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Creative Edge Author interview – Tony Pisanelli

August 18, 2022
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Can you tell us a little of your personal work/life balance journey?
This is an interesting question, as my perception of work/life balance has evolved over time. As a corporate employee it meant leaving the office by a certain hour to go home and start doing the things I enjoyed, such as spending time with my family, socializing with friends, and engaging in sporting activities. If I was required to work beyond a certain time to complete a job assignment, I’d often feel resentment because it encroached on my ‘personal time’, denying me the opportunity to do what I actually wanted to do. I remember once asking to leave early for a special dinner, but a domineering manager and the all-important deadline took priority, so I was late to my own birthday party. Years later I was surprised to see more and more work colleagues take leave on their birthday, something which had never occurred to me – they’d obviously learned not to let work interfere with important life events. As a ‘loyal’ wage slave I would go to sleep each night filled with dread about the next day, forcing myself out of bed in the morning to face the drudgery of yet another round of stifling routine where someone else dictated my actions, and eventually the negatives so far outweighed the positives that I knew it was time to leave.
Once I left corporate life behind to run my own business, I developed a totally different perspective on work/life balance based on my own priorities, and strangely enough I don’t mind working longer hours when I choose to do so. Today I love what I do, so that even when I’m working harder than ever, I have more energy at the end of the day than I ever experienced in the past.
As Richard Branson wisely said, “My general attitude to life is to enjoy every minute of every day. I never do anything with a feeling of, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to do this today’.”
These are important messages I share with my coaching clients because when you do what you love and love what you do, you spontaneously achieve the perfect work life balance.

How hard was it to ‘let go’ of expectations and reinvent yourself?
I actually found it very challenging to let go of my parents’ expectations. Having left their own country to give their children a better life in Australia, and investing heavily in my education, I was left under no illusions about what they wanted and expected from me in return. They strongly ‘guided’ me toward a professional career, insisting that I lacked the capacity for physically demanding work that would place a heavy toll on my body. Looking back on my journey I’m grateful they steered me toward pen, paper and eventually computers rather than the backbreaking pick and shovel labour they had endured as children. However, I wanted more than they’d ever imagined, which involved at least temporarily disappointing them in my quest for self-fulfilment. Like life itself, no career is without difficulties, but we can at least choose the nature of those challenges for ourselves. I found the monotony of monthly accounting cycles mentally and emotionally draining, and ultimately unfulfilling, so with that stimulus it was relatively easy to reinvent myself into more commercial roles within the company – even pain can help us grow, if we maintain our vision of the future we intend to create. When I finally left the illusory ‘security’ of the corporate world to start my own business (something that would have frightened my parents), I again reinvented myself as a Career Transformation Coach and took another step closer to my ideal
life. In that pursuit I’ve been compelled to learn marketing, public speaking, self-motivation… and even writing – things I never imagined for myself, but have embraced as invaluable tools for reaching a wider audience, and a bigger stage. The difference is that these skills are aligned to my highest values and vision for
myself, so the reinvention process (which is actually growth) becomes not a painful ordeal but an inspired quest – all it takes is vision and discipline. It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is, and the result is being able to look forward eagerly to what might be rather than ruefully back to what might have been. The pain of regret far outweighs the pain of discipline, so I advise my clients
that the first thing to embrace is change itself, because without change there is no life.

Is living in Australia a factor in how you view the world and its opportunities?
Like anywhere on Earth, living in Australia has both advantages and disadvantages in the opportunities and challenges it offers, and the worldview it imparts. Being on the other side of the planet from almost everyone else (with different time zones) has meant some very early starts and late night finishes to connect with new people or attend educational and networking events online. This can be
uncomfortable, but the benefit is that it’s also given me an unusual mix of discipline and flexibility – both of which are invaluable qualities in business, and in life. It’s an old saying that a prophet has no honour in his own land, but the reverse positive is that the further away you come from, the more people tend to listen to and respect you. To my surprise, I’m often referred to as Australia’s Own or “The Man From Down Under” which has a special ring to it, and has been a definite asset in spreading my message. Also, even though every nation is made up of individuals, they tend to have national characteristics in common, and the Australian archetype is that of someone open, honest, down-to-earth, egalitarian, as well as a little wild and rough around the edges – all charming and useful qualities when applied appropriately, so I have no complaints there either.
Do you have a hobby?
I don’t know if it strictly qualifies as a ‘hobby’, but my most enjoyable activity is walking and simply being in nature – something I find endlessly pleasurable, invigorating, and calming. Over the years I’ve deepened my appreciation for growing plants, the beauty and freedom of birds and butterflies, clear crisp air, and the warmth of sunshine on my face. Nature also provides constant metaphors,
messages, and ideas that further enrich my writing and coaching work.
Is the book a culmination of your coaching and life experiences?
Yes. “The Phoenix Career Principles” was inspired by my own life journey, the lessons I learned by observing the paths of others, and an awareness of the life-changing power and potential of a book.

My career had many ups and downs – from the heights of financial reward and professional recognition to the depths of tediously repetitive work and nearly losing my job despite exceptional dedication and loyalty. I went from being an integral player delivering an important project one day to nearly being sacrificed the next, merely to serve the company’s staff reduction policy, and the shock of almost losing my job was a key turning-point for me.
From that moment on I resolved to no longer be a pawn on my employer’s chessboard, and began by shedding my jack-of-all-trades status to specialize in risk management. The move from generalist to expert authority secured my employment tenure by strengthening my “irreplaceability factor”. In the final phase of my career as an employee I was drawn to coaching and mentoring the next generation of leaders coming up in the organization. This was
highly encouraged by management and provided the clue for my next career move – becoming self-employed as a coach. I now work every day helping others negotiate the difficult changes I faced alone, and it is extremely satisfying to pass on my hard-earned knowledge and make a genuine difference in the lives of those following in my footsteps. Without the company’s ingratitude for my contributions to their success I would not be here now, so I thank them in retrospect for their great ‘gift’ – of freedom.
Why did you feel it was important to write the book?
Well, for the greater part of my life I’d actually seen myself as more of a reader than a writer, but that changed back in the 1990s. At the time I was looking to break into the investment property market and would read a business magazine aimed at property investors. It provided expert advice on the property market outlook, economic and financial trends, and hot spots with the greatest capital
growth. Each month the magazine also shared stories of people who had acquired investment portfolios of multiple properties while still in their late twenties and early thirties. When these enterprising young individuals were asked how they’d managed to achieve such financial success so young, they spoke of being disciplined with their money, having several jobs, following a plan, and making
wise money decisions. But what caught my attention was that when they were asked if there had been a key person in their life who’d influenced their achievements, the most common response was that they’d read a particular book, and an incredible 80% of the time that book was Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”.
By applying its principles they developed the financial intelligence to invest their money in assets that generated additional sources of income, allowing their money to work for them instead of always working for it. In reading the stories of these young entrepreneurs, I was amazed that one man with one book could have such an
impact on so many lives. This was the catalyst, the Aha! moment that led to eventually writing my own book. I was inspired to show others how to get their career working for their life, not just trading their life for an income – which is why I’m talking to you (and
them) now.

What obstacles did you overcome in your writing?
I think the biggest obstacles to writing are the significant amount of time it requires, and the disciplined effort and commitment it takes to last the distance. My editors tell me that an astonishingly high percentage of those who begin writing a book don’t make it beyond the first chapter, and there is a reason for this failure rate. Aspiring authors often talk themselves out of completing their books by
listening to the negative monologue of the internal critic: “Who am you to write a book? You’re not a writer! It’s all been written before,” and the perennial favourite, “This is much too hard, why don’t you just quit?!” are only a few of the many excuses that end their authorship journey. When I was deeply immersed in the writing phase, during some research I came across a quotation from one of the greatest minds in human history, Albert Einstein, who said, “It is not that I’m so smart, but I stay with the questions much longer,” and that is certainly true for me as well. Although I’m by no means stupid, the key to overcoming the obstacles in writing my books was persistence more than raw intelligence.
A final key factor is accountability. I hired an editor who knew her craft, was passionate about writing as she’d written her own books, and was a real disciplinarian. We met once a fortnight and kept in regular email contact to ensure that I remained focused on the task, and that I met her delivery schedules for each chapter. Just as my clients rely on me as a guide through what is for them unknown territory, I called on seasoned experts in their fields to assist me in my learning process here.
So to repeat, for anyone wishing to follow this path, it comes down to commitment, discipline, accountability, and clarity about an important message that expresses who you are. If you have these four qualities, you will write your book, and it will change you in surprising and welcome ways.

Can anyone overcome their limitations to be their best self?
Yes, I genuinely believe so. There are countless stories of famous, successful people who overcame the limiting labels imposed by others and went on to astonish and change the world. Elon Musk’s father said he would never do anything important in life. When Oscar winner Sidney Poitier auditioned for his first role, he was told to go away and not waste people’s time. The great Walt Disney was advised that he lacked creativity, and Elvis Presley was confidently informed that he wasn’t going anywhere in the music industry. And my favourite: Albert Einstein didn’t speak until the age of four, was academically backward, and due to his habit of whispering everything to himself before daring to speak aloud, the family nickname for him was “the mumbler”. When his concerned father, Hermann, asked Albert’s headmaster for advice about the boy’s future career he was told it didn’t matter because, “The boy will never amount to anything.” I remember a school friend saying I shouldn’t bother pursuing higher education because I wasn’t smart enough. Rather than crushing my dreams, his words merely
strengthened my resolve to succeed and prove him wrong. Also, like most people of a certain generation I’m not the most tech-savvy person on the planet, but I haven’t allowed it to stop me. I’ve driven myself to learn the essentials so that I’m at least competent, and delegate the more complex activity to those who are gifted
with computers – they make an income, and I get the best people working for me in a win-win resolution.
If we look carefully, a deficiency in one area is always compensated for in another, such as the senses of hearing, touch, and smell in the blind becoming much more sensitive and acute. Not only that, our ‘limitations’ can be closed doors guiding us in the direction of our true capacities and destiny, if we just stop focusing on them
and look with a clearer vision at what our mind and heart are calling us to do in the world.
From a wider and deeper perspective, our limitations or incapacitates are either there to be overcome, making us stronger, or are actually hidden strengths directing our attention to our true gifts and desires. When dealing with so-called limitations there are two ways we can go – we can buy into the illusion, using them
as excuses to settle for playing small, or we can use them as fuel to fire our determination to succeed.
There are many ways to overcome or manage any limitations on the path to greatness, to becoming the best self we can be, and we’d be wise to embrace and understand rather than fear them.
Do you have a guiding statement for your readers?
Yes, I do. The essence of my book, and of my message, is that every single person has been given unique gifts and abilities that perfectly equip them for success in the world, in every area of life, if they can only discover, develop, and express them. A career need not be just a job, it can be the expression of who we are on the
deepest level, and when we bring together our inner and outer selves in a way that provides value to the world, our ultimate success is assured.
If I were to put it into one word, it would be this – purpose! Find your purpose, what you were put on this earth to do, and obstacles will dissolve and doors will open that you cannot even imagine at the present time. My fulfillment comes from helping people make this discovery, this connection. In a very real sense, your purpose is my purpose, and I’d love to help you find it, and grow it into a
magnificent life.
Are you working on a current project you can share with us?
There is a trend in recent years away from reading print to listening to spoken books, so rather than seeing it as a limitation to the spread of my work I’ve engaged a narrator to produce an audio version of “The Phoenix Career Principles”. I’m quite excited about this project because he will not just be reading words on a page, he’ll provide expression and nuance, and also be adding subtle
sound effects to enhance the reader’s/listener’s experience. Along with its content, this will further differentiate my book in the marketplace (the power of uniqueness), and facilitate its success.

Bio:

Tony Pisanelli is a career transformation coach, author and speaker who knows that an entrepreneurial mindset strategy is your best career protection. Tony is the creator of a unique coaching method that expands people’s careers beyond a job for an income to a life worth living. He is also the author of “The Phoenix Career Principles” guiding employees to confidently step into an entrepreneurial path and lead a more satisfying life.

Employees whose careers are threatened by change or are drowning in deep dissatisfaction turn to Tony Pisanelli to advance confidently to a more secure and satisfying working life. Observing numerous work colleagues experience deep career dissatisfaction and who were unprepared for an unexpected job loss was the catalyst to become a Career Transformation Coach and Thought Leader. He is the creator of the E3 Career Transformation Method a coaching framework that charts an entrepreneurial path by recombining existing core capabilities to create a career that rises above a vulnerable job for an income to a life worth living. He is also the author of The Phoenix Career Principles that shows employees how become the driving force of their career. The book provides a blueprint to help its readers, keep their job while others are losing theirs, leave the job they hate and step into a new world of employment opportunities.

Creative Edge Author Interview – Katherine Lawrence

July 21, 2022
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  1. When did you start writing poetry? What was, and is your inspiration?
    I began in high school, not long after my parents’ divorce. Looking back, I see that I turned to writing to sort out my confusion at the time. My world was upended when my parents sold the family house in 1968. I was 13 years old. My parents moved into separate apartments in different cities. My younger sister and I moved out with our mother, about 20 km away from our father. The change felt like we had moved
    to a foreign country. In many ways, that was true. My inspiration was initially the lyrics of Joni Mitchell. Her music continues to resonate for me, and millions of other fans. I lean on good literature and music to
    take me into poetry.
  2. How did writing Stay and Never Mind differ from your usual writing method?
    I started “Stay” before I began writing “Never Mind” but I got bogged down. I needed more time to study other verse novels. I also needed to collect feedback on an early draft. I turned to middle-grade students at a local school for their opinions and then I set the manuscript aside.
    It was during this period that my mother died. I felt numb for a long time and was unable to write. One day, I recalled a letter from the Canadian settler Susanna Moodie (1803-1885). She wrote that once she touched the shores of the New World, she never saw, touched, or heard her mother back home in England ever again. It seemed to be something that she had not anticipated when she and her husband set sail for Canada. Or perhaps she hadn’t let herself dwell on the reality of
    separation from her mother and sisters. She was describing her grief and I understood what Moodie was saying. I also heard the voice that led me to invent the character I named Wife. I placed her in a setting similar to Moodie’s. I funnelled all my private grief and longing into Wife and built a story that was far removed from my mother’s life yet was emotionally similar. My mother was lonely in her marriage and eventually left my father for her own “new world.” I wrote into the emotional truth of loss. “Never Mind” taught me how to write in the tradition of the long poem. The book also showed me that I could hold a story in my head while developing poems in keeping with a narrative arc. I spoke to my mother by phone the night before she died. I didn’t know it would be our final conversation. Her last question was about “Stay”. She wanted to know how the book was going. I had put the manuscript away. About three years later, our final conversation returned to me as I was sitting in my office one day. I opened the
    file and finished writing “Stay” in about one month.

3. Can you tell us a little about the character Millie in Stay? Is she real, imagined or both?
Millie is smart, observant, and passionate about two things: her family and dogs. She wants her family to stay together AND she wants to adopt a puppy. But Millie’s parents have decided to split-up. Her world has turned upside down but since she’s 11 years old, she’s also selfish in the way that every adolescent is self-focused. Millie wants what she wants: Mom and Dad to stay together in the same house so that she can bring home a puppy and not have to live between two homes. But Dad moves into an apartment where a sign on the front door reads NO DOGS ALLOWED. Millie is an imagined character who is informed by my knowledge and experience of family breakdown.

  1. What message do you want to convey with the story?
    Nothing stays the same, not even our family— our foundational structure. We all must learn to adapt.
  2. What did you learn when you were writer in residence?
    I loved my residency at the library. I learned that hundreds of people have stories and poems inside them. I learned that most people are looking for a little guidance and a lot of encouragement because writing is a solitary and somewhat mysterious activity. I have always turned to other writers for support and was happy to do the same for others.
  3. When compiling a poetry collection, what is your main objective?
    I’m driven by narrative. I like my work to tell a story. I’ve just published my fifth book, a poetic memoir titled “Black Umbrella”. Again, it’s about family dysfunction and again it tells a story. I assembled the book by looking for the narrative arc once I’d written about 70 percent of the poems. I later went back and filled in any gaps in the story. I strive to write poetry that is inventive, accessible, and alive.
  4. Which poet(s) inspire you?
    I read a lot of poetry. I’m currently reading the work of Calgary poet Micheline Maylor, but I often return to Emily Dickinson. I see something new in Dickinson every time I turn to her work.
  1. What are you currently working on?
    I’m in research mode. I’m curious about the concept of ambivalent motherhood.
  2. How can readers find you?
    Go to my website and contact me. I promise to respond and I love hearing from readers. Link:
  3. Where and how often do you write?
    I have a small office on the second floor of my home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I live with my husband. I disappear into my office for several hours most days.

Bio:

Saskatoon writer Katherine Lawrence has published four poetry collections and the award-winning novel-in-verse, Stay. Her work has been published across the country and has been long listed twice for the CBC Literary Awards. Originally from Hamilton, Katherine has lived on the prairies for over 35 years. She is a former writer-in-residence for the Saskatoon Public Library and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Saskatchewan. You can find her online at
http://www.katherinelawrence.net

Creative Edge Author Interview – Caroline Giammanco

January 20, 2022
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  1. What inspired you to write this collection of paranormal and science fiction stories? (Into the Night)

    My mother was a strong influence on me growing up, and she encouraged us to consider the “what ifs” of the universe. We watched Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker and enjoyed talking about the possibilities of aliens, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night. It’s a genre I’ve been drawn to my entire life. 

    After writing three hard-hitting nonfiction books, I needed a break. I still wanted to be creative, but I didn’t want to go through the emotional meat grinder of another true crime/criminal justice book. I was drained, so I decided to write science fiction and paranormal stories for fun. It has been a nice change of pace to create the monsters instead of writing about the real ones.

   Henry was another strong influence on me as a child. I enjoy stories with a twist, and I incorporate a twist into nearly every fiction piece I write whether it is science fiction, paranormal, or general fiction. I like taking readers by surprise, and I like to make them look at items we take for granted in new ways.

  1. Did you have these stories filed away for a while, or did you write them specifically for the collection?

    Since I hadn’t decided to start writing short stories until I was needing a break from my nonfiction books, these stories are new material I wrote for the collection. I hadn’t written short stories prior to writing my books, so there were none to pull out of storage. 

  1. Do you have a favorite story in the collection, and if so, why?

    Different stories appeal to me for different reasons. I incorporate a piece of myself and my life experiences into each one. Charcoal Drawings haunted me to some degree because, as a teacher, I pictured myself as the main character, Mylah Kennedy. I didn’t finish this story until 1:30 in the morning, and when I ended it and looked out at my pitch-black bedroom, it gave me the “heeby-geebies.”

4. What is your writing schedule like?

    Unlike some writers, I don’t have a set schedule, nor do I believe I have to write every day in order to be a “real” writer. I’m busy with my teaching job, a long commute, my farm, and family obligations. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. If a story idea needs more time to develop in my mind, I let it rest until it’s ready to come out. At other times, when I have the writing bug, so to speak, I’ll write two stories in a weekend. I need to be in the right frame of mind. I know some writers feel as though they must write “x” amount of words per day, but that sounds too much like drudgery to me. I write because I enjoy the creative process, and my creative process doesn’t work well under artificial constraints like a required word count. To answer the question: I have no writing schedule

5. How do you research for your books?

    My three nonfiction books deal with the criminal justice system. Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit and Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower are the real-life experiences of my husband and myself, so research wasn’t necessary. For Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romance, I interviewed other women who have incarcerated loved ones and their family members.

6. Where is your favorite place to write?

    I like to be comfortable when I write, so I prefer to write in bed, especially at night. There are few distractions and my ideas flow more easily at night when I’m relaxed. If an idea hits me, and I’m able to jot it down, however, I’ll write anywhere.

7. When did you start writing?

    I’m a high school English teacher, but I never wrote anything other than work-related items until I began my first book, Bank Notes. Over the years, people told me I should write, but I never had a purpose for writing until the story of my husband’s experiences needed to be told.

8. Do you have a blog, website, or social media links you can share?

 My WordPress blog site is carolinegiammanco writes. My Twitter account is @GiammancoBook. I’m on Facebook at Caroline Giammanco Author and at Caroline Giammanco Author Fans

9. Your other books cover some controversial and powerful subjects. Can you let us know how they came about and why you chose to write them

a) Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit

In July 2011, I began teaching the GED program at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking, Missouri. That is a maximum-security men’s prison, and working in a prison was never on my bucket list. The Great Recession caused my school district, and many others, to cut positions, and I found myself needing a job, so I applied.

In late March 2012, I hired Donald Keith Giammanco to work as a tutor in my classroom.  Each of the ten classrooms had two tutors who assisted the teachers. I didn’t realize that Keith was The Boonie Hat Bandit for a few weeks after I’d hired him, but he had been upfront at the interview and told me he had robbed banks in the St. Louis area using notes. Keith and my other tutor were enrolled in a college business class at the time, and I would proofread their papers. Keith is intelligent, but spelling isn’t his strong suit, so I told him one day that if he ever wrote a book or screenplay, he might want to have me edit it first. We laughed, but it was an idea we stuck with. Over time, it went from me editing his story to helping him write it. Together we collaborated to let the world know what the criminal justice system looks like as experienced by a middle-class adult who went down the wrong path. It’s a world most citizens don’t see, and the corruption we witnessed each day needed to be brought to light.   

b) Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romance

    After I wrote Bank Notes, I took part in dozens of Barnes and Noble book signings around the country. Each time, I was met with people who were incredulous that I was involved with an inmate. “You don’t look like someone who would marry an inmate” was a common thread. After talking with me for a while, or after they read my book, they would change their mind and say something along the lines of, “Well, you and Keith are okay, but those other women…”

    By this time, I knew several families with incarcerated loved ones, and they weren’t the stereotype at all. They were hard-working, middle-class, upstanding people who happened to love someone who made mistakes. I felt it was important to share their stories in hopes some of the stigma could be taken away. I chose Guilty Hearts for the name of the book because too often anyone who is related to or loves an inmate is painted with the same guilt as the incarcerated person. We are not second-class citizens

c) Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower:

    Now that I had told my husband’s story, and the stories of a dozen other families, I decided the time was right to tell my own experiences working inside the Missouri prison system, including what I saw, the death threats, and my activism to change a terribly flawed system that leaves none of us any safer.

10. As a teacher, do you encourage your students to write their stories?

    I believe it is important to help students find their voices. Every class I teach has a writing component, and I teach a course called Creative Writing.

11. Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction when you read and why?

    Ever since I was a young child, I prefer nonfiction. Real people and real places have always fascinated me. I enjoy good fiction works, but nonfiction is a mainstay for me.

12. Does your location inspire you to write and how?

    I grew up on an eighty-acre farm in the Missouri Ozark Mountains, and the love of the country has never left me. After I graduated high school, I moved to Tucson, Arizona to attend the University of Arizona. I ended up living in Arizona and New Mexico for over twenty years before returning to rural southern Missouri in 2006. 

    Each place I have lived has left an imprint on me, and I draw from those places whenever I write. In addition to science fiction, paranormal, and general fiction, I also write westerns that are heavily influenced by my time out West.

Bio:

Caroline Giammanco is an author and high school English teacher. She grew up in Douglas County, Missouri and moved to Arizona to attend the University of Arizona where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with an English minor. She lives on her sixty-acre farm in southern Missouri. Caroline is married to the love of her life, Keith Giammanco. 

Caroline’s previous published works are nonfiction and deal with the criminal justice system: Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit; Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romances; and Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower. 

Creative Edge Author Interview – Robert P. French

December 9, 2021
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1.       How did you start as a writer?

When I was about 23, I wrote a book of horror stories which I typed on an old Underwood typewriter. At the time I didn’t have the faintest idea about publishing, so I put them in a file folder which, by the way, I still have.

Many years later, I was Chief Technology Officer at a company into which I had poured my heart and soul. The company didn’t make it through the high-tech meltdown of 2003, so I did what all techies do in such a situation: I started looking for consulting projects. After a long day of phone calls, I opened a WORD document and started writing a post-apocalyptic novel that had been sitting in the back of my mind for a while. I wrote non-stop until something like three in the morning. For me it was my heroin; I was hooked.

I kept writing most days but at about 40,000 words, I ran out of steam. I put the book to one side and tried writing another novel about a man, so totally bored with his life, that he seeks excitement by becoming an assassin. This too petered out. Finally, I completed a 115,000-word business thriller about a high-tech entrepreneur who gets scammed by a venture capitalist and then gets his revenge by scamming the scammers. I gave it the awful title, Vengeance Dot Com. This was before the days when agents and publishers would accept emailed submissions, so I mailed out over a hundred copies of the book… and watched as the seventy-plus rejection letters trickled in.

At the time, I had heard about the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, which is in a suburb of Vancouver and is, I believe, one of the largest writers’ conferences in North America. I went there with the idea that I would just learn all about how to write a winning synopsis of the book and about how to submit it to agents. Then they would see what a wonderful book it was… right?

The first session I attended was on the craft of writing and I was horrified to learn that there were  some things I was doing wrong, disastrously wrong, in fact. Who’d have thought it? I immediately changed my focus from sessions on marketing to sessions on the craft of writing. In one of these sessions, I met Lisa Rector-Maass, an editor from New York. I engaged her to do a review of the book. I got back a superb thirty-seven-page critique and realized that it was a non-starter. No amount of editing was ever going to save that book.

At the time, I had a project where I was managing software development for a company whose offices were in the downtown east side of Vancouver, which is a poorer part of the city where lots of drug deals happen. Every day, on my way to my client’s office, I would carefully avoid stepping on discarded needles. I used to pass the entrance to an alley that was filled with addicts who were sleeping, shouting out, shooting up, drinking coffee, eating fast food, and buying and selling drugs. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out. I remember thinking how awful it be to wake up and find yourself in that alley. I started to obsess over the idea and mentioned it to Lisa. She asked me some questions that just got everything flowing in my mind and the first Cal Rogan book was born. Lisa mentored me through Junkie and the second book Oboe and she was my editor for both books. I credit her for most of what I have learned about the craft of writing.

2.       Did you have a clear idea of the genre you wanted to write or did the story dictate that?

No. I love science fiction and thought that maybe I could write a sci-fi novel. But once Cal Rogan came into my life, I had found my genre.

3.       Why did you choose thriller crime fiction?

It was where Cal took me.

4.       Where did the character of Cal Rogan come from?

I was answering Lisa’s question of who it might be waking up in that terrifying alley. I thought about a lawyer, a doctor or a cop. I liked the irony of a cop, who had probably arrested his fair share of addicts, waking up there. Her follow-up question of ‘why was he there?’ was immediately answered, ‘Because he’s now an addict himself.’ Thus was Cal born.

5.       Do you feel your character has grown in each book?

Oh yes. He still fights with his demons but he works so hard to stay drug-free. Book by book, he rebuilds his life, often in the face of people or events that could send him back into the downward spiral of addiction.

6.       Is writing a series easier or harder than a standalone?

Much easier, I think. I have a cast of characters who have grown over the writing of the books and I love them all. Their words and actions just leap onto the page. I work on the plot and the characters write the rest. 🙂

7.       You cover tough social issues within your narratives. Was this a conscious decision?

I didn’t set out to make social commentary. As I was researching drug addiction, I was faced with the question of whether legalizing drugs (all drugs, not just marijuana) would be a good or bad idea. I don’t want to write preachy books so I allow my characters a few moments to argue the issue here and there. They are coming around to my way of thinking. I am a firm believer that legalization with control, just like with alcohol and tobacco, is a far better way to go for everyone in society and I feel that I can defend that position pretty well. I also like my characters to explore moral or philosophical questions like when is it morally correct to kill someone? Do we have free will? Is incest ever OK?

8.       Is there a subject you will not cover?

No. The only thing I don’t do is write explicit sex scenes. My readers’ imaginations are much better at filling in the blanks than I could ever be. In the same vein, I don’t give long descriptions of a character’s physical appearance. For example, I don’t think I have ever mentioned the colour of Cal’s eyes. I think it’s way more fun for readers to see the characters the way they want.

9.       How do you structure your writing schedule?

Prior to covid, every day I would drop my son at school and go to the Vancouver Public Library to write. For the last year and a half, I have been homeschooling him and writing on the weekends and, for an hour or two, here and there, during the week. Covid has not helped my productivity.

10.   Can you tell us about the latest book in the series?

The seventh, and latest book in the series is called Jailed. After some harrowing experiences in the previous book, Captive, Cal quit the PI business and went to teach Shakespeare at Simon Fraser University. A student approaches him and begs him to help exonerate her brother who has been falsely convicted of murder. After reluctantly visiting the brother in the Kent Institution, one of Canada’s grimmest jails, Cal is convinced of his innocence and sets out to find the real killer with unexpected results and some disastrous consequences.

11.   Do you have a current manuscript you are working on?

Always. I haven’t finalized a title and I’m not sure where it’s going yet, but the starting point is that a woman is found wandering in the downtown east side of Vancouver. She is obviously wealthy and she claims to have lost her memory. As Cal investigates, he discovers that she bears a remarkable resemblance to someone who has been accused of orchestrating a multi-billion dollar fraud. As an aside, the fraud is based on a real case.

12.   Would you consider writing another genre? Why or why not?

I have often thought of writing science fiction but I just don’t think I’d be that good at it. However, Cal Rogan has a daughter, Ellie, who is now twelve. I have started working on a series set in 2040, where she is a detective. It definitely won’t be science fiction but will describe a world that I see as a logical extension of where we are today.

13.   Which genre do you enjoy reading?

I love crime fiction, psychological thrillers, espionage, and science fiction. For non-fiction, I tend towards science and philosophy.

14.   How can readers find you and your books?

The best place is at my website

Robert French is a software developer, turned actor, turned author. He is the writer of the seven (so far)
Cal Rogan Mysteries crime-thrillers about a drug-addicted ex-cop who fights his way from living rough
on the streets to being a much-sought-after PI. The series, set in Vancouver, Canada, reflects the best
and worst of the city. He is passionate about having the right words on the page and with every new
book, his goal is to make it better than the previous one.
His loves are his family, science, language, certain elements of philosophy and craft beer.

Creative Edge Author Interview -Nicole Fanning

November 12, 2021
mandyevebarnett


1.       Where did the idea for Catalyst come from?

While I have admittedly never READ a mafia romance, I am obsessed with the history and lore behind several of the world’s successful crime organizations. Chicago alone has a long history with the mafia but all over the world different variations of organized crime have, while somewhat controversial, still been a vital part of society. They are always protrayed as a villian, a heartless and honorless beast that must be fed…but I never saw them that way. I always thought for these families to exist and maintain power as long as they have, they MUST have had their internal codes of honor, trust, and sense of community that knit everyone together, and so I decided to write that.

Additionally, what mafia romances I have watched on the silver screen seem to stick to the same three motifs: Either the female MC was kidnapped, or she witnessed something she wasn’t supposed to, or she was forced into an arranged marriage.

I wanted to do something different, so I had my story originate from the unintentional collision of two worlds: Jaxon’s world of the underground, and Natalie’s of what we view as “normal society.”

2.       Did you know it would be part of a series when you started writing it? 

Yes! I have plans for 16 books in this series!

3.       Which character really propelled the narrative for you?

 Jaxon. He is flawed but protective, dangerous but compassionate. I love Natalie, but she’s more who I aspire to be, less of who I identify with now. Haha!

4.       What draws you to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing?

The complexity and his drive to make his readers think-while still delivering a satisfying yet surprising ending!

5.       Have you formulated your narratives as homage to his style?

Absolutely. I agree with him that great and relatable stories are often pulled from human experience. As he once said:

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind of man could invent.”

6.       Where do you typically write?

While I love my office at home, the world is my office and I am constantly writing all day long on my phone. I have thumb muscles of steel!

7.       Are you a member of a writing group? 

Not officially, but I do have a little community of writers that have come together as fans of “Heart of the Inferno” and we have created a Discord. They are the most incredible ladies, who support and inspire me DAILY. 

8.       What do you enjoy most about writing?

It is truly relaxing for me. It allows me to be creative without the messiness and chaos that typical creative processes take, something my type-A personality appreciates.

9.       Where can readers find you and your books? 

Amazon and Kindle

10.   Do you have more writing projects in the works? 

Oh yes! Book three, the conclusion of THIS part of the story with Jaxon and Natalie, drops at the end of May 2022. However, as I mentioned there are 13 more books planned, featuring side characters in HOTI as the main characters (and don’t worry, Jaxon and Natalie will continue as side characters too!)

Big plans indeed!

Nicole’s debut novel, Catalyst, is the first incendiary installment of the Heart of the Inferno Series, which follows the story of a dangerous mafia don and the girl who became his only exception

Catalyst (Heart of the Inferno) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B092C8TMWR/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_8S8EC1WGPSRDF5CRXQS0

Ignite: Heart of the Inferno https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09DFK5TLW/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_T32C3P8QAFZASPA8P6DM

Bio

Nicole is an author, copywriter, wife and super proud dog mom to three rambunctious rescue dogs. And is also an old school romantic, with a proclivity for a little mischief, and an obsession with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. With a background in marketing, and Human Resources, she has often found that the human element is by far the most colorful, complex and most interesting in the world. As a child, Nicole devoured every book she could get my hands on, and spent her free time writing fictional short-stories to share with her friends, probably the reason she decided to write (and publish) her first book series: Heart of the Inferno. It’s an action-romance about a dangerous mafia lord named Jaxon Pace, and Natalie Tyler, the girl who became his only exception.

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