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Character Interview: The teen Joan from author Joan Heartwell’s memoir, Hamster Island

character interviewWe’re thrilled to have here today the young Joan Heartwell from author Joan Heartwell’s new memoir, Hamster Island. Joan Heartwell is 17, a high school student living in Somewhere, New Jersey.

It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Joan. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I like how the author portrayed me as a hero sometimes, out to save my brother, who was developmentally disabled, from a cruel world full of ignorant kids who were willing to bully him for a laugh or two (and in one case, for a heck of a lot of money). But I hate that she had to also talk about how ashamed I felt sometimes to have a brother like him. Yes, it’s true, there were times I went out of my way to pretend I didn’t know him, but so what? Most kids would have done the same.

HamsterIsland_medDo you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

The author went and told a story about when I was thirteen and a boy who liked me (thank God I wasn’t crazy about him) told me he cared a lot for me, in spite of the fact that his best friend’s mother said I had no personality! Now, there was no reason for that—no reason for his friend’s mother to say that and no reason for the author to repeat that story. You see, I was painfully shy at age 13, and as I had not one but two special needs siblings (my sister was just a baby then, with her circumstances yet to be revealed), oddball parents, a grandmother who was a successful kleptomaniac, and as we all lived more or less in the middle of a parking lot, I tried to keep as low a profile as I could. So yeah, it probably looked to some mothers like I didn’t have much of a personality, but really I was only protecting myself by trying to become invisible.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

I’m good at making things up.

Worse trait?

Sometimes I lie.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)? 

I like that feisty girl in Little Miss Sunshine, Abigail Breslin.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

You could say I am in love with love in this book. I expect love to save me (and I don’t want to give away the ending, but in fact it does.)

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

Chapter one.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Geez, I wouldn’t change places with any of them. If you think I suffered having to be the middle kid between two special needs siblings, think about what it was like for my brother and sister. Think about what it was like for my parents, poor, uneducated people who didn’t know didn’t know how to work the system to provide for my siblings as well as they would have liked. No thanks. If I have to be in the book, I’m happy to be a characterization of the author’s younger self.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Well, the author really wanted to tell two stories here, one about me growing up, or “coming of age” as she likes to say, and one about what it was like for her as an adult when she became caretaker for our siblings. So, she did something that some critics are going to complain about. She wrote the book in two parts, the longer part being the part that I’m in, which I think is the better part because it’s pretty funny in places and it reads more like fiction, and the second part, which is really a longish epilogue, describing the last few years of her life with flashbacks to incidents that are important to the story. Basically, she wrote a memoir that leaves out the middle years of her life. She says she doesn’t care. That’s the way she wanted to do it. She’s says the middle years were boring and no one would want to read about them anyway. She thinks because she’s had several novels published and she writes for a living she can break the rules. I don’t know. Maybe she can.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

She’s a pretty good fiction writer. I think she should go back to fiction now that she got this memoir out of her system.

Thank you for this interview, Joan.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Oh, I’ll be out there, in one form or another, forced to breathe life into various fictional characters. No rest for the weary.

Purchase HAMSTER ISLAND from Amazon B&N / OmniLit

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joan Heartwell makes her living as a pen for hire, writing, editing and ghostwriting for a variety of private and corporate clients. She has had four novels published under another name and has a fifth one due out later in 2014.

Connect with Joan Heartwell on the web:

www.joanheartwell.com

https://www.facebook.com/hamsterisland

Interview with Jay D Roberts, MD, Author of ‘Break the Chains, Transforming Shame into Forgiveness’

Roberts_Jay-2491-EditDr. Jay D Roberts, MD is a board-certified physiatrist, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation. He has always been drawn to helping those with pain and wounds. He just could not heal his own. That was not until he went to prison and learned the mysterious power of forgiveness. Dr. Roberts volunteers as part of Kairos, a Christian prison ministry. He and his wife, parents of two grown sons and proud grandparents, live in Indian Wells, CA, with their dog, Milo. Break the Chains is Dr. Roberts’ first book. He is currently working on a novel, Tin Kids, a medical, political thriller about kids forced to work in tin mines.

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself and why you started writing? 

I always wanted the love of my father, even just for him to like me or be proud of me. That is what drove me to be the best in what ever I did. But it did not work. He never told me once he loved me or that he was proud of me. It is “interesting” that I gravitated to treating people for their pain and wounds, while I could not heal my own.

After I was healed in 1999, I had a deep desire, passion to write, despite my head telling me not to. I ignored the feeling for a few years, but I could not extinguish the burning flame to write my story. Buddy, who you will meet in my story, kept telling me that I must write, to trust him, that everything would be okay even if I told of my past. 

Break the Chains must have been a challenging memoir to write. What compelled you to do it? 

As I have just mentioned, I felt a compelling need to write after I was healed. I tried to ignore it for years, but it would not go away. I was frightened to tell the family secret, afraid that my mother would die reading it. But I continued to feel the calling to write, and so I did.

9781627467582medDid you have a mentor who encouraged you to write it? 

Yes, I was blessed with three as they encouraged and guided me. I will use school as my explanation: Minrose was my grade school mentor, Julie my high school and college mentor, and Joan my graduate mentor. I am very proud that with their guidance I wrote all the words in my story, including the painful memories they prodded for me to express.

Who is your target audience? 

  • People needing forgiveness
  • People with history of abuse — mental & physical
  • People needing healing, or wanting it
  • People searching for a loving God, or just a God
  • People living in two cultures

What do you hope readers will get from your book? 

My hope and pray is that my story will help others to break their chains and be set free. 

What was your writing process like while writing this memoir? 

I did have a rough outline at the beginning. But as I wrote I went to places I had never planned to go. So there went the outline. I found my best writing was early in the morning, between 3am and 6am, while drinking coffee. I always prayed at the beginning of each day for God to guide me with the right words. After three hours, I would eat and get ready to go to my office. In the evenings I wrote a little, but the next day I would often not like what I had written. I sat in my home office and played the same CD over and over- “Filipino Love Songs in a Classic Piano Mood, volume 4, by Raul Sunico. It always put me in a good writing mood. On weekends I would sit out on our patio to do stream-of- conscious writing, if I was stuck (afraid of digging up an old memory). A few times, I stayed in a mountain cabin to be alone and scream if I had to. I did the more painful writings up there. I went back to the Philippines for 40 days and nights to add texture to my story. I wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote some more. 

How long did it take you to write it? 

I started about 10 years ago. But it was awful. It read like an emotionless scientific paper, so I stopped for a few years. Then I bought books on the craft of writing, attended writing workshops, and started writing again. After a year I stopped again. This time because it was too painful to write of my past shame. I could not write for two years. Three years ago, I surrendered to my burning desire to write and dove head first into my memoir. 

What was your editing process like? 

It was a great experience. I learned a lot through editing. I particularly like the exercise of “What if….,” while still staying true to the story. I thank my mentor angels for that. I admit that towards the end I did not cherish doing another re-write! 

How did you find your publisher?

After many rejections, one glorious day, one of my mentors, Joan, found my book a home with Tate Publishing & Enterprises, a Christian-based, family-owned, mainline publishing house.

I thank Dr. Tate for believing in my story and all the staff at Tate for their help in making my book a reality. 

Where is Break the Chains available? 

My book is available on AMAZON B&N / TATE PUBLISHING

What is your advice for aspiring memoir authors?

Never stop writing. Never take “no” for an answer. I was rejected — by many editors, publishers, and agents. I was even told to my face, “Even if you can write, which you can’t because you’re a doctor, and, anyway, no one will ever buy your book because you’re a nobody.” Believe in yourself. You are somebody!

I’m still learning to write, always will be. I’m currently working on my first novel, Tin Kids, about the abuse of kid in tin mines. I am pleased with it. Can’t wait to send this baby out into the world!

So continue to write daily and be patient. It will take time to birth your “baby.”

This interview originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine

Hot Book of the Day: French Illusions by Linda Kovic-Skow

French IllusionsFRENCH ILLUSIONS, by Linda Kovic-Skow, Dog Ear Publishing, 272 pp., $13.97 (Kindle 99 cents).

In the summer of 1979, twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic contracts to become an au pair for an wealthy French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, she pretends to speak the language, fully aware her deception will be discovered once she arrives at her destination. Based on the author’s diary, French Illusions captures Linda’s fascinating and often challenging real-life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair. The over-bearing, Madame Dubois, her accommodating husband, Monsieur Dubois, and their two children are highlighted as Linda struggles to adapt to her new environment. Continually battling the language barrier, she signs up and attends classes at the local university in the nearby town of Tours, broadening her range of experiences. When she encounters, Adam, a handsome young student, her life with the Dubois family becomes more complicated, adding fuel to her internal battle for independence.

Book Excerpt:

Part Two

Venturing Out of Songais

 

22

When my alarm sounded at 6:30, I leapt out of bed, eager for another opportunity to attend a course at the Université François-Rabelais. I wanted to make a good impression on my professors and peers, so I spent a bit more time on my appearance, brushing some blush on my cheekbones and curling my eyelashes before applying mascara. The result prompted a grin from my mirror image. Pulling on a sweater, I grabbed my purse and ran downstairs.

After I completed my usual morning routine with the children, Madame Dubois rattled off a list of chores, my pulse accelerating with concern as I listened. Has she forgotten that I’m going to Tours today?

“Wash up the dishes in the sink, change the sheets on my bed, and sweep the entranceway.”

“I have to catch the ten o’clock train, or I’ll be late for my class,” I reminded her.

“Well then, you had better get started.”

Rushing out the door an hour later, mumbling angry words, I half-jogged the road to Songais and barely arrived at the train in time.

Oooh . . . she makes me so mad!

Out of breath, I boarded the coach and found a place to sit down. Unclenching my jaw, stretching my neck right, and then left, I willed myself to relax. I was determined not to let Madame Dubois ruin my day.

As the train pulled out of Tours, the attendant, a young man about my age, sauntered down the aisle, his gaze darting back and forth as he identified new passengers. I watched him, admiring his masculine features, until he reached me. Our eyes locked, his sky blue on my moss green, and my stomach lurched.

“Vous visitez Songais?” he asked.

“Non, je suis arrivée récemment,” I said handing him my rail pass. No, I arrived recently.

He glanced at my document and leaned in closer. So close, in fact, that I smelled his cologne, musk with a hint of citrus. “Linda . . . d’où êtes-vous?” Where are you from?

“Je viens des Etats-Unis.”

He smiled and my heart fluttered. “Enchanté,” he said, and added, “Je m’appelle Renaud.”

“Enchantée,” I responded, feeling tongue-tied.

Renaud tried out his English. “How long you visiting?”

“Many months,” I muttered.

“It is wonderful!” he exclaimed, and heads turned to look at us. I felt the heat rush to my cheeks. “I go now, Linda, but I hope to see you again.”

Picking up his pace, he moved down the aisle and exited into the next coach. A few of the passengers glared at me, but I ignored them. I had enjoyed my interchange with Renaud and felt flattered to receive so much attention from such an attractive Frenchman. From now on, my rides to and from Tours might be the highlight of my day.

Purchase your copy:

AMAZON

Interview with ‘Paris Adieu’ Rozsa Gaston: ‘Just publish it yourself’

Rozsa GastonRozsa Gaston is an author who writes serious books on playful matters. She is the author of Paris Adieu, Dogsitters, Budapest Romance, Lyric, Running from Love and the soon to be released Paris Adieu sequel, Black is Not a Color Unless Worn By a Blonde.Rozsa studied European intellectual history at Yale, and then received her master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia. In between Rozsa worked as a singer/pianist all over the world. She currently lives in Connecticut with her family.

You can visit Rozsa’s website at www.parisadieu.com.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon Kindle Store| Smashwords | LinkedIn | Barnes & Noble | Official Tour Page

About Paris Adieu

Paris AdieuThe first time Ava Fodor visits Paris as a nineteen-year old au pair, her French boyfriend introduces her to the concept of being comfortable in her own skin. If only she knew how…

One Ivy League degree later, she’s back for an encounter with a Frenchman that awakens her to womanhood. If only she could stay….

Five years later, Ava returns to Paris as a singer/pianist. She falls for Arnaud, whose frequent travel tortures her. While he’s away, a surprising stranger helps Ava on her journey to self-discovery. Armed with the lessons Paris has taught her, she bids adieu to Arnaud, Pierre and her very first love – the City of Light.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Rozsa. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Paris Adieu, which came out in December, 2011, is my first published book.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

My agent, Sharon Belcastro of Belcastro Agency, published Paris Adieu in eBook format after shopping the manuscript for a year to traditional publishing houses and not securing a deal. She loved the story and knew female readers would respond to it, so she brought it out herself on Amazon.com for Kindle, BarnesandNoble.com for Nook, and Smashwords.com for all eBook formats. She’s now bringing it out in a print-on-demand edition for Amazon.com.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I didn’t sign a contract with a traditional publishing house. However I signed on with my agent in November of 2010 and Paris Adieu was published thirteen months later. We made the decision to go with self-publishing in September 2011. The book came out three months later. Not bad, and much faster than traditional publishing house timelines.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

 I was dizzy with disbelief. After writing five novels over the past six years, I could hardly believe the day had come when my work was finally out there for the public to read and evaluate.

We celebrated by going out to dinner with my line editor, Laura Brengelman, who did an exceptional job cleaning up the Paris Adieu manuscript and making it sparkle.

She then made my soul sparkle with her excitement and enthusiasm over my publishing debut. Thank you, Laura!  I might add, entirely beside the point, that we dined at a very trendy tequila bar and restaurant where they placed a silver bowl filled with dry ice on our table then poured a shot of tequila over it. Now that’s atmosphere!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for promotion when you were published for the first time?

I had five hundred bookmarks made up with the Paris Adieu cover image on them and a favorable quote on the book from New York Times bestselling author, Victoria Kann, who wrote Pinkalicious, Purplicious, Silverlicious and Goldilicious and whose musical, Pinkalicious the Musical has been playing off-Broadway in New York and Toronto for over five years.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I’ve become extremely aware of the weight of every word I disseminate on the Internet. My brand, my platform, my image is now being built on-line, word by word, phrase by phrase. It’s important to me to offer consistency to my readers in order to build their support. Readers who enjoy Paris Adieu will most likely enjoy the continuing adventures of its main character, Ava Fodor, in its sequel, Black is not a Color Unless Worn by a Blonde, coming in fall 2012; then Sense of Touch, out in 2013.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

The publishing industry has not yet amazed me. The domain of cyberspace has. I published my first quote (“I don’t pretend to be an ordinary housewife,” by Elizabeth Taylor) on my FineWinesFineQuotes.com blog site a year ago and within seconds, an artist in San Diego responded.  I ran around the house for the next quarter hour letting everyone know how excited I was to receive feedback from across the country so immediately. It was amazing.

It still is!  A few months later I posted a quote by Rabindranath Tagore (“By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower.”) Within minutes, I’d received a comment from a man in New Delhi, India. Wow. I get ridiculously excited when I hear from like-minded people in other parts of the world.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

I now have a voice, a platform. When people ask what I do, and I tell them I write, my heart no longer sinks when they follow up with the inevitable question, “Have you published?”

Now I say “Yes,” and hand them a Paris Adieu bookmark. It’s a functional, practical gift whether they might wish to read the book or not, and it gets the  conversation rolling.

Before, when “No” was the answer to the “Have you published?” question, the conversation more or less died a slow death with uncomfortable follow up questions such as “How long have you been writing?” or something along the lines of “My brother-in-law is writing a book too.” He’s also fooling himself that he’s a writer always seemed to be the sub-text. Now there’s no more sub-text. I’m a published author.

Nothing succeeds like success itself. Nothing says “published” like publishing.  You’re either on the map or you’re not. If you’re not on the map yet, see my answer to the question below.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Complete your projects. Don’t start a manuscript, lay it aside then start another one. Get into the habit of completing whatever writing project you begin. It’s a good discipline to follow and sooner or later one of your completed projects will be good enough to publish. If no one else thinks so, just publish it yourself. Then you’re on your way!

Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress: Interview with Megan van Eyck

Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress by Megan van Eyck, is a cautionary tale about the causal relationship between marital emotional neglect and questionable choices. It is a warning for the spouse who wants to dismiss an affair as just sex or for any woman who thinks love is enough to keep a man that isn’t really hers.

“You never know what happens between two people when they are alone” is a common sentiment reserved for married couples who appear to have relationships that defy the odds. The same can also be said for couples involved in long-term adulterous affairs.

Many people believe that infidelity is only about sex: two people, one hotel room, and a few hours to spare. And Megan van Eyck’s extramarital affair began just like that, with lusty hours spent between hotel sheets. But within a few months van Eyck realized she had found what she and her lover did not know they were both looking for: true love.

Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress offers an honest look behind closed doors. It is a forthcoming, sometimes steamy, account of both the passion and the heartbreak associated with being a mistress; about the futility of sharing a love while not sharing a life. Van Eyck is reflective as she addresses her compelling and unusual personal history, which made being the other woman an acceptable option. She makes no excuses for herself, her mistakes, or her betrayal of her husband as she recklessly pursues love. She wants everything, unabashedly.

But her priorities shift when Carlos, her lover, is diagnosed with Amyloidosis, a rare blood disorder. Her concerns shift for hoping for a life with him to hoping that he’ll be able to live through treatment for this rare and incurable disease.  In the end, van Eyck must not only come to terms with her loss, mistakes and regrets, she must come to terms with herself.

Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is must read for anyone that has struggled with love, intimacy or self-acceptance. Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress will captivate supporters, surprise critics and change the perspective of those that have ever considered having an affair.

We interviewed Megan to find out more about her book and her writing life!

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Megan. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Thank you so much for having me! Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is my debut effort.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I was in a really unique circumstance. I began writing my memoir before the Tiger Woods scandal hit the media, and I had every intention of going the traditional publishing route. But then 2010 became known as “The Year of the Mistress.” Suddenly there was intrigue surrounding the concept of the mistress. I felt I had to capitalize on the current media infatuation with “the other woman” and publish sooner rather than later. Going the traditional route usually means years, not months, until publication. Given the mistress hype, I thought it behooved me to write the best book I could and then get it to market as quickly as possible.

I also wanted to maintain control of my image and my story. Given that this is a memoir, any coverage my project receives is not only attention paid toward my book, but also toward me. I am a mother, wife, and former mistress. I am more than just a woman who slept with a married man. I am a woman with a life to protect.

Given all of that, self-publishing was the only way to go. Once that decision was made, selecting an on-demand printer was easy. CreateSpace is a subsidiary of Amazon and has a great reputation amongst other authors.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

When my book was finally available on Amazon I cried. I felt as if I had fulfilled my sense of obligation to the memory of my lover, Carlos, and to myself.

Ironically, my husband took me out to a very nice dinner that night to celebrate.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is more than a story about my affair; it is my story of coming to terms with myself, accepting a difficult childhood, and the lessons that love taught me. Because I doubted people would understand that at first glance, I contacted Pump Up Your Book and asked them to organize a blog tour. I believe that once people learn what my book is and isn’t, they will be interested learning more about my story, Carlos, and Amyloidosis.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

Well, I’ve only been published for a little more than a month. However, I’m looking forward to the journey that waits for me as both an author and a person.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I guess my initial notion was that I would write a book and a publishing house would hold my hand as I made my way up the bestseller list. However, self-published and traditionally published authors are supposed to do a lot more than write books. In the industry it is called “platform building”—creating a following of people who care about you, your book, and what you have to say. Now a writer is expected to Facebook, Tweet, blog, all to create a long-term digital relationship with potential readers.

The big surprise for me was learning that writing a book was just the beginning.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

The other day I received a letter from a woman who had been in a situation similar to mine. Sadly, her lover passed away less than a year ago and she is still grieving. She said that she had been looking for someone to connect with, someone who could understand her loss and alienation. She said my story made her feel less alone.

I have also received other notes from readers who found my story inspiring and touching. So, I would certainly say that the most rewarding aspect of being an author is connecting to people in a real and substantive way around a subject that I couldn’t talk about with anyone in my everyday life.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

I keep a little plaque near my desk that says:

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

The journey of the author is the same as it is in every field or profession-wrought with overwhelming challenges and pesky obstacles. Inherent to success is risk and possible failure. I think the trick is to accept the challenge with grace and fortitude-and never settle for anything but your best efforts. And most importantly, to always get up!

Megan van Eyck lives near Seattle, Washington with her husband and children. Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is her first memoir. You can visit Megan’s website at www.widowedmistress.com.

‘Everything I Never Wanted to Be’ Dina Kucera on virtual book tour November 2010

Dina KuceraJoin Dina Kucera, author of the memoir, Everything I Never Wanted to Be (Dream of Things) as she virtually tours the blogosphere in November ‘10 on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

Dina Kucera was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After completing a project to collect and identify fifty insects, she graduated from the ninth grade and left school for good. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Her first job was a paper route, and she has worked as a maid, bartender, waitress, and grocery store checker. Dina has also been a stand-up comic for twenty years, for which she receives payment ranging from a small amount of money to a very, very small amount of money. When it comes to awards and recognition, she was once nominated for a Girl Scout sugar cookie award, but she never actually received the award because her father decided to stop at a bar instead of going to the award ceremony. Dina waited on the curb outside the bar, repeatedly saying to panhandlers, “Sorry. I don’t have any money. I’m seven.” Dina is married with three daughters, one stepson, and one grandson. She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Everything I Never Wanted to BeEverything I Never Wanted to Be is the true story of a family’s battle with alcoholism and drug addiction. Dina’s grandfather and father were alcoholics. Her grandmother was a pill addict. Dina is an alcoholic and pill addict, and all three of her daughters struggle with alcohol and drug addiction—including her youngest daughter, who started using heroin at age fourteen. Dina’s household also includes her husband and his unemployed identical twin, her mother who has Parkinson’s Disease, and her grandson who has cerebral palsy. On top of all that, Dina is trying to make it as a stand-up comic and author so she can quit her crummy job as a grocery store clerk. Through it all, Dina does her best to hold her family together, keep her faith, and maintain her sense of humor.

Everything I Never Wanted to Be includes a number of horrific events. But in the end, it is an uplifting story with valuable lessons for parents and teens alike, and a strong message about the need to address the epidemic of teen drug addiction in our nation.

It’s a book that can change behavior and save lives—and make you laugh along the way.

You can find out more about her book at www.everythinginever.com or visit her personal website at www.dinakucera.com.

If you’d like to follow along with Dina as she tours the blogosphere in November, visit her official tour page at Pump Up Your Book. Lots of fun in store as you learn more about this gifted author as well as win prizes, too!

Join us for Dina Kucera’s Everything I Never Wanted to Be Virtual Book Tour ‘10!

Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in virtual book tours. You can visit our website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

Interview with Gary Fong: ‘The whole process was pretty surreal’

Gary Fong is a world-renowned photographer, inventor and entrepreneur who has made multiple fortunes in business and real estate. From his inauspicious beginnings in a tiny, hairspray-saturated apartment that doubled as his parents’ wig studio, he went on to become, at a very young age, one of the world’s most successful wedding photographers. After making millions by revolutionizing an industry traditionally reserved for small businessmen, he “stumbled” upon serial successes in photo printing, software, real estate and camera accessories by making unconventional decisions based on his own quirky impulses. Gary has photographed celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone, Paul McCartney and Ronald Reagan, invented and marketed the Lightsphere, and co-founded Pictage, which became the largest dedicated online digital/web solution in the United States and sold for $29 million.

His latest book  is The Accidental Millionaire: How to Succeed in Life Without Really Trying.

You can visit his website at www.garyfongaccidentalmillionaire.com.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Gary. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

This is not only my first published book; it’s my first attempt at writing. So I’m thrilled that it got published.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

I didn’t go through any rejections. I was basically writing my memoirs as a creative exercise. The first draft of the book was done in about three and half weeks. And then, I forwarded a sample of it to a New York Times best-selling author. She then referred it to her publisher, and in my book was published.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

I didn’t really have a choice of publishers because I wasn’t in search of a home for my book. Before the book was completed, I already had a publishing deal. And I feel like I really lucked out.  Glenn Yeffeth of BenBella books is the publisher and he taught me a lot about this business. He taught me about how to mold the content of the book to make it more media friendly, and how to effectively publicize the book so that it gets a good amount of exposure.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

The whole process was pretty surreal. I still haven’t stopped to reflect on it because it all happened so quickly. I know that when I first went to the Borders bookstore at the mall, I basically hid behind my wife as she asked where my book was located. And the one I saw it on the shelf, between Jane Fonda’s and Michael J. Fox’s memoirs, I tested there in a funk. It was really thrilling. It still is.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I actually did a book tour. Since I’m heavily involved in the photography world, it was easy for me to collect audiences at different cities. I want throughout the United States and international locations as far as Serbia, Belgrade.

Doing a book tour was a heck of a lot of work and quite stressful, but I’m glad I did it because when I do live meeting interviews I’m very comfortable. Live interviews, if you get stuck, are a disaster. And no amount of practicing alone in a room is going to substitute for lots of experience with different life groups in different locations. It’s like having a focus group.

Authors should know that book signings or appearances like this will not result in a lot of direct book sales. The true value of doing a book tour is that you can practice presenting your message to small, live audiences, and judge how your explanation of the message in your book is received. You find out what connects and what doesn’t connect, and this comes in handy later for radio and television interviews.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

Nope.  It was effortless.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

The first question that an editor or publicist will ask you is, “why did you write this book?” That will always be the most important question that you answer for yourself when you decide to put the effort into writing and promoting your book.

I’m currently working on my second book, and now that I know a little bit more about the book publishing industry, it makes it easier for me to mold the book so that it falls into the definable categories that the book publishing industry demands. For example, is your book a memoir? Is it a biography? Is inspirational?

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

Considering that this book went from a digital tape recorder to a publishing deal within six months, I really didn’t have time to make mistakes and I don’t know how it could’ve been done any faster. Once the publishing deal was signed, my publisher was really fast. The artwork for the cover can very quickly. As did the press release materials, all of the things that a publisher does to make the book a success.

One of the most important things I’ve learned as an author is to ask who the publisher uses for distribution. If your publisher does not have an affiliation with a major distribution company than your book is never going to see the major retail outlets. So the way that it works is, your publisher has to pitch your book to the distributor who is then going to try to get the distributor excited, who will then try to get the bookstores excited. And then comes the hard work, interviews, reviews, and working with your publicist.

I actually think there’s more work in publicizing a book than there is in writing it.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

What I really cared about was the reviews. It is a very personal thing to put your memoirs out there for the world to see. If my book sucked, and the consensus was that it was an amateurish effort that would be very sad and hurtful to have to live through.So when the reviews started to come out one by one, it was thrilling. And the consensus is that the book is a very worthwhile read. That is really more of a relief that it is a thrill because again I meant more as a very personal thing. If your story is rejected, then basically the reader is rejecting you as a person.

Knowing that, I think it makes a lot of sense to put as much effort as possible in editing and refining the book until it is really excellent before you allow the process to run. Rushing a book to publication, I don’t think is a really good idea.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

I still don’t think of myself as an author by trade or profession. This is something that I did as a creative exercise. Having been a wedding photographer for 20 years, I’m used to telling stories in a tangible form, but I’ve never tried it with words before. A wedding photographer is there to record memories and capture detail. There are a lot of similarities between being a photographer and being an author. You’re telling a story, and it’s a craft.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

Again, I don’t think of myself as an author professionally in terms of my career. Intellectually I know that I’m a published author with books in bookstores everywhere, but I don’t feel like it would be really genuine to really hang my hat on that.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

The strongest message in my book is that the moment I gave up trying to accomplish one goal after another, or hit expectations of myself, that’s when my career started to skyrocket. Oddly enough, the book illustrates how everything I planned didn’t work out, but all of my biggest successes were never planned, nor were they predictable.

So I have learned to not try to envision myself in the future, because that would implant expectations for my future. And one wonderful thing about having no expectations? It’s impossible to be disappointed if you expect nothing.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

For me, I think if I really had a dead set goal on becoming published; it would have had a repulsive energy to it. When people yearn too much, for some reason (and this certainly applies to me) life deals from blow after blow to remind them that as a mere mortal, we really have no control over our future.

So I think that it would be a lot more fun to just enjoy the process of writing. Write because it’s fun, and it’s creative, and it’s wonderful to be able to read for yourself words that you’ve written. Ever since I was age 10, I have written in a journal. Those words for sure are meant only for me and I do what I can to make it entertaining.

So I think that writing is so wonderful that it makes more sense just to write for the sake of writing than to write for any particular goal of, say, being “published”. I read a statistic that there are more than half 1 million books published every year and only a few hundred ever make it into bookstores. And now, with the advent of low-cost, low volume personal presses, being published is extremely easy to do.

It’s finding your way into the distribution network that is the big hurdle. Getting into bookstores is impossible without a major distribution company backing your book. And because they have so few from the nearly half-million published books to dedicate their time and resources to, the book has to be not only good but marketable. And that itself seems to be such a daunting task that had I known all of this-I probably never would’ve started.

And that’s the beauty of having no expectations. If I knew the odds, I would have started. And if I knew the odds and convinced myself that through grit and determination I was going to be (come hell or high water) “published” then I would be setting myself up for a lot of disappointment.

Interview with Ann Putnam, author of ‘Full Moon at Noontide’

Ann Putnam holds a PhD in literature from the University of Washington. She teaches creative writing and gender studies at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.  She has published short fiction, personal essays, literary criticism and book reviews in various anthologies including Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice, and in journals, including the Hemingway Review, Western American Literature, and the South Dakota Review.  Her latest work is a memoir, Full Moon at Noontide:  A Daughter’s Last Goodbye. Information about her book and how to order it can be found on her website: www.annputnam.com, which includes reviews and radio interviews and bio.  Her book can be ordered at any bookstore, through Amazon, and directly from the distributor at www.tamupress.com or by phone: 1-800-826-8911. She has a Facebook page also, as well as a website through her University: www.ups.edu/faculty/aputnam.html.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Ann.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I’m an academic, and so my writing life for a number of years revolved around scholarly works.  So I’ve published quite a number of such things—articles, reviews, and the like.  During this time I also published short fiction and personal essays.  I’ve written two novels, which I’m in the process of revising, but my memoir, Full Moon at Noontide:  A Daughter’s Last Goodbye is my first book-length publication.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

Oh my.  This is a wrenching question.  My first book-length work is an autobiographical novel called Incantation.  It was agented for a period of months but my agent didn’t find a publisher and let it sort of languish.  So I took it back, where it lay in that proverbial drawer for a number of years while I wrote another novel.  Now I’ve pulled it out of the drawer, dusted it off, and am half-way through a deep revision.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

This is a lovely question to answer.  Unlike my trials with trying to publish literary fiction in this day and age, my memoir found a home very easily.  I submitted it one university press and they almost took it but finally declined, as it resembled too closely another memoir they had recently published.  So on a hunch and a great deal of luck, I called up the editor of Southern Methodist University Press, who had a Medical Humanities Series; they took it, and the rest is history, as they say.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

Oh, I have had so many rejections of my literary fiction I cannot even count them.  Each time I’d put up my armor, feeling ready for it, but a day or two later it would pierce me to the quick.  I’d feel like never writing another word.  The world would turn gray in every aspect of my life.  This feeling, thankfully, was always short-lived, and I’d pick up the pen to live another day in the writer’s life.  But it has never ever been easy or something I could just let wash over me.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

I think I talked a bit about this earlier.  The editor of the first press who turned me down recommended Southern Methodist University Press, and after a little research thought they would be a good fit.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

Ah, doesn’t a writer during the writing of a work, especially one that evolves over a period of years imagine that phone call or letter in the mail or now, e-mail, and that moment of learning, yes yes yes!  We want you and only you!

My experience was more subdued than ever I imagined it to be.  It became just a slowly emerging sense of gratitude that the universe had blessed me in this way and that I was just very very lucky.  The final revision and then the book-in-my-very-own-hands moment came at a very dark time in my life, and so recent that I can’t help speaking of it.  Although my husband knew it would be published he died before the book came out, and so he did not have a chance to read it. That being said, he lived it, and walked those halls with me all the way.  He appears in the book as a sort of heroic presence, or that’s what a number of reviewers have said.  So the publication had its bittersweet aspects.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Since my book has a university press publisher, I received lots of back up and great advice but a lot was left up to me.  I began by getting book readings at the large bookstores in my hometown of Seattle, and reviews in the Seattle Times to coincide with the readings.  None of this was easy, to say the least.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

Not at all.  I’m thrilled with the exquisite job my press did with my book. Everything about it is elegant and first-rate.  The cover is just extraordinarily beautiful.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

I guess I’ve been mostly working on interviews such as this one for my virtual book tour.  Several of my short stories are going to be published in a collection called Nine by Three in the fall.  How have I grown as a writer?  That’s pretty hard to say looking from the outside in.  Maybe others might have a sense.  I think I am less self-conscious, less intimated by the blank page, more open to writing really badly, and with more confidence in my abilities to see redemption in what initially appears to me to be hopeless.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

Oh, I wish I knew the answer to this one!  If only there were a secret I would hold to it fast and go forth fearlessly.  I think the one thing I wish I had been able to do, yet may never be able to do, is to write through rejection and not let it slow me down and make me doubt myself.  That turns joy into fear. And of course a “writer is someone who writes,” not someone who is published. That’s line from a Marge Piercy poem I look to often.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

Oh, this is an easy one. The answer to this one just comes off my fingertips onto the page.  The book readings.  I discovered how much this book is my work in the world right now and how much it has done already, how much it still needs to do. I discovered the ability to get inside the words I was reading and inhabit them in a kind of otherworldy way.  And then at the end when I took questions from the audience, I found the most amazing ability to open my heart to dark and fearful places and bring them into the light.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

I’m a teacher and writer and can’t imagine what else I would be good at. I believe I am ill-equipped for much in life. And I’m so fortunate to have discovered a profession that is also a calling.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

What I have found blessed and also very tricky is balancing the two halves of this world of words I inhabit.  So often the only writing I get done are my written comments on student papers.  Weeks and weeks go by when all my energies are taken up with my students and the works we are reading.  Combining the competing urgencies of the teacher and the writer is a continuing struggle.  But I would give up neither and have found oddly that they often nourish each other in strange and unexpected ways.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

Very tired. Right now I am writing responses for this interview and a dozen others like it.  I have two conference papers to finish for a Hemingway conference in Switzerland where I’ll be, be God-willing, a week from today.  I don’t have a thought beyond that.  However, that being said, I hope to be happy and fully immersed in my writing life.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

I think I do.  Anne Lamott in her book, Bird by Bird talks about this in her usual charming, disarming and hilarious way:  publication is not all it’s cracked up to be.  The joy—the spiritual, artistic, life-altering joy—is in the process, not in the outcome of that process, as that is so often out of the writer’s hands.

Book Spotlight: ‘Full Moon at Noontide’ by Ann Putnam

This is the story of my mother and father and my dashing, bachelor uncle, my father’s identical twin, and how they lived together with their courage and their stumblings, as they made their way into old age and then into death. And it’s the story of the journey from one twin’s death to the other, of what happened along the way, of what it means to lose the other who is also oneself.

My story takes the reader through the journey of the end of life: selling the family home, re-location at a retirement community, doctor’s visits, ER visits, specialists, hospitalizations, ICU, nursing homes, Hospice. It takes the reader through the gauntlet of the health care system with all the attendant comedy and sorrows, joys and terrors of such things. Finally it asks: what consolation is there in growing old, in such loss? What abides beyond the telling of my own tale? Wisdom carried from the end of the journey to readers who are perhaps only beginning theirs. Still, what interest in reading of this inevitable journey taken by such ordinary people? Turned to the light just so, the beauty and laughter of the telling transcend the darkness of the tale.

During the final revisions of this book, my husband was dying of cancer, and he died before I could finish it. What I know so far is this: how pure love becomes when it is distilled through such suffering and loss–a blue flame that flickers and pulses in the deepest heart.

As I finish this book he is gone three months.

These are the words of Ann Putnam, author of the heart-wrenching memoir, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye (Southern Methodist University Press).

Here’s an excerpt:

Writing this now in a rainy light after loss upon loss, a memory comes to me. When I was a teenager, I took voice lessons from Ruth Havstad Almandinger, who gave me exercises and songs I hardly ever practiced. I have wondered why this memory has so suddenly come to me now, and why this, the only song I remember, comes back to me whole and complete:

“Oh! my lover is a fisherman/ and sails on the bright blue river
In his little boat with the crimson sail/ sets he out on the dawn each morning
With his net so strong/ he fishes all the day long
And many are the fish he gathers
Oh! My lover is a fisherman
And he’ll come for me very soon!”

If only I’d known then that my true love would be a fisherman, I might have practiced that song harder and sung it with more feeling, which was what Ruth Havstad Almandinger was always trying to get me to do. If only I’d had a grown up glimpse of my true love when I was sixteen, I would have sung that song so well. If only I’d known he would have cancer and go to the lake for healing the summer after the radiation treatments were done. If only I’d known that I would be his fishing partner that miracle summer of the sockeye come into the lake from the sea. If only I’d known that the cancer would return and that I would do everything I could to save him, knowing all along that he could not be saved, and that my heart would break beyond breaking, then break again. If only I’d seen the sun coming up over the mountains and the sky shift from gray to purple and the pale smudge of light against the mountains turn gold just above the crest. If only I’d seen the sun glinting off those sunslept waters as my love lets down the fishing lines, and off in the distance a salmon leaps—a silver flashing in the sky as if to split the heart of the sun—before it disappears into a soundless splash, in this all too brief and luminous season, to spawn and to die—oh, how I would have sung that song.

Ann teaches creative writing and women’s studies at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. She has published short fiction, personal essays, literary criticism, and book reviews in various anthologies such as Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice and in journals, including the Hemingway Review, Western American Literature, and the South Dakota Review. Her recent release is Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye. You can visit her website at http://www.annputnam.com.

Ann will be on virtual book tour June 1 – July 30 ’10. Visit her official tour page at Pump Up Your Book to find out more about her new memoir, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye.

Amazon or Barnes & Noble are the best way to obtain your copies, although it will be available to order in most local bookstores.

Interview with Robert Boich ‘Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting!’

Robert Boich was born in Phoenix Arizona. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado and attended Ohio Northern University where he graduated with a law degree. The author also received his LLM in taxation from Boston University. In his free time, Boich enjoys golfing, skiing, reading and traveling. The author is currently working on his second book, a novel, based on World War I and the battle of Verdun. He is married with four children and practices law in Ohio. You can find the author’s book on his website at http://www.rwboich.com/

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Robert.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I’m a first timer.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting!

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

One rejection from a major publishing house; although it did make it to the second level, where the editor suggested that I try and find an agent.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

The rejection wasn’t devastating. I had done enough research to realize that some of the most talented and influential writers of our time had a difficult time getting their first works published. Plus, I was fortunate enough to have my manuscript read by the head honcho at this major publishing house, and I know for a fact that he liked my work.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

I contacted an agent who was recommended to me by a family member in the entertainment business, and after reading my manuscript, she suggested that I consider using iUniverse to publish my book. She offered to represent me and try to find another alternative, but absent an author’s platform or celebrity status, she told me it would be difficult.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It felt really good to finally see my ideas and my words in actual book form. I felt like I had achieved a longtime goal. I don’t recall doing anything special to celebrate.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I think the first thing I did was to call my family and friends and told them to spread the word. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t given much thought to promotion.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

I don’t think so. The important thing for me was to get the book out there. I was, and still am more interested in helping people who are struggling with substance abuse issues then I am in the number of copies sold.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

No, but I’m confident that the whole publishing experience has made me a better author. I’ve learned a lot from the process.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I don’t know that there’s really anything I could have or should have done differently. The whole process actually ran quite smoothly.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

The fact that my book has been able to help other struggling alcoholics and addicts find their way into sobriety is by far the biggest accomplishment. I’m also proud of the fact that my book was named the 2009 Best Regional Book of the Year in the Reader Views Literary Awards.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

Do I have to be qualified for the other profession, or are we talking fantasy world here? I mean, I have another profession; I’m an attorney, so in a sense, by writing I have chosen something different. Of course, it seems like it might be fun to get paid millions of dollars for playing golf.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

At this point in my life, I just turned 51 in March, I would be quite happy being able to earn a living by writing.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

I really love what I’m doing right now. I get to travel; I get to write, and I’m able to spend time with my family. I hope things are no different in 10 years from now.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Just do it. There is so much technology out there today, that there’s no reason not to get published if you really want to.

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