Interview With Author Cait Marie

Photo courtesy of: Cait Maire via functionallyfictional.com

By way of introduction, here is Cait Marie’s bio.:

Cait Marie has been obsessed with books her entire life. The love of writing didn’t hit until 2017. Since then, she has held multiple positions within Coffee House Writers, including C.O.O., Advertising Supervisor, Editor, and Writer.

In 2018, she used her passion for reading to create Functionally Fictional. In 2019, she joined the indie staff of YA Books Central as a reviewer and then Indie Assistant Blogger.

Cait graduated with honors in 2019 from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, and she is currently enrolled in their Master of Fine Arts program.

She lives in Indiana, where she freelance edits and provides a variety of other author services. When she’s not writing or reading, she can usually be found watching Disney movies or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, creating bullet journal spreads, or singing along to various soundtracks and showtunes.

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

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

Thank you for having me.

When did the writing bug ensnare you?

I never liked to write, but I always loved to read. When I moved back home in 2015, I started reading more, and a book didn’t go exactly how I wanted.

So, I said to myself, “Why don’t I just write my own book? Then I can put anything I want in it!” I basically wanted all the tropes in one story, and I was bored.

Is writing your full-time profession?

No, it’s not. I am a freelance editor, and I offer a number of author services. I also own the book website Functionally Fictional, which I am working on building into a full company.

It’s my goal to offer self-publishing authors help throughout the entire process, from writing and editing to publishing and marketing.

How long have you been writing?

I started in 2015, but I didn’t start seriously writing with the intent of making it a career until 2018. Even then, I was still getting a psychology degree and writing wasn’t my main focus.

I thought the books would be something on the side. In 2019, I decided to apply to an MFA program instead of continuing with psychology after graduation, and I decided to start self-publishing.

How many published books have you written?

My first book releases today, March 18, 2020.

A big CONGRATULATIONS!

Which genres do you write?

Young adult fantasy, contemporary romance, dystopian, and some science fiction, as well as new adult fantasy and contemporary romance. Most of the books border the YA/NA line.

What do you find most challenging writing for these genres?

Usually, the distinction between YA and NA is the most difficult for me. I don’t know how to categorize most of my books because they’re written more like YA, but the characters are in their early 20s a lot of the time. NA also has a bad rep in the book community, unfortunately.

What are you working on now?

I am writing a YA contemporary romance, The Last Summer, which I’m aiming to release in June.

Where do you find inspiration for your characters?

I read a lot and watch a lot of movies. Well, not the latter so much anymore, but I used to.

I tend to pull my favorite qualities from a number of favorite characters and kind of mix them up for the specific story. For example, Adalina in The Lost Legends was greatly inspired by Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean.

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

I haven’t published yet, but I have sent out the advanced readers copies, and the reviews have started coming in. Seeing that people actually love my book has been so rewarding.

I’ve had a lot of self-confidence issues in the past, so to read these amazing reviews, especially from strangers saying they read the whole thing in one sitting because they couldn’t stop… it’s just incredible. It’s an 82,000-word book—it isn’t short. That takes some serious commitment.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

Plan ahead and don’t give up. It is a lot of work. A LOT. But it is so worth it. Definitely plan things out though.

Too often I see authors doing things last minute and not putting a lot into the marketing aspect of it. The marketing side is just as important as the writing if you want your books to actually reach readers.

That’s one of the reasons I am building up my website. I know this part is hard for many authors, and I want to help.

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

See above answer haha. I really want to help indie authors. There are so many good books out there that people don’t know about because they don’t have the reach.

I don’t have the biggest following by any means, but I want to help. I just finished editing a book, for example, that was unbelievably good. It could easily be compared to some of the YA fantasy books from big publishers.

I do not know how big this author’s readership is, but I hope it gets the attention it deserves.

What message are you sharing in your books?

To follow your dreams and your heart, and to never give up. And that it is okay to believe in fairy tales.

What are your favorite books?

All of the Shadowhunter books by Cassandra Clare. The A Court of Thorns and Roses series and the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. The Ravenspire series by C. J. Redwine. Michelle MacQueen and Ann Maree Craven’s two contemporary series, Redefining Me and Discovering Me.

If you could create an author’s group with writers from any time period, who would you invite?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Confession time, I’ve actually never read a full book from another time period. I’ve read bits and pieces, but never a full book.

I really struggle with them… So, here are some cliché answers because I love the movies based on their books: Jane Austen, J. R. R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, and C. S. Lewis.

Who has influenced your writing the most?

Probably Sarah J. Maas for many reasons. First and foremost, it was her books that caused the love of reading to fully take over my life.

They sparked the reading frenzy that led to the creation of Functionally Fictional because I needed a place to talk about books. I needed to find others who loved them as much as I do.

This then led to my involvement in the writing community and then my own books. More than that though, her books made me feel something I never had before.

The way she makes readers connect to her characters is so powerful, and that’s something I strive for now with my own.

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

Usually reading, editing, doing homework, working on promotional stuff for my books, or Functionally Fictional stuff. I also use a bullet journal and love creating new spreads.

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?

Probably someone in the background in the Tugora tavern scene if they could make my wheelchair blend in somehow.

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?

I have no idea. See if he’s okay, then ask about his name and tattoo…

Photo courtesy of Cait Marie via facebook

What are your most effective marketing strategies?

Start early and PLAN! Plan when you’re going to do different types of promotion and work ahead.

For example, for my book that released today, I sent the book to the editor in November, then immediately started planning the marketing.

I decided to begin promotion January 1, with the cover reveal and pre-order opening a couple weeks later. After that, I did a different teaser graphic or book-related every Wednesday, and will continue to until the release, which is today.

However, I didn’t just plan this first book. I planned out the whole year, with a book coming out every four months. And each book will follow the same basic marketing timeline. I will gladly share the exact details of this with other authors if they’re interested.

Photo courtesy of: Cait Marie via functionallyfictional.com

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?

All of the above. Here’s a list of most of my links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/c8_marie
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cait.marie.h/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/caits.inner.circle/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/c8_marie/
Website: https://caitmarieh.com/
Functionally Fictional: https://functionallyfictional.com/
Newsletter Sign-Up: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/v1d5i1

Where can we find your books?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cait-Marie/e/B083W2CG3Z

Thank you, Cait Marie, for spending time with us and sharing your story. Good luck with the new book. We wish you lots of success!

Available on Amazon!

A plague. A prophecy. A centuries-long curse.

All her life, Princess Adalina heard tales of the legendary, immortal warriors known as the Nihryst. Cursed and bound to a deck of tarot cards by her ancestors, the Nihryst were stranded on a remote island nearly a century and a half earlier.

Her brother, Prince Shane, is destined to rule the kingdom of Detmarya. Though preparing for this role has encompassed his entire life, control of the kingdom may come sooner than expected due to their father’s sporadic behavior.

Discovering the king’s plan to set a war in motion with a mass assassination, Ada unwittingly joins a crew of pirates in search of the only beings powerful enough to stop him: the Nihryst. Meanwhile, Shane and a group of underground rebels make a haunting discovery of a plague infecting the streets of Detmarya.

With a looming deadline to save multiple kingdoms and thousands of innocent lives, both royal siblings join quests worthy of Ada’s beloved fairy tales.

Interview With Author Sylvia Stein

By way of introduction, here is Sylvia Stein’s bio.:

Sylvia Stein is a published author, podcaster, and content writer and Team Advertiser for Coffee House Writers. She obtained a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University in July 2015. 

Sylvia lives in Fuquay Varian with her amazing husband Jeremy and their three beautiful children. 

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

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

Thank you for having me.

When did the writing bug ensnare you? 

This is an excellent question. I’ve always loved to read and write. As a kid, the best times I spent were in the library reading stories by amazing authors. Their personal stories also fascinated me. This inspired me to write and to create my own stories.  

Is writing your full-time profession?

Yes, but I also love to teach. I am a substitute teacher and I love it. When I’m not in the classroom, I’m writing and working on my craft.  

How long have you been writing? 

Overall, it has been about 10 years. I’ve always written but professionally since 2010.  I started with anthologies and then graduated with a Master’s of Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.

Shortly after that I began publishing my solo works. I published my first solo Novella, Closure in 2014. During National Novel Month, Nanowrimo in 2012, I developed a first draft for a story titled Chasing Clarity that was published in October 2015. Later I published a Prequel to Closure entitled, The Diary of a Broken Father

Have you won any literary awards?  

I have not, but Fossend Publishing in the UK nominated me for a Book Award for The Diary of a Broken Father.

How many published books have you written?  

Overall, I have been in 5 Anthologies; I have three solo books and I am working on the fourth one.  

Which genres do you write?

I write contemporary fiction books.   

What do you find most challenging writing for this genre?

I wouldn’t say it’s challenging. I will say that I love writing New Adult, Romance and Thrillers and it’s hard because I want to dabble in all of it.   

What are you working on now?

Thank you for asking. I am currently working on my first thriller. This story has taken me time to write and has become a journey of its own. I have done so much research even though it is a work of fiction.  

Where do you find inspiration for your characters?

My characters drive all of my stories. The inspirations for them come from people I have encountered throughout my life or in other stories I have seen.  But mainly they come from me.  

I’ve always loved how authors create an unfamiliar world and transport you into it. For me right now the biggest inspirations are Julie Garwood, Liane Moriarity, Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn, Stephen King and Jodie Picoult.

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

My readers! They always reach out and say how my characters inspired them and how they loved the message I was trying to spread within my story.  

What advice would you give to authors just starting out? 

Write every day and join a Writer’s Group.  I joined one on Linked and it was the best experience for me.   

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

Well, I love Musicals and I hope to work on writing my own one day.  I have a genuine love of Music and Broadway. 

What message are you sharing in your books?

The courage within each of my characters and their journeys.  I always create strong characters and many of the principal characters are women.

For example, as you follow Sara’s journey in Closure you see a young woman who has been through so much and you root for her. In Chasing Clarity you have another young woman, Mia Gerard, who has lost so much.

One of the key things readers tell me is how much they felt like the characters. However, I also show what loss and addiction does to someone like Garrison James who is Sara’s “dysfunctional” father.    

What are your favorite books?

My favorite books range from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, Jodie Picoult, Stephen King, Jane Austen, Ruth Ware, Liane Moriarity, AJ Brown, Chrissie Parker and Ruth Ware.  There are too many.   

If you could create an author’s group with writers from any time period, who would you invite?

Oh, my goodness this is an excellent question! It would be hard, but I would like to have F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, and also bring in Jane Austen and Stephen King.  I know this would be a very interesting Writer’s Group.   

Who has influenced your writing the most?  

Jodie Picoult, all of her books have so much emotion and her character’s drive all of her stories as I hope mine do.   

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

I am Mom all the time, but when I’m not writing I’m on Instagram or prepping for my podcast The Daily With Syl Stein the Coffee Chronicles. I talk about coffee and life.   

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?  

If a movie producer wants to turn my book into a movie, I want husband to be the executive producer so the movie is just like my book.  Then I would make a cameo as an extra. I would like to be the nurse who pops in for a few seconds. Nothing fancy.  

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?  

First, I’d ask how he’s doing, then I’d ask if reality show or something like it was taping near the area.   

What are your most effective marketing strategies?

I am not very good with Marketing. However, I have a podcast where I feel I promote my work.  I see it growing, but it has taken awhile.   

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

Yes, I have an Author Page on Facebook, A Website through WordPress and also a Twitter page and Amazon page.  

http://www.facebook.com/SylWriter07
http://www.amazon.com/Sylvia-Stein/e/B00EJT3FYQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

email: sylstein07@gmail.com

https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard

Podcasts:  

 In the Artists Realm https://sylauthor07.podbean.com/

The Daily with Syl Stein  https://anchor.fm/sylvia-stein

 Facebook:

In the Artists Realm Facebook page: 

https://www.facebook.com/SylviaSteinPowerHour07/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/stein.sylvia/
http://coffeehousewriters.com/author/sylvia-stein/

Where can we find your books?  

You can find my books through Amazon KDP or Amazon. Barnes and Noble Nook Press and Apple Inc.   

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

Available On Amazon

In The Diary of a Broken Father, Garrison James shares his story from his own perspective of what life is like now that he decided to go into AA in the hopes of changing his life.

He shares the accounts of his daily struggles since his daughter Sara has left his side and what it meant for him to lose her.

He is haunted by her loss and the memories of his beloved wife Lila whom he lost to cancer.

Garrison is one broken man who is battling his demons, this includes himself and God.

In this novella, you will hear from Garrison James as he battles through being a better man all in the hopes of reconciling with his only daughter whom he has hurt so much.


Will he be able to do it? Is it too late for him? What will happen next?

Interview With Historical Author Emma Lombard

By way of introduction to Emma Lombard, here’s her bio.

I am an Australian author living in sunny Brisbane. I was born in the UK and I called Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years before moving to Australia in 2000.

Before I started writing historical fiction, I was and still am a master goat wrangler—in other words: a mother to four teenage sons! 

In my past life, I was a freelance editor in the corporate world and lent my editing prowess to various industries including aviation, aquatic ecology, education and the world of academia. But now, I am a full-time writer.

I am an active member of Twitter’s #WritingCommunity where I love welcoming new writers to social media and helping them find their voices. It is what inspired my blog series Twitter Tips for Newbies.

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

Hello, Emma, 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 produced my first hand-drawn book at age nine. I completed my first full manuscript at age fourteen.

Little did I realise how lucky I was at the time that through a friend, my raw manuscript was placed directly in front of an editor at a major publishing house (oh, what I wouldn’t give for that opportunity now!)

Having learned more about the publishing process, I now understand what a privilege it was for me to get that personalised rejection letter full of encouragement and advice—but at the time, it hurt so much!

Then life got in the way for a while and it wasn’t until later that I had the time and willpower to sit down and write seriously again. 

Is writing your full-time profession?

In 2018, I bit the bullet and gave up being a freelance editor in the corporate world to write full time.

I began treating my writing career seriously, investing time and resources into it as you would any new business.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing my current historical fiction series since 2016. I wanted to get a few manuscripts under my belt, not only for the experience but also to have enough material available should publication of my first book go well.

I love reading a book series, so it felt natural to write a story with series potential.

How many books have you written?

I have a four-book series under my belt. The first book, Discerning Grace, is fully polished and edited, and is currently in the querying trenches looking for an agent.

I’m busy revising and re-writing my second book. The other two are completed manuscripts that have been beta read several times but still need some polishing.

Which genre do you write?  

Historical fiction. Not only did my story find its origins from a true story back in the 1800s, but I prefer having a wealth of source documents to research in order to build the world in which my story takes place.

I take my hat off to science fiction and fantasy writers who create whole worlds from their imaginations!

What do you find most challenging writing for this genre?

Interestingly enough, there were several scenes I wrote based on factual events or characters that today’s modern audience (aka my beta readers and my editor) found implausible.

So, I had to find that sweet spot between toning down some of the more colourful events and keeping the plot going while still maintaining the historical flavour.

I also unearthed how much of an influence popular culture has on historical events that have been inaccurately portrayed over the years either through fictionalisation or screen adaptation. 

As a historical writer, you want to ensure you get all the facts straight but sometimes there comes a point in your story where creative license kicks in and certain events have to go a certain way to keep your readers engaged and entertained.

Some historical authors stick strictly to the facts, and kudos to them because this requires an extraordinary amount of research! But I have enjoyed bending the rules a little here and there to keep my story flowing.

Here’s an incredible blog post by historical editor, Andrew Noakes, who gathered the Top Tips on Writing Historical Fiction From 64 Successful Historical Novelists.

What are you working on now?

I have just signed up for a historical fiction writer’s group in which we will share, collaborate with and critique each other’s manuscripts. I honed my first book to be ready for querying by extensively using beta readers, professional manuscript assessors and an editor.

For my second book, I am trying a different approach by also using critique partners. Of course, I’ll still use my loyal beta readers who are all so wonderfully passionate about my story and my characters.

And my book shall not see the light of day until my editor has thoroughly picked it apart and helped me sew it back together again.

Where do you find inspiration for your characters?

My inspiration came from my grandmother who told me a juicy bit of family gossip!

This is what her letter said, ‘Your GGG grandmother was only 16 when she ran away from home to marry a sea captain… her family cut her off and she sailed the seas with him…’

As my grandmother put it, they were ‘… obviously a very enlightened couple, and she a very, very liberated woman.’ I knew right away I wanted to write that story—though mine is purely fictionalized.

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

Although I haven’t published my books yet, I have had the happy accident of publishing a blog series that took off—much to my utter surprise and delight! 

During my authoring journey, I researched the importance of having an author platform and one of the key elements of this is social media.

I had successfully dodged the social media bullet until that point, having not much interest in it for personal use. When I then dived into the deep end and re-launched my dormant Twitter account, I was hopelessly lost and overwhelmed.

However, I persevered, researched and experimented, and slowly I got the hang of it. I started a blog series called Twitter Tips for Newbies, mainly to document my bumbling journey into social media as a newbie, but it has gained a life of its own.

Clearly, it resonates with many other new-to-social-media users out there!

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

There is SO much conflicting advice out there, even from publishing gurus, book marketers, editors, literary agents and published authors!

I scoured hundreds of social media accounts and blogs to find a handful of these professionals whose advice I liked, and whose advice fitted in with my long-term plan, and whose voice I enjoyed reading and learning from.

You don’t have to go on this adventure alone but pick who you want on your team and then filter out the rest of the noise to focus on achieving your writing and/or publishing goals.

Here are a few of my preferred go-to professionals (all of whom I follow on social media too):

Publishing guru: Jane Friedman

Book marketer: Shalya Raquel

Writing coaches: Angela Ackerman and Meg La Torre

Editors: Andrew Noakes and Maria Tureaud

Literary agents: Janet Reid (aka The Query Shark) and Eric Smith 

Published authors: Delilah S. Dawson and Diana Gabaldon

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

To combat my chronic fear of heights, I climbed the Eiffel Tower TWICE! Gulp! Not sure that it cured me altogether, but it has helped lessen some of the terror!

What message are you sharing in your books?

The themes in my first novel, Discerning Grace, include:

an independent woman

the importance of love over money

appearances can be deceiving

love can conquer all

triumph over adversity

What are your favorite books?

The books I first fell in love with as a teenager were Wilbur Smith’s historical-adventure-family-sagas, particularly the Courtney series!

The first book that ever made me cry was The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

My current passion is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I’m definitely Team Jamie!

If you could create an author’s group with writers from any time period, who would you invite?

All three of the authors mentioned above!

Who has influenced your writing the most?

I have drawn on Wilbur Smith’s galloping historical adventures that don’t shy away from sweeping the globe and diving into other cultures.

Diana Gabaldon’s epic historical tomes are a brilliant source for learning how to use all your senses as a writer to build the old world, and for painting deep and meaningful relationships between characters, despite their human flaws.

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

In the car, ferrying teenage boys to and from work.

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?

Ooo, isn’t this every writer’s dream!

Due to the nature of my story aboard a 19th century Royal Naval tall ship, there aren’t that many female characters, though I could play no role on the ship since I get hideously sea sick!

I would have to stick with a role that is safe on land, perhaps one of the guests at the debutante ball in my opening scene—flouncy gown and all!

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?

I’d send a letter to Santa at the North Pole informing him that one of his elves has gone rogue, and that he should send Mrs Claus with the med kit!

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Where can we find your books?

Alas, they are not out yet but in the meantime, folks are welcome to pop over to my website to meet some of my characters or subscribe to ‘By the Book’ Newsletter for some light authorly chats and to keep up-to-date with my book release news.

Thank you, Emma, for spending time with us and sharing your story as well as all the informative author links.

We look forward to seeing your books on store shelves one day. We wish you and Twitter Tips For Newbies continued success and lots of luck!

Interview With Author/Teacher Anthony Manna

Anthony Manna is a retired professor of literacy development- reading, writing, drama and other language arts. He is also an author of picture books and a collection of folk tales and fairy tales.

He loves books of all kinds, whether paper and electronic. He can’t get enough. He also loves writing and helping other writers.

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

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

Thank you for having me.

Why did you become a teacher?

I was drawn to teaching as a profession because of instructors I had the pleasure of working with when I was in a Catholic seminary.

From them I learned just how valuable a teacher can be in helping young people grow mentally and spiritually while learning how to make sense of human experience—mine and others.

In the seminary and later in a monastery, I gained my first awareness of the value of embracing human diversity, civil rights, and social justice.

What grade did you teach?

Teaching hooked me when I was an aide in a Head Start classroom many years ago.

Following my seminary experience, I became an English literature major, then onto a master’s degree in English Education a.k.a. the language arts. After a three-year teaching gig in Istanbul, Turkey, I worked on a Ph.D., again with a focus on English language arts teaching and learning and drama as a learning medium. 

Along the way, I taught language arts in a preschool, middle school, and high school. And I loved the interactions, the connections with students, and all the learning I was doing about reaching our to students to motivate them to become confident, skilled readers and writers.

When I moved into the university, in addition to teaching children’s, tween, and teen literature, and courses in writing—always with future and veteran teachers and their students as my primary audiences—I developed research projects that brought me into classrooms where I collaborated with teachers to explore activities that encouraged kids and teens to love reading and writing as they gained their proficiency.

Eventually, I totally lucked out and was invited to teach teachers in Greece and Albania. Those were life-changing experiences that awakened me to cultural experiences outside my comfort zone.

How has your teaching experience influenced your writing?

As a writer, I draw on many life experiences. As I continued teaching and researching at the university, I got deeper and deeper into the styles and manners of many literary texts, particularly texts that explored cultural diversity. Literature of many genres consumed me.

In the back of my mind I wondered if I would ever try my hand—and mind—at crafting a story. You see, as a university educator I was obliged to either publish or perish, so I kept my job and did a lot of academic publishing.

But writing stories or poems or plays? That seemed the kind of writing reserved for folks with special talent and skills. Ones, I imagined, I didn’t possess.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I ventured into writing stories because of my experience in a kindergarten in Greece. I had gone to Greece on a grant from my university. The grant directed me to teach and conduct research in the education department at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki.

What better way to learn about Greek culture than in a school. Into a kindergarten I went to collaborate with two very fine Greek teachers whose English language skills allowed them to help me navigate life in their classroom.

When story time rolled around each day, these kids stepped into the worlds of myths I was very familiar with. Worlds inhabited by Zeus, Demester, Atlas, Helios, Athena, Artemis, Icarus and other personages in that population of intriguing characters.

But then I found myself in a fascinating story world filled with giants, rival step-parents, charming princes and princesses, struggling brothers, nasty goblins, mysterious asking spirits, and the like. These stories were Greek folk and fairy tales.

With a Greek colleague, I researched these stories, translated them into English, and reimagined them for English speakers. That launched the Greek Folklore Project and my debut as a story writer.

Which genres do you write?

So far, my books are reimagined folk and fairy tales. Notice, please, how I avoid the more common term when it comes to working with these tales, the word, “retelling.”

I soon learned that the process of writing involved so much more than a mere “retelling.” It involves shaping a narrative just the way any story writer does it.

The labor of developing authentic characters in space and time conflicting, struggling, losing, winning—whatever characters do to live a life and survive—or not.

With my most recent book, Loukas and the Game of Chance, I reimagined a Greek tale of loss, struggle, and the search for redemption into a middle grade/middle school fantasy, which draws on some characteristics of the source tale, but moves into story territory far beyond the source’s economic narrative.

I invented characters and situations that turn the tale into a full-bodied fantasy driven by suspense.

What do you find most challenging writing for your genre?

This is a question kids like to ask when I visit them in their schools. I tell them my challenge is to sustain trust in myself as a writer once I’m engaged.

I struggle to step away from those pesky inner voices which tell me the writing is bad or too simple or utterly uninteresting. Whenever these voices talk to me, I tell them, “Don’t disturb me. You’re not my business anymore. Leave me alone.”

Then I move on, staying with the process and always reminding myself that writing is rewriting, that drafts are rough, and that if I keep working at it, something satisfying may emerge. Writing is a discipline. I need to discipline myself to keep writing. And it can be a labor of love.

What are you working on now?

These days, I’m working with a book marketer as I move toward the release of Loukas and the Game of Chance on October 1, 2019.

Folks—kids included—are surprised when they hear about the social media outreach authors must engage in these days if they want to make their books and themselves known.

With a book marketer, I’m learning to be active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and other social media platforms. I’m learning about the best content I can come up with to draw attention to myself and my new book.

You’ll hear a lot of writers—myself included—complain about the time social media activity takes, and that means the writing must be set aside temporarily. Complain and then accept outreach as a reality of a writer’s life these days.

In the little time that remains to write, I am working on two stories. Anthousa Xanthousa Chrisomalousa (a young female character’s name) is a variation of Rapunzel.

The Imposter is a tale of deception, intrigue, and the struggle the main character engages in as he tries to salvage his true identity from his enemy who stole it.

How many books have you written?

As an academic writer, I published several books—and many articles— about multicultural literature, teaching strategies, educational drama, and approaches to teaching writing.

As a story writer, I have co-authored Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale (Anne Schwartz/Atheneum), The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece (Schwarts & Wade/Random House), and Folktales from Greece: A Treasury of Delights (CLIO/Libraries Unlimited).

My solo book is Loukas and the Game of Chance which will be released October 1, 2019.

Have you won any awards?

My book awards:

Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale (Anne Schwartz/Atheneum, 1997), co-authored with Soula Mitakidou, illustrated by Giselle Potter~

American Library Association Notable Children’s Book

Selected among one hundred best books of the year by the New York Public Library

Recipient of the 1997 Marion Vannett Ridgway Award for first-time authors and illustrators. 

The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2011)co-authored with Soula Mitakidou, illustrated by Giselle Potter~ is a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of 2012.

Loukas and the Game of Chance, illustrated by Donald Babisch—2019 Book Excellence Award Finalist.

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

School visits are exciting and rewarding. I enjoy introducing kids and teens to my drafts while I’m in the process of composing, revising, and revising again. I do this with PowerPoint slides.

During these presentations, I like to dramatize my characters, using the voices I hear them speaking as I write.

Each presentation ends with a writing activity that I often assign to the groups I work with, giving them a few days to complete the assignment with their teacher’s assistance, of course.

When I return to the school, it’s time for the students to share their writing in small groups and also as solo presentations.

One successful writing prompt I’ve been using lately asks them to write a story based on this idea: …And they lived happily ever after…or did they?…What might happen when “happily ever after” turns into “…and they lived happily ever after until… …something really bad or strange happened?”

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

Read, read, read books in the types of literature you like—mystery, suspense, realism, poetry, short stories, humorous stories, plays, fantasy, science fiction—whatever interests you.

Then, reach out and read beyond your comfort zone. Talk to teachers, parents, librarians and friends and ask them for recommendations.

Learn the craft of writing from good teachers, workshop presenters in local libraries, and in summer writing camps.

There are also many good books that help writers to develop their craft. Books like Leap Write In: Adventures in Creative Writing (Roost Books, 2013) and Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing (Roost 2010)—both wonderfully interactive guides by Karen Benke.

What message are you sharing in your books?

Sooner or later, we all make mistakes, fail, and experience tough times, but we all can find the courage to face our struggles, persevere, survive, and turn our life around. 

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

In the summer, in my garden. I also spend a lot of time at the local gym in spinning, pilates, aerobic classes.

And I love all kinds of theatrical presentations—local and in New York, one of favorite cities. Theater is about life. Theater teaches me a lot about how to live and also how not to live.

I’m glad that I once pursued a career in acting—it was like living in stories that I presented to audiences with other characters in the stories.

What are your favorite books?

Oh, my favorites could fill a notebook or two.

Right now my favorites are Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson, Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye, Crossover by Kwame Alexander, The Day the Universe Exploded My Head: Poems to Take You into Space and Back Again by Allan Wolf, and Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Classics I love to read and reread are the Harry Potter books, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine Engle, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and all the tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

On your website you have educational materials for teachers. Can you tell us a little about them?

My website @ www.anthonymannabooks.com is filled with supportive resources for parents, teachers, kids, tweens, and teens.

They’ll find word games and activities that encourage active participation in reading and writing.

They’ll also find videos; lists of recommended books, including award-winning graphic novels for kids, tweens, and teen; links to websites for readers and writers; lots of printable and downloadable teaching and learning aids; and kids’ written responses to my school visits.

I also like to recommend Reading With Your Kids (www.readingwithyourskids.com). It’s a lively interactive website that features award-winning podcast interviews with authors and illustrators—mine will be available mid-September—book-buying programs, truly interesting blogs about reading and reading with kids, and fun activities.

What social media platforms do you frequent?

I am active on the following platforms:

https://www.facebook.com/anthony.l.manna
https://www.instagram.com/drtony42
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4710477.Anthony_Manna

Where can we find your books?

While Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale (Anne Schwartz/Atheneum) and The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece (Schwarts & Wade/Random House) are out of print, copies are available on amazon.com and in libraries.

Folktales from Greece: A Treasury of Delights (CLIO/Libraries Unlimited)—a collection of twenty stories and information about Greece’s history, storytelling, and foolklore— is available wherever books are sold and from the publisher at www.abc-clio.com.

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

Loukas and the Game of Chance by Anthony L. Manna, Illustrated by Donald Babisch (Mascot Books, 2019). Synopsis:

A reimagined Greek folktale, Loukas and the Game of Chance is the story of  a flute-playing boy who befriends a magical talking, dancing snake. The snake bestows fortune and favor upon Loukas, but some years later, tempted by greed and pride, Loukas loses all his riches and even his family. He now must embark on a treacherous journey filled with suspense and intrigue to find Destiny, the Sun, and the Moon. They’ll surely allow him to reverse his misfortune, restore his honor, and win back all that he loves and treasures, won’t they?

The story is illuminated by ten pen and ink drawings. 

Interview With Author Ariel Bernstein

By way of introduction to Ariel Bernstein, here is the bio from her Amazon page. It captured her personality so perfeclty; I had to use it. 

Ariel Bernstein is a writer of picture books and chapter books. She lives in New Jersey with her family, many mismatched socks, and the occasional balloon.

I think it shows how witty and lighthearted she is. Someone like that makes the perfect children’s author.

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

Ariel has a brand new book out.

Available on Amazon

  • Age Range: 5 – 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
  • Series: Warren & Dragon (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books (June 25, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451481078

Warren and Dragon are setting out on their most unspooky, totally normal, not-scary-at-all adventure yet…their first sleepover!

Warren is a seven-year-old boy and Dragon is part stuffed animal, part fierce dragon, part best friend–depending on what part you believe most. And Michael is their new friend and next-door neighbor. When Michael invites them over to go “camping” in his basement, the dynamic duo don’t know whether they’re more excited or nervous about it. This is their very first sleepover. EVER. Sure, Michael promised there would be not one but two desserts to look forward to. But he also said he wants to swap–gulp–scary stories. Warren can think of nothing more embarrassing than calling his parents to pick him up early from a sleepover, but how is he supposed to fall asleep in a dark basement full of mysterious and unfamiliar noises?

Hello, Ariel, welcome to Angel Kiss Publications.

Thank you for having me.

What inspired you to be a writer? 

I was inspired to write just by reading books that I loved. They made me want to create stories that would make others laugh and imagine things.

Is writing your full-time profession? 

It is!

How long have you been writing? 

I’ve been writing off and on since high school. But in terms of children’s literature, about 5 years.

How many books have you written? 

Too many to count! But in terms of books that have or will be published, the number is seven (so far). 

Which genres do you write?  

I write fictional stories, mostly with lots of humor.

What do you find most challenging writing for these genres? 

Making sure that the reader will get my sense of humor! What seems obviously funny to me is not always apparent to someone else.

What are you working on now? 

I’m working on more picture books and an early reader series.

Where do you find inspiration for your characters? 

Honestly, inspiration can come anywhere at any time! Whenever I find something extra interesting, funny, scary, etc., it makes me wonder if there’s a story waiting to be told.

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

Getting to read my books to kids and seeing their reactions. I love to hear them laughing at the funny parts and answering all their questions.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out? 

Find a great critique group who will give you honest, helpful feedback.

What message are you sharing in your books? 

I try to make my messages subtle so the reader doesn’t feel like the story is weighed down by them. But usually they are about appreciating what you already have.

What are your favorite books/authors? 

So many! My favorite picture book of all time is Maurice Sendak’s OUTSIDE OVER THERE. And I will always love Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES, which is one of the books that inspired me to create my own stories. 

For “grown-up” books, I enjoy short story collections by Kelly Link and Jhumpa Lahiri.

What are your favorite movies, TV shows? 

I really enjoyed VEEP. For movies, I can watch MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS anytime and get pulled right back in. 

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

Hanging out with my family.

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? 

I haven’t written this yet, but it would be a scene on a beach where I am in the background, relaxing with a cool drink. 

Obviously, I would have to spend a lot of time preparing for the role.

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? 

I suppose I’d ask if he needed a tissue and some water.

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc? 

I do! On Facebook you can find me @ArielBBooks, and my website is: https://www.arielbernsteinbooks.com.

Where can we find your books? 

You can find my books in libraries and bookstores (or requested if they are not there). Also, my books can be ordered through IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

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

Interview With Author Jesse Frankel

By way of introduction, here is J.S. Frankel’s bio.
J.S. Frankel was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up there, receiving his tertiary education from the University of Toronto and graduating with a double major in English Literature and Political Science.

After working at Gray Coach Lines for a grand total of three years, he came to Japan at twenty-six and has been there ever since, teaching English to all students who enter his hallowed school of learning.

In 1997, he married Akiko Koike. He, his wife and his two children, Kai and Ray, live in Osaka. His hobbies include weight training, watching movies when his writing schedule allows, and listening to various kinds of music. 


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

Hello, J.S., 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 had an idea one day a few years ago for a story, and something inside me compelled me to put pen to paper. I think people are natural storytellers, but I wanted to do something special, and so… here we are!

Is writing your full-time profession?


No, not yet, anyway. I work as an ESL teacher and edit on the side. I’d love to become a full-time author, but those funds have to roll in first.

How long have you been writing?

Only about six years.

Have you won any awards?

I’ve won a few minor awards, but those are nothing, really. My biggest ‘award’—or reward,—is if someone says, “I loved your book!”

How many books have you written?

So far, thirty-five. I’ve got more on the way.

Which genre do you write?


YA Fantasy, with a lot of action, a bit of romance, and usually a happy ending.

What do you find most challenging writing for this genre?


There are a lot of tropes in any genre. I try to subvert those tropes if I can, or make fun of them in some way. What I really want is to make each book unique and fresh.

What are you working on now?


Right now, I’m editing an old story of mine and cutting it down. I may self-publish it or submit it. I haven’t decided.

Where do you find inspiration for your characters?
I look at the world around me, the events unfolding, and I let my mind wander where it will. Inspiration is all around us; you just have to think about it.

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


Having people compliment me on my style and stories. That’s good enough for me.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?


Cliché time: don’t give up. I was rejected over fifty times before someone took a chance on me. Keep writing, study the art, and improve. Let no one dissuade you from achieving your goal!

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

I’m not very exciting; I don’t go on Bond missions every single day, except in my head. Hmmm… well, I’m a resident of Japan and I speak the language well enough. My wife is Japanese, and we make our home in Osaka. That’s about it, really.

What message are you sharing in your books?


Essentially that you can overcome the odds if you work hard enough at it. All my characters are underdogs, the fringers of society, and they have an every person quality to them. No person is a failure as long as they try. It’s a cliché, yes, but one I wholeheartedly believe in.

What are your favorite books/authors?


Favorite authors would be Robert McCammon—Gone South is his best work, in my opinion, and Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Inferno stands alone in sci-fi/fantasy, to me, anyway.

What are your favorite movies, TV shows?


I watch little TV these days, but I love the original Star Trek.
Movie-wise, anything superhero. Ironman, Batman, Wonder Woman…they all rock.

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


I’m usually on Facebook or Twitter.

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?


Anything is okay, as long as I don’t end up as the first victim!

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?


Run like crazy and hope I don’t mutate!

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?


I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007640056961

Where can we find your books?

You can find them here!–> (Amazon) https://www.amazon.com/J.S.-Frankel/e/B004XUUTB8/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Or here http://www.devinedestinies.com/js-frankel/

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

Photo courtesy of: Brian Merrill; courtesy of: Pixabay
Osaka