly basis with my good friend, who was working on his novel. For eight months, we exchanged pages religiously, and I continued to revise. I began to send the new and final version of the book out to agents and publishers again in late 2019, and I signed the contract with Vine Leaves Press in March of 2020.

How did you choose the title of the book?
The Angle of Flickering Light was originally a title of one of the stand-alone essays I published. It’s now part of a line in the book, describing an intimate moment in the narrative, and I like that it’s an image, but also that it speaks to the idea of finding flickers of light in darkness. The book is largely about hope and resilience, and about searching for light within, rather than outside of oneself.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
I think that the most rewarding aspect was finishing—actually bringing the project to completion after such a long journey down this path. And the finality of signing the contract was exhilarating.

During the process of writing your memoir, it must have been difficult to re-live your experiences. If you found yourself scared of what you were writing or of revealing too much about yourself, how did you move past that fear and continue writing?
This is such an important question, and I think memoirists must all go through this fear at some point. I never felt as if I was reliving my experiences consciously, but when I was deep into the work, I would find myself dreaming about the events in the book, so it very much existed on a subconscious level. And I certainly lost many hours of sleep worrying about what others might think once it was published.

But I find that many of the lessons I discover about writing are also the lessons I discover about life. Stories often help people to feel less alone. So in that sense, I began to accept that the book was for others; it was no longer about me. A brilliant writer and friend told me, “You had a story, and now it’s a gift. It’s not yours anymore,” and I think that was such a sage thing to say. We have to honor the work we are creating by letting it become whatever it is meant to be, and we also need to let go of control when it comes to other people’s reactions. There is so much in this life that we cannot control, and I think the same can be said about art.

Do you prefer the creating, editing or researching aspect of a writing project?
I enjoy them all, but I particularly love the act of creating. I feel such freedom and possibility when beginning a new project. I love knowing that I can go in any direction I am compelled to go, and that I can experiment fully because I’ll be able to revise and re-envision the work later on. I love the timelessness of the beginning of a project—the way I can become fixated and lose myself to the point where it seems nothing else exists, at least for a short time.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am working on two novels-in-stories. One of the collections revolves around a particular restaurant in a small New Hampshire mill town. It explores economic and class issues, and consists of a cast of characters who thread a larger narrative about the way it’s possible to find and form surrogate families.

The other collection takes place in a coastal Massachusetts town, and is focused on the lives of a married couple who lose their only child in a tragic car accident just after he turns eighteen. It poses questions about parenthood and loss and perseverance, and it sifts through what ultimately sustains us during times when it seems that nothing will.


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




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