Jo Anna Dressler Kloster is a veteran elementary teacher, an author, a volunteer with the River Bend Community Organic Garden, and a Humane Policy Volunteer Leader with the Humane Society of the United States.
Her middle-grade novel, LILY UNLEASHED, is a coming-of-age story. It focuses on an underdog whose love inspires one girl to speak up for this puppy mill rescue and all the other dogs locked in puppy mill cages.
Ms. Kloster attends animal welfare events with her educational table and her book to inform others on how to end the puppy-mill-to-pet-store-pipeline.
Her message: Adopt don’t shop for puppies at pet stores. Wonderful dogs await you at your local shelters, rescues, and with reputable breeders.
Sherri: Welcome Jo Anna. It is so nice to have you visit my virtual café. As a dog owner, I know this book is a labor of love. Why don’t you share what inspired this book?
Jo Anna: My family had just adopted a small white puppy mill rescue dog. We had no idea what a puppy mill was. I started reading about them online and was appalled. During this time, Cagney started exhibiting behaviors I was reading that many puppy mill survivors have. So, during writer’s workshop, as I modeled the writing process for my students, I started writing about a topic I was working with every day: Cagney’s behaviors. All the while this tiny Maltese quickly became my shadow and my Velcro boy. He never left my side. And over time Cagney became my heart dog. I have never been so loved by another living creature. My husband is okay with this, too.
Well, the more I read about the inhumane treatment of dogs at puppy mills, being locked in cages 24/7, the more I fell in love with this little dog that endured such cruel treatment. Never being touched, never leaving his cage, never playing or walking on grass. His experience of living in such harsh conditions inspired me to write a book to teach kids why you don’t want to buy pet store puppies because it condemns their parents to lives locked in cages pumping out litter after litter.
Sherri: Your book is written for a younger audience, but it is a message that everyone needs to hear. Why did you choose to write a middle-grade story?
Jo Anna: Funny you should ask. My goal was to simply write a good story. And then I realized how much kids want to make a difference and feel they have the power to be the change they want to see in the world. I could not find a book that talked about the problem of pet store puppies and the inhumane treatment of puppy mills. So I decided to write one, and make it a middle-grade novel. Though, I’ve had as many adults read Lily Unleashed and felt they learned a lot. It certainly kept their attention. So I guess I achieved my goal.
Sherri: What can a fictional story do that preaching the truth cannot? Why is this the best medium to get your message out?
Jo Anna: That’s a great question. In this fictional story, I am able to flesh out the problem and a solution wrapped in characters that, hopefully, face challenges to overcome that the reader can identify with. This fictional story allows me to add more drama and problems that will grab the reader.
Sherri: What was the hardest thing you faced when publishing this story?
Jo Anna: I’d say the hardest things was not sounding too preachy. I had to step into the shoes of a twelve year old again. And it was actually fun. Getting lost in that world. But I had to ask myself all along this story…how would 12 year old Lily say this? Or how would Renzo handle that situation?
Sherri: Do you have plans to write another story? What are you working on now?
Jo Anna: I am thinking about writing a sequel – on another issue about animal welfare. Possibly the problem of people not spaying or neutering their pets and how that contributes to overcrowding at animal shelters. Or possibly the topic of factory farming and the treatment of pigs, chickens, and dairy cows and how they are treated.
Sherri: Jo Anna, thank you for writing this story and joining us at Creekside Café. If you all enjoyed this interview and would like to get Jo Anna’s book and talk to her in person, you can find her at the Book Festival, Sunday, November 20th, 1 to 4 pm at the New Bern Farmers Market.
Bio: Veronica Krug, an active member of Carteret Writers, North Carolina Writer’s Network and Seascribes has lived and worked in Eastern NC for the past seven years. She has four self-published titles as well as a calendar showcasing her work as a sand artist on the beach of Emerald Isle. Originally from Akron, Ohio, Veronica taught Middle School art and reading for over 25 years and was a director of recreation for ten years before that.
Sherri: Welcome Veronica to my virtual café. My dream is to one day have a place where I can meet and greet authors, drink coffee or tea and be surrounded by books and the river. As chairperson for the Pamlico Writers’ Group, I have had a lot of interaction with members of the Carteret Writers, we are sister groups I feel and support each other. I wish I could attend more events. Maybe when I retire. You are a retired Middle School teacher, are your books written for that age group?
Veronica: Two are for eighth graders and up; Good Beasts Bad Creatures, and The Siren and the Crow. Mainly because there are some scary parts in them. A bit of gore as well, but I know middle schoolers dig that kind of thing. They showcase North Carolina folklore and are educational without being pushy about it.
Sherri: You mentioned your calendar of your sand art, I look forward to seeing it at the book festival. How did you get into doing sand art? Do you photograph it? Are you also a photographer? What other art projects do you enjoy, and have you considered writing about them or using them for a calendar?
Veronica: Well! Being an artist, I saw a huge canvas of sand in front of me at low tide. A California artist, Andre Amador, inspired me and thought I’d try it. He uses a rake. When I tried that on our beach, it looked terrible. My husband had a PVC pipe he used for holding his fishing pole up. The end of it looked like a pencil, and bam…beach art. It’s really a Zen thing for me when I’m doing it. I never dreamed so many folks would like it so much. I incorporate my love of writing into my photos by inserting a quote; and no, I am not a professional photographer. I have been a watercolorist for over 40 years and mainly work on them when I take a break from writing.
Sherri: Tell us a little bit about your novels and the characters. This is a fantasy series based on North Carolina folklore. I love folklore and often enjoy reading young adult fiction.
Veronica: Both of my low fantasy novels include a group of four friends, Kayla, Jerry, Sarah, and Nick, who have a mystery to solve. The first, Good Beasts Bad Creatures, focuses on Kayla, Jerry, and Grimalkin; a panther who escapes a farm and is the progeny of the Beast of Bladenboro. The Beast of Bladenboro was a creature who terrorized the town in the 50s.
The second story, The Siren and the Crow, features Nick and a dog named Shep. They camp by the French Broad River in Asheville. Nick is kidnapped and his friends must solve a murder before he becomes the next victim. In the process, Nick discovers his heritage. The story is based on the siren, Tzelica, who pulls men to their deaths…but she is not the murderer.
Sherri: You are published through Lulu. I have seen their advertisements but I’m unfamiliar with the company. What was your publishing experience with them like?
Veronica: Good. I believe it’s the best way to publish for little money. It’s a print on demand company, but it only takes 10 days to receive your book after ordering. It’s a learning process at first, and they have switched book cover design to Canva. But, after some practice, Canva is really good. eBooks are pretty easy. They take any word document, but for paperbacks, you must save your word to a PDF. The only charge is to purchase a book at cost to make sure the layout and print is correct. I learned about it at Carteret Community College before Covid hit. I would imagine the class will return. It is really worth it.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing and when did you decide to publish your first novel?
Veronica: I’ve always loved writing, and had many articles published in magazine and won competitions. My favorite was an all-expense paid trip to New York City for me and a friend. The contest was to write about a special friend. Man, did we have fun. We even had a driver whenever we wanted. We just called down for him. I didn’t get serious about writing a novel until about 15 years ago when my students told me I should write about Lorenzo DiMedici. His story really intrigued my middle schoolers. Back then, there wasn’t much about him, and I had to go to the Library of Congress to get any real information. When Assassin’s Creed came out, my students were so excited, because they knew all about the DiMedicis. I wrote A Magnificent Man first as a screenplay and actually won an award for it, but nothing happened, so I wrote the book. I finished it in 2017 and had retired by then. So much about him is out now.
Sherri: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Veronica: I loved Stephen King so much so that when I was in college, the professors compared my style to his. I also love Erma Bombeck’s humor. I used to go straight to her columns in the paper. She was relatable. Now, I enjoy Fredrick Backman books; my favorite being A Man Called Ovi, which will soon be a movie called, A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks. He has humor mixed with the challenges of getting older. His work inspired me to write my newest title, Toasted Marshmallows. It’s about a summer camp for senior citizens, and a bear named Rizzy. I’m in the process of editing and looking for an agent. This is totally adult humor. A break from my YA tomes.
Sherri: What advice would you give to beginning authors?
Veronica: Keep at it. It helps to join a group suffering the same as you. LOL Also it helps to remember it takes time. Expect to make several edits of your stories before you can put them out there. Listen to helpful critiques. Thank you, Sherri, for talking to me. I enjoyed answering your great questions.
Sherri: If you enjoyed my interview with Veronica Krug, you can meet her in person at the New Bern Farmers Market Author Sunday Book Festival, November 20th, from 1 to 4 pm. Books make excellent holiday gifts or escapes from the chaos of the season.
If you are unable to buy Veronica’s books at the festival you can purchase them online, the links are below.
The novels I am featuring at the fair are Good Beasts Bad Creatures and The Siren and the Crow. Both Young Adult mystery thrillers take place in North Carolina based on folklore in the state. In Good Beasts, it is the progeny of the Beast of Bladenboro; and in The Siren and the Crow, the story is based on Tzelica, the siren of the French Broad River in Western NC. Both novels feature the same group of friends, their efforts to survive these creatures, and solve a murder mystery at the same time. The paperbacks are a special festival price of $15. each.
You can purchase Veronica’s books on Lulu.com and through her website, www.krugbooks.com.
“The pacing in Veronica’s stories are impressive, and it keeps them moving forward at a strong clip.” -International Screenwriters Association
Bio: Cheryl is the founder of Mane Source Counseling and one of the founders of Horses and HEALTH Inc. Before getting her Master’s in counseling, Cheryl was a professional horse trainer, instructor, and intercollegiate coach for 20+ years.
During her Master’s studies at Bridgewater State University, Cheryl started working with a mentor in Equine Assisted Counseling. After moving to North Carolina, she obtained her PhD from East Carolina University and started Mane Source.
Sherri: Welcome Dr. Cheryl Meola, I needed to use you as a resource when I was writing my book Willow’s Retreat. In it, my main character Dr. Willow Rider-Harrell starts a therapeutic ranch with horses as well as other animals trained for therapy. I was surprised when I was doing my research just how many animals make great therapy pets. Is Mane Source Counseling mental health, physical therapy or do you do both?
Dr. Cheryl: Hi, Sherri! I would have loved to collaborate on that, it is my favorite subject!! Animals do so much more than make great therapy pets, they naturally help us connect more with our true selves and allow us a safe space for healing to occur. We do mental health, wellness, and coaching. We are moving toward wellness and coaching as it is a more strengths-based approach to growth, rather than everyone coming in needing to have a diagnosis to obtain services.
Sherri: What is the main focus of your counseling, or does it vary? Do you work with children, vets or those suffering from disabilities?
Dr. Cheryl: In my business, Mane Source Counseling and Coaching, we work with all ages but primarily adults to help them access ways to grow through challenges. Our services are for all levels of wellness, with the except of those who are very acute and need 24/hour care. We also run a non-profit, Horses and HEALTH (Healing Equals Active Learning Through Horses) that specifically offers services to Veterans and their families/caregivers at no cost to them.
Sherri: What is it about working with and just being around animals, especially horses that has a healing effect on most people?
Dr. Cheryl: Horses (or equines as I like to say, since we also have a mini Donkey) have natural aspects that cause them to be very therapeutic for us to spend time around. They are a partnership-based relational prey animal who helps assess our strengths and areas for growth very quickly, to make sure we are a good fit for the herd. They provide us with so much feedback on the way we show up in the world and how our presence affects others. They also give us the chance to mutually grow, as our partnership with them has benefits to both parties.
Sherri: I know I can speak for my many pet owners, especially dog owners. I come home from work tired and ill and my Hazel, a blue pit that is small for her breed, she’s only about 50 pounds, greets me and forces me to love her. After a few minutes with her, I feel better. Does this work with all animals?
Dr. Cheryl: I would guess, yes, however, that’s outside of my scope of knowledge. Animals do not have the same societal standards to live up to and therefore love us/care to be around us for who we are, not what we are, how much we weigh, or what color our skin appears to them. They do, however, discern our moods and intentions, which helps us stay attuned to our inner self more than being around most people.
Sherri: Tell us a little about your book. Who did you write it for?
Dr. Cheryl: So this book, Anxiety: the Joule Thief started as a collection of activities I often incorporated into the therapeutic process with clients. Many of my clients, from high school students to college, to working professionals (nurses, teachers, surgeons, accountants) all suffer from some form of discomfort caused by stress. Some may have a diagnosable Anxiety Disorder, and others are overwhelmed in other ways. As the activities flowed onto the paper, I realized there was an order and connection between what we were doing, and that these could help more people than just the clients who showed up to the office.
Sherri: What answers can someone get from reading your book?
Dr. Cheryl: Great question. The first thing we try to accomplish in this book is to figure out what in your life is SUCKING your energy, and where do you WISH that energy was going. We look at values, obligations, being mindfully present, and ways to understand our energy input and output in the world.
Sherri: What does a person need to do to be one of your clients/patients?
Dr. Cheryl: Most people find us through our website, manesourcecounseling.com. We now have over 10 clinicians with multiple specialties working at the practice in 3 locations, although we only have equine assisted therapy currently in our Ayden location. Just shoot us an email and we respond to everyone who has a question!
Sherri: Do you have another writing project in the works? What are you working on now?
Dr. Cheryl: I have a book in production with Elsevier Publishing called Integrating Horses into Healing, which is a comprehensive guide to ethically incorporating equines into therapy and coaching practices. I’m very excited for the final product to be out in 2023!!
Sherri: If you enjoyed my interview with Dr. Cheryl Meola, come meet her and the other authors at The New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th, from 1 to 4 pm or check out Dr. Cheryl’s information below.
Thank you so much for your time, Sherri, it was lovely to touch base with another author and I look forward to meeting you in person November 20th!!!
Cheryl is the founder of Mane Source Counseling and one of the founders of Horses and HEALTH Inc. Her love of being around horses started very young when she used to catch rides on ponies at her aunt’s farm. At 10, her grandmother Elsie bought her a horse of her own. She worked off her horse’s expenses by cleaning stalls, feeding horses, and teaching lessons all the way through college. Before getting her Master’s in counseling, Cheryl was a professional horse trainer, instructor, and intercollegiate coach for 20+ years.
During her Master’s studies at Bridgewater State University, Cheryl started working with a mentor in Equine Assisted Counseling. After moving to North Carolina, she obtained her PhD from East Carolina University and started Mane Source.
She also facilitates Wellness Coaching for Stress Reduction, Supervision and Consultation for counselors, and continuing education workshops at the farm.
Cheryl is the author of Anxiety~The Joule Thief: How to Take Back Control of Your Life, a guide to prioritizing our energy use and moving from fear-based stress responses to empowered responses. Check out her website for free resources on managing your energy and stress reduction.
A former soldier, journalist, and communication professional, William Charles Furney has tapped into a lifetime of experiences and adventures to craft riveting novels such as Black Hearts White Bones, a love, hate, revenge story about the two infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read; Aphrodite’s Whisper, an epic love story reminiscent of Legends of the Fall; and now…Ivy Moon Last Girl on Earth.
Now retired from public service, William is a full-time writer and novelist.
Sherri: Welcome to my virtual café, Bill. You have had an interesting life so far, from a tank commander to reporter to a Public Health Communicator, and now a novelist. I won’t ask you about the latest health issue, I know it can be a pretty divisive discussion and we’re not in that business now. As writers, we hope to bring people together through our stories. What is it about a story that can reach a person when all the facts cannot?
Bill: Wow! That’s a three-beer conversation. We could spend hours kicking that idea around and still leave many rocks unturned. (How’s that for mixing metaphors?) My stab at a short answer is this; facts can be blunt objects with which people hit each other over the head. The facts themselves may be impersonal, but the feelings, attitudes and beliefs of the person wielding them are usually very apparent. While it may be fun hitting people over the head with facts, doing so isn’t conducive to changing opinions. In truth, it makes people resistant to them.
Well-written stories can introduce facts and ideas slowly. They can be attached to sympathetic characters with whom readers can identify and care about. If done correctly and unobtrusively, the actual “facts” in question can be debated, dissected and a defended without ever having stated what the “facts” are. George Orwell was a master at this.
Sherri: As you know prepping for this interview, I stalked your website and social media looking for just the right questions to ask but we don’t have that kind of time. Unfortunately, I have thirty-four authors to promote before our Author Event, but I’d love to buy you a drink and pick your brain.
Bill: NOW we’re talking!
Sherri: But for now, let’s just hit the highlights.
On your website, you mentioned four writers as the fab four, who in your opinion are the masters of the craft. I agree with the first two, King and Flynn. Even though I’m not a horror/thriller fan, there is much we can learn from authors who are not in our genre. For me, my King-ism is to have a little something that shocks the reader. It has to fit the story, but maybe not the genre. In Chrome Pink, my first novel, I have a scene my romance writer friends said made them throw-up in their mouths. They thought I should take it out. I didn’t because it had a reaction. What do you feel these authors have done to influence your writing?
Bill: I think the answer to this question is covered somewhat in the Fab Four author profiles featured on my webpage. Each author offers a different influence. So, here, let me address them as a group. What is the common denominator that, in my mind, sets them apart? Well, you touched on it. In a word…mastery. “Mastery” is a term that’s not used very often these days. Webster defines it as:
2a : possession or display of great skill or technique b : skill or knowledge that makes one master of a subject
I became familiar with the concept during my youth when I was first introduced to Hemingway and later when I was heavy into martial arts. To be brief, being in the presence of a master or being exposed to a master’s work is a – if you have the humility to recognize your shortcomings and inadequacies – very humbling experience. It’s a moment of truth, self-realization and gut-checking. As people with egos, it’s hard to look at your own work in comparison and admit…I suck at this. But, if you were raised right and were gifted with a never-quit attitude, it is life-changing. The four authors I’ve featured – Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Cheri Priest, and Mary Beth Keane – are masters in four very disparate types of writing. You don’t have to be a fan of their genres to recognize their greatness. I have been writing for more than forty years now, and compared to the mastery of these four writers I still feel like Grasshopper kneeling at the feet of Master Po.
Sherri: I laughed when I read why you wanted to meet Gillian Flynn. “Because she has so much talent I want to be nearby when some of it spills out. Also, because I’m the type of guy who jumps out of airplanes, rides motorcycles, and runs around the room holding scissors – I love danger.” Does your writing reflect your love of danger?
Bill: Interesting question. My line about loving danger was meant to help illustrate Flynn’s penchant for writing really dark psychological stories. I don’t think I love danger any more than the next Type A personality. But I do love adventure, which can sometimes put you in dangerous situations. My writing borrows heavily from life and death situations and brushes with mortality I’ve experienced. When I write about cannons firing in Black Hearts White Bones, I know how to describe it because I’ve lived it. I know what it feels like to hold a sword in your hand and face an opponent who is equally armed. Like some of the scenes in Aphrodite’s Whisper, I know what it’s like when an aircraft goes into freefall, and you don’t know if you will live or die. And like in both of those novels, I know what the sound of a bullet whizzing by your head actually sounds like.
Sherri: Writing is an adventure all its own, but publishing can be quite daunting. What do you wish you’d known before beginning this journey? What advice would you offer newbies getting ready to publish their first book?
Bill: God bless you, Sherri. You just introduced another three-beer conversation. Perhaps you should start a variation of the Algonquin Roundtable so we can entertain these fascinating questions at length…over adult beverages.
The answer to the first part of your question is…I wish I had understood what a crap shoot traditional publishing is. There are SO many variables and there is nothing on the novice writer’s side…unless you know somebody. Even then, you still need talent. Well, most of the time. I’ve seen some really awful stuff published over the years and I’ll never understand why such tripe gets published while other great stories don’t. One thing I’ve learned as an independent is that there are many wonderful writers out there who weren’t traditionally published. A lot of them will be at the Farmers Market authors event you are promoting.
Which leads to the second part of your question. First, read Stephen King’s A Memoir of the Craft of Writing. Skip the memoir part if you don’t care about King, but his essays on HOW to write are invaluable. There are other such books out there, but none I know of were authored by a writer as successful as King. So…
I would also suggest starting small. Try to write short stories for traditional and web-based magazines and forums. Hone your skills and create a following. This will help whether you break into traditional publishing or independent publishing. I didn’t do this. I wish I had.
Third, learn marketing and social media. These days, even traditional publishers expect authors to drive marketing. I despise this aspect of modern-day publishing, but that’s the environment we now live in. Remember, the best thing about independent publishing is that anybody can do it. And the worst thing about independent publishing is that anybody can do it. It leads to writers actually giving their books away in the hope of some day being able to sell books to loyal followers. Nobody should ask me for advice on how to do this. I suck at it. But there are many resources available, both legit and parasitical…if you know what I mean. Caveat emptor. One good place to start is Reedsy’s How to Market a Book.
Sherri: Your stories are all in different genres, is there anything that links the stories? Do they have a similar theme or premise?
Bill: You’re the first person to ask me this question. Thank you. The answer may surprise you. The common thread between all my novels is love. Now, it’s not always evident who loves who or who loves what, but my characters and stories are driven by humanity’s most enduring emotion…love. I invite everyone to read my novels and try to identify how I’ve woven the concept of ever-lasting love into my characters and which ones, but you’ll have to buy me a beer to find out if you’re right.
Sherri: Aphrodite’s Whisper you mentioned took twenty years to come to fruition. Why such a long time? Was it based on a true story? You mention in your blog that it is similar to Cold Mountain and Legends of the Fall, these stories straddle the fence between genre fiction and literary. They focus on the character’ journey. Are all of your stories a deep dive into the character?
Bill: Well, it took five years to write Aphrodite’s Whisper because I was working and raising two boys at the time. Also, I spent about three hours conducting research for every hour or writing. And the writing was done late at night after putting the boys to bed and on weekends and holidays. I spent the next 15 years alternating between submitting to literary agents and conducting re-writes. I re-wrote the novel at least three times and I was able to connect with two agents. But we could never quite get it over the hump and picked up by a publisher. By the time I finished Black Hearts White Bones – another five-year endeavor – the evolution of independent publishing had reached the point where it made sense to skip the traditional route – especially given my age – and self-publish. After Black Hearts was published, I spent the next year re-writing AW yet again and finally published it.
Was it based on a true story? Yes and no. I actually have an Author’s Notes section at the end of AW where I discuss which aspects of the story are history and which are fiction. Unlike BHWB, the main characters in AW, are totally fictional. BHWB is based on two very real female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
And yes, all my stories are, in my opinion, character driven. Despite the abundance of adventure, suspense, and mystery, the main characters in my novels reign supreme. Even Ivy Moon. Hell, especially Ivy Moon. I’d like to believe this is part of what makes my stories unique and enjoyable. The characters are three dimensional and relatable. And the stories are never exactly what the readers expect based on the genres they fall in. In short, they are unpredictable.
Sherri: As a fellow historical fiction author, I understand the work that goes into writing an accurate portrayal of both era and character. I was a bit intimidated to tackle my recent novel, The Americans are Coming and have been working on it for several years, doing research and taking classes that would help make it a better story. While all fiction requires a little research, we don’t always use everything we learn. What is the most important thing to get right when writing a historical? What is the line in the sand for you as a reader, as well as a writer?
Bill: Love, love, love this question! As with Aphrodite’s Whisper, I conducted about three hours of research for every hour spent writing Black Hearts White Bones. The amazing part is – which may scare the hell out of any budding historical fiction writers out there – I didn’t use but five or ten percent of the information in the actual stories. Dumping a bunch of mundane historical facts on readers heads is not the way to write historical fiction. Such information must be woven into the narrative in a way that the reader won’t stumble over it. As you allude to, it’s a fine line. And I think the key to finding that line is to be an avid reader. If you become adept at recognizing when the line is crossed in a book you are reading, you should be able to apply that awareness to your writing.
But aspiring historical fiction writers don’t despair! All that time conducting research isn’t wasted. While you may not use most of the knowledge you gain learning about the history of swords or the use and crafting of rush candles, all of that information will give you a better sense of time and place in which your characters exist. THIS is the difference between a good story and great writing…in my humble opinion.
Sherri: Your story, Casey and the Bear mirrors an incident in my own writing. Casey is my sister-in-law’s great-nephew. At the time he went missing, I was writing a similar scene in my third novel, Titanium Blue. I felt so guilty for writing that scene even though I’d planned it months before Casey went missing. My sis, who is one of my Beta readers was aware of it and helped me through the guilt. Like you, I believe animals, whether wild or domestic, often come to the rescue of those in need. I heard about your story shortly after Casey’s rescue, it’s nice to put a name to the story and to read it for myself. I’d love to include it in this interview with links to your website.
Bill: That is truly flattering. Yes, by all means, it was meant to be shared. Casey’s story is amazing, and I hope I did him justice. We will probably never know if he was actually befriended by a bear, but the boy he was when the incident happened believed it, and that’s good enough for me. https://www.billfurney.com/under-construction
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Bill Furney, come out to the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th for our Author Event.
If a girl cries of loneliness and there’s no one alive to hear…can she still survive?
I just released, Ivy Moon Last Girl on Earth.
Readers who love post-apocalypse stories will appreciate the unique perspective author W.C. Furney brings to the genre. Taking place almost entirely in Craven County, Ivy Moon – Last Girl on Earth is a Young Adult, post-apocalyptic tale of a girl’s survival and self-discovery. The story begins when the young teen who suffers a head injury emerges from a sailboat that ran aground during a hurricane. The trauma of discovering she is amnesic is soon dwarfed by the realization she is totally alone. Gradually, her expectation that people will return to the community they evacuated is replaced with the startling truth that everyone is gone. Vanished from the face of the earth. Hindered by a selective memory that affords only brief glimpses of her past, Ivy and her new friend Tonka – a West Highland White Terrier – set off on a quest to find other people. She soon discovers that surviving a post-apocalyptic world isn’t what the adventure books and movies make it out to be.
Before agreeing to perform the audio version of Ivy Moon, voice over actress Shey Greyson (Rose Walker in Audible’s production of The Sandman) read the manuscript to determine whether she connected with the main character and the story. Her response?
“Connect with it? I’m obsessed with it!”
A former soldier, journalist, and communication professional, William Charles Furney has tapped into a lifetime of experiences and adventures to craft riveting novels such as Black Hearts White Bones, a love, hate, revenge story about the two infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read; Aphrodite’s Whisper, an epic love story reminiscent of Legends of the Fall; and now…Ivy Moon Last Girl on Earth.
After graduating high school in Virginia Beach, Va, William served in the U.S. Army as a tank commander and later attended college at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Armed with degrees in public relations and advertising he honed his skills by becoming a reporter and columnist with a small newspaper in eastern North Carolina. Afterward, he became a director of public relations for private industry and the director of communication for several government agencies. He established two public affairs offices where none previously existed; one for the State Health Director’s Office and the other in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response – the state agency created in 2001 to oversee preparedness efforts associated with biological attacks and pandemic outbreaks. He became one of the first five people in the country to become a Certified Communicator in Public Health.
As a public health communication expert, he coordinated or participated in the media/public information responses to health crises involving AIDS, anthrax, SARS, E-coli, Pfiesteria, Brucelosis, Legionnaires’ disease, SIDS, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Small Pox, West Nile Virus and numerous hurricanes. He also collaborated with the CDC Office of Communication on several health issues and was a certified trainer of their Emergency Risk Communication Program. He was a member and president of the National Public Health Information Coalition – twice.
Now retired from public service, William is a full-time writer and novelist.
Bio: Nicole Kerr is an award-winning health and wellness expert. For the past 30 years, Nicole has worked in all sectors of society, including in government (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), non-proﬁt (American Cancer Society), military (United States Air Force Medical Operations), academia (University of Hawaii), healthcare institutions/hospitals (Adventist Health Castle and Queens Medical Center), corporate settings (Sea Ties, LLC), and private consultation. Nicole’s warm, engaging presentations have earned her a place in front of national and international audiences. Throughout her career, she has focused on supporting people from every walk of life to make realistic, meaningful, happy choices for lifelong health and well-being. She has appeared on CNN, PBS, CBS, ABC, the Food Channel, and a host of other TV and radio shows to share her unique perspective on wellness, lifestyle, and nutrition. As a 19-year-old cadet at the US Air Force Academy, Nicole went through a transformative NDE. Her memory of the crash came back 20 years later, and it has taken Nicole almost another two decades to align her soul, spirit, mind, and body, proving healing is certainly a non-linear process. Her pursuit of improving her own health led her to inspire others to reach the overlooked domains of emotional, energetic, and spiritual well-being.
Sherri: It is awesome to welcome Nicole Kerr to my virtual café. Nicole, I’ve been reading information about you and your book, and I have to say you represent what I believe about writing. For me, writing was an outlet for a broken heart and later a way of dealing with trauma. I chose fiction but you have chosen to share your journey.
Nicole: Hi Sherri, delighted to be with you and thank you for the compliment! Mine is non-fiction and I chose to share it (mind you it took 13 years to write and publish) because I felt it was the best vehicle to share the clear message I was given by Spirit of, “Do not be afraid of death,” out into the world. In the process I realized it was a way of healing for me.
Sherri: What was the most difficult thing about the writing and especially the publishing process when you decided to turn your journal into a book?
Nicole: I came from a science background and had written for peer-reviewed scientific publications which is a completely different style/way of writing. I had to learn how to write from my heart, that took hundreds of writing prompts and working with a writing coach. Regarding publishing, I decided to self-publish so I could own the rights to my book and release it when I wanted. I found the right group (by word of mouth) and so pleased with their help. I still had to go through yet another round of editing to take the book from good to great.
Sherri: Why do you think we are so afraid of death? I have had a lot of death in my life and while I’m not ready to die, I can’t say I’m truly afraid to die. I’m more afraid of being in pain or missing out on things. I’m also afraid of losing my mom, she’s my last parent. So, what is it about death that is so terrifying for most people?
Nicole: I feel it is the great unknown. In almost every book written death is cloaked in a veil of gloom and doom. Death has a cloud of depression and negativity around it throughout our culture and society. Also given certain religious beliefs about death (going to “hell”), etc. imprinted at a very young age at some unconscious level you may still believe that.
Sherri: How well has this book been received? What are people saying about your book?
Nicole: I am overwhelmed at the heartfelt comments I have received. I am in so much gratitude that my book is having the effect I intended. It went to #1 new best NDE book and is in the top 100 of all NDE books. I have sold over 500 copies in 2 months and am officially a best-selling author.
“No wonder it took the author 13 years to write this book, because she managed to condense three different things into one very readable combination…the story of her NDE (near-death experience); a dramatically candid confession that reads like a personal diary; and an overview of trauma.”
“As a cardiologist who watches people die quickly and slowly on a daily basis, I have never felt so connected to the patient experience and whole-heartedly have this author to thank for this. As she brings us through her journey, she teaches us the lessons that she needed to learn and explains why they were/still are important today. She has brought me closer to patients but also closer to God, a seemingly impossible task, she does it all.”
Sherri: What is the goal of your book? What do you hope the reader feels when they finish reading it?
Nicole: May this book help you with your fears about death. May this book also support you through the loss of loved ones. Above all may my book inspire you to live fully, truly loving yourself unconditionally! I hope my words can in some small way help you find inside yourself what you have always been seeking.
Sherri: Do you have any plans to write anything else?
Nicole: I had previously co-written a book on nutrition, as I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, called Eating the Rainbow without Lies, Hype or Calculus (revised 2005). In You Are Deathless I am extremely vulnerable and honest. I am not sure of next steps just enjoying the present and so grateful I got this baby birthed and out in the world. Enjoying doing podcasts at the moment as well!
Sherri: Do you have any advice for those who wish to share their experiences?
Nicole: Be authentic. Be persistent. Join a writing group if you need support. If you have a limited income spend the money on editing. Get to the root of the issue if you are procrastinating. Love yourself no matter what happens!
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Nicole Kerr be sure to visit her at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th, 2022, 1 to 4 pm, for our Authors’ Event. If you are not able to attend in person, you can purchase Nicole’s book through the above vendors.
You Are Deathless
If death is an end, then I know for certain there is nothing final about it.
When Nicole Kerr hit the ground, she thought: I am going to die, yet death is not supposed to happen this way. I am just 19 years old. I still have things to do, places to go, deadlines to meet, so I cannot be dead. I don’t have time to be dead. Still, I think I am. This must be death. Rays of brilliant white light flood me from all sides. Streams of light cocoon me, wrapping every part of my being in a chrysalis of soothing waves. Instead of the pain of impact, I feel rocked and held. This is bliss. No fear.
“You are Deathless reaches far beyond those who have had NDEs to people who are having near-life experiences. Guilt, shame, what ifs, shoulds, and traumas all leave us barely living and disconnected to Source. Nicole creates lessons in her chapters that leave readers smoothly transitioning between her present voice, her memory of how her accident unfolded, and the invitations of each subsequent trauma that allowed her to develop another resource for survival. Her courageous disconnection from situations and people who caused repetitive emotional pain, her development of gratitude and peace that continues to grow, and her allowing of healing (instead of forcing) is a great example that fully living is possible after trauma.” ~ Dr. Megan Weigel – Author of Monday Mantras with Megan and Nurse Practitioner
“When we pick up a non-fiction book it is often to learn something about ourselves or something about someone else. You Are Deathless brings together both by unfolding as one woman’s journey of growth triggered by a single traumatic event. Yet the seeds were planted from her childhood experiences. We don’t all have that single pivot point in our lives, and yet the process of reaching adulthood with strong physical, emotional, and spiritual health, requires many of these same steps. Understanding our past, recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, taking the time to invest in our community/family, and continuing to learn more about our physical and emotional health. This book provides both a story of incredible strength and a guide for our own continued learning. Thank you, Nicole.” ~ Sharon Owen – Captain (Retired USAF)
Published August 15th, 2022
In the book You Are Deathless, Nicole Kerr shares her journey about awakening to herself and the transforming work of aligning her soul, spirit, mind, and body. Through her own death, Nicole was forced to shed ascribed identities, such as being a people-pleaser, to instead develop an authentic, loving relationship with herself and God.
Her story proves that we can put to death the punishing, angry God that man created. This allows the beautiful God of love and acceptance whom she encountered in her own death to emerge and accompany us in day-to-day life.
Nicole beautifully presents how her NDE was actually an STE: A Spiritually Transformative Experience. This aligns with the ten most common NDE lessons (Source: IANDS 2020 Annual Report), the first of which is We do not die. Nicole has persevered through enormous suffering and pain to create the life she now loves.
Nicole has seen what awaits you at the end of this life because she’s been there, and she can assure you that it’s a new beginning more beautiful than you can now comprehend. A good death begins today, and with it, a great life. Through Nicole’s death experience, you can learn how to live your life to the fullest. You can engage in your own metamorphosis without having to die like Nicole did.
Sirius is a lover of glory, gore, and monsters. They are a queer, nonbinary artist living in the hot and bothered South; currently residing in a little spot that has been dubbed ‘Halloweentown’, North Carolina. They are the writer of The Draonir Saga, the first book of which is Uncrowned (The Laughing Man House), and The Gentleman Demon Series, the first book of which is Swallow you Whole (Curious Corvid Publishing).
Sirius began writing at a young age and started exploring the publishing industry when they were thirteen. With many bumps along the way, they have learned a lot and grown in the craft that they would consider their one true love. Queer characters, gothic aesthetics, and royal drama (fantasy of manners) form the foundation of their storytelling.
When they are not writing, they work as a professional drag performer, weaving the characters from their stories into visual art for the stage.
Sherri: Welcome Sirius to my virtual café. It is such a pleasure to welcome you and introduce you to my audience.
Sirius: Thank you for having me! It is an absolute pleasure to be here.
Sherri: My Creekside Café, while virtual has become a haven where I can chat with fellow creatives. It is such a pleasure to meet a variety of writers from all over the world and from every genre. While horror isn’t my favorite genre, I have found that there are techniques used by horror writers that translate into suspense and mystery. I love to listen to Steven King and Brandon McNulty on YouTube. While McNulty is more of a thriller writer, King has explored several subgenres of horror. What subgenres do you write?
Sirius: I am an avid lover of King and his diversity! When it comes to horror, I definitely write a lot of dark and gothic fantasy. I prefer fantasy worlds and paranormal themes placed in alternate dimensions that have flavors of our world. I have written my share of more classic horror as well – clowns, ghouls, ghosts, and serial killers. If it is atmospheric, dramatic, or gory – I am a fan.
Sherri: Tell us a little about your work. I can’t believe you started publishing at thirteen, successful or not. I wished I’d started sooner. Did you always write horror and dark fantasy?
Sirius: I was definitely an ambitious teenager! I started writing more epic fantasy, but vampires, demons, and angels took over as a major interest. Eventually, the two blended together for me.
Sherri: Your characters are queer, what is it you hope the reader will discover when they read your books whether gay or straight?
Sirius: I want my books to be a treat, a needlessly decadent queer narrative. All my beloved characters straddle that morally grey line, and I want readers – whether they are queer or not – to be able to enjoy reading queer characters whose queerness is not their defining trait. They love, mourn, plot, and yes – commit horrible war crimes – as people first and foremost.
Sherri: People first, I think that’s all any of us want. I know in my own stories, I want my characters, as well as myself to be accepted on our own merits, not as a label.
What is it you like about the monsters? I remember Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Monster wasn’t as frightening as the scientist who created him.
Sirius: One thing I love about writing the monsters is that they are unpredictable. They are capable of anything. Their reasoning is not always sound, if it ever was to begin with. Monsters are diverse and colorful and there is a lot of freedom in being able to dig into the chest of what makes something inhuman tick.
Sherri: Who are some of your favorite authors? Did their work influence or inspire your own?
Sirius: There are far too many to list, but I am heavily inspired by Anne Rice, Stephen King, Richard Lee Byers, and Ellen Kushner. Anything that gives a decadent, lush narrative or lively characters is instantly up my alley.
Sherri: You mentioned in your bio that you do Drag, and it’s influenced by your characters. I’d love to know more. Is this a hobby or do you have an income from your entertainment?
Sirius: Drag is absolutely part of my income – it is feast or famine just as any other part of the art world. It has become an enormous part of my life and being able to incorporate my characters into it has helped, tremendously, with getting to know them all over again – even the ones I have known a long time. I have had several new characters come to me that way, also. I am part of the Underground Presents troupe based in Greenville, NC – it is an incredible family and community that I am really grateful for.
Sherri: Are you indie-published? What would you tell a young writer attempting to publish their first book? Share the Pros, Cons, things you wished you’d known, or where you’ve found your best information.
Sirius: I am both indie published and I am signed with the Curious Corvid Publishing house. Again, a wonderful community that I am very grateful for. If I were to give any advice to a young writer attempting to publish – it would be to not give up. Make your budget, crunch the numbers, and then don’t compromise. Do not underestimate the power of a good editor and a professional cover. I made a lot of my mistakes early on in my career, and one thing I wish I had known was how much work it is even after the actual book is finished. It is a lot of work, a lot of marketing – and your first book won’t sell a lot, so don’t give up! Keep writing, write the next one! Be genuine online and in person, always, people love when you are yourself, and use resources like Writers Beware to keep yourself safe and not fall for predatory vanity press practices. Above all, remember that bad reviews, low sales, and low traction does NOT mean your work is bad. Your story needs to be told by YOU and there are readers out there who will love it. So much of making it in this industry is luck, so keep doing what you are doing, and you will make it – just keep writing.
Sherri: Just keep writing! Or whatever you love, keep doing it until you make it. Success is just picking yourself up one more time than you fall down.
If you enjoyed this interview with Sirius, come out to the New Bern Farmers Market November 20th, 2022 1-4pm for our Author Event. Books make wonderful gifts.
BIO: Sarah Maury Swan is the author of three novels, the last two of which she is selling at the upcoming Authors’ Sunday. She is pleased the say she has written stories for the Next Chapter Literary Magazine since its inception in January 2020. At the moment, she is working on a chapter book entitled SPACE JUNK, a young adult novel entitled BAD HAIR DAY, her first ever grown-up’s cozy mystery entitled SERENDIPITY’S CONUNDRUM, and a short story entitled FAIRY’S TOOTHBRUSHES. She lives in Fairfield Harbour with her handsome devil and their cat.
Welcome Sarah Maury Swan to Creekside Café, she might look like a sweet little old lady but she’s a dynamo. She is hosting 34 other authors, myself included at an Authors’ Event at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th. Sarah, it is so good to have you at my virtual café.
Sarah: Aw shucks, Sherri. You’re definitely a dynamo yourself considering how you took over the reins of Pamlico Writers so seamlessly. And thanks for the delicious cup of herbal tea; the virtual scones were perfect.
Sherri: Well chai tea is one of my favorites. I think you are amazing. You didn’t grow up with computers like today’s kids but you’re fearless about trying new things. Congratulations on your website and blog.
Sarah: That’s because you’re not close enough to hear how much and how often I yell at my computer.
Sherri: I’ve yelled at mine a few times too. I’m very grateful for grandchildren who fix whatever problem I’ve created. How did you and the handsome devil end up in eastern North Carolina?
Sarah: We had a lovely horse farm up in Maryland, but we had to put down three horses, 2 dogs and a cat in the 22 years we were there. The three horses were in the last 5 years we were there. Dale was ready to retire from the consulting business he’d started 30 years earlier, but we both knew he’d never quit if we stayed in Maryland. We had friends who had moved to New Bern, which made the area even more enticing. We’ve loved it ever since we moved here in December of 2010. Of course, not having to deal with blizzards also made this area more inviting.
Sherri: You’re very active in the local writing community, just like organizing this event. What groups do you belong and what else do you do?
Sarah: I belong to the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, HTTPS://SCBWI.org; North Carolina Writers Network, HTTPS://NCWN.org; Carteret Writers, which I was the president from 2012 to 2014, HTTPS://CarteretWriters.org; HTTPS://PamlicoWritersGroup.com, and locally, I belong to 3 critiques groups: Seascribes, where I work on my Young Adult and Middle Grade novels, plus short stories, etc; Kitchen on Trent critique group where I concentrate on short stories and my first ever “grown-ups” novel; and Bogue Group, which is my children’s’ books/stories critique group. Because of COVID, I’ve become fairly proficient on running the groups via Zoom. When I’m not writing, I try to do “retired persons” kinds of stuff like going out to lunch and having my weekly manicure. I read a lot and play some computer games, and I ride my tricycle which I named Gertrude. By the way, Veronica Krug, who is also going to be at the Authors’ Sunday event, is a member of Seascribes as well.
Sherri: Oh, my word, you’re as busy as I am.
On your blog you mentioned you review books for the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (www.CLCD.com), what is the CLCD and how did you get involved in this?
Sarah: CLCD was founded early in this century to review children’s books for various publishing houses and sending the reviews to libraries and schools. I started reviewing for the company in 2006. At the beginning the books had to be traditionally published, but nowadays self-published/indie books are being considered. I got a 5-star review through the organization for my novel Earthquakes. I did a happy dance then. It’s a very good way to learn what is accepted by publishers and what book buyers are looking for.
Sherri: You’re a horsewoman, is that correct? You mention on your blog that you and the handsome devil had a small horse farm in Maryland. Was your book Emily’s Ride to Courage inspired by true events? https://books2read.com/u/mvX0D2
Sarah: I wrote Emily’s Ride to Courage because we had to put a 9-year-old horse down. That’s very young and he was a sweet horse. Putting any animals down is sad, but horses are big and don’t necessarily go down easily. So, I’m in the house grieving and Grandpa’s voice pipes up in my saying, “Won’t have me no white-hoofed horse. White hooves is weak.” I said to him: “I don’t write for grown-ups, Grandpa,” and made-up Emily. The horse had to be a blood bay because the handsome devil always wanted a bay and we never had one.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing and when did you first decide to publish?
Sarah: I come from a long line of writers/readers and started telling stories when I was not even a teenager. My career jobs all had to do with writing one way or another, but I didn’t actively try to get published until I was in my late 60s. My first successes were with magazine like Country, Country Extra and also their cookbooks, and the “Fun For Kids” magazines.
Sherri: Are you self-published or traditionally published?
Sarah: I eventually went the self-publishing route because I’m too old to wait around for traditional publishing to publish my books. Emily’s Ride to Courage was the first novel I finished but the second one I published. I sent to Dutton first because I had friendship with one of publishers there. He liked it so well he sent up through all the editors there and they sent it to the marketers who said, “Good book, but we already have a horse book series in the works.” Now if you’re going to get a rejection, that’s not a bad way to get one, so I sent it to Peachtree in Atlanta. The editor there said, “I like the story line and I like your writing, but I’m not connecting with Emily.” I rewrote it in first person and again it went all the way up to the marketers who rejected it because they already had a horse book in the works. Sigh. But at least I knew I had a good story on my hand. Then I wrote the book I published first, Terror’s Identity, which is, at the moment, only available as an e-book through Amazon. Then I published Emily and now I’ve published Earthquakes.
Sherri: I was reading the information for your first novel, Terror’s Identity, it sounds like an interesting read. I had hoped to get a print copy when we meet for our Authors’ Sunday, but I’ll have to settle for eBook. Tell us how you came up with this idea for this book, your research and any other details you’d like to share.
Sarah: Terror came to me after 9-11 when people were being so nasty to any Muslim they come across. So, I wrote the story to make the point that not all Muslims are terrorists. I was very lucky to a have Secret Service agent living behind us and he was quite helpful in learning the way they run things. I wanted the main character to have a lot changes in his life, so I started him in Lake Forest, Illinois, because it’s quite ritzy, and then sent him to Dundalk, Maryland, which most decidedly not ritzy.
Terror’s Identity, Sixteen-year old Aidan Knox’s life turns upside down when he, his sister and his mother enter a witness protection program and begin a dangerous new life because of his father’s work investigating a terrorist organization operating in the U.S. How will he remember the details of his new life with a new name and a made-up past? And will he be able to settle into a new school and all that entails? Whom can he trust, and can he keep his mother and sister safe?
Sherri: It takes a lot to be a published author these days, especially having to wear all of the hats from writer, editor, formatter, publisher, marketer, and promoter. What is your key to keeping your sanity in this business?
Sarah: What? Me sane? I’m glad I have a lot of computer savvy friends who are willing to enlighten me. I also use publishing houses like Sable, Amazon and Jera because they will do a final edit for me. Of those, I liked Sable and Jera. Amazon is quite fond of squeezing as many nickels and dimes out of you as they possibly can. Sable doesn’t have the marketing arm that the last publisher I used has. Jera has connection with IngramSparks/LightningSource which has a page in national/international publishing magazines.
Sherri: I have to ask, what is the weirdest pet you’ve ever owned. We had ferrets and they were unique and stinky, but they had funny personalities. We had a dog we nick-named Houndini because he wouldn’t stay in a pen or on a lead. He got out of his collar, a harness, and even escaped from the local pound when he was picked up for not having his collar.
Sarah: A quirky animal we had was my dressage horse that I had trained from the time he was 4 months old. But he was lots of fun to ride and ended up his life as a therapeutic riding horse. You should have a photo of him there. I took our Tennessee Walking Horse, Rippy, to a clinic one time because I didn’t know much about the breed and what to do with it. Everybody fell in love with him. Turns out you can do just about anything you want to with them, especially jumping. Our dogs were always characters and loving, including our last dog who was a spectacular bird hunting German Shorthaired Pointer named Jake. Now we have a calico cat named Pandie because she was born in August of 2020. Guess why she’s named Pandie.
Sherri: I love World War 2 stories. Your story, Earthquakes sounds like a thriller. Do you like scary stories? Have you ever been in an earthquake?
Sarah: I hate earthquakes. They scare the livin’ bejeezus out of me, but I do like scary stories. I wrote this one in part because it has elements of my mother’s life and my life because I was born in May of 1941. My mother graduated from M.I.T in 1934 with a degree in Physical Chemistry, and then married my father whom she had met through her brother Bill at West Point. After Daddy was shipped to the Philippines the day after I was born, we moved from Ft. Lewis, Washington, to Los Angeles, California. When war broke out my mother went to work for Lockheed and became their first female Tool & Dye designer. She became a “Rosie the Riveter” and was used in all kinds of roles to promote the “War Effort.” After the war she was fired for no other reason than she was a woman taking a man’s job. She was told the men would need to support their families and she should go back to being a housewife. Her question was, “I’m a widow with four children to raise. Who’s going to support us?” Fortunately, she had friends in the Washington, DC area who were instrumental in getting the Cancer Chemotherapy project started at the National Institutes of Health. So, off the Maryland we went. That’s the state I consider my home state.
It’s hard enough dealing with the effects of World War II sending his father and grandfather to the Pacific theater, but now seventeen-year-old Jonathon Thomas has to deal with real and imaginary earthquakes. To make matters worse his school principal has warned him and his schoolmates of potential spies in the neighborhood. How’s he supposed to recognize a spy? And why are his neighbors being murdered? And why are people sneaking into his house to search for something? The only comfort Jonathon finds is when he talks with his girlfriend, Jennifer Murphy. What’s he going to do when he’s banned from leaving his home? Will his recurring nightmare of being swallowed up when an earthquake splits the ground open under his feet turn into reality?
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Sarah Maury Swan join us at the New Bern Famers Market, Sunday, November 20th 1-4 pm for Authors’ Sunday with 35 local authors.
Regency Author, Kelly Miller Visits the Creekside Café
Award-winning author Kelly Miller is a native Californian and Anglophile, who made her first visit to England in 2019. When not pondering a plot point or a turn of phrase, she can be found playing the piano, singing, or walking her dogs. Kelly Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.
Welcome Kelly Miller to Creekside Cafe. When you invited me to listen to your audiobook, Captive Hearts, I had just watched Persuasion on Netflix. At first the two were so similar it was difficult to remember what was the original and what was your interpretation. When I reached about the halfway mark I was delighted by your unique version of the story. You brought a little suspense and intrigue to the familiar tale. Do all of your books have intrigue or suspense?
Kelly: Hello, Sherri! Thank you so much for having me! I’m a big fan of suspense in books and movies! I try to add a nail-biting scene or two to all of my books. The most suspenseful of my published books is probably Accusing Mr. Darcy, with Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a close second. The least suspenseful of my books is A Consuming Love, mainly because it is a novella, and my publisher gave me a word count limit for it.
Sherri: For anyone who watched Persuasion on Netflix, and then picks up your book Captive Heart, what do you feel they will appreciate most?
Kelly: Well, if they are fans of historical fiction, then they will appreciate my adherence to language and customs appropriate to the Regency timeframe, something the Netflix movie did not do. They will also get a far better understanding of both Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth from my book, vs. the movie. And I think my storyline made for a more compelling tale.
Sherri: I agree. I believe your book gave a richer feeling of immersing us in that world.
As a reader and a lover of historical romance, I have to admit that I enjoyed the addition of suspense, I also really enjoyed your ending. I won’t give anything away but for me, you gave me a more satisfying ending than the movie. I felt all of the ends were tied up. How important is this to you as a reader, as well as a writer?
Kelly: While I can see the appeal of an ambiguous ending where readers can make their own interpretations, I would much rather read and write an ending that is both happy and satisfying.
Sherri: You describe yourself as an Anglophile, but I would also guess you are an Austenite as well. Are all of your books based on Jane Austen’s works.
Kelly: Yes, I am most definitely a big fan of Jane Austen! So far all of my writing is based on her works.
Sherri: Miss Austen was not as respected during her life as she is now. What is it about Jane Austen that still inspires authors to recreate her works all these years later?
Kelly: It’s amazing; I think her fan base continues to grow! She wrote during a time when it was not generally acceptable for women to have professions. Authors were an exception of sorts, but not really; Jane Austen published anonymously, so few people knew her to be an author. “Pride & Prejudice” is by far her most popular book, and it includes clever quotes, memorable characters, and a plot that is part social commentary and part fairy tale.
Sherri: What is the most difficult thing about recreating a classic versus writing a totally original work? What do the readers expect and what do you as an author hope to convey?
Kelly: It’s a huge responsibility to take these beloved characters and put them in new situations. Jane Austen fans have firm opinions and it is impossible to please them all. So, I write what I want to read and hope for the best. It is doubly difficult to write known characters in the Regency setting. While I write, I am constantly looking up the Etymology of words or phrases or researching customs, inventions, locations, or slang. I hope to provide a story in which Jane Austen’s characters are credibly depicted in a new and compelling plot.
Sherri: With so much happening in the world from our fears over ecology to ethnicity, where does historical fiction fit in the modern world?
Kelly: Historical fiction offers an escape to a world of the past, far away from the complications of today. Yet even back then, people had similar wants, desires, and fears, so we can relate to these characters.
Sherri: As writers, do you feel we have a responsibility to our community to represent the world we want to see or to shine a light to reflect the flaws of the one in which we live?
Kelly: I think my duty as an author is to entertain the reader; I am writing fiction and not history books. However, my MC’s reflect my personal values within the confines of what was acceptable in Regency. So, for instance, I would never have a MC who tolerates or encourages racial prejudice or animal cruelty.
Sherri: Do you have much chance to read for pleasure or are you like me, spend more time reading for duty, research or craft?
Kelly: I do a bit of reading each night. Since I have met so many wonderful authors on Twitter, I have expanded my reading so that I read most genres. While it is often pleasurable, I consider all reading to be research, because as I read, I take note of what I admire and what I would have done differently. It’s a fun exercise that helps keep my own writing fresh.
Sherri: It is difficult as an author to turn off that part of our brain and just read.
Who are some of your favorite authors, genres, or books?
Kelly: Some of my favorites include Stephen King, Daphne Du Maurier, Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell, Agatha Christie, and Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child.
Sherri: If you decided to write in a totally different genre, what would it be?
Kelly: Hmm, maybe horror? I don’t know. Darcy and Elizabeth have not let go of me yet!
Sherri: What is your favorite trope? To read or to write…
Kelly: I don’t have favorite or hated tropes. A good story, well-written is what I always crave.
Sherri: How difficult is it to develop characters from works already well-known, make them your own and still be true to the original?
Kelly: I believe it is harder to write a known character vs an original one. Most of my books have a combination of known and original characters. I am free to give the originals whatever tendencies I choose. But if I am writing a scene for Darcy, I strive to make him recognizable to readers who believe they “know” how Darcy would react.
Sherri: How do you start a new project? Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between?
Kelly: I’m an in-betweener; I’ve never written a full outline. Rather, I keep an idea in my head of the main idea or start of the story. I might have later scenes in my head too, but the rest fills in as I write.
Sherri: Your book, A Dutiful Son is due out anytime, tell us a little about your new release. Do you have a cover to share with us?
Kelly: Alas, no cover yet. In A Dutiful Son, my main alteration from the plot of “Pride & Prejudice” is that Darcy’s benevolent father, George Darcy is still alive. (In canon, Darcy’s father had passed away 5 years earlier, when Darcy was 22.) So, Darcy has benefitted from five years with his benevolent father and is a better-behaved person from the beginning. But a former family member’s betrayal induces Darcy’s father to alter his principles. Darcy will be torn between his father’s dictates and his growing sentiment for Elizabeth Bennet.
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with regency author, Kelly Miller, then follow her on social media and check out her published works. Her links are listed below. If you are an author and you’d like to visit me at Creekside Café, then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming book A Dutiful Son or Kelly’s latest Captive Hearts
A Dutiful Son is my next release. I don’t have a release date yet, but it is another Regency variation of “Pride & Prejudice.”
My five published books are:
Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic sequel with a touch of fantasy, Winner: Royal Dragonfly Book Awards and Indies Today Book Awards; Finalist: International Book Awards and Book Excellence Awards.
Accusing Mr. Darcy, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic mystery, Winner: Firebird Book Awards and Queer Indie Awards-Ally Division; Recommended Read: Author Shout Reader Ready Awards; Finalist: Wishing Shelf Book Awards and Mystery & Mayhem-Chanticleer International Book Awards.
Welcome Destiny Swallows to Creekside Café. Destiny is the other half of the writing duo of the debut novel, The Lost Maidens.
1: This is my first Romance novel.
2: I made that helmet behind my head in my photo.
3: I have autism.
4: My wife calls me Loki spawn, so it would be fitting that I’d end up writing an agent of chaos.
5: I did 3 tours of duty in the Navy, which allowed me to travel around the world.
6: If I had another chance, I’d love to return to Germany. I only spent a week in the nation.
7: I can still hear the dial-up sounds, and you got mail when someone says anything about it.
8: As a panster, working with an outliner was interesting, to say the least. Having to plan out the chapters with Ruby was quite the experience.
9: I hold a Batchelor of Science in Computer Security and a Master of Business Administration that I earned in the early 2010’s.
10: I grew up in Portland, Oregon but now live in Colorado. The climate shock between almost a rainforest to the high desert has been interesting.
Bio: Destiny was kidnapped and forced to write this at writer point by Ruby. Having written privately for years, Ruby convinced her friend to share her work with the world. She’s traveled around the world, seeing far-off places that inspire the worlds she writes.
According to your bio you were held at ink point to write this novel. Tell us the truth, we won’t tell a soul. Is Ruby a vicious task master?
Destiny: No, she isn’t. Once she got me to start the project, I was the one with the whips.
Sherri: As a pantser myself, I understand the difficulties you must have faced working with one who plots and outlines. I do try but I’m not consistent. What was the most difficult for you?
Destiny: I tend to have an idea of where I want the book to start and end. From there, I tend to let the characters lead the way, often changing the ending I wrote down. I will build scenes in my mind before I sit down to write, as I feel like outlines are double the work. If you’re writing details already, might as well just write the draft.
Sherri: Oh, I agree. I fast draft, which is like an outline, before going back to hand fruit.
Destiny: Ruby is the type of writer that needs to have an idea what chapter is covering what. To have road signs as she writes and to have the details already worked out.
Sherri: From Ruby’s interview, I know the two of you met through an online writers’ group. What do you usually write?
Destiny: I tend to write Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, and Mythology. It’s wide selection of genres, but they are interesting to research how to provide realism to my novels. I love learning about the subjects I am writing.
Sherri: How did the two of you divide the writing?
Destiny: I wrote for Kaitlyn, while she wrote Alva. We shared the descriptions and NPC’s. As we both are Tabletop RPG players, we let the dice dictate how our combat actions, with a few exceptions for the plot.
Sherri: Tell me about the helmet in the photo. What was it for? You said you made it.
Destiny: I made it for my wife. It is the Lich King Helmet from World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. In 2015, she wanted to go to DragonCon, in Atlanta, as Elsa, the Lich Queen. We made her the helmet and sword, Frostmourne, for her to cosplay. We took cardstock, cut a pattern out for them, glued the pieces into a 3d model. From there, we fiber glassed them and used Bondo (for cars) to harden it and provide shape. My daughter airbrushed both for us.
Sherri: My daughter-in-law and grandchildren took me to a comicon. I enjoyed dressing up. I wish I’d known about using Bondo to fabricate my costumes. He’s a mechanic.
You said you hope to return to Germany, what adventures do you hope to do when you return?
Destiny: As a historical writer, I would like to see the rich history of the area. There is only so much you can understand from books, but physically seeing what happened in the old USSR state, to see the buildings that the Holy Roman Empire was ran from, to see the hills where the Celtics and Romans fought would help me translate that into my novels.
I’ve been to Italy, which allowed me to see the Vatican, Rome, Naples, and other towns on the Mediterranean. I’ve been to England and Ireland. I rather enjoyed their history as well.
Sherri: I love history as well and envy your travels.
The Lost Maidens is a historical, sapphic romance. I know you are married and have your own sapphic romance, but you said you’d never written romance, so how did this come about? Why romance? Why historical? How did this story evolve?
Destiny: Ruby was visiting my wife and I, and we started tossing ideas back and forth. The basic idea came rather quicky, one of us suggested Viking, which lead to a lesbian romance of the pair lost from their tribes. Ruby writes romance, so she talked me into adding it into the story.
Alva and Kaitlyn were not originally enemies to lovers. At best, they didn’t know each other but turned out that the healer cared more about making sure Alva would live than being nice.
Sherri: How did you and your wife meet? And why does she call you Loki?
Destiny: I met her on one of those sites in 2012. We had dinner, and I pretty much never left. It was like magic, as we are both pretty closed off people, that we opened to each other. We’d spend every night after work smoking (bad habit, quit later) and talking on her back porch. We were married in 2015.
I am Loki spawn because if I can cause chaos, I will, just to see what happens. Loki’s role within the Gods was to be an agent of change. I tend to also push my friends to become the best they can be. Because of this, I earned the nickname.
Sherri: Do you use your education in your career?
Destiny: I use my MBA in my career, but my Computer Security degree, I haven’t worked in that field in 7 years. It is a very competitive field.
Sherri: With a degree in computer security, yet you have no social media presence. Has the knowledge kept you from setting up an account?
Destiny: Mostly. I used to use social media a lot, but a few years ago, I said I don’t need this kind of negativity in my life. I walked away from most of them. I rather enjoy the person I am now that I’m not chasing likes and spending so much time doom scrolling. I also kinda forgot to make a Twitter account to promote my books until you asked.
Sherri: Now that your debut novel is ready to go live, what is next? Do you have other books ready to publish? Will The Lost Maidens be part of a series?
Destiny: I don’t have any more books ready to publish, but Ruby and I are talking about writing starting a WW2 Spy Novel series, taking place in the early days of the war in France. We want to tell the stories of the woman who spied for the allies, like Virginia Hall. She had a wooden leg, and managed to cross the Pyrenees mountains, twice with it. She had named it Cuthbert, and her handlers once told her to cut Cuthbert loose if he’s giving her too much trouble.
There are many women who helped the Allies stop Germany. From France, Italy, Russia, and many other places. I hope in the series that we can include stories about the Night Witches (A WW2 Female only Bi-Plane Bomber squadron) and Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko, was a Soviet sniper in the Red Army during World War II, who was credited with 309 deaths, making her the most successful female sniper in recorded history.
Sherri: Ah, you are talking to my heart with WW2 stories, especially female spies. I will be happy to do another interview when you get that series up and going.
Thank you for joining us at my Creekside Café. I wish both you and Ruby great success with your debut novel.
If you enjoyed this interview, check out The Lost Maidens pre-order now, it goes live July 19th.
Alva and her wife Lise are on a mission to lead the sassy Princess Kaitlyn to a new land. They will combine clans through Kaitlyn’s marriage to the son of Alva’s chief. Standoffish at first, the pair quickly draw a disdain for one another, unmatched by any sense Thor and Loki.
However, when a storm rocks their world and capsizes their boat, Alva and Kaitlyn are the sole survivors. They are left with the tasks of exploring not only a new world, but also their newfound desires for one another. When the pair comes across a village hidden in the cold Canadian arctic, they embark upon creating a new life with the native people.
As they become one with the Inuit, how will these shield maidens prepare for their biggest threat yet? Will Alva be able to find Lise in their new village? Or will she seek comfort in the arms of Kaitlyn? Will the shield maidens be enough to protect the village from Frost Giants?
Find out in The Lost Maidens!
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss