Author Interview – Molly Tabachnikov

MOLLY TABACHNIKOV

 

Today I am interviewing Molly Tabachnikov, a science fiction writer whose work delves into current issues of gay marriages and educational hamstringing. And that is the job of good science fiction, wouldn’t you say? To create a futuristic tale that engages yet echoes current societal problems?

I couldn’t agree more.

As one science fiction writer to another, how do you choose names for your characters? Do you make them up so they will stand out? Do they need to be alien? Do you choose names for their meanings in Baby Name books?

Choosing characters’ names is never easy for me. As a writer of science fiction, I have to invent names that are different enough from current ones so that they seem to be either futuristic or alien. However, they also have to be accessible to my readers. I therefore grab names, either of friends, enemies or just those that appear in the news, and give them a twist. Checking Baby Name books is a useful tool.

Whispers in the NightMy first novel was set in contemporary New York, though, so I didn’t have that difficulty. The name of the main character, Fox Monroe, was not one I chose. The story came from a writing workshop I attended in which the facilitator asked us to pick two slips of paper, one from each of two bowls. One slip had characters’ names, the other titles. We had to create stories based on that name and title. I selected the slip with Fox Monroe as the character, and the one with Whispers in the Night as the title. As soon as I read the name, I envisioned Fox, his red hair and golden eyes. His story unfolded from there.

In the novel I’m writing now, Lessons in Space, my main character is very different. Mylla is a teacher in the 26th century. Her name simply appeared in my head (perhaps a variation of my own first name). Other characters, like Jorey, Shan, or Vesta, were slight twists on contemporary names. But the characters on the planet Haven, which is closer in appearance and lifestyle to our own time, had to have names that are in use today. What people are called, whether in fiction or in real life, has to reflect when and where they live.

Interesting. I never thought of choosing names by using slips of paper in a bowl. Tell me about your settings. How do you choose those? Do you base your settings on real places? Do you research your settings to be sure they are scientifically plausible? Or do you simply make them up?

Most of my stories, whether short fiction or novel length, start as a vision that pops into my mind and won’t go away. That was the case with the short story, The Way It Should Be, in my collection of the same name. I saw the image of a woman in a futuristic pressure suit (very different from the ones we have today, sleeker and far more flexible) standing on a red planet. The story told itself.

That’s not to say that I don’t “research” my settings, although it’s not the kind of study we think of. Most of my imagined places are the result of almost sixty years of reading and watching sci-fi. But to make those places seem realistic does take true research. When building a world, as I do in Lessons in Space, I had to investigate the classification of stars and the kind of light we think they emit. This influences the colors of the sky and the vegetation, as well as how large the “sun” of that world looks to its inhabitants. Gravity is another factor¾how it affects the human body and psyche.

Isaac Asimov once said in an interview that to make an alien world seem real, the writer has to imagine the details. How does it smell? What does the air feel like? How does gravity affect the way a person walks? All of this has to be thought through and set down in an outline.

That’s what makes writing science fiction so exciting. You’ve written several stories. How do you choose that all-important title? Do you choose a title first and stick with it or do you write under a working title?

The title is supposed to be the first “grab” that entices a reader. I know that when I choose something to read for pleasure, that’s what hooks me. I’ve spent countless hours in bookstores or on the net perusing titles, like a kid in the bakery choosing exactly the right treat.

Nevertheless, I’ve never spent a lot of time working on my own. As I mentioned, the title of my first novel, WHISPERS IN THE NIGHT, was mandated in a workshop. I rather liked it, as it gives the correct air of mystery that suits a story of a telepath. Most of the time, the title of a story or novel suggests itself to me as I write it. In my short story collection, the way it should beThe Way It Should Be, most of the titles came to me that way, like Not of Woman Born or The Memory Machine.

Sometimes, though, the title evolves. The story Almost Paradise was originally What I Did on My Summer Vacation, and the short story Lessons started as Back to School. My current novel was first named Hey, Teach (in memory of my years of teaching in New York City) before it became Lessons in Space. In this case, I was hesitant to rename the work. The protagonist’s name is Mylla Lessons and she is, as I mentioned before, a teacher. I was afraid that Lessons in Space would be seen as too cutesy. The members of my writing group (Florida) assured me that it wouldn’t be, and so the new name stuck. I’m glad it did.

Now for my final question: What do you do about Writer’s Block?

Wow! Writer’s Block. We’ve all experienced it, the frustration, trying to pull the words out of your head or out of thin air and nothing seems to be right. I don’t think we can prevent it from happening. But there are ways I’ve found to cope with it.

Sometimes I just keep on writing. Usually, though, the stuff that appears on the computer screen under those circumstances is crap and has to be deleted. On occasion it offers some usable material, even if I have to rework it later.

There are times when a short break is useful. Going for a walk helps, or, my old standby, raiding the refrigerator (amazing how it can “feed” the creative process, but it has to be done in moderation). I always know that a story isn’t going well when the number of visits to the kitchen, and my waistline, increases.

Where I write is important. I like to write outside if the weather permits. When I’m in Florida, I set myself up on my patio (if it’s not too hot). I put my computer on the glass-topped table, make sure there are enough cushions on the folding chair to keep my backside comfortable, and make myself something to eat. I try to keep it healthy: a large tray of fresh veggies with a low-calorie dip.

In Massachusetts, my favorite venue is Matt Reilly’s Pub on Lake Pontoosuc. It’s a charming place, with a deck looking out over the hills and the oval lake which is often dotted with boats. There, also, my computer is in front of me and a snack next to it. Unfortunately, the snacks at Reilly’s tend to the bar food variety, heavy on grease, light on nutrition.

In both places, I find it useful to have a glass of Tanqueray gin on the rocks with a slice of lime near to hand. It lubricates the creative centers and relaxes the superego, giving the words an easy path from my brain to the screen. At which point I make sure my spell check app is enabled.

But that’s just me.

I think quite a few writers could relate to that. Thank you, Ms. Tabachnikov, for a fun and informative interview.

You can buy WHISPERS IN THE NIGHT at Amazon. If you are interested in telepathy at all, you should read her book. I loved it.

You can learn more about Molly Tabachnikov at her website.

She is also on Facebook.

Author Interview – Laurianne Macdonald

Laurianne Macdonald

Today I am interviewing Laurianne Macdonald, who is an award winning author, artist, photographer, and a certified Poet Laureate. She is also studying for a Doctorate in Chinese Medicine with a Masters in Herbology. Ms. Macdonald, thank you for taking time from your busy life to interview with me.

Your first book is a thriller involving oil company cover-ups. You are also writing a series about the second coming of Christ.  With such diverse genres, how do you name your characters? Do you just pick a name you like? Do you research the name so it is historically fitting, or do you choose by the meaning?

For me, picking names for my characters happens differently with each story. So many things go into a character’s “Birth” name, like historical meaning, prior literary references, and symbolic inference, theme and time period as it would pertain to the tale. I use many devices to research a name, including the Bible, the WEB, and Baby Naming resources.

But as careful and thoughtful as I am about naming my characters, I have had a character who, once they came to life (so to speak), simply took their own. Julia in Penance and Prey Penance and Preystarted out as Rhea, a goddess of nature and earth. A fitting name for a story about an ecologist saving the planet… I felt. Anyway, half way through the first draft the image of my character began to materialize and it turned out that Rhea looked just like Julia Roberts, the actress, (whom I love). Before long I was writing Julia on the page instead of Rhea. By the end of the story, Julia was my world saving ecologist and Rhea was history.

It’s funny how characters can take on a life of their own. How about settings? Do you research specific places, or do you choose something familiar and easy to write?

Choosing a place, city, or environment that are familiar does make the writing process much easier. However, an author can become as complacent to a setting as anybody else. Like that 19th century picture of your great uncle or the thread-bare edges of the Oriental rug in the dining room that have become invisible to the occupant, something is missing from the description when an author is too familiar with a particular setting.

I enjoy reading good description, but I love to write it even more. I try to choose settings that are as interesting and valuable to the story as the main characters. This can be Chiliasm Diarychallenging and demanding. In Chiliasm Diaries, for example, the characters are not only chased around the world, they travel through time. The research that was needed to accurately depict the various and exotic physical settings within the context of different time periods was sometimes daunting but exciting too. The thrill kept my writing vibrant and my descriptions dynamic.

How do you choose a title for your book? Do you search bookstores for similar titles or just hope your title hasn’t been used before? Do you choose a title for shock value, or one that will project the theme of your book?

After reading the question I am almost embarrassed to admit that I don’t put any of that kind of effort into titling a work. For me, the title is usually part of the initial threading of concept or inspiration. It’s the eye of the needle, so to speak. A lot of times I can’t even start writing a piece until I’ve got a title. A good title denotes theme, tone, and premise in a single cue that reassures and reminds me of my purpose every time I open the page and read the words in the header.

Now for my final question: How do you ward off writer’s block? Do you read more? Take long walks? Play exciting music in the background?

A scary subject. I feel we should treat it like Voldemort― “He who must not be named.” Or maybe we say: “writer’s block, writers’ block, writers block…” until the words don’t make sense thus losing any and all power.

Basically I wish I had has many ways to dispel writer’s block as I do ways to initiate it, (like a rainy day, tax season, a sunny day, Facebook…) but I don’t. Not a one. I can honestly say I have never once successfully thwarted, warded, or otherwise chased off a case of the word willies. For me it is like having the flu. The only cure is time, rest, and hydration: a few hours in my comfy reading chair with a glass of Merlot and an episode of I Love Lucy or The Big Bang Theory.

I might then say laughter is my go-to philtre. Thanks for helping me figure it out.

And thank you, Ms. Macdonald, for such a personal and enlightening interview.

You can buy PENANCE AND PREY at Amazon.

You can learn more about Laurianne Macdonald and view some of her wonderful artwork at her website.

She is also on Facebook.

Author Interview – Catherine Gierlach Kennedy

Cathy Kennedy

Today I am interviewing,Catherine Gierlach Kennedy. She is the author of the upcoming novel, Anna, the story of a young Polish woman who aspires to become a nun.

Anna takes place in the 1920s. Do you research names that were popular during that period? Do you Google names or check baby name books? Or do you name your characters after people you know?

My writing, both published and unpublished, returns me to my Polish roots and locations. Most of my characters are named for loved people who are now deceased.

Do I Google them? No. Many are Polish names. Last names in Polish are very easy to put together and recreate.

Do I research for time frame? No, I’ve heard these names again and again.

Names? If I run out of names, I can read them on the tombstones of the local Catholic cemetery in Pennsylvania. One of my favorite names, Sister Felicia, is a beloved nun from my past. I have enough memories and names to spend the rest of my writing career honoring the wonderful peoples of my childhood and young adult life.

You mentioned Pennsylvania. Do you set your books in places of your past, places that are familiar and easy? Or do you choose exotic places and research them to make them accurate and plausible?

I start with the familiar. My characters, like me, always plan to stay close to home, but because of their curiosity, they stumble into different states and even countries.

One of my characters goes to a cloistered convent in Kentucky. When I was in high school, before 1955, I was introduced to Thomas Merton’s writing. He was a spiritualist and A person praying holding a rosary in the hands on wood background.advocate for social justice. He wrote Seven Storey Mountain while in The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemane, a monastery in Kentucky. Granted, he was a religious brother, a Trappist Monk, not a religious sister like my Anna character, but it gave me an idea for a wonderful fictitious setting.

So do I research places? Yes, yes, yes.

Another of my books starts in a village in Poland and moves to a metropolitan Polish city. My protagonist quickly progresses to Chicago, on to Pittsburgh, and then to small town Pennsylvania. I put on my traveling clothes, climb into an encyclopedia or a library volume, and come aboard.

When I moved to Florida in 1975, I came in a station wagon. I arrived as a single parent with four daughters, ages twelve, eleven, ten and six. We also had four cats, one Collie, and pots and pans. We brought mats to sleep on until the furniture arrived a month later. In the station wagon, we carried a forty volume set of United Editors Perpetual Encyclopedias, with a 1909 copyright on each volume’s face page. Yes, I do use the computer, too, but these books are my first resource.

How do you title your books? Do you research similar titles before choosing? Or do you give your books a title that fits and ignore your competition?

KISS I have been told, so I try to Keep It Simple S… I think about it. What titles do I remember? Long names that stretch down a garden path of grasses and flowers with fancy Latin titles are to me lost in memory. I prefer something beautiful but plain, such as a rose or a daisy. I believe there is a phrase that begins, “a flower by any other name…”

Last question. How do you ward off writer’s block?

I live in a quiet environment by choice. I raised four daughters while working full time as an RN. Later, I raced around in glee with my ten grandchildren. Now, I turn off the TV, brew a cup of tea, light a few candles, turn on some jazz, and words arrive.

I’ve read that one stops mid-sentence to have a place to start on the next writing occasion. With two dogs, Boudreaux and Jean Claude, who do visual patrol of my grass, sidewalk, street and cul-de-sac, I have frequent interruptions. (This is the healthy get-up-and-move five minutes of every hour mantra.) After I am able to confirm that there are no aliens attacking anywhere in the neighborhood, I go back to my computer.

Thank you, Ms. Kennedy, for a delightful interview. I look forward to reading Anna. It sounds fascinating.

You can reach Catherine Gierlach Kennedy at her website.

She is also on Facebook.

Author Interview – Janet Franks Little

weight of love

Today I am interviewing Janet Franks Little who is the author of the upcoming novel, THE WEIGHT OF LOVE, an adult romantic comedy. You refer to this book as explicit romance. What does that mean to you?

Explicit romance means that there are some scenes of explicit sex but the novel has a strong plot. Some books of erotica rely on sex scenes instead of story.

How do you name your characters? Do you just pick a name out of a hat or do you choose a name you like? Do you research the name so it is historically fitting? Do you check Baby Name books and choose by the meaning? Do you make your names up so they stand out?

When I started researching for my first book, someone recommended using less than common names for characters considering how very many possibilities there were. In The Weight of Love, the two main characters are what I would have named a daughter if I had had one and the name my best friend wanted to give her son but her husband didn’t like it.

In both my first and second books, the characters’ names contributed to part of the story. Cort Hardison’s name allowed me to call his fitness centers, Hardcort Fitness. Cortland was a good substitute for Coroton which he was almost named because it was his mother’s maiden name. Brianne Inez Gordon had a monogram she hated as an overweight child. Beauregard Joseph Charvet was called Bojo because his father was already called Beau. Grace Georgette Black was called Gigi as a child and the endowment her unknown wealthy father made to the university was the G.G. Educational Fund.

At times, the name was deliberate to create an interesting subplot in the story. Other times, it was a happy accident. For most secondary characters, the name comes off the top of my head or I end up checking online for girls or boys names. I don’t really care what their meaning is. I just want a name that seems right for the character that I picture in my head.

I also keep a list of every name I’ve used in a book, no matter how minor the character. I made that decision because there are so many names out there, I don’t want to repeat them. I found that I used the name Sara in the first book and again in the second. So I changed the name to Serena in the second book, and it was a better fit.

Some writers may not put much significance in the naming of the protagonists and antagonists in their book, but I do. They are your children. They will live into eternity by their moniker. Make it one you like whether the character does or not.

Sage advice. Are you that precise with the settings of your books? How do you choose a setting? Do you choose something familiar and easy? Do you base your settings on real places? Do you research specific places or make them up? Do you research to make your settings plausible?

My first two books are set in southeast Florida where I have resided for almost twenty-five years. I am planning to make my third book take place in Ohio where I lived before we moved to Florida. It certainly is easier to make your settings be familiar and real. When my characters have traveled to locales that I vaguely remember or have never been to, I do research, consult with people who are familiar with the place or go myself.

In my second book, Grace works at Florida Atlantic University. My son graduated from there but I had never been on campus. So I printed up a map and drove around. I have an acquaintance whose husband retired from FAU so I called him and picked his brain. I’ve never been to a country dance club but I watched several videos on YouTube that were filmed at one and watched Urban Cowboy again. Although I had been to the Keys many times, I had never been to Little Palm Island. I researched it online and talked with my sister who had been there once for dinner.

Janet Franks LittleI heard one author at a writer’s conference say that he felt it was very important for his settings to be accurate. He would make sure if his character was driving on a one way street that the car was headed in the right direction. I am not that precise. Settings change over time. Buildings are remodeled or torn down. Streets go from two lanes to four or may be shut off and made into a pedestrian mall. As far as I’m concerned for a fictional story where the setting is not crucial to the plot, it need only be as accurate as my memory or research can make it.

How do you title your book? Do you go for shock value? Memorability? Do you research possible titles on Amazon or other bookstores to see the competition before you choose? Do you title your book first or write under a working title and change it later?

I never start with a title. I pray I will have one by the time the book is finished. I am calling my second book, Talk to Me, but that may change by the time it’s finished. I like catchy titles, like Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? or E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, or I Still Miss My Man But My Aim is Getting Better by Sarah Shankman. These books I will never forget that I read because of the titles, even if I don’t remember the whole story.

I do Google the title to see what else is out there with it. My tentative second book title has been used for a movie, a song and an autobiography. Do I want it to become the fourth Talk to Me? I guess it is a working title for now. Any time a writer can decide on a good title, whether it’s the first or the last thing written, use it.

I agree. Titles play an important part in the life of a book. Last question: How do you ward off writer’s block? Do you read more? Take long walks? Play exciting music in the background?

Writer’s block. So far I’ve experienced housecleaning block, bill paying block, time to go to bed block, need to get supper ready block and all kinds of other blocks because all I really wanted to do is write. I now set a schedule to complete my other required tasks before I allow myself to sit and write. At least once in each book, Chapter 17 in The Weight of Love and now on Chapter 35 in the second book, I have suffered from transition block. I want to write but I’m not sure how to move the plot from where it is to where it needs to go.

I will re-read what I’ve written even if it means going back to Page 1. I will compose scenes and dialogue while driving. I will walk the dogs or engage in another mindless activity by myself and try to work out the plot knot.

A friend of mine lived in a condo development with a famous mystery writer from south Florida. She said they were sitting by the pool one day when the author jumped to her feet and announced, “I know how he has to die!” She picked up her things and disappeared. No one called the cops because they knew she had just solved her writer’s block.

The second worst dilemma to writer’s block is being blocked from writing. You have a great scene in your head but are unable to get to paper or PC. One fellow author suggested always having pen and paper nearby, even beside your bed. I find repeating and reliving it over and over in my head works for me. Sometimes I even edit it this way.

I attended a writer’s conference where one of the sessions was about the discipline of writing. The handout in my folder suggested organizing your thoughts, completing goals within a deadline, crossing the goals off a to-do list, rewarding yourself when you meet a goal, and having a support group.

For me, my writers’ critique group is the best way to get a fresh perspective. No matter how helpful or outlandish the suggestions are, they have provided the jump start I needed to get past the block.

Thank you for such an informative and thought-provoking interview. I wish you all the best with your upcoming novel, THE WEIGHT OF LOVE. Great title by the way.

You can reach Janet Franks Little at her website.

She is also on Facebook.

Author Interview – Betty Jane Housey

Betty Jane Housey

 

Today I am interviewing Betty Jane Housey, who writes the Kelsey Garrison series of mystery books. Ms. Housey, you tend to have many characters in your books. How do you name them all?

I have various methods of finding names for my characters. For the heroine of my book, I heard the name Kelsey and liked it. As far as I know it is not a common name, so I used it. I picked a last name that sounded generic.  Garrison. I did the same for her lover. Jeff Richards. Jeff is more common, but I wasn’t concerned with that for some unknown reason. Her brother’s name is Steve. Her best girlfriend is named Martha Sonia Hathaway. She is called Marty.

Sometimes I pick names that I think reflect the character’s background. For instance in my first book, I had a character named Millie who was murdered. Her mother came from West Virginia so I named her Hattie. Sometimes I make up names. I have a character called Unker, one called Sus and another named Alverna. I also research names. I needed Apache names for a young woman I called Nitika, which means Angel of Stone, and Govind, her brother. Govind means Lion among Men. I picked the names for their meaning, which I’ve incorporated into the book.

Sometimes I pick names for, I think, their comedic value. I had a brother and sister who I called Terrance and Tilly Tuttle, until someone in my group recalled a woman who got a lot Decadent Decemberof news coverage named Tilly Tuttle. I renamed her Tessa, which I didn’t like as much. But what is one to do? I have a woman named Chasity, because she isn’t chaste. A detective named Nasey, who is often called Nosey. I have one chief of police named Evenfield because I wanted to portray his even temperament. A woman called Waistland because I wanted to get across the point that her garden (and her life) was a wasteland.

Sometimes luck is my benefactor. I had two characters from a magic land who needed names, a man and a woman. I went to Walmart and saw a girl whose nametag read Rochely, spelled with one L. I added another, so the spelling would be different. Rochelly. The next time I was in the store, the woman who waited on me had a tag with the name Fedeline. I dropped the E and named my male character Fedelin. Sometimes to get even I name a character after someone who has injured someone I love, and so Lavoris was added as a not-so-nice character from West Virginia. It leaves me with a feeling of victory. At least I’ve gotten justice for my loved one in some way.

These are just some of the ways I name my characters. Each of my books is fun and, as I have many characters in each one, I enjoy finding names for them.

Your books are definitely fun. How about your settings? Do you choose something familiar and easy or do you research specific places?

Hmm. I used to live in Wisconsin. I now live in Coral Springs, Florida. But Coral Springs is a small town. So, I make my people come from nearby Fort Lauderdale which is much larger. I don’t know the streets in Fort Lauderdale enough to mention them (I try to fudge a little on the exact time it takes me to get from one place to another) but I try to use actual locations and incidents wherever possible. I used to go to a restaurant named Gibby’s. It is no longer there, but it bordered the New River. In my latest book, I had my people buy a home on the New River. In one book I used the Fashion Mall, a three story mall where my heroine runs into one of my antagonists. She looks down from the food court and sees her. Personally, I loved that mall. It was bright and sunny. But alas it no longer exists. I think it was too close to the Broward Mall.

I researched working horse ranches. A lot of the action in one book takes place on the ranches. I make up locations. Two of the characters in one book live on the Intracoastal. I’m familiar enough with that area to make it work. In one series of books my heroine had Chihuahuas. I’ve had two. So it’s fun to incorporate some of their antics into the books.

The other day my husband and I were in Tradewinds Park walking on the boardwalk. It used to go all the way around the park until Hurricane Wilma took it down. It’s been rebuilt, but now it stops mid walk. I thought what a great place for a scene. So in my latest book, ABSURD APRIL, I’ve used that as a scene where Kelsey gets trapped with her young daughter. If you want to find out how they escape buy the book, ABSURD APRIL.

I’ve used the Wisconsin winters in my books. Winter seems easier to write about. When I lived there, we’d walk to this pizza place that was perhaps a mile away. I remember my daughter screaming when snow would get in her boots. Her father would have to carry her then. I remember wearing frozen mittens. All the winters happened when I was young and impressionable.

I know the climate of Florida so I often use that. But I need to write more scenes in my books about the heat of Florida. About the mosquitoes.  About sweating so much your shirt is soaked, and wiping sweat from your forehead. About Florida storms and rain. About the delight of swimming in cool water. About how refreshing a cool drink is. Yes, I need to include those things. The senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste.

You always have interesting titles for your books. Do you go for shock value? Memorability?

Let me see. I work hard on titles. In my latest series I decided to use months. Decadent December, Jaunty January, Frivolous February, Maddening March, Absurd April. For my Howling Nunnext book in the series, I’m wondering if I can use a previous book I’ve written and call it Memories of May. I’ll have to reread the book and do some serious thinking. I think that book was written in third person and the series is in first. But I liked that book, really liked it.

Sometimes I’ve used titles that have double meanings, like WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SPRING, and DYING FOR SUMMER. I also titled one book, BLACK BAY. Whenever you use black in a title I think it imparts a dark connotation. For one of my books, a fellow workshop writer suggested the title, THE HOWLING NUN. Titles are important.

They certainly are. Last question: How do you ward off Writer’s Block?

Writers Block? What is that? I don’t think I’ve ever had a serious case of writer’s block.

Of course, many of the words I write are utter nonsense. But at least I’m getting something down on paper. I work at my own pace. I’ve never had a publisher after me to write another book in the series in say six months. I might have writer’s block if I was under that kind of pressure.

I used to write in third person with multiple characters and if I discovered I had no more for this character to say I switched to another for a while. In third person, you have to make sure you bring the plot together and tie up all the loose ends. My current series is in first person which is much easier to plot. You stay in one person’s head in first person and only follow what that person sees and hears. I’ve worked on this latest series for a while and have turned the books out with what I would say is considerable speed.

I do some of my best thinking in the swimming pool. As I swim every day, that helps a lot. I’ve written whole chapters in my mind. Including dialogue. My characters are constantly on my mind. I try to shut my mind down at bedtime so I can get some sleep.

My husband gets angry at me. He says when I’m on my computer he talks to me and has to say the same thing at least three times before it gets through. I don’t think that is so, but it could be. It seems to me the only time people want to talk to me is when I’m on the computer and deep into a chapter. I might write a whole chapter in one sitting. Or, I might just write a paragraph before going grocery shopping. I won’t forget what I’m writing. It’s burned in my mind.

Usually I write the last chapter of the book when I’m only perhaps a fourth of the way through. But for my current book, ABSURD APRIL, I’m having problems deciding on the last chapter. That’s because I’m having problems deciding how angry my heroine is at her husband. Should they make up or not? I’ll figure it out. I always do.

Ms. Housey, thank you for the enjoyable interview. It was a pleasure to speak with you.

 DECADENT DECEMBER, book one of the Kelsey Garrison Series, can be found on Amazon. I enjoyed the wacky characters and recommend the book.

 You can reach Betty Jane Housey at her website.

 She is also on Facebook.

 

 

Author Interview – Greta Silver

Greta Head Shot 

Today I am interviewing the quirky author, Greta Silver, who authored the book titled, appropriately enough, Quirky Short Stories. Ms. Silver is the author of short stories, essays, humor columns, local and national trade and syndicated articles, and has hundreds of credits behind her name. It’s a pleasure to speak with you today.

The pleasure is all mine.

Can you tell me how you name your characters? Do you check your names out in baby name books or do you just pick a name you like?

In QUIRKY SHORT STORIES, the names fell into place because I knew my characters. In The Garden Plot, Mert, the narrator, is a simple woman in a narrow world with no sense of humor. She complains constantly about her neighbor, Pearl, a gem, who glows in her efforts to keep Mert off balance by bringing new experiences into her life.

In The Last Puzzle Piece, I chose the names Wallace to portray a stiff, controlling husband, Diana as his conflicted wife, and Valerie as the other woman. Did I struggle over the names? No. They seemed to fit their roles.

In Airpocket, I selected Howard and Louise. During the story, he became Howie or How and she became Lou.

How do you choose a setting? Do you research specific places for details or use a more non-specific setting that everyone can relate to?

I’m partial to apartments and houses for my stories because I’ve loved every home I’ve lived in. But I’ve written stories that take place in psychiatric institutions, on airplanes, in hotel rooms and at work.

It depends on what pops into my head, where I’ve seen a person who fascinates me until I get her or him down on paper.

For example, I saw Louise on an airplane. She was there from head to toe. We left the airplane, but her character stayed with me. Also, it can be where a person said a word or sentence that plays over and over in my brain, like a scene from a play.

How do you choose a title? Do you try to encapsulate the meaning of the book or simply go for something eye catching?

quirkQUIRKY’s thread is that each story has an unexpected ending. A friend once told me, “You lead a quirky life.” I agreed with her. According to the Oxford American Dictionary (yes, I still use it) quirk is defined as a trick of fate. Hey, I thought, that sounds like it’s unpredictable, variable, peculiar, all those yummy things. I like quirky best.

That certainly sums up the book. How do you deal with writer’s block?

What’s that? I don’t call it a block. I call it going crazy by inches. Here’s a typical day.

I tell myself I am going to write today. No excuses. I’m going to say focused. I inform my husband, “No matter who calls, I’m not going to answer the phone. I’ll call people back.” Then the cannon blasts off, and I shoot out in a thousand pieces.

The phone rings. My husband comes into my office with the name of the caller written on a piece of paper.

“Thank you for answering, honey,” I say. “No, no, no. Don’t tell me who called. Keep the paper. Just answer the phone and add any other names and numbers, please. I’ll get to everyone eventually. Promise. Love you.”

Five minutes later my hubby comes into my office to tell me the newest word our parrot said, and reminds me the cable company tech is due between one and five p.m. Wonderful. That genius will take over my office. It takes twenty minutes to get back to the sentence I was editing. My husband asks what I want for dinner. I request reservations.

The calls continue. “So far the phone has rung eight times,” he yells from the family room.

I know it’s bothering him that those calls are mostly for me and I haven’t answered one. That’s too darned bad. After I stick my nose out of here he will nag me until I check each name from his list.

But it’s worth it if I complete writing five pages before the darned tech arrives. I hope that nerd is late.

If he’s not, my next project will be a book about a TV tech who is found dead in the home of one of his clients. Now, what should I name him? Clarence? Abner? Bartholomew? Otto? Otis? Orville?

I’ll worry about it tomorrow.

I’m sure everyone can relate to a day like that. Thanks for your off-beat interview. I enjoyed the chuckle.

You can buy QUIRKY SHORT STORIES at Amazon. I recommend you do so. The stories are delightfully quirky.

You can reach Greta Silver at her website.

She is also on Facebook.

Author Interview – Zelda Becht

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Today I am interviewing Zelda Becht, author of the recently published, Zelda the Welder, a story about the girls who welded boats during World War II. The book is semi-autobiographical in that Ms. Becht really was a welder in Kearny, NJ, in 1943. But the similarities to her life story stop there—Zelda the Welder is a cozy mystery.

Which brings me to my first question: What is a cozy mystery?

A cozy mystery is a mystery book that doesn’t have a lot of blood, sex, or violence. You can put up your feet and read—knowing you will be entertained, not scared half to death.

How do you name the characters in your books? Do you just pick a name that you like or do you make up the name to make it stand out? Do you Google the name to check its meaning? Do you research the name to be sure it is historically fitting?

My first book, INMATE OF THE ROOM, took place in England. I used the names of people I knew. Like Nellie or Nell, my protagonist. My English aunt’s name, Nell Gordon, had the Inmateright ring to it. And so, though Nell is an American character, she had an English background. For me, it fit. For the character, Diana Musgrave, I searched my mind for a thoroughly English sounding name. I also have an English cousin named Diana. I ran with what was real to me. David is the name of one of my uncles in England. And so I named my hero, David Taggart, for an English character I liked. I used English names for a story placed in England. Names have to fit the character and the place you write about. The names I chose are names used by the English. I could have called Nell, say, Marie, or called David, Jose, but it wouldn’t ring right for English characters in England.

In ZELDA THE WELDER, it was easy to give the protagonist a name. The story was about me. I was the welder. I wrote about what I knew: welding. I gave up a job as a secretary to weld Destroyer Escorts at a Federal shipyard. At a time when women were desperately needed, when our men were in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, women did whatever we could to help. I had three car buddies, a driver, and other people in the yard. I changed their names, but kept their characters. All other names that had a significant place in the story, I chose to fit the part. Sometimes I looked up names to fit a scene. That was for the Zelda book.

In my children’s books, I picked names young people would remember easily, only four letters, ROSE AND RITA, the little marmosets. I thought they fit, coming from the Amazon rain forest as they did.

In DEADLY DEEDS I picked the names of people I knew. For me, it’s fun to fit a person with someone of similar character. And some folks like to have their name used.

Let’s move on to the settings of your books. Exactly how do you choose a setting? Do you choose a place that is familiar and easy? Do you research specific places to make them accurate and plausible? Or do you simply make them up?

The setting for my first book, INMATE OF THE ROOM, had to be in England. Elizabeth the first was an English queen. The story is about three people who find things about her in an old English castle. The setting needed to be realistic. They say, “Write about what you know.” That means, if you want to write about something, find out all about it before you write the tale. And that is where the Internet comes in mighty handy. Everything is there. I found out about the castle, the streets and roads in England and Scotland, the Queen, and anything else I needed to set the scenes. I was born there, visited there, and still, one cannot know everything about a place. So I researched. It is a must to know what you write about for it to fly.

My setting in ZELDA THE WELDER was 1943, New Jersey. The time was World War II. Zelda the WelderThings were very different then. Times, people, homes, appliances were all different. I had to fit that time slot. The setting in ZELDA is true time and place. I did weld at Federal Shipyard in Kearny, New Jersey. However, that was seventy years ago. I knew Queens Boulevard, and the bridges, and Maspeth, etc., but I looked everything up to be absolutely sure I hadn’t forgotten something. So, I chose settings that fit the story. And the story must fit the setting. When fictionalizing a scene, I wrote what I knew it should be, but again, I looked it up. You can find everything you need on the Internet.

For ROSE AND RITA, I had to be careful. There are only so many places little marmoset monkeys can be found. The Amazon Rain Forest is one. And Miami is Miami, where they find themselves, so I described that. And an animal zoo is an animal zoo, but it has to be right. So, the setting has to fit the story, and the story has to fit the setting. The rest is up to your imagination.

For DEADLY DEEDS, I set my book in the Catskill Mountains which are in New York. The main character, a veterinarian, worked in an animal hospital. I had to learn what animal doctors do, think, and feel.

So, my advice on settings is look it up. When they say, “Write what you know,” it means, “If you don’t know and want to write about it, find out.”

Good advice. How do you title your books? Do you go for shock value? Memorability? Do you research similar titles before choosing? Do you title your book first or write under a working title?

That is important. What will make someone pick up the book in the first place? The title. In my first book, INMATE OF THE ROOM wasn’t my first choice of title. I wanted, The Find. The story is about my three main characters finding something that was unknown for 400 years. But perhaps it needed more. A fellow writer suggested a sentence I had written in the book. Yes, it was a find, but about a character hidden in a castle room. Hence, INMATE OF THE ROOM, and below it The Find. I liked them both and kept them both. Now you must buy it.

It was easy to name my book, ZELDA THE WELDER, after me, a welder. The story is about when I welded Destroyer Escorts during WWII. Sometimes something pops out of the book that suggests the title. But sometimes you will write the whole book before you know what to name it.

For DEADLY DEEDS, I hoped the title would interest people who liked a mystery. A title should suggest what the story is about. It should grab their interest. It should make them pick up the book and open it. A proper title will do that.

That’s certainly true. Now for my final question: How do you ward of writer’s block?

Okay, you are deep into writing your book, something distracts you, and when you get back, you’ve lost your train of thought. Or, you have a deadline, and that is enough to make your brain go dead.

Writer’s block is something else. Mostly, if you are rolling with the story, and you haven’t stopped to do something to take your thoughts away, you won’t get writer’s block. If you are into your story, it will be on your mind always. But should you become unable to carry the story further, you should read it over again and again until something clicks. You might want to discuss it with a friend. Share thoughts.

That is, if you already know what you want to write about. If you just decide to write something with no idea where you are going, you are in trouble. Then you may have to throw out all those precious words we love and begin again.

So, how to ward off writer’s block? Plan your story ahead. Before you sit down or write a word, know what you want to write about. Some people write an outline to lead them along the path of the story. That way, they can relate back when they need to.

But not all writers use an outline. For them, it is easier to just put down the story as it comes to them. A well-known author who writes about a detective out West writes off the cuff. Others like to have music playing in the background. Soothes them, brings out their thoughts. Just don’t write when you are tired. When you wake up and re-read it, you will wonder why you wrote that mess.

It is up to the person to know what makes him or her think best. Take a swim in the pool or a long walk and think about your story. Some people like to read a book to get the juices flowing. One famous author will never read a book when he is writing one. It distracts him from his story. Different strokes for different folk.

If you find yourself blocked, put your project aside and write about something else. But never, never, stop writing. Next time may be a best seller.

Now, write that book. I want to read it.

Thank you, Ms. Becht, for such a thought provoking interview.

You can buy books by Zelda Becht at Amazon. I recommend Zelda the Welder. It was fascinating.

You can reach her at her website, www.zeldabecht.weebly.com.

She is also on Facebook.