Interview with June Hyjek

This week’s guest is author June Hyjek.

As a MindBody Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist, Meditation Teacher and Reiki Master, June Hyjek offers extensive experience in pain and stress management, working with clients to help them move through life’s transitions with grace and peace. Her practice emphasizes techniques that work to create physical, emotional and spiritual fitness.

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June’s new book, Unexpected Grace: A Discovery of Healing through Surrender, has just recently been released. This motivational story shares her journey to find healing after life-changing medical challenges and the many losses that came from it. Struggling with career, identity, and self-worth – and more importantly, the loss of dreams and expectations – each phase of the journey brings new truths, lessons and perspectives. With ultimate surrender and a strong connection to a network of friends, June finds true acceptance, without resignation, and balance and center in the extremes of life. With love and support, she discovers the courage to be vulnerable. And at the end of the journey, she comes, quite unexpectedly, to a place of grace.

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Getting to know the author:

How long have you been a writer?

JH: I spent 25 years in corporate marketing, which included a lot of business writing.  Personally, I’ve always used journals as an expressive outlet.  I began writing as an author about 3 ½ years ago.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

JH: I’m a fairly contemplative person – sometimes to my detriment – and like writing about life observations, lessons and insights.  I was also told long ago to write about what you know.  So, since I am a holistic health practitioner, using mind/body techniques to help people with pain and stress, I write about these holistic methods.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre?

JH: I write narrative non-fiction, inspirational stories and I try to draw from my own experiences so that I can truly speak from the heart.  I enjoy writing and reading these books because they show us that we are not alone in our struggles, giving us a sense of shared humanity.  Quite simply, these books make us feel good!

Have you won any awards for your writing?

JH: Yes, for “Unexpected Grace: A Discovery of Healing through Surrender,” I’ve won the Bronze in the Global E-Book Contest and an Honorable Mention in the Global Book Contest.

What inspired you to write your first book?

JH: My first book actually came about by accident.  A few years ago, I went through some significant medical challenges.  The night before surgery, I sent out an email to my friends asking them to think of me the next day and to send out a prayer or energetic hug.  I got a lot of responses and encouragement to keep sending them updates.  Things didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, and my updates became a year-long conversation with my friends about my experiences dealing with the pain and transition.  Along the way, my friends encouraged me to turn this “interactive journal” into a book.

What do you think your book offers that others in the same genre do not?

JH: My book is not “self-help” or preachy.  It doesn’t tell anyone what they have to fix, do better or do differently.  Contrary to many stories about a life challenge, I don’t tell them to “stay strong,” “fight through it,” “beat this thing.”  I never use the words battle or overcome.  I try to simply share my experiences, insights and lessons and hope that through my words, the reader will find their own path to peace.

Also, although my issue was a medical challenge, the lessons learned apply to any type of life transition and the story will resonate with readers on many levels.

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

JH: I love the part when you get out of bed at 3 am because you can’t sleep since the words are just filling your brain and you just have to get them on paper.  It’s that time of inspired creativity that makes everything seem so clear and bright.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

JH: I find my inspiration from life observations, stories and experiences, both my own and those I hear from others.  I am motivated by the sense of a shared community of life, that we are all in this together and ultimately connected to one another.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

JH: I’d have to say I am inspired more by individuals versus authors.  Some are famous; some are authors; some are neither.  I am inspired by dignity and grace, caring, compassion and openness.  I am inspired by people who try to see, feel and connect.  To name one individual who is, in fact, an author as well as renowned holistic doctor, I am inspired by Dr. Bernie Siegel.  And I am extremely proud that he has endorsed my book.  Why does he inspire me?  Because he understands.  (You may ask, what does he understand?)  Because of his compassion and connection to others, he simply understands.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time?

JH: I am a full-time author, although I do also have a part-time holistic practice which corresponds to my writing.  I work with people, privately and in groups, to help them create physical and emotional healing using mind/body techniques that enable them to connect to their inner place of peace and grace.  I also conduct workshops and do motivational speaking.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

JH: I am an avid reader and also incorporate both exercise and meditation into my regular schedule.  But what I enjoy most is spending time with my husband.  It doesn’t matter what we do – watch a movie or a silly sit-com, go for a drive, or just sit outside and relax.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

JH: I have many, and my favorite probably changes daily!  Here are some of my favorites:

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

-Abraham Lincoln

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

-Pema Chodron

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, won or consumed.  Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.

-Author Unknown

Today we will live in the moment – unless it’s unpleasant, in which case me will eat a cookie.

-Cookie Monster

Where do you enjoy vacationing?

JH: The easy answer is anywhere my husband and I are together.  But I’m sure you were looking for more details. . .I’m not much of a beach person and I’m scared of being in the ocean, but I do like Hawaii and Aruba.  I do enjoy poolside reading, sunshine and a tropical breeze!  I also loved France and would like to see more of Europe.  It’s not the sightseeing I like; it’s experiencing different cultures and histories.

Where are you currently living? Do you find inspiration in a certain room or space of your home or surrounding area?

JH: I live in Willington, Connecticut, most of which is very rural but not farm-like.  Our house and land feels very private and secluded, and it’s very comforting.  I write in my home office, but I’ll get a flash of inspiration just about anywhere – sometimes while sleeping or during meditation, but it can also come when I’m doing laundry!

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written?

JH: My first book, “Unexpected Grace: A Discovery of Healing through Surrender,” is the only one published so far.  I am also working on a couple other projects.  One is a cook book about foods that reduce pain and inflammation.  The second one is about the tragic death of a young boy, and how the family handles the grief and destruction to the family as a unit.  This one has a working title of, “Quiet Tears.”

Do you have one or two specific spots or places where you write? If so, why do you choose to write there? If not, why do you write in multiple places?

JH: Because of neck and spine injuries and subsequent nerve damage, it’s difficult for me to write by hand.  So I always write at the computer in my home office.

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

JH: If I’m writing from a flash of inspiration and creativity, it’s a matter of just getting the words down as quickly as possible.  So I just type, free-flow, no editing.  If I’m having a little difficulty figuring out what I want to write, I will meditate first to quiet the mind and let go.  Then I will outline what I want to say.  If I’m still having difficulty, I will write “Once upon a time. . .”  (I talked about this a little in the beginning of my book.)  Usually, from there, it’s easy to release and the words just come.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

JH: Yes.  I want readers to have hope and see that life and healing doesn’t have to be a struggle, and that the struggle itself uses the energy you need to heal.  When you look at it as a battle to be won, you make that pain, stress or challenge into an entity and give it power.  When you simply accept – not with resignation, but with peace – your reality of the moment, you can use that energy to move through whatever challenge you’re facing with ease and grace.  Life is about growth and connection, not about fighting and conquering.

Are experiences in your works often based on someone you know, or events you have personally experienced?

JH: Yes.  My work is always based on real life experiences, mine or others.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

JH: I struggled a little with the journal-type format.  But I’m not sure I would change it because I think it would lose some of the personal voice and sound more like a self-help book.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

JH: The hardest part was having the courage to put it out into the world.  The words and story are very personal, and it was difficult to be that open with strangers.  I felt a bit exposed, but I also felt that if someone didn’t like the story, they would not only be criticizing the book, they would be criticizing me.  I had to come to terms with that type of rejection before I could publish.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

JH: In addition to having the courage to publish a very honest story, actually creating the book and getting it into the market is a long, difficult process.  I was fortunate, though, to have a great team.  Between my publisher, my design company and my distributor, I was guided through the process every step of the way.

Give us an insight into your main character of your latest work. What does he/she do that is so special?

JH: I guess you could say the main character is me.  What did I do that was so special?  I let go.

How is your day structured? Do you set aside a specific block of time everyday to write?

JH: When I am in active writing mode, I like to write early in the morning, which is when I feel most open and creative.  When I am in the early project phase or focused more on marketing versus writing, I usually start my day with exercise, then a little meditation, and then sit down to plan and tackle what needs to be done.

Do you write every day? If not what days do you write and why have you discovered this works best for you?

JH: I probably write something every day, whether it’s an article, blog, talk or workshop presentation.  As for book writing, I write best when I am struck by that lightening of creative inspiration.  I’ve found that you can’t rush the process and that writing this type of book is not done best in production mode.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

JH: I do both free-flow and outlines, depending on where I am in the project and how I am feeling.  If the words are there, I let them come.  I don’t hold them back because I haven’t outlined yet or because they don’t fit into the outline I’ve already done.  As I said in my book:  “Other than murder, telling a woman she looks fat, and wearing a fanny-pack in public, there aren’t a lot of things that can’t be undone, redone or fixed in life.  We can always go back and change the first line – change our thoughts, our words and our beliefs, and change our lives.”

I can always change what I’ve written.  That’s what the edit and delete keys are for.

JH: Do you develop your characters first, or the plot and events?

I usually start with the concept and then outline the key messages or experiences I want to share.  As was the case with “Unexpected Grace,” I do not yet know how “Quiet Tears” will end.  Since my writing is experiential, I expect that will be the case in most books I write.

JH: How long (on average) does it take you to write a book?

“Unexpected Grace” was written over the course of a year during the actual experience I was writing about.  It then took me about nine months to pull it together and create the manuscript.  I expect the cook book and “Quiet Tears” will take about a year.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

JH: I prefer to think of it as simply a time of less inspiration and creativity.  We all have good days and not-as-good days.  The word itself, “block,” carries an energy of hardness and impenetrability.  Thinking along those lines creates a barrier to the inspiration, while a gentle, compassionate acceptance of wherever you are and whatever is happening at the moment creates an opening for the creativity to flow through.

As an example, there have been times when I’m on a Spin bike during which my pain levels are high; I’m tired and I hurt.  I accept my reality at that moment and give myself compassion to be okay with however my workout turns out.  Inevitably, once I’ve let myself “off the hook,” I end up working just as hard as usual and have a great experience!

Do you set your work aside for a certain amount of time before editing and rewriting? If so, for how long and why do you find this effective?

JH: I don’t think there is a straight answer for this.  It depends on my schedule and the work itself.  If possible, I will usually do an immediate review and edit and I always read it out loud.  Then you can really hear your words.

Who edited your latest book and how did you select him/her/them?

JH: “Unexpected Grace” was edited initially by Rita Reali, who was recommended to me by my publisher.  My design company also had the book edited by their professional editors.

Tell us about the cover. Did you design it yourself or have a team do that for you? If you did not design the cover yourself who did and how and why did you select that designer?

JH: My design company, also recommended by my publisher, came up with the cover.  They gave me several concepts and I kept getting pulled toward this one, even though I initially had something completely different in mind.  With some color scheme and font changes, we came up with what I think is a spectacular cover.

Publishing:

How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each?

JH: My book is published by an independent publisher here in Connecticut, and I think independent publishing is the way to go.  The big publishers won’t even look at your manuscript.  Self-publishing may seem easy, and yes, you can get a book up online pretty quickly and inexpensively.  But the designs are templates, not original, and there is no quality control.  Also, you have no guidance on process or recommendations for the right professional services.  And once the book is produced, no matter how good you are at marketing, you will not be able to get your book into libraries, special markets or national retailers.  They only deal with distributors and publishers.  And it would be very unlikely to get a national distributor when you self-publish, generally because of quality issues and lack of referral from a publisher.

From a market perspective, when the public buys a self-published book from an unknown author, and the book is filled with typos or poor writing, it looks bad for the rest of us.  This is happening way too often in the self-publishing market, and it has made readers leery of purchasing self-published books or books from smaller authors.

If an author knows the industry well, is connected to the right professional staff, and is willing to invest significant time and money, they can be successful in the self-publishing market.  But the vast majority have a “build it and they will come” belief, and typically sell less than 100 books over time.

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? If yes, how so?

JH: Social networking is valuable because it allows you to broadcast events, such as book signings, workshops, etc.  But it is the group involvement that does more to help than simply putting out an author’s page on Facebook or LinkedIn.  Their value is in making connections to people you don’t know, not just in connecting to friends and family.

What other ways have you marketed your books?

JH: In addition to my distributor, workshops and speaking, I try to attend many author events and book signings.  I also send press releases when events or topics are related and network with people interested in holistic health and healing.

Where and how are your books sold?

JH: My book was just published in May 2013 and re-released about a month ago, so we are at the beginning of the sales process.  Although I actively sell through back-of-the-room or book events, the major sales effort for my book is being done by my distributor.  The book is up online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Shelfari, LibraryThing and a number of other online sites.

“Unexpected Grace” is also in the following mind/body retailers nationally:

Thistle Glass Crafts; Ellington, CT                        Eleventh Step Books; Westmont, NJ

Enchantments; Manchester, CT                        Genesis Books & Gifts; Las Vegas, NV

All in All Curiosity Shoppe; Willington, CT            Golden Braid Books; Salt Lake City, UT

Parkade Health Shoppe; Manchester, CT            Journeys of Life; Pittsburgh, PA

Mondazzi Books; Windsor, CT                        Squirreled Away Books; Armada, MI

The Quest Bookshop; Charlottesville, VA            Mostly Books; Tucson, AZ

Choices, The Recovery Bookshop; NY, NY

We are also currently in negotiations with Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million and a number of library systems nationwide.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

JH: Produce a quality book (whether independently or self published) and get a national distributor.  Recognize that unless you’re a famous author with a big publishing deal, making your book a success will cost money.  Make sure you have dollars budgeted for the marketing of the book, not just on the production.  Both are important, but if you spent all your money on the production, you’ll have lots of pretty books sitting in your garage.  Don’t skimp on production, but make sure your budget includes marketing, too.

Market through a national distributor, get quality promotional materials made up (poster, bookmarks, hand-out cards), attend every book event you can find and set up some of your own.  (Local libraries love to host authors. Local craft shows and fairs.)  Reviews and awards can be helpful, but also expensive and very competitive.  Look at special or non-retail markets related to your subject and book.  If applicable to your book, speak on your topic.  Children’s authors can do story time at schools or libraries.  Other authors can get their books into local book clubs.  Join a local authors’ association.  (Here it is the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association.)  And network, network, network.

How much time to you devote to marketing your books?

JH: Right now, 80% of my time is spent on marketing efforts.

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in the future?

JH: I would make a special version for review copies, one that could not be resold.  I gave out over 50 books for reviews and unfortunately, even though the books were clearly marked, “Not for Resale,” many of the reviewers resold the books on E-Bay and Amazon as third party sellers at heavily discounted prices.  This obviously hurt my sales, and there is no easy way to clamp down on this unethical activity.

What do you think of “trailers” for books? (Most online trailers include a brief “movie” or slideshow of photos, music, and text to intrigue readers about a new and upcoming book, much like movie trailers do for films.)

JH: In my opinion, readers are “word” people.  If you like to read books, where do you find out about books you might like to read?  I wouldn’t search You Tube for a book recommendation, and I’m not sure I would be convinced by a commercial, which is what a trailer is.  If you’ve got the cash to spend, go ahead and do a trailer.  But I think the money is better spent on distribution and publicity.  Blog, guest blog, get articles in magazines, related online sites, and newspapers.  People who buy books read.  Let them read about your book, not watch it.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

JH: Except for the issue with reviewers, strategically giving your book away can be helpful and it’s necessary to get reviews.  Donating to schools or toy drives (for children’s and young adults), shelters, hospitals, high-profile people in your area, can create publicity and word-of-mouth buzz.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

JH: 1) Learn the publishing industry.  You can’t be an accountant without understanding accounting.  How can you be an author without understanding the industry?

2) Get a mentor to help guide you through the process, act as a sounding board, and be your best critic.

3)  Do right by your writing and produce a quality book.

4)  Develop a realistic budget and make sure you have the resources you need before beginning.

5)  Get professional services.  In this age of self-publishing, we think we can do it all ourselves.  This isn’t a good industry for DIY.  Decide what it is you’re good at and get help with the rest.  I’m a writer, not a designer or sales person.  So I hired professionals for those services.

6) Be patient.  Don’t rush the process, and don’t give up hope when it all happens more slowly than you thought.  Believe in your work.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

JH: Thank you for giving me the honor of sharing my story with you.  I would like to hear yours.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively over the years as a writer?

JH: At one point in my career, I was the editor for a corporate newsletter.  One day, as I plunked the latest edition on my boss’ desk, I asked him this question.  “Does anyone LIKE to write?”  He said to me, “No.  They just decide the end result is worth the effort.”

I understand what he means now, and that has helped me to relax with the process.  Although the process can be difficult, the end result is both humbling and uplifting.  It’s definitely worth the effort.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

JH: Taking your intellect out of the process and letting the creativity come through.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

JH: Typing.  Everything else is hard.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

JH: None, for two reasons.  One, I think we have to walk a certain path to learn our lessons.  And two, if I changed who I was then, I wouldn’t be the person I am now.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

JH: Readers can visit my website, http://aplaceofgrace.net, and find out more about my book, services, philosophies, blog and upcoming events.

Interview with John and Nancy Petralia

Happy Wednesday! Today my honorary guests are John and Nancy Petralia, authors of Not in a Tuscan Villa. The book is the story of two sixty-somethings who abandon a comfortable retirement to move to Italy for a year. The experience-good and bad-recaptured their youth, reinvigorated their romance, and gave them a new perspective on America and how they want to live the rest of their lives.

Personal: Getting to know the Authors:

How long have you been a writer? Best

J&NP: This is our first book. We aren’t writers by profession. It took us about 18 months to complete Not in a Tuscan Villa.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

J&NP: I guess we enjoy commenting on life around us. Living abroad, your perspective is quite different. You can’t help comparing the foreign place to what you know in America. And the insights it gives you–about culture, family, relationships, and yourself–are things we like to share.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre?

J&NP: We’re non-fiction writers. Nancy, because I’m no good at making up stuff, and John because it fits his commentary style.

What inspired you to write your first book?

J&NP: We figured out how to have our dream of living in Italy for a year, as ordinary citizens. When we came home, the experience had so changed the way we wanted to experience the rest of our lives that we wanted to share it. We NEEDED to share it.

What do you think your book offers that others in the same genre do not?

J&NP: It’s not a travelogue. It’s not like Under the Tuscan Sun or some other book about buying a run-down house in the country and fixing it up with funny workmen. It’s not about picking grapes and olives and eating out under the stars. It’s about real life in Italy, where you have to negotiate the everyday mysteries of train ticketing, public and private bureaucracy, getting the cable fixed and the internet installed, and you might end up in the hospital–twice. It’s about looking for ways to make friends and become part of a local community, and the rewards of rediscovering your romance.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

J&NP: We love and are inspired by Bill Bryson. What travel writer wouldn’t be. He’s adventuresome, insightful, irreverent, and hilarious. He’s also a VERY skilled writer who knows how to weave a complex story and deliver a punchline. We learned a lot about writing by reading and analyzing his work.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

J&NP: “You are what you read.” It’s the motto of our book club.

Where do you enjoy vacationing?

J&NP: Italy of course, but we still want to go to South America, spend more time in Spain and some of France. The Balkan cruise to St Petersburg is on the list. It’s actually a long list.

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Books, Writings, and Routines:

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

J&NP: We found the discipline of the library writers’ group helped us finish the book. We had to show up each week with four pages each to read. Sometimes we wrote quite a bit more, but we always had to have at least four.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

J&NP: Whatever your dream is, to live abroad, to climb a mountain, to try your hand at sculpture, whatever. JUST DO IT. The experience will change your life in ways you never expected and energize the rest of your life.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

J&NP: Learning how to craft a story. We had lots of source material, but creating the story arc, within the chapters and throughout the book was the hardest part. We cut, rearranged, edited many times to get it where we wanted. Also, figuring how to start was difficult. The approach we finally took was suggested by a critique at a writers’ workshop.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

J&NP: Figuring out how to write it together. We settled on alternating chapters and forcing the styles to be different. Nancy’s style is more narrative, and John’s is more commentary, closer to that of an essayist. In both cases there’s an intentional attempt to emphasize our personality quirks so it’s obvious who’s speaking.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

J&NP: We could read four double-spaced pages each at our writers’ group. In the beginning we would write to the four pages each week. Eventually we learned that we needed to tell the STORY in whatever space it took and just read four of the pages. But the discipline of producing every week drove us to completion.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

J&NP: Since the book is a series of essays, we had to figure out the point of each chapter and then how they fit together to tell the overarching story. We find ourselves in situations and then develop the story around those situations.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

J&NP: For us it was just the opposite. The stuff was inside us and had to come out.

Tell us about the cover. Did you design it yourself or have a team do that for you? If you did not design the cover yourself who did and how and why did you select that designer?

J&NP: The publisher provided a designer who’s done over 600 books. She’s a fabulous artist and extremely creative. She used several of the photos Nancy took as the basis for a variety of different approaches. We fell in love with the one we chose.

Not in a Tuscan Villa cover

Marketing & Book Signings:

What ways have you marketed your books?

J&NP: Book signings, lectures about related topics. We’re also interested in reaching book clubs and Italian cultural groups.

Where and how are your books sold?

J&NP: Amazon, some B & N, independent bookstores. Amazon has recommended it on their Hot New Releases list and in their email marketing.

What do you do to get book reviews?

J&NP: ASK everyone we can reach who’s read the book, to post on Amazon and Goodreads. A few will actually do it. Sent copies to professional reviewers.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales?

J&NP: We have a personal email list of about 300 people. I’ve sent announcements to them about the initial publication, the Kindle release, and will send one about holiday purchases. That spiked the initial sales for both the print copy and Kindle version.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

J&NP: Don’t know yet. We’ve given some to reviewers and will try the Goodreads giveaway program. But other authors have told us this wasn’t particularly helpful in generating sales. We don’t fit the profile of authors who are promoting a series or plan to write many more books, so I don’t know how useful it would be.

Tell us a little about your latest book signing. What all did it entail? How long did it last?

J&NP: We spent a few minutes introducing ourselves and why we wrote the book, then each of us read a short section. Our library time spanned two hours so we repeated that process at the top of the second hour for those who came in later. We answered a lot of questions in both venues.

We coupled it with a reading or Q & A from book clubs so it lasted 1-2 hours.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

J&NP: Read. And not just the genre you want to write in. If you want to be a good writer, read people who are great. Invest in learning to write better. We started with our writers’ group, but also went to a writers’ conference, had two professional critiques, and had the manuscript critiqued by a carefully selected group of avid readers, including a former professional editor for a major publishing house. Use professionals for editing, cover, and your interior design.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

J&NP: Open your mind to another view of the world. Take the time to SEE, not just observe the world around you and consider what that means.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively over the years as a writer?

J&NP: We’re much better writers than when we started. And much better readers. Writing makes you a more critical reader and vise versa.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

J&NP: We write non-fiction so it’s about turning what happened into a story.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

J&NP: Stream of consciousness–getting it down the first time.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

J&NP: Go for your dreams earlier. Don’t get hung up on all the reasons why you can’t do it.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

J&NP: Visit the FB page for Not in a Tuscan Villa. Visit our website, NotinaTuscanVilla.com. And Nancy’s Goodreads author page. Send us an email or post something…we love to hear from readers.

Facebook

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

*Extra Credit Questions*

Is Not in a Tuscan Villa a memoir? DSC03549_2

J&NP: Not exactly, although it is our recollections of things we experienced during our year in Italy. We like to call it “adventure learning.” The adventure certainly changed us, and we take the reader on our journey of discovery. We take turns with the chapters which is something different.

How have you changed from the experience?

J&NP: We came home wanting to recreate the daily experience we had in Parma–and to relocate to a city. Both consciously and unconsciously we’ve applied the lessons we learned to our search for a new hometown. To our surprise, the place we chose has even more of them than we originally thought so we’ve certainly internalized a new perspective.

Interview with Author Renee Novelle

This Wednesday I warmly welcome my featured guest, Renee Novelle, who is best known for her psychological thrillers and paranormal fiction.

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Formerly a freelance journalist, R.S. Novelle has found placement of 75 of her pieces in both online and print publications since 2008. Additionally, she has written multiple screenplays, and contributed her effective writing style to many non-profit and profit organizations. She has launched several blogs over the years, which garnered international attention.

In 2013, Novelle returned to her first love – fiction. Writing under the names Renee Novelle and R.S. Novelle, she has a publication schedule that includes psychological thrillers, suspense, paranormal fiction, contemporary women’s fiction, chick lit, and new adult.

Though she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Communication, Summa Cum Laude, she considers herself a constant student of the written word. She’s an avid reader, an enthusiastic quote poster, and rarely takes “no” as a final answer. She has an unhealthy obsession for theater, dance, music and art, and strongly believes that wine is simultaneously the beginning of, and resolution to, all of life’s problems. She believes in following dreams, and that in the end, you always end up where you’re meant to be.

Renee’s latest novel, REFLECTIONS, is a short paranormal suspense story, with just a touch of a romantic element.

ReflectionsNEW

Synopsis:

Graham had a simple life: A job he enjoyed, a wife that he loved, and a young son that kept each and every day full of surprises. But when his father passed away unexpectedly, he inherited a family heirloom that would begin to…complicate matters.

A mirror that had been in his family for generations, Graham quickly found that its reflections were out of the ordinary, and that it had prophetic powers beyond his comprehension. Giving him just a momentary glance at souls who were on the knife’s edge of life and death, it was up to him to try to save them as they were thrust unknowingly into his path.

Finding a way to balance his daily life with this newfound responsibility was proving arduous enough, but when the mirror begins showing him reflections of his own family, Graham finds his world irretrievably changed. Will he be able to save them, or will he be forced to live with the same regret that so many have suffered before him?

Getting to know the Author:

How long have you been a writer?

RN: Technically, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember! But I never really took it too seriously until I hit my twenties, and I discovered that writing could be a career in addition to a hobby. I kind of detoured my path to do journalism for a couple years. And while it paid the bills, I always felt as though something was missing creatively for me. So, I’ve recently returned to fiction and haven’t looked back since. I think it’s the best decision I could’ve made for myself.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

RN: Oh, so many! I have so many stories that I want to tell, or issues that I believe in that I feel need to be brought to light. I’m constantly torn between wanting to write the light and happy and entertaining stories, and the dark and controversial ones. I think that’s why I’ve chosen to write across so many genres, to satisfy all those aspects. I really enjoy the challenge of writing a psychological or paranormal thriller with intricate plot twists. But then to balance it out, I feel like I need to write something lighter. So that becomes fun then too.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

RN: I LOVE anything that has to do with the arts – plays, dance performances, operas, gallery openings, art festivals, concerts – I’m completely addicted to attending those kinds of things. I’m a big yoga enthusiast and really enjoy time spent on the beach. If you can combine those two things together, even better! I also love shopping and fashion (who doesn’t!), I’m a pretty big foodie so I love trying new unique restaurants, and I’ll never turn down a good martini or quality glass of wine.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

RN: I’m a bit of a quote enthusiast, but one of my favorites is “You’ll never know how far you can fly, until you spread your wings and fly.” And it’s so true! If you want to succeed in something, you have to dare to jump into it. I think one of the biggest things that holds people back is themselves.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written?

RN: As of this October (2013), I’ve published two psychological thriller books and a paranormal suspense novella. In the coming months, I plan to release a new adult light romance, and I have a long publication schedule already set for 2014.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

RN: I think the overall message is to act with compassion towards all other people. We never know when our last moment may be, and if we can be open to helping others, instead of closed off and indifferent to strangers, we may make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Do you recommend any “tricks” or tips on how to get through writer’s block?

RN: Ugh, the dreaded writer’s block! For me personally, I’ve found that just stepping away for a little while, or even a few days, usually does the trick. I explore another story all together, meditate, do something fun and out of my routine. And that seems to put writer’s block in check and get the creative juices flowing again.

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? If yes, how so?

RN: I think that for authors today, social media is absolutely vital. It’s the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to spread the word quickly about your projects, and it’s a pretty effective way to stay in touch with readers. I’m on almost every site – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Shelfari, Pinterest, Instagram, etc and I always encourage my readers to connect with me everywhere. I think this goes a long way in building relationships with readers, and it gives different people avenues they can use to recommend you or your work to their friends.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

RN: Practice, practice, practice! Don’t wait for inspiration, just get started. And use absolutely every opportunity to write that you can – a journal, an article, a blog entry, a book. The more you write, even if just for fun, the more you’ll learn about your style. And when you’re ready to try releasing something into the world for others to read, make sure it’s the most polished it can possibly be.

Most importantly, if writing is your dream, don’t ever give up on that. Keep at it, and one day you’ll find success at it.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

RN: All of my information about my books and publishing schedule is on my website – www.RSNovelle.com. Readers can also visit my Facebook or Goodreads page to find my books and interact, or can sign up for my newsletter to get all the latest information.

Website: www.RSNovelle.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/R.S.-Novelle/e/B00EWLOKIG

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/RSNovelle

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RS_Novelle

Interview with Author Maryanne Raphael

This week’s guest interview is author Maryanne Raphael.
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The oldest of ten children, Maryanne grew up in the small Appalachian village of Waverly, Ohio (named for Sir Walter Scott’s WAVERLY NOVELS.) She was constantly writing plays for all of her siblings to perform.

Her first rejection slip (from St. Anthony’s Messenger) arrived when she was five years old. Her grandfather typed and mailed her story, Pray for the Wanderer. He told her, “A rejection slip proves you are a writer. You wrote something and sent it out.” Twenty-five years later, she sold a revised version of that original short story to Catholic Digest.

At Ohio University she majored in Creative Writing and Romance Languages, was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and editor of Sphere, the literary magazine. She won a scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris. Her auto-biographical novel, UNE ANNEE A PARIS won first place from the Alliance Francaise.

After France, she went to the Caribbean where she met and married Lennox Raphael, a Trinidadian writer. They traveled together through four continents. Their son Raphael was born in New York City.

Maryanne taught at Ohio University, the New School for Social Research in New York City, and at the University of Hawaii. She was an editor at Prentice Hall and Woman’s Day Magazine.

Maryanne’s latest book Dorothy Day A Peassion For Peace was printed September 2013. Maryanne is also known for her works: Garden of Hope: Autobiography of a Marriage, Along came A Spider: A Personal Look At Madness, What Mother Teresa Taught Me, Mother Teresa: Called to Love, The Man Who Loved Funerals, Anais Nin: The Voyage Within, Dancing On Water, Alexandria, and Runaways: America’s Lost Youth.

Personal: Getting to know the Author:

How long have you been a writer?

MR: I received my first rejection slip when I was five years old.  I made up a story and my grandfather typed it and mailed it to St. Anthony Messenger.  Granddad explained to me that a rejection slip proved I was a writer.  I wrote something and mailed it out.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

MR: I enjoy writing about people I admire, Mother Teresa, Anais Nin, Father Damien, Mother Marianne of Molokai, Dorothy Day and fictional characters like Charlie in The Man Who Loved Funerals.

What do you write?

MR: I write biographies, novels, poems, plays, essays and nonfiction articles.

Have you won any awards for your writing?

MR: I won an award of Excellence from San Diego Book Awards for Mother Teresa, Called to Love.  My former husband Lennox Raphael and I won first place for unpublished Memories, Autobiography of a Marriage. Patricia Walden and I won second prize at San Diego Book Awards for our romance novel, Alexandria.

What inspired you to write your first book?

MR: Grandmother Brown asked me to write her autobiography when I was fourteen years old.

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

MR: I love writing the first draft when the characters seem to come alive and tell their own story.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

MR: Life motivates me.  I love people, places and things.  When I learn something new and exciting I want to share it.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

MR: I love the way Hemmingway uses his writing like an iceberg with the most important facts shared with the reader and all his secret knowledge underneath holding up the story.  I love Anais Nin’s journals and Thomas Wolf’s novels.  I have many favorite authors.  They love life and are excited about writing.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time?

MR: Writing is my life.  I write full time.  All my life I have wanted to retire from teaching or publishing and write full time.  Now I am doing what I have always wanted to do.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

MR: I like Mother Teresa’s saying, “Do little things with great love.”

Where are you currently living? Do you find inspiration in a certain room or space of your home or surrounding area?

MR: I live in an apartment a few blocks from the ocean in Carlsbad, California.  My desk is by the window and I do most of my writing there.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written?

MR: Mother Teresa, Called  to Love, What Mother Teresa Taught Me, The Man who loved Funerals, Along Came A Spider, A Personal Look at Madness,  Runaways, America’s Lost Youth (co-author Jenifer Wolf, preface Anais Nin), Alexandria (coauthor Patricia Walden), Anais Nin, The Voyage Within, Saints of Molokai, Dancing On Water, Garden of Hope, and Dorothy Day: A Passion for Peace.

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

MR: I do my best writing at night, after midnight but sometimes I write all day depending on when I feel inspired.  But I do not wait for inspiration to write.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

MR: In Dorothy Day: A Passion for Peace, I want to encourage people to seek Peace and to be aware that we are all brothers and sisters and will be happier if we help the homeless, the hungry, the refugees, and the sick.

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Give us an insight into your main character of your latest work. What does he/she do that is so special?

MR: Dorothy Day was one of the most interesting, exciting, intense people I ever wrote about.  She was a journalist in the Jazz age who loved to dance and spend time with artists, actors, and poets.  She always wanted to help the poor, especially the working poor.  She began to love the Bible and devoted the rest of her life to living God’s Love.  She is now being considered for sainthood by the Vatican.

How is your day structured? Do you set aside a specific block of time everyday to write?

MR: There is no structure in my day.  I take walks whenever a friend invites me.  I spend time with friends.  But any day that I have not spent several hours writing I feel I have missed something important.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

MR: I have tried writing with an outline.  It does not work for me.  I just face the white page and jump in.

Do you develop your characters first, or the plot and events?

MR: I usually have my character in my mind when I begin.

How long (on average) does it take you to write a book?

MR: I spent ten years writing Mother Teresa, Called to Love.  I was a coworker and much of that time was spent in action.  I wrote The Man Who Loved Funerals in three days as part of the Pulp Writers Three Day Contest in Canada.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

MR: Writer’s Block is the name we give to needing a break from a certain project.

In Conclusion:

In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about writing?

MR: Selling books.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

MR: Sitting at the computer and letting your heart out.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

MR: Write.  Never stop; writing.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

MR: Go to authorsden.com/maryanneraphael  or Maryanne Raphael’s books at Amazon.com

My Interview with Author Ashleigh Galvin

In honor of the launch of Tales of a Sevie last week, I am starting a weekly segment of author interviews that will be updated each Wednesday right here on my blog. :) My first guest is Australian author Ashleigh Galvin of the Amethyst Series.

Ashleigh Galvin Author

 Getting to know the Author:

How long have you been a writer?

AG: I wrote my first novel in Primary school. That was roughly 15 years ago now. Amazing how time flies.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre?

AG: I mostly write YA Fantasy. The reason is simply because this is my favorite genre to read. I read to escape reality which is just a little too boring some times. Add some dragons and now it’s interesting.

What do you think your books offer that others in the same genre do not?

AG: Birth By Fire’s Embrace gives a new angle on a classic Fantasy plot. By introducing fresh and a little quirky characters, it’s been a fantastic experience to write.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

AG: Listening to music and going places I’ve never been before are two big ones. Earlier in the year I traveled to Japan and when I returned, I had a lot of inspiration for new stories.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

AG: JK Rowling is a big one. Not so much for the writing but for how she inspired reading in a generation that was losing that gift.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time?

AG: Much to my annoyance, it’s currently part time. There is nothing worse than being at work when a bolt of inspiration strikes.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

AG: “JUST DO IT!!!!!!!!!” Kidding. Not really. I find motivation comes from within and I’ve learnt that even if you have 0 motivation to write, you still have to so it makes no difference.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written? Do you have a favorite?

AG: I’ve written two books so far (Birth By Fire’s Embrace and its sequel) and am working on a third. They are all in the Amethyst Series. My fav would have to be the one I’m currently working on. It’s been so much fun to write I almost can’t stop.

Birth By Fire's Embrace Cover

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

AG: Nope. Just write write write. I like to keep track of word count to see if I can break my personal best for words written in a day. I think it’s currently at 6,000.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

AG: I don’t really write books to try and convey a lesson. My books are just good fun books that someone can come home after a hard day of work, sit down, relax and read a great story.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

AG: Coming to terms with the fact it was going to be out there in the public’s hands. Very scary.

If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about the series.

AG: Birth By Fire’s Embrace is the first book of the Amethyst Series. It follows Shar’s journey and it currently planned for roughly eight books.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

AG: I do plan out each book before I start writing it. Having said that, the plan changes so often, the first draft is very different from the finished product.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

AG: To me, writers block means you haven’t planned your story well enough. You don’t know how to get your characters from point A to point B.

Do you recommend any “tricks” or tips on how to get through writer’s block?

AG: Two tricks I use. One is to just keep writing even if it sounds horrible. That’s what editing is for. The second is to take a step back and ask your character what they want to do. You’ll find their answer is exactly what you need.

Publishing:

How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each?

AG: I was published through Spectacle Media Publishing Group and they have just been fantastic. The perk of a publishing company is that they do this every day. They know what they are doing when it comes to publishing a book. I don’t. I know how to write books. By combining strengths, we have the best chance of making the book as successful as possible. If I had self-published, I would have to worry about marketing and copyediting and design etc, instead of focusing on what I actually want to be doing, writing the next book.

In Conclusion:

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

AG: My website, facebook and twitter are below. I also write articles for the SPMG newsletter and link them to my website.

Official Website:          http://ashleighgalvin.wordpress.com/
Facebook:                      https://www.facebook.com/Ashleigh.Galvin.Author
Twitter:                           https://twitter.com/Ashleigh_Galvin

Author Interviews

Hello friends! In celebration of the November release of Tales of a Sevie, I will be posting an author interview once a week each Wednesday afternoon.

Over the past few months I have consulted with dozens of authors of diverse genres from all around the world to hear about their journey, writing regimen, and their latest events and books.

IT’S ONLY WEDNESDAY?!?!  

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To rejoice getting half way through the week, have some fun each “hump day” and join us to discover:

-What inspires an authors first book

-The dos and don’ts of publishing

-Fiction vs nonfiction discussions

-Characters vs plots

-How to create your own book cover

-What some authors wish they would have known before marketing their work

-The fastest way to increase your book sales

-The cure for writer’s block

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Check back each week to see just who I will be chatting with.

 The first few months will include visits from:

Ashleigh Galvin

Maryanne Raphel

Renee Novelle

J. Conrad 

Nancy Petralia

Amy Peterson

Deanna Klingel

Adrian Collins

June Hyjek

Mary E. Dawson

George Duncan