Archive for the ‘Book Interviews’ Category

Author Interview

April 1, 2018

Michigan Author, Ryan Ennis

Today I’m not posting about my own books or the ins-and-outs of indie publishing. At the recommendation of a friend, I’m interviewing another Michigan author, Ryan Ennis.

Welcome to “Painting With Light,” Ryan.
Thank you. Glad to be here!

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a teacher, librarian, and writer who lives in Livonia, Michigan. I grew up in Canton Township. After graduating from Eastern Michigan, I went on to get two master’s degrees from Wayne State in Detroit.

My first two books were actually children’s book—THE THURSDAY SURPRISE and THE SEPTEMBER SURPRISE. Both are stories about kids and autism.

What led you to write children’s books about autism?
I’m a special education teacher who works with kids with autism. The idea for my first book came from the children. As a progressive educator, I saw the benefits of typical kids having interactions with the kids enrolled in the special education classrooms.

I’m impressed…but I understand it’s not all you like to write.
Besides writing children’s books, I love to write short stories. I’m the author of a recent short story collection called THE UNEXPECTED.

What would you like to tell us about your new book?
THE UNEXPECTED is a collection of nineteen tales with themes that have preoccupied me since I began writing stories in my teens: the nature of love; the consequences of acting on impulses; and the need or longing inside of us to be fulfilled.

Perhaps of interest to metro Detroit readers are the local suburban settings featured in my stories: Ferndale, Livonia, Royal Oak, Garden City, Hazel Park, etc. To appeal to a wide audience the collection strives for a balance with male and female main characters in overlapping settings and plots.

I enjoy exploring the psychology of my characters. Consequently, I spend time (in the form of detailed prose) getting into my characters’ heads, providing clear motivations for their actions, so that they are relatable and empathetic.

Yet, I also like to reserve a certain amount of mystery about them, so the final part of their tales brings about a denouement or resolution the reader never expected. Writing stories that leave a reader with a last impression has always been my goal.

That’s a wide range of subjects. It makes me wonder…what were you like at school?
Depending on the subject, I could be two different people. In certain math and science classes (neither of them my forte), I was the quiet one sitting off to the side or in the back.

But I was quite the opposite in English, foreign language, and social studies. In those classes, I’d sit front-and-center, always prepared with homework, and frequently volunteered to answer questions. I enjoyed having good relationships with my instructors.

I still have the awards I received from my ninth-grade English and German teachers in a file box. I also have a professor’s note, written on the back of an essay, encouraging me to apply for the Honor’s Program and become her research assistant.

Every so often, I’ll pull out old notes and messages and reread them. I’m sentimental that way. Thanks to Facebook, e-mails, and blogs, I’ve been able to stay in touch with some of my wonderful instructors from back in the day.

Readers often ask…where do your ideas come from?
My fiction comes mainly from two places: my heart and my eyes. When I say my heart, I mean my emotions and personal experiences that I feel need to be conveyed to the world with a voice other than my own—through my fictional characters.

As a writer, I’m also a keen observer of people—society. By analyzing and writing about the challenges and problems I see others facing, I find I’m a deeper thinker, a more compassionate and caring person, and hope my work inspires my readers to become the same.

What’s the hardest thing for you about writing?
The time factor is a major issue. When you’re a home and dog owner, teacher, and have a part-time job on the side, it can be difficult to find writing opportunities.

OK – so what’s the easiest thing?
I’ve always had a vivid imagination. When I walk my dog at night, I reflect a great deal on situations in my own life or in others, and envision a story unfolding from them. If only I had a transcriber who could read my thoughts and turn them into polished sentences and paragraphs…then the writing part would be a breeze.

Who (or what) inspires your writing?
Since all good stories must have conflicts, my writing stems from either personal challenges or the challenges of others I read about or experience in everyday life.

I also enjoy looking at portraits or scenes in a painting and creating a story about the people depicted in them, based on what I observe in their facial expressions. In my opinion, there’s nothing more exciting than dwelling in a world inspired by great art!

Do you work to an outline or prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
As a writer of mostly shorter works, I don’t find it necessary to write from an outline. Before I begin typing my story, I’ve already spent a considerable amount of time pondering how it all will play out.

When do you do most of your writing?
With my busy schedule, I try to set aside time in the evenings and on weekends to write, even if it means just enough to write a few paragraphs before bed. I try to keep myself in what I call “writing shape”—able to write productively.

Do you have any funny or peculiar writing habits?
I once read that Jackie Collins carried a notebook around with her everywhere and would write whenever she had moments free, even if it meant when she was stopped in her car waiting for the traffic light to change. I never attempted that one.

In my early twenties, I read several Victorian novels whose author introductions described how they would take their desks out onto their lawns in the summer, and produce flowery prose from sun-up until sundown. I tried it a few times, but I couldn’t concentrate outdoors—not sure why.

Oddly, I do my best writing sitting on my sofa with my laptop resting on a small stand in front of me. I usually have the TV or my stereo turned on low, though I don’t pay much attention to either. It seems I need some soft noise in the background to help me concentrate.

How have you evolved creatively since you started writing?
Over the years, my writing has naturally gotten better, the plot lines and character development of my stories more engaging. I enjoy getting into the mindset of my characters, the narrative of my stories driven by their thoughts, providing motivation for their actions.

I’ve never cared for stories in which the characters seemed vague or underdeveloped. I want my readers to be engrossed in the actions and the thoughts of my characters. I still have the first short story I ever wrote. I keep it around as a reminder of the importance of determination. My writing skills have come a long way since then.

For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional printed books?
I generally prefer reading printed books. Holding a book in my hand and turning the pages are experiences I still treasure. When it comes to newspaper and magazine articles, I’d rather read those online.

Who are your favorite authors?
My all-time favorite is Joyce Carol Oates. Her short stories are masterpieces. Even when one is only a few pages long, I feel as though I’ve inhabited a vast landscape after reading it. She manages to engage readers with her descriptions and her character’s emotional states. I also enjoy short stories by Truman Capote and Raymond Carver. Like them, I try to compose works that delve into the psychology of my characters.

Most writers I’ve met have a favorite quote. What’s yours?
My quote speaks to connection between reading and writing: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King (editor’s note: Good choice!)

Reading everyday has so many benefits—improving your memory, increasing your vocabulary, and relieving stress. It can even help you to become a better writer. Most writers started out as voracious readers. I can say that my appetite for stories and books is what made me want to be a writer.

If there was something you could change about yourself, what would it be?
Watching how environmental problems have impacted our world, especially how they’ve destroyed crucial habitat for animals, I would like to get more involved in active conservation efforts. Endangered species are disappearing from our world at an alarming rate and may be gone completely in the not-too-distant future.

I would like to do something to stop that. After I retire from teaching, being an animal conservationist might be my next chapter—along with writing about this new adventure.

Reviews for “The Unexpected” have been very positive. How do you think you’d react to a negative review?
Always seeking to improve, I welcome constructive feedback.

What are your plans for future projects?
I’m currently in the initial phase of drafting a novel set in the ’80s. There’s many things about the ’80s—the music, the TV shows, the presence of bookstores everywhere—that I love.

Fascinating. Good luck with your writing, Ryan, and thank you for your time.

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You can find out more about Ryan at these links:

Twitter
Goodreads
LinkedIn
Pinterest

RYAN’S BOOK LINKS:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords

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Gentle Readers, my own books have garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

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You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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On March 1, 2018, Rochester Media started publishing my articles about writing. The column will update twice a month. Come on over, take a look, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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On Sunday, April 29, 2018, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, I will participate with a host of other local area writers in the Books & Authors book-signing event at the eclectic Leon & Lulu store on Fourteen Mile Road in Clawson, Michigan. Drop in and buy a book…there will be lots to choose from.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Author Interview – Laura Lee

November 11, 2014

Today I’m not posting about my own books, or talking about any of the ins-and-outs of indie publishing. I’m returning a favor by interviewing another Michigan author who was kind enough to tell her own blog followers about my writing adventures.

Today’s author, Laura Lee, not only plans to publish her next book as an indie, but already has quite a few traditionally published books to her credit.

Laura Lee, Author
Laura Lee, Traditional and Indie Author

Welcome to “Painting With Light,” Laura.
Thank you, Ron.

Laura, I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t read any of your work. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m mostly known for non-fiction in the humorous reference category. My best seller was “The Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravation.” Last year I did a book with Reader’s Digest called “Don’t Screw It Up.”

Lately, I’m more focused on fiction and other projects. My first novel “Angel” was published in 2011 and was released in audio format for the first time a couple of weeks ago. (I’ve found it is hard to find reviewers for audiobooks.)

I’ve decided to try the indie route for my next novel, “Identity Theft.” This is a new experience for me. I raised the initial funds on Pubslush, the literary crowd-funding site.

My campaign was both more successful and exciting than I had expected and also a little bit disappointing because I think I might have had more success reaching people outside my normal circle of friends on another, more popular, crowd-funding site. Live and learn.

Where do your ideas come from?
My non-fiction books have been a combination of ideas I generated and some generated by publishers. I like having books assigned to me and just writing them because I enjoy the process of writing much more than I like the process of marketing and selling the concept of a book.

I can’t say that I have a source of ideas for fiction. My novel “Angel” was initially sparked by a trip to Washington. I took a bus tour of Mt. Rainier and the entertaining tour guide kept talking about burning out on his old job. At some point someone asked him what his old job had been and he said “a minister.”

I kept coming back to the question of what would attract someone to both the mountain and the ministry and what kind of conflict might put him out of step with his congregation. When the idea that the character might become attracted to another man hit me the rest of the story followed naturally.

Early on, I wrote terrible fiction that was highly autobiographical. I’ve found I get much better results when I put some distance between myself and my story. I need some overarching concept to guide the story.

With “Angel” it was the metaphor of the mountain. With “Identity Theft” it’s the notion of personal identity.

I think it is a common misconception that a big problem for writers is coming up with ideas. For me, the more pressing problem is finding the time and energy to develop the ideas I have into finished products.

Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I’ve never been able to write from an outline. When I was in school, when you had to turn in an outline first, I always had to write the whole paper then go back and create an outline from what I had written.

For me the natural progression of writing comes from the writing itself. Of course, with non-fiction book proposals you have to create an outline. Then you write the book and it is always different from the proposal.

In terms of fiction, I generally do not start with a plot and write from beginning to end. I have ideas, I write scenes, bits of dialogue. At some point I have enough critical mass that I see how they fit together and I finish the whole book. I write in layers and the novels I have written have all taken shape over a period of years.

When do you do most of your writing?
Writing for me is a multi-stage process. So there is a period when you are writing down concepts and ideas. Then you realize that you have hit a roadblock and you go and do something else.

I will often pose the question to myself: What is missing here? Then I will go and take a shower or watch TV or read a book. At some point my subconscious will come back with the answer to the question and then I will go and write it down as quickly as I can before it escapes.

So I am constantly writing little things in notebooks and on scrap paper. A lot of times I will write down the rough notes and then polish it in the morning. I am a full time writer, so I write fairly constantly. I don’t find that a “morning pages” or “time for writing now” approach works for me.

Who (or what) inspires your writing?
My novels tend to be made up of various attempts at writing other novels. I will write something and put it aside and later get a new idea and suddenly something from the past will seem to fit in with it.

A number of years ago I worked in the office of the folk singer Arlo Guthrie, sitting under a gold record with a spider caught under the glass, and I was handed a stack of fan letters to answer. I tend to file away details like a framed gold record with a spider caught under the glass.

I thought that the idea of someone who was tasked with answering fan correspondence online, who decided to take on the rock star’s identity was an interesting concept for fiction.

The idea languished for a while, but I recently saw Adam Ant in concert. He was the iconic rock star for me … my junior high school idol … and the experience of seeing him years later got me thinking about the story again. This time I had the momentum to finish it. “Identity Theft” deals with a lot of the things I have been thinking about and reading about in the past few years.

Do you have any funny or peculiar writing habits?
Ideas seem to come to me like magic in the shower. I don’t know why that is.

What’s your favorite quote?
I like this quote by Philip Schultz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet:

    “To pay for my father’s funeral I borrowed money from people he already owed money to. One called him a nobody. No, I said, he was a failure. You can’t remember a nobody’s name, that’s why they’re called nobodies. Failures are unforgettable.”

What would you change about yourself, if you could?
I would have been born with a small fortune.

What do you find the hardest thing about writing?
I enjoy writing. What I find hardest is maintaining a career as a writer.

What are your plans for future projects?
My novel “Angel” just came out in audio and “Identity Theft” is coming soon. Beyond that, it will depend on what I am able to sell. I have a proposal for a biography that I am quite invested in circulating. I’ve written a stage play, a comedy, which has gotten some good feedback, but it has a relatively large cast which is a challenge in terms of getting it staged.

I have another novel, which is complete and has come close to being sold a couple of times, which I may put out after “Identity Theft.” I’ve also been having some conversations about more non-fiction. So, whatever someone will pay me to do next will be the next thing.

Thank you for talking with us, Laura.

You can find out more about Laura Lee on her web site, check her out on Goodreads or follow her on Twitter.

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My readers know there is a lot of realistic Vietnam War reference in my novels “Reichold Street” and “One Way Street.” I think today is the perfect day to express my gratitude to all my friends who served or perished over there.

In fact, I’d like to thank all our military personnel, everywhere, including my father-in-law and my late father, for their service and sacrifice. We’re extremely proud of you.

As always, you can find my books as eBooks or paperback on Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble. You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

My Television Interview

October 19, 2014


What it actually looked like in the studio

Earned Media
In an effort to develop some of the earned media I’ve talked about before, I was recently interviewed by Independence Television, one of the nearby local cable channels, for a program called “It’s a Good Day When…” hosted by Lavonne Upton.

The whole segment is about 24-minutes long (fair warning).

Although the first several minutes of it are introduction, Lavonne asked some very insightful questions for about twenty minutes that let me talk about the fiction I’ve written.

Several people have already asked about it, and I’ve embedded the interview into one of the pages on my web site.

But, rather than spend a lot of time here talking about it, explaining it or redirecting you, I thought I’d just go ahead and post it here and let everyone see it for themselves.

I’m Not a Kardashian
Given the state of our media today, I’m sure the kind of attention I would really like to generate would only be available if I had been willing to run naked through the mall, shouting my name and waving a banner with my book titles on it.

The video of my arrest doing something like that might even have had a chance to go viral.

I would have been sure to scream out my name and tell everyone the titles of the four books I’ve written … as they handcuffed me and dragged me away.

But that might have been extremely hard to explain to my kids and grandkids (not to mention my wife and mother, or any of my friends in the neighborhood).

So this was a much safer route to take. The most I’ve had to explain was to someone who thought I’d dyed my hair for the interview (I didn’t, but I certainly wish I’d had some makeup for the dark circles under my eyes).

With any luck, a lot of people will still see it. At the very least, I hope they’ll tell all their friends about it and encourage those friends to tell all their friends, too. It shouldn’t take that many iterations to have contacted a whole town.

Maybe some few of them will buy a book.

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You can find my books as eBooks or paperback on Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble. You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

 


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