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Author Update 2024: Robert D. Kidera

Robert D. Kidera is a podcaster, a baseball nerd, and the author of the award-winning Gabe McKenna Mystery Series. Book six of the series, BURN SCARS (Black Range Publishing, May 2024), finds Gabe “caught in the crossfire between two cartels warring for control of fentanyl trafficking in New Mexico.” Look for Bob on his website RobertKideraBooks.com and on Facebook. Read more about him and the Gabe McKenna books in his 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021 interviews.


When readers turn the last page of BURN SCARS, what do you hope they take away from it?
I hope my readers feel it has been time well spent and that they have enjoyed reuniting with Gabe McKenna and his friends (and enemies). The story has a serious purpose, as it asks how much one should be willing to risk righting the wrongs of this world. I want that question to resonate with my readers and perhaps spur them to examine that challenge for themselves.

The fifth book of the Gabe McKenna mysteries, A LONG TIME TO DIE, concluded the series in 2021 with a wrap up of the story arcs. What made you come back to the series and give readers another look at your main character’s life?
Writers can only write the stories they have. Last year, I took a respite from the Gabe McKenna series to write a standalone novella, CHANDLER IS DEAD, and have been working on a historical fiction novel, HELL SHIP, for the past three years. But this new Gabe story popped into my head, and I developed it because I enjoy telling stories about Gabe McKenna and had many requests from my readers for a new novel in the series.

Tell us about the journey from inspiration to completed book for this sixth in the series.
BURN SCARS took me sixteen months from concept to realization. Raymond Chandler once said that stories must marinate before they can be written well, so when the story idea occurred to me, I gave it a good think before going to the keyboard. In each of the Gabe McKenna books, I feature a different one of Gabe’s friends as his main “sidekick.” This time, I chose his personal lawyer, Erskine Pelfrey III, an unassuming man who could walk into an empty room and get lost in the crowd. I had a lot of fun developing their relationship and bringing Erskine into the story as one of the heroes.

You’ve described Gabe McKenna 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. And as a former boxer, he can be knocked down, but not out. Who are some of your other returning characters?
Gabe is at a different stage of his life in this story. He’s pushing sixty, a bit unsettled and ready for a rest. But his previous deeds have left him with enemies unwilling to forgive and forget. He also needs his friends much more in this adventure, and it takes the cooperative effort of Gabe, Erskine, Onion, Sam, C.J., and even a couple of federal agents to carry the day.

New Mexico is the main setting of the series. What areas of the state do you take readers to this time?
Aside from Laguna Pueblo, where Gabe is living when the story begins, the action centers around a small settlement town of Marquez in Sandoval County and at a remote mesa that straddles Guadalupe and Quay Counties and, of course, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. There’s a brief detour north to Colorado. Gabe travels in this story by horse, SUV, private aircraft, and even a jazzed-up motor home.

What are some of the more interesting facts you discovered while doing research for the book?
I delved into more of the mining history of New Mexico, but most of the research I had to do dealt with the current scourge of foreign drug cartels operating in our state. It’s a far more complicated and deep-rooted problem than people generally realize and not much of it gets into the news.

Amazon categorizes BURN SCARS as Vigilante Justice, Noir Crime, and Organized Crime. If you didn’t have the limitations of Amazon categories, how would you characterize the book?
I don’t like the Amazon categories because they suggest your story and characters can be pigeonholed or understood simplistically. BURN SCARS is my longest book to date, and as the sixth entry in an ongoing series, the characters, their actions, and motivations have become more nuanced and complex. I advise disregarding categories and letting the story and its characters unfold for you in surprising ways.

What’s on your to-read pile? Who is your favorite fictional character?
Atop my read pile right now are books by New Mexico authors: The Wide, Wide Sea, which just came out, by Hampton Sides; Joe Badal’s Everything to Lose, the only one of his books I have yet to read; and Anne Hillerman’s Lost Birds. My favorite fictional character? Philip Marlowe, like Gabe McKenna, a hero neither tarnished nor afraid.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Audio. Now that I am producing two podcasts, I am exploring sound as a persuasive medium. Audible has turned several of my novels into audiobooks, but I am excited at the chance to produce audio versions of all my novels on my own. I’ll start that project later this year and into 2025.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Once BURN SCARS is out the door, I’m returning to HELL SHIP, the historical fiction novel I started a few years ago. In MIDNIGHT BLUES, I killed off an elderly World War II vet named Phil Friganza. I miss the guy. So, I’m making him the hero of this story and bringing him back to life, so to speak. I’m also going to be working on the audiobooks I mentioned and transitioning my podcasts from audio to audio with video and posting them on YouTube. I’ve been asked if there will be any more Gabe McKenna novels. Well, you never say never again.


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




Author Update 2024: Neill McKee

Neill McKee is a retired teacher, international filmmaker and multi-media producer, and an award-winning creative nonfiction author. He published his fourth memoir, My University of the World: Adventures of an International Film & Media Maker, in 2023. Look for Neill on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as on NeillMckeeAuthor.com. To learn about his first three memoirs, read his 2019, 2021, and 2022 SWW interviews.


Neill, you’ve led a storied life. Please tell readers a little about your memoir My University of the World.
My University of the World (2023) is a stand-alone sequel to two of my other memoirs, Kid on the Go! Memoir of my Childhood and Youth (2021) and Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah (2019). All three books can be enjoyed in any order you read them. This latest memoir is composed of 28 short chapters and an epilogue that takes readers on an entertaining journey through the developing world from 1970 to 2012. The book is filled with compelling dialog, humorous and poignant incidents, thoughts on world development, vivid descriptions of people and places I visited and worked in, and over 200 images.

The story starts when I became a “one-man film crew,” documenting the lives of Canadian CUSO volunteers working in Asia and Africa, and covers my marriage to Elizabeth, an American I met in Japan. Her life with me and her growth as an artist, as well as our children’s lives, are also covered in this new book.

Thirteen chapters document my time as a filmmaker for Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), when I roamed the developing world and made about 30 films on many research projects in education, rural development, agriculture, post-harvest technology, fisheries and aquaculture, health care, water and sanitation—the list goes on. I wrote these stories to allow the reader to get a sense of the challenges I encountered. I kept the chapters light on technical details and full of humorous and poignant incidents. In each chapter, I also included how IDRC projects made an impact, or not.

The book also covers my time as a multimedia producer, leading teams of people in UNICEF in Bangladesh and Eastern and Southern Africa, and how my family adapted to a very different and interesting life. I ended up working for Johns Hopkins University, and then took over a project in Moscow, Russia. In my final job, I was asked to save a large project in Washington, D.C. from 2009 to 2012. By then I had learned a lot about managing people and, I must admit, sometimes I missed my years as a “lone-wolf” filmmaker at the beginning of my career.

Was it a natural transition for you to go from filmmaker to author?
During my career, I wrote three books and many articles on the role of communication in behavior and social change. But when I retired in 2013, I decided to turn to creative nonfiction writing. I submitted my first manuscript to about a dozen publishers and finally received two offers from small firms, but when I saw the contract details, I could see they were mainly interested in acquiring new titles with little or no resources for promotion. Also, despite the fact I had engaged a professional editor, they wanted to start over with that process. So, I decided to hire a professional book designer and self-publish. Either way, it was evident I was going to have to do the promotion myself. Perhaps if I was younger, I would have tried harder to seek an agent and publisher, but at my age, I didn’t think it made sense to wait. I don’t regret my decision because I have since learned that almost all authors, even if they do find a publisher, have to do or pay for most of the promotion themselves. With about 1,000 new books released every day in North America, in all genres, there is a lot of competition for readers’ attention. Fortunately for me, making money has not been a necessary objective in my new “retirement career.”

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing My University of the World?
I entered this memoir in several contests and so far have won two awards: Distinguished Favorite, Independent Press Award (2024) for Career; and Finalist, Book Excellence Awards (2024) for Autobiography. It’s rewarding to get such feedback, as well as good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads—some from people who have had no experience in international development work or film and media production. They simply enjoyed riding along with me, and some wrote that they felt they were there. Another benefit of writing this memoir was helping me sharpen my long-term memory, revising connections with old friends and former colleagues in Canada, the US, and around the world.

Do you have one place of travel that has left an indelible mark on you?
I would have to say it is Sabah, Malaysia, on Borneo Island, and the small town of Kota Belud near the coast of the South China Sea. That’s where I “found myself,” learning Malay language and teaching beautiful students, visiting their kampongs (villages), roaming around on my motorcycle, climbing Mount Kinabalu (the highest in Southeast Asia), having a few love affairs, and making my first film. It is all in my memoir Finding Myself in Borneo. That book has won three awards.

Was there anything surprising you discovered about yourself while writing your memoir?
I found that I always had a knack for creative writing but never developed it until I retired. I never kept a diary but I had a lot of stories in my head for years. I wrote up some of these at the time they happened and kept a file. I found many more in old letters to and from my fiancé/wife and family, plus official trip reports that I always tried to make entertaining, including all the funny happenings along the way. Some of my colleagues might not have appreciated such embellishments, but I didn’t care. I had the feeling I would use these someday.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Besides the creative writing, it was returning to IDRC in Ottawa, Canada, to look through a library of thousands of colored slides I had taken all over the developing world, many of which I used in the book. I also searched film archives and websites and managed to locate most of my film and media projects. This also helped to bring back my experiences over the years, and I decided to create a digital library, housing all I could find on https://www.neillmckeevideos.com.

The videos play on YouTube and I get great satisfaction from messages I receive every week from young adults who were influenced in their childhoods, especially from my most successful multi-media project, the Meena Communication Initiative for girls’ empowerment in South Asia.

Do you have a favorite quote from My University of the World you could share with us?
That’s a difficult thing for a writer to answer, but I think the opening paragraph of Chapter One gets the reader into the spirit of the memoir:

As I rolled across the plains of northern India in December 1970, on a rickety old train, rumbling between station stops and passing many smaller ones, I soon got into the stride of things by listening to Santana Abraxas through the earphones plugged into my compact reel-to-reel tape recorder. From that time on, the song Black Magic Woman became forever embedded in my mind as a part of India. The time was magic for me because I was on the road, filming and photographing Canadian volunteers in Asia. It was exactly what I wanted to do with my life—an answer to my prayers, or I should say to my meditation sessions. I was more in touch with Zen Buddhism than Christianity in those days, like other North American youth—many of whom were hippies, or what we then called “flower children,” who traveled to the East in search of answers to life’s mysteries and their future paths.

Does meditation play a role in your writing ritual today?
Well, I never got deeply into Zen Buddhism, but in my late twenties, I learned how to do Transcendental Meditation (TM) for practical, rather than spiritual reasons. My younger brother Philip had taken it up and even traveled to Spain to study at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM institute. In 1968, the Beatles had visited this Maharishi in India for spiritual replenishment, and by doing so, they helped spread TM worldwide. Philip taught me the basic method and gave me my secret mantra—a sound I repeated in my head for 20 minutes, two times a day, while breathing deeply, sometimes falling asleep, which was okay according to Philip. Eventually, I learned how to do this just about anywhere, even in noisy airports. Learning TM helped me survive the busy years of my career. I still use the technique for refreshing my brain cells while writing.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I chose to print and distribute through IngramSpark.com (IS), rather than going with Amazon alone. Through IS my books are available in North America and around the world on Amazon and many other platforms. Even independent bookstores and libraries can order copies. I publish in paperback and eBook formats, and two of my memoirs, Finding Myself in Borneo and Kid on the Go! were also produced as audiobooks by Lantern Audio, which distributes them very widely on many platforms as well. I promote through a growing email list, blog and review tours, and some social media channel posts, although I don’t put a lot of effort into the latter because it is evident to me that it doesn’t help much for sales, plus I am a bit allergic to simple messages, “likes,” and “congratulations,” etc., that have little substance or follow up. I find LinkedIn the most useful. I also put a lot of blog posts, interviews, links to reviews, places to buy, and awards on my author’s website: https://www.neillmckeeauthor.com/.


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.




An Interview with Author Mary Lou Dobbs

Mary Lou Dobbs is an author, speaker, and lifestyle coach who seeks to inspire others to excel and thrive as they age. Her third nonfiction release, Badass Old White Woman: How to Flip the Script on Aging (January 2024), has been called “a rally cry for all of us who refuse to let age limit our dreams and aspirations.” Look for Mary on her website at MaryLouDobbs.net, on Facebook and Instagram, and on her Amazon author page.


What do you hope readers will take away from Badass Old White Woman?
I hope readers will be inspired to challenge societal norms about aging and embrace their own unique paths to personal fulfillment. My book encourages readers to break free from limiting beliefs — these are any beliefs that carry emotional weight and cause misalignment. I write about how women can embrace adventure and live authentically, regardless of age or background.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
One unique challenge in writing Badass Old White Woman was balancing personal anecdotes with universal themes that resonate with a diverse audience. Additionally, addressing sensitive topics related to aging and societal expectations required a delicate approach to ensure authenticity and relatability. I also had to make a mental shift from hurt feelings to humor after being called “an old White Woman.” This inspired me to sit down and write. Women are tired of the underwhelming expectations and negative stereotypes that threaten our value and inner wisdom.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing the book?
The most rewarding aspect of writing the book has been hearing from readers who found inspiration and empowerment in the stories and advice shared in the book. Knowing that the book has made a positive impact on others’ lives makes the writing process incredibly fulfilling. I didn’t wake up and decide to become a superhero to women, but it appears I have.

What makes your newest release unique in the self-help market?
Badass Old White Woman stands out in the self-help and inspirational market for its candid and unconventional alternative life-changing therapies to topics related to aging, personal growth, and inner resilience. The book blends humor, personal anecdotes, and practical advice to create a relatable and empowering guide for women of all ages.

What are you most happy with, and what do you struggle with most, in your writing? And, especially regarding this book?
I’m most happy with the authenticity and relatability of women’s stories shared in the book. However, I sometimes struggle with finding the right balance between storytelling and delivering nontraditional healing modalities like Thought Field Therapy (TFT) and The Emotion Code to a wide-reading audience. Sharing emotions are the key to robustness in connecting with yourself and others. I give actionable advice in my writing, especially when addressing complex topics like aging and personal transformation.

You’ve written two other books in this genre: Repotting Yourself: Financial – Emotional – Spiritual Flow and The Cinderella Salesman: An Inspiring Success Story for Every Woman Who Seeks a Fascinating Career, endorsed by Og Mandino. How would you compare Badass Old White Woman to the previous books?
While Repotting Yourself and The Cinderella Salesman focus on specific aspects of personal growth and career development, Badass Old White Woman takes a more holistic approach to empowerment and resilience. It addresses broader themes related to aging, self-discovery, and embracing life’s challenges with courage and humor.

When you tackle a nonfiction project, do you think of it as storytelling? This book certainly seems to be telling a story of challenge and triumph.
Absolutely, storytelling is a central aspect of my approach to nonfiction writing. In Badass Old White Woman, I use storytelling to convey universal truths and inspire readers to embrace their own journeys of challenge and triumph. By sharing personal anecdotes and experiences, I aim to create a narrative that resonates with readers on a deeper level. I believe only after gaining an emotional vibrational balance will readers thrive in later years,

What was the expected, or unexpected, result of writing Badass Old White Woman?
I have emerged as a guiding voice, encouraging women to embark on an unapologetic, life-changing journey filled with renewed purpose and exhilarating adventures.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
One reader said, “Your book ignited a profound transformation within me, propelling me beyond the confines of my fears and the stagnant patterns that once confined me to society’s rigid and uninspiring perception of myself.”

Badass Old White Woman was just released in January 2024. Do you already have another writing project in mind — or are you working on one now?
Engaging in the marketing process demands a significant investment of my time. From securing speaking engagements to crafting articles that enhance visibility, and actively networking, these efforts collectively form the secret sauce for effectively selling books.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
In my book, I include the following quote: “When we rise above our emotional triggers, we possess the capability to neutralize them with precision, akin to a heat-seeking missile. Through this process, we access an invisible highway to our inner selves, where a cellular memory of full engagement and vibrant aliveness resides.” ~ Mary Lou Dobbs, Thought Field Therapy Lifestyle Coach.


D.E. Williams is the author of the award-winning Chesan Legacy Series: Child of Chaos and Chaos Unleashed. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. To find out more about Dollie and her writing, visit her website at DollieWilliams.com.




Author Update: Léonie Rosenstiel

Léonie Rosenstiel is an award-winning author whose nonfiction can be found in various anthologies and other publications such as Los Angeles Times, Albuquerque Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Globe. Her longer work includes biographies, reference books, and her personal journey of Protecting Mama: Surviving the Legal Guardianship Swamp (Calumet Editions, November 2021). Léonie’s newest release is Legal Protection: Affordable Options for Individuals, Families, and Small Businesses (January 2024), with a foreward written by Jack Canfield. You’ll find Léonie’s books on her Amazon author page. For more about her work, read her 2022 SWW interview.


What makes Legal Protection different from the other legal self-help books on the market?
Legal Protection shows people how to find the help they need, and have the peace of mind of knowing, in advance, that they have help available if (when?) they ever need it. It’s not an attempt to sell anyone a particular service or legal form. What I do is to show readers exactly what the best-known services offer (or don’t offer) and who can benefit the most from using them.

Who did you write the book for, and what did you bring to it that other writers couldn’t have?
I wrote it for those who seem to suffer most acutely in our legal system: middle class people. They’re not poor enough to get help from free law clinics but they’re not rich enough to have a stable of lawyers on retainer, either. I’ve watched a number of these sufferers spend all their disposable income—or even be forced to declare bankruptcy—to pay unexpected legal bills. Attorney billings can be just as draining of a bank account as devastating medical bills.

What do I bring to this subject that others don’t? Several generations of my family struggled through court cases and I grew up hearing their tales of woe. I was even involved, in peripheral ways, in some of those cases. When I started doing research on my family history, I discovered even more difficult and exhausting legal cases I’d never heard about before.

I’ve had more than a dozen attorneys of my own, over the decades. A couple of times, I felt obliged to put an attorney on retainer, so I know, first-hand, what that does to a bank account. I’m not an attorney. However, I’ve come to consider myself an expert consumer of legal services.

You must have discovered hundreds (if not thousands) of interesting facts while doing research for this book. How did you sift through it all and decide the most useful information to include in the book?
I started with the five top-rated legal services of 2023, as evaluated by Forbes Magazine. Then I added a few others that people mentioned to me, and that I knew had been around for decades. Then I decided to leave out one (not among the top services) that is only available to federal employees.

In reviewing the services, I took a critical attitude. Did the firm have a consistent philosophy? If not, what changed, over the years? Some had been merged into big conglomerates. Others had critics not allowed to post on their corporate websites. Those critics had started their own sites to complain—and these included both clients and attorneys!

What would you think of a legal service that claims to let people file their own legal forms, but in the fine print it says it has no idea whether the forms are valid, and you must have the help of an attorney before you file them? I made some discoveries that I consider scandalous, but you’ll have to read the book to know what they are. I hope I’ve managed to let the facts speak for themselves.

What was the most difficult challenge of putting this work together?
There were times when I wanted to warn people not to use a particular service, even though it was one of the top five, according to Forbes. Again, I did the research, asked some probing questions, to try to make readers think about what the information actually would mean to them as consumers of legal services, and then allowed the facts to speak for themselves.

Tell us about the journey from inspiration to completed book.
A little over a year ago, I was at a writers retreat with Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles and co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series. He’d looked at and endorsed a previous book of mine, Protecting Mama. The manuscript I showed him at that retreat was negative about adult guardianship. He understood why, but he wanted me to be offering people some hope also.

I went home, agonizing over how I could possibly do this when the situation seemed so bleak. Finally, I decided to do some deep research, starting from the beginning of the problem, which always seemed to be misunderstandings about the law or a lack of access to the right attorney at the right time. How could ordinary people have available legal help and not go bankrupt? That’s what made me search for solutions. This isn’t a long book, and once I got started, I found myself in “the zone” because my zeal to get the word out seemed to give me extra energy.

What did you learn in writing/publishing the book that you can apply to future projects?
If you feel absolutely stumped, what you need is probably hiding in plain sight. As with many mysteries, you’ve already seen the clue that solves the case. However, you didn’t realize, when you encountered it, how important it was and how it was connected to the rest of the puzzle. Look again at the problem as if you’re encountering it anew. You’ll be amazed at the new connections you can find, and the new conclusions you can draw!

Of all the nonfiction books you’ve written, which one was the most challenging and which was the easiest or most enjoyable to write?
The most challenging book? It’s a photo finish between Nadia Boulanger and Protecting Mama. I was so comparatively young when I wrote Nadia Boulanger! I felt I had a great deal of responsibility on my shoulders. I was writing about a cultural icon and needed to find a place of neutrality to tell a balanced story. To get the job done, I conducted over 300 interviews and traveled for several years.

Protecting Mama was equally challenging. The events I described were emotionally fraught for both my mother and me. I was so close to the subject, emotionally, that I worked very hard to take several steps back so I could see the patterns and not get stuck in the smaller events.

Have you ever wanted to write fiction?
I’ve written short fiction, and even won a few awards for it. One of my attorneys inspired me to start a sci fi novel some years ago. It’s tentatively titled Tensor Calculus. I’ve only written a few chapters and I’m still not sure whether I’m going to finish it.

What can fiction writers learn from nonfiction writers?
This would only apply to fiction writers in known genres, or “regular” literary fiction, and not to those who want to write experimental works: Make things real for your readers. They should be able to smell, feel, taste and/or hear what you’re showing them. If you met these characters at a party, would they be good companions? Do you love them or hate them? People are almost never monolithic. Assuming that this is true, do your bad characters have some good qualities and your good characters have some bad qualities?

What has writing taught you about yourself?
If I answered this question, the response would be so long that I’d be writing another book.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have five nonfiction books in various stages of completion right now. They have no titles yet. One relates to AI. Another is a book about how families might be able to avoid a run-in with the court system intent on taking over their beloved elders. Two manuscripts describe various events (in prior generations) that helped to lead my mother, eventually, toward a devastating commercial guardianship.


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




An Interview with Authors Chris Allen & Patricia Walkow

Chris Allen and Patricia Walkow are both award-winning authors and editors of fiction and nonfiction who discovered each other’s work as members of Corrales Writing Group. Their individual articles, essays, and short stories have been published in a variety of venues that include newspaper columns and anthologies. Chris and Pat’s first novel collaboration is Alchemy’s Reach (2023), a murder mystery with a touch of romance. You’ll find Chris on Facebook and her SWW author page. Look for Pat on PatriciaWalkow.com, Facebook, and her Amazon author page. For more about Pat’s work, read her 2016, 2020, and 2023 interviews for SouthWest Writers.


What is your elevator pitch for Alchemy’s Reach?
Detective Jennifer Murphy’s life is torn asunder when lightning splits the sky and a rifle shot splits the air. Only her dog, Fi, understands what happened.

What formed first in your minds that grew into the story idea: a character, a setting, a what-if question? How did you proceed from there?
The idea for Alchemy’s Reach came from a true event, a mass murder, that happened in southeastern New Mexico in 1885. We set our story in the present day in that setting and created characters that had ties to that prior event. A strong female character and giving the reader a sense of place were important to us. Our main character, Jennifer Murphy, is a deputy sheriff in Lincoln County where she lives on a ranch of rolling hills she and her younger brother, Ethan, inherited from their parents. We wanted the reader to understand how independent Jennifer is, how competent she is. We also wanted to highlight the sights, scents, and sounds of Lincoln County.

You two have collaborated before on writing projects. How did you divide the responsibilities of writing/producing this book? What was the greatest challenge in the collaboration process?
We previously collaborated to write short stories with both current and previous members of the Corrales Writing Group. Each of those stories has been published. Alchemy’s Reach is the first time it was just the two of us.

As with any collaborative effort, it is important for all parties involved to be committed to the project. It means working to reach common ground regarding what the story is about. Although we did not have major differences regarding our story in Alchemy’s Reach, we learned to give a little, get a little, and in the end, create a third voice that belongs neither solely to Pat nor to Chris.

As we discussed our story, one of us would volunteer to write a part, and the following week we’d review it, revise it, and then assign the next chapter. Sometimes one person wrote several chapters in a row; sometimes we simply wrote one at a time. There is also administrivia involved when authoring a book. For example, Pat developed a timeline for the story; Chris kept the character sketches up-to-date. Regarding research of the physical location or anything else related to our story, we would decide who would do what. It was pretty painless, but that goes back to our agreeing on what the book was about in the first place.

How did the book come together?
It took us about two years to write the book, mostly during the pandemic. We presented each chapter to our critique group — the Corrales Writing Group — for review and revision. Often, this was accomplished by Zoom. We edited the book ourselves multiple times by reading it as well as having the computer read it to us. We sent the book to five or six beta readers for their comments and suggestions.

We have both published through KDP but were each involved in other writing projects, so we decided to seek a publisher. We received two publishing offers and decided to go with a vanity publisher, which was a mistake. The chosen publisher provided the cover art and did some additional editing. We thought that though it cost some money, it would free us to attend to our new projects. We signed a contract with Austin Macauley for an e-book, paperback, and audiobook, and the audiobook is still pending. Not all the reviews we read about this company were positive, yet not all were negative. We took a chance. With our own experience publishing books, we learned we are far better at it than the publisher we chose, and we will not choose that route again.

Tell us about the main characters in Alchemy’s Reach.
Jennifer Murphy: Co-owner of Montaña Vista Ranch and Deputy Sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico. She is our main character. Loves both her job and the ranch. Ethan Murphy: Younger brother of Jennifer Murphy; co-owns the ranch, does not like ranch life; takes odd, dangerous jobs away from home. Pablo Baca: Ranch manager, hired long ago by Jennifer and Ethan’s father. Pablo has known Jennifer and Ethan since they were born. Rose Baldwin: Office administrator for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. She has been like a second mother to Jennifer and Ethan all their lives. Fi: A black Labrador Retriever. Ever faithful. Belongs to her and Ethan…but mostly, Ethan. Jeff Reynolds: Owner of the local hangout (bar and restaurant) called The Rusty Keg. Sheriff Cooper: Jennifer’s boss and sheriff of Lincoln County. Detective David Chino: Mescalero Apache and New Mexico State Police Detective. Joe Stern: Klamath Native American and friend of Ethan.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the book?
The inspiring event occurred in New Mexico, and since it is such an exotic and beautiful state, we chose to set the story here. The mass murder that occurred at Bonito City provided us with some background genealogy for our main character, Jennifer Murphy, and her brother. In Alchemy’s Reach, the fictional town of Alchemy was flooded when Lake Fortuna was built. In real life, Bonito City was drowned when Bonito Lake was created. The lake still exists today, and it has recently been dredged, removing years of silt.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
We worked well together, and the discussions of character and plot inspired each of us to be more creative. Building on each other’s ideas led to improved scene development, better character development, and twists in the plot which, as individuals, we may not have thought about. No matter what problem we encountered, talking it out and coming up with alternatives always worked.

What kinds of scenes did you find most difficult to write?
Chris: Really none posed any issues.

Pat: No type of scene presented a problem. As always, we had to ensure we were consistent with what came earlier in the book. An example of that would be:  how come my character has blonde hair in Chapter 1 and all of a sudden, we are saying she has black hair in Chapter 26?

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
The input from Corrales Writing Group has been invaluable. Even if we don’t feel a specific critique is appropriate for our styles, we find the members’ comments often spur us to review our work and make it better.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Pat: I’ve sent my novel-in-progress, The Far Moist End of the Earth, to beta readers.

Chris: I am currently working on two books, both science fiction, with my husband Paul Knight. One book, The Music of Creation, is out for review by a publisher. The other, The Mirror of Eternity, is going through the critique process with Corrales Writing Group.


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




An Interview with Authors Sue Boggio & Mare Pearl

Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl are novelists whose collaborations weave family, friendship, and hope into award-winning literary fiction. Their newest novel, Hungry Shoes (University of New Mexico Press, September 2023), is described as “an emotional journey through the scar tissue of complicated lives” and “a celebration of compassion, hard-earned wisdom, and the joy we can create.” You’ll find Sue and Mare on their website at BoggioAndPearl.com and on their Amazon author page.


Sue and Mare, you met in 1963 as youngsters and formed an immediate friendship that’s followed you throughout your lives. At what point did you both decide you wanted to write novels together?
In the 1980s we lived across the country from each other. We wrote letters that included one of us starting a story and mailing it to the other to continue the story — back and forth until the story became too long and fat to fit into an envelope. At that point, one of us would come up with an ending. In 1988, Mare moved to Albuquerque where I lived and we decided to educate ourselves about the craft (and business) of novel writing. Along with reading books on the subject and subscribing to industry periodicals, we joined SWW and attended meetings and all the great SWW conferences in the 1990s. In 2001, we were finalists in the novel competition with Sunlight and Shadow, published in 2004 by NAL/Penguin, and we were on our way!

Your latest novel is Hungry Shoes. What was the inspiration for this story?
Hungry Shoes was inspired by our long careers working at UNM Children and Adolescent Psychiatric Center, and our dedication to milieu therapy. Milieu therapy means the environment the kids are immersed in is a 24/7 intensive therapeutic process. Hungry Shoes shows how powerful milieu therapy was when we worked in such a program in the 1980s and 1990s. We’ll never forget the young people (and colleagues!) we had the privilege to work with and wanted to honor them in a fictionalized version of that inspiring world.

Was there anything surprising that you discovered while writing this book?
One of the challenges in writing Hungry Shoes was finding the best way to include pertinent scenes from Maddie and Grace’s pasts to show how and why they ended up needing inpatient psychiatric care. This required us to stretch ourselves in determining the structure of the novel, and how to handle time. Instead of the usual straight chronological stream of events, we inserted those past scenes into the present-day arc of their hospitalizations. The past scenes show particular times of chaos, abuse and neglect each girl experienced through their seventeen years of life. Showing these past arcs was much more powerful than telling them, say in therapy sessions. This gives the reader much greater insight and empathy when the girls’ experiences are addressed in their present day scenes. The scenes from the past are purposefully placed to connect with and inform what’s happening in the present-day arc of their three-month hospitalizations. It took a lot of trial and error before we arrived at the structure that finally worked the best, and the surprising discovery was that we were able to pull off what we envisioned!

Tell us how and why you chose the title Hungry Shoes.
In the early 1980s, a boy from Zuni Pueblo in my (Sue’s) care used the term to describe worn-out shoes that separate at the toe creating a mouth. (A lot of kids needed shoe glue to hold their shoes together until new ones could be obtained.) After learning the term was used commonly in Zuni Pueblo, I tucked it away as a title for a future book about milieu therapy. There is a scene in our book showing how the expression was used and its metaphorical representation of kids who have been abused, neglected, etc.

Why will readers connect with your main characters Maddie and Grace?
We created Maddie and Grace to have different issues, and be distinct from each other, but we wanted both of our lead characters to have the capacity to respond to therapy even after tough lives, and be intelligent and strong, and be able to form a genuine bond with each other that facilitates both of their healing journeys.

Maddie is more impulsive and expresses her pain and emotions directly. She’s more prone to “act-out” while Grace holds her pain more inside of herself. When the reader discovers what each girl has experienced via the scenes from the past, along with discoveries made in therapy, they are able to understand and connect with them. We also made sure to make them more well-rounded than their past wounds. We show them caring about their peer group members and staff, we show their humor and tenderness and bravery as they strive to get better.

What message do you hope to convey to readers of Hungry Shoes?
Our message is that there is an inpatient treatment model called milieu therapy that can (and did!) help kids turn their lives around if we as a society are willing to fund the necessary ingredients, which are:

Time enough to trust the adult staff to disclose their issues and connect with them as a source of support. Time for their families to learn new ways of parenting via family therapy and parent education (length of stay needs to be weeks/months instead of the current usual 3 days that insurance will cover.)

Staffed with highly-trained and well-paid professionals in a multi-disciplinary team approach offering a varied menu of therapies and individualized programs (art, music, recreational, etc.).

Physical environment that is designed for children while maintaining safety (i.e., playgrounds, flowers, grass, trees—natural beauty—supervised playtime and structured activities) instead of a stereotypical locked hospital ward.

Hungry Shoes shows all of this better than can be briefly described.

As coauthors, how do you manage expectations with each other? What is that process like?
We’ve been creating together since we were ten years old. It is instinctual by now to play to each other’s strengths. We’re each other’s greatest fans so our collaboration is based on mutual respect and trust. Before we start a project, we discuss EVERYTHING and keep notebooks as we define our themes, design settings, create characters and their arcs. We each choose POV characters and divide up scenes to write each week. (In the case of Hungry Shoes, I wrote Grace’s POV scenes and Mare wrote Maddie’s.) We get together weekly and read our scenes aloud to each other for feedback and to decide what scenes should come next. We always know our novel’s ending but how we get there allows for discovery along the way. A first draft takes about nine months. Then we do an entire read through out loud together before tackling rewrites and editing, first individually, then merged into one manuscript that Sue edits with continual input from Mare until we’re ready to share it with our first readers and eventually our agent for more revisions.

Not every difference of opinion is contentious, but as authors we bring our own ideas to each story. How do you navigate those differences?
We are constantly discussing different ideas, testing them out on each other. If one of us likes something the other doesn’t, we talk it through some more, but we give each other a lot of freedom and autonomy to run with an idea to see how it works—especially if it concerns our own POV character. Often a third option better than either of us thought of previously will be born from our discussions—the magic of collaboration. One of our bylaws is the good of the project comes before either of our egos. Honestly, it’s easier and a more natural process than you might imagine. I (Sue) write novels on my own in between our joint projects and it’s twice the work and half the fun.

Do you allow an underlying structure to guide your writing process or is this something you discover as you work?
It can vary depending on the needs of a particular project but we use structure and pacing techniques that we’ve learned from studying screenplay writing. (Hungry Shoes began as a screenplay.) We use index cards detailing each scene and mount them on a big story board, moving scenes around to find the best progression. This visual is key to our process, especially merging two writers’ scenes into one seamless narrative.

What writing projects are you working on now?
At age ten, it was the Lennon/McCartney collaboration that incited our creative journey as partners. Countless books have been written about The Beatles, so we wanted to write a novel capturing their lifelong impact on the lives of two young fans, Sadie and Max, called And Your Bird can Sing. After family tragedy leads to not only physical distance but total estrangement, Sadie and Max try to navigate adulthood without the one person they counted on always being there. Through the best and worst of times, Beatles music is the soundtrack of their lives. When life offers them a rare second chance, they come face to face after 26 years apart. At age 40, is their connection still alive? Or has it receded into their pasts, a pleasant childhood memory forever lodged in an era that has vanished as surely as the miraculous band itself? Our agent is currently beginning submissions of And Your Bird Can Sing—fingers crossed!

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about our work! You can email us via our website: www.boggioandpearl.com. We enjoy attending book club discussions in person or via zoom.


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: E. Joe Brown

After retiring from careers in the United States Air Force and civil service, E. Joe Brown began a third career as a writer. He is now an award-winning author who focuses on historical fiction and memoir. A Cowboy’s Fortune (Artemesia Publishing, January 2024) is his newest fiction release and the second book in The Kelly Can Saga set in early twentieth century Oklahoma. You’ll find Joe on his website EJoeBrown.com and Happy Trails blog, as well as on Facebook and his Amazon author page. For more about his work, read his 2022 SWW interview.


Distill the story you tell in A Cowboy’s Fortune into a few sentences.
The main characters, Charlie and Susan, are recently married and we follow them as they take charge of The Kramer Group (business empire of Walter Kramer, Susan’s father) and grow as people as they expand the business. They deal with some very bad people along the way.

For those who aren’t familiar with book one in the series, A Cowboy’s Destiny, tell us about your main character.
Charlie is a young ambitious cowboy who meets his future bride Susan as he travels across Oklahoma heading to the Miller’s 101 Ranch, the largest and most famous ranch in the state. Charlie proves himself as a cowboy, a man, and a leader at the 101.

Did your characters surprise you as you wrote their story?
Yes. I had ideas as I began, but I let my characters tell me the story as we moved through the pages.

Two books into The Kelly Can Saga, what have you found are the most challenging aspects of writing a series?
The research required to keep the story honest to the time frame as I incorporate real people into the storyline.

Is there a scene in either of your books you’d love to see play out in a movie?
Actually several. There are action scenes where Charlie shows his character, and there are scenes where you see his romantic side and Susan’s response that would jump off the screen in my opinion.

What makes this novel unique in the historical fiction market?
I don’t know of any other novel that focuses the reader on what was happening as society transitioned from ranching, farming, and rural life into what we call the Industrial Revolution. At least not in Oklahoma.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for this book?
The oil business and the overall population exploded during this exciting period in my home state of Oklahoma. After World War I many folks came West and homesteaded 160-acre parcels.

What did you learn in writing/publishing A Cowboy’s Fortune that you can apply to your future projects?
I continue to learn more about time management as an author. It takes a lot of time to write, revise, edit, and market a book.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
People have told me time and again how much the enjoy the storyline and how readable my writing style is.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?
I love the creative side and truly enjoy research. I’ve always enjoyed history.

What advice do you have for writers still striving for publication?
Attend conferences and conventions and meet publishers. It helps when you develop a relationship with a publisher.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m writing book three of at least five books in The Kelly Can Saga. I’m also working on more memoirs.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I appreciate my readers more than I have the words to express.


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




Author Update: Vicki Kay Turpen

Author Vicki Kay Turpen is a retired teacher of English, the Bible as literature, and drama who co-founded the Durango Lively Arts Company in Colorado. She has published dozens of articles for The Christian Science Publishing Society, and in 2019, released her first novel, The Delicate Balance (co-authored with Shannon Horst). Her newest release, Opelika Opiate (June 2023), is set in Alabama “where cars, men, and race collide to unhinge the life of a young woman.” You’ll find Vicki on her SWW author page and her Amazon author page for Opelika Opiate.


What would you like readers to know about Opelika Opiate?
Opelika Opiate is the result of my own disappointment with leaders in today’s world. There is a lack of education and brotherly love and a tendency toward anger and blame. My story is based on an actual experience I had when I was fifteen. I was stranded in a run-down motel with my grandmother. She was allowing her emotions and brain to stupefy her and halt all normal functions. She refused to get out of bed and drive us home. For years, I never thought back on that experience or the man who tried to rape me then. Now the world news can be full of women and men accusing each other of harmful actions.

As I was growing up in the American south with its unjust and unequal laws and social life, I was so disappointed with even my own relatives who allowed prejudice to rule their lives. Until we all begin seeing ourselves as more than sexual objects and see ourselves and each other as equal human beings there will never be real equality and harmony in our world.

Your first novel, The Delicate Balance, was a science fiction story exploring climate change. Opelika Opiate is not only a different genre but it seems to be a huge departure from your first book. What inspired you to take this new direction? What themes do you explore in the story?
My experience with the man who tried to rape me was over 70 years ago. I never told my grandmother (who later was healed of her problems and became a loving and helpful friend). I never told my parents. I never shared the experience with anyone or allowed shame, blame, or hatred to rule over me. However, my heart goes out to women and men who allow themselves to become life-long victims to their own thinking, and then much later take revenge. Why has forgiveness and love so disappeared from our lives? I decided to write about my own decisions, hoping my story would encourage young people today never to think of themselves as victims.

Who is your main character? Why is she the best choice to carry your story?
The main character in Opelika Opiate is Karla Sue. She is a 15-year-old taking care of her depressed grandmother. The story came from the real experience I had in 1953. The incident with my grandmother and all of the heat, rain, fear, and actions with other characters is based on my experience. The forward of the book is written by the author (me) in explanation of her memories. The actual characters, except for Karla Sue, are fictional, but the actions are based on how Karla Sue handles the attack. Then the story states why she refuses to think of herself as a victim for the rest of her life. That reflects back on the opening statements by the author. I suppose you could say there are two protagonists, the author and Karla Sue, but they are the same person at 15 and later at 80.

How did the book come together?
I began writing Opelika Opiate while on vacation with my daughter Kelly. My daughter-in-law Toni helped me with complicated technical aspects. A good friend who is an artist did the sketches for the book, and I created the cover. It was published by Austin Macauley last year.

Choosing a book’s title can be a complicated journey. Tell us why you chose the title for your newest novel.
In choosing the title for Opelika Opiate I was also expressing my deep feelings concerning our increasing delusions about drugs. Look around today, one opiate is supposedly recreational, when the combination of several others or just one can cause death. Many opiates that are used just for pain never really heal, and our leaders are boasting about the money gained by legalizations. I was hoping to discourage the reader not to sleep away his or her life with the use of drugs. I wish to encourage them to never destroy their ability to think, reason, and lead creative lives.

For your first book, you shared the writing responsibilities with a co-author, your daughter Shannon Horst. What was it like this time, writing a novel on your own?
I loved writing with my daughter, it was fun. I also enjoy doing my own writing. I found out when I retired from teaching that writing was a very happy way to spend special time alone with my thoughts. I write the same way I directed theater. I chose characters, like I did for a play or musical. I see them in real life-moving through their lives either in conflict to their own thought or in conflict with others, or in instances that bring harmony. They are in my consciousness and often tell me how they feel and how they are trying to deal with life. Often the ideas are ones I never have thought about, they come directly from the character.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I just finished writing a historical novel that takes place in Louisville, Kentucky in 1900. It is called Kat’s Dilemma and is based on events that occurred in my great-grandmother’s life. It answers the question, “What was it like to be a woman then?” Katherine Amelia (Kat) faces the belief she has no individual rights or no freedom to make decisions for herself. I did a lot of research and discovered shocking facts, laws, and attitudes concerning women. Kat’s intelligence, her searches through books, and her determination to be a real person eventually create her happiness and success. My next book is a memoir entitled Mike and Me and Music about marriage and family.


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




2023 New Releases for SWW Authors #1

Chris Allen, Parris Afton Bonds, Melody Groves, and Patricia Walkow represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with books published in a variety of genres in 2023. Their new releases couldn’t fit in this year’s interview schedule, but look for 2024 interviews or updates for many of these authors.

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


Alchemy’s Reach (August 2023) by Chris Allen and Patricia Walkow. Jennifer Murphy, deputy sheriff in a small town in New Mexico, has closed her heart to love. She throws herself into her job as well as running the ranch she and her brother, Ethan, inherited from their parents. Ethan’s wanderlust has taken him away in search of odd jobs. When he returns home, Jennifer entices him to stay for a while by telling him about Alchemy, a ghost town, once drowned by a reservoir, but now exposed by drought. Local barflies think there is treasure buried there. Others believe it is cursed. Intrigued, Ethan packs up his dog, Fi, and heads to the town. What happens at Alchemy will change Jen’s life forever, but will it open her heart to love?

You’ll find Chris Allen on Facebook and her SWW author page. Look for Patricia Walkow on PatriciaWalkow.com, Facebook, and her Amazon author page.


Answering The Call (Motina Books, May 2023) by Parris Afton Bonds. It’s never too late to have the adventure of a lifetime. With her 70th birthday looming, Lauren Hillard thinks there has to be an easier way. She has long felt her family has simply stowed her away like a precious heirloom. She’s had it – she is done. Lauren makes the snap decision to answer the call to adventure and move to affordable, exotic Mexico. Exotic, like the much younger David Escobar, attorney and former criminal. Soon she wonders if it’s wise to answer calls from a treacherous family member who wants to have her committed, a ruthless organ harvester, and her captivating but high-risk attorney.

Visit Parris on her website and her Amazon author page.


Lady of the Law: A Maud Overstreet Novel (Wolfpack Publishing, March 2023) by Melody Groves. Women in the 1870s have little control over their lives and the women of Dry Creek, California, look to Sheriff Maud Overstreet, a thirty-something spinster, as an example of women’s progress. Following a disastrous fire that leveled the town’s school, Maud appoints a woman as fire chief. Inspired, several women step forward to run their own businesses, much to the consternation of the male town councilors. While searching for the school arsonist, Maud takes on the role of campaign manager for two of her friends, both vying to be Mayor. Toss in more fires, a wild romance, a rowdy town dance, establishing a school for Chinese girls, and mysterious threatening notes, Sheriff Overstreet faces each challenge with determination. She is, after all, a Lady of the Law.

Showdown at Pinos Altos: The Colton Brothers Saga (Wolfpack Publishing, March 2023) by Melody Groves. Andy Colton, the youngest of the Colton brothers, leaves Mesilla to pursue gold mining in New Mexico’s Black Range. However, he finds little gold and is captured by a runaway slave while fleeing from a band of Apache. When news reaches Mesilla that the Apache have raided Santa Rita and Pinos Altos—areas where Andy was last known to be—his brothers Trace and James set out to search for him. After the slave sells Andy to the Apache, a fight ensues between the Coltons and the Apache in Pinos Altos in an explosive showdown not soon to be forgotten.

Look for Melody on her website MelodyGroves.net. You’ll find all her books on Amazon.


Holes in Our Hearts: An Anthology of New Mexican Military Related Stories and Poetry (May 2023), edited by Jim Tritten, Dan Wetmore, and Joseph Badal. Holes in Our Hearts provides snapshots of military life and how the military has affected lives. It is written from the perspective of New Mexico active-duty military members, veterans of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, as well as their family members and caregivers. Some of the writing represents the first time many authors have revealed their innermost thoughts to anyone. Some of the stories are written by established authors with numerous publishing credentials. All are worth the time to learn why we continue to honor the military on behalf of a grateful nation. This collection of prose and poetry was gathered and created by SouthWest Writers and funded through a grant from the State of New Mexico Arts and the Military Program.

For a list of contributing authors, visit the Holes in Our Hearts book page on the SWW website. The anthology is available on Amazon.


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
Waddles the Duck and
Cradle in the Wild: A Book for Nature Lovers Everywhere




An Interview with Author Kate Harrington

Author Kate Harrington channels her optimism for a hopeful future into her science fiction novels for young adults. Her most recent release is Planet Quest (March 2022), book two in her award-winning Pawn Quest trilogy that follows a group of teens marooned on a hostile planet. Look for Kate on her website at KateHarringtonWrites.com and on her Amazon author page.


Planet Quest is a finalist in the 2023 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. What else do you want readers to know about this second book in your trilogy?
Three teens, linked to a mystery back on Earth, land on a strange planet with ten others, but where are the people? Ran, the only teen not recovering from SpaceSleep, goes in search and ends up trapped. But nothing’s going to stop him from rejoining his friends. This is a young adult sci-fi adventure.

Who are your main characters, and what do they have to overcome in the story?
In Pawn Quest, book one, machine-empath Ran, researcher Pel, and impulsive Hallie each comes up against different aspects of a mystery of disappeared persons. The AI that holds answers propels them off Earth, but is it for their safety or to be rid of them? In Planet Quest, a hostile planet, an old alien shipwreck, and non-communicative adults challenge the teens to discover and use their inner strengths.

From inspiration to publication, how did Planet Quest come together?
Over more than half my lifetime, the story grew in the background of raising kids and pursuing a career. I was always revising and never finishing. A couple years before Covid (BC?) I got depressed. It seemed I had a choice: to quit altogether—or—to self-publish something still incomplete. Choosing to publish provided a huge sense of relief and the freedom to move forward.

Publication fell into place relatively quickly. Chatting with Lois Bradley at a conference gained me a wonderful jacket designer. A presentation at Bubonicon identified E. M. Tippetts for book formatting. A church friend added me to her copyediting clientele. I took Sarah Baker’s Continuing Ed class on self-publishing and Rob Spiegel’s blogging class — though I’m still not into self-promotion. My IT son sat shotgun while I uploaded various files online. And none of it would have happened without invaluable feedback over the years from critique groups and individuals.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for the Pawn Quest books? What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
The most difficult part of world building was staying ahead of the future; our world is changing so fast. Actually, my favorite part was writing the companion book Ty’s Choice (December 2020), also a New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards finalist. I wanted to know more about a ten-year-old boy who appears in Pawn Quest. With the background of future Dodge City already formulated, and keeping to a single point of view, the book came together much faster than anything else I’ve written.

What sparked the initial story idea for book one, Pawn Quest? When did you know the storyline or characters were strong enough to carry a series?
My heart was set on finding a library job when my boys reached school age. Instead, I found myself pregnant again and started writing to fill the gap. I had this view of teenagers on a strange planet, but no idea how they got there. About the same time, I read about a parent whose child had been unfairly taken from her. The strong emotion that article evoked got attached to those kids on that planet and kept me seeking answers.

I never intended more than a single volume, but the story ran away with itself. Pawn Quest answers who the teens are and how they arrive on the planet. Planet Quest covers their first ten days. In the final volume, Quantum Quest, they’ll have to overcome challenges related to that initial mystery back on Earth before they can return home.

Tell us about any challenges this work posed for you.
I wanted to publish on IngramSpark, but it was such a challenge I ended up with Amazon. I’ve since managed (with Rose Kern’s help) to load all three titles on IngramSpark.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? And when did you first consider yourself a writer?
I discovered both my loves—libraries and writing—in junior high school. I don’t think I dared call myself a writer until after retirement.

What topics or themes does your book touch on that would make it a good fit for the classroom?
I’ve jumped over a lot of present/future problems with AI and social media technologies. It’s easier to solve them in retrospect. An interesting discussion might be how to get from where we are to the more equitable (but flawed) society I describe, or to any other society the students might imagine.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What do you admire most about their writing?
I love Diana Wynne Jones for her humor, imagination, and ability to connect with children’s emotions. Space opera authors Lois McMaster Bujold and the team of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are great world builders and storytellers. And so many others…

What writing projects are you working on now?
While working on book three of the Pawn Quest trilogy, I’m also revising two verse novels — fairy tale retellings set in an ancient past — which I’d love to see published.


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




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