Introducing Christopher Joyce, winner of the Cornish Writing Challenge 2017

It is my great pleasure to introduce Christopher Joyce, whose short story Mama’s Gonna Float The Gypsum won the very first Cornish Writing Challenge! You can read his story on Frost Magazine here.

Christopher Joyce, from Chichester in West Sussex, has been a teacher, waiter, once made Venetian blinds, and has worked in a steel works. He is best known for his series of children’s books, ‘The Creatures of Chichester’, where the city’s animals solve the problems created by the Twolegs living there. You can find out more on his website.

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To celebrate his win, Chris has given an interview to us here at The Bandwagon. Read on to find out more about the winner of the Cornish Writing Challenge 2017!

What inspired you to start writing?

Moving to Chichester, which has such an iconic Cross at the centre of the city. It seemed the obvious place for secret liaisons to take place. As I had been a teacher of 8 to 12 year olds, it seemed sensible to write for that age group. Hence ‘The Creatures of Chichester’ were born.

As an independent author, what do you wish you’d known about the process before publishing your own books?

The need to spend so much time on marketing your book. The great thing is you have complete control and can run price promotions, change the covers, run targeted advertising through Facebook or Amazon, and tweet away to your heart’s content. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there is a lot of help out there for people starting out.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read before you write. Once I had decided to write for children, I spent a lot of time reading kids’ books. Not the ones I remember from years ago, but current stories. The same applies to any genre. I made notes about the fonts used, word count and vocabulary used. I also decided to make my printed books dyslexic friendly by using a large sans-serif font and left justifying the text.

Tell us more about Mama’s Gonna Float The Gypsum. Where did the inspiration come from?

After viewing the picture prompts, I slept on it and woke up with this bizarre sentence in my head. I googled if there were gypsum mines in Cornwall and was amazed to see there were, so I decided to go with the flow. Once I looked again at the picture of the books in the phone box I had the idea for how the story would end. So I wrote it backwards, in effect.

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What is your connection to Cornwall?

I was born in South Wales, so Cornwall was always a favourite holiday destination. My brother met his wife and got married in Newquay. They had an anniversary party there recently where you had to come representing a decade. My partner and I chose to go as punks, so I have fond memories of trying on dog collars to the astonishment of the pet shop owners of Newquay.

What’s next for you? 

I’ve just finished editing the last book in ‘The Creatures of Chichester’ series. I plan to publish a children’s recipe book at Christmas. It’s called ‘The Alien Cookbook’ which features Nanaberry Rockets and Slime Dogs. I’ve also been asked to present some ideas to an editor of a leading publisher at the end of the year for another series of books for children. Nothing promised, but it could be very exciting.

What are you currently reading?

Kid’s books, mostly aimed at 10 to 13. I would love to write something that could reach boys in particular who tend to switch off at that age. I’ve also got Stephen King’s The Dead Zone as an audiobook ready for my holidays. I’m a big fan of audiobooks. Apparently it’s the biggest growing sector, with 29% growth last year. I’ve converted all my books to audio too.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m also a garden designer so I enjoy that. Chichester has a great theatre and we’re close to Goodwood too. This year our local authors’ group CHINDI ran a series of events as part of the Festival of Chichester. We had a Crime Writers Panel, workshops on creative writing and self-publishing, a ghost tour with stories written by local authors, and a sold out Words and Wine quiz.

Lastly, and most importantly, jam or cream first?

I went to teacher training college in Exmouth, so cream first for me.

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I think we can let Christopher off that last comment, even though jam first is most certainly the right way. Congratulations to Christopher and to all of our Cornish Writing Challenge entrants! Keep your eyes peeled for further interviews with the runners-up, and for the return of the Cornish Writing Challenge next year!

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Ask The Author: Patricia Bossano

Award-winning author Patricia Bossano grew up in Ecuador, South America and moved to the United States in the mid 1980’s to pursue a career in International Sales, as well as work as a translator, interpreter and instructor in Spanish.

PBossano_HeadshotOver the years, writing continued to be Patricia’s main passion whether journaling, writing letters, short stories, and eventually, composing full-length novels.  Patricia published the first of the Fairie books in 2009, starting with Faery Sight (winner of the 2010 Golden Quill Award of Excellence from the League of Utah Writers), followed by Cradle Gift in 2009. In 2016, Patricia left the corporate world to follow her dream of being a full-time writer, allowing her to complete the third installation of the Faerie Series with the 2017 release of Nahia. The trilogy chronicles the history of a matriarchal faery family and serves as “a celebration of the relationships between mothers, daughters and sisters” within Patricia’s family.   Patricia is a full-time writer residing in Southern California.

What inspired you to start writing?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had issues with excessive blushing. Even though I thought I had a lot to say, speaking in front of my classmates turned me into a Gossamer lookalike—you know, the hairy red monster on Bugs Bunny and various other Looney Tunes shows. I’d heat up until my chest and face were covered in red blotches and everyone would point, laugh, and ask “why”, which only added to my anxiety.

Around the time I was in the 4th grade, a light went on for me about the importance of language, and that’s when my affinity with the written word began to unfold. Inspired by a desire to communicate without becoming a blotchy, uncomfortable, bright-red mess, I began writing in journals and in letters to my family when I was in elementary school. By the time I was a teenager, I had moved on to write short stories and essays, after which I began tackling full-length novels in my twenties.

What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process?

Whether you go the traditional route or independent, the publishing process is an overall complex industry filled with limitations and flexibility. What I hadn’t known or expected was that becoming a published writer would make me confront my fears on a daily basis, force me to define my dreams, and challenge me not just to believe in them, but to also follow through with making those dreams come true.

The publishing process is the daily battle of the spiritual warrior, and although I might lose a battle here and there, I’m aiming to win the war by creating a body of work that—in the end—reflects my overall transformation in style, language, experience, and personal growth throughout the various stages of my life.

Tell us more about your book.

My Faerie Trilogy chronicles the lives of key matriarchs in a hybrid (faery-human) family. Nahia is the third installment in the series, and it is the story of a rebellious faery princess who struggles with satisfying her own desires over what’s best for her loved ones.

Following her heart in pursuit of the human she loves, Nahia hides her true identity as a faery in order to enter the human dimension. After giving birth to a daughter, Nahia’s true identity is revealed, as is the realization that she has forever altered the genetic human footprint. Faced with death, Nahia returns to the faery realm only to have its weight thrust upon her. In the aftermath of the vicious attack that made her an orphan and deprived them of the magical Keeper of the Forest, the faerie realm enters a dormant state.

To save her home and renew ties with both her human and faerie family, Nahia finds a way to reawaken the realm, become the new Faery Queen, and provide a royal descendant for the new Keeper of the Forest.

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What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Plan: Out of respect for the reader, I begin a new project with three paragraphs detailing the beginning, middle, and ending of the novel. From there, I outline each chapter, establishing the structure of the book while looking for timeline issues or plot gaps. When I feel comfortable with the flow, I begin fleshing out the chapters.

Prioritize: Create a reasonable work timeline and stick to it out of respect for your craft and for the people you love. Respect your writing hours so the people who love you will too, and give them the assurance that when your daily writing hours are finished, your time is theirs.

Persist: Give it your best and never give up on your dreams.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently gathering information and interviewing family members for my grandpa’s biography, which I’m thinking of writing from my grandmother’s point of view (to keep to the matriarchal theme). I’m also evaluating the next steps for my publishing imprint, WaterBearer Press, whose initial projects include a collection of ghost/paranormal stories, and other works by talented merry faeries in my family.

What are you reading right now?

I must confess, during these weeks leading up to the launch of Nahia on June 20th, I’ve been re-reading the entire trilogy from start to finish! But the next book I plan to read once my nerves settle down is Anne Rice’s, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.

Nahia will be released on June 20th 2017, and the rest of the trilogy is available on Amazon now.

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Cornish Reading Challenge: Jane Johnson describes her Cornish roots

Jane Johnson is from Cornwall and has worked in the book industry for over 30 years, as a bookseller, publisher and writer. She was responsible for publishing the works of J. R. R. Tolkien during the 1980s and 1990s and worked on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, spending many months in New Zealand with cast and crew.

In 2005 she was researching in Morocco for The Tenth Gift, the bestselling novel that went on to sell in 26 countries, when a near-fatal climbing incident caused her to rethink her future. She returned home, gave up her office job in London, sold her flat, shipped the contents to Morocco and six months later married a Berber chef, Abdellatif. The couple live in Cornwall and winter in a village in the Anti-Atlas Mountains, where Abdel runs a restaurant. Jane still works, remotely, as a publishing director for HarperCollins, where she is responsible for publishing George RR Martin, Robin Hobb, Dean Koontz, Jonathan Freedland, Michael Marshall Smith, Mark Lawrence, and SK Tremayne. Her own novels include The Tenth Gift, The Salt Road, The Sultan’s Wife, Pillars of Light and Court of Lions (July 2017). In 2012, Jane was made an honorary cultural ambassador between Morocco and the UK by HRH Princess Lalla Joumala of Morocco (currently Morocco’s ambassador to the US).

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During the first Cornish Reading Challenge in 2015, you told us about your family ties to West Penwith. Would you like to tell us more about your family history?

I researched our family history back in 2004 when I was working on the book that would become THE TENTH GIFT. I knew our Cornish family had deep roots here, and so it turned out, with parish records taking us back into the early seventeenth century. There were a couple of different branches – Kittos and Martins – but I wanted to trace the Tregenna family, since that’s a name that has all but died out in Cornwall, though there are Tregunnas and Tregenzas to be found, and we all know how fluid spelling could be in bygone times. I already knew that the Tregenna family originated in the Penwith and Roseland areas; but on my second genealogical foray last year I turned up another arm of the Tregenna family in the area outside Looe, in southeast Cornwall, where I grew up: around Duloe and Pelynt. The earliest of these ancestors turned out to be the rather gorgeously named Valentin Tregenna, born in 1608 – so a contemporary cousin of Catherine Tregenna, the heroine of THE TENTH GIFT, whose parish records logged her birth in 1606 (and no marriage or death records anywhere: hence the surmise that she was one of those taken out of the Mount’s Bay church by the Barbary raiders). I also turned up the fascinating fact that my father (who wasn’t Cornish at all!) owned and ran the bookshop in Falmouth just after the war: and my first event for THE TENTH GIFT just so happened to be at the Falmouth Bookseller. Life is indeed stranger than fiction.

Which book(s) would you recommend?

I read so much for work (I’m a publishing director at HarperCollins, responsible for several authors there) that reading time for pure pleasure is very limited (mainly to the 10 minutes before I go to sleep!). This year I have been immersed in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, a truly phenomenal tour de force of characterization: you grow with the two central characters from early childhood till they are elderly women, through broken hearts, broken marriages, broken bodies, through childbirth and tragedy, careers and political upheaval. While you’re reading these books, you live in them, and the people in them feel like your own family. You find yourself wondering about them during the day; I’ve dreamed of Naples at night. So I’d heartily recommend these books: Naples, like Cornwall, is a poor area of the country where people do whatever they can to get by: I found I could draw lots of small parallels.

Beyond that, can I recommend to anyone who hasn’t read her the magnificent Robin Hobb? Again, characters are the key to her success: this is not fantasy of the sword and sorcery tradition but deeply rooted in the human experience and condition: you laugh and cry with her central characters – both abandoned/cast-off children trying to survive in a cut-throat world. As with the Ferrantes you watch the pair grow from childhood to late middle-age, their loves and losses, bonds and betrayals, disguises and deceptions. The series started with ASSASSIN’S APPRENTICE and I’ve edited every single word of the 17 books that make up the series, which completes itself with ASSASSIN’S FATE, publishing this May. She’s in the UK for publication – I can’t wait to see her! – like her characters we too have grown older together in the very nearly 30 years we’ve worked together.

What are you currently working on? Anything interesting going on?

I’m in the interesting phase of thinking about two possible book projects, both set in Cornwall: one in Elizabethan times, one rather more recent. It’s been a busy year: I have two novels out in the UK this year after a bit of a dearth (slow researching and writing!). COURT OF LIONS is published in hardback in July. Here’s the description from the publishers:

Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma in her life, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping a living in a busy bar.

Sometimes at the lowest points in your life, fate will slip you a magical gift. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message, or a poem, from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate’s life forever.

Worlds collide as two unusual love stories arc towards one another from the fifteenth and twenty-first centuries. COURT OF LIONS brings one of the great hinge-points in human history to vivid life, telling the story of the last Moorish sultan of Granada as he moves towards his cataclysmic destiny.

I’ll be doing a number of events in Cornwall and the rest of the country to promote it, including a launch in Central London and an evening at Waterstones Truro with some Moroccan food, clothes and jewellery, and a talk and reading.

And in the autumn, the University of Central Lancashire are publishing my Siege of Acre novel, PILLARS OF LIGHT, with a beautiful cover by Sancreed artist Noel Betowski: there will be a launch in Penzance.

What’s the best thing about living in Cornwall?

Cornwall is home for me. I lived here till I was 18 (in Fowey, then Looe) and went from school in Liskeard up to university in London, followed by 20 years working in the book industry in the capital, before my Moroccan adventure. Cornwall is where we all come back to, because it nourishes the soul. I can live an outdoor life here – walking the coast path, walking to shops in Newlyn and Penzance, writing outside in all sorts of beautiful hidden places (the subject of my blog) in a way I can’t anywhere else in the world. It’s also the place I feel drawn back to wherever I am in the world and it’s where I find my spiritual ease, as well as practising tai chi and kung fu at local classes, the discipline of which I love. It’s always good for the soul to be told you’re doing it all wrong and be taught with great care and attention how to do it right!

What are you reading right now?

I’m coming up on the very end of the final Ferrante and I can’t bear for it to end. I have a pile of about 15 books beside the bed into which to dive next. Which one I choose – thriller or historical, literary memoir or travel book – will depend on what mood Ferrante leaves me in. I hope it’s not too dark and desperate…

Jane Johnson | Facebook | @janejohnsonbakr

 

Ask The Author: K. M. Baginski

Author K. M. Baginski drops by The Bandwagon to talk about her writing process.

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Kisa Baginski is a middle school science teacher and author of the Windstalker Series. Rehumanized Drew (May 7, 2017) is a spinoff novella from Baginski’s debut novel, Windstalker: Awareness, and follows the plight of a man in his early 20s, Drew Royce. After turning into a “Windstalker”—a Nephilim subspecies who can transform into air/wind in order to feed on human organs for survival—Drew has managed to become human again, which forces him into hiding. Haunted by his disturbing actions as a Windstalker, Drew must decide between causing more harm to the human world or hiding out until death finds him.

What inspired you to start writing?

I just realized one day I loved stories enough to contribute in any way I could. I cherish so many sci-fi, mystery, horror and dark fantasy stories about the multifaceted nature of humanity. There are also what I consider “many rooms” in my own imagination that I hope may help entertain more than just my family.

What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process?

If anything, I wish I understood more about the art of editing. Finding a great editor is like finding a lifeline. My editor for Rehumanized Drew taught me so much about good storytelling. I felt I had a mentor in her, that I wouldn’t have to guess at conveying meaning as much as I did when writing my first book. Also marketing is its own universe. I wish I understood the value of launching with a complete marketing plan and team of amazing professionals, before releasing the first book.

Tell us more about your book.

In Rehumanized Drew, Drew Royce is a criminal, kept ward by an Evolved Nephilim race (Windstalkers) and used as a weapon against their enemy. But the victims he’s left behind have a way of finding him and make living, in the meantime, a nightmare.

This book is a spin off of my developing Windstalker series. Windstalkers are a supernatural Evolved Nephilim species which survives by feasting on human energy. Drew Royce is a key character from Windstalker: Awareness. Rehumanized Drew picks up exactly where Awareness left him.

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What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

At risk of blurting a cliche, anyone who loves stories should probably just write one! Or more. I don’t think you could ever make a mistake investing time and energy when you’re doing what you love.

What are you currently working on?

I’m writing the next Windstalker novel, Windstalker: Prophecy, the actual sequel in the Windstalker series. What’s interesting about Prophecy (book 2 of the series) is it also picks up right where the first book, Awareness, leaves the readers. But instead of following Drew, it follows the lives of the other characters just after a major event (Drew’s re-humanization procedure, returning he and the girl he sired to human again).

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading a great epic fantasy/drama called Phoenix 2.0 by Daccari Buchelli. It boasts lyrical prose, a powerful tale of magic and betrayal on the scale of the Golden Compass and Royal territories known as the Four Realms call forth George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Its quite the filling bedtime story!

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Ask The Author: M.K. Williams

Author M.K. Williams joins The Bandwagon to talk about her writing process.

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MK Williams is an Indiana-born, Philadelphia-raised, Florida-transplant working and living beneath the sunny, and often rainy, skies of Tampa. Williams’ writing influences include a lifetime of watching suspenseful mysteries and action movies and reading Stephen King, Ian McEwan and J.K. Rowling.

What inspired you to start writing? 

I’ve always enjoyed writing, some people like to paint or draw, I have always liked to write. I find that I genuinely enjoy the creative process of writing and I think I would keep on writing even if I didn’t keep publishing my work. I have always liked to read and my mom was always encouraging to me to write. I dedicated my most recent book to her, she definitely inspired me to pursue honing my craft.

What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process? 

I wish someone had asked me about my goals sooner. My husband was actually the one to ask me to define my goals. Did I want to be an international bestseller? Did I want to just have my book published? That actually helped me to define my goals and what success would look like for me. If someone had asked me sooner I may have been able to get to where I am now years ago.

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Tell us more about your book.

My latest book is a collection of short stories called The Games You Cannot Win. I love writing in all of its various lengths and forms and short stories are where I started out before I wrote my first novel. The four stories in this collection all follow a different character as they feel trapped in their career, trapped in their goals and what society expects, trapped in a scandal, or trapped in the past. In each one they feel that they are part of a game that someone else is playing with them, or on them, that they can’t get out of. Each story delves into the characters and tackles some serious issues in our society today.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t plan that writing will replace your day-job. When you write with the mindset that you are going to make a million dollars and quit the job you don’t like, you write from a very different place. Write because you enjoy it, that joy will come through in your words and will lead to your success.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu. It is a non-fiction book on marketing in the 18th and 19th centuries and how advertisers are constantly finding new ways to steal our attention. I am reading this as research for my next book.

You can buy The Games You Cannot Win on Amazon, Nook, and iBooks. Visit Williams’ website, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Ask The Author: Niki Meadows

Author Niki Meadows chats to The Bandwagon about her writing process. Niki has also chosen The Bandwagon to reveal the title of her new book!

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1) What inspired you to start writing?

Well, I thought it was fun to keep a diary as a kid and journal as a teen that I kept up into adulthood. I tried my hand at short stories and fiction over the years but it never went anywhere. I’d get started and it would fizzle out. I loved to read fiction but I wasn’t very good at writing it. I just assumed writing wasn’t for me to share. I couldn’t let go of my love affair with writing and decided to try blogging. The first time around I didn’t know what I wanted out of my blog and set it to the side. The second time, I was able to better identify what my blog would be about and that felt like a more natural fit for me. I really enjoyed engaging with others and saw that my posts sharing my life in a way others could learn from and be encouraged felt right. I’d long abandoned the idea of writing a book until I was inspired to write something I’d never considered: non-fiction.

2) Tell us more about your book.

The book breaks down the process I used to conquer a 17-year battle with depression. At the time it was less of a “process” and more of me just doing whatever I could to climb out of the bottomless pit I’d been in for so long. I’ve been on this journey for four years and realized that looking back I was able to identify key steps I took consistently to overcome depression. I was Divinely inspired to write the book and saw signs of confirmation all around me encouraging me to go through with this book. The biggest encouragement was sharing the idea of the book to people I would meet just through natural conversation and them being so interested in wanting it to use for themselves. It got to the point I was so fueled by the possibility of helping someone that I couldn’t imagine not putting this out there. I ended up combining my personal experience with my life coaching skills to write the book in a way that challenges the reader in a positive way, sparks inspiration, and elicits action on behalf of the reader.

3) Why did you decide to self-publish?

I wrestled back and forth with this as many first-time authors do. In the end, it felt like a better route for many ways. I decided to start with an e-Book first because I knew I would stall the process longer than necessary getting caught up on unnecessary things had I gone the print route. Self-publishing felt more personal to me, I’m all about connection and this was a way to have the book really embody who I am and what my message is about. The final aspect came down to cost. I was able to do most of the process myself, which made the investment a matter of time not money. I was able to lean on my network from my inner circle to my blogging community for the things I wasn’t able to do on my own. This has been such an amazing experience that I’ll cherish and I’m so grateful for everyone that supported me along the way!

4) Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Stay true to who you are. In a world of information overload, it’s easy to be swayed and try avenues you think will lead to success because they worked for others. I think you have more of the answers than you think, and you should listen to your gut. I’m all about research and information but ultimately I pursue what feels right and encourage others to do the same. There is no right way, just the way that feels right to you.

5) What are you currently reading?

I’m actually reading a few different books at once. My grandpa always did that when I was growing up and I never understood how he could. I’m not able to do that with fiction because I typically stick to one genre and end up mixing the details up. Non-fiction makes it easier to do so. I’ve got Sacred Contracts (Caroline Myss), The Gift of Dyslexia (Ronald D. Davis), and Adventures of the Soul (James Van Praagh) on my Kindle app that I’m reading. In print, I’m reading Abundance Now (Lisa Nichols & Janet Switzer), The Gifts of Imperfection (Brene Brown), and The Book of Chakras (Ambika Wauters).

6) Who are your feminist heroines?

My mom is one of my biggest heroines. She’s done an amazing job of teaching me to be the person I am through her own example. Oprah is what I consider a student teacher of life, a giver, and an inspiration as a female entrepreneur and woman. Ellen DeGeneres is also on my list. Her transparency, courage, and kindness are traits I admire. Queen Rania of Jordan for the amazing job she does bringing social issues to the table. I also admire women to promote and encourage self-acceptance.

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Niki’s book, Wage War On Your Mind & Fight For Your Life, will be published in April. Make sure you grab a copy!

Ask The Author: Ruth Francisco

Author and fierce feminist Ruth Francisco chats to The Bandwagon about Catfish Pearl, and her writing process.

rf_5544_2Ruth Francisco worked in the film industry for 15 years before selling her first novel “Confessions of a Deathmaiden” to Warner Books in 2003, followed by “Good Morning, Darkness,” which was selected by Publishers’ Weekly as one of the ten best mysteries of 2004,  and “The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.” She now has ten novels, including the best-seller “Amsterdam 2012,” published as an ebook. She is a frequent contributor to The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and currently lives in Florida.

What inspired you to start writing?

I started this venture into pirate lore when I was on a panel of Florida authors in Tallahassee. One of the other writers was explaining some peculiar local jargon, such as “square mullet” (marijuana smuggled in bales) and “catfish pearls” (a calcification of calcium carbonate behind the gills of a sail catfish). When I heard “catfish pearl,” I sat straight up, sparks shooting out of my head. “Catfish Pearl! That’s the name of a female pirate!”

Sometimes a character chisels at your brain and won’t let you rest until you write her story.

I started to research local history during the golden age of pirates. I live near one of the first Spanish Missions in Florida, and came across an amazing story. The Apalachee Indians who lived at Mission San Luis, invited the local Deputy Governor and his family to a fiesta at a neighboring mission. During the church service, the Apalachee trapped the Spanish inside and slaughtered them. The unborn child of the Deputy Governor’s pregnant daughter was cut from its mother’s womb. There is no record of what happened to that baby. Seemed to me the perfect beginnings for my heroine Catfish Pearl.

From there, research, and the indomitable spirit that emerged from merely the name Catfish Pearl, led the way.

Tell us more about your book.catfishpearlcover4

From a feminist perspective, female pirates seem like the first feminists. Anne Bonny and Mary Read, Grace O’Malley, Cheng I Sao, Rachel Wall. In reality, some were never pirates at all, merely scofflaws who fell in with pirates. But in mythology, they are feminist heroes, leaders of men, planning dangerous exploits, controlling ruffians and rogues and their own destinies. The common thread among all of these women, both in reality and in mythology, is that they did what they had to in order to survive. They refused to be victims.

I wanted to write a book about survival, how a scrappy, clever girl makes the best of every situation, lives through kidnappings and slavery, physical abuse, loss of family, loss of identity, and emerges stronger and smarter, capable of forging her own empire. It is this element of survival that makes the mythology of the female pirate queen so alluring, even to modern readers.

What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process?

I knew nothing when I started, which, at the time (pre-electronic books), was probably a good thing. I would never have had the courage to even find an agent. Now, things are very different. The old route of writing a few short stories, submitting them to magazines, then writing a book, finding an agent through queries and writer’s conferences, relying on the agent to sell your book, is long gone. Now, even agented authors with a string of traditionally published books have a hard time getting published with a publishing house. So what do I suggest?

  • Write a blog about something you feel passionately about and develop a following. Participate in other blogs.  Use social media to promote your blog.  (I used to suggest writers keep a diary; blog writing also makes you write every day, but gives you an audience.)
  • Before you embark on a novel, take a serious look at the marketplace, and see if you can find a home in Romance, Science Fiction, Horror, or Mysteries, genres that are easier to break into.  Imagine your book as part of a series.  The trick here is to be absolutely unique and fresh, but at the same time fit into the genres.
  • See if you can write comedy, satire, or parody.  Humor breaks all the rules.  If you can make people laugh, doors will fly open for you.  Wit and comedy spread through social media like nothing else (for example, Saturday Night Live’s Trump parodies).  You may doubt your comic gifts, but try it, read it, study it.  It will make you a published author.
  • Self-publish on Amazon, but first make your book as good as possible. Edited, a good cover, a good blurb.  Then self-promote.  Use Twitter and Facebook and other social media, participate in blogs, help other writers.
  • Agents?  Are they necessary?  Perhaps not, but keep yourself open to one.  Bear in mind, agents and publishers will only be interested if they see something they know will be a best seller.  Originality, brilliant writing, great story–nothing matters unless they see a big market for it.  Don’t approach them unless you can honestly see your book as a huge seller.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Set aside time to write every day.  Be disciplined.  Don’t check your emails before you sit down to write.  Be curious and aware.  Listen to the way people actually talk.  Read your work out loud.  Read newspapers and nonfiction for fresh ideas.  Just today there was a story on AOL about the wives of dictators around the world.  How fascinating!  What they must put up with.  The compromises and sacrifices.  How do they live with themselves?  Why do they stay?  Could make a fascinating book.  Every day the news will give you ideas.  Keep a list.  See if one ignites.

Also, I can’t impress enough about trying to write comedy and satire. In this political climate, there is a huge (yuge!) market for it. We need brilliant feminist comic voices.

What are you currently reading?

I read mostly non-fiction in my leisure. Since I’m currently obsessed with pirates, I’m reading “A Pirate of Exquisite Mind” about William Dampier, a 17th century explorer/buccaneer. I believe the more you know, the more convincing you are as a writer. Take for example how incredibly knowledgeable George R.R. Martin is about medieval history, and how it brings a brilliance to his writing the transcends the genre.

Who are your feminist heroines?

Elizabeth I of England, both in fiction and reality. To whip a country into shape, dominate and control a completely misogynistic society, politically out-maneuvering them all. Talk about survivors! She demonstrates what current feminists are grappling with. What sacrifices do women have to make in order to compete in a world not only still dominated by men, but configured on traditionally male power structures? Elizabeth gave up any hope for love or family. Can we have it all? Really? What are you willing to sacrifice?

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