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Author Interview – Karen Harmon

November 5, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Karen's Headshot.jpg

What inspired your latest novel? My father passed away when I was 27 years old, so none of my three children had ever met him. To keep his memory alive, I used to tell my kids true stories about my dad. He was an amazing fun loving, comical, adventurous person but he came from a very dysfunctional, heartbreaking back ground. One day (8 years ago) when I was telling my (then) 11-year-old son about how my father rode the rails when he was 13 years from Saskatchewan to BC, my son said, “Mom, I love your stories so much, you should write a book”. So, I did.                                                                     

How did you come up with the title? The title of my book Looking for Normal, is a play on words. For a big part of my life I would often say, “I just want a normal family”. Therefore, I was always looking for normal. When, in the real world, there is no such thing as normal. I use a quote from Erma Bombeck, “normal is just a setting on your dryer” on the first page, chapter one.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? YES! I would very much like my readers to 1) feel inspired by my story 2) come to understand that mental illness and addiction can cause people to behave a certain way, but there is always hope and humour if you can get past the pain. Mental health issues are not uncommon.

How much of the book is realistic? My book is a true story about family, heartache, heartbreak, hope, and humor, it is all true and about my life. Some people have described my memoir to be unique and eclectic and I say, “aren’t we all?”

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Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Yes, the main characters in my book are my mother, father and myself. It weaves in and out with flash backs and stories throughout. I have been told that my book is very relatable, it could be many peoples story. It takes place between 1930 and 1978 and has historical facts, photos and events along the way.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? I currently have (as of April 2019) 25 reviews on Good Reads. My book is available on amazon.ca  amazon.com  Indigo.ca  chapters.ca barnesandnoble.ca  I also love chatting with my followers on Instagram, I have approximately 8,000  @karenharmonn  I post about writing, health, fitness and family. Twitter @karenharmonn

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? Yes! I am currently (as of April 2019) 50,000 words into my 2nd book which is a sequel. I should be finished by the time this blog comes out. I am very excited as this book takes place in the 80’s and 90’s. Parts of it have been fun to write because I was a disco queen during Vancouver’s disco era. And I started teaching fitness at the same time as Jane Fonda. HaHa! Other portions have been more difficult to write but very therapeutic to write because it deals with AA, and Alanon.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? Of my three main characters they are ALL my favourites and this is why…….. 1) my dad adored me, and I idolized him. He was funny and kind. He never repeated the cycle of abuse that he was raised under. 2) my mother wanted to be a private detective in the 1930’ & 1940’s which was completely unheard of for a woman, so she settled and became a mom & house wife. Plus, she had mental health issues and in those days that too was unheard of. 3) Me, my heart breaks for the little girl I once was. I really got to know little girl Karen during my telling of her childhood. I gained confidence from writing about who I once was and my beginnings. Therefore, all three of my characters are my favourite.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I favor non-fiction because writing about something I know to be real and true is easier. I gained my story telling ability from my father, he was animated and funny. I like to look at life that way, we are all characters on the stage of life.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? My first book was by the seat of my pants, sometimes it felt like verbal diarrhea. My second book has been more planned out and I feel way more organized.

What is your best marketing tip? Networking and asking questions. Find a facebook page with like minded individuals. That’s where I found you, and look, I get to be in your blog! Instagram and Twitter are important too.

Be professional, if you are having a book launch, a book read, or any kind of event make professional invitations and hand them out. At my book launch my friend made appetizers that were conventional in the 1960’s. I had old fashioned coke in glass bottles, and everyone was offered coffee or tea. My friend owns a coffee shop, so she gave me a great deal. It was super fun and prior to the launch the newspaper did a story on me.

Contact your local newspaper as they love personal interest stories about people in the community, you are helping them if they do a story on you. So, it is a win-win as it gives you exposure as well.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? I want to say a little bit of both. Through Instagram I have connected with some amazing, writers, bloggers and readers. Sending personal messages DM’s (direct messages) I have messaged at least 50 people I have admired. At least ten of those people have responded and we have had some amazing conversations. I have been given incredible advice from other authors. I have sent my book to instagrammers who read as a hobby and I they have given my book great reviews. Plus, its fun to post photos, make videos, network, and make connections.  I find Twitter a bit more challenging as it is important to post something everyday, if not more. I enjoy following people who have odd perspectives on life. My challenge is coming up with something unique and fresh daily.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS 

What do you enjoy most about writing? I enjoy thinking of someone reading my material and laughing or crying or becoming inspired. I visualize certain friends reading what I have written, and I can see them smile in my head.

What age did you start writing stories/poems? I have always liked to write stories, but my lack of self confidence and self esteem got in the way. I am way more confident now, so I have way less inhibitions.

Has your genre changed or stayed the same? So far it has stayed the same, but I do have a few ideas for a fiction book, based on real people.

What genre are you currently reading? I love true stories and memoirs, I just accidentally read, Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner. I say accidentally because I read it before, years ago but I forgot and read it again lol. My favourite book was The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? Wow! I have a few. I have three author friends who have helped me and inspired me in different ways. Nadine Sands she wrote Hold On, Let Go, she told me these simple words, “not everyone likes memoirs, which does not mean that yours is not good”. As silly as that sounds, it was like an epiphany for me. Mary Edigar, she wrote Mennonite Girl, she said “just keep writing, do not worry about mistakes or punctuation that can be fixed later”. Colleen Friesen she is a Travel Writer and a Blogger, her inspiration is more about who she is and how she lives her life. Plus, she can be very frank in her writing but still manages to bring hope to the reader. She writes about travel, but she also writes about family, death and spirituality.

Where is your favorite writing space? Good question! I love, love, love, writing in my bed with my little dog Steven curled up next to me. I am either drinking a coffee (with extra cream) or a giant water. I live in a small home, but my bedroom is my sanctuary. My husband can have the TV and the living room lol.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? I have attended the North Shore Writers Association and I really like it. They bring in guest Authors and it feels great to be with like minded people.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be? Jeanette Walls and Whalley Lamb.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? I would live here in North Vancouver, but I would like someone to give me house too. OR if my three children and husband could come with me, I think Hawaii would be a great place to live.

Do you see writing as a career? I would love that, if I could make a living from it.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? I could never nibble while I write, but I do love coffee or tea while I am writing. AND Ice cream after a day of writing with my favourite Netflix show.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? Rewards vary. A massage, a pedicure, ice cream and for example today when I finish answering all these questions, I will have a cold Corona with lime. But just one.

Bio:

Local Vancouver writer Karen Harmon, writes passionately in her recent memoir Looking for Normal – which won the Rubery Book Excellence Award in the category of Women’s Health.

The book contains Karen’s recollections based on her parents meeting in 1945 at the Cave Super Club in Vancouver B.C. and her own personal experiences of growing up in the 1960’s. Taking the reader on a memorable journey throughout 1930 to 1978.

“With poverty, addiction, mental illness and family relationships being current topics of discussion, Karen Harmon has tapped into a story that everyone can relate to. I am looking forward to sharing her upbringing with my students”.  Cathy Sieben, Secondary Teacher Gibson’s B.C.

Looking for Normal is a bitter-sweet memoir that covers historical events dating back to the depression era, the outcome of prohibition, the obsolete recognition of mental health issues and a family trying to succeed in amongst the trappings of society and current events in Western British Columbia, Canada.

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Author Interview – Bryan L Beerling

October 29, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Bryan

What inspired your latest novel?

Much like the story beginning, I was intrigued with one dirt road leading off a highway I travelled often and wondered what was over the hill. I still don’t know what is really there.                                                                                    

How did you come up with the title?                 

I think the title, DIRT ROAD, was self explanatory

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I hope people will see through more than the romance part, that, when needed, people rise to the occasion, such as the son that did not seem to have any gumption finally took over or the mother when away from the family was totally different.

How much of the book is realistic?

I think like all novels, bits and pieces are realistic. The dirt road in question is in Southern Alberta but the farm over the hill is in Central Alberta and the coffee shop is in Northern Montana but in the story they are all within miles of each other.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, the actual story is a figment of my imagination, but I feel the characteristics of the individuals are composites of various people I know.

dirt road

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

I am on Facebook only.

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

My next novel or any forthcoming work are all stand alone works. I have two completed novels and working on another. Time will tell if I publish them.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

I like Gary. He is patterned after my grandson with a little embellishment.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

I like to say I write about life, but romance seems to sneak in as well.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

Strictly seat of the pants. I love my writing club the nights they give three or four prompts and give us an hour to come up with a short story about one of them.

What is your best marketing tip?

Find someone you can trust to lead you along the way.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

Social Media is a great help. I post my short stories on there and judge form the feedback.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

It takes me into a different world, not necessarily better but different.

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

I think before I was a teenager I would ride my bicycle up on a hill overlooking the entry to my city and study the vehicles and write stories about what I thought they were doing in the city or where they were going when leaving.

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

I think it has remained the same.

What genre are you currently reading?

That is one of my hindrances as a writer, I read very little.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

When I do read it is for pleasure.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

I would have to say the members of my writing club give me the boost I need.

Where is your favorite writing space?

Tim Hortons. As I dabble on the laptop I watch the people around me and incorporate characteristics I see.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

I belong to River Bottom Writing Club in Lethbridge

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?

Sorry, no favorite.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

Right where I live. My grandchildren are only a few miles away but also the people of Lethbridge are so diverse it gives me lots of content for my stories.

Do you see writing as a career?

Well, at 70 years old I think my career stage is over. However, I did work for several years as a newspaper journalist but found that type of writing not to my liking.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

Tim Horton coffee and a Boston Cream donut. At home it is Coke and Werthers Candies.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

I hate deadlines. I just like to see a finished copy, if there is any such thing as a finished copy.

Bio:

Bryan L. Beerling lives in Lethbridge, AB with his wife. He is a member of the local writer’s group, River Bottom Writers. Dirt Road is his first full-length novel.

 

The Most Common Question a Writer is Asked…

October 24, 2019
mandyevebarnett


Where do you get your ideas from?

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It may seem like an easy to answer question but for most writer’s it is a multi faceted one. I have answered with:

  1. Word or picture prompts
  2. Dreams
  3. Overheard snippets of conversation
  4. People watching
  5. An idea popped into my head randomly
  6. A personal interest 
  7. A topic of conversation

A couple of examples:

My children’s picture book, Rumble’s First Scare was a Halloween prompt, which I turned upside down. It is the monster’s point of view of Halloween and his first scare adventure with his Mum.

The Rython Kingdom began as a series of prompts that gelled together to form a story by pure chance.

It is not so clear cut as these to be honest but it helps a non-writer understand the creativity side of our brains a little easier.

I presented a workshop on how to formulate an idea into a novel at the WFSC writer’s conference in the spring. From that initial spark to compiling a story line/arc, creating a plot arc, introducing characters, and finding the correct conclusion for the genre. It was a fun experience.

Do you have Questions:

I would love to explain the nucleus of my stories if you have a question about any of my books. Here is the list: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01MDUAS0V

Just leave your question in the comments below. Let’s start a conversation and writers please comment on how your current WIP evolved.

 

 

 

 

Author Interview – Krysta MacDonald

October 22, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

author photo

What inspired your latest novel?

One of the most defining and yet complicated relationships women have is with their mothers; this was true, at least, of Danielle, the protagonist of my first book. But parents – and especially mothers – seem to lose their identities except as “mom”. I wanted to explore who Danielle’s mother was before she was a mother; her identity, her past. Her secrets. Why is she the way she is, which has such an effect on Danielle? And then, I’m always interested in women’s issues, and the 1960s was such a turbulent time for that, so it all played in to the inspiration.                                                                             

How did you come up with the title?

To Air the Laundry… the whole premise follows Sharon deciding to tell her secret or not. She spends so much of her day doing her husband’s laundry, and as she does this, she thinks and wonders and remembers, and struggles with whether to air the laundry of her own, so to speak.

to air the laundry                                                                             

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

It’s okay. Sometimes it is what it is and it might be hard, but we do the best with what we can and deal with what happens afterward and all of that is okay, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. I also want people to remember that each person has her own story; everyone has thoughts, experiences, secrets, a full identity, and we usually catch only glimpses of the whole story. 

How much of the book is realistic?

It’s realistic fiction, so pretty much all of it. In a note from me at the end of the book, I say that this is not the story of any one person I know, but it is one story that could have belonged to any one of hundreds or thousands of young women over the years and generations. 

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, not really. As a teacher I see a lot, and I know a lot of women who struggle with the career vs family decisions, even now, so in the 1960s it was even more pronounced.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

You bet!

https://krystamacdonald.wixsite.com/website

www.facebook.com/krystamac.writer

https://twitter.com/KrystaMacWrites

www.goodreads.com/krystamacdonald

www.instagram.com/krysta.macdonald
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

Yes, I do; I’ve started my third book, and while it is a stand-alone, as are my first two, there is tie-in. It actually centers on a minor character from my first book, Allison. I really like exploring different styles of storytelling, and this is something completely different from anything I’ve tried before, so I’m really taking my time with it, but I’m having a lot of fun with it, too.

the girl with the empty suitcase
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

Hmm. This is a tricky one. I have to say it’s pretty tied between Mark, the husband from The Girl with the Empty Suitcase, who I feel is wonderfully flawed and human, and Melinda, who makes a brief appearance in The Girl with the Empty Suitcase, but is more present in To Air the Laundry. Melinda is sassy and strong and fiercely fun-loving and brash and independent, and I just think she’s fabulous. Maybe she’ll show up in future stories; I don’t know, but I hope so.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

I write women’s literature, which is usually realistic fiction, but there is a lot of overlap. To Air the Laundry, since it takes place in the 1960s, overlaps with historical fiction. My new book actually overlaps a bit with magical realism, and I’m toying with a new idea for the future that overlaps with science fiction. They all are firmly in women’s literature though, in whatever other form they may also take.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I’m in the middle; I’m a “plantser”. I do outlines and have a rough plan or idea for my stories, but the details get worked out as it all develops. 

What is your best marketing tip?

Just keep at it. I’m learning every day, and it’s hard, but just keep trying.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

Though it does get to be a distraction, I actually generally find it a very useful tool. I connect with other writers and readers and use it for marketing, but also to “nerd out” over books and writing in general, which I love and find so important.

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

About 5 years old. I remember laying on my stomach on a bed, writing and illustrating stories with crayons. I attempted a novel at age 12; it was awful. My brother accidentally deleted it right around 100 pages, and he probably did the world a solid favour, but I kept the title for use for a future story – it was the best part of it all. When I was in upper elementary or junior high I started telling people I wanted to right a book, and I once recorded all the old family stories and anecdotes and put them together and gave them to my dad for a gift once. When it came time to share talents, I never knew what to do, so I’d always just tell people a story; so I’ve always been writing.

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

Growing up I didn’t realize how much genres overlapped each other; science fiction can also be women’s lit! So while I always primarily write realistic fiction/women’s lit, I am a lot more playful in combining genres.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

Both. Reading for pleasure is also research! I usually have two or three books on the go at one time, outside of work, where I typically have another three. I learn a lot and am made of the pages I read.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

My husband. One hundred percent. He reads everything I write, even though it’s not his genre at all. He encourages; he sets up tables and displays, he shares on social media, he sets up orders at his work, he sells books for me at my launches, he insists I take days where I do nothing but read or write, even when I’m complaining about my to-do list… he is the best support ever. I’m very fortunate to have a great support system – friends, family. My mother-in-law does my cover art and frequently helps me sell at markets. The community and my students are also really supportive.

Where is your favorite writing space?

At home, on my couch, with at least one of my dogs curled across me and at least one cat continuously trying to walk across the keys of my laptop. Add a giant cup of tea and that’s pretty heavenly.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?

Margaret Atwood. She is an incredible storyteller who is able to weave an incredible plot while still focusing on character. She is also concerned with women’s stories, and so important to Canada, not just in the literary world. Plus, I think she just seems like an awesome human being.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

I always say Venice, Italy, but I think maybe I’d just live there part time. Part time on a beach somewhere. And part time here in the Crowsnest Pass. When I was very young – again maybe 5 – I told my mother I was going to marry a man home by 5 every night, and we were going to live in a small town in the mountains where I was going to write and teach kids about reading and writing. And we would have a lot of animals. That’s what I’m living right now, and it’s pretty fantastic.

Do you see writing as a career?

Absolutely. I’m not doing it now, as I’m a high school English teacher, but for others, most definitely. Maybe one day, as I get older, get a few more books out, it will be for me, but for right now I also love being in the classroom. The people I know who make writing their full-time career; I’m both happy and a little envious of them.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

Sometimes, yes. I like salty snacks, like crackers or popcorn, or occasionally something small and sweet, but most often I’m drinking coffee or tea or occasionally a glass of wine when I’m writing.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

More time reading and writing!

Bio:

Krysta MacDonald writes about realistic characters confronting the moments and details that make up lives and identities.

She lives in a small Canadian town in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and veritable zoo of pets. She has a B.A. in English and a B.Ed. in English Language Arts Education, and spends most of her time teaching, prepping, marking, and extolling the virtues of Shakespeare. When she isn’t doing that, she’s writing, and when she isn’t doing that, she’s reading.

Author Tool Box Blog Hop – Tips on Promoting Your Book

October 17, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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 #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop 

As writers and authors, we are formidable in our ability to create narratives but we also have to learn how to market the ‘end product’ of those many months or even years of creativity. We become a book business.

  1. The first avenue many authors take is social media, which can be seen as a ‘soft’ option. After all we are not up close and personal with the public but at arm’s length. However, due to the countless sites available just choosing the ‘right’ one or two can be overwhelming. Then there is the matter of maintaining our ‘presence’ on each platform. We need to research which avenues of promotion will work best not just for our genres but also our ability to sustain them. Do your research on similar authors in your genre and see what they use (and of course ‘follow’ them).

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     2. Following selected authors, genre based bloggers, book reviewers, and writing        groups allows you to gain followers but also to learn about your particular genre   and gain a reader base. When someone is interested in your genre they ‘search’ for more posts, articles, links and books within that specific field. While you are doing that follow 10 ‘friends’ of friends on Facebook and 100 people on Twitter – this can gain a wider audience. However, in light of these two platforms losing participants also follow people on Instagram. (We have to keep up with the ‘in’ thing!)

3. Improve your author bio on all platforms to entice and inform as many followers as possible on all sales sites, your blog and social media platforms. Ask yourself – does it reflect you as a writer as well as a person.

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4. Use hashtags specific to writing, authors, books, genre and associated links – look at what other authors use.

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5. Then there is the personal touch, which means organizing or being involved in author readings, attending book events and participating in Q&A panels. Search your local area for book related events, get to know your local bookstores, inquire at your library, join a local writing group, the wider your reach the easier it will be to find avenues of sale for your book.

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6. Merchandise is another way of promoting your book. It can be as simple as custom bookmarks to T-shirts with the book cover/main character on the front. Make up a prize basket for a contest to be collected at an event (good photo opportunity to use on social media) or create an online contest for a free autographed copy of your book.

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7. An easy promotion is to leave five of your author business cards in local businesses, at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, or anywhere you visit on a regular basis. Many places have community boards too so pin some cards or a poster of an event you are attending there too.

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Do you have any promotion tips you would like to share?

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

 

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