Author Interview – Sarah Stovell

This month I interviewed Sarah Stovell, the author of Exquisite, a psychological thriller. Exquisite was a great read. It was not too long, not too short, and had just the right amount of suspense. I can’t say too much about it—it would ruin the fun. The story is about two women; one is an aspiring writer, the other a happily married, well-known author.  The book alternates between the two women, as they describe their life and their deepening relationship. But, as you’ll find out, something is clearly not right… 

Welcome Sarah. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am about to get a puppy because I am that stereotype of a woman whose children are now at school and I clearly have a compulsion to keep on cleaning up shit. That’s all you need to know.

What made you go into writing?

I didn’t much fancy any of the other jobs.

Exquisite is a psychological thriller. Your other books aren’t. What made you change genre?

Money.

Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?

I’m not a fan of the word ‘inspiration’. I don’t think I’ve ever really felt inspired as such. I get ideas when I’m out walking. I try and walk at least four miles day, and that’s when I get small ideas that slowly, after a lot of thought, develop into bigger ideas.

Is there a genre you prefer, as a writer? As a reader?

As a reader, my tastes are fairly eclectic but veer towards women’s literary fiction. As a writer, I like to produce a page-turner.

Your descriptions of the Lake District in Exquisite are beautiful. Locations of your previous books The Night Flower and Heartwood include Tasmania and America. Did you do anything special for your research on all these places?

I set ‘Exquisite’ in the Lake District because it is a place I love. I really, really love it. I could wax lyrical about the Lake District for literally a million hours. I plan to live there one day with a Border Collie and he and I will tramp the fells for ten hours a day. I can’t wait… Anyway, what was the question? The other books … Well, I just read about the places and imagined them. I actually don’t think that is the best way to do setting. It makes a massive difference when you are psychologically connected to a place, as I am to the Lake District.

Your books seem to revolve primarily around women (who are often damaged in some way), and female-female relationships, like the mother-daughter bond, friendship or even obsession. What is the appeal for you about these female characters and their interaction with other women?

Yes, I am very drawn to female relationships. Partly, this is because I am a woman, but also because the most significant (by which I mean complicated, not necessarily fulfilling) relationships in my life have been with women. I am interested in the deep bonds of friendship that women often forge. I also interested in mother-daughter relationships, which can be the most fraught relationships around but can also, if you get it right as a mother, be incredible (so far, I have a great relationship with my daughter, but she is only eight, so there’s a long way to go). I am also interested in romantic relationships between women, how loving and nurturing they can be, but also how terrible. I wanted to look at female violence, which is often psychological in action, but no less wounding for that.

Are you working on a new book? (And if so, can you tell us about it?)

I am almost finished! It is about an eighteen-year-old woman named Annie, who is impoverished and desperate and who goes to work as a nanny for a very wealthy family because her mother has gone missing and Annie has been evicted for not paying the rent. While there, something happens to a child in her care…

 

I am looking forward to reading it. Thanks so much, Sarah!

Author Interview – Melissa Burovac

Meet Melissa Burovac, a writer living in Hawaii. She has published two books so far, and I read her second book, Sylvie Writes a Romance, which I took with me on vacation. There were many things I liked about this book. It’s light—nothing too heavy—I read it on the beach, and it left me with a smile on my face. The lead character, Sylvie, is funny and brave: a woman in her forties who’s trying out the online dating scene, which leads to all sorts of awkward moments. But…she is resourceful and not afraid of discovering new things. Be careful though, it really made me want to go to Hawaii (without the dating though).

Aloha Melissa! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a writer and photographer on Kauai, Hawaii. An avid outdoors woman, I enjoy outrigger paddling—both one-man and six-man—SUP, running, surfing, sailing, and scuba diving, as well as yoga. I’m always up for adventure and loves doing things that scare me a little. My days are divided into two sections – mornings are in the ocean looking for wildlife to photograph, usually by swimming out with my Nikon and watching for animals to swim by; the afternoons are spent writing short stories or working on the two novels I have in progress. My entire life was interrupted in July when I adopted a rescue puppy, Lucy, who is far too cute to ignore when she wants to play; I am training her to be an ocean dog and my photo assistant, and eventually she’ll be independent enough to allow me to get more work done.

Why did you start writing a novel/how did you get your inspiration to write?

I began blogging when I did a round the world solo trip, mostly to reassure my mother that I didn’t die in some horrific accident somewhere in the world. I got great feedback from my blog, mostly from women who couldn’t believe I spent nearly a year on my own, and several mentioned I should write a book. From childhood I’d written short stories and had dreams of writing books but just never got around to it, so I decided I’d give it a real try; I had much of the material written in my blog, with all the detail of my day-to-day travel written daily on the road, so I spent the time to make it a coherent story and self-published my first book – Wandering – published in 2014. I was so pleased at writing a book and started a second shortly after – Sylvie Writes a Romance – a romcom published in 2016.

What is the hardest thing about the writing process for you?

The hardest part of my writing process is sitting down to get it done. I dream of stories all the time, but allow my life to get in the way too much. Scheduling writing time is essential for me.

Your first book is about your travels. Where did you go? Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

 My first book, Wandering, is the day-to-day account of my life on a solo RTW trip. I detail everything, from the adventures to the mundane to the anxiety of travel and meeting new people. I am not a great traveler, being directionally challenged and full of social anxiety, but waiting for a partner to travel with me was not working and I wanted to see more of the world. Some parts of the book are exciting with crazy excursions I took while other parts show the loneliness of spending so much time solo. I travelled to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Australia and Tasmania, Cambodia, and Thailand. I made many new friends, found some old friends, went scuba diving in all but Cambodia, and drank a little too much trying to escape my fears.

Your second book is a romcom. This is very different from the first. Is it in any way auto-biographic? Why did you change genres?

 I wrote a romcom, Sylvie Writes a Romance, because of an idea I had while reading an article about female romance writers. I wanted to be a full-time writer, but my first book wasn’t selling enough to quit my day job (and I hadn’t started a photography company yet). The article was about a few writers who made several thousand dollars each month from mass market romance novels, and I thought I would give that a try, make some money, then go back to writing books more my style (and I have yet to figure out exactly what my style is…). After a few tries at writing a romance I gave up, they were awful. And the idea of writing about a writer trying to write a romance novel was born. The book is autobiographical in that it is about a writer, but her methods of going about her writing – using online dating to learn about romance – is fiction.

Are you working on a third?

 I have two additional books in various stages of progress. One is a sequel to Sylvie Writes a Romance, and the bulk of it was written during NaNoWriMo 2016; I had just ended a relationship and wasn’t in a great mental space, and used the writing challenge to take my mind off my sorrows. The result was a full-length novel which was just a little too depressing – I write a lot of comedy – and I’m currently trying to untangle the story from my emotions at the time. The second book is a biography of a smuggler on Kauai. I have been conducting interviews with him for nearly a year, but progress is slow both because I have never written a biography and have spent a lot of time reading, and also because he is so fun we end up drinking a little too much on his boat during our “talk story” time.

What has made the deepest impression on you while traveling?

My deepest impression from traveling is the kindness of people all over the world. If we all simply stayed at home and read news stories we might think evil things about every other culture – but the fact is most people are well-meaning, helpful, and just as wonderful as our friends; plus they have so much to teach us about their histories and ways of life. In my nine months of travel I met very few individuals who had bad intentions, and none of them as violent as my mother imagined. I truly enjoyed the people I met in every country.

Thank you Melissa!

 
You can reach Melissa on her website, Facebook and Twitter.  Her books Wandering and Sylvie Writes a Romance are available on Amazon. You can also check out her photography company.

Author Interview – Amy Vansant

Get ready for Amy Vansant, who I got to know after reading Pineapple Lies, the first book in The Pineapple Port Series. In Pineapple Lies, Charlotte, a young woman living in a retirement community in Florida, discovers a—eek!— body hidden in her back yard. But…Who is the deceased? And who in the community is the killer? A fun read all over, despite the dead body. The dialogues are strong, fast and often hilarious. I could easily picture the ‘older’ people in the retirement community, especially Mariska and Darla, each with their own quirks. If you are looking for an entertaining book this summer that will put a smile on your face, this is it.

Welcome Amy. Can you tell us a little about yourself. (And why does your website describe you as a “delusionist?”)

My writing bio wanders a bit…

  1. I was a freelance writer in high school and college. Also quietly worked on novels that were really terrible.
  2. I sent an article to Surfer about colleges near waves and they bought it.
  3. A week later their east coast editor quit and I think I was the only east coast writer they knew. They asked if I wanted to be east coast editor and I just about fell over with happiness.
  4. I did that along with freelancing for five years or so, and then I started to do graphic design for some extra money.
  5. I sent a novel to a publisher who loved the first three chapters and asked for the rest. I hadn’t written it. So I rushed through it and lost my opportunity.
  6. Started doing web design (again to support my writing “career”, started a company, and then quit writing for about thirteen years like an idiot.
  7. Then in 2010 I had literally had a dream that would turn into my novel Angeli.
  8. I started blogging to get used to writing again and all of a sudden I remembered I was supposed to be writing.
  9. For the blog I went back to humor, which is what I’d always liked to write best. After Angeli was finally done, I decided it was time to do straight humor and wrote Slightly Stalky.

Then I just kept writing!

As for “delusionist” – That’s sort of an inside joke with my husband.  I’m so overly optimistic about everything he jokes that I’m delusional.  He says I’m not allowed to be excited about how many books I’ve sold until I’ve sold as many as Stephen King, so it will be a while…

Where or how do you get your inspiration to write?

I was “born” with the general inspiration. As for specific ideas, things will just grab me and I’ll feel the need to write them.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

I write about an hour or two a day if at all possible…sometimes life intervenes!

What is the hardest thing about the writing process for you?

Plots, probably. The characters literally talk in my head, and I just write down what they’re saying, so that part comes easy. The problem comes when they’ve run out of funny things to say and look at me as if to say “What now?” and I don’t know! Then sometimes I have to take off a day or two and chew on what comes next and how it all wraps up in the end.

Do you have any advice for other Indie authors?

Do things right. Don’t throw books together with no editing and cobbled together covers because you can’t afford it or can’t wait any longer. You’ll just end up with bad reviews or no sales. Take some time, bounce things off other people, save up. Join Facebook groups with experienced Indies and learn from them. Don’t think you know it all…ever. And don’t throw money at every promotional opportunity that rolls down the pike — there are a LOT of people out there trying to rip you off.

The Pineapple Port series are cozy mysteries. You have branched out to different genres. Why do you like to cross genres? What can you tell us about your other books?

I get ideas I really want to explore and if they don’t fit a series, I need to start a new one. It’s been a good way to find what genres sell better than others too. Angeli (3) was my first (urban fantasy), then Slightly Stalky (that’s autobiographical so that had to come out), Pineapple (4), a middle grade book (The Magicatory) I wrote for my nieces, and then finally the latest series is Kilty as Charged (2) – a highlander time-travel romance thriller. That happened because I realized I liked writing mysteries like Pineapple, but I wanted a series that could have a little more edge.

If you could choose a character from Pineapple Port, who would you want as a neighbor and why?

Mariska is my mother-in-law, so I have to say her or she’ll kill me. 🙂

What can you tell us about your upcoming Pineapple Port mystery?

The group goes traveling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and gets trapped in a house full of body bits! I’m about 70% done.

Which country have you not been to yet that you want to visit and why?

I think I need to go to Ireland. All the men in my books end up Irish! I had a crush on Pierce Brosnan when I was a teen, so I guess I’ve always had a thing for Celtic men. Ha! In fact, my husband, who thought he was mostly Polish, took a DNA test and it turned out he was mostly Irish! I must have known it before him!

Thank you Amy, for your time! I look forward to reading the other books in the Pineapple Port Series.

If you sign up for her newsletter on her website, Amy will give you a copy (ebook) of Pineapple Lies for free!

Check out Amy’s books on Amazon, or follow her on Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter.

Author Interview – Jennifer S. Alderson

JenniferSAldersonAuthorPhoto_TwitterFor my first author interview, I am featuring Jennifer S. Alderson. I reached out to Jennifer after reading her second book The Lover’s Portrait (check out my review in the section “On Books”), which was a great read and I highly recommend.

Jennifer, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks for having me, Lucia! I’m a long-time expat, an American who’s been living in the Netherlands since 2004. I am also the author of two novels, Down and Out in Kathmandu: Adventures in Backpacking and The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, as well as my new travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand.

In America I worked as a journalist and multimedia developer until massive burnout lead me to quit my job, buy a backpack and head off to Nepal as a volunteer English teacher for three months.

After several years on the road, I moved to the Netherlands to study art history and never left. After completing degrees in art history and museum studies, I worked for several museums before the economy crashed and the cultural sector imploded.

While applying for jobs, I wrote my first novel as a way of keeping my mind occupied. Writing about my adventures in Nepal and Thailand also helped curtail my wanderlust. I finished it between contracts, but never pursued publication.

After my son was born, I had the luxury of staying home to raise him. Writing became a way to connect with ‘grownup’ life and use the knowledge I’d gained during my studies. The Lover’s Portrait was so well-received by everyone who read it, I decided to publish both of my books and see what happened. I’ve been absolutely blown away by the overwhelmingly positive reception so far.

What is the hardest thing about the writing process for you?

The most difficult part about writing a mystery for me is creating a ‘secret’ worthy of being kept and working out the motivation of all of the parties involved. There has got to be a compelling reason for one person or group to want the object or information in question to remain hidden, but also an important reason for another party to want to locate or reveal it. The next step is figuring out how my series’ heroine fits into it all!

Why do you feel this is your genre? Could you branch out?

Mystery, travel, adventure and thrillers are the genres my books fall into. I love to travel and mysteries have always been my favorite genre as a reader. When I set out to write my first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu, combining the two came naturally.

In my second novel, The Lover’s Portrait, and current work-in-progress, The Anthropologist, I branched out to include aspects of historical fiction. This was incredibly difficult for me because, aside from Philip Kerr, I had read very little of the genre and was not sure how much historical detail I should include.

After reading several popular historical fiction books, I felt like I had a grasp of the genre’s expectations and the level of detail expected. Only then did I feel confident enough to add in to The Lover’s Portrait several historical chapters centered around the character Arjan van Heemsvliet, an art dealer in Amsterdam in the 1940s.

The Anthropologist is more thriller than mystery, which is a challenge for me to add in more action and increase the story’s pace, in comparison with my first two novels. We will see how it all works out in a few months.

Your first novel takes place in Nepal. Did you stay there for a long time to get to know the place?

I volunteered as an English teacher in Kathmandu for three months and then spent another three backpacking around Nepal and Thailand. During my ‘volunteer and cultural experience programme’, I learned quite a bit about the cultural and ethnic diversity of Nepal and visited many important temples and holy sites with my volunteer group.

An important side story in Down and Out in Kathmandu takes place in several cities in Thailand I visited. Without having traveled through both countries, I would not have dared to describe either in the detail which I have done in my debut novel.

Your second novel takes place in Amsterdam, where you live now. Is it in any way auto-biographic?

My protagonist’s professional background and academic experience s are largely autobiographical. We both studied art history and museum studies at the University of Amsterdam and interned at the Amsterdam Museum. Unlike Zelda, I spent my time researching the connections between a ceramic and book collection, an assignment which had absolutely nothing to do with the restitution of art or World War Two.

But that is where the similarities between Zelda and I end. In many ways, she gets to do what I wanted to do. While the jobs dried up in the cultural sector before I could work my way up the professional ladder, Zelda is able to conduct the kinds of research and work on the kinds of projects I hoped to. It is fun to live vicariously through her and write about what ‘could have been’.

What can you tell us about your third and upcoming novel?

The third novel in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series, working title The Anthropologist, is set in Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum, an anthropologic and ethnographic museum, as well as Papua New Guinea, a country I have never been to. It is an art-mystery-thriller about Asmat bis poles, missionaries and anthropologists.

The storyline was conceived during my time as a collection researcher at the Tropenmuseum while working on a fascinating exhibition of Asmat bis poles held in Dutch museum collections. While searching through photographs and film fragments of Asmat tribes, missionaries and anthropologists working in Papua New Guinea during the 1930s through 1960s, I discovered that a well-known Dutch missionary – Reverend Gerald Zegwaard – was one of the last people to see Michael Rockefeller alive. During their meeting they’d made an appointment to meet again after Rockefeller returned from an acquisition trip upriver. The young American disappeared days later, resulting in one of the most famous unsolved mysteries of our time. That little detail about his un-kept appointment with Reverend Zegwaard stuck with me and eventually inspired this novel.

I only dared to write about Papua New Guinea because all of the chapters which take place there are set in the 1950s and 1960s. Because the country has changed so much since then, I relied on film footage and travel journals as the basis for my descriptions of the villages, landscape and people.

Which country have you not been to yet that you want to visit?

Kenya is a country I have wanted to visit for quite a while. While at the Tropenmuseum, I worked on a historical photography project in conjunction with the Nairobi National Museum of Kenya. Archival research was also part of this assignment. It is a fascinating land with diverse cultures and a turbulent history.

Thanks so much Jennifer, for your time. I look forward to reading your third novel!

Here you can find Jennifer’s website, her Amazon Author Page or follow her on Goodreads or Facebook. And definitely check out her books!