Blog Archives

2023 New Releases for SWW Authors #2

Sue Boggio, Sara Frances, Larry Kilham, Mare Pearl, and Vicki Kay Turpen are dedicated authors who represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW). Their 2023 releases couldn’t fit in this year’s interview schedule, but look for new interviews or updates for most of these authors in 2024.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2023 releases is included at the end of this post.

Hungry Shoes: A Novel (University of New Mexico Press, September 2023) by Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl. Maddie and Grace meet in an adolescent psychiatric unit after each has committed desperate self-injurious acts in response to years of abuse, neglect, and chaos. Together they navigate the surreal world of their fellow patients while staff provide nurturance and guidance to support their healing journeys. With the help of veteran psychiatrist Mary Swenson, Maddie and Grace come to terms with their pasts and discover the inner fortitude they need to create futures filled with empowerment and hope.

You’ll find Sue and Mare on their website at

Unplugged Voices: 125 Tales of Art and Life from Northern New Mexico, the Four Corners and the West (February 2023) is an illustrated four-color coffee table 324-page compendium of verbal narratives collected and edited by Sara Frances. Make a connection to 125 unique western personas, each in a five-minute read. Stories abound everywhere; but the threads of nature in and of The West, its independence, resilience, creativity, and beauty, weave together in unique revelation of life and land. Theses narratives are told as if the taleteller were sitting in front of you, across the kitchen table, around the campfire, on the front porch, or under the stars.

Look for Sara on her Amazon author pages here and here.

Himalayan Adventures: India & Nepal (March 2023) by Larry Kilham. This is a captivating account of the author’s adventures hiking and trekking in India and Nepal. The author was an international sales manager who lived for climbing mountains in exotic lands. His most treasured goal was the Himalayas. Northern India borders the Himalayas so a mountaineering trip included sightseeing in the classic Indian cultural centers of Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Khajuraho, and Varanasi. He experienced the splendor of human and architectural achievement of which the Taj Majal is only one. Kathmandu in Nepal has a limitless collection of Buddhist, Tantric, and Hindu art. His hiking and trekking excursions could be a to-do list for any newcomer to the area: Kashmir in the Indian Himalayas, and Pokhara and the Mt. Everest area in Nepal. He also describes other adventure stops on a round-the-world tour: Chitwan National Park in Nepal (home of the royal Bengal Tiger) and the mountains of Kauai in Hawaii.

Visit Larry on his website at

Opelika Opiate (Austin Macauley, June 2023) by Vicki Kay Turpen.

Opiate — to induce sleep; to stupefy; to hijack the brain and change its normal function.

Opelika, Alabama — where cars, men, and race collide to unhinge the life of a young woman. Piecing it back together will require figuring out the role she played, and who she really is — or wants to be.

You’ll find Opelika Opiate on Vicki’s Amazon author page.

SWW Author Interviews: 2023 Releases

Marty Eberhardt
Bones in the Back Forty

William Fisher
The Price of the Sky: A Tale of Bandits, Bootleggers, and Barnstormers

Patricia Gable
The Right Choice

Cornelia Gamlem
The Decisive Manager: Get Results, Build Morale, and Be the Boss Your People Deserve

Joyce Hertzoff
Train to Nowhere Somewhere: Book 1 of the More Than Just Survival Series

Brian House
Reich Stop

T.E. MacArthur
The Skin Thief

Nick Pappas
Crosses of Iron: The Tragic Story of Dawson, New Mexico, and its Twin Mining Disasters

Marcia Rosen
Murder at the Zoo

Lynne Sebastian
One Last Cowboy Song

JR Seeger
The Enigma of Treason

Suzanne Stauffer
Fried Chicken Castañeda

Jodi Lea Stewart
The Gold Rose

Patricia Walkow
Life Lessons from the Color Yellow

R. Janet Walraven
LIAM: The Boy Who Saw the World Upside Down

Donald Willerton
Death in the Tallgrass

Linda Wilson
Cradle in the Wild: A Book for Nature Lovers Everywhere

An Interview with Author Julie Loar

Julie Loar is an award-winning author of eight books and dozens of articles. She is an expert in symbolism and has worked with dreams, including interpreting dreams live on national radio, for decades. Her latest book, Symbol & Synchronicity: Learning the Soul’s Language in Dreams and Waking Life (Satiama Publishing, 2021), is a practical and comprehensive guide to working with dreams and learning their language. Symbol & Synchronicity has won five international literary awards, including a Nautilus Book Award. You’ll find Julie on her website at and on Facebook. Visit her Amazon author page for all of her books.

What was the inspiration for Symbol & Synchronicity?
I’ve worked with dreams and taught about their symbolism for decades. In the mid-2000s, I wrote a series of articles (about 40) for Oracle 20-20 Magazine in Atlanta. I always wanted to do something else with that material. At the onset of the pandemic lockdown in March 2020 I had “motive and opportunity,” and I turned my attention first to 80 articles of 108 I had written for Atlantis Rising magazine. Those articles became a two-volume sky lore anthology. I had the intention to create a similar book with my dream articles, but I was captured by a muse, and the idea morphed into a completely different book that became Symbol & Synchronicity. The isolation of the pandemic offered a writer’s haven and I rose each morning and wrote for a year.

What did you find the most rewarding while writing the book?
I loved the research and the deeper wisdom I gained about symbols, dreams, and synchronicities through the writing process. While writing the book, I had several amazing dreams and experienced stunning synchronicities. I practiced what I learned and incorporated what I wrote into my life, deepening my spiritual practice. I was my own case study, and the experience has enhanced my growth.

When did your spiritual journey begin? Can you pinpoint your own “aha” moment when you knew this would be your life’s calling?
In the summer of my second year in college, I was part of a volunteer program where students from all over the country spent the summer in Mexico living with Mexican families, teaching English, or working in hospitals. About 25 of us who had been together in an orientation in Mexico City developed Hepatitis A. I nearly died, and had what I later learned was called a Near Death Experience (NDE). Although it took years of study and exploration to unpack the experience, my path was revealed. There were many twists, turns, and tests as I realized my life was a spiritual quest and I wanted to work in the area that is now called Mind, Body, Spirit.

What makes this book unique in the Mind, Body, Spirit genre?
Symbol & Synchronicity offers comprehensive and practical tools and techniques that enable readers to work with their own dream symbols and waking synchronicities. As a result of a powerful dream while writing the book, I was guided to create a Seven Steps in Dreamwork© process that is easy to use and can transform dream work. Using the unique seven-step process, anyone can learn to unlock the symbolic messages and guidance that comes in dreams and magical waking synchronicities—it’s the book I wish I had at the beginning of my journey.

Do you have a favorite quote from Symbol & Synchronicity you’d like to share?
“Waking life is like a lucid dream, and we are the dreamer, sleeping until we awaken and remember our purpose. As we choose, and receive the consequences of our choices, slowly we learn. At some critical point in our long journey a spark of divine fire from the Soul (meta-consciousness) ignites the flame of aspiration in our hearts. This flame grows into a radiance as we walk the path of the sacred and do the work required. Our heart begins to beat with compassion in a rhythm that connects us to others and the Universe.” (Chapter 7, page 67)

Of all the books you’ve written, is there a particular one you enjoyed writing the most?
Goddesses for Every Day: Exploring the Wisdom and Power of the Divine Feminine around the World because I learned so much rich information. Learning about hundreds (thousands?) of goddesses from every culture in the world was empowering and affirming as I was unaware of the breadth and depth of the Goddess tradition. I had been hired to ghostwrite a book, and the research that involved revealed what felt to me like a lost history. The story and power of the Divine Feminine is reemerging in the world today, but at the time I was astonished by what I learned and felt a “call” to share, especially with other women.

Tell us about recurring messages or themes in your writing.
The over-arching theme of my work is the spiritual path and the power of symbolism as a guidance system along that journey with the potential to be a transforming influence. I have written books about mythology, astrology, Tarot, numerology, and the divine feminine. My goal is always to facilitate understanding of how to access these ancient teachings to illuminate our lives and empower our spiritual journey.

As a spiritual practitioner, is there a particular experience you can share with your readers that has informed and guided your principles?
Once while driving into town, I had an experience I will never forget. I stopped at a red light at an intersection and was first of a line of cars. As the light turned green and I prepared to drive ahead, I heard a loud and authoritative voice say “Wait!” I was so startled, as I was alone in the car, that I did not accelerate to proceed with my left turn. Within a few seconds a car hurtled through the intersection at a high rate of speed and drove off the road on the other side. I was shaken as I realized had I proceeded through the green light, the vehicle that ran the red light would have struck me broadside with disastrous consequences. Whose voice did I hear? I believe the power of my Psyche produced an audible voice that prevented a tragedy. Such experiences shock us into another state of consciousness. In that moment I was dramatically aware of guidance, and I am deeply grateful for the influence that watches over me.

Is there something that always inspires you or triggers your creativity?
The power of an unanswered question.

Give us a glimpse of what to expect from future writing projects.
I’m working on a second edition of my first book Messengers, which is a novel about ancient Egypt and Atlantis. The first edition was published in 1997 and a lot has been discovered since then. I want to enhance the book and bring it up to date, perhaps including the growing impact of technology, which has exploded since the book was published.

What do you hope readers will take away from Symbol & Synchronicity?
If they commit, knowing they may only need to work with one or two dreams a month, their lives can be transformed and empowered. Dreams provide guidance that is tailored specifically for us and our growth, coming directly from our Higher Self. We have a built-in and customized system that can be life changing when we start to pay attention.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Although it may sound trite and a bit condescending, life is a journey not a destination. The journey involves tests, trials, and blessings, and like Bilbo Baggins stepping off his front porch in The Hobbit, or Dorothy Gale and her companions skipping up the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz, the quality of our passage depends largely on our willingness to be transformed by our experiences.

Su Lierz writes dark fiction, short story fiction, and personal essays. Her short story “Twelve Days in April,” written under the pen name Laney Payne, appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology. Su was a finalist in the 2017 and 2018 Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico, with her husband Dennis.

Author Update 2022: Chuck Greaves

Former attorney Chuck Greaves is the award-winning author of four books in the Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries. Writing as C. Joseph Greaves, he has also authored three standalone literary fiction novels. His newest MacTaggart release, The Chimera Club (Tallow Lane Books, May 2022), presents the newest case for main character Jack who one reviewer calls “a man with the talents and ethics of Clarence Darrow combined with the charm and mischief of Jack Sparrow.” You’ll find Chuck at, on Facebook, and on his Amazon author page. Read more about Chuck’s writing in his 2016 and 2019 interviews for SouthWest Writers.

What is your elevator pitch for The Chimera Club?
When film producer Ari Goldstone is murdered in Los Angeles, the DNA evidence points to only one possible suspect: disgraced financier Jimmy Kwan. Except that Kwan was seven thousand miles away in Hong Kong on the night of the murder. Hired by Kwan’s daughter to defend her father, attorney Jack MacTaggart must first solve an even more urgent mystery – how to stay alive long enough to bring the real killer to justice.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
As a former L.A. trial lawyer, the procedural aspects of writing a legal thriller like The Chimera Club come naturally and don’t usually require much in the way of research on my part. This novel, however, required quite a bit of research into DNA evidence, how it works, and how it might be challenged. Then, of course, came the secondary challenge of presenting that information to the reader in a way that’s both understandable and compelling, all without slowing the story’s forward momentum.

Tell us how the book came together.
Unlike most of my novels – this is number seven – this one began with a very high-concept ending that, unfortunately, I can’t really describe here without ruining the surprise. Suffice it to say that, with that ending in mind, the writing process involved creating compelling characters and confecting a propulsive plot that would lead readers to that inevitable conclusion. For me, this was the opposite of how I usually work. In most of my MacTaggart novels – this is the fourth – I begin with a milieu into which I toss Jack and follow along with him as he muddles his way to an ending that I might not necessarily know myself until we get there, together. In the case of The Chimera Club, it took me two years to arrive, but I always knew where I was heading.

With this fourth novel in the Jack MacTaggart series, did your protagonist still surprise you as you wrote his story? How would Jack’s friends describe him? How about his enemies?
Jack is such a likeable guy that I think even his enemies would have to concede that he’s pretty good company. Good for a laugh, in any event. I’m not sure it surprised me, but Jack definitely falls in love this time around, with his client’s daughter, a former fashion model who, when the story opens, owns and operates the hottest nightclub in L.A. Jack usually maintains a certain emotional distance from the women in his life – that’s why he’s still single in his early forties – but this time he falls head-over-heels. Which in crime fiction is rarely a good idea.

When did you know Jack was a strong enough character to carry a series?
From the jump. When we sold the debut novel Hush Money to St. Martin’s Minotaur, they recognized Jack as a strong series character, and we never had to pitch them. Which is a good thing because Jack is basically me – or a smarter, funnier, better-looking version of me – and I’d hate to be writing anyone else.

What is the main setting of The Chimera Club, and why is it the best place for the story to unfold?
Great question because, as I mentioned earlier, I started with an ending and could have set the story literally anywhere. Well, anywhere in L.A., given Jack’s backstory and history. Why I chose Chinatown is a bit of a mystery even to me – how do these things happen, anyway? Maybe blame Jake Gittes. I guess it began with Jack’s love interest, a Eurasian beauty whose father, Jack’s client, is a disgraced hedge fund manager known, since his conviction a decade earlier, as the Chinese Bernie Madoff. I needed Jimmy Kwan to be a felon because, for the story to work, his DNA had to be on file with the authorities when film producer Ari Goldstone is murdered in Los Angeles. And one thing led to another, as these things will do.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Returning to Jack. The first three MacTaggart novels – Hush Money (2012), Green-eyed Lady (2013), and The Last Heir (2014) – are now eight years old. In the interim, writing as C. Joseph Greaves, I expanded into literary fiction with my titles Tom & Lucky (Bloomsbury), a Wall Street Journal “Best Books of 2015” selection and a finalist for the Harper Lee Prize, and Church of the Graveyard Saints (Torrey House), which was the six-city “Four Corners/One Book” community reading selection for 2019-2020. So returning to Jack, my first-ever literary creation, was its own reward.

You began your fiction writing career later in life. What did your mature self bring to the writing table that your younger self never could have?
I don’t think I could’ve written a credible legal thriller without having practiced law for as long as I did. Not, at least, without a lot of research and effort (kudos here to Michael Connelly). So there’s that. Also, I like to think Jack brings a certain world-weary philosophy to the MacTaggart novels, and those calluses are earned. Not to mention the discipline required to write seven novels in fifteen years. And finally, fairly or not, the writing life is infinitely more accessible to those with some savings in the bank, at least at the outset.

In your SWW 2016 interview, you mentioned the possibility of writing a “madcap caper novel” with author Deborah Coonts using her Lucky O’Toole character and your Jack MacTaggart. Have you two made progress on the book? And in your 2019 interview you talked about collaborating with a TV director on a possible cable series set in the Southwest. How is that project coming along?
Funny, I ran into Deb not long ago, up in Crested Butte, Colorado in October, when we both were speakers at their annual crime writers’ conference. Unfortunately, the Jack MacTaggart-Lucky O’Toole mashup never got off the ground, although I still think it would be fun to write, since we have similar senses of humor (which is to say, offbeat). The TV pilot, on the other hand, did come to fruition. Director Felix Alcala (ER, The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Madam Secretary, etc.) and I raised around $700K to film the pilot episode from my original script. We shot it in 2020, mostly in Mancos, Colorado, during the worst of the Covid pandemic (fun!), and are still looking for a distributor. If you think traditional publishing is a tough gig, try Hollywood. It’s been a real slog.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Only that The Chimera Club, the fourth installment in my Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries, is now available in trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook, wherever books are sold. Oh, and it’s a perfect beach read. “MacTaggart is full of awesome.” – Library Journal

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

Author Update: Ed Lehner

Author Ed Lehner is a poet, novelist, and short story writer. His newest release is Grandpa’s Horse and Other Tales (AIA Publishing, March 2022), a collection of twelve short works. You’ll find Ed on Facebook and Twitter, and on his website Read more about Ed and his writing in his SWW 2020 interview.

What do you want readers to know about Grandpa’s Horse and Other Tales?
While some short story collections have a central theme, this anthology is a mix of diverse topics including enhanced memoirs, mystery, and romance along with fanciful flights concerning Covid-19 and climate change.

How did the book come together?
I had all the stories written, and doing a collection had been in the back of my mind for a while. Once I made the decision and the commitment to do it, the book came together fairly quickly. However, I then went back editing and rewriting which took me several months. My publisher then agreed to review it and was eager to work with it. It then went to the editor who had the editing finished very quickly. Of course there was cover design and formatting. I would have to say the whole process took about a year overall.

I discovered AIA Publishing, a small operation headed by Tahlia Newland, when I was looking for an editor/publisher for The Awakening of Russell Henderson. I came across Tahlia’s name on the Alliance for Independent Author’s list of recommended services. She had good reviews as an editor and her costs were very reasonable. After having a great experience working with her on The Awakening, it was a no-brainer to send her Grandpa’s Horse and Other Tales. She sent the manuscript to Barbara Scott-Emmett, who lives in London, for appraisal. Barbara gave it her blessing. From there it went on to Katherine Kirk who lives in Ecuador for line editing. Tahlia’s daughter, Rose, designed the cover and did the formatting. I find it amazing that I had people from all over the world get this book into print (Tahlia lives in New South Wales, Australia.) The process was easy and seamless. Tahlia is amazing. She responds to my emails within twenty-four hours.

Tell us a little about each story in the collection.
“Grandpa’s Horse” ● A memoir piece that grew into an event I over-dramatized. I wrote this about the late John Stewart, his song “Mother Country,” and the crowd that watched a dying blind harness race driver do a last run around the track in his sulky, speaking to me of a time when people gathered for events whether contrived or spur of the moment.

“Library of the Occult” ● My first try at mystery. Once I got into it, it flowed easily to conclusion, totally fun to write. It was interesting to research London and try to emulate British dialogue. Watching a lot of stories on Brit Box helped. My editor was British and South African and found only one wording that wasn’t how an Englishman talks.

“A Man Called Thomas” ● Dystopian stories aren’t something I read, but with climate change in the forefront of our present time, I found this story easy to write. I see the population on this planet either unaware of or not wanting to make the minutest changes in their lifestyle to stem the heating of the planet. There are others who have no choice due to poverty or other circumstances. We seem to be unwilling and unable to solve a global problem that desperately needs fixing. This story is my personal rant.

“The Test” ● This short story came from an assignment in an online writing course…someone gets into a bad situation. What happens?

“The Anchor” ● Written for a contest in which we were given two images: canoes pulled up on a rocky shoreline and a lightning storm down a long, dark road bordered by tall hills. It was tough to get this one going, but in the end, surprisingly, it won second place.

“Katie” ● Part memoir of my childhood wanderings and a neighbor woman along with a fictional ending to the story.

“A Bottle of Dope and Shine” ● Another memoir piece, albeit, somewhat enhanced. I don’t know if the old boys playing cards were actually drinking moonshine. If they were, they didn’t offer me any. But the Coca-Cola part is honest truth.

“Starlight” ● I’ve always been fascinated by the deserts in the Four Corners (New Mexico) area. They have a magical mystique about them, so I wrote this about a damaged veteran suffering from PTSD and guilt who lives alone in the desert and is visited by a strange woman one night.

“Swinging on a Star” ● Written for a short story contest, and the Bing Crosby song jumped into my head. The setting is based on my in-laws’ beautiful home on their farm overlooking the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa.

“Becky and Richard” ● I was sitting on the patio at my favorite coffee shop a few years ago when two young adults sat down nearby. While I couldn’t hear their conversation, I could see them scoping out the tourists and knew they were doing some local criticism. The rest was from my imagination.

“The Ultimate Zoom” ● Having gotten on the Zoom train during Covid, I wondered what might happen if we could magically travel through time and space like on Star Wars or Star Trek…“Beam me up, Scotty.”

“Dana’s Story” ● This novelette came out of my second novel, The Awakening of Russell Henderson. I always felt that Russell’s wife, Dana, had a bigger story. So I gave her one. I thought it would be a short story, but she had a lot more to her tale, thus the novelette length.

Which story was the most challenging to write?
I would have to say that “Starlight” was my most challenging. It was one of the first stories I wrote and it was hard for me to keep it short and focused. Unlike a novel where there can be different situations and an ensemble of characters, I found it difficult to stay with only two and their immediate situation. Also, I found it difficult bringing it to an end without continuing it on into somewhere it didn’t need to go.

Who is your favorite character in the collection? Did any characters surprise you while you wrote their story?
Thomas from “A Man Called Thomas” would be my favorite character, I suppose because of his mysterious presence and his message. I was surprised at how feisty Emma, from “The Library of the Occult,” turned out to be.

Which story would you love to see play out in a movie?
It would be a toss-up between “A Man Called Thomas” and “Katie.” But I would have to go with “Katie” as it’s a story of coming of age, friendship, bigotry, and love.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Strange as it might sound, going through these stories and doing the editing and rewriting was my favorite part. I liked revisiting what I had written with fresh eyes.

What are you most happy with, and what do you struggle with most, in your writing?
I am most happy when I am involved in a project. I wrote The Awakening of Russell Henderson (a 90,000-word novel) in less than three months. I was fortunate the story seemed to write itself. What I struggle with is when I have a good story going and it suddenly stalls, like a novel I’m 40,000 words into now. I have several avenues towards the end that I have written and am not happy with any of them.

Do you prefer the creating, editing, or research aspect of writing?
Obviously, I like creating the story, the characters, the plot, etc. I also find the editing to be rewarding as it gives me time to review, rewrite and renew as needed. However, it can become a bit tedious after so many edits. That’s when it needs to go to a professional. Research, when needed, is essential. Even though a story is fiction, it’s important to have the essential facts straight such as defining a location, a road, a geographic area. Some things a writer shouldn’t try to make up.

What typically comes first for you: a character, a scene, a story idea?
Any of the above can spur me into a story. I listen to a lot of music, and just a word or a lyric can send me into a story idea. I like to people watch and make up their stories in my mind. I think I have quite a catalog of different characters residing in my head.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I wish I’d had more guidance in publishing. I decided to self-publish for a number of reasons and I made some big mistakes (and costly ones) with publishing my first book. I wish I had done more research. After that debacle, I discovered the Alliance of Independent Writers which turned out to be a great resource.

Do you have writing rituals or something you absolutely need in order to write?
Being a completely undisciplined person, I have no rituals or set times to write. When I’m in the process of a story, it’s constantly on my mind. When I wake up during the night, I’m lulled back to sleep with thinking about where the story might lead, various dialogue, or situations. I don’t write it down, but I always remember it the next morning. Even during my morning meditation, ideas will come. I’ll sit down during the day and get everything down. Weird, but it’s what I do.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have several short stories underway as well as the above-mentioned novel. I would like to put together another anthology when I have enough material.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Thanks to SouthWest Writers for their great support for all the writers in our area of the world.

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

An Interview with Author Ed Lehner

Retired professor Ed Lehner is a luthier, musician, and Reiki master who also finds time to journal and write poetry and short stories. In 2017, he added novelist to his list of accomplishments with the release of San Juan Sunrise. His second novel, The Awakening of Russell Henderson (2018), explores a journey of failure, depression, self-discovery, and love. You’ll find Ed on Facebook and Twitter, and on his website

What is your elevator pitch for The Awakening of Russell Henderson?
Chicago investment-banker Russell Henderson — newly divorced, suffering from depression, his structured life falling apart — makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to go on a camping trip to explore the Western United States. On the second day of his trip, he picks up a woman hitchhiker in western Iowa. This sets off a chain of events that involve an American Indian sweat lodge, a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche, and a road trip through stunning countryside. His relationship with the woman becomes more complex, especially when the dark secret of her past comes into play.

When readers turn the last page of the book, what do you hope they will take away from it?
I hope the reader will feel uplifted. I would hope, along with the story itself, readers might come away with new insights into the struggles in their own lives or those of others.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
This being only my second book, it is hard to pick out any unique challenges. Writing a novel, for me with my lack of experience, was the main challenge. But I would have to say, describing the sweat lodge and creating the Rinpoche (from a number of Tibetan teachers I have had over the years) and giving them both due respect was probably the hardest. Originally, I was not going to include the sweat, but finally felt it was a necessary part of the story.

Tell us how the book came together.
When my wife and I lived in Iowa, we usually spent three weeks of every summer camping out west, visiting national parks, exploring and hiking, mainly in the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. Along the way I met some great folks, some being Ogallala Sioux from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota where I experienced my first sweat lodge. Also I have studied Buddhism for thirty years.

With teaching relatively small studio labs in design when I was at Iowa State University, I got to know most of my students fairly well along with their struggles, fears, their self-criticism of not being good enough, not creative enough among other things. I kept journals of these encounters along with my teaching experiences, and, for the most part, many of my students created Russell Henderson.

Also, the first book I wrote, San Juan Sunrise, dealt with childhood abuse and recovery. I found digging into abused and damaged individuals, and their subsequent recovery, rewarding. For The Awakening, I wanted to write a road-trip book to include some of my adventures and the places I had visited. I added a spiritual growth aspect, and it all fell together. I first had the idea to write the book in 2016 and fooled around with it, but didn’t begin to seriously write it until January of 2018. I sent the manuscript to the editor at the end of July 2018, and it was published by the end of November that year.

Who is your main character, and why will readers connect with him?
Russell Henderson might be anyone…anyone who is feeling trapped and wants to break free of the influences of their upbringing, their familial and societal expectations. Somebody who is suddenly confronted by the confines of their present life and is facing the necessity to have to change, especially when they realize there are no roadmaps.

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go?
I felt Russell’s relationship with Hanna, the hitchhiker, was fully developed, but it wasn’t until he had complete closure with his family secrets which were revealed after an event that called him back to his family home in Iowa.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
It was fun to share some of my own experiences. I am a closet romantic, so I had to include a love interest and found the opposite personalities of uptight Russell and free-spirited Hanna interesting to develop and work with.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I never knew exactly if or when I really wanted to be a writer. I’ve written quite a bit about my struggles with creativity on my blog. I began to write poetry after discovering Robert Frost in a literature class in junior college. I always had an urge to create but was drawn to the visual arts and ended up as a professor of graphic design. Also, I journaled and continued to intermittently write poetry for many years. Around 2012, I began writing poetry more regularly and attempted some short stories about the same time. Prose was a different animal to me, however, and thoughts about me ever writing a novel never entered my mind. San Juan Sunrise came quite unexpectedly when I was recovering from pneumonia in 2015. The book started as a poem which morphed into a short story and just kept going and growing until I had to bring it to a close around 90,000 words. I was quite surprised. The Awakening of Russell Henderson was intentional as a novel. Once I started, it was a great road trip.

Your writing takes several forms – poetry, short stories, novels. Is there one form you’re drawn to the most when you write or read?
Poetry and short stories are my favorites to write. They are obviously quite different, mainly much faster and more immediate from doing a full-blown novel but, nonetheless, have their own challenges of creating a full story, or a feeling, with only a few words.

How has the creativity and discipline you employ as a musician (or music itself) helped you in your writing journey?
I must say I have never been a dedicated or disciplined musician. But I find rhythm in poetry as well as prose to be the same as music in many ways. I see rhythms in the sentence, paragraph, chapter, the rise and fall of the plot or the protagonist that can be inherent in either a folk song or a symphony.

What are your hobbies or creative outlets?
I am a luthier and repair stringed instruments, mainly for the B Frank Foundation in Bayfield, Colorado that has around 500 instruments they put into the hands of any child who wants to learn music, along with offering lessons and orchestra. I also like being in the mountains, four-wheeling or hiking. I do still hang out with my guitar and mandolin quite a bit. Also, of late, I have been messing around with doing some photography again. Being a designer, I look for patterns and the interactions, anomalies, and details that sometimes occur that may be easily overlooked. I try to capture these images that I consider to be abstractions of our common visual sense. I think I also see these same concepts in my writing to some degree.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
Renée Vivian for her beautiful poetry. Henry Miller for his writing style. Ernest Hemingway for his writing style, characters, and stories. Marc Levy for his gentle and sometimes surrealistic stories. Nina George for her delightful stories set mostly in Paris, my most favorite city. Anne Hillerman for continuing her father’s legacy of stories about the Navajo people in and around the area where I live. Kerry Greenwood for her Miss Fisher series on which I am totally hooked. I am also reading SouthWest Writers authors and have liked a number of the books I have read. There are so many other great authors that have influenced both the vocabulary of my visual world as well as my writing world.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
I hope I project the idea of hope and possibilities of personal growth and/or healing, despite the real or perceived roadblocks that can be frightening and overwhelming.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
The first encouragement came from my wife after she read my first draft of San Juan Sunrise. She thought it was a good story and that I should try to get it published. I had several other readers look at the manuscript who also thought it was a worthy story that should be out there. The same held true with The Awakening. Then my short story “The Anchor” was awarded second place in the Support Indie Authors contest, which gave me some nice validation for my efforts.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have been writing short stories. I also have the sequel to San Juan Sunrise in the works and am working to bring it (slowly) to fruition.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I have struggled most of my life with creative expression, and it wasn’t until I had some aha moments of self-discovery that I could finally feel the freedom to both design and write. My twenty-part memoir of my road to creative freedom is on my blog, Just go to August 2020 and scroll down to the beginning.

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

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