I am an advocate for always reviewing every book I read, not only does it give other readers an insight into the narrative but also acknowledges the author’s hard work. A review is the life blood of any author – so please write a review, even a single sentence is enough. It can be on any platform: Smashwords, Goodreads or Amazon or copy & paste to put it on all three!
2019 Books: The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Elevation, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Lucky One, Spook-Science Tackles the Afterlife, The Icarus Girl, Things Withered, Magnetic North, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, Becoming, Sixpence House, Hollow City, Lomita for Ever, The Little Paris Bookshop, To Air the Laundry, Mrs Everything, Hearts in the Spotlight, Stranger in the Woods, 10 Days in December, Dirt Road, Steampunk FAQ, River of Destiny & Past Presence.
This number equates to about a book and a half a month, which considering I was also writing is not too bad.
As you will see, it is apparent I do not have a particular genre I favour, I much rather chose a book due to the topic or story line than stick to one type of narrative. The Spook book was loaned to me by a friend, who knew of my life long interest in reincarnation and I ordered Stranger in the Woods, as it was one of the news stories I utilized in a work in progress. The others were picked by chance as the blurb caught my eye.
Soar, Adam, Soar, by Rick Prashaw with Adam Prashaw, (Dundurn Press, 2019) What inspired Soar, Adam, Soar? I intended to write my own, unusual life story. A Catholic priest married and became Dad to a child identified as a girl, named Rebecca Adam by smart parents (LOL), the kid who took us on a 22-year ride to the “boy in the mirror” he knew he was. His drowning at 22 from a seizure gave the memoir a new twist and urgency.
How did you come up with the title? It’s my final 3 words on a Facebook tribute to him the night he died. The post is Chapter 12 in the book. The phrase popped into my head writing that night about our long ago love of the movie, Lion King. Mufasa telling the small Simba that one day he could look to the sky to find his father. Except here, in a cruel tragedy,the old Mufasa lives. I look for my Simba in the stars.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? Love wins! Diversity is good. “Beauty comes in many colours”, Adam posted once.Freedom is what we do to what happens to us (Jean-Paul Sartre). Despite the tragedy, Adam’s infectious joy, positive spirit and wicked humour infuse the story, especially with his 125-plus social media posts. Jan. 20, 2016, two days before the drowning: “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies in us while we live (Norman Cousins)…”
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? Everywhere, like my son LOL! Web site, http://www.rickprashaw.com with blogs (book tour, transgender, grieving, organ donor, faith). @RickPrashaw on Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter. There’s a FB Author page here https://www.facebook.com/RickPrashaAuthorw/
Do you have plans for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? 2 books moving forward, simultaneously. Father Rick, Roamin’ Catholic, stories from my faith journey that capture my crooked, straight path to heaven’s gate. Adam will show up here. Private Dick Prashaw, D-Day Dodger, will be my Dad and Mom’s WW2 love story, a creative non-fiction book I throw myself into as a character to finally get Dad’s war story out of him.s
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I read and am writing memoirs, biographies. There will be a few more memoirs drawing on my political and newspaper lives. The creative non-fiction book has me in a sweet place of writer’s terror. And I’m loving short stories falling out of my heart to the screen.
What is your best marketing tip? From my NGO and political work, I knew John McKnight’s community assets mapping. Map all the universes you inhabit — work, play, sports, hobbies, neighbour, school, past lives etc. Identify their social media, meet-ups or gathering places to market the book. Parenting, grieving, Pride and organ donor universes are part of why Soar, Adam, Soar is in its 4th printing eight months out.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Both! I love telling Adam’s story but I crave a hermitage right now. Instagram is new and good. Twitter with its trolls and fights is a necessary evil. Facebook works as readers and my friends devour the stories behind the book and from the 32-city (and counting) tour
What do you enjoy most about writing? All my life until now, I wrote for others, e.g. news editors, religious superiors, NGO and political bosses. Now I write to myself. The best book compliments are from people who know me and say your book is exactly as if I am speaking to them. I found my voice.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Pleasure, with a heaping side plate of research. I am reading a few war and faith books prepping for my next two memoirs. Waub Rice’s Moon over Crusted Snow is my stepping into fiction writing coming soon!
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? My mutt, Dallas, a 7-year-old flat-coated retriever who Adam adopted, stalks me everywhere. Adam’s my agent.
Where is your favorite writing space? I wrote this memoir at my home office, in Adam’s old bedroom. Cereal bowls of coffee, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. writing, punctuated by two walks with Dallas
Do you belong to a writing group?If so which one? Ottawa Independent Writers Group that meets once a month. Online, the Canadian Authors Association, National Capital Region.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? It’s often the book I have just finished. Hmmm, one. Michelle Obama, to soak up her class and energy and thank her for being my book’s guardian angel in the O Biography section, with Becoming,
a shelf above and over Soar, Adam, Soar.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? 2 answers. (Sorry. I’m bad with rules) Right here in my beautiful Ottawa and back “home” in Northern Ontario (North Bay, Sudbury)
Do you see writing as a career? Well, as an emerging writer at 68, till my last breath….
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? Wine, chocolate, Peaky Blinders.
Rck Prashaw has had a diverse career as a journalist, Catholic priest, executive director of a national NGO, and political staff to members of Parliament. He is a winner of the National Ron Wiebe Restorative Justice Award. Rick lives in Ottawa.
What inspired your latest novel? My father passed away when I was 27 years old, so none of my three children had ever met him. To keep his memory alive, I used to tell my kids true stories about my dad. He was an amazing fun loving, comical, adventurous person but he came from a very dysfunctional, heartbreaking back ground. One day (8 years ago) when I was telling my (then) 11-year-old son about how my father rode the rails when he was 13 years from Saskatchewan to BC, my son said, “Mom, I love your stories so much, you should write a book”. So, I did.
How did you come up with the title? The title of my book Looking for Normal, is a play on words. For a big part of my life I would often say, “I just want a normal family”. Therefore, I was always looking for normal. When, in the real world, there is no such thing as normal. I use a quote from Erma Bombeck, “normal is just a setting on your dryer” on the first page, chapter one.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? YES! I would very much like my readers to 1) feel inspired by my story 2) come to understand that mental illness and addiction can cause people to behave a certain way, but there is always hope and humour if you can get past the pain. Mental health issues are not uncommon.
How much of the book is realistic? My book is a true story about family, heartache, heartbreak, hope, and humor, it is all true and about my life. Some people have described my memoir to be unique and eclectic and I say, “aren’t we all?”
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Yes, the main characters in my book are my mother, father and myself. It weaves in and out with flash backs and stories throughout. I have been told that my book is very relatable, it could be many peoples story. It takes place between 1930 and 1978 and has historical facts, photos and events along the way.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? I currently have (as of April 2019) 25 reviews on Good Reads. My book is available on amazon.ca amazon.com Indigo.ca chapters.ca barnesandnoble.ca I also love chatting with my followers on Instagram, I have approximately 8,000 @karenharmonn I post about writing, health, fitness and family. Twitter @karenharmonn
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? Yes! I am currently (as of April 2019) 50,000 words into my 2nd book which is a sequel. I should be finished by the time this blog comes out. I am very excited as this book takes place in the 80’s and 90’s. Parts of it have been fun to write because I was a disco queen during Vancouver’s disco era. And I started teaching fitness at the same time as Jane Fonda. HaHa! Other portions have been more difficult to write but very therapeutic to write because it deals with AA, and Alanon.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? Of my three main characters they are ALL my favourites and this is why…….. 1) my dad adored me, and I idolized him. He was funny and kind. He never repeated the cycle of abuse that he was raised under. 2) my mother wanted to be a private detective in the 1930’ & 1940’s which was completely unheard of for a woman, so she settled and became a mom & house wife. Plus, she had mental health issues and in those days that too was unheard of. 3) Me, my heart breaks for the little girl I once was. I really got to know little girl Karen during my telling of her childhood. I gained confidence from writing about who I once was and my beginnings. Therefore, all three of my characters are my favourite.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I favor non-fiction because writing about something I know to be real and true is easier. I gained my story telling ability from my father, he was animated and funny. I like to look at life that way, we are all characters on the stage of life.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? My first book was by the seat of my pants, sometimes it felt like verbal diarrhea. My second book has been more planned out and I feel way more organized.
What is your best marketing tip? Networking and asking questions. Find a facebook page with like minded individuals. That’s where I found you, and look, I get to be in your blog! Instagram and Twitter are important too.
Be professional, if you are having a book launch, a book read, or any kind of event make professional invitations and hand them out. At my book launch my friend made appetizers that were conventional in the 1960’s. I had old fashioned coke in glass bottles, and everyone was offered coffee or tea. My friend owns a coffee shop, so she gave me a great deal. It was super fun and prior to the launch the newspaper did a story on me.
Contact your local newspaper as they love personal interest stories about people in the community, you are helping them if they do a story on you. So, it is a win-win as it gives you exposure as well.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? I want to say a little bit of both. Through Instagram I have connected with some amazing, writers, bloggers and readers. Sending personal messages DM’s (direct messages) I have messaged at least 50 people I have admired. At least ten of those people have responded and we have had some amazing conversations. I have been given incredible advice from other authors. I have sent my book to instagrammers who read as a hobby and I they have given my book great reviews. Plus, its fun to post photos, make videos, network, and make connections. I find Twitter a bit more challenging as it is important to post something everyday, if not more. I enjoy following people who have odd perspectives on life. My challenge is coming up with something unique and fresh daily.
What do you enjoy most about writing? I enjoy thinking of someone reading my material and laughing or crying or becoming inspired. I visualize certain friends reading what I have written, and I can see them smile in my head.
What age did you start writing stories/poems? I have always liked to write stories, but my lack of self confidence and self esteem got in the way. I am way more confident now, so I have way less inhibitions.
Has your genre changed or stayed the same? So far it has stayed the same, but I do have a few ideas for a fiction book, based on real people.
What genre are you currently reading? I love true stories and memoirs, I just accidentally read, Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner. I say accidentally because I read it before, years ago but I forgot and read it again lol. My favourite book was The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? Wow! I have a few. I have three author friends who have helped me and inspired me in different ways. Nadine Sands she wrote Hold On, Let Go, she told me these simple words, “not everyone likes memoirs, which does not mean that yours is not good”. As silly as that sounds, it was like an epiphany for me. Mary Edigar, she wrote Mennonite Girl, she said “just keep writing, do not worry about mistakes or punctuation that can be fixed later”. Colleen Friesen she is a Travel Writer and a Blogger, her inspiration is more about who she is and how she lives her life. Plus, she can be very frank in her writing but still manages to bring hope to the reader. She writes about travel, but she also writes about family, death and spirituality.
Where is your favorite writing space? Good question! I love, love, love, writing in my bed with my little dog Steven curled up next to me. I am either drinking a coffee (with extra cream) or a giant water. I live in a small home, but my bedroom is my sanctuary. My husband can have the TV and the living room lol.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? I have attended the North Shore Writers Association and I really like it. They bring in guest Authors and it feels great to be with like minded people.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be? Jeanette Walls and Whalley Lamb.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? I would live here in North Vancouver, but I would like someone to give me house too. OR if my three children and husband could come with me, I think Hawaii would be a great place to live.
Do you see writing as a career? I would love that, if I could make a living from it.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? I could never nibble while I write, but I do love coffee or tea while I am writing. AND Ice cream after a day of writing with my favourite Netflix show.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? Rewards vary. A massage, a pedicure, ice cream and for example today when I finish answering all these questions, I will have a cold Corona with lime. But just one.
Local Vancouver writer Karen Harmon, writes passionately in her recent memoir Looking for Normal – which won the Rubery Book Excellence Award in the category of Women’s Health.
The book contains Karen’s recollections based on her parents meeting in 1945 at the Cave Super Club in Vancouver B.C. and her own personal experiences of growing up in the 1960’s. Taking the reader on a memorable journey throughout 1930 to 1978.
“With poverty, addiction, mental illness and family relationships being current topics of discussion, Karen Harmon has tapped into a story that everyone can relate to. I am looking forward to sharing her upbringing with my students”. Cathy Sieben, Secondary Teacher Gibson’s B.C.
Looking for Normal is a bitter-sweet memoir that covers historical events dating back to the depression era, the outcome of prohibition, the obsolete recognition of mental health issues and a family trying to succeed in amongst the trappings of society and current events in Western British Columbia, Canada.
Just Shut Up and Drive actually started off as a short story several years ago. I was part of a writing group that had weekly writing prompts that could be anything from challenging us to expand on a sentence or writing a story around one word to posting a picture. One week, the host of the group posted a black and white photograph of an old house. It must have been built back in the early 1900’s and had obviously been long ago abandoned. The story came to me right away and Gramps’ character, specifically, came to me the same night in a dream. I know that sounds weird but a lot of my ideas come from dreams I’ve had. A restless brain can prove to be a bonus from time-to-time. But that’s how Just Shut Up and Drive started out.
How did you come up with the title?
The title so depicts the character of Gramps. He comes across as a brash, cranky, narrow-minded old man. But the more layers he lets peel away on his journey with Wil, and the more vulnerable he allows himself to be, we get to the heart of who he truly is.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Honestly, there wasn’t at first. I just dreamed about this story, got up the next morning and wrote endlessly for the next couple of weeks. Including pre-editing, I think it took me about 3 months in total from idea to finished manuscript. I guess if there was any message I’d like readers to take away with them from this book it’s to embrace all that life has to offer you, no matter what direction your own journey takes you on. Pay attention to what’s around you, absorb the stories others share with you, take away what you need to from each experience and don’t be afraid to make those pit stops along the way. Those stops can often reveal a thing or two either about yourself or someone close to you that you wouldn’t have discovered any other way.
How much of the book is realistic?
Just Shut Up and Drive is a pretty realistic read. All of the places Wil and his grandfather stop to visit are real places. The highway they go down and the descriptions of what they see would be the same as what anyone else taking the same drive would see. Gramps’ house in Winnipeg is basically my grandparents’ house. Of course, some situations I put them in aren’t exactly every day occurrences for most people, but my focus was making this as real as possible so readers could relate to the story and feel a part of the journey right alongside Wil and Gramps.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
When I ‘see’ characters, I have borrowed some personality traits from people I know and sometimes I’ve put some of me in there. For the most part, though, the characters aren’t usually based on someone I know but a lot of the scenarios I put them in are based off of events from my own life and experiences.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
I’ve just finished the next book in The Watcher series (the first book is Dark Water). I’ve also written another children’s book as well as a parent-to-parent book on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). And I’ve also just completed a new adult novel currently in the editing stages before finding it a home. I always have ideas brewing. Right now, I’m planning my next memoir and have a plan set for a new adult fiction novel, but we’ll see. The Watcher series is the only sequel set I’ve started. The others are all stand alone.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
Oh wow. That’s a toughie. My main characters are all the ‘underdog’ in some way. That invisible presence that not many others give enough time to, but who can make a huge difference in their own way. Each of them has had to face some sort of life hurdle and deal with it in the most positive way they can, bumps and all. And they are each searching, maybe not consciously, to fill some sort of void in their life. There is a character I created in my newest manuscript (that one will come out soon, hopefully) who is very much like me. But out of all of the characters I’ve created in my published works, I’d have to say my favorite is Wil Carter in Just Shut Up and Drive. He is funny, grounded and has an amazing relationship with his grandfather who raised him. And even though he faced the ultimate tragedy of losing his parents at a very young age, he shows others how to keep moving forward…with a little help from his very cranky, but very wise, grandfather. When I wrote the last sentence in Just Up and Drive, I actually teared up realizing I wouldn’t have the daily interaction with him anymore. But he’s still there. He’s one of those powerful spirits that never truly leaves you. I hope readers feel the same way when they ‘meet’ him.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I’ve been told I’m an eclectic writer in that I have dabbled in different genres. So far, I’ve published children’s books, memoir, adult fiction and young adult and new adult fiction. My heart is writing for youth so my books are clean, contemporary, true-to-life fiction. That’s not to say that down the road I won’t try something else, but that’s my focus for now.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I love this question. I think the only books I’ve written that have taken the time to plan out have been my memoirs. Maybe that’s because this genre is a lot more personal and revealing so you need to present the material in the best, most accepting way possible. Otherwise, I’m one of those weird authors who gets an idea for a story and can actually see it beginning to end in my mind. In a sense, it’s almost like transcribing what is already complete in my head. I’ll always write down character names and how they relate to each other as well as research specific things so that the information is accurate, but for the most part I just sit and write when the story is there.
What is your best marketing tip?
I’ve tried various tools out there but I’ve always found that the best marketing tip that’s worked with me is connecting with other authors in the same genre and being a presence in specific social groups relating to what I’m writing about. For example, most of my work is geared toward children and youth so I try to connect with these groups, and those who work with them. I also have no fear in discussing issues or topics on my blog that many others know about but may not talk about as much as they should. That shows that I’m not just writing about these areas, I take the time to understand them. I’ve found this means a lot to readers as they can see that I’m not just ‘blowing smoke’ and simply trying to make money off of a specific issue or group. I write about it because it’s important and it matters. This leads to word-of-mouth promotion, which is just as important or more so than traditional forms of marketing.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
I actually see both sides of this. There are so many forms of social media out there it can be overwhelming to know which ones to go on and which can offer the greatest benefits for writers and authors. On the one hand, it can be a great tool in that it offers a way to get the latest, up-to-date information on our work to our readers. It also offers a way for readers to interact with authors in a way they normally wouldn’t be able to. I can’t speak for all authors but, for me, it warms my heart to read feedback from readers. It tells me my work is appreciated. On the other hand, spending too much time on social media, even for promo, takes time away from actual writing. The key is only allotting a specific amount of time to posting, responding to comments/questions and staying current with readers otherwise most of your writing day will be spent on it.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
First, I enjoy keeping my muse quiet for a while. She bombards me with ideas and never leaves me alone. I also think that I have a male muse as well so they fight for attention. Seriously, though. Writing is a tough job and many out there don’t truly understand just how hard it can be. It isn’t about throwing words together and having it all make sense. It’s about creating a story that’s believable, enjoyable and has the influence to absorb readers so deeply, they stay awake to read just one more chapter. That is one of the highest compliments a reader can give an author.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
This is a great question I love to answer. When I was in elementary school, I believe it was Grade Four, we had an editor come to our class to discuss the publishing process. As an avid reader, I was thrilled. Then we got to write our own little book from start to finish. We wrote the story, drew our illustrations, created our ‘cover’ (which was basically laminated card stock…but still…) and bound it. After we were finished, we got to put our book into the school library for other kids to borrow. We were supposed to take it home at the end of the year, but I’d forgotten mine in the mad rush of starting summer holidays. I actually forgot about it.
About 15 years later, my younger sister came home from school. She had had library that day and was so excited about the book she took out. Guess what book it was? The one I created all those years ago, when I was the same age my sister was when she found it.
I look that as a sign that was the profession I’d be in.
(My little book was called, “Super Bug”, which was all about a bug in a superhero costume whose only fear was size 12 shoes. J Every time our class had library, I’d always check to see if mine got taken out. And it did!)
Has your genre changed or stayed the same?
Somewhat. I do love to mix my sarcastic Scottish humor in there whenever I can. I still write for children and youth, though. That’s where my heart is.
What genre are you currently reading?
Well, I’m one of those readers who has at least three books on the go at once. You know, then I have something to read in each room. I’m reading a memoir right now, which I plan to review on my blog when I’m finished. I also bought a few books during the Boxing Day sales at Chapters. The one I chose to read first out of that stack is called, ‘Girl in the Dark’ by Marion Paux. I love suspense thrillers.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
I do read for research for my books, just to make sure I understand a subject enough. There is nothing worse than authors who choose to write about something and have no clue what they’re talking about. But I mostly read for pleasure. After all, if an author wants to develop and grow their craft, it’s good to absorb what you can from some fellow authors.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
Wow. Well, I have a very small handful of people I consider mentors. They are authors, instructors, editors and publishers who have given me advice, tips and support over the years. Without them, I would have given up a long time ago. My greatest supporter was my Uncle Craig. He was my main promotor and tooted horns for me whenever he had the chance. I lost him last year, which was really difficult, but I know that wherever he is now he’s still turning heads in the direction of my stuff.
Where is your favorite writing space?
My writing space is my ‘office’ I created in our basement. I have everything I need surrounding me right at my fingertips. It looks like a bomb went off around here some days but I call it my ‘organized mess’. I know where everything is. As odd as it sounds, I actually write better when I can hear all my kids running around. My son has his video game area set up just outside of my ‘office’. He busies himself over there, turning around every so often to say, “I love you, mom!” and I absorb myself in my task at hand. It can get a little difficult when my youngest comes down and sits behind me in my chair asking 500 million questions, but it’s all good. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
I belong to a few online groups, as well as a few local ones. Mostly, I am a part of the NaNoWriMo group, The Writers Guild of Alberta, the Canadian Authors Association groups on FB. It’s important to reach out to fellow authors as I have found that unless you are an author/writer, it’s difficult to truly understand the entire process.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?
Oh boy, that is a tough one because I enjoy so many great authors. I love John Grisham, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, John Saul, Chris Grabenstein. But I also enjoy authors such as Jodi Picoult who take real-life situations and turn them into a beautiful novel. Out of all of them, I think I’d like to chat with John Saul. One of the first books I read by him was ‘Come the Blind Fury’. Right after that, I knew I wanted to write for young adults.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
Australia. I mean, I’d love to visit places like Scotland, Ireland, Hawaii and other places but I’ve always been drawn to Australia for some reason.
Do you see writing as a career?
I pretty much decided that it already is. There aren’t many authors who can completely rely on their royalties from their books, but I think that’s my goal. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
Oh boy. I try not to eat at my desk because then I’d never leave my work area. Having said that, I do have a small stash of two kinds of candy I actually like: Sour Skittles and Vanilla clusters. I call them my ‘think candy’. There you go. That’s something very few people know about me. lol
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?
High fives from my kids and a nap. Seriously. There are a lot of days my poor kids spend looking at the back of my head when I’m on a tight deadline (or four). Once I’m all caught up, we make a family favorite meal, enjoy each other then I fall asleep. You can ask them. I have my own blanket and space on the couch. lol
CHYNNA LAIRD – is a mother of four, a freelance writer, blogger, editor and award-winning author. Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), mental and/or emotional struggles and other special needs. She’s authored two children’s books, two memoirs, a parent-to-parent resource book, a Young Adult novella, a Young Adult paranormal/suspense novel series, two New Adult contemporary novels and an adult suspense/thriller.