Ellwyn’s Blog

Interview With Author/Illustrator Robert Peacock

I had the good fortune to interview Rob Peacock this week to discuss his very busy lifestyle. Mr. Peacock resides on the “other side of the pond” on everyone’s favorite Emerald Isle.

Being an American, I thoroughly enjoyed the description of the landscapes he views everyday: landscapes that have filled up my imagination and sometimes the pages of my stories since I was a child.

When he isn’t busy writing and illustrating books about his favorite canine companion, Cara, Rob spends his time rescuing abused animals, gardening, and as you’ll soon find out a host of many other eco-friendly ventures, to which I applaud and say, “Well done!”

Now that you’ve been introduced to Rob, let’s get to know a little more about this environmentally conscious man.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I spent my childhood immersed in books, since my mother was a librarian and my grandfather was a keen amateur writer.

I adored the stories and poetry I read, particularly favouring the likes of Hilda Boswell compendiums, Eric and Lucy Kincaid, the Steve Jackson ‘Fighting Fantasy’ gaming books, and of course the wealth of traditional fairy tales available.

My mother was a great one for sourcing wonderfully illustrated copies of books, and I enjoyed being transported into alternative worlds through the power of words and illustrations on a daily and nightly basis.

Writing and illustrating really began for me as a means to express my own imagination and preserve my thoughts onto paper. 

And then along came Cara, my black Border Collie/Labrador cross. With her mischievous puppy antics and adorable personality, I saw in her the perfect muse.

From the  first few months when my hens adopted her as one of their own, through our travels around Ireland, to her current role as a Therapy Dog, she never ceases to provide inspiration for my work!

Photo courtesy of: Rob Peacock

Is writing your full-time profession?

Writing is certainly a big part of my life, but not my full-time profession, as I’ve so many irons in other fires.

Life in rural Ireland simply offers too many opportunities to do other things, and I spend my working time between writing, illustrating, rescue and rehabilitation of  seriously neglected and abused animals, ethical dairy farming and milking, cattle-birthing,  Therapy Dog training, landscape gardening and land management.

I’m also a world music percussionist for dancers and run drum circles  and primitive music workshops. And of course, the occasional proof-reading and editing for other authors.  I also grow giant vegetables for displays and seasonal  festivals. Pumpkins are my speciality!

Photo courtesy of: Robert Peacock

How long have you been writing?

Essentially I have been writing most of my life, noting down interesting daily occurrences, or composing poetry and jotting down excerpts from my thoughts, as well as short stories.  It is only in the last two years that I have been writing to earn a crust, however.

Which genres do you write?

I write and illustrate  children’s books, with Cara, my Labrador/Border Collie cross, as my main character.

I also write poetry, each with an open theme, depending on the moment of inspiration.  Usually surrounding my own life experiences. I entered a good few writing contests with those.

What do you find most challenging about writing for your genre?

I find being a writer for children fairly straight forward, in that I am fortunate enough to have Cara as my main inspiration. She in herself appeals to kids and readers of all ages!

I am also from  rural Ireland, and the locality lends itself to the theme, in that it is steeped in Irish folklore. I live on the ancient bogland  between Cill na Sí (Church of the fairies) and Cor na Dabhcha (Round Hill of the Cauldron) where legend has it lies a crock of gold.

Fairy forts are abundant here, and rainbow’s ends are a common sight! I also have a background in Special Needs education, therefore having an understanding of the spectrum literacy needs is very useful.

The real challenge I find is the marketing aspect, and one has to adopt a customer mindset for that. It’s really about building a following amongst a plethora of other children’s authors, building a trust in your work and reputation for a great story and an aesthetically pleasing product.

Photo courtesy of: Robert Peacock

How many books have you written?

I have self-published two books, Cara and the Mystery of the Missing Ball, and Cara and the Cauldron of the Round Hill.

Though I have written many more on a variety of themes, which are currently scribbled into jotter pads for future formatting and illustrating.

Not to mention a good few stories which are still at the development stage, composed on scattered pieces of paper, and stored in the corners of my imagination!

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

One of my beta readers is a former student whose parents I keptin  contact with. He is now in his twenties and has Asperger’s Syndrome.

He has given me great feedback on my unedited manuscripts and illustrations, and I present my books in a story-board format which facilitates a comfortably structured read for those on the autistic spectrum.

Not that my books aren’t for all children. I just have faith that my design and writing style accommodates all readers, whatever their level of ability.

I am also proud to be supporting the Summer Stars reading initiative here in Ireland, which encourages children to read as many books as they are able over the summer holidays. This culminates in an award ceremony, where local dignitaries and fellow creatives present young readers with prizes and certificates of achievement.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?     

I’d say focus on the pleasure of developing your stories and putting them onto paper when you start out. Try not to think of it as a potential business at that stage, as it can take the joy out of it. Writing doesn’t make many of us millionaires, and certainly not over night!

Can you tell us a little about Kids Active Media?

Kids Active Media is an online self-publishing service, essentially based on a directory of authors, illustrators, proof readers, and editors. You can join at varying levels of membership. I opted for the free profile, which includes a header, short bio, profile photo, links to my books, and a contact form.

Photo courtesy of: Robert Peacock

What inspired you to support The Woodland Trust?

Kids Active Media subscriptions include small donations  to the Woodland Trust, which is a UK based conservation charity with a mission to replenish diminishing wildlife habitats with native species of trees.

I myself am very interested in the preservation of nature, and as a wildlife rehabilitator, I am very concerned at the number of dwindling species, and the destruction of their habitats. The Woodland Trust does a great job in trying to prevent this.

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

Yes, I am currently promoting the official launch of Cara and the Cauldron of the Round Hill, which will be held at Lanesboro library, Co. Longford, Ireland. I will be reading and signing copies of the book.

The launch is part of Ireland’s Children’s Book month. I will also be displaying one of my home-grown giant pumpkins in the run up to Halloween, featuring seasonally themed children’s  books. I am having a guess the weight competition, and will be awarding prizes to the winners (with the closest guesses) on the night of my launch.

Photo courtesy of: Robert Peacock

Can you tell us about any new releases coming out?

Cara and the Cauldron of the Round Hill is my latest publication, but I am working on new material to be released next year!

Photo courtesy of: Robert Peacock

What are you working on now?

I am working on my third and fourth ‘Cara’ books, which are centred around the themes of Samhajn and Christmas.

I am keen to incorporate more Irish folklore into my work, and am busily developing the stories and working on the eighty illustrations that will accompany each book.

What are your favorite books, movies, TV shows?

I am still a big fan of Hilda Boswell and Eric and Lucy Kincaid. These hark back to my own childhood and were incredibly influential in my creative development.

I’m not a great watcher of movies.. fast cars, guns and karate do nothing for me. I do enjoy history however, and Black 47, the recent movie about the Irish Genocide, looks quite good.

 Not sure how accurate the historical detail will be, but no matter.

TV shows, I enjoy the likes of Father Ted, Black Books, and many of the American comedy series too.

Where can we learn more about you?

I also welcome interest in the things I am doing and enjoy networking. Please feel free to contact me via https://www.kidsactivemedia.com/robertpeacock-author (where you can also find links to purchase my books!) or email me at carathedog@outlook.ie

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

Photo courtesy of: Robert Peacock

Interview With Author Donise Sheppard

Donise Sheppard and I took some time this week, to discuss her many writing successes. A natural born storyteller, she began writing for fun when she was eleven, and professionally when she was eighteen.

A native of Ohio, Donise now lives in Southern West Virginia with her husband and their family.

As the mother of four boisterous children, Donise runs a tight ship to ensure her numerous goals are achieved. You have to when you’re raising little ones, writing, editing and co-running a publishing company.   

When she isn’t writing, you can find Donise curled up with a good book or bustling about her kitchen baking her newest favorite recipe.

Now that you’ve been introduced to Donise, let’s get to know a little more about this industrious woman.

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

Thank you for having me.

What inspired you to be a writer?

I’ve always loved reading and making up stories. My passion for writing grew as a teenager. It wasn’t good writing, but it was an escape.

A way to become someone new for awhile. I was in college to be an English teacher when I realized I couldn’t be happy doing anything but writing.

Writing is in my blood. My mom wanted to write picture books. My grandmother was an amazing poet. My aunt writes horror. My sisters write. My niece wants to write. It’s just a part of all of us.

Is writing your full-time profession?

Professionally, I am a writer and a publisher. I write short stories and novels. I am a co-owner of Pixie Forest Publishing and publish anthologies, hoping to one day publish novels.

I probably should dedicate more time to writing, but I’m a full-time mom to four, so time is limited.

Have you won any awards?

I have won one award for a short story contest, (which I am still over the moon about), I was a runner up in a poetry contest, and won second place in a flash fiction contest.

How long have you been writing?

Professionally writing? Since I was eighteen. Nine years ago. Whoa! I’m older than I remembered. Writing in general? Probably since I was eleven or twelve. Telling stories? As long as I can remember. Books and stories have always been my favorite.

How many books have you written?

Six. I have three young adult dystopian novels (a series), two science fiction novels (sequel), and a romance novel.  I would have more, but I swear I waste too much time on social media;)

Photo courtesy of: Donise Sheppard

Which genres do you write?

My novels are romance, science fiction, dystopia, (as I mentioned before). My short stories are horror, dark romance, and historical romance (my new fave).

Which genre is the easiest to write for? Which one is the most challenging?

I’m assuming romance is my easiest. Everything I write has a lot of romance involved. I just love love I suppose.

Most difficult is definitely fantasy. I find it so difficult to write in new worlds with new creatures. I did write a fantasy middle-grade fiction, but writing fantasy for adults is so hard for me.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I am writing a new romance novel. I am also editing a young adult dystpoia. And soon I’ll be working on my short story for Pixie Forest’s new modern fantasy anthology (still open for submissions).

Photo courtesy of: Donise Sheppard

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

Ooo. This is so hard. So many good things have happened to me. From my first anthology acceptance, which took my breath away and made me cry, to the compliments I get on my work, which also makes me cry. (Yes, I cry too much.) 

I think my publishing company is my most rewarding. Seeing authors so happy too have their name in print is so rewarding. It’s the best decision I’ve made in my career in a while.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Write every single day. Even when you’re busy or depressed. Write something. Write a sentence, or a paragraph, or ten thousand words.

And remember the first draft always sucks. Editing isn’t a personal attack. There is always room for improvement.

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

I like coffee and feedback. Follow me, read my stuff, and reach out to me! And always invite me for coffee.

Do you have a website/facebook page?

I do! My website is donisesite.wordpress.com

From there, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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

Photo courtesy of: Donise Sheppard

Interview With Author/Editor Julie Greenbaum

Recently, I caught up with one of my favorite writer Julie Greenbaum, to discuss her literary career, and I have to tell you, she has quite a bit of experience.

Not only is she a fiction writer, she’s an editor with over 10 years of experience, a freelance writer, and a poet. 

Julie worked at three different magazines in the trade magazine industry.

These positions entailed a long list of responsibilities that included: writing short-and-long-form articles, editing, proofreading, composing video scripts and being featured in videos, writing content for newsletters and developing newsletters, and much more.

In addition to her professional writing career, Julie founded the Neshaminy Writers’ Group, which is where we met. YAY!

A large number of talented authors have met through membership in this group and have improved their craft as a result. 

Thanks, Julie!

Now that you’ve been introduced to Julie, let’s get to know more about this literacy lovin’ woman.

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

Thank you for having me.

What inspired you to be a writer?

 A friend named Henry. I started out as a Biology major in college, but then Henry, the president of the English club, walked into my English class and mentioned an English club meeting.

I went to the meeting and not long after, realized my passion for writing. I switched my major from Bio to English.

Is writing your full-time profession?

Yes. I am a writer and editor and have worked in the publishing industry for 14 years. Throughout that time, I worked on 3 printing industry magazines.

How long have you been writing?

Professionally, for 14 years.

Can you tell us a little about your writing career?

When I graduated college, I knew I wanted to go into publishing. I landed my first job as a database editor and worked my way up to digital editor.

As a digital editor, I wrote for three leading trade magazines which consisted of: writing/editing, proofreading, finding/generating content for a daily e-newsletter and deploying, handling industry tradeshow daily newsletters, as well as their countdown newsletters, composing video scripts for videos that I was also featured in, maintaining blogger schedules, uploading content from the printed edition to the website, setting up digital editions, writing short- and long-form articles for three magazines, while also covering the education beat for the printing industry and traveling.

During those 14 years in publishing, I have grown as a writer and have kept up to date on many of the platforms used in the publishing world.

Which genre do you write?

Professionally, I write non-fiction – articles, video scripts. Personally, I write poetry and fiction.

What do you find most challenging about writing for this genre?

My passion is poetry and I have been writing poetry since I can remember. It just flows. The most challenging aspect about writing fiction is dialogue and creating a scene using actual historical information.

Photo courtesy of: Julie Greenbaum

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

Volunteering at a local food pantry, hiking at a park.

What are you working on now?

 I am working on two fiction pieces and a freelance project.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

To join a writers’ group, or a student magazine or newspaper. You can learn how production of those pieces work and it will give you a jump when you land your dream job.

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

 That I also enjoy interviewing companies and individuals for articles. I enjoy telling their stories and promoting their businesses.

What are your favorite books to read?

Anything by Victoria Holt

What inspires you?

Nature and people

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

For my professional work you can visit, Printing Impressions (https://www.piworld.com/author/jgreenbaum/), In-plant Graphics (https://www.inplantgraphics.com/author/jgreenbaum/) and package PRINTING (https://www.packageprinting.com/author/jgreenbaum/)

To view some of my personal writing, you can visit: (https://www.juliegreenbaumscribe.com/poetry-fiction). You can also contact me to view some of my additional poems.

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

Photo courtesy of: Julie Greenbaum

Interview With Author Janet Stafford

Janet and I met several years ago at a bookstore in Peddler’s Village, a quaint shopping mall in New Hope, PA.

I found Janet to be approachable and friendly; soft-spoken but a great conversationalist who measures her words before she speaks; a social trait that confirms why writing comes easily to her.

I’m confident that as you read this interview, you will recognize what an articulate and engaging person she is.

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

What inspired you to be a writer?

That’s a good question. My parents read to me when I was young, and I loved to hear stories. Once I could read, I devoured books. I was telling stories to other people before I could write.

When I became adept at writing, I realized I could put my stories on paper. So, it was no particular book or person that inspired me, but rather my parents instilling a love of stories in me, my imagination taking flight, and the realization I had the power to write my stories down.

Is writing your full-time profession?

No. I have a vocation as a part-time assistant minister at a United Methodist Church. I’ve been working in educational, youth, and family ministries for close to 30 years.

That said, I’d like to write full-time, since I see it as a calling, as well. Maybe that dream will come true after I “retire” from ministry.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was about 8 or 9 years old! So that means I’ve been at it 57 or 58 years. It’s really part of who I am.

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

Which genres do you write?

I primarily write historical fiction. I started with one book, based on a paper I did in graduate school. The book was called Saint Maggie.

When I talked to book clubs and groups, I kept getting this question, “What happens next?” So I ended up writing a series, aptly named the Saint Maggie Series.

I also have written a contemporary romance called Heart Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll, which was great fun and gave me a break from the 19th century.

Since I feel I’m due for another break, I want to try my hand at a Young Adult fantasy. I plan to work on it in Spring 2019. I will set it on an island in Maine. My family used to visit a relative who summered on Bailey Island, ME, and I think that would be an amazing setting for a fantasy story.

What do you find most challenging writing for these genres?

Let me address the historical fiction genre, since it has a unique rather challenge: to make a story credible, the history has to be correct.

For example, I set my novels in the 1860s, so I can’t have people using contemporary words and phrasing. I need to give the characters’ dialog the feel of nineteenth-century language.

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

I also research everything from the big events of the era to details like recipes and how to do the laundry. The most unnerving novel for me was Walk by Faith, which is set in Gettysburg.

Everything about the battle has been researched in detail. It terrified me that I’d get something wrong and I’d get called out by a Gettysburg nerd (no insult intended here, “nerd” is a compliment).

Integrating historical data into a story is also challenging. An author can’t simply list facts and dates. The historical details need to be interesting and well-integrated into the story.

Finally, I think some people shy away from historical fiction because they don’t “like history.” But they don’t know that history really comprises people’s stories.

That’s the “story” part of “history.” (The word “history” comes from the Middle English word histore which, according to dictionary.com, means “one who knows or sees.” I think that gives history a bit of a mystical spin, don’t you?)

Anyway, it is a challenge to appeal to people who think they’ll be bored by anything even vaguely historical.

What message are you sharing in your books?

I aim to share several messages: hope, love, forgiveness, and perseverance in my books. We seem to need these things these days.

How many books have you written?

Hmm… five full-length novels, two novellas, and two short stories. I’m exhausted just writing this down.

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

What inspires you to write?

For the Saint Maggie series, it is discovering issues that roughly parallel contemporary issues. This is not as difficult as it sounds.

I’ve come to believe many of the issues undergirding the Civil War were never resolved completely. I’ve heard it said history does not repeat itself as much as it echoes. What I hope is for readers to hear the echoes of the past that still reverberate today.

For Heart Soul & Rock ’n’ Roll, the inspiration oddly enough was feeling really burned out from ministry and asking myself the question, “If you could have your dream of a best-seller or optioning a book for a film, would you quit working at the church?”

The question led to my creating an assistant minister named Lins. She used to have a college rock band and, when she turns 40, she wants to “rock out one more time before I die,” as she puts it.

I also love rock and had her meet a guy with a messy life who fronts a bar band. They fall in love, but there are complications. (Aren’t there always? It’s a romance.)

I was pleased when a reviewer said the novel is about changing your life without changing your core self. I hadn’t thought of the story that way, but the observation makes complete sense.

Can you tell us a little about your St. Maggie Series?

Sure! The series follows Maggie Blaine Smith and her unconventional (for the 1860s) family.

When we meet her in the first book, Maggie is a widow struggling to keep her boarding house afloat. She has two teenage daughters, Lydia (the logical, focused one) and Frankie (the outspoken, impulsive one).

Her boarders, who often have trouble scraping up their rent, are not exactly “respectable.” That group comprises an old Irishman of no fixed employment, a failed writer in his late 50s, a struggling young lawyer, and the undertaker’s apprentice.

Maggie’s cook and closest friend, Emily Johnson, and Emily’s carpenter husband Nate live in the house, too. This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but with an outspoken teen, her borders, and the Johnsons in the boarding house, the town looks down its nose at Maggie, especially since her establishment is located right on the town square.

Add to mix Eli Smith, a free-thinking, former Quaker who publishes the penny-weekly newspaper situated in Maggie’s outbuilding. Eli is sweet on Maggie and they soon get married in the first book.

The central characters are Maggie, Eli, and her daughters, with the Johnsons and Maggie’s boarders serving as secondary characters. However, throughout the series, other people come in and out of Maggie’s sphere of influence.

As I mentioned, I based the first book on a graduate school research project about “scandal in ministry”. The story I found involved a handsome young minister–a charismatic, handsome, gifted preacher–who lived in Warren County, NJ and got himself in a peck of trouble when he ended up in a shotgun wedding.

Sadly, marital bliss was nowhere to be found in the marriage, and the minister did something that shocked the entire town and resulted in a trial.

After writing the paper, I kept wondering how I could turn such an intriguing and tragic story into fiction?  I finally did it in 2011.

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

In the books that follow, we find Maggie and family in Gettysburg during the battle in the second book and her daughters choosing compassion over law in the third book.

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

In the fourth both Maggie’s husband Eli struggles with nightmares brought on by his experiences in the war even as he investigates abuses occurring at the local insane asylum.

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

The Enlistment is a novella that focuses on daughter Frankie. She becomes upset because her beau Patrick has gone off to join the army. So, she cuts off her hair, puts on men’s clothing, and goes off to join him with some results she does not expect. Finally, I have two Christmas short stories.

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

The Christmas Eve Visitor finds the family worried about the three youngest children who are quite ill – only to have a strange peddler turn up at their door who seems to know just what they need.

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

 And The Dundee Cake is a Saint Maggie prequel that echoes O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. Young widow Maggie Blaine struggles to keep her boarding house going and still celebrate Christmas, when she learns that her new cook and her husband have suffered a disaster.

How has your religious faith influenced your work?

My faith shapes my work a great deal although I try not to hit people over the head with it. Just the same, the values of hope, love, forgiveness, faith, and compassion are present.

Maggie is the most religious character (Emily Johnson runs a close second). Maggie is a Methodist, who can be rather pious, especially in the first book.

That said, her piety is consistent with many women of her time. However, I balance Maggie with Eli, who has questions and doubts and a rather edgy, but he also is on a spiritual journey–perhaps against his will!

I strive to make my characters human by giving them a sense of humor, fits of temper, frustration, and passion. This helps because they usually find themselves combating hatred, bigotry, and violence with love, compassion, and mercy.

The other important thing I try to avoid are pat answers and easy conclusions. I do not want to send a “do this and you’ll be happy and safe 24/7” message.

Because, frankly, in my belief system, just because you have faith in Christ, doesn’t mean life is going to be hunky dory and safe. Actually, it might just be the opposite.

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

I think the most rewarding experience happened when I visited a book club in Belvidere, NJ. Now, Belvidere is where the trial was held for the real wayward minister on whom I based the fictional minister in Saint Maggie.

Of course, the group all knew the story of the trial. I happily talked about how I changed some aspects of the story and invented a boarding house for the minister to live in rather than having him rent a room in a home, which felt too claustrophobic.

Then things started getting weird. One person said, “We have a Water Street here, and I think that might have been where the black population of the town lived.”

Several of the other book club members concurred. Then someone else said. “I heard the old newspaper office had an Underground Railroad Station in the basement.” (In the novel there is a hiding place for self-emancipators in a tunnel between the boarding house and Eli’s Gazette.)

More murmurs of agreement swept around the table. I was fascinated, and a little flattered (because I thought they were giving me a bit too much credit for my research). But I knew it was a crazy coincidence.

But then they started talking about which house on the square might have been Maggie’s. At that point I was thinking, “Wait! People, Maggie’s fictional! The boarding house isn’t real!”

But it was really a rewarding experience. It meant the readers had loved my story enough to pay attention to details and try to correlate them with the real-life town.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

Write, read, be persistent. You won’t earn a lot of money unless you are incredibly lucky and/or incredibly talented. But write anyway. for the love of story-telling.

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

I love rock ‘n’ roll. That includes hard rock and metal. No joke.

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

At the church because my hours can be irregular!

The other place you can find me is hanging out with the love of my life and occasional collaborator, Dan. We usually come over to Peddler’s Village once a week or every other week.

In the world of social media, someone invited me to be a moderator and help the administrators on a Facebook page for Jack Black and Tenacious D.

Long story. Too long and weird for here. But it’s fun to be there and different from anything else I do. (Ya think?)

What are your favorite books, movies, TV shows?

EM Kaplan’s Josie Tucker Un-Culinary, Un-Cozy Mystery Series.

Jan Karon’s Mitford series (about an Episcopal priest living in the North Carolina mountains). Anne Perry’s Inspector Pitt mysteries.  I also love Mark Twain.

What are you working on now?

I’m in the middle of The Good Community, a full-length novel in which Maggie and Emily start a school for the black children in town, whose school on Water Street is in terrible shape.

But when the new school becomes integrated, some people in town take offense, including the powerful industrialist who has taken up residence there and sits on the school board.

I’m not sure how it will come in for a landing yet, but we’re in the air.

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

Do you have any new releases coming out?

Yes! I released The Great Central Fair. It’s a romance about Maggie’s daughters and their beaus, and the decisions the two couples make during a visit to the Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia in June 1864.

A Sanitary Fair, by the way, was a fair to raise funds for the Sanitary Commission, a non-governmental group that saw to the health and comfort of Union solders. They held the fairs all over the Union and raised a great deal of money.

Do you have a website/Facebook page?

That and more…

Website: www.squeakingpips.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/squeakingpips/

Instagram: squeaking_pips_press

Twitter: @JanetRStafford

Where can we find your books?

Squeaking Pips Press, Inc. (my micro-publishing company) www.squeakingpips.com/store

Online at Lulu.com, Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and other online distributors.

My books are also in the Lahaska Bookshop, Peddler’s Village, Lahaska, Pa.

You might even find them in other libraries and bookstores. You’ll have to check.

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

Photo courtesy of: Janet Stafford

Interview With Author Scott Washburn

When Scott Washburn agreed to do an interview with me, I was delighted and flattered. He is truly one of the finest authors I have ever met. His writing is dynamic, precise, and engaging.

His world building and character development flow with remarkable consistency that takes the reader on harrowing journeys replete with heroes, villains, and breathtaking description.

I am so glad I’ve gotten to know him and been able to read his work (before it’s published). That’s one advantage of being in the same writer’s group with him. If you meet Scott and he gives you advice, do what I do, sit up and pay close attention.

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

What inspired you to be a writer?

Well, that’s a story in and of itself. I’m not one of these folks who say they’ve been writing since they were a child or that they always wanted to do it.

I didn’t start to seriously write until 1999—when I was 44 years old. But the fact was that I had been preparing to write for a long time before that—even though I didn’t realize it.

I grew up in a house full of books. My parents and my older brothers were avid readers and there were books everywhere.

My mother read to me before I learned to read and once I’d learned, I read everything I could lay my hands on—which happened to mostly be science fiction, fantasy, and history books. I loved to read. I did a third grade book report on Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”.

Then, in college I stumbled across the game Dungeons & Dragons. It was brand new back then, and I quickly took on the role of a dungeon master—the person who runs the game and makes up the plot for the adventure.

This taught me the art of storytelling—again, without my realizing it. But after college I did not play D&D much anymore and my skills mostly languished.

I wrote some short pieces; I was an avid wargamer and sometimes I would write accounts of some of the games I had played, often adding fictional embellishments; more unintended training.

The final step toward becoming a writer was when I entered graduate school, working on a master’s degree in military history.

I had to write some lengthy papers for that and my advisor, Dr. Russell Weigley, was one of America’s top military historians and also a very good writer. He insisted that my papers not only be well-researched, but well-written.

I learned a lot from him. I got my MA and then went for my Ph.D. Why not? I worked for Temple University and the tuition was free.

But then something totally unexpected happened.

I got interested in an SF book series and found a group of fans on this brand-new Internet thing which had recently popped up. It was a great group of people (many of whom are still close friends).

We discussed the books and did fan sorts of things (designing spaceships and such). And since it was an ongoing book series, we speculated endlessly about what would happen in the next book.

At the time, the heroine had been left in a terrible fix at the end of the last book and we were all dying to know what would happen next. I had made up a sort of list of Things Which Need to Happen in the next book.

But when the book finally came out, there were a number of things which had not been checked off my list. The story itself was fine, but in my opinion it had ended about three chapters too soon and left a LOT of loose ends.

So I stewed on this for a couple of weeks and then did something, which for me, was totally remarkable. I wrote the missing chapters. It was fan fiction, of course, a concept I was only vaguely aware of at that time.

A few weeks work and I had written 30,000 words, something I normally would have considered an enormous chore. I should add that were it not for the invention of personal computers and good word-processing software (something still relatively new at that point in time) I never would have even attempted it.

Unlike many writers I have talked to, I never carry a note pad around with me. I have never written anything of consequence by hand—and I doubt I ever will. And typewriters? Forget it!

So, I had written my chapters and discovered two amazing things. First, I had really enjoyed it. At the time I was eye-deep in the Ph.D. program.

I had just finished a very long and very challenging research paper and was experiencing serious burn-out. But this! I was writing stuff that I didn’t have to research (beyond having read the stories in the series). No footnotes, no bibliography. I could just make stuff up! What a concept!

The second thing I discovered was that I was pretty good at it. I shared what I had written with the other Internet fans and they all loved it. Or so they said. Honestly, it did seem pretty good.

Even reading it now, almost twenty years later it was not a bad piece of work. I had never thought I had any talent for writing. Perhaps I was wrong. Only one way to find out: write some more.

A quick word on fan fiction. Fan fic is a great way for a new writer to get some practice. It allows them to start in an established universe with established characters which allows them to concentrate on a plot without having to do a lot of world-building or character development.

Technically, of course, it is illegal as it does violate copyright. In practice, very few authors openly object to it. They just ignore it. If the fan fic writers are sensible, no one gets hurt and many benefit from it.

So I started writing more fan fiction. I had had an idea for a novel kicking around in my head for many years. It was nothing I ever intended to write, but I had hoped that somebody else would.

When I realized that it would fit perfectly into a fan fiction story set in this other writer’s universe, I was off to the races. I wrote an entire novel and then a second one.

I went from using the original author’s characters to creating my own. By the time I had finished the second one, I was doing a large amount of world-building as well.

Writing the fan fiction gave me all the tools I needed to do my own original stories. Oh, and it was also the end of my Ph.D. ambitions. I wanted to write far more than I wanted that Ph.D.

My fans (I had quite a few by then) told me I wrote well enough to get original stories published. So I started writing original novels. The rest is, as the saying goes, history.

Getting those novels actually published is another story and far too much for this overly long answer. Ellwyn, you will have to do another interview to get that out of me!

I’d love to!

Is writing your full-time profession?

No, my full-time job is as an architectural designer (which is basically an architect who never got around to taking the tests and getting his professional license).

I work at Temple University. But retirement is only a few years away and perhaps then I will become a full-time writer.

How long have you been writing?

As I said, since 1999, so nineteen years.

How many books have you written?

Including my fan fiction, I have fourteen finished novels. Six of them are currently in print with a publisher and two more have been self-published.

I also have a number of short stories and novellas, four of them currently in print.

Photo courtesy of: Scott Washburn

Which genres do you write for?

Primarily science fiction, but a few fantasy stories as well. I suppose my Great Martian War series could be labeled as Alternate History as well as Science Fiction.

Photo courtesy of: Scott Washburn

What do you find most challenging about writing for these genres?

That would have to be the world-building. With science fiction and fantasy I often have to create fictional societies and even whole worlds from the ground up.

Science fiction also often calls for new technologies and fantasy requires systems of magic and perhaps gods and religions, too. My Great Martian War series, on the other hand, is set in real locations and in historical times populated with people who really existed.

That calls for a great deal of research to get all the details right. This is all challenging, but also a great deal of fun. My background in history helps a lot there.

Photo courtesy of: Scott Washburn

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the fourth book in my Great Martian War series. The first three books were all set in America, but this one is set in the Middle East. So a whole new set of characters and locations to research!

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

Oh, there have been a number of things. Seeing my books on the shelves of bookstores has been really exhilarating.

Reading the positive reviews on Amazon and knowing that my works have entertained and even touched and inspired other people is great.

And realizing that I needed to start acting like an author and doing writerly things like attending conventions and joining writers groups—and doing interviews like this–has also been a great deal of fun.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

First and foremost: finish things! Don’t just start books, finish them. Anyone can start a story, but it is much, much harder to finish one. And don’t spend ten years trying to make it perfect.

Get it done, start sending it out to agents and publishers, and start writing something else. And if you want to get your work published, get lucky.

The sad truth is that these days getting published is as much a matter of luck as anything else. But I got lucky, maybe you will, too.

Photo courtesy of: Scott Washburn

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

Before I was a writer I was a historical re-enactor, and before I was a reenactor, I was a wargamer (you know, one of those crazy guys who plays with toy soldiers).

I’ve never been in the military, but I’ve always been fascinated with the military and military history. Those things show through in almost everything I write.

Photo courtesy of: Scott Washburn

What message are you sharing in your books?

I’m not much for messages. I write good stories. There might be some messages, there, I suppose, but I rarely put them there deliberately.

What are your favorite books?

My favorite writer is Lois McMaster Bujold. She’s the best writer most people have never heard of. She writes SF and fantasy and she’s won more Hugo Awards (SF&F’s equivalent of the Oscar) than anyone, ever.

Her stuff is fantastic. She focuses on characters and creates amazing ones. She taught me the vital lesson that good stories are about people. Not things or places.

If the reader does not care about the people in your story, they are not going to care about the rest of it, either.

What are your favorite movies, TV shows?

TV? Well, I love the Star Trek Series, especially, Next Generation. Documentaries, like Cosmos and the Ken Burns Civil War series are great.

Movies? Well, there are too many of those to list. Classics like Casablanca and Forbidden Planet, many of the old war movies, and of course the first Star Wars movies, and my special favorite SF movie, Avatar.

When you aren’t writing where can we find you?

In my den. Surfing the Net, playing computer games, or painting more of my toy soldiers. Until recently you could have also found me at Civil War reenactments leading my battalion in mock battles.

But I stepped down from my colonel’s position a few years ago and don’t do it all that much anymore. I miss it sometimes, but life moves on.

Photo courtesy of: Scott Washburn

What inspires you?

Courageous people. Explorers, scientists, soldiers, activists, artists, and yes, writers.

Do you have a website/Facebook page?

Yes. These days, who doesn’t? www.scottwashburn.com

Photo courtesy of: Scott Washburn

Where can we find your books?

Some you can find in book stores. You can find all of them listed on Amazon.


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

Photo courtesy of: Scott Washburn