Interview with Bestselling Author Michael Tonello

Get to know Michael…

I grew up in Massachusetts. I traveled the world as a makeup artist and hairdresser until a chance job assignment in Spain proved fateful, and I resettled in Barcelona. Pressed to find a profession that did not necessitate working papers, I became a lucrative eBay luxury reseller of all things Hermes. I am a columnist for the Huffington Post and live in Barcelona. For more info, follow me on Twitter.

Let the conversation begin! 

What initially drew you to writing? 

In my particular case, it was the story—my crazy rollercoaster Hermes Birkin-hunting story—that made me “pick up the pen.” I have always been a reader of memoir, but I had never really considered writing my own until I realized that I was telling all these stories of my Birkin adventures and travels at cocktail parties, again and again, and getting quite a reaction from people.

How many words do you write each day?

Depends on the day….when I’m really “working,” it tends to be between 4-5 pages, but there are some days where it is more—rarely less.

Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?

Seat of the pants….pajama pants that is.

When are you the most productive? 

Definitely morning….but AFTER my first cup of Earl Grey.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I like to take a vacation somewhere warm….but I always like that anyway.

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

Although some of the characters in my memoir seem like I made them up, they were all real.

Where do you get your ideas?

My life.

What advice would you give young writers?

Don’t think that it is impossible to be published. People will tell you it is, again and again, but I am living proof that is not so.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I found Stephen King’s book “On Writing” to be full of useful info….especially where he emphasized how important it is to grab the reader’s attention, and hold on….

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

It is called “Barcelona Native,” and it is another memoir, this time concentrating on my life and times in what I consider the most amazing city on the planet.

Describe your dream vacation.

A summer on the Isle of Capri with all of the people who were once part of my life, but have since passed away.

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Introducing Critically-Acclaimed Author Tosca Lee

Get to know Tosca…

Tosca Lee is the critically-acclaimed author of Demon: A Memoir–Christy Award finalist and ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Silver Award winner–and Havah: The Story of Eve, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and 4.5 stars from Romantic Times. 

Forbidden, the first book in her new series with New York Times Bestseller Ted Dekker, releases September 2011.  Iscariot, Tosca’s highly-anticipated novel about the infamous betrayer of Christ, releases January of 2012. 

A former first runner-up to Mrs. United States, Tosca received her B.A. from Smith College in Massachusetts. She also studied at Oxford University. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I’ve actually been writing since grade school–articles, poems, short stories. I wrote my first novel in college. So I don’t know for sure what drew me to it, only that I love reading the work of others (in grade school it was Shel Silverstein!) and wanted to write things others would enjoy.

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?

I let a few close author/editor friends read it, and some of my source experts. But other than that, I tend to keep it close to the vest. New projects feel very fragile to me. They need to be protected like fledglings–one harsh word can really kill so much.

If there is one genre you’d never write, what is it? 

Hmm. Probably not mysteries–I read the the least. But then again, I never say never!

Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?

How about a string of mainstream books with a classic or two among them?

Do you write with music?

I can’t seem to write to music, though I keep trying because all my friends do. Grr.

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

After the Judas book? Oh, wow. I don’t know. It’d have to be epic.

Is there a genre you avoid?

Not really–just genres I like better than others.

Do you begin with character or plot?

Character, usually, though in the Books of Mortals series, which I’m writing with Ted Dekker, we began with a theme.

How many words do you write each day?

Anywhere from 0 to 17,000. I aim for about 3000-4000 a day when I’m really writing.

Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?

I’m a loose outliner. I tend to write best in a mad panic the night before deadline.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Watch TV shows, movies, read, and travel. Ahh, the thought makes me happy.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

Demon was the easiest. Iscariot is proving to be hardest.

Was it easier to write before or after you were published?

It’s completely different–beforehand, there were no pressures. That is one thing that you never quite get back after beginning to publish, and so you have to find a way to psyche yourself out into thinking that you’re noodling around and no one will ever read it. It’s very important to not overthink things when you write.

Are your characters completely fictional?

Or do you base them off real people? Most are fictional.

What advice would you give young writers?

Read a lot. Write a lot. Experiment much. There are no rules.

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

Iscariot is the first person account of Judas, the infamous betrayer of Christ.

Describe your dream vacation.

Out in a yurt in Mongolia. Or hanging in a casita in the Southwest. Or Bora Bora–my favorite place on earth.

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Author Interview with Penny A. Zeller

Get to know Penny…

I am the author of several books and numerous magazine articles. I also write a humor blog A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author, am an active volunteer in my community, serving as a women’s Bible study small-group leader, co-organizing a women’s prayer group, and co-founding The Sisters in Christ Community Girls Night Out. My passion is to use the gift of the written word to glorify God and to benefit His Kingdom. I devote my time to assisting, encouraging, and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. When I’m not dreaming up new characters for books, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and camping, hiking, canoeing, gardening, and playing volleyball. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I was bitten with the writing bug at age seven when I began writing Bible stories in my own words. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Vernon, holds a special place in my heart – it was she who encouraged me to continue writing about Jesus. In fourth grade, I began writing fiction stories about a dog named Muffie and her adventures, as well as other short stories composed in homemade wallpaper-covered cardboard books.

In 2000, I quit my job with a social services agency to stay home with our daughter. It was then I dedicated my writing to the Lord and began writing regularly for national and regional publications.

Years later, my inspiration continues to come from the Lord and I pray daily that the path I have chosen in life will glorify Him. I get ideas from the Scriptures often and I build my book around certain biblical themes, such as, forgiveness and redemption. My Christian characters pray and seek God for direction. And as a writer I am in constant prayer for wisdom, guidance, and that my books would be life-changing – that they would bring others to the Lord or closer to the Lord. Writing is my ministry, and I have chosen Psalm 19:14 as my life verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

The second book in my Montana Skies Series, Kaydie, is set for release this month, and I just finished the third book in the series, Hailee, which is scheduled for release in September. Here’s a little teaser about what’s to come:

Times in Pine Haven have changed over the past few years. The town has doubled in size and Montana has become a state. Bethany Ethel is now the older sister to spunky seven-year-old twin brothers who find great delight in providing trouble for the new teacher, Miss Hailee Annigan. The Sawyers have added to their own family with daughter, Chloe; and Lucille Granger continues her antics as the town busybody.

Faith. Love. Hope. Forgiveness. This recent installment of the Montana Skies Historical
Romance Series explores all four in the continuing saga of a peek into the lives of those who call Pine Haven their home.

I’m also working on a historical romance series that takes place in the Post-Civil War Era. I recently finished book one in the series and have started writing book two.

What advice would you give young writers?

God calls us all to do different things for His Kingdom. If He has called you to write, seek His guidance. Never give up, even when you feel like it or when someone has unkindly criticized you. Seek to please and honor Him in whatever you write, whether it be for the secular or nonsecular market; whether it be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, song lyrics, or a screenplay. Find a mentor and be open to ideas and suggestions from one who’s “been there, done that.” One final note, join forces with other Christian writers. After all, we are all working for the same Boss!

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

The characters in my fiction books are a potpourri of many different people. I love to people-watch, so this gives me a great resource for characters. For example, I will take the hairdo of the woman in the mall, the nose of the woman in the airport, the eyes of the woman in church three rows up, and maybe some personality traits of two or three people I know as acquaintances. I combine all of these attributes into one person to develop my characters.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

I would have to say the easiest book to write was McKenzie because of the way it came about. My family and I were in a car accident a couple years ago where I suffered neck and leg injuries. During that time period of seven months, I was also hit with back-to-back bacterial infections. Because of the injuries and illness, I was pretty much homebound and my active athletic lifestyle suddenly became limited. I look back now and praise God that He gave me McKenzie, as well as two other manuscripts (another historical and a contemporary) I wrote in that seven month period of pain and illness. God took what was a difficult time for me and turned it around to something positive that can be used for His Kingdom – taking the time to write the books that I had always wanted to write.

He has since healed me and I pray daily that the path I have chosen in life will glorify Him. I think that’s why Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” is so close to my heart.

The hardest book, and the book that took the longest to write was my second book, Wyoming Treasures. I interviewed 38 people – many of whom had experienced The Great Depression and World War II firsthand. I met some amazing people, many of whom are no longer with us. The book that required the most research was my most recent nonfiction book, 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others. For this book, I researched statistics and spent a lot of time in God’s Word correlating the Scripture verses with each project and the “Up for Discussion” questions at the end of each chapter.

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Interview with Bestselling Author Angela Hunt

Book-FRONT-cover-8.5x8.5-NATGet to know Angela…

Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected in novels from this versatile author. With nearly four million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 100 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to nonfiction books, to novels.

Her books have won the coveted Christy Award, several Angel Awards from Excellence in Media, and the Gold and Silver Medallions from Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. In 2007, her novel The Note was featured as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel. Romantic Times Book Club presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Also in 2006, Angela completed her Master of Biblical Studies in Theology degree. She completed her doctorate in 2008 and was accepted into a Th.D. program in 2009. When she’s not home reading or writing, Angie often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences. And to talk about her dogs, of course. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What drew you to writing?

Simple. I needed/wanted a job I could do at home when my babies were little. I’d worked so hard to get them, I didn’t want to have to leave them to go to work every day.

What advice would you give young writers?

READ! READ! READ!

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

It was something I read from Raymond Chandler. Never take advice, he said (and I actually don’t agree with that one, as I take advice all the time), never show or discuss work in progress, and never answer a critic. Showing/discussing a work in progress drains the magic out of it, and answering a critic is a losing proposition.

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Interview with Bestselling Author Debra Webb

Webb VILE ebook FINAL copyGet to know Debra…

Debra Webb was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, to parents who taught her that anything is possible if you want it badly enough. She loved telling stories and began writing at age nine. Growing up on a farm in rural Alabama provided the wide open spaces and fertile ground for her vivid imagination.

When she met and married the man of her dreams Debra put her writing aside and tried some other occupations, including door-to-door sales, various factories and restaurants, a day care center, a hospital and a department store. Shortly after the birth of her first daughter Debra’s husband joined the military and she decided to go to college. Eventually the U.S. Army took them to Berlin, Germany, and Debra accepted a position as secretary in the commanding general’s office. By 1985, they were back in the States, and her next major career move landed her at NASA in the Space Shuttle Program.

For more than a dozen years after returning to the States Debra and her family lived in a small Tennessee town where everyone knew everyone else. A few years after settling in Tennessee her second daughter was born. Though she hadn’t written in nearly two decades, in 1996 Debra took up writing again. With the support of her family and God’s blessing her dream of being published came true in March of 1999.

Debra’s life has come full circle now. She and her family, along with their three dogs, have moved back home to Alabama. As a multi-published, best selling author Debra writes spine-tingling romantic suspense for St. Martin’s Press and Harlequin Intrigue. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I’ve written stories since I was a little kid. I have complete short stories in my files that I wrote at age 9! My grandmother was a storyteller and I think she blessed me with that gift!

Who is your favorite author?

Too many to name, honestly. You’ll find nine of my favorites on www.murdershewrites.com! I can never turn down an opportunity to read Vicki Hinze or Peggy Webb. I’m really excited about a debut hardcover author coming in May, Anna Michaels.

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere! The news. My family and watching people!

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I’m currently working on another Colby Agency for Harlequin Intrigue. Spring 2012 will herald the 50th installment of that series!

What advice would you give young writers?

Write! Write! Write! And read, read, read! Write whether you’re contracted or not. You write to hone your craft and develop your voice. You read for the pure pleasure!

What is the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?

From my mother and father: Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t. You can do anything.

When are you the most productive? (Morning, noon, or night?)

Definitely mornings. Sometimes I’ll have a burst at night. I prefer to sit down and dive into the story before the world intrudes.

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

Most are nearly completely fictional. Occasionally I model a character after a certain person but I always acknowledge that person. When I say most are “nearly completely” fictional I mean that what we create is immensely influenced by our life experiences.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

The easiest was NAMELESS. I had wanted to write those characters for so long they were incredibly real to me. The hardest was EVERYWHERE SHE TURNS. There were editorial requests up front that changed my vision of the characters. It took a long time for me to “get into” the new vision.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Just write. Write because you love the storytelling. Write because you love the characters. Write because it’s more than what you do, it’s who you are. You’re a storyteller.

What was your favorite book to write?

Wow! That’s a tough one. I think I’d have to say STRIKING DISTANCE, a Harlequin Special Release connected to my Colby Agency series. I cried through many scenes!

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Interview with Bestselling Author Lauren Oliver

Before-I-Fall-by-Lauren-OliverGet to know Lauren…

Lauren Oliver is the author of Before I Fall, which ALA Booklist called a “compelling book with a powerful message [that] should not be missed.” A graduate of the University of Chicago and the MFA program at New York University, Lauren is now a full-time writer and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Delirium is her second novel. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I think it was really my love of reading that first drew me to writing. I know that when I was young, I often would write the sequels to or companion novels for books I loved to read. It was an early version of fan fiction!

What was your favorite book to write?

Hmmm. I really love all my books differently—they’re like my children! But I am quite proud of my forthcoming middle-grade book, Liesl & Po. In many ways, it’s the most personal book I’ve written.

Who is your favorite author?

Again, I don’t have a single favorite. But some of my favorites are: JK Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Roald Dahl.

Where do you get your ideas?

From all over the place! I get plenty of ideas from the news, or from science journals and magazines. I get ideas from things I read and from things people tell me.

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I’m currently working on REQUIEM, which will be the last book in the DELIRIUM trilogy. Delirium just hit shelves, and is about a society that has deemed love to be a contagious (and curable) disease.

What advice would you give young writers?

Write every day, and read as much as you can. Try and learn from the people you think are skilled in your craft.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?
It’s important not to listen to people who try and discourage you from pursuing your dreams. You must know when to take criticism and when to ignore it.

When are you the most productive? 

In the morning, probably, even though I am NOT a morning person. I need about six cups of coffee just to wake up.

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

My characters are definitely based off my understanding of real people, and so they can’t be completely fictional. I weave in details from my real-life observations. But I wouldn’t say any one character is modeled on any real person.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
They’re all hard! That’s the strangest thing about writing, I think. It really is always a challenge.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Write every single day, even if you only write a little bit.

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Author Interview with Angela Chase

9780595531141_p0_v1_s260x420Get to know Angela…

I was raised with many limiting beliefs. I should have been an alcoholic and drug addict. I shouldn’t have graduated. I should be living off welfare.

So how did I avoid being an addict and alcoholic, graduate from not only high school, but college with three degrees, overcome abuse, and become a successful author? CHOICE.

I faced my past, healed, and found my wings to reach my dreams.
I’ve been a facilitator in a divorce care recovery class for two years and volunteered at a domestic violence shelter helping other women recover by building their self-esteem and reminding them that they are loved and worthy of that love.

As a life coach and author, I inspire and motivate others to heal, reach for their dreams and discover their wings. Discover Your Wings and Making Lemonade–Revised Edition are published through Goodnight Publishing.

Let the conversation begin!

What motivated you to begin pursuing the journey of writing?

This is about a journey of a caterpillar who realized she was more than what everyone was telling her she was supposed to be. I finally discovered I was to become a butterfly creator.

One day, at the age of nine, I decided I was going to become a writer. I really didn’t even like reading, let alone writing! But the thought intrigued me. It took me three years to actually begin the process. In Junior High, I used writing as an escape from my childhood, to enter into a different world away from my pain. I declared one day I would be a famous author. No one took my dream seriously, and I had to fight back a lot of negative criticism.

Over time, writing became my passion, a drug, a dream I couldn’t surrender—until I entered college. My critics, bitter caterpillars who gave up on their dreams and laughed at mine, persuaded me to put away my “foolish” scribblings and focus on reality, to get a real career. Unfortunately, I listened to them. I figured I’d get my four year degree, get a job, then go back to writing.

I didn’t write again for twenty years. The few times I tried, the gift seemed lost within side me. Pen to paper, I’d attempt to write. But my words were flat, lifeless, forced. Fingers ready on the keyboard, the electronic paper before me remained blank. Below my fingers, the keys laughed at my failure to unscramble the words from the hibernating recess of my mind. I could no longer hear my inner butterfly nor feel her wings stirring within me.

It took a horrible tragedy in my life to finally find my voice and to finally wake the butterfly inside who knew the words, phrases and story I would write. After twelve years of marriage, my husband divorced me. Not only had I lost my gift of writing, but I had lost myself within that abusive marriage. I had to start my life completely over and rediscover who I was. What an incredible journey it was!

My first book, Making Lemonade – A Spiritual Journey Through Pain and Divorce, is my personal story of recovery to help other women recover from abuse and/or divorce and not feel alone and that they, too, can heal and find a wonderful life. Carving the pain into the pages released my purpose.

I found a second chance to be who I was meant to be, and now I share that passion in my newest books, Discover Your Wings and The Confident Butterfly, to help other women discover who they really are and overcome their critics and challenges in life.

I write to help others heal, find their passion and their purpose. My experiences make my books honest, real and relatable. I do, however, have some fiction stories brewing.

Do you work better working on one writing project at a time or numerous?

I like working on one project at a time, but since I do have other stories lined up in my head, sometimes I’ll think of something good for another story I’m not currently working on. I quickly type it into the computer under the appropriate working title so I don’t forget. Sometimes my greatest lines or imagery come when I’m not working on that particular story.

Are you a seat-of-the pants writer or an outliner?

I usually have an idea of what I want to write, but then the story begins to take on a life of its own and directs me, sometimes to a surprising place—even for me. My characters become real and tell me what they want. Yes, even in an autobiography and self-help book!

Do you write best in the AM or PM? How many hours do you usually write?

I write all day as things come to me. It may be a sentence here or there or for a few hours. I don’t force myself to sit for long periods of time, especially when I’m not in the mood to write. Sometimes I will write all day and be completely drained the next. And I’m completely okay with that. I never allow myself to be upset with the process in which I write. You can’t force your creativity.

However, as my husband can attest to, my brain is most active at night. When the world falls away and reality is shroud in darkness, my imagination comes out to play. All limitations and boundaries are erased. Everything is permissible. I keep a notepad nearby or run to my computer at all hours of the night and wee hours of the morning to jot down my thoughts before they evaporate into the vortex of forgotten thoughts.

I have to say the worst time to get an idea is when I’m driving. I’ve written on gas receipts while driving. This is the ONLY time I pray for red lights!

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Author Interview with Jody Hedlund

the-preachers-brideGet to know Jody… 

Jody Hedlund is a debut historical romance novelist who was a double finalist in the 2009 ACFW Genesis Contest. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.

She’s represented by agent Rachelle Gardner. Jody’s debut book, The Preacher’s Bride, released in Oct. 2010 and is available online and in most bookstores. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I was born holding a pen in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. And when I was toddling, I chewed on erasers and books. Okay, so not really! But writing has been a life-long aspiration.

However, I didn’t get serious about writing until after I finished my Master Degree in Social Work. At that point I had a difficult time finding a full time job. So I ended up working part time for a while which freed me to begin seriously pursuing my love of writing. I worked hard at learning basic-fiction writing techniques as well as completing quite a few novels (which I now lovingly refer to as my practice novels).

What was your favorite book to write?

I actually love the first draft process of each book I write. Nothing beats the first draft freedom of creativity. But if I had to pick a book that was my favorite to write, I’d have to say I loved writing The Preacher’s Bride (which is my first published book). It was the first book I wrote after coming back from a number of years away from my writing. And so it really was a special time of getting reacquainted with my love of writing.

Where do you get your ideas?

Since I write historicals, I find a lot of my ideas in biographies. My first two books are actually based on true stories. The Preacher’s Bride is inspired by Elizabeth Bunyan the wife of John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. And my second book, The Doctor’s Lady, is inspired by Narcissa Whitman, the first American woman to make the long, dangerous trip West to Oregon.

What advice would you give young writers?

Writing is like any other profession: we can’t succeed unless we achieve mastery of the subject. And how does one achieve writing mastery? We need to learn everything we can about the craft of writing and then put it into practice. In other words, learn, learn, learn. Write, write, write. Repeat ad infinitum.

I also have two recent blog posts for young writers: Top Ten List of Advice to Aspiring Writers & The Pressure to Jump in Too Soon.

jodyhedlundphoto

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