Ellwyn’s Blog

Interview With Author J. Lee Graham

As an actor, middle-grade author and playwright, J. Lee Graham dabbles in various types of storytelling. I met him at a small bookshop in Cape May, New Jersey and we had a nice conversation about children’s literature and how essential reading is to success.

I found him to be intelligent and well-versed on a number of topics. He enjoys pursuing his spiritual side through astrology and currently teaches ASL (American Sign Language) and ESL at various schools.

Now that I’ve Introduced you to J. Lee, let’s get to know him a little better.

What inspired you to be a writer?

I have always wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager. I read voraciously when I was young and still do. When, at 13, I announced to my family that I wanted to be a writer; they laughed at me. That stifled that ambition for many years. Luckily, I’m making up for lost time.

How long have you been writing?

For about fifteen years. I had written radio mystery shows when I was younger and that was fun. I also wrote three plays.

How many books have you written?

I have written five books (4 MG and 1 YA) and working on number six for MG.

For MG:
THE SCULPTURED ROCKS

A time travel trilogy for MG:
IN THE NICK OF TIME
THE TIME OF HIS LIFE
ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD.

One YA book: THE PROMISE OF LIVING

Which genre do you write? 

I write mostly for Middle Grade, the upper end of the spectrum, so that would be ages 9-12, although 13- and 14-year-olds can relate to them as well because of the dark nature of the content. I also wrote one YA book, a coming of age novel set on a farm.

What do you find most challenging writing for these genres?

Keeping a balance between writing for that age range and their life experiences while raising the bar on creating good dialogue, challenging vocabulary and a strong connected plot and theme.

What are you working on now?

My new 6th novel is called THE GUARDIANS, another MG novel featuring a 14-year-old boy named Nick.

Where do you find inspiration for your characters?

Life, people one meets, or has met, or simply sees in an airport, or a café, who offer a seed of inspiration. The fun part about inspiration is the running with it, seeing where it takes you!

What has been your most rewarding experience since publishing your work? 

Having young readers tell me how affected they were by my novels.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

READ the classics! If you only read what other current books are out there in your field, you can’t improve. Write, write, write!

What message are you sharing in your books?

My message always invokes the sense of authenticity and integrity that lies within each of us. For an early teen or pre-teen, that is the challenge: to find and define that authenticity.

In my novels, that involves a trial of some kind, akin to The Hero’s Journey. The protagonist must confront the darkness, be it in the form of a bully, or an awful home life or some kind of experience (time travel, ie) never encountered before.

He/She has to face the obstacle, learn something about their own strengths, and take it back to the tribe, however you define that to be, to share their gifts of what they learned.

What are your favorite books/authors?

I’ll need about 3 pages.

What are your favorite movies, TV shows?

I don’t watch tv.

A movie producer wants to turn your book into a movie and you get to make a cameo. What would you do in the movie?

Be the snarky teacher whom everyone hates!

An elf named 12-25 approaches you. He’s sneezing, wheezing, coughing and there’s a strange tattoo of a snoring dog on his cheek. What do you do?

“What kind of dog is that?”

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?

No, I don’t. You can follow me on Instagram: jleegraham79

Where can we find your books?

They are available in both book and Kindle version on Amazon.

Thank you, Jeff, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you continued success and lots of luck!

Claire Buss’ The Gaia Solution

The Gaia Solution, book 3 of The Gaia Collection

AVAILABLE ON KINDLE PREORDER – mybook.to/gaiasolution

Releases 8th November 2019 in paperback & ebook

The Blurb:

Kira, Jed and their friends have fled New Corporation and joined the Resistance, but their relief is short-lived as they discover how decimated the human race has become and learn of an environmental crisis that threatens to destroy their existence. Kira and Jed must travel up the mountain to the New Corporation stronghold, City 50, to bargain for sanctuary while Martha and Dina risk everything to return to City 42 and save those who are left. With the last of her reserves Gaia, the fading spirit of the Earth uses her remaining influence to guide Kira and her friends but ultimately, it’s up to humanity to make the right choice.

More about The Gaia Collection series

The Gaia Collection is Claire’s hopeful dystopian trilogy set 200 years in the future after much of the planet and the human race have been decimated during The Event, when the world went to war with high-energy radiation weapons. In The Gaia Effect, Kira and Jed Jenkins – a young couple who were recently allocated a child – together with their closest friends, discover Corporation have been deliberately lying to them and forcing them to remain sterile. With help from Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, the group of friends begin to fight back against Corporation eventually winning and taking over the governance of City 42.

In The Gaia Project, Corporation fight back under a new, more terrifying organization called New Corp and Kira, Jed and their friends end up fleeing for their lives trying to find a safe place to live. They travel to City 36 and City 9 in vain and must go further afield.

In the final book, The Gaia Solution, the main characters have ended up with the Resistance and not only do they have to deal with surviving against New Corp but an extinction environmental event is looming on the horizon and they’re running out of time to save what’s left of the human race.

Book Buy Links

The Gaia Effectmybook.to/gaiaeffect

The Gaia Projectmybook.to/gaiaproject

The Gaia Solutionmybook.to/gaiasolution

What Readers Say

Praise for The Gaia Effect, winner of the 2017 Raven Award for best sci-fi/fantasy book

‘A story filled with emotion, angst & hope’

‘Brilliant post-apocalyptic science fantasy’

‘Wonderfully written, with a warm friendship at its heart’

‘A fantastic debut novel’

Praise for The Gaia Project

‘A fantastic read from start to end’

‘Great book, thought-provoking read’

‘Mums are the heroes of the story and it’s the relationships that make it all work’

About the Author

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet based in the UK. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 with her debut novel, The Gaia Effect, setting her writing career in motion. She continues to write passionately and is hopelessly addicted to cake.

Social Media Links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/busswriter

FB Group: www.facebook.com/groups/BussBookStop

Twitter: www.twitter.com/grasshopper2407

Website: www.cbvisions.weebly.com

Blog: https://www.butidontlikesalad.blogspot.co.uk

Interview With Blogger Gina Rae Mitchell

Gina Rae Mitchell is a creative soul who likes to try her hand at various things: knitting, reading, crafting, and of course blogging. A lover of books, she writes reviews and monthly lists with recommendations on them.

In addition to book reviews, Gina also enjoys writing about food. She lives on a farm and shares knowledgeable tips on gardening, cooking and canning that avid foodies will appreciate. I’m eager to prepare the teriyaki barbecue pineapple chicken recipe. It sounds tasty!

A doting grandmother, Gina believes family comes first.

Now that I’ve introduced you to Gina, let’s get to know her a little better.

Hello, Gina, welcome to Angel Kiss Publications. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

Thank you for having me.     

What inspired you to be a blogger?

I love to write and talk. Since I live in a remote area, blogging is like talking to friends every day.

Photo courtesy of: Gina Rae Mitchell; courtesy of: Facebook

Can you tell us a little about your blog Gina Rae Mitchell?

I started out blogging about a bit of everything; books, food, crafts, family, & more. In 2019, I have slowly shifted my main focus to books.

Is blogging your full-time profession?

Yes, I suppose you could say that. I am retired, and blogging lets me continue to feel productive, and some months, I even earn a bit of extra “fun” money.

How long have you been blogging?

I have had several blogs over the years beginning around 2008. GRM is the first one I have taken seriously, and I believe that is reflected in my growing following.

How many books have you reviewed?

Since I began my book review business & website last year, about 275. I couldn’t begin to guess how many before I started keeping track of them.

Which genres do you review? 

I review almost all genres. I do not read horror, gore, or erotica. My favorites are probably romantic comedy and children’s books.

What do you find most challenging reviewing for these genres?

Non-fiction is probably the most difficult as I usually don’t have a basic knowledge or possibly even an interest in the subject.

What are you reviewing now?

This week I reviewed two non-fiction books on religious myths and communicating with the nonverbal child, a cowboy romance trilogy, and a dark fantasy novel. I love being introduced to books that would not normally catch my attention.

What has been your most rewarding experience since you started blogging? 

I would have to say it’s connecting with readers. Nothing delights me more than a blog reader letting me know they tried a book I recommended and enjoyed it.

What advice would you give to bloggers just starting out?

Simply write and get your words out there. As you gain your voice and improve your skills, you can go back & polish your earlier posts. That’s a good activity for days when you aren’t in the mood to create new posts. Oh & most important of all…. BACK UP YOUR WORK!

Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you?

I’m a geeky grandma! I love technology. I create & manage all my own websites and images. They may not be perfect, but I enjoy doing it.

What message are you sharing in your blog?

I believe for the world to be a better place, we should all read books. There is no better way to understand someone different from you than to put yourself in their shoes through a good story.

What are your favorite books/authors?

Oh, I love so many!

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon has been a favorite for years. A recent favorite is The Sinking of Bethany Ann Crane by K. Kris Loomis.

The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene has a place of honor on my bookshelves. My great-grandma introduced me to them, and now I am so pleased to share them with my grandchildren.

What are your favorite movies, TV shows?

It’s a Wonderful Life and The Big Chill are my two favorite movies. As for TV, I would have to say Jeopardy and college basketball. I don’t watch a lot of TV shows.

When you’re not blogging, where can we find you?

Somewhere on the farm with my nose in a book or at my grandkids sporting events. I also love to travel. We have been driving all over the US since retiring. That’s the great thing about blogging. You can work from anywhere!

How can an author have their book reviewed by you? 

I have a book review policy on my website. They can use the website contact form or email me at GinaRaeMitchell@gmail.com.

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc.?

My website is: GinaRaeMitchell.com. I am most active on Twitter, Goodreads, & Pinterest as @ginaraemitchell.

Thank you, Gina, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you continued success and lots of luck!

Interview With Bindlestick Books

Founded in December 2005, Bindlestiff Books, is a volunteer-run neighborhood bookstore in West Philadelphia. They fill their shelves with carefully selected children’s books, literary fiction, graphic novels, art, cookbooks, history, labor studies, politics, and much more.

Housed in a pleasant blue building from 1925, their store front window is appealing and redolent of the early 20th century.

Another notable feature that adds to the store’s bygone charm is a Books and Buildings mural by local artist, Jonny Buss. Outlined in a turquoise frame, the warm and cool colors within commingle a friendly and bookish community.

As an all-volunteer enterprise, Bindlestiff Books’ hours can be unpredictable, but they are available Tuesdays (3:30—7:00), Thursdays (Noon—3:30), Saturdays (Noon—7) and Sundays (Noon—5). 

You can also contact them at 4530 Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19143; Phone number: 215.662.5780; Email: bindlestiff.bookstore@gmail.com to see if they’re available at other times.

Jon Bekken, one of the store’s representatives, took some time to talk a little about Bindlestiff Books and its fundamental contributions to the community.

Hello, Jon, welcome to Angel Kiss Publications. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

Thank you for having me.

What motivated you to open an Independent Book Store?

We like books, we had a building, and the neighborhood needed a bookstore. There were book stores (new and used) catering to the universities, but nothing serving long-time West Philadelphians.

Can you tell us a little about Bindlestiff Books?

We’re a volunteer-run bookstore, aimed at serving people who walk or bike around the neighborhood.

We carry a fairly wide selection of new books (many of which are discounted); our strongest sections are children’s books, literary fiction and science fiction, politics and history, but we also have Spanish-language and bilingual children’s books, graphic novels, art, African-American, labor, education and gender studies.

We deliberately choose all our books; we don’t have space to carry everything, so we think about what we like and what we think our friends and neighbors would like.

What’s involved with running an independent book store?

It’s mostly about the books, of course. Following new releases, talking to people about what they’re reading, reading the reviews, etc.

But that’s the fun part; the challenge is keeping the store open (recruiting volunteers, organizing the space, managing the finances).

Is competition with online retailers difficult?

They have been able to use their market power to demand special terms from publishers, and so sometimes we can sell books for less than the wholesale price.

But now that happens only for a handful of titles; investors tired of losing millions of dollars every year to establish a monopoly position.

Many people want to hold a book in their hands, to read a few pages, to get a sense of whether it’s the right book for them before buying it. And we’re here for them.

How do small book stores compete with Amazon and Barnes & Noble?

By curating the books, helping people winnow through the tens of thousands of books published each year to find things worth reading.

And of course some folks are on their way to a birthday party or heading out on a trip and need a good book right now.

It’s not clear that B&N will still be here in ten years. They’ve been closing stores across the country and lost tens of millions on their efforts to go digital. They just got bought by an investment firm that is placing a former independent bookseller in charge.

But he’s also running a smaller book chain they own in Great Britain and claims his approach is basically to let managers run stores as if they were independents.

But the whole point of the chains (and of Amazon) was merchandising–targeted promotions, rapid turn-over, books as a disposable product.

I’m not sure how you meld monopolization and merchandising with what people love about bookstores.

What makes your store unique?

We reflect the neighborhood, bridging the community that was here before the developers tried to rebrand our neighborhood and the folks who have been moving in in recent years.

Our volunteers are people who love books, and our selection is as eclectic as they are.

What are your biggest sellers?

We sell a lot of children’s books, a lot of fiction, a lot of books on politics and current events. But we don’t carry lots of copies of any particular title.

We post a best-seller list to our website each month, and a book can often make the list selling 3 or 4 copies. Rather than focus on a few titles, we try to have a broad selection of outstanding books in the areas we stock.

Do you have promotions throughout the year?

We do occasional Giant Book Sales on overstocked titles and sell select new books for $1.00 during the Dollar Strolls down Baltimore Avenue.

Do you have author book signings?

We’ve cut back on events, and now only organize readings when we can partner with someone or have a very clear picture in our mind of who will turn out.

If we’re doing an event with an author, we try to put together something that stands out–the author of a history of Philadelphia transit workers at the Transit Workers Union hall; a book on the clipper ships and the magnates who ran the trans-Pacific trade at a Victorian mansion that’s been converted to a B&B.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

The writing is the most important thing, but once you have your book think about how you want to publish it.

Today anyone can print a few hundred copies of something that looks kind of like a book, the challenge is to connect your book with readers.

Look for publishers who have done a good job with similar books, or talk to authors in your area to find out what’s worked for them.

What are some of your favorite books/authors?

Ursula Le Guin is my favorite author, and The Dispossessed my favorite novel.

We try to carry all her books–and also everything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, Roxanne Gay, Haruki Murakami, Kobi Yamada, and a few others.

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?

https://bindlestiffbooks.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/bindlestiffbooks/

Thank you, Jon, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you and Bindlestiff Books continued success and lots of luck!

Interview With Neighborhood Books Owner

Founded in 2013, Neighborhood Books is an independently owned secondhand bookstore at 1906 South Street, Philadelphia, PA.

The owner, Curtis Kise, a witty and well-read bibliophile, has spent 25 years in the used book trade. He began his career in the early 2000s when he opened Book Traders in Portland, Maine.

At heart, Kise is fond of traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores and believes they still have value for the community. However, if pressed, he’ll ruefully admit that in 15 years or so, people may refer to a bookshop as an antique store.

Neighborhood Books is open seven days a week from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Now that I’ve introduced you to Curtis, let’s get to know more about him and Neighborhood Books.

Hello, Curtis, welcome to Angel Kiss Publications. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

Thank you for having me.

What motivated you to open an Independent Book Store?

I’ve been in the used book business since 1988, starting at the Book Trader when it was at 5th and South Streets, with 7 years off for good behavior, optioning a screenplay in 1995.


Neighborhood Books is the second used bookshop that I’ve owned, my first being Booktraders in Portland, Maine, which opened in 2002.


Then back to the Book Trader, and stints with the Friends of the Free Library and Ukazoo Books, before opening Neighborhood Books in 2013.

Photo courtesy of: Neighborhood Books via Facebook


Can you tell us a little about Neighborhood Books?

Neighborhood Books is primarily a used bookstore focusing on the humanities, with a large selection of literature/fiction, philosophy and history, among other subject matters.


We do sell select brand new books, a cross section of current bestsellers and classic titles like 1984, One Hundred Years of Solitude, the Handmaid’s Tale to name a few.


We also sell our author and title inspired t-shirts along with some ephemera at authorshirts.com

Photo courtesy of: Neighborhood Books

What’s involved with running an independent bookstore?


Dedication, knowledge and experience.

Is competition with online retailers difficult?

Yes and no. We do sell some books online, subjects that we don’t sell in store.

How do small book stores compete with Amazon and Barnes & Noble?

The online platform that we use is Amazon. A used bookstore like ours has to have new bookstores like Barnes and Noble to replenish the herd, as it were, they don’t scare us.

What makes your store unique?

The personality of the owner and the store’s clientele.

What are your biggest sellers?

Literature/fiction – all genres except romance.



Do you have promotions throughout the year?

Right now we have a store-wide buy 3 books and get a 4th free which may become a permanent thing.


Do you have author book signings?

No. 


What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

Write every day.


Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you and your store?

We are open 359 days a year, closed major holidays.



What are some of your favorite books/authors?

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was one of the best reading experiences of my life. I really like Richard Russo and Joan Didion. 

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?


We are on Facebook as Neighborhood Books, and Instagram as @NeighborhoodBooks and our above mentioned website authorshirts.com.

Thank you, Curtis, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you and Neighborhood Books continued success and lots of luck!

Interview With A Novel Idea Book Store Owners

Established in 2018, A Novel Idea, is a community-minded bookstore and event space in the Passyunk section of Philadelphia, PA. Everything from paperbacks to board games to candles can be found on the floors of this eclectic book haven.

The owners, Alexander Schneider and Christina Rosso-Schneider, are friendly, knowledgeable, and ready to help you find your way through their labyrinth of books and other specialty merchandise.

As they seek to represent their community, the couple welcomes suggestions from everyone who visits the store. They want their shelves to reflect the interests of all their patrons.

An author in her own right, Christina, also wants the bookstore to be a hub where local authors, artisans and readers can connect. Each month, the shop offers a calendar of diverse and innovative events that is sure to please a variety of interests.

The store is open from 11am to 7pm Wednesday through Saturday, 11am to 5pm on Sundays and 3pm to 7pm Tuesdays.

Now that I’ve introduced you to Alex and Christina, let’s get to know a little more about them and A Novel Idea.

Hello, Alex and Christina, welcome to Angel Kiss Publications. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

Thank you for having us.

What motivated you to open an Independent Book Store?

The idea for the bookstore grew out of frustration of where we both were with our jobs.


Christina was an adjunct writing professor at three universities in the Greater Philadelphia area, and Alex was working as a freelance graphic designer and Twitch affiliate.


We felt underappreciated, underpaid, and exhausted. We also were fighting to get time together!

One night Alexander suggested we open a bookstore in jest, and the more we thought about it, the more we realized it could be a great opportunity to do something together and give our neighborhood a type of retail it’s been missing.

Christina always dreamed of owning and working in a bookstore, and we thought it was the perfect way to blend our passions and talents.

Photo courtesy of: Alex and Christina Schneider

Can you tell us a little about A Novel Idea?

A Novel Idea is a community-minded bookstore and event space with a focus on local authors and artisans. We host several events weekly, from open mics to author readings to book clubs and story times. We even have workshops.


Our focus is local, so we have a large section featuring books published in Philadelphia or written by Philadelphia-based writers. We have artwork on the walls by local artists and carry handmade goods by local artists. (Author request form.)

What’s involved with running an independent book store?

Long hours and a ton of reading! Right now, the two of us are the only employees at A Novel Idea. We’re open six days a week, with events sometimes as often as every night!

So we both put it over 40 hours a week physically at the shop, greeting customers, stocking the shelves, ordering inventory, social media, booking, managing, and running events, etc.

Alex also does all of our branding for the store, so often when he’s not at the shop, he’s working on a graphic for an upcoming event or workshop.

We also have to keep up to date with soon to be released titles or upcoming adaptations of books. Together we read about a dozen books a month so we are as up to date as possible.

Photo courtesy of: A Novel Idea

Is competition with online retailers difficult?

We don’t consider it to be a competition because we know we can never compete with online retailers. We are offering a different experience, one of one-on-one attention and book suggestions.

We take dozens of special orders each week, which luckily we’re able to fulfill pretty quickly (anywhere from a few days to a week usually). We have many customers who say, “I want to support a local business,” and are okay with waiting a few days to get the title they’re looking for.

How do small book stores compete with Amazon and Barnes & Noble?

People are getting nostalgic for spaces where you can actually talk to people and physically touch books. Because, sure you could do that at Barnes and Noble and there’s nothing wrong with Barnes and Noble, but that’s not a personal feel.

And then there’s Amazon, of course. We think people are starting to say, “I’m tired of always being on my phone and always having a screen in front of me and not actually interacting with people.”

And since it’s literally just the two of us working the store people will get to know us and what our backgrounds are and what our interests are. Then, we hope, through that, we’ll learn about their backgrounds and their interests, too.

What makes your store unique?

Our focus on local definitely makes us stand out. There aren’t a lot of bookstores that carry small press or local authors, especially with a large section dedicated specifically to them.

Our events also make us unique. In the first year, we will have hosted over 200 events.

We primarily host author events, but we also have two monthly book clubs, a monthly open mic, witchcraft workshops, writing workshops, a monthly tarot salon, toddler story time, live music events, and even theatre performances.

We are constantly trying to think of new events to host at the space to continue to support and connect with the community.

What are your biggest sellers?

Our best-selling novel is The Vampire Gideon’s Suicide Hotline and Halfway House for Orphaned Girls by Andrew Katz (published by local press Lanternfish).

Our second most popular book is The Power by Naomi Alderman.

Do you have promotions throughout the year?

Yes, we periodically have various promotions, usually tied to a holiday or festival in the area.

Do you have author book signings?

We do! As mentioned above, we have author events pretty much every week. We primarily feature local authors.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

To get to know your local independent bookstores and literary community. It’s the best way to make connections and to get your work out there.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you and your store?

More than anything, our goal is to cultivate community. This means we want to meet you! We want to get to know who your favorite authors are and what kind of events you want to see at A Novel Idea.

What are some of your favorite books/authors?

Christina’s favorite book is The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

Alex’s favorite book is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?

Yes! Our website is: https://anovelideaphilly.com/. Our Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/anovelideaphilly/. Our Instagram is: https://www.instagram.com/anovelideaphilly/. Our Twitter is: https://twitter.com/anovelideaphl.



Thank you, Alex and Christina, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you and A Novel Idea continued success and lots of luck!

Photo courtesy of: A Novel Idea