Welcome to my blog spot- grab a cup of coffee and a good book ;-)
I met the amazing writer and avid reader, Jennifer Soucy on Twitter last year when our buddy Marc formed a group that would later be known as my Twitt fam. These wonderfully talented people have been my sounding board, my ventilation shaft, and my shoulder to cry on. They’ve shared my accomplishments, trials, and tribulations. Jen has read and fallen in love with many of my characters over the last year and a half. She’s one of my most treasured betas and she truly has a heart of gold. She’s been a great friend and valued fellow writer.
She’s an author of several works including horror, so naturally when she was set to publish a book, I wanted to read it! I recently finished an ARC of her debut novel, Demon in Me. This baby premieres this Saturday, March 21st by the way and I was awed by her creative mind and eloquent words. I knew I had to ask her what inspired this work and her characters.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Jennifer, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
Jen: Hey, Shanna! I’m 41 now--a Connecticut Yankee living in Georgia. My parents are down here too, as well as my younger twin sisters. I’ve worked most of my life in the service industry (25yrs now), but I absolutely love bartending the most. I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly twenty years and, while we don’t have kids, we adore our baby kitty Guinness (a 20lb siamese, so hardly a baby but you feel me!).
I always loved reading. My mom still talks about how I was 3 or 4, sitting alone in my room with my Golden Books and reading out loud. She was never sure if I had memorized the words from her reading them to me, or if I just caught on by myself, but it impressed her.
Ever since then, both her and my grandmother showered me with books and frequent trips to the library. I always excelled at writing--at least, in school--winning awards at a young age. When I was 12, my parents bought me one of those old-fashioned typewriters--you know, big metal beasts that require ribbon and ink. I was on it every day, writing what I was sure would be the next in a line of fantastic spooky stories (a very odd mashup of Stephen King and V.C. Andrews which I mostly wiped from my mind, but I was a kid)!
Life got in the way of my dreams, as it does for so many. I stopped writing, focusing on work and survival. When I was nearing 40, I had an epiphany while bartending: What in the hell am I doing with my life? And boom, that was it. I cut my hours and got to work, and I haven’t looked back since.
Me: Awesome! I love both those authors! Now, what inspired you to write Demon In Me?
Jen: Demon In Me was actually the third book I wrote after beginning my mid-life writing binge (3 novels from June to December 2018). It took me about 2 months to knock out the first draft because it flooded out. My family has suffered from addiction, something I toyed with in my youth as well. Also, I spent several years as a teenager in and out of hospitals for suicide attempts (one of which was nearly successful).
I wanted to create a character with similar struggles; although, Layla had it worse than me in almost every instance. I remember sitting in front of my computer, daydreaming as the story shaped up. I thought something like, “Everybody has inner demons. But they’re not real...are they?” That was all it took. And it ended up being my hook!
As I stated, I’m from Connecticut. While it wasn’t always bad growing up there, I fled as quick as I could--more because of me than the area or people. I fled to Georgia to start a new life, but I also lived for a time in Las Vegas with the same goal--a fresh start, trying something new. Las Vegas is definitely a city who welcomes and nurtures refugees, and I absolutely loved my time there. I wanted to convey that love in a story, too, even if we only see it briefly in the story.
Me: Isn’t it amazing how our works can be so personal. Even when we don’t intend to, we write facets of ourselves into our characters? You lived in Vegas? How cool! So, which character in this book is your favorite? Why?
Jen: Layla is my favorite, simply because we bonded through our similar experiences. Her struggles, insecurities, and doubts resonated with me so much. Plus, as a writer, first-person is a hugely intimate PoV. Which is why I can’t write a villain in 1st person--it would scare the crap out of me, for real.
If I had a second-favorite character, it would absolutely be Raij. I honestly think he birthed himself--one minute, he just popped on the page and I was like “Who are you?” He’s the best friend we all dream of and some of us are lucky enough to have. He’s funny, irreverent, gets into wild situations, but he’s got a heart of pure gold (you should see some of my deleted scenes, or the ones that never made it to the page!).
Me: LOL! It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters? Layla? Cole? Raij?
Jen: I’ve seen other authors attempt to tackle this question, so I’ll say my version of it. None of my characters was inspired by any one person in particular. However, for the people who are closest to me, they’ll definitely see familiar slivers here and there.
As far as Jake and Alice, the adorable nephew and niece, I was absolutely inspired by my 30+ nieces and nephews. I never had children, but I love these kids as if they were my own. I definitely channeled those emotions when building Layla’s relationship with the kids--how even when they’re not your own, nieces and nephews can absolutely melt your heart with their open and generous love.
Me: Ha ha, yes! Agreed! What are you working on now?
Jen: That’s a complicated question, lol. I have a contract with RhetAskew publishing for the first book I wrote in the summer of 2018. It’s a YA/NA dark fantasy/horror (due early 2021) about a teen from Boston who gets the shock of her life close to her 18th birthday. Someone breaks into her room, a girl who looks like a younger version of her dead mother...and, supernatural hijinks and Celtic folklore abound!
I have several queries out for 2 other finished novels. I also wrote nearly 10 short stories I’m shopping for various anthologies.
As for “in-progress” projects, I have a sequel nearly done for the YA/NA book above. And, I’m working on the next draft for a modern re-telling of the Persephone and Hades myth but with witches and satanists. Also, there’s a new novel shaping up but I can’t talk about it yet til I uncover more so...to be continued!
Me: How fun! I can’t wait to read more of your work!! So, tell us a little about your writing process?
Jen: For the most part, I prefer writing as soon as I wake up. I find the words and images flow best when I’m still half-asleep. However, when the story really kicks in, I’ve been known to go on binges for up to 10k words from sunrise to sunset. You know how it is, when it’s coming you have to get it down right then and there!
Another thing I do when starting any project is creating a playlist. Music is a huge part of my life, something I love as much as books. I find that having the songs play in the background distracts my conscious mind so my subconscious can run wild. Each playlist is specifically crafted to reflect certain characters or specific scenes/themes. It drives my boyfriend crazy cause he’ll look one over and be like, “Why do you have this song but not that one. How could you leave such a classic off?” But, I remind him every time, even if I love a song/artist they don’t make the playlist unless they fit the criteria!
As you know, I included an excerpt of the playlist for Demon In Me at the back of the book. With Layla as a musician, it just seemed appropriate. Plus, I’ve recently seen some authors doing it so I was inspired to add it as well.
Me: Same here, I get the best ideas when I’m still sleepy too! You got to go with the flow, literally LOL! And I agree, music is life!! Now, horror is one of my favorite genres? What drew you to it?
Jen: I blame fairy tales. And not the cute Disney versions, I’m talking the dark and bloody classics whispered over hearths for hundreds of years before being eventually written down for posterity. I do love Disney, of course, and those were some of my first and favorite movies. But, my grandmother encouraged my love of fairy tales by reading the old versions to me every time I slept over (which was a lot). Mutilation, abuse, cannibalism, trauma--you name it, she read it. And my little ears soaked it all up.
As I grew older, my reading diversified, of course. But I always gravitated towards fantastic tales, anything different from the world I knew--the darker, the better.
My first pure horror read was from Stephen King, naturally. My best friend at the time (we were 9) started reading It. I saw the size of that book and opted for something less intimidating, choosing The Shining. I honestly think I got the better end of the deal (even though It is amazing). The story of the Torrances and The Overlook blew my mind, and nearly scared the life out of me. But, I understood Danny Torrance and really connected with him. To this day, it’s one of my favorite books ever. Without Mr. King, I never would’ve dived into a genre that has become one of the cornerstones of my life. I cannot emphasize enough how much of a horror nerd/fangirl I am...to my mother’s constant dismay, lol.
Me: LOL! My mom and dad were fans too. My favorite movie at the age of eight was Silver Bullet, so I get it. So, who are your favorite authors/books?
Jen: There are so many, it’s ridiculous! And I’m sure I’ll forget a few, so I’ll try to keep it simple.
Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Anne Rice, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Daphne Du Maurier, Laura Esquivel, Anne Rivers Siddons, Frank Herbert, Neil Gaiman...ok, I should totally stop.
As far as modern horror authors (who are rocking the genre, btw), I love Paul Tremblay, Grady Hendrix, Stephen Graham Jones, Victor LaValle, Adam Nevill, Ania Ahlborn, Gabino Iglesias, Kealan Patrick Burke, Gwendolyn Kiste, Chad Lutzke, Gemma Amor, Jonathan Janz, Scott Thomas, Zoje Stage, and so many more. This is really a Golden Age for horror!
Me: Wow that’s quite a list. I’ll have to check some of these out! Now, what do you personally love about writing?
For me, writing has been a natural extension of reading--an escape to a different world. Not always a better world, especially with my love of dark fiction. But, sometimes that helps--a catharsis that increases when the characters have way worse lives than you.
One of my favorite parts about writing is the “a-ha!” moment. I tend more towards pantsing (a silly term, I know), although I create general outlines to start myself off. I always know certain key scenes will happen, and most times I start with an ending in mind. The fun is taking the characters I built and seeing how they arrive at those destinations, because sometimes they take me on some crazy detours. It’s sort of spooky, until I remind myself that no matter how real my characters feel they’re still me! But for a second, it’s an amazing sensation...connecting myself with something Other.
Me: Ha ha, I understand completely! I’m a "pantser" myself and it's always fun to see where these characters will take us.
Final question: What are you looking forward to this year?
Jen: I’m so looking forward to finishing the editing rounds on my YA/NA book for RA. I cannot wait to share Evie Bonaventura with the world. She’s my first baby, and one I’ll be working on in sequels because I love her so much (even though, she’d probably smack me for the shit I put her through lol).
I have some travel goals, if I can fit them in with work. I’d really love to go outside of the country, as I’ve never been (another bonus of reading, the travel!). I also would like to go to at least one horror convention sometime this year and try my hand at face-to-face networking.
As for the rest, I hope to continue working on my stories so I can share more with the world. There’s plenty of weirdness still up in my brain, dying for a chance to shine.
Me: Nice, well I know I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for you! And as always, my friend, I wish you the best of luck in all your adventures!
Jennifer Soucy is a quintessential New England girl, born and raised in Connecticut. A wanderer by nature, she moved to the Atlanta area with her family when she was nineteen and delights in being called a “Damn Yankee”. She also lived nearly two years in Las Vegas, her home away from home. Back in Georgia now, she started writing again to fulfill her childhood dreams. This writer, assistant editor, and professional bartender is also a proud nerd who enjoys anything involving horror and fantasy. She hopes to continue publishing books that occasionally make people sleep with the light on.
Check out my website at jenniferlsoucy.com for updates, blogs, and more!
Demon in Me premiers Saturday, be sure to pre-order your copy now!
Shanna Swenson, author of Abundance and PERSONAL FOUL
I write what the characters in my head tell me to ;-)
I met the sweet and beautiful--inside AND out--Kali Brixton on Instagram last year and reached out to her to review my debut romance series, of which, she kindly indulged me and wrote some of the most amazing reviews on my books to date. You can find them HERE
I recently read her debut novel and if you’re a fan of broken, alpha heroes and second chance romances then you’ll need to grab your copy HERE
After reading this touching and endearing book, I knew I wanted to know more about Kali and what inspired her to write these lovable characters.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Kali, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
KB: Hey Shanna! Thank you so much for having me over for this interview 😉 I’m a KY living in a WV world 💖 I may live across the border, but my heart is tattooed with #bluegrassorbust on it. 😁 I am a high school freshman English teacher (and yes, I’m crazy). I’ve been married to my amazing husband for 11 years. I’m an avid romance reader and adore the crap outta HEAs!
In addition to being head HEA cheerleader, my body loves to be an overachiever at collecting ailments: breast cancer at 29, infertility, Hashimoto’s, depression, PCOS, and a few other weird things. Although these have enormously impacted my life, by sharing my story with others, it has also brought some of the most amazing people into my world that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Ever since I was a young girl, I loved to read and write. My love of reading waned in high school, but writing remained a favorite pastime into adulthood. I always geeked out a bit when we were presented with the opportunity to do some sort of creative writing project. It’s been a dream of mine to publish a book for years (and years and years), but going through breast cancer was a stark reminder that my time on Earth is limited and I needed to spend those moments doing the things I love.
Me: Aww, I understand medical illness all too well, my friend. Now, what inspired you to write To Have?
KB: The idea came to me. I know that's crazy, but it's the truth 😂. I had went on a reading bender and was thinking about how some stories fail to touch on real world issues. Then, I started thinking about a little boy whose only crime was being born to the wrong set of parents. A little boy who saw salvation in his kitchen window and eternal love in a little blonde-haired girl. I thought about the things that little boy had experienced, which were probably very similar to what some of my own students experience every day due to a horrible home life. And I thought: what if I gave them a name and a voice? What if I showed that hope is not lost and for every awful person in the world, there is a person who wants to love and accept them?
One of my favorite and most painful scenes to write dealt with the abuse Deacon suffered at his father's hands. I had had a time with D+C going silent on me for a while, so I asked Deacon, "If you won't give me your story, then give me your pain." He did, and it changed everything. 💖
Me: How many books will be in the Vows series?
KB: There will be 4 books in the original series. I am planning for 5ish for the spin-off and, if the inspiration continues to crank out, another 10 in the continuation series. 😯 That's a LOT of storyline to be written, but when I think I have it all figured out, another character comes out of the woodwork and the creative juices start flowing again. 😂
Me: Right! I know!! So, which character in your collection is your favorite? Why?
KB: Gosh… I legit don't know 😂. There are pieces of each character I adore so much (Charlotte's devotion to family, Nikki's creativity, Staci's sass, Grey's comic relief, Elsie's grandmotherly advice), it's hard to narrow it down. 🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔. I'd probably have to go with Mason and Deacon because broken characters are my favorites. They awaken the maternal instinct within me to protect them from all the hurt.
Me: Yes, broken ones are the best. Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters? Deacon? Charlotte? Mason? Grey?
KB: Deacon came to me as-is, with his raven locks and haunted ice blue eyes. His imposing 6'4" figure hid the scared little boy within and I immediately fell in love with him. 💖. Charlotte was always a buxom blonde, but originally had curly, ash blonde hair. After spending some time with her and writing her dad's dream about his little girl, I made some changes to fit the much clearer picture of Charlotte.
Grey and Mason… Now, that's an interesting one 😁. When I was creating the twins, I knew they were very similar to Charlotte, with their blonde locks, grayish-green eyes and charming looks. I knew they'd have a bright smile (well, Grey at least because Mason mostly snarls 😂), and they'd have the typical all-American, boy-next-door good looks. What I didn't bank on was that my Grey and Mason already existed in a living, breathing Adonis: the handsome Anders Schnell. 🤗 Follow him on IG! http://instagram.com/andersschnell
Me: I’m gonna have to search him. Ha ha! So, what are you working on now?
KB: Currently, I have multiple irons in the fire. I am slated to release Books 2 & 3 of the Vows Series (Early Summer 2020 + Late Fall 2020). I am also collaborating with multiple authors on a variety of projects: a contemporary romance collection (tentatively June 2020), a novella for a dark romance series (tentatively Fall 2020), and a sweets-inspired rom-com collection (Late Fall/Early Winter 2020).
So much writing, so little time...but I couldn’t be happier to be a part of these worlds! ;)
Me: Super exciting ;-) Tell us a little about your writing process?
KB: I’m a total pantser who’s trying to morph into a plotser. :D In the past, I was satisfied to have a general idea of the story, then write scenes as I feel inspired. This makes for a much more chaotic WP, which is why I’m trying to corral the craziness in my brain and find my sweet spot of writing.
To Have was patchworked together because I wrote almost solely based on emotion and inspiration, but to create more works in a smaller time frame, I’ve learned that I have to have a better game plan.
I teach writing every day in class, but novel-writing is vastly different from anything I teach and have ever written in the past. There was a steep learning curve (mostly because I’m stubborn… LOL!); however, I had numerous authors who I now call friends to advise me to plan more, then write to save time and heartache.
All that being said, two of my favorite scenes were written solely from inspiration and emotion, so there’s a balance somewhere. Like many, I’m just trying to find mine ;)
Me: LOL! It’s a subjective process for sure! What drew you to the romance genre?
KB: Cinderella 😁 I watched it and The Wizard of Oz somewhere around a bajillion times growing up, so cheering for a couple’s or a character’s HEA became deeply ingrained into my DNA early on.
After I went through breast cancer, I suffered from severe depression. Writing had always been cathartic for me, so I decided to write about my BC journey in addition to a situation that my husband’s family went through when he was young. While taking notes and researching for both, I wondered how I would go about publishing those two books. I stumbled upon Wattpad when I found an article about self-publishing and was shocked at how many different stories were on there!
I found some amazing romances there and fell so in love with the characters and their struggles to rise above all the mess. One of my favorite Wattpad writers, Kimber Lee (@kanyeinyerruptedme), released two stories on Radish, so I followed her there to support her and the stories. This led me to Tess Oliver and Ella Sheridan, which then led me to Amazon to purchase their books because I was a woman obsessed. 😂 I came upon a book that was labeled as Kindle Unlimited and started researching what KU was. Needless to say, a few years later, I’m still a devoted KU reader and chose to put my book baby To Have there as well!
Me: So, who are your favorite authors/books?
KB: I have many authors I adore (the grand majority being indies), but to narrow it down: Ella Sheridan and Tess Oliver. These ladies have created several worlds and several book boyfriends that I’ll never forget and always want to revisit. Meghan March ranks high on my list as well, especially with her recent Legend trilogy. All these ladies are experts in romantic suspense and always keep me on the edge of my seat with their heart-stopping/wrenching/melting stories.
Me: I just got Ella Sheridan’s Assassin’s Mark and I’m eager to dig in. Now, what do you personally love about writing?
KB: I love the catharsis writing offers. It's amazing to take these wild ideas in my head and make them come alive. Pouring your heart onto page after page is a terrifying thing when you think about others reading your work, but what an amazing feeling it is to have others tell you they fell in love with the same characters who made you weep and scream and feel on so many levels.
Back when I went through BC, facing my mortality and the possibility that I might not be in the world anymore lit a fire under me to leave a piece of myself behind. Since I'm unable to have children myself, what better thing to leave of myself in the world than stories where people overcome the odds and find their own happy endings? 😉
Me: Amen to that! I always say, “I write for me. To be able to read what I want to.” Last question, Kali: What are you looking forward to in 2020?
KB: I'm looking most forward to connecting with more people in the romance community, doing a signing or two (hopefully 😁), releasing more book babies into the world, and working on exciting projects that are piling into 2021. 🤘 It's a full docket, but the excitement is intoxicating and addicting!
Me: Haha, yes it is! I am stoked to meet you face to face in Gatlinburg at the signing. I know you, me and Nic are gonna have a blast! I wish you all the best in your endeavors, my friend! Here’s to touching even more hearts in 2020!
Kali Brixton is the alter ego of a mild-mannered English teacher who adores the written word and a good ol'-fashioned love story (or song). Cinderella will forever be her bread, butter, and jelly, and glitter runs in her veins.
She believes in the healing power of hugs, humor, and HEAs. All things sparkly, cheesy, and Wizard of Oz-zy are guaranteed attention-grabbers.
Although rooted deep within the Appalachian Mountains, she has a heart full of wanderlust. Kali dreams of one day becoming a full-time author and traveling to faraway lands. Until then, she will continue to teach high school students the indisputable importance of Poe and puns.
Kali resides with her own Prince Charming/partner-in-crime/husband of more than a decade and the dreams that are now too big to stay within her wild imagination.
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Where swoony cowboys await to take your breath away...
I met C.L. Stewart in a group chat on IG. I had seen her beautiful covers for her Soul series and knew I wanted to read her work. When her latest book, The Intimidation Game, came out, I signed up for an ARC and fell in love with her characters. I knew I wanted to know what inspired her to write such a powerful romance novel. And she's Scottish (like my ancestors) so I knew I needed the scoop ;-)
Here's what she had to say:
Me: Hi C.L., tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
C.L: My name is Claire and I live in Lanark, Scotland. I live with my husband, 3 children and a springer spaniel who is wired to the moon. I always loved to write when I was young and when I was in 1st year at high school I wrote a short story that my English teacher said was excellent. So good in fact that it was read out to the whole class. It was about a carrier pigeon during the First World War. I wrote it from the perspective of the pigeon and the praise I got for it cemented my love of writing. More short stories followed and I got better as the years went on and so in 2011 I started writing Shattered Soul and here I am today with 4 books under my belt.
Me: Wow, that’s amazing! Congrats, girlie! So, what inspired you to write The Intimidation Game?
C.L: The character of Nikki is briefly introduced in Heart and Soul. Her sister is the main character’s best friend. She has a very strong character and I wanted to make Nikki her total opposite. As is common in families, there are never really two siblings who are identical in all their characteristics. Nikki is not as strong-willed as her sister and this is partly the reason she ended up in such an abusive relationship. The domestic abuse side of the story came about through watching various documentaries on TV and the fact that it has been mentioned quite a lot in the news in the UK recently because of changes in our laws. It is not something I have written from personal experience but having done a lot of research on it, I feel it is still thought of as hushed subject, something people don’t feel comfortable talking about.
Me: I love the awareness that you brought to this topic. And you’re right--no two siblings are the same. Now, how many books will be in the Game series?
C.L: At the moment, I have three books proposed for the series...however this could change.
Me: LOL! I understand whole-heartedly. Which character in the series is your favorite? Why?
C.L: At the moment, I love Damo. He’s funny and so sweet to Nikki. He makes Nikki his friend and never asks for anything in return. I like to make my secondary characters great lines and stories of their own.
Me: Agreed and Damo was one of my faves too! Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters? Nikki? Dan?
C.L: I don’t base my characters on real people, however there are a lot of little things in the stories that are based on personal experiences. And no, I’m not spilling which ones they are. Ha Ha.
Me: LMBO. Understood ;-) So, what are you working on now?
C.L: Right now I am writing book 2 in the game series, War Games, an enemies to lovers romance, and I’m plotting the third too. Book 3 doesn't have a title yet, but it is a second chance romance.
Me: Nice, I love me some enemies to lovers! Tell us a little about your writing process?
C.L: Oh dear, this is a messy subject. I work a very physically demanding job (I run my own plumbing business) and I have three children, so my writing happens as and whenever I get any spare time. You wouldn’t believe how often I have to stop working to write notes on things that pop into my head during the working day.
Me: Oh, I would too. ;-) I work full-time too. It’s tough but I commend you! Now, what drew you to the suspenseful romance genre?
C.L: I love suspense stories and I love romance, so it was a natural decision to meld them together. I like a story where you can’t guess what the outcome is going to be. You know those ones that give you shivers when all the plot points finally come together. I try as much as I can to keep the element of suspense for as long as possible.
Me: I love those too! Who are your favorite authors/books?
C.L: Well I read a lot of romance but then it is the best genre. I honestly can’t say I have a favourite author or book but I will say that in the last two years I have taken to reading mostly indie books and I swear some of them are better than traditionally published books. I love to support indies as much as I can.
I will tell you that my favourite author of all time is Roald Dahl. Obviously he didn’t write in the genre I now read and write in but his stories are what got me hooked on reading. His short stories are amazing and full of suspense and intrigue (probably why I like them so much).
Me: That’s awesome and I agree, indies are totally worth it ;-) Now, what do you personally love about writing?
C.L: Oh that’s easy. Getting lost in my own imagination. I love conjuring up scenarios for my characters and sometimes I even see them as real people. It’s a bit of escapism from a hectic life and I love nothing more than shutting the world out for a few hours and coming up with exciting new storylines.
Me: LOL, I understand. What are you looking forward to in 2020?
C.L: I am looking forward to writing more books. I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll get my writing schedule more structured for next year. It’s far too chaotic right now and isn’t as productive as it could be. I also have a few other ventures in the pipeline for next year too. Let’s just say, I’ve decided to broaden my horizons and try to make a lifestyle change that will benefit my family as well as allowing me to write more.
Thanks for having me Shanna and I look forward to seeing what you have planned for this year too. xx
Me: That’s great, Claire. I wish you all the best this year and look forward to reading more of your work. Thanks so much!
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Where swoony cowboys await to take your breath away :-D
I met Nicol Nightingale on Twitter. She actually messaged me about my book, Abundance, and I was thrilled to see that she, too, was a self-published author AND that her books were post-apocalyptic pandemic thrillers (Score bonus points in my book) because as you know, I love anything zombie/post-apocalyptic/horror--especially this time of year!!! And her book sounded so much like a fictional Richard Preston novel that I was on it like flies to a cow patty (pun intended!) I literally downloaded it to my new KU account (which, if you are a reader and DON’T have this, you are missing out btw) and started reading within minutes. I was immediately drawn in. Barely 35% into the book, I messaged her and knew I needed more details on what inspired her to write this awesome novel.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Nicol, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
I devoured books as a child and secretly harbored a desire to write my own. What I lacked was confidence.
At 20, I attempted to write my first book during downtime at my job. When I lost my job, the novel was left on some cloud server, forgotten. After having my second child at 32, I needed to find a way to stay home with my baby and make some money. While researching ways to make money at home, I found out that I could self-publish novels on Amazon. Suddenly, the insurmountable task of getting published was only a few clicks away, so I started writing about the one other thing I loved, science. I was terrified at first about people reading my novels, but I am really happy that I finally found the confidence to show the world the stories I have floating around inside my head.
Me: And I’m so glad you did too! Because look what I would have missed out on if you hadn’t!!!! :-) I do understand how hard it is letting your baby fly in that big sky! That was what was holding me back too! Glad I finally toughened my spine up…
So, what inspired you to write Black Tears?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Organismic Biology (Minor: Chemistry) and an associate’s degree in Biotechnology (Minor: Chemistry). What I found out during the several research projects I participated in was that I hate the monotony of the scientific method and I don’t have the stomach for looking at guts in real life. One of my favorite subjects in college was microbiology and I loved to watch tv shows and movies about epidemics. Once I decided to write, I knew I was going to write about wiping out most of the population with a virus. The only thing I knew when I started writing was that the book would start out at a cabin with some friends. From there, it has taken on a life of its own.
Me: Funny how those things happen, right? LOL!
Now, how many books will be in the HAVI virus series?
So far, I am planning on three, but the ending of book 3 will be controversial. I may end up writing another depending on the feedback I get from beta readers about book 3.
Me: Got ya! I understand how those trilogies turn into more ;-)
Which character in your collection is your favorite? Why?
Paige. I based her career choice and feeling about science around me, but everything else about her is unique to her. I tend to be shy and a people-pleaser in real life, so I made her outgoing and not afraid to do the right thing even when it will piss people off. She stands firm to her moral beliefs and that is my favorite thing about her. The world around her is descending into violent, selfish chaos and she fights against it to restore order and justice.
Me: Love it! She was amazing!! Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters?
Besides Paige, none of my characters in Book 1&2 are inspired by real life. One of the characters in book 3 is inspired by the TV show, Preacher. I’m adding a character based on the personality of Cassidy (the Irish, drug-addicted vampire). He is going to be a little bit of comic relief.
Me: Nice! I look forward to reading more about them. What are you working on now?
Currently, I have five novel ideas with working titles that I am working on, including HAVI book 3. One is a multiple POV romantic thriller called Homicidal Instinct. One POV is a killer ex-boyfriend who spies on her new relationship and plans their murder. Tell Me No Lies is a novel about two people with opposite special abilities. One can see the truth when people lie and the other can make anyone believe any lie. The Goddess Among us is about a Goddess that is bored of being a Goddess and decides to try life as a human with no memory that she is a Goddess. The last one is called Almost an Angel and it is the first book in a YA series about a Nephilim (product of angel and human).
Me: How cool! All those sound intriguing!!!! Tell us a little about your writing process?
I think my writing process in a work in progress. When I wrote the first book, I just sat down and the story flowed out of me without much planning. I researched as needed. The second book was a little more difficult. I had to develop a note system to keep track of everything. The third book is by far the most difficult. I had no choice but to start outlining and create a OneNote to keep track of everything going on. Rebuilding the world, planning a war, and revealing the plans of secret organization is not an easy task.
Me: Yes, I think you develop your own way as you go and what works for one doesn’t work for all! But whatever gets the job done, right?! :-D
What drew you to the post-apocalyptic sci-fi genre?
It is my favorite genre to watch and read. Normal day to day life is so boring to me. Five days at work. Two days off… until you die. It all seems so pointless. Sometimes I think there must be something wrong with me because I get almost giddy at the mention of something that could wipe out the human race. Part of me wants to live in an post-apocalyptic world, but the rational part of my brain knows that it would not be as fun as I think it would be. I guess I just want life to mean more than getting the newest iphone and an apocalypse always does that.
Me: LOL! That’s probably why fiction was even invented so that we got an escape from the “rat race” as I like to call it! So, who are your favorite authors/books?
Jane Austin, Sherlock Holmes, Dean Koontz, Jude Deveraux, Janet Evanovich, DJ Molles (The Remaining Series), and Bobby Adair (Slow Burn series).
Me: Awesome! I read a bit of everything myself too. Now, what do you personally love about writing?
Everything but editing. One of my favorite parts about reading is getting to spend time in another world. Writing allows me to spend even more time in other worlds and make money doing it.
Me: Ha, ha, yes! I love writing and reading and yes, editing is the BANE of my existence LOL! So, what are you looking forward before years’ end?
I am hoping to have HAVI Book 3 and one other book released or at least in beta reading stage.
Me: Well, I wish you all the best and I look forward to continuing your series...and the other WIPs. Thanks so much for being my guest tonight!!
I have always loved to read. I've spent half of my life inside the fictional worlds of one book or another. What I loved most about reading was that it takes you to another place, where you can have adventures and experiences that real life sometimes makes impossible. Whenever I would finish a series, it was like I lost friends in real life.
I pursued a bachelor's degree in organismic biology with a minor in chemistry and a associate's degree in biotechnology. Everything was in place to become a scientist. After I graduated though, I felt lost. Six years of college education and I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. Apocalyptic and dystopian novels were my favorite thing to read, but I couldn't figure out what I wanted to read next either.
So, one day, I decided to simply write one instead. As soon as I started typing on the keyboard, I couldn't stop. Every day from the moment I got up in the morning, until late into the night, I would write. I realized that writing was even more fun than reading. Hours passed like minutes. The feeling of discontent and lack of purpose went away. I know this is what I meant to do. I'm just sad that it took me so long to find the courage to do it.
I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoyed writing them!
Find me on social media to find out about upcoming novels.
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Where swoony cowboys await to take your breath away...and fellow indie authors, like Nicol, are always supported ;-)
I grew up watching westerns with my father. Man, did he love a good western...and a good book too, as far as that goes. Ivy posted her blurb for Kidnapped by an Outlaw on The Writing Gals Facebook page to get some feedback and as soon as I read over it, I knew I had I would be checking her series out when it was ready. Upon grabbing this adventurous historical romance novel just a week after its release, I simply had to ask her what inspired her to write it.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Ivy, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
Hey Shanna! I’m currently roasting in the heat of Florida, so there’s that. I live about ten miles from the Gulf of Mexico, but I’m one of those weirdos that doesn’t give two craps about the beach. For shame. :) I love the mountains and wide-open spaces instead, which show up a good deal in my books.
I’m a wife and a mom, the most important parts of me other than being a writer. Of course, those parts make my writing take ten times longer! :) I’ve always wanted to write books though. My mother told me I wrote my first book in preschool when I was five. When she came to pick me up, I was finishing it and asked her how to spell “illustrator.” Strange kid, teehee.
I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with writing since, I suppose. Dreams crushed by reality, life gets in the way, have to get a real job. All that. But now my dreams are here to stay, and I’m quite happy about that.
Me: LOL! Nice. What inspired you to write Kidnapped by an Outlaw?
I write in many different genres, but I’ve always loved to read romance, so I wanted to make the plunge into that area. There’s something rugged and very appealing about cowboys to me, so I knew I wanted to hit that first (pun intended, perhaps). I have a lot of stories plotted for this little made-up town in Wyoming, but the thought of opening things up with the bad boys sounded like a lot of fun, and so Kidnapped by an Outlaw led the way.
Me: Haha, I understand the obsession with cowboys (wink wink) Now, how many books will be in the series?
Total? I’m not sure yet. I have lots of plans! There are four books written right now, and I have immediate plans for three more. There are tentative plans for some past that, so as long as readers still enjoy it, I’ll keep visiting Emerald Falls.
Me: That’s awesome. An open-ended series, I love that! Which character in your collection is your favorite? Why?
Oh, man. Which of my children are my favorite? That’s cruel. :) I have a lot of favorites, but if I had to pick I’d say Clay. He’s the hero from the first book, Kidnapped by an Outlaw. He is just yummy. He’s definitely an outlaw and a little broody, but he’s also very sweet and protective of the heroine. Plus, you should see him in my head...
Me: Ah, yes, I loved Clay. He was the perfect albeit sweet alpha outlaw. So, did anyone in real life inspire your characters?
I tend to pull character traits and backstories from all over, but I almost never model a character after someone I know on a large scale. I do grab photos of celebrities that make me swoon for my heroes though.
Me: I understand. I do the same. Now, have you ever been to Wyoming? Are the places in your book real or made up?
I have! I love it there. The air is fresh, the views are spectacular, and the weather is wonderful. So different from Florida.
Some of the areas in my books, like the Absaroka mountain range and the city of Sheridan, are real and mentioned to give the general area of northern Wyoming, but the town of Emerald Falls is fictional (as are two other places only mentioned so far, St. Aspen and Hollard).
Me: I love that!! Wyoming and Montana are on my bucket list. So, what are you working on now?
I’m doing the last bits of editing on a prequel for the series. Then I’m going to pick up a new project for a bit, get my feet wet and see how I like it, before I continue on with Emerald Falls Book Four. I’m excited about both!
Me: Very cool! Tell us a little about your writing process?
I like to plot, and I like to determine what my cover is going to look like. That means I spend time figuring out who my characters are and what they want, as well as digging up photos that capture them for me. It’s helpful to look at a photo (or even a completed cover) to help me get back into a couple’s flow. I write fast and edit slowly, which is irksome but necessary.
Me: Nice. My cover is actually the last thing I do, so that’s interesting that you do yours first. What drew you to the historical romance genre?
I like “simpler time” stories. Things are so fast paced these days. It stresses me out sometimes. It’s nice to go back to a time when living life was a little slower. It may have been more dangerous, but hey, tomato tomahto, right? I like the restrictions it puts on my characters too. There are more rules about relationships and marriage, and someone can’t just pick up a cell phone and make problems all better. Hello, conflict!
Me: Haha, yes and I agree. Would have loved to live during a “simpler” yet tougher time. Who are your favorite authors/books?
This is always so hard for me… I’m so spread across the genres. Let’s try this: Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Kelley Armstrong and her Otherworld series, Jean M. Auel, Nicholas Evans, Kristen Ashley, Nora Roberts, Ruby Dixon, Craig Johnson, Sara Gruen.
Me: Nice :-) What do you personally love about writing?
It’s like reading a book, letting yourself get lost in another world. Living the life of another person in another land. You suddenly have skills or problems you never had before, and you have to figure out how to overcome them. Writing is grasping that excitement of reading and taking it to the next level. Not only do I get to explore new worlds and characters, but I get to make the decisions. Building a story from the inside out is a blast.
Me: Yes. Writing is the best! What are you looking forward to before the end of 2019?
Having my cowboy books come out in paperback in September. I can’t wait to have them on my shelf! And to have a second series growing in a new fun romance category. I’m so looking forward to getting those books out. Onward and upward, 2019!
Me: Thank you so much for “being here” tonight, Ivy. Best of luck to you and your Emerald Falls Series. I know lovers of historical romance and cowboys will enjoy your series for sure. I certainly did!
Ivy McAdams wants to be a cowgirl when she grows up.
She may reside on the beaches of Florida, but her heart lives in the wide open spaces of Wyoming. She grew up dreaming of horses, playing cowboys and indians on her grandfather's farm, and curling up on the couch with him to watch westerns. Cowboys have been her heroes ever since.
Ivy loves the warm feelings and happily ever afters of a romance novel and has married her passions together to bring you historical western romance stories.
When not writing, she's taking care of two beautiful girls and teaching them to adore books as much as she did growing up. She can't wait until they're big enough to dress in cowboy hats and ride horses with her.
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Shanna enjoys reading about cowboys, historical or otherwise ;-) and supports her fellow indies, like Ivy McAdams
I had the pleasure of meeting the highly talented Nicole Scarano on Twitter. I'd added her book to my Goodreads TBR stack long before it was recommended to me by my fellow indie author, J.D. Park. As soon as I saw that it was about Greek mythology, I jumped on that baby like a desert dweller to a bucket of water. With each page I read, I knew I was in the midst of a fascinating tale, and Ms. Scarano didn't disappoint. After reading it, I knew I had to ask her what inspired her to write it. Here's what she had to say:
Me: Hi Nicole. Thanks so much for being my guest tonight. I’m honored to have you here on my blog. Tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
Hi! Thank you for having me here. I am an indie author of Pomegranate which is a fantasy twist on the Hades and Persephone myth. My day job is video editing. I am a hard core dog mom and love rescued pitbulls. I adopted China five years ago, and her adorably sweet personality made me fall so in love with the breed.
In high school, my dream was to move to L.A. and become a script writer and film director. I loved film and television (still do) and wanted to be a part of the movie magic. I wrote my first full length script in high school and my second in college. By the time I graduated with a degree in film, I had discovered while I loved all aspects of filmmaking, my true love was storytelling. Every movie or show starts with story. Without writers, we have no entertainment.
Me: Amen to that. I wanted to do movie makeup as I kid and would still love to do anything involving film. So, I gotta ask- What inspired you to write Pomegranate? Where did you get the idea to turn Hades into a woman?
I started Pomegranate as a script in college, but the story dates even further back. It has been over ten years since I first came up with the idea to write a reinvention of the Greek myths centering on Hades as a woman, but to be honest I cannot remember where exactly the idea started or what made me think of it. I have always loved the gods of death, though. Anubis, Hel, Hades. I love anti-heroes, villains, and darkness. Hades was always a god hated for his rule of the Underworld, but according to legend he was the more straightforward god. Unlike Zeus he didn’t often meddle in human affairs, seduce multiple women, or lie. He tended to do what he said he would, and I loved the idea that this man history hated was probably one of the more honorable god. I wanted to write a script with Hades as the MC, but I love female protagonists, so I’m sure that had something to do with the gender change.
Me: That is so super cool! I love it!! And I, too, have always been fascinated by the Egyptian and Greek gods too. (If I ever have another dog, it’s gonna be a Doberman named Anubis) Now, I bet you had to do a great deal of research on this novel before writing it. Did you plot everything out or did you just let the pages take you away and see where it was going to go?
Yes and no. Of course I had to research each myth and know what the originals told and work them into the plot, but the great thing about re-inventing myths is that you only have to know the basics before you write your own version. When Pomegranate first started, it was right after college, and it began as a script. I did not outline and by the time Hades meets Keres (for those of you who have read this you know how soon into the book it is) I felt the idea was good, but it was going in a direction I did not like. I deleted everything, wrote an outline, and then turned it into a book. I outline everything to this day, even shorts.
Me: Good point. How long did it take you to write this book?
About six years. I started it after college and wrote a lot at first, but I got a full-time job, adopted China, and eventually started dating someone seriously. I kept finding less and less time to work, and Pomegranate got abandoned. It always seemed like an impossible dream. Then two-and-a-half years ago, I went through a rough patch and felt I was floundering in life. I got a tattoo of a line of dialogue I wrote; partially because I love it and partially because in essence it is about facing the impossible and fighting anyway. I picked Pomegranate back up and have not stopped writing since.
Me: I understand one hundred percent. Abundance was written well over fifteen years ago, and my own personal struggles helped give me the courage to publish. So, which character in your book is your favorite-- Besides Kerberos ;-) LOL? Why?
Hades. I adore her. She is so much a part of me. Sometimes when I write I feel Nicole is gone and only Hades exists. She is so badass and loving. To me she is the best part of the book. I love Alkaios cause I mean, how can you not? I also love Keres and Charon. Keres is the friend we all want, and Charon is this surrogate father to Hades, guiding her through her new godhood.
Me: I love it and love all those characters too. Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters? Hades? Alkaios?
Hades definitely is inspired by me. I did not write her as a biography or even do this on purpose, she just evolved that way. She is partially who I am, and who I want to be. Kerberos is inspired by China, my rescued pitbull. People dislike the breed or fear them, and these dogs are often mistreated. China came to me so shut down and anxious. She does not trust easily, but once you bond (and she is so sweet and bonds with almost everyone) she is loyal and full of love. Kerberos and Hades have a similar relationship. He is feared and hated and doesn’t trust easily, but with Hades, he is a big bed-hog puppy… with three heads, a leathery hide, and razor spikes
Me: I love it. Dogs are the best. What are you working on now?
The sequel to Pomegranate. It is so close to being done and should hit sometime later this year. I also have a YA Dystopian in the works as well as a romance novella.
Me: Awesome! What drew you to the fantasy genre?
I have a weird relationship with genres. I never set out to write any certain genre. I just come up with a story and then go ‘I guess this is what it is’. Most of my stuff stays in the fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian/apocalyptic genre, but I tend to genre blend. I love doing this. Pomegranate is Fantasy Historical Fiction, and my next series will be a sci-fi fantasy.
Me: Ha ha, you sound like me, I never set out to write a specific genre either, but it is what it is, right? So, who are your favorite authors/books?
Thunderhead (sequel to Scythe) by Neal Shusterman
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
Me: Hmm, I’ll have to check those out! What do you personally love about writing?
The ability to live lives that are impossible, exciting, and beautiful. I love so much about writing and reading, but I think one of the most magical parts of a book is its ability to transport us into these adventures. Real life often is composed of endless days that consist of waking up, going to the office, coming home to errands, cleaning, cooking to go to bed and repeat. Writing and books open up worlds to you; adventures and romance. I love living through their stories. I also love a good plot. There is something about a plot so well crafted that I cannot guess the ending. An interesting soulful story sticks with you, and I want to give my version of those stories to the world.
Me: Amen to that!! What are you looking forward to before year’s end?
Pitchfork finally being published! This sequel is two years in the making. I have written shorts for contest and a novella all to hone my skill, and this new book really shows my growth as an author. I cannot wait.
Me: That makes two of us, Nicole. I am super excited to read book 2. You have a true talent. Thanks so much for ‘hanging out with me’, I wish you all the best :-)
Nicole Scarano is an avid Audible listener, book reader, and TV lover and therefore loves the art of storytelling. She is the author of "Pomegranate" which follows Hades rise from mortal woman to god of the underworld. By day she is a video editor and dog walker, and in her spare time she is working on two novels, a novella, and any other short story that comes to mind while her rescued pitbull, China, keeps her company.
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Shanna enjoys a good book that thrills, chills and warms her heart...and supporting her fellow indies, like Nicole Scarano ;-)
I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Michelle Hillstrom almost from the very beginning of joining Instagram. We were grouped together in a romance author huddle that a mutual friend of ours put together and I’m super glad we found one another. The support of the Instagram writing/reading community has been invaluable.
Once I saw that Michelle wrote paranormal romance, I was super excited to read her work--as I’m a big fan of all things that go bump in the night. I won five of her books as part of a giveaway on Instagram -- Yaaayyy me ;-) -- a few months ago and read the first one of her books in her Kiss series while I was chillin’ at the pool this summer.
Here’s my review of it Goodreads.
After reading this intriguing debut vampire novel of hers, I wanted to ask her what inspired her to write it.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Michelle, tell me a little bit about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
Michelle: Hi, Shanna! Thank you for asking me to do this interview! So, a little about me… I was born and raised in Texas. I’m a Marine Corps Veteran, a Fur Mom, and a chronic illness warrior. I began writing as a child and wrote my first novel when I was twelve. It wasn’t very good, but that was when I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I grew up with a love for books thanks to my parents who would read to me every night before bed and would take me to the library frequently to check out books.
Me: That’s awesome and thank you for your service :-) So, what inspired you to write The Kiss Series?
Michelle: The Kiss Series was inspired by a dream that I had one night where I saw a girl watching a guy walk down a set of stairs talking to his friends. (The scene in chapter one of The Faithful Kiss.)
The Kiss Series is actually a combination of that idea and an idea that I had of a vampire who was in love with a vampire slayer who was frequently reincarnated. I ended up cutting out the vampire slayer and setting it on a college campus instead of during the Renaissance.
Me: Now, how many books will be in the series?
Michelle: The series will be a total of six, maybe seven books, but at the moment I’ve stepped away from the series to publish two standalone books that were clamoring for me to write them and preventing me from focusing on the series.
Me: Ha ha, right! Which character in your collection is your favorite? Why?
Michelle: In The Kiss Series, I think that Elizabeth is my favorite character. She is so tragic, dark, and has experienced so much trauma. It makes her a very interesting character. Writing her book was the most fun for me because I really got too dig deep into her motivations and her psyche.
Me: She is quite a character just from what I read of her. I’m eager to see her history.
Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters?
Michelle: There are bits and pieces of different people in some of my characters, but none of the characters were based solely off of one person.
Me: What are you working on now?
Michelle: Currently I am preparing FRIENDZONE, (a New Adult, Jock Romance) for publication while simultaneously writing Courting Death (a Dark, Fantasy Romance).
Me: Ooohh, sounds interesting! Tell us a little about your writing process?
Michelle: I don’t have a very strict formula or process when it comes to writing. I’m mostly just moved to write by my Muse, usually at the most inconvenient times. But, I actually do a very large part of my writing on my cell phone while soaking in bubble baths, or jotting down different scenes on my water-proof notepad while in the shower. Water seems to really help me get the words flowing.
Me: Haha, isn’t that the way it goes…wanting to write at the most inopportune times! Now, what drew you to the paranormal romance genre?
Michelle: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” started my fascination with vampires. Angel and Spike were my first vampire loves and they inspired me to write a vampire romance story. But I never got around to finishing because life took me on a detour from writing for a few years. It wasn’t until a friend introduced me to the Twilight Series back in 2008 that I was brought out of the dark, uncreative place that I had found myself in and got back to reading and writing and really started to focus on writing my own paranormal romance series.
Me: OMG, I LOVE Buffy and Angel AND the Twilight series. So, who are your favorite authors/books?
Michelle: How can you ask me that??!?! Well… let’s see… I have to give a shout out to Stephenie Meyer since she got me back into reading and writing. Gone with the Wind, Where the Red Fern Grows, Sarah J. Maas, Holly Black, Outlander, Harry Potter, Rebecca, Gillian Flynn, Anne Rice, Victoria Holt, but right now I am really enjoying reading a lot of indie books.
Me: All great ones and likewise! I’ve read so many awesome indie books! Now, what do you personally love about writing?
Michelle: I love just getting lost in a new story that I am writing. Creating characters that people will fall in love with, become invested in, and care about what ends up happening to them. I always say that I’m just a big kid who never outgrew her imagination, but now instead of acting out stories with my Barbies, I write the stories down and create books.
Me: Ha ha, yes! But where’s the fun in growing up? ;-) Now, what are you looking forward to this year?
Michelle: I am looking forward to the release of FRIENDZONE in December!
Me: That's great, it sounds so good. Can't wait for it!
Thank you so much for being my guest tonight, Michelle. It’s been a pleasure.
You can grab Michelle Hillstrom’s Kiss series and all her other books on Amazon here.
Michelle Hillstrom is a New Adult Romance Author. Her work includes “The Kiss Series,” “Insomnia,” and “#MeToo: A Collection of True Story Crimes Against Women.”
Michelle was born and raised in Texas where she began writing short stories at a very young age and wrote a novel at age twelve.
When she isn’t writing, Ms. Hillstrom advocates for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, animal rights, and suicide prevention and mental health. She enjoys cooking, dancing, and reading. She spends as much time as she can with family, friends, and her two Labradors.
Ms. Hillstrom was honored to serve her country in the Marine Corps Reserves before being medically discharged.
Michelle Hillstrom continues to reside and write in her Texas Hometown.
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Shanna enjoys a good book that thrills, chills, and warms her heart... and supporting the spooky bitches of Lubbock too :-D
I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely and talented Evelyn Montgomery on Instagram among many of the indie romance authors in that supportive writing/reading community. We connected easily and as soon as I read the blurb for her book Indecision, I knew it was going to be right up my alley- Firefighter southern gent and a strong Cali girl writer, what’s not to love about that? After I read it, I had to know what inspired her to write it.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Evelyn, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
Evelyn: I’m a Southern California girl, who grew up in Northern California before moving to Central Kentucky almost three years ago. I knew at a very young age I wanted to be a writer. To be honest, it has always been with me before I could even write words. I would scribble down what I thought was a book on several pieces of paper and staple them together, very proud of what I created. I was probably about 4 years old.
Me: Aww, how cute is that! I love it! So, what inspired you to write Indecision?
Evelyn: Indecision is sort of an autobiography in some ways. In a lot of ways it is not, but there are very similar mirrored situations in the book that took place in real life. I am a journalist. I was born in Orange County. My family still lives in Huntington Beach and I always wanted to move back there.
A lot of the characters have traits from friends I call family in my life, but for the most part are made up. I wanted to tell the struggle of a woman having to give up her dreams for something she did not expect. I guess in a lot of ways like I feel I gave up mine.
Don’t get me wrong though, I am happy here in Central Kentucky. But Cali will always be home.
Me: Awww, it’s such a beautiful location for this book, I’ve always wanted to go there. Why did you choose this setting for your book?
Evelyn: I grew up there for 34 years. It was all I knew before moving to the South. I wanted to write about what I knew. The great places I have visited and the places I called home.
Me: I love it!! Now, how many books are in the Kismet series?
Evelyn: Three. The fourth is in production. ;)
Me: Awesome! I’m excited to read Reckless soon. So, which character in the collection is your favorite? Why?
Evelyn: Before I started writing my current work in progress, I would say Rex. He is the man candy in book 3. But now, I am falling in love with Jolene and Troy in book 4 and can’t wait for others to fall in love with them too.
Me: Aww, yaayyy. From the teasers I’ve seen I can understand that ;-)
Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters? Noah? Evelyn? Rex? Gwen?
Evelyn: Noah is completely made up. Not one person inspired him. I wanted to create my own version of a southern dream, and so he was created. Lol Evelyn takes part of my personality, but she is A LOT her own too. Gwen is me mixed with a lot of my longtime best girlfriends. Rex, lol, he’s everyone's favorite guy friend and the man most women drool over but know they can never tame. I created him with that mindset, and that is for sure how he turned out.
Me: Haha, yes! Understood! So, what are you working on now?
Evelyn: Deliverance - A military romance due out this fall. I am hoping early October if not sooner. It is the story of Jolene, Noah’s sister, and Troy Young.
Me: I can’t wait!!! Tell us a little about your writing process?
Evelyn: For Indecision and Devotion - I did not plan. I just wrote as the story flowed out of me. For Reckless, I plan and plotted for the first time. I can honestly say I think that made the book take longer to write. For Deliverance, I am going back to the way I naturally am - realizing I am not a planner or plotter. So far the story is flowing well and i don’t feel trapped in a plotted box like I did with book 3.
Me: LOL! Yeah, I’m not much of a plotter myself so I completely understand that!
What drew you to the romance genre?
Evelyn: I am a woman who loves a good love story. Enough said. ;)
Me: Haha! I’ll drink to that ;-) Who are your favorite authors/books?
Evelyn: My all time favorite is F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby. Some Contemporary Romance authors I like are: K. Broomberg, Adrianna Locke, Corrine Michaels, Britney Cherry and Melanie Harlow.
Me: I guessed as much when I read about Gatsbys ;-) Now, what do you personally love about writing?
Evelyn: Creating worlds. I love the feeling I get from starting and not knowing what is going to come out, and later standing back and thinking- Oh my, did I write that? The feedback from readers is amazing too. I have met some amazing faithful readers and some awesome author friends since starting my indie author journey.
Me: Agreed 100%. So, what are you looking forward to in 2019?
Evelyn: My first book signing. Finishing Deliverance. Making new author friends and talking with readers who enjoy what I have written.
Me: The signing is going to be awesome! I can’t wait!! I wish you all the best, Eve. And I look forward to meeting you face to face in October. It’s so amazing to be on this great writing journey and have so many supportive and awesome women by my side.
Grab Evelyn’s Kismet series, now available on Amazon.
Evelyn Montgomery is a Southern California girl now embracing her southern roots in Central Kentucky. She is the author if The Kismet Series, available on Amazon. Her novels take you from the West Coast to the deep South. When she is not writing, she works as a journalist and editor of a community newspaper. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her three children - Ava, Sophia and Logan - and her husband, Jason.
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Shanna enjoys good books that thrill, chill and warm her heart...and supporting her fellow indie authors, like Evelyn Montgomery
I met the inspiring and talented Trisha Harley McCarthy on Instagram last year and we connected instantly. Being both a fellow believer in the paranormal and writer of cowboys, I knew I would enjoy her work. When she released her newest book in May, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. It revolved around the existence of Big Foot, so when I finished it, I simply had to ask her what inspired her to write it.
Here's what she had to say:
Me: Hi Trisha, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
Trisha: When I was in high school, my creative writing teacher told me I had talent. At that point in my life, the thought of writing wasn’t on my radar. Around 2006, I became hooked on fan fiction and wrote (poorly I might add) a continuing story of Bridget Jones’s Diary. After I began to receive positive reviews it was then that I began to entertain the thought I could write my own book. I began in 2007 and published my first book, Just As He Is in 2012. The rest is history. Since then, I’ve published 9 books with 3 more in progress.
Me: That’s great! What inspired you to write Eye Shine?
Trisha: As a kid my family used to go camping in remote locations. Late one winter night, we were parked in our camper at a secluded campground in the Sierra Nevada’s near Lake Tahoe, CA. Something woke me up in the middle of the night. I could hear large footsteps outside. I remained still listening intently. I was so scared and the hairs on the back of my neck raised during the entire episode. The next morning, I saw large footprints in the snow. Since then the subject of cryptids also known as Sasquatch or more commonly known as Bigfoot has fascinated me. I love to write unique stories involving the paranormal.
Me: How cool! Scary, but a great story..and it inspired you to write a book! Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters? Macy? Carson? Colton?
Trisha: There may be a little of me in the Macy character. Carson and Colton are purely fictional hunky characters conjured up through my imagination!
Me: Nice! Love it! Which character in your collection is your favorite? Why?
Trisha: I personally love the Colton character. He is the dapper, sweet and rationale character of the book. I love his alpha mentality towards his love interest, Macy.
Me: Yes, he was my fave too! What are you working on now?
Trisha: I am working on three projects at the moment. On Ice, A Hockey romance due out by fall. It is my first sports romance inspired by the San Jose Sharks, my team. Taboo is a contemporary romance featuring very sophisticated characters who face the challenge of heartache and coming to terms with being unable to conceive a child. The third project is The Staircase in the Woods. A suspense thriller romance with a supernatural element woven into the storyline.
Me: How intriguing!! Sounds awesome! Tell us a little about your writing process?
Trisha: I think all writers have their quirks. Mine is I do my best writing around four pm in the afternoon and write for several hours. I listen to loud rock and roll featuring my favorite band Nickelback. It allows my creativity to flow.
Me: LOL! Yes, we do!! Nice- I love Nickelback!! What drew you to the paranormal romance genre?
Trisha: I am a paranormal investigator. So, the subject matter is near and dear to my heart. They say write what you know, and I have. I’ve written about aliens in my book Dimensions, and now Bigfoot with Eye Shine. I binge watch all the various paranormal shows on cable.
Me: LOL! Likewise! I am completely fascinated with the paranormal! So, who are your favorite authors/books?
Trisha: I love Helen Fielding who wrote Bridget Jones’s Diary. She is my real inspiration for my very first book. Other favorite authors are Maria Luis, Carian Cole, Ella Fields, Louise Bay and of course you, Shanna. Suddenly Forbidden is an all-time favorite of mine by Ella Fields.
Me: Aww, wow, thank you so much! I’m so glad I rank up there among your faves (Blushes ten shades of red) I’ve never read Bridget Jones’s Diary but I loved the movie, it was hysterical! What do you personally love about writing?
Trisha: I love when people tell me my writing has helped them in some way. A recent reader told me she was going through chemo and my books helped her during a difficult time. Another reader emailed me and told me how after an accident when she reads my stories it allows her to escape the daily pain she endures. I am humbled at the way my writing has helped others in some small way. I love being of service to others. If my writing brings some measure of comfort, then I am elated.
Me: Aww, that’s so awesome! How wonderful! Yes, touching hearts is definitely a perk of our work for sure. Now, what are you looking forward to in 2019?
Trisha: Being a better version of me in all ways and maybe striving for a best seller!
Me: Aww, I love that! We can all improve ourselves in various facets. Love the perseverance and dedication. You’re a true inspiration, Trisha. Thank you so much for being my guest tonight! I wish you all the best in all you do and look forward to reading more of your work!!
You can follow Trisha on Amazon and read her various romantic and paranormal works. Be sure to grab your copy of the thrilling tale, Eye Shine.
Trisha Harley McCarthy is a certified Life Coach and prolific romance author specializing in fantasy, paranormal and contemporary genres. All her books are available through Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Shanna enjoys hearing stories about the paranormal and all things unexplained. She also enjoys supporting her fellow indie authors...like Trisha :-D
I met the lovely and talented, Bella Emy on Instagram and through networking in various groups began reading her work. Bella is a USA Today Bestselling Author and has her own library of amazing books on various platforms. I was lucky enough to read two of them so far and will be reading lots more before the years’ end.
Bella was able to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule to chat with me about her work, her writing life and what’s coming next for this “heart-breaker”.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Bella, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
Me: It’s my pleasure having you on my blog! That’s so awesome, Bella. What inspired you to write Beneath a Starlit Sky?
Me: I just loved King of Arrogance too, OMG, Derek Mykels, grrr. I can’t wait for Between the Sheets! When will that one be out?
Me: Man, it’s gonna be so good. So, which character in your collection is your favorite? Why?
Me: Did anyone in real life inspire your characters?
Me: Haha, right! I understand completely (wink, wink) So, what are you working on now?
Me: Perfect! Our little secrets, haha!! Now, tell me about your writing process?
Me: Haha yes, understood. Hubby bought me a ton of notebooks for Christmas that I leave around the house to jot down inspiration on when it strikes! And I feel ya, no day starts without coffee. LOL! What drew you to the romance genre?
Me: Understood-100% and I agree. Romance is the best, but throwing in some tragedy is always a strength builder for the characters and the story ;-) Who are your favorite authors/books?
Me: Yes, love my BBBs and Nicholas Sparks too. What do you love about writing?
Me: Yes, it’s really the best feeling ever, being a creator! So, what are you looking forward to in 2019?
Me: Awesome. I wish you all the best and can’t wait to read more of your work in the future. It’s been a true pleasure. Thank you for joining me tonight!
You can find all of Bella's books on her website and be sure to follow her for updates, sneak peeks and more.
Bella Emy is a USA Today Bestselling Author.
She loves all books, but her favorite genre to read, as well as write, is romance. Bella loves creating heartbreaking stories that will deeply touch her readers, but in the end, a good HEA is usually the turnout.
Whenever Bella is not typing away on her computer with a nice hot cup of coffee, she loves spending time with her family and friends. Her favorite places to go are the movies, the beach, or just on a good plain old road trip. Some of her must haves are coffee, chocolate, pizza, music, & movies.
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Shanna enjoys a good book that thrills, chills (and breaks) her heart. She also enjoys supporting her fellow indies...like Bella! :-D