Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Creative Edge Author Interview – Julie Gianelloni

May 12, 2022
mandyevebarnett


What affect has your extensive travel made to your writing?

. A large part of my adult life has been spent overseas, and that of course informs my writing. Both my books have international settings, and I feel comfortable writing about international affairs.

·      When did you begin your hiking adventures?

I am not a hiker normally, and I didn’t really train to hike the Camino de Santiago. Still, I had no problem doing the long-distance walking; I just didn’t love it. I set off from St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France on May 3, 2016.

·      What made you want to write your book Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike?

In my early 20s, I read James Mitchener’s book Iberia. In it, his last chapter is on the Camino de Santiago. So, in about 1972, I put traveling the Camino de Santiago on my “someday” travel list. I just didn’t know that “someday” would take 45 years.

·      Do you have a message within the hiking narrative for your readers?

Yes, I do have a message, and it makes me a heretic as far as many Camino purists are concerned. A culture has grown up around the Camino that if one doesn’t walk every step one is not a “true” pilgrim. I totally disagree with that philosophy, as the subtitle of my book announces. I think the pilgrimage aspects of the book are much more important than how the journey is accomplished. My mother and handicapped sister made a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1956, and my sister walked essentially no steps, yet that was a true pilgrimage. Some people get spiritual thoughts while walking; I don’t. I have those thoughts in cathedrals and while gazing in amazement at incredible architecture and art.

·      Has the access to nature impacted your life?

Very much so. I grew up in the country and was active in 4-H through my teen years. I rode horses and showed livestock (cattle, sheep, horses) competitively. As an adult, I have been largely divorced from that closeness to animals and nature due to my job. Being on the Camino gave me time to slow down, look at the wild flowers along the way, see the birds twittering in the trees. I loved that part of walking the Camino.

·      How did writing the hiking book differ from your process for your short story collections and the children’s book?

I don’t think my book is a hiking book. It is a pilgrimage book and a book about the history, art, and architecture of the Camino. It is most suited to those who are thinking of journeying on the Camino since it offers suggestions and tips, including a list of questions to help readers determine if walking the Camino is really what they want to do. It also is suited for those who will never walk the Camino but who want to be “armchair travelers” as they read my memoir passages about my experiences along the Camino.

·      Is adoption a subject close to your heart and the reason you wrote your children’s book?

Yes, it is. When I adopted my son back in 1992, I looked for a book I could read to him about being adopted. I couldn’t find anything suitable. During the pandemic, I couldn’t travel and so couldn’t work on my planned next book. More or less on a whim I looked on Amazon to find out what was available for children on adoption. Amazingly to me, there are very few books on the subject for children, and most of those books are limited in what they cover. For example, the books only focus  on the adopting mother and the adopted child, whereas in reality many, many more people are involved in an adoption. So, I decided to write a book that adopting families could use to talk to their child about being adopted.

·      Do you consider yourself a nomad rather than a homebody?

I consider myself not a nomad, but a citizen of the world. To quote St. Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do  not travel read only one  page.” Having said that, I am an introvert, and I am quite content to be alone and read a book—I just like to read that book while seated at a café in Lisbon or Santiago de Compostela.

·      What are you writing now?

I have two projects underway. One is a second book about the Camino, and the other is a family memoir. My family, for a lot of reasons, is not a typical American family, and I think readers would enjoy learning about our history.

·      Where can readers find you and your books?

My books are available on Amazon. Savoring the Camino de Santiago is available in four formats: hardback, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise is also available from Amazon in hardback, paperback, and ebook. Readers can also order my books from my website, Bayou City Press.com, or from their local bookstores. As for me, readers can contact me through either of my websites, BayouCityPress.com or JulieConnorAuthor.com

Bio

Julie Gianelloni Connor is an award-winning author and retired senior Foreign Service Officer. Her first book, Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, not the Hike, garnered no. 1 status on Amazon in both the category for new books on hiking and walking and the category for Spain and Portugal. It subsequently went on to win a silver medal in the eLit national competition as well as being selected as a finalist by Self-Publishing Review (SPR). She released her second title, a children’s book, in 2021. It has just won first place in
the children’s book category at the North Texas Book Festival. The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise tells an international adoption story. Her short stories have appeared in four anthologies. Julie is the owner and publisher of Bayou City Press (BCP) in Houston, Texas, which focuses on travel writing, Houston, history, and international affairs. Julie writes a weekly newsletter for BCP updating subscribers about activities. She founded BCP after spending 33 years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, first with the U.S. Information Agency and later with the U.S. Department of State. She had nine overseas assignments in seven different countries: Israel (twice), Paraguay, Guatemala, Indonesia, Colombia (twice), Malaysia, and Chile. In Washington, DC, Julie worked on a variety of matters, ranging from nuclear non-proliferation to narcotics control
to women’s issues. She has one son, James, and two cats, Halloween and Charles Augustus V. Her books can be ordered from her publishing website (BayouCityPress.com), from her author website (JulieConnorAuthor.com), or from Amazon.com.

Website Bayou City Press: https://bayoucitypress.com

Newsletter Bayou City Press: https://bayoucitypress.com/recent-bcp-newsletters/

Website Julie Connor: https://JulieConnorAuthor.com

Facebook: https://facebook.com/JulieConnorAuthor

Facebook: https://facebook.com/BCPHouston

Instagram: https://instagram.com/JulieConnorAuthor

Instagram: https://instagram.com/bayoucitypress

LinkedIn: https://Linkedin.com/in/JulieConnor

Twitter: https://Twitter.com/@JulConnorAuth

Twitter: https://Twitter.com/@Bayou_CityPress

Creative Edge Author Interview: Paul Bahou

March 24, 2022
mandyevebarnett


1.     Where did the idea for this novel come from?

The novel originated as a short story that I wrote in a creative writing class my senior year of college. The character of Lazer was loosely based on a friend of mine who played in a heavy metal band in the 80’s and never quite moved beyond his rock n roll heydey. Lazer isn’t just a carbon copy of him though, but rather an amalgamation of several people, a list that seemed to grow the more I worked on the book. But ultimately, at the start of the book he represents the downside of staying too firmly in your dream for rock stardom. When we meet Lazer he has hit rock bottom and is stuck in a loop of meaningless flings and surface level friendships, all while playing the same songs over and over and over again. He’s something of a prisoner of his own failed ambitions. I would meet a lot of people who suffered from this sort of stunted personal growth when I played in bands and was heavy into gigging. The folks who never said die even though they should have moved on decades ago. I’m all about living the life you want and staying true to your passions, but its always good to make sure you don’t lose yourself in the process.

2.     Did you have fun creating Lazer and Streek?

Giving dimension to Lazer and Streek was a lot of fun, because you’re not just -, but building the relationship between them. A lot of times when they are bantering back and forth it’s almost like different aspects of my personality are having a conversation with each other. Lazer, as he developed really kind of took on parts of my own history of being in a band and how I approached that lifestyle. Streek meanwhile has more in common with my wife; this sort of introverted, second-guessing nature that acts as a counter balance to Lazer’s shoot from the hip and hope for the best ethos. Having them play off each other is one of my favorite parts of writing these stories. I really want the growth of their friendship to feel organic as the story unfolds, not in just this novel, but in the rest of the books in the series to follow. Friendship dynamics shape-shift over time and it’s a really interesting topic to explore. Even though its a story set in space with all sorts of fantastical elements, at the end of the day its a story of finding out who you really are once the comfort of routine is stripped away from you, and how your friends can help you get there.

3.     Have you always had an interest in sci-fi stories?

I absolutely love science fiction. I feel like you can go anywhere or do anything with it. As long as you stay consistent within the rules you set up, its an excellent vehicle to give commentary on everything from politics to personal relationships. I grew up with things like the twilight zone, outer limits, tales from the crypt and the x files. I’ve always loved stories about aliens and monsters and the unknown. My wife is wonderful, she’ll watch the most ridiculous B movie nonsense with me just because she loves me. Though lately its mostly been kids programming. I’ve got a one year old and a four year old. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen Encanto.

4.     What or who influenced your writing?

Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite writer of all time and really kind of opened me up to new concepts of narrative, like how slaughter house 5 is both fiction and memoir, or Galapagos is told out of order from the perspective of a ghost. Absolutely brilliant. 

5.     Do you see a sequel to the novel or are you happy for it to stay a standalone?

The Sunset Distortion series will be 5 parts. Part one is “The Pyramid at the End of the World.” Part two will be titled “Live! From Valhalla” and is maybe 3/4’s finished. Though that being said, I put that one on pause while I work on a collection of short stories. I sort of follow where my creativity takes me, and right now, its horror and sci fi short stories with a few novellas thrown in the mix. I’m currently finishing up a 10k word story about a piece of recycling equipment that becomes self-aware and decides that the best way to sort non-compliant materials from recycled bottles is to murder the entirety of the human race. Fun stuff!

6.     What is your writing process? Plotter or panster?

Both. It depends on what I’m writing. I like to plot out the sandbox first if you will. The world, the characters, and the broad strokes of the plot. From there I’ll sort of freewheel it from point A to point B and see what comes out. 

7.     Are you part of a writing group? If so, how has this helped your writing?

I’m a part of several writing groups online but I don’t check in nearly as often as I should. I do have a half dozen friends who are writers themselves and we’ll share works in progress with each other and give feedback. It’s absolutely vital to have other eyes browse through what you’re doing. We all have blind spots and our work only gets better from sharing with others. You need to have people willing to tell you that your ideas are garbage.

8.     Do you have a favorite place to write?

I write short stories on my phone, usually while putting my daughter to bed. She’s doing this thing right now where she will only fall asleep if I’m in the room with her, longer form stuff is on my laptop. I will honestly write whenever I get the chance. Between running my business and having two small children, personal time is at a premium. I used to have a specific chair I would sit in, but it was so old and natty that I threw it away after book 1 was finished. Now I’m something of a nomad, moving from couch to bed to rocking chair of office desk when time permits.

9.     Are you working on another manuscript? Can you tell us a little about it?

I currently have maybe 4 short stories in the can and 10 more in development. My goal is to have at least 60k words worth of short stories assembled before I release them as an anthology. Book 2 in the Sunset Distortion series will probably follow within a year after that. The second book in the series will see Lazer and Streek get drafted by a private security company to stop a terrorist plot onboard a space station that hosts the Galaxy’s collective entertainment complex apparatus, all while helping their new friend escape the clutches of her jerk of an ex-boyfriend who also happens to be the galaxy’s biggest rock star. Like the first book, expect lots of jokes, weird aliens and music references. 

10.  Where can readers find you?

My website is paulbahouwrites.com. its currently under construction, but will be up sooner rather than later. I’ll have all sorts of good stuff up there. In the meantime you can follow me on facebook at facebook.com/paulbahouwrites 

Bio:

PAUL BAHOU is the author of Sunset Distortion: The Pyramid at the End of the World. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Cal State University Long Beach with a minor in music. He began his career writing grants while playing in his rock band, eventually moving out of music and into the sustainability sector. He lives in Southern California with his wife Melissa, daughter Sophie and son, Harrison. He writes fiction, music and the occasional dad joke in his spare time.

Creative Edge – Author Interview – VS Holmes

February 17, 2022
mandyevebarnett


1. You are continuing Nel Bently’s adventures in book four, Heretics. Did you always know where the story would take her from the first book?

When I first started out, Travelers was intended to be a standalone dual POV between an archaeologist in current days and the person whose bones she was excavating 13,000 years before. However, I quickly realized that, given Nel’s site in Chile, writing the latter POV wasn’t a story meant for me to tell. Instead, I leaned into the sci-fi aspect a bit more and the Stars Edge world was born. Once it was finished, I couldn’t let the characters go, and knew Nel–and I had a lot more to explore.

2. What has changed for Nel from book one to book four?

Her entire world for one! But, on a more intimate level, a lot about how she sees the world and where she sees herself in it has been turned on its head. She’s still battling through grief in Heretics, but now instead of drowning her feelings in the nearest bottle or pretty face, she is facing her anger and commitment-phobia through reluctant therapy (okay, and maybe a few drinks of high-end tequila stolen from the spaceport!) She has a long way to go, still, as does Lin in her own way, but she’s realizing that running can only take her so far.

3. Where do you see Nel in the future?

Oh, perhaps around the 2073 range? Just teasing! I’ve got two more books before this arc of her adventure will come to a close! I am currently working on Fugitives, the fifth and penultimate book It’s tough to share too much without running into spoiler territory, but I’ll say that while I might step away from her story for a bit after the final book, I do have a lot more planned for her world, and I’m not entirely ready to say goodbye.

4. Do you have fun incorporating your archeology in this series?

It’s a fun challenge, we’ll say. I adore my job as an archaeologist and dreaming up ways, both good and bad, that the field might change in the future with advancing technology, is a real blast. It can get tricky when my fellow archies read my work, however, because there’s no good way to make all the science perfect while maintaining good pacing in the narrative (and don’t get me started on the differing methodologies!) I think my favorite blending of sci-fi tech and digging in the series so far is when Nel, who is a map-lover like myself, is introduced to the tech that allows digital maps of her site–complete with color coding, grid lines, and artifact concentrations–to be projected onto her atmosuit helm. I would love to be able to use something similar on our big sites!

5. When did your interest in archeology begin?

I’ve always loved the sciences, but unlike a lot of people who planned a career in arch since they first saw Indy pick up his hat, I came to it later. I was finishing my pre-med courses and three years into a healthcare career. Disenchanted with the bureaucracy and systemic prejudice in the field, I had begun looking at pursuing human evolution instead. Then, on a ferry ride to my grandmother’s funeral, I noted an interesting article discussing a Homo erectus site on the front page of my table mate’s newspaper. When I asked if I could read it, he admitted it was his site. After a weekend of grief, laughter, and scientific discussion he made an offer: they needed volunteers and if I could get there, I could dig. That summer I dug my trowel into the stony, arid soil of Crete and have never looked back.

6. Do you have a master plan for your book series? Which method do you use – a vision board, sticky notes or something else?

I’ve recently pivoted a bit from a hardcore plotter to more of a discovery writer. While I have a good idea of where I want my stories to begin and end, how my characters get to that end and who ultimately survives that long, let’s be real it is subject to change several times throughout the process. My planning now involves bullet-points at the beginning of each document, with notes about the following book added as I go. I untangle plot-knots all the time when I’m at work or driving, too, so there are a fair number of epiphanies scribbled in note books, on field notes, or between level depths on my work pants.

7.  Why did you write the two series – Blood of Titans and Stars Edge – rather than one?

For starters, I was exploring two very different ideas with the two. I started with Blood of Titans many years ago, and those books took a lot longer to write. While working on the last two books, the first scene from Travelers, with its vandalized site and foul-tempered archaeologist, popped into my head. As for why I wrote them simultaneously? Well, I guess I enjoy punishment! I found it’s useful to have multiple projects, so when I grow frustrated with one, I can turn to another.

8. What drew you to this specific genre?

I was exposed to a lot more fantasy as a kid and found I was more likely to find characters like myself, ironically, in worlds that had no grounding in ours. As I got older and developed my craft, I realized I wanted to write worlds that could serve as inspiration for how to move past some of the challenges our world faces–rather than the glaring warning signs that are embedded in a lot of classic sci-fi.

9.  Do you have a favorite sci-fi author?

I don’t think I could pick a favorite, as there are so, so many incredible worlds. However, a few that have stood out to me recently are O. E. Tearmann, who writes a wonderful blend of cyberpunk and solarpunk with a fantastic cast of diverse characters, and Karen Lord, whose The Best of All Possible Worlds was a beautiful, thoughtful examination of immigration and melting-pot culture. As for old favorites: the loving juxtaposition of faith and science in Sagan’s Contact changed my world.

10. Where can your readers find you and your books?

You can check out my website, www.vsholmes.com, and grab a free sci-fi or fantasy short to see if you like my work, read my FAQ, and send me an email! Plus, if you become an Explorer you’ll get exclusive updates, free books, and more. All of my work is available on Amazon’s KU as well as in paperback wherever books are sold (or borrowed, you just have to ask!) As for social media, I’m most active and candid on Twitter and Instagram as @VS_Holmes and also on Facebook, Bookbub, and Goodreads.

Heretics – Stars Edge 4 Nel Bently

Hot-tempered Dr. Nel Bently is not cut out to save the world. After her last project ended in fire and death, Nel must put aside her distrust of just about everyone and embark on a lo-fi search for a deadly radio transmission.
Earth’s survivors are torn between the austere superpower of IDH and the high-tech grassroots Los Pobledores. At every turn more allies go missing and Nel questions where everyone’s true loyalties lie–and on which side Lin will fall when a line is finally drawn. They need experts. They need firepower. But it looks like the only thing standing between Earth and devastation is Nel: archaeologist, asshole, and functioning alcoholic with anger issues.

Bio:

V. S. Holmes is an international bestselling author. They created the BLOOD OF TITANS series and the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book in their fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary’s Excellence in Independent Publishing Award in 2015 and a Literary Titan Gold in 2020. Travelers is also included in the Peregrine Moon Lander mission as part of the Writers on the Moon Time Capsule. In addition, they have published short fiction in several anthologies.

As a disabled and non-binary human, they work as an advocate and educator for representation in SFF worlds. When not writing, they work as a contract archaeologist throughout the northeastern U.S. They live with their spouse, a fellow archaeologist, their dog Rory, and own too many books.

LINKS:

Site: http://www.vsholmes.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VS_Holmes

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

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/vs-holmes

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/v-s-holmes

Creative Edge Author Interview – Caroline Giammanco

January 20, 2022
mandyevebarnett


  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 – Sophie Mays is the pen name of author, Stephanie LaVigne

October 14, 2021
mandyevebarnett


  • 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!

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