1) How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing most of my life. Only recently, during COVID honestly, did I realize that it was something that I wanted to pursue professionally and for a career.
2) What inspired you to write Dear Monica? My mom went through some really hard, tough mental health stuff and that was my inspiration. A mind place and setting with a romantic twist. I think it’s interesting for people who don’t understand mental health to read something of someone in that spot.
3) Why did you decide on the format of letters to tell the story? When thinking of mental health suicide often comes up and is at the forefront of mental health, with that idea, letters came to mind.
4) The core of the novel is the mental health of its main character – is this a subject you feel strongly about? I do feel strongly about mental health, especially in the male community. I think mental health has a stigma for men and that’s something I hope to chip away at with my career.
5) Is Charlie based on anyone you now? Charlie and Monica are a combination of people that I’ve known in my life, whether a friend or significant other, they’re the best parts of people I knew.
6) Has your Army career influence any of your writing? My army career has greatly helped me with the structure of writing. I consistently schedule my time to write and stick to it, even if I hate what I wrote in that time I have something to go off of. My army career also helped me and opened my mind up to a lot more in this world than I originally thought.
7) Having acting experience yourself, can you see your book being made into a movie? I could definitely see Dear Monica being a movie. Since I am an actor, I usually write from a point of visual and what I see in my head as I write.
8) Do you use the places you have visited as part of your narratives? Yes, I would say 95 percent of the places I write about I have been to. I don’t particularly feel honest writing about something I don’t know, so I try to stick to what I do.
9) Are you writing a new manuscript currently? I am, I have on a novel, “Yours, Only” with the editor now, and my other one “Little Red Card” is 2/3 of the way through its first draft.
10) Can you tell us about any new projects, events or presentations you have coming up? My newest projects are both very interesting. “Yours, Only” is another project that’s a collection of letters between a soldier and his young wife back at home. the letters follow his missions, while he battles with his own demons he’s creating and his life back at home. “Little Red Card” is a pandemic-based romance that I am really excited about.
11) Has the COVID19 restrictions impacted your writing life? If so how? My acting career got put on pause at the beginning of COVID and I really started writing seriously because I needed a creative outlet. I wouldn’t have a novel without Covid.
12) Where is your most favorite place to write? I love to write in central park. I’ll take my laptop out there and write until it dies, that usually enough for a day.
13) How can readers connect with you? My IG is @samdavel
14) Is there a message you would like to give to your readers? I think I would just like to tell my readers that they can do whatever they want. Anything is possible and that people are there for them if they need them.
BIO: Samuel Davel grew up in rural Wisconsin leaving home at 18 for the Army. In the Army Sam was an Airborne Ranger who was constantly taking in the world around him. After leaving the Army Samuel moved to NYC while pursuing a career in film and television. After appearing on the small screen and doing numerous indie works Samuel started writing about the world he absorbed throughout his life. He enjoys writing story’s that have mental health twist or ones that don’t always end in happy endings, at the end of the day, life doesn’t always end happy. Samuel tries to capture the small moments, the ones that everyone can easily take for granted.
That’s a great question and I don’t know if I have a single answer. I love the challenge, the process, I love the chance to connect with readers and other authors. As a reader, I love the feeling of falling into a good book, the kind that makes me forget time and space, forget where I am, and as a writer, the chance to create that type of experience for someone is just too cool an opportunity to pass up.
2. How long how you been writing?
Oh, gosh, on and off through school. I also wrote in university as self-care & a break with the course load. In 2006, I got serious—taking classes, attending workshops, reading books on craft—so I would count that year as THE year I began to write.
3. Why do you write, primarily, with female protagonists?
In every story, an author has to ask themselves, “Who is the best person to tell this story?” Sometimes, the voice that has the most authority is a female voice (as in the case with In the Key of Nira Ghani), sometimes, the voice will be male ( as in the case with Thicker than Water).
Stories should also reflect different experiences, which is why my characters can be BIPOC (Sleight of Hand), sporty (Nothing But Net), and/or come from cultures & families that aren’t based in North America (Maria and the Plague).
4. What messages do you want to convey in your stories?
Hmm, there’s a two-pronged answer to this question. I hope, when it comes to my writing voice, readers know my stories will have themes/messages of positive resolutions (though not necessarily happy ever after endings), optimism, resiliency, and strength in self. However, a story is subjective. We might all read the same book, but we won’t read the same story—our backgrounds, values, and pet peeves will come into play. To that end, my goal is to create a space that allows readers to feel and interpret as they see fit and enjoy the journey as they go along.
5. What is your writing style – planner or panster?
A bit of both! I like to have an outline, but I like to have freedom. To me, it’s like having a map. I’ve marked my route, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stop at Points of Interest or change the route as I go along.
6. Do you have a favorite place to write?
I have an office where I spend my days writing and editing. Final read throughs might happen in the family room.
7. Tell us about your latest book?
Maria & the Plague is part of the Girls Survive series from Capstone Books. Each story focuses on a girl living through an important (and often, a dangerous) time in history and her battle to survive against all odds.
In my book, “years of bad weather and natural disasters have choked Italy’s food supply, and the people of Florence are dying of starvation. Breadlines are battlegrounds, and young Maria has to fight for her family’s every loaf. Adding to the misery, the Black Plague is rapidly spreading through the country, killing everyone in its path. Maria has already lost her mother and sister. Will she be strong enough to save the rest of her family before it’s too late?”
It’s an eerily timely book, given our current pandemic. The similarities and hardships between Maria and today’s readers continue to astonish me. And like today’s circumstances, hope, kindness, and personal strength twine together to help Maria survive.
8. What made you write this particular story?
At the time, it was a chance to go back into history and learn about the Black Plague. And I loved the idea of having a strong, female character who was resourceful and clever, finding her way through one of the scariest times in history.
Looking back, I had no idea I was doing a rehearsal for COVID-19! But from wearing masks, travel restrictions, people choosing selfishness over kindness (and vice-versa) what the people of 1300s Florence went through is very much like what we’re going through, now.
9. Your new book is part of a series, can you tell us more about the series and what to expect?
10. Has your background influenced the subjects you write about?
The short answer is, “yes.” For all of us, how we view the world and how we write about it has deep roots in how (and where) we grew up.
11. How many pets do you have? Are they a help or a hinderance?
Our home has two cats and one dog, and they are of vital help with the writing. They keep me company during the late nights and early mornings, and hang out with me in the office during the day. Without them to remind me to eat (and—cough—share my food), take a walk, take time to cuddle and have fun, where would I be?
Argh, I don’t know yet—I’m flirting with a variety of ideas and “what if” scenarios, and hoping something will stick, soon!
Guyanese-Canadian author NATASHA DEEN writes for kids, teens, and adults, and enjoys visiting libraries and schools to help people to find and tell the stories that live inside of them. Her novel, In the Key of Nira Ghani, was a Most Anticipated Novel for both Barnes & Noble and Chapters-Indigo, nominated for the MYRCA Award, the R. Ross Annett Award, and is a Red Maple Honor Book and a 2020 YALSA Pick for Reluctant Readers. She is also the author of the Lark Ba series and the Guardian trilogy (Moonbeam Award winner, Sunburst Award Nominee, and an Alberta Readers’ Choice Nominee). When she’s not writing, Natasha spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince her pets that she’s the boss of the house. Visit Natasha on Twitter at @natasha_deen and at http://www.natashadeen.com.
There are a multitude of writing competitions available, whether locally or internationally. When submitting to a competition there are a few common ground rules to adhere to.
Tip #1: Be clear on your goals before entering any contest. Why do you want to enter in the first place?
Tip #2: Follow the rules and submission guidelines – each contest is different. This includes keeping to the submission deadline. ( A day earlier is best)
Tip #3: Proofread – this is absolutely vital. Make sure you read and re-read your entry before submitting.
Tip #4: Enter writing that is appropriate for the contests’ stated theme or topic. Familiarize yourself with the press or journal hosting the contest. Take note of their style and content.
Tip #5: Enter numerous contests to improve your chances of winning.
Tip #6: Don’t ignore lesser well-known contests, it could mean winning it gains you exposure and connections for your writing career. And of course, there is always the prize money! Not only does submitting to a range of contests maximize the likelihood that you may win, but it is a great way to improve and expand your writing skills.
Tip #7: Exploit your genre, your niche when researching the range of contests, there are always specialized creative writing contests out there that suit your style. Make the most of the opportunity to showcase your writing.
Tip #8: Create a story with an emotional impact, and topic. Make it memorable, new, fresh and focus on clarity. Choose a brilliant first line and action. Give your character a goal, a choice and ensure there is a change of personality, status or situation. And above all nail the ending.
Do you have any tips for entering contests? Care to share?
I did talk about my books, writing process and answered questions about my current detective series. So enjoy!
As a reader as well I always like the Goodreads end of year summary of the books I’ve read, even though, we still have more days in the month. I am determined to finish The Secret Place and start reading (if not finish) If It Bleeds before the end of December!
Adeline walked along the crowded high street, full of Christmas shoppers. The store fronts reflect the hustle and bustle in the glass. Bags and packages weighing down arms, demanding and tired children in equal measure and frustrated gentlemen panicking about what to buy. Window displays of red, green, white; gold and silver entice the bargain hunters to venture in. Their Christmas scenes full of trees, reindeer, Santa’s in sleighs or shouldering a large red sack and surrounded by pretend boxes of gifts. Make believe snow lies on the floor, while wires dangle snowflakes and stars. Each Christmas tree is topped with an angel or a star, one after the other, shop after shop. As she walks, avoiding bags and elbows and small children, Adeline feels a compulsion to do something different for her tree. Why be the same as everyone else?
In her small but neat and tidy apartment, everything is in its place. She relishes an orderly space. She looks around the living area. Where would I even put a tree? Adeline looks at the possibilities as she prepares her supper. There is the breakfast bar, which could hold a small tree, but would it encumber her meal preparations? She dismisses the small round dining table, as any size of tree would obscure the diners from each other. Without a fireplace or mantle, the apartment is without a focal point. She refuses to make the TV a focus and has it placed on one side wall. The coffee table is too useful to clutter with any sort of ornament. Where is the best spot to place a tree?
As she sits eating her supper of chicken, jasmine rice and spinach and carrots, Adeline wonders if she even needs to go to the bother of purchasing a tree. After all, she would spend Christmas Day with her parents and sister. Last year, though, she was still living with her parents, so Christmas followed the usual routine, with her mother spearheading everything. Sipping her wine, Adeline, thought about her new space, her new life and realized she wanted to share it. The dining table was just big enough for her parents, younger sister and herself. Even if she spent Christmas Day at her parents, she wanted to host a celebration in her new home.
After clearing away the dishes, Adeline closed her eyes, imagined the living area empty and placed her few possessions in different settings. With the sectional turned along the TV wall, instead of with its back to the bay window, she would have an open space. That would be a perfect place for the tree. Excited now, she had a plan, Adeline pushed the sofa sections around and moved the coffee table in front of it. She also moved her extra-large sofa chair and footstool so it was angled in such a way it would directly face the tree. Where she imagined herself curled up under a blanket, illuminated by the twinkling lights and reading a good book.
The next day, Adeline set off early in search of an artificial tree, lots of decorations for it and the all-important tree topper. Store after store promised the most unique tree, some with integral lights, others not. There were decorations in every colour possible, large and small, fancy or plain. Adeline was finding it difficult to choose, so decided to take a break in a local café. There was a queue to the door, so she waited her turn, then choose hot chocolate with marshmallows and a cinnamon sprinkle. She scrolled the photos on her cell phone, of the trees and decorations she liked. One by one, she dismissed them until she had one tree and a couple of sets of ornaments, that would complement each other. Now she could go directly to the specific stores and purchase them. The only item remaining to choose was the topper, every one she had photographed just wasn’t special enough. Where will I find something unique?
As she put her mug into the dirty collection tray, an older woman bumped her arm.
“Oh, my goodness, I am so sorry. I lost my balance for a moment there.”
It’s quite alright. Do you need a hand to your table? Are you dizzy?’
“No, I’m fine, thank you. Just forgot to eat breakfast in my rush to get out of the house this morning. I think my blood sugar is a little low. Once I eat this muffin and drink the orange juice, I will be fine. Thank you for your kindness.”
Adeline followed the lady to her seat, wished her season’s greetings and turned to leave. The woman placed a hand on her arm and Adeline felt a tingle.
“You should visit the antique store around the corner, you will find what you seek there.”
Adeline frowned and asked, what the woman meant.
“I sometimes pick up on wishes when I touch people. I hope I didn’t spook you out. Happy Christmas.” The woman winked at her and sipped her drink.
Adeline smiled and walked out of the café. What an odd lady. However, despite herself she did walk around the corner to find an antique store, just as the woman had said. Curiosity made her enter the store, its interior crammed full of curio cabinets, long tables piled full of items and numerous clocks, pictures and signs on every wall. How on earth would anyone find anything in here?
A gentleman’s voice startled her. “Good morning, may I help you?”
At first Adeline could not see him through the plethora of items but then he moved to one side and she saw him standing behind a dark oak counter at the back of the store, almost completely obscured by display stands.
“Good morning, I am looking for something unusual as a Christmas tree topper, but have no idea what that would look like or if you would have anything like that.”
“Well, come this way, we have an assortment of decorations over here.”
Adeline walked towards him, turning sideways to avoid objects, shelving and cabinets along the aisle. On the far side of the store, she was delighted the see a large cabinet full of Christmas decorations. There was a light shining on it making everything inside sparkle and shine.
“Oh, goodness it looks magical.”
“Well, thank you. Take your time to choose, just be careful, some of the decorations are very old. If you need help just ask.”
“Thank you, I will.”
Adeline looked at the large cabinet and began picking up objects, one by one. Some had lost their shine, there were chips out of others and some had no means of hanging them as they were broken. She found the usual stars and angels in metal, plastic and wood, but also a Santa hat, a reindeer antler, a gnome, a gingerbread man, a dinosaur and a spacecraft. All interesting but not what she felt was right. Then she saw it, a black felt top hat decorated with fake snow and glitter, candy canes, tinsel and holly. It was perfect.
She carried it to the counter and the gentleman nodded his approval.
“Well, that is special isn’t it? Echoes of times past. I will wrap if for you.”
“Thank you so much. I have been to every store in the high street and couldn’t find anything quite right. My Christmas tree will be perfect now.”
With her purchase made, Adeline went back to the high street and purchased the tree and decorations and made her way home. After a quick lunch, she assembled the tree, spent a long time placing each ornament in just the right place and then once it was complete, she added the final flourish – the top hat. It’s perfect.
On Boxing Day, her parents and sister arrived for lunch and all exclaimed how wonderful her tree looked. It resembled a Christmas Carol type scene, with mock candles, holly, pine cones, fabric ornaments and oranges wrapped in ribbon and pricked with cloves. The top hat sat pride of place right at the top of the tree. Adeline even found an ornate tablecloth and napkins for the dining table to continue the theme with handmade top hat place settings.
She was so happy, her first Christmas in her new home was extra special. The old woman had been right to send her to the antique store. She would always be thankful.
I hope you liked my Christmas story, it was fun to write.