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 – A Podcast Interview, Itching to Edit & A Writing Retreat

October 7, 2021
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I hope you will be able to enjoy my latest podcast interview with Randy Lacy at Between The Lines. Here: I had a fun time talking story inspiration, books, hobbies, reincarnation and writing. As always I am open to questions, just drop me a line.

Once again thanks to Creative Edge Publicity for arranging this opportunity.

I have been avoiding another edit of book one of my detective trilogy, An Elusive Trail, for a month now. This is not because I have lost interest in it, but so I can ‘distance’ myself from the story a little. This will enable me to process the next editing/revision task better, allowing me to ‘see’ the narrative with fresh eyes. I have been through the draft three times already, but as we all know, there are always some things that are missed. This weekend I will use these ‘fresh eyes’ to do a thorough read through, while on a writing retreat. Unfortunately, this may be one the last retreats of the year – BOO! It all depends on the Albertan weather. So, I will take advantage of the time to write, edit, read and explore new places with Sammie.

I have upcoming Interview dates of 18th October and 6th November – so watch this space!

What are you working on? What is the genre?

Do you have a book launch you would like to share?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Reading Billy Summers and Stephen King Interview at Bloody Scotland

September 21, 2021
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This past weekend was special for me as I attended an online interview hosted by Bloody Scotland between Stephen King and Linwood Barclay. As you all know by now, I am a huge King fan – his ability to immerse his readers into a story immediately is such a skill. You become invested in his characters and their plight.

This interview is one of many I have watched with Mr. King, and in all of them it is his sense of humour that makes them such a delight. Obviously, his words of writing wisdom are also gratefully received too. In this interview, Stephen did mention a slight revision to his latest work, Billy Summers, as the book was originally set in 2020 and we all know what happened then! So he backtracked a year to avoid difficulties in the protagonist’s journey.

I read half the novel over the weekend! It is really good and not the ‘horror’ that many believe is all Stephen can write. It is a character study of an assassin and his last ‘job’ and the unexpected events he finds himself coping with.

In other news my publicist, Creative Edge Publicity, has been spreading the word about me and my novels. I have been highlighted in these places, if you care to take a look.

Reader’s Entertainment Magazine

Escape with a Writer

403-464-6925 
mickey.creativeedge@gmail.com

Thank you all for continuing to follow me. I have a favour to ask.

Which character from my books would you like me to interview. I have already interviewed Evan from Life in Slake Patch and Lenni from Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria. So who is next?

Creative Edge Author Interview – Donna Conrad

September 9, 2021
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  • Were your core beliefs the reason you began writing historical fiction?

In a way, yes. I was an English and History major in college and had a hard time finding information about influential women. I was appalled that even noble and royal women were rarely named while historians wrote tomes about the deeds and misdeeds of their brothers, husbands, and fathers. I initially felt compelled to give voice to women who had been marginalized, let alone completely overlooked. When I came across the African proverb, “Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter,” I knew I must write novels about significant women based on strong historical evidence which had been supressed.

  • Did you grow up in an atmosphere of individual empowerment or did life experiences propel you in that direction?

My childhood was anything but empowering. I was terrified of my psychotic, authoritarian father, and ashamed of my mother, who did not stand up for herself, but instead fell headfirst into a bottle of whiskey to cope with her life. And yet, I always knew my mother and sister loved me unconditionally, something that sustained me through the trauma that was both my youth and the Sixties in general.

Despite her own demons, my mother managed to raise my sister and me to be strong, independent women. I learned from her example and vowed early on to never subjugate myself to another’s will, whether that of a person, a government, or a religion. When I met my husband, I realized he valued my independence. He encouraged me to be empowered and a freethinker. We’ve been married for 44 years and are still equal partners striving to become more self-aware. My husband tells people, “No one yells at Donna … twice.”

Book Cover, Cold Creek Press
  •  Where did the link to Celtic Tradition come from?

My mother was Irish and never felt quite at home with Christian dogma. She raised me in the “old ways,” which she learned from her grandmother. We celebrated the Celtic Wheel of the Year. As I child I loved the freedom to run in the fields and lay under a tree as my form of worship. I was taught that all things have a lifeforce, whether that be rock, tree, river, ocean, animal, or human. The earth-based spirituality practiced by the Celts felt natural and liberating. I gave Christianity a try in my early teens but found the basis of original sin constricting and repressive. As I grew older, I embraced my mother’s tradition and researched the “old ways” through books, retreats, and eventually leading my own quarter day celebrations.

  • Do you feel women’s wisdom is supressed in modern culture?

There is a resurgence of respect for women’s wisdom in many parts of the world. If we look back 200 years, or even 100 years, women who expressed wisdom were shunned, if not murdered. Even in fairy tales, the wise old woman, the woman who knows herbs and healing and speaks with the forest animals, is always a haggard, old, evil witch, that preys on children and the unwary; someone to be scorned. With women in the forefront, late 19th and early 20th century occult spirituality led by Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society and Annie Horniman’s Order of the Golden Dawn, women began to openly reclaim their personal power.

With the “women’s rights” movement of the early 1970s, and courageous leaders like Gloria Steinem, women began to publicly claim their inner wisdom and outer proficiency.

What we see from a historical perspective, is that anytime women advance in society it is through their own leadership and determination. The #MeToo movement is a great example of women joining together to bring about change. I’m speaking in broad terms of empowerment, but respect for women in all aspects of their lives, including women’s wisdom, cannot be separated from women’s empowerment.

While most of the world still suppresses women’s wisdom, there are pockets of light where women are honored. The Maiden, Mother, Crone aspects of women are certainly making gains, even though the perceived roles of women as Temptress, Whore, Witch, persist.

  • How did growing up in the 1960s affect your personality?

The Sixties were remarkable. Young people felt anything and everything was possible if we wanted it badly enough. The sixties stereotypical “free-love” culture received most of the press, but it was the larger desire to embrace “free-thinking” that motivated my generation. Definitely me. Conforming, following rules, becoming our parents with their warped sense of patriarchal rule, was anathema. My generation believed that if we united, we could affect change—and we united as had rarely been seen. My mother always encouraged me to think for myself. She encouraged me to question authority, even hers, and when given an answer, question that too!

As I grew older, went to college, started teaching high school English, I found that I could carry my values from the Sixties with me into the “adult” world, use them to help others find their own uniqueness, their own authenticity. The Sixties concepts of freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom to live as one wanted, were tempered by another guiding star from my mother: Do no harm.

I continue to question authority, laws, regulations, first impressions, and the nature of people who enter and leave my life. I value unique qualities in people and depend on my inner sense to form, and break, my own opinions.

  • You wear many hats – memoirist, fiction author, journalist, activist, and teacher. Do these roles contribute to your writing?

Everything a writer does, or doesn’t do, influences what they write. I’ve found that even the agonizing writer’s-block is there for a reason: To shine a spotlight on what is blocked or hiding in one’s life at that moment. The many hats I’ve worn lend me varied perspectives about people’s actions and motivations.

I started writing the first book in my historical fiction series, The Last Magdalene, before I wrote House of the Moon: Surviving the Sixties. I realized my fascination with women marginalized throughout history was partially because I too had been marginalized and silenced; that my generation arose to claim our voice, to make certain we were not ignored. Writing my memoir was both traumatic and liberating. When I found I was able to write an unvarnished version of my teen years, it became imperative that I do the same for other women. I went back to square one and wrote The Last Magdalene from a deeper level of comprehension.

I find that the common thread in everything I do is to be authentic and to allow myself to change perspectives as I learn more about “life, the universe, and everything”—to quote one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams.

  • From where do you gather your research? (Library, archives, internet etc.)

I use every means available but find physical books and research papers especially gratifying. I also like to travel to locations in order soak up the ambiance, feel the sun or rain, hear the sounds, touch the stones, eat the food, and immerse myself in the history of any given place. I even went back to my childhood home in Covina, California and walked around my high school while writing House of the Moon.

My research for The Last Magdalene includes studying with a Hebraic scholar, Shana Laxx, from Haifa University, to better understand women’s place and participation in ancient Judea. The primary written sources for my series, The Magdalene Chronicles, are from my personal library and include works by several Roman and Egyptian historians, Josephus, Elaine Pagels, and multiple translations of both the Torah and New Testament. I find reading various renditions of history to be illuminating, and helps me to see differences in various editions, and more importantly what one translator left out, or added.

I do refer to the internet but am skeptical about fast and easy searches. I end up going down the rabbit hole for hours on end trying to source information, and often end up back in my personal library, or emailing university professors who are always helpful and eager to aid in my research.

  • What surprising things did you learn from writing your books?

How much I don’t know!

I’m also continually surprised at how interconnected people are, even when there are no physical ties that bind. But above all other surprises, the reach of the written word is what continues. Books have been a major source of inspiration throughout my life. Maya Angelou, Alan Ginsberg, Hunter Thompson, Marion Zimmer-Bradley, Sharon Kay Penman, and so many other authors and poets have shaped my perspectives, given me both hope and despair. When someone contacts me to say my writing has impacted their lives, I’m hugely surprised and gratified.

  • Where can readers find you and your books?

My website is www.donnaconrad.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dconrad999

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/donnadconrad/  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DonnaDConrad999

Or send me an email at donna@donnaconrad.com.

I also teach at various conferences. The next workshop on the agenda is Real vs. Reality, a hands-on workshop to help writers take facts and turn them into dynamic prose. https://www.pnwa.org/page/ConferenceRegistation

I am also represented by Creative Edge: http://www.creative-edge.services

  • What message do you want to give your readers?

Every person can make a difference, but it takes courage and authenticity. Don’t doubt your abilities or your insights. To quote Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.”

Bio

Donna Conrad is an award-winning author, journalist, activist, and teacher. Her core values revolve around the concept of individual empowerment, a sustaining ideal running through the books she writes. Her writing interests are varied and include articles for fine-art periodicals, memoir/narrative non-fiction, as well as historical, flash, and paranormal fiction. She teaches all of the above at writers’ conferences.

Her first published book “House of the Moon: Surviving the Sixties,” has received rave reviews.

Donna’s life is as varied as her writing. She embraces change as an exciting adventure. She has studied writing with the likes of Alan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jack Whyte. She has also been mentored by Donald Maass, whom she worked with privately on her upcoming four-book historical fiction series, “The Magdalene Chronicles.” Book One, The Last Magdalene, is scheduled for publication April 2022.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their five cats. When she’s not writing, you can find Donna cruising the back roads in her black-on-black Miata MX-5, Maya – named for one of her favorite poets, Maya Angelou.

Her memoir, House of the Moon; Surviving the Sixties has received critical acclaim. The first of her four-book historical fiction series, The Last Magdalene, is scheduled for publication April 2022.

Creative Edge Author Interview – Jennifer Anne Gordon

August 12, 2021
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  1. Have you always been fascinated with the dark side of reality?

Yes, I think I have been. I remember sneaking into the living room and watching part of the movie Poltergeist when I was too young to be watching it. Luckily it was edited for TV, but still I think that was the beginning of it for me. My friends and I from my neighborhood also used to do our fair share of frolicking in the local cemetery. It was the in between spot for most of our houses and it ended up being the social epicenter for our preteen and teen years.

  • Are any of your narratives based on a true-life experience?

There is a little bit of truth in all of my characters and some of their experiences. There is part of me inside all of them, but the circumstances they find themselves in are entirely fictional,

  • Why the Gothic Horror genre specifically? What draws you to it?

I love the idea that the past is never truly dead. That the past is always alive in the present. That is the true core of gothic fiction. For me I like to play with how the past can still be the driving force of a character. Often times I use memory, or grief, PTSD etc. to be the things that are “haunting” the present. Other times I use actual ghosts. Personally I find memory and grief to be even more frightening than a ghost at times.

  • Do you have a favorite character and why?

I think I would have to say Adam from Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent. He was my first main character, and he just found his way deep into my heart. He was hard to let go of.

  • Is there a place that inspired Dagger Island?

It is roughly based in some ways on a combination of Star Island (in the Isles of Shoales) and Peaks Island off the coast of Portland Maine. Neither of these real-life islands are a gruesome and haunted as Dagger Island is, but there are little bits that work perfect for me for Dagger Island.

  • You have many forms of artistic expression. How do you choose, when inspiration hits?

I think all od them satisfy certain aspects of my personality. To me visual art (painting and photography) are the ones with the least pressure on them, so I can still have the most fun with those without consequences. Writing speaks to my soul the most, so that one always feels like there is a lot riding on it. It also feels the most personal when someone doesn’t like it. Dance has been my primary job for so long with teaching and performing that it also seems easy to me.

  • Is dance an external expression for your internal art?

It can be, depending on the dance and the partner. My husband and I used to perform a lot. We would do hour long dance pieces that were entirely improvisational and would be performed to dark ambient and nontraditional music. I really felt that those were the closest to come to a physical interpretation of the books I now write. Part horror, part beauty, always mysterious.

  • Can you tell us a little about your Vox Vomitus Podcast? Why you created and what is its mission?

I fell in love with podcasting during the early part of the pandemic, not only being a guest but also, I was able to guest host a couple shows and I really loved being able to talk with authors. Vox Vomitus (which is fake Latin for word vomit) was born out of the idea that sometimes we can learn from our mistakes and learn from other’s mistakes. As authors we all have trials and tribulations. On Vox Vomitus myself and Allison Martine speak with the best authors working today and we can have a cocktail with them and talk about not just what went right, but also what went horribly wrong along the way. I have made some tremendous friendships through the podcast as well. So, our mission is to entertain, educate.

  • What prompted the idea for Pretty/Ugly?

Way before Covid I thought about writing a book about a pandemic. A virus that if it didn’t kill you would leave you horribly scarred. I wondered about our society and the people who seem to be “all surface” with nothing underneath. So, I wanted to play with that idea, of what you can be if everything you are is taken away. It became about much more than that. Though the idea came about before Covid, I think writing part of this during the pandemic really helped to shape the gravity and the enormous sense of loss that I needed in order for the stakes to be as high as they had to be.

  1. Did the story stay true to its original form or change as you wrote?

Oh I think I answered that a little before. It changed A LOT as I wrote it. My original intention was to write a dark Rom Com that happened during the apocalypse. I ended up writing a very lyrical meditation on grief and trauma, and self reflection. I wrote about trying to forgive yourself and trying to allow yourself to love and be loved…all the while people are dying, and the world is ending.

  1. Where can readers find you?

The easiest place to find me is on my website http://www.JenniferAnneGordon.com that has links to all my social media. I am especially active on FB and Instagram!

  1. Do you have a work in progress? Can you share anything about it?

I have a couple work in progress pieces. One that is my main work in progress I cannot talk about. My agent (the amazing Paula Munier at Talcott Notch) would kill me. I will say it is not horror.

I have also been toying a bit with an auto-fiction novella, which is both a story about a possible haunted house as well as a story about elder care and the horror of Alzheimer’s.

  1. Do you have a message for your readers?

I would just love to thank each and every one of them for being with me on this journey, and for forgiving me for breaking your hearts in every book.

mickey.creativeedge@gmail.com

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