Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Creative Edge Author Interview – Sophie Mays is the pen name of author, Stephanie LaVigne

October 14, 2021
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  • What spurred you into writing stories in the first place?

I was always a big reader, which was red flag number one. Aside from reading though, I had always been writerly, I just didn’t know it would eventually manifest into fiction novels. I am one of those people with an overactive brain, plus I am a talker. So those two things combined are very conducive to be being a writer.

  • Can you tell us about the very first story you wrote?

When I think of my very first stories, I think back to things I wrote when I was in grade school and high school. I had an amazing honors English teacher in high school who was always challenging us in our creative writing. I wrote a lot of bad poems and decent short stories during that time. Then I wrote a lot of plays and screenplays in my twenties. However, my first proper novel was a quirky mystery book written when I went home for the holidays one year. I did a self-imposed NaNoWriMo, which meant sitting down on my parent’s back porch every day for a month and forcing out 50,000 words without going back to edit or second guess anything. I still haven’t published that book, but I think one day I will. Every few years I pull it out and work on it, then realize that I have other books that need to get done so it gets re-shelved for another day.

  • Why did you pick contemporary romance fiction as your genre?

It was originally because my mother-in-law was an avid romance reader. She tends to read a lot of authors like Debbie Macomber, so I set out to write books that she would enjoy. We’ve always had a lot of fun talking about plots and story ideas, and she has always been my go-to person when deciding on romance book covers. Along the way, I realized how much I enjoyed showing that even though life can have its ups and downs, “happily ever afters” are still possible.

  • Why you decide to write series rather than stand-a-lone novels?

Well, a lot of it has to do with the business end. It simply makes more sense to write in a series than unrelated stand-alones. Though I usually write standalone books within my series, meaning you don’t have to read them in order. However, as a reader myself, I am a total glutton for a series. I get roped in so easily, and once I get to know the characters or the town, I want to spend time there. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, so there is something natural about writing a series.

  • What in particular interests you about this genre?

I really like the reminder that ordinary people can have extraordinary lives, they can find love that lights them up, and can navigate through all the quirks and sometimes disasters of every day life. In spite of all the hurdles that life throws at us, we persevere, and eventually we prevail. I love that in the romance genre we strive to show the goodness in the world. We all need our hearts warmed a little more often, to laugh a lot more often, and to be shown that there are good and beautiful things for us out there in this big, old world.

  • What influences your choice of a location for each series?

I think I get my travel obsession catered to when I choose story locations. So far I have picked a lot of coastal locations, in addition to a number of locations that hold great appeal to me. Even though I usually create a fictional town, I try to set my books in places that I want to visit, or that I have spent time in and loved.

  • When writing a series – what comes first the characters, the location or an overall concept?

It is usually a combination. I usually start with a general story idea, which gives me the vague notion of the main character. Then I spent too much time thinking about the location and picking the perfect spot. Once I have the general premise of the location, then I go back in and really start fine-tuning the characters. Which in turn, changes the story in some ways. It’s a never-ending cycle!

  • Can you tell us a little about the Serenity Falls collection? Where did the idea of five siblings come from?

The first book in the series was actually part of a multi-author collaboration. Some other sweet romance writer friends and I wanted to do a Christmas collection together, however we were a slightly diverse group. Some wrote regency romance, some wrote mail order bride romance, and two of us wrote contemporary romance. So we did a lot of messages back-and-forth and several phone calls until we figured out a way to weave the story lines together where the first stories were set in Regency era England, and then those families came across to America. Then characters from that generation became mail order brides who made their way out west. Finally, the last books were there great-great-grandchildren of the mail order brides (I may be missing an extra great in there, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.) When it came time to come up with the story for my book, I knew that I wanted to write something on a ranch and I love the Rocky Mountains, plus I wanted the option to continue writing in the world if I was inspired to do so later on. That led to my creating my main character, Hannah Wyatt. I gave her a really sweet family with two loving parents and four other siblings, which became the Serenity Falls series. It’s ended up making for a really fun and lovable series with lots of unique love stories.

  • Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s terrible, but I don’t have favorites in general, and I definitely don’t have favorite authors. But for the sake of answering the question, I really love this author named A.J. Jacobs because I find his books hysterical. He has a book called The Know-It-All that I literally cried laughing while reading. It’s about the time he decided to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. As you can imagine, this isn’t necessarily a book that would be universally considered high humor, but as a word person, I loved it. I’ve also always enjoyed Carl Hiaasen books. He was one of my first authors that inspired me to want to write novels. Plus, there are a ton of amazing female mystery authors that I’ve read and loved. I also read a lot of non-fiction reference books about any number of subjects that I’m interested in.

  1. How do you juggle life and writing?

Haha, poorly! Just kidding. Though, also not kidding. It is incredibly difficult to balance work and life, and I think that goes for almost everyone, not only authors. There is so much that goes into the business end of being a full-time writer. I am constantly doing my best to triage everything in my day-to-day life. I try to stay organized, but even that comes in bursts. Most days, I have about five hours to work before I leave to get my kids. It is somehow the shortest five hours known to man.

  1. Does traveling prompt your story ideas?

I haven’t done much traveling lately, but yes, traveling is always inspiring to me! Even when I’m not physically traveling, a lot of my story work is me tapping into locations I’ve spent time in, or places that I want to go. One of the great things about being a writer is that I get the excuse of looking up cool places that I want to visit for story “research”.

  1. Where can readers find you and your books?

You can sign up for my newsletter at www.SophieMays.com to keep up with me, and hear about my new releases and deals. Plus, I am on all the usual social platforms, like Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, Bookbub, and Goodreads. I’d love if you come and follow me so I can say hello to you wherever you like to hangout online!

  1. What are you currently writing?

I am working on the spin-off series to Serenity Falls, which follows their Wyatt cousins in the Riverside Ranch series. I am also working on two Romantic Comedy series which I am super excited about!

  1. Do you have a message for your readers?

If you’ve read my books before, thank you! You have made it possible for me to take this improbable dream and make it into my everyday life. For anyone out there reading this who has something in their heart that they wish they were brave enough to do or try, my encouragement is for you to take in a big breath and take the first step toward whatever that goal or intimidating thing is. It is never not worth trying. And I completely, boldly, lovingly support you and believe in you!

The Serenity Falls Complete Series: Sweet Romance at Wyatt Ranch

BIO:

From her home in Florida, she offsets sandy toes and ocean views with trips to her favorite
regions in quaint New England, cozy coastal Maine, the majestic Rocky Mountains, the dramatic
Pacific Northwest, the glimmering Caribbean, and the ever-charming South. Sometimes she does
this in real life, but she can always steal away to somewhere beautiful in her books.

When she’s not writing, she’s wrangling kids, spending time with her husband, doing laundry,
baking cookies, planning dream trips, or attempting to fine-tune her questionable gardening
skills. More information can be found at SophieMays.com

• Five unique siblings, five unexpected life changes •
Set against a gorgeous small-town mountain backdrop in Colorado, we follow five siblings as they each return home to help start a new family business.

From cowboys to unexpected newcomers, from weddings to high-stakes adventures, you will fall in love with this cozy small town in the Rocky Mountains and become friends with the Wyatt family. Meet Emma, Hannah, Anna-Jane, Carson, and Jake! Five very different personalities, each deserving of their own happily ever after…

Read all the books in the Serenity Falls series together! This Collection includes:

🤍 Wishes from the Heart (Hannah & Rafferty’s Story) 🤍 Art of the Heart (Anna-Jane & Cody’s Story) 🤍 Baking from the Heart (Emma & Gavin’s Story) 🤍 Call of the Wild Heart (Carson & Bella’s Story) 🤍 Detours of the Heart (Jake & Mackenzie’s Story)
Brisk mountain air and romance abound at the Wyatt Ranch! From bestselling author Sophie Mays comes this delightfully heartwarming sweet ranch romance series.

Whether you are falling in love alongside a baker, an artist, an ex-Navy Seal, or a world traveler – there’s something for everyone in Serenity Falls.

If you love uplifting, feel-good romance stories with irresistible characters, prepare to get roped into Sophie Mays’ Serenity Falls series!

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Back-list Promotion – A Necessary Task

September 30, 2021
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Promoting a back list can be frustrating, if a little boring, as we naturally want to concentrate on our latest shiny novel. However, all our books are worthy of attention for as long as they are available for sale. There are several ways to keep the back list titles fresh and you can actually utilize the change in seasons to plan it.

Firstly, can you categorize your books by season. Look at the season the narrative is set within or it’s genre and use that as your starting point.

  1. Summer: romance/vacation adventures/a beach read/contemporary summer town story.
  2. Spring: a character’s new life/moving to a new town, school or college.
  3. Fall: chilly horror/mystery/monsters and Halloween.
  4. Winter: isolation/struggles of survival/Xmas romance.

I think you get the idea.

Here are some other ways to keep the older titles fresh.

  1. Do a live reading (if restrictions allow) or read on any social media site or streaming site.
  2. Upgrade the cover.
  3. Revise the content – new edit, additional information, add book club questions and new reviews.
  4. Write a prequel.
  5. Arrange guest blog posts centering on the back-list book(s).
  6. Create a readers guide for book clubs.
  7. Use niche topics to promote.
  8. Utilize a podcast interview to promote all your books.
  9. Request new reviews.
  10. Offer a sale price.

What methods do you use to keep your older books fresh and saleable?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Creating Plot Twists

September 16, 2021
mandyevebarnett


When we write a story, as the author, we are within the narrative – it’s characters, setting, backstory and genre format. We can become too close to the action and reveal our plot too early or make it too obvious. Here are a few tips to help entice your reader and keep them guessing, because if you can foresee a plot twist so can the reader. We have to think up options and/or steer the event in another direction to avoid being obvious. 

  1. One way is to use subtle misdirection, such as:
  • Red herrings – false clues or misleading information to steer readers in the wrong direction.
  • Dead ends – not writing the obvious outcome your readers thought was coming.
  • Misguided attention – Bury hints or clues where the reader is redirected to another scene, or dialogue and misses a cleverly dropped hint.

2. Foreshadowing is an excellent vehicle for adding subtle hints for a twist to come. These can be as part of a characters actions, or non-action, a secondary character’s dialogue or even disguising a plot twist within a plot twist. The twist, however, must be believable and necessary and also makes sense within the narrative.

3. Use a subplot that misdirects your reader.

  • It can feed into the plot line, or not – that is your choice.
  • Interact or intertwine your subplot in an unexpected or unusual way.
  • You can make the subplot more important to the overall story, than initially appears.
  • It can also distract from the main plot.
  • Depending on your genre you can use the ‘no-one is safe’ mentality to add tension and ‘what if’s’.

Other misdirection techniques include:

  1. Killing off an important character.
  2. A character discovers a plot twist organically.
  3. Elevate a minor character.
  4. Your big reveal instigates a twist ending.

Remember to keep up the momentum after the big reveal so that the reader will continue reading to find out the ultimate conclusion of your narrative. If you are struggling there are plot twist generators on the internet, you can use them or manufacture your own from the ideas.

How have you kept a reader guessing? Care to share?

Which book plot twist surprised you the most?

Here is a list of the more famous literary plot twists.

Author Interview – Boris Glikman

September 2, 2021
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1) Where do you find inspiration? Does place or observation, or both influence your writing?

Ideas come to me from everywhere, both from external and internal sources. It’s a ceaseless flood of ideas really that I experience, evoked by a wide range of random stimuli such as: images that I come across by chance on the internet; things I see on TV; things that I read in books; even snatches of conversations overheard when passing people in a street.

Dreams are also an important source of inspiration for me and many of my stories have had their origins in dreams. Dreams give me the initial idea for or the outline of a story and I then work further to turn those ideas into complete stories.

Most of all, ideas come to me through the process of spontaneous generation, i.e. they arise out of nothing in my mind.

Given this unceasing deluge of new ideas, it is very rare for me to have to struggle to think up of something to write. In fact, the very act of sitting down at the desk, picking up a pen and opening a notebook transports me to a zone in which a conduit is established to a world populated by eternal truths and infinite beauty, and ideas flow effortlessly as long as I am in that zone.

2) You write short stories and poetry – what are your processes for each discipline?

The first step of the process involves getting the initial idea. I jot down these ideas in small notebooks that I use for noting down ideas that have the potential to be expanded further or that require further work on them. At this stage, the idea usually consists of a sentence or a paragraph.

At the next stage of the process, I explore the initial ideas in detail and or turn them into drafts for stories and poems. This is done in a larger sizednotebook. Because of the flood of ideas discussed in the previous answer, the length of time between having the initial idea and getting around to exploring it in detail could be as long as a decade. As a result I have a backlog of about ten years of ideas that I haven’t had the chance to work on as yet and to expand into finished stories and poems. 

The final stage of the process involves transferring the drafts from my notebooks into a computer. I then work further on those drafts, editing and re-editing them, until I am happy with the final result.

So, getting the initial idea comes more from intuition and inspiration, and the later editing and re-editing of drafts requires more method and logic, while the intermediate steps of the writing process are a combination of both intuition and logic.

3) How does your creative brain balance with your critical one? In particular, your mathematical proofs.

The balancing of the creative and critical brains is not really a conscious decision that I have to make, for it is something that just happens naturally. ie If I am working on my writings, then I employ the creative side of the brain. And when I am working on scientific and mathematical topics, my brain just switches automatically into another mode. In fact, sometimes it may happen that while I am working on my writings, I might have a mathematical idea and so I instantaneously turn to working on that idea and then go back to working on my writings, and it really doesn’t take any effort at all to switch between the two modes of thinking.  

4) Is creative writing your only creativity?

Firstly, please let me clarify that stories and poems are not the only things that I write.

I also write (among other things) non-fiction, philosophy, psychology, spiritual pieces, vignettes, micro-fiction (including 6 word stories), humorous articles, surrealism, aphorisms, parables, fables, travel writing, ekphrastic writings and song parodies.

Having said that, I must add that science had always been my first love and I have been creative in the mathematics and physics fields since my teenage years. Until relatively recently, mathematics/physics/science fields were my first interest and it is to them that I devoted most of my time and creative energy, and writing was a distant second interest.

5) Have your degrees influenced your creative work in any way?

Firstly, just to explain, I have an Arts degree in Philosophy/Linguistics and a Science degree in Mathematics/Physics.

I think that the influence of philosophy on my writings is clearly evident to anyone who takes a look at them, as a lot of my writings concern themselves with philosophical issues.

The influence of linguistics is a bit more subtle and probably manifests itself in the games that I like play with words and their meanings in my stories and poems. 

I think this influence of science shows itself in a number of ways in my work. On a more overt level, the subject matter and the themes of my stories and poems often have allusions to mathematics and physics. On a more subtle level, I think that my scientific background does influence my thinking process and the way that I go about creating the plot and development of a story. In fact, some readers have remarked that my stories have a mathematical structure  and that they flow almost like a logical argument. 

6) Can you enlighten us about your involvement in the spiritual community?

I was involved with a spiritual community in Melbourne on and off for about 5 years. At the time, it helped me with finding my path in life.

The guru of this community gave me my first big break with my writing career when he started reading out my non-fictional spiritual and philosophical pieces, as well as some of my fictional pieces in the public programs in front of hundreds of people.

His reading of my work and the responses that my writings received from the audience gave me the confidence to start sharing my writings with others, as until then my writings have always been a secret part of my private world and I never shared them with anyone. In fact, I used to think that I would never share my writings and that they would always remain a secret part of my private world. But things have turned out to be rather different! 

7) What did you learn from your script writing venture?

I contributed some of the dialogue to a short film titled “Six Steps to Eternal Death”. I attended several days of filming to see for myself how it all works and was pretty intrigued by how written words are turned into the visual medium. It was also interesting to see how a script is developed over time, and how much is altered and deleted until the final form is reached. 

8) Where can readers find you and your books?

This is my blog which has a lot (although not all) of my work on it: https://bozlich.wordpress.com/

This is my website: https://authorborisg.blogspot.com/

And here can be found links to various anthologies in which my writings have appeared:

https://authorborisg.blogspot.com/p/published-works_6.html

9) Do you have a new book in progress?

Yes, I am working on a book titled “Anti-Labyrinths” which will be a collection of my stories, poems, fables, flash fiction, aphorisms etc.

“Anti-Labyrinths” is a word and a concept that I came up with. As labyrinths are places where you get lost, anti-labyrinths are places where you find yourself. A labyrinth has only one entry,  and its secret can only be discovered at one point – its center. An anti-labyrinth, on the other hand, can be entered and exited at any point and at every point of an anti-labyrinth, secrets and mysteries are revealed.

My book “Anti-Labyrinths” will itself function as a kind of an anti-labyrinth, revealing truths and secrets at every point of the book, and helping the reader to find themselves. And, just like an anti-labyrinth, “Anti-Labyrinths” can be entered or exited at any point; you don’t have to start reading it at the beginning or finish reading it at the end.

Bio:

BORIS GLIKMAN is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. His stories, poems and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs. He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”

Author Interview – Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

August 26, 2021
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How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since 1987. I started as a journalist, went to college in my 40s, and continued to write after that. My first book, “A River of Stones” was published in 2002.

You write in multiple genres – do you start with the genre and then the story or the other way around?

The genre usually. For my most recent book, I knew what the genre was going to be pretty close to getting it going. I have written mystery, YA fiction, middle reader, nonfiction, a picture book, Christian fiction, Christian Historical Fiction and science/fantasy, so you can imagine what my mind is like.

Which do you find the most challenging to write – fiction or non-fiction?

That depends on the research. When there’s a lot of research, the time it takes to finish a book is lengthened. The easiest books for me to write are those that mostly come from my head. If the book is based on where I live or a place where I’ve vacationed, the challenge is lessened.

Where did the ideas for the Brianne James Mystery & Susan Cramer Mystery Series’ come from?

I really wanted to tackle a mystery, and so I thought how it would be if I was a detective, having no training and no experience in the field. This is Susan Cramer. She loves a great mystery but she really has no idea – especially in the beginning – how to solve the crime. I am like that. The ideas after that came from my ‘strange’ mind. I am always asking what if questions. What if someone died in an old hotel and everyone thought You were the murderer? What if you were on a cruise ship and an old man died at your feet?

Do you have a favorite character and why?

I would have to say Brianne James. She is the daughter to Susan. And she has a little more of her wits about her. She is tough, too.

Were the series planned ahead or did the character’s dictate a continuation?

The series was not planned ahead. “Scrambled” was a one book wonder in the beginning. I wrote it because I was attending college and I needed money for school. I received a $500 scholarship from Mystery Writers of America after sending in my first chapter – a chapter I wrote for one of my college classes.

What is your writing process?

Get up. Sit down. And write. I treat my writing like I would a profession because it is. Writing is NOT my hobby. Yes, I love it, but I write because I have to. I go through multiple drafts and revisions before I call something finished. A have a part-time job as an aide at an elementary school, and two businesses – we publish too over here,             [Idea Creations Press] and run a non-profit [Trees For Keeps], so I keep myself pretty busy.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

Our family just returned from a vacation to Bryce Canyon, Utah. It is a beautiful place. Every morning I would sit out on the porch and write. I loved it. At home I have my office. It’s not as peaceful as an early morning in the canyon, but I love having a work space just for writing.

Does your own life experience play a part in your characterizations?

This question makes me smile. Yes. There is a lot of me in my books. The goofy girl. The question asker. The mystery maker. The searcher.

Where can readers find you?

I love it when readers find me at my blog and learn something new about writing, marketing, or publishing. http://www.ariverofstones.com. I also have a fun Author’s Amazon page here.

BIO:

Kathryn is a lover of words and a bearer of mood swings. When she is feeling the need to inspire, she writes a Christian fiction book. If a mystery is waiting to be uncovered, she finds it. If something otherworldly is finding its way through her fingertips, she travels to it.

Kathryn has been a reader since she was a young child. Although she took classes in writing as a teen, it wasn’t something she really thought would become her career until she was married. And even then, it took a few more years for something worthy enough to publish to manifest itself.

Kathryn’s first book was published in 2002. Since then, many other books have found their way out of her head depending on the sort of day she is having. Kathryn is a journalist, a teacher, a mentor, an editor, a publisher, and a marketer.

Her greatest joy, other than writing her next book, is meeting with readers and authors who enjoy the craft of writing as much as she does.

Tied Died: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074P1HCCN/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i13

Buckled Inn: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079K49SS2/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i12

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