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.
I’m so excited to welcome my friend and fellow southern American writer, K.B. Davenport to my virtual café. Thanks for stopping by Creekside Café, K.B.
K.B.: Thanks for having me, Sherri! I’m really excited to chat with you.
Sherri: Is Magic in Autumn Springs your first published novel?
K.B.: Yes, it is! I released it in November 2020 through Kindle Direct Publishing. I thought about going the traditional route but ultimately decided to self-publish.
Sherri: I’m reading it right now and I’m enjoying it. It’s a slower pace for me but I adore the way you introduce the characters. Who was your favorite to craft? I’m a suspense writer and I often enjoy creating the villains.
K.B.: Thank you! Glad to hear it! I have to agree, villains are fun to write. They became some of my most emotionally complex and developed characters, now that I think about it. They have a lot to offer in terms of flaws and layers. But I also have talking animals in my story, so I have to say they’re my favorites. Marble the wise cat and Harlan the sassy pup. Harlan is a talking animal and a villain, so writing him was really the best of both worlds. And really, Autumn Springs is itself a crucial character. Creating this fictional place was a bit of a love letter to the town where I went to college and to the Natural State where I was born and raised. I wanted to be sure I created a world that represented how I felt about where I’ve grown up and lived within my life.
Sherri: My town of Leeward is an homage to my hometown as well. I love Marble, she is an amazing character. Animals, like children present a unique perspective to the story. Getting into their minds and seeing the world through their eyes can change a reader as well as the writer.
This may have been your first published work, but you are not a novice writer. I can tell. You are too good for this to have been your first. How long have you been writing? Have you always been a writer?
K.B.: Thank you, I appreciate that! I’ve been writing poetry and fiction since I was a teenager, so almost 20 years now. I’ve written in academic and professional capacities over the last decade or so in my “real life” as well. Writing has always been more than a hobby for me. It’s like a sort of tether to reality. It keeps me grounded or lets me explore, whatever I need. I’ve been a storyteller since I was a kid, too, according to my mom. So, I guess the answer is yes, I’ve always been a writer!
Sherri: It shows. You describe yourself as a romantic at heart and there is a romance in your story, do you consider yourself a romance author? What is the difference between being a romance writer versus other genres?
K.B.: I have a hard time pinning myself to any one genre, but romance certainly plays a big part in many of my stories. Although it may not be in a way some readers are accustomed to. I’ve always been fascinated by Transcendentalist writers like Thoreau and Whitman. Romance has become intertwined and synonymous with nature and spirituality for me. That’s what I aimed to show in my book as well, a sense of longing and nostalgia that transcends companionship and gives reverence to the earth. Almost like being in love with the idea of the world itself. As for the second part of your question, I think being a romance writer requires a big heart and a passion for crafting vulnerable characters unlike any other genre. There is a certain level of pain and pleasure that goes into writing romance, and it takes just the right amount of both to create something truly spectacular.
Sherri: I always thought I was a romance writer but even though I want romance in my books, it often takes a secondary position. Sometimes I shy away from the hard stuff, especially the deeper emotions. My WIP has me crying a lot. I’m so ready to move onto the happier parts.
Is your partner a writer or reader? My husband doesn’t read much anymore but he does a lot of my research and helps me with some of my plot points. I enjoy discussing ideas with him because he gives me a different perspective.
K.B.: Definitely the same for me. Romance is one part of the larger picture. My partner isn’t a writer, but he does enjoy reading my work. He’s an idea man. He helps me work out plot points, too. Partners are great for that, aren’t they? They know you so well that they can connect dots even you may miss. Just don’t tell them that, or they may want their own writing credit!
Sherri: You have a serial you’re working on for Kindle Vella, it looks exciting. Tell us about it.
K.B.: Thanks! I’m excited about it. It’s a lot different from Autumn Springs, but I’m hopeful people will enjoy it. I’m calling it Game the Show. It’s a darkly comic look at Hollywood and the game show scene of the early 1980s. The characters are dramatic and flashy, and there are some steamy romantic moments. It centers around two rival game show hosts who vie for the same coveted time slot as well as the same love interest. A bit of a romantic triangle. There’s some bisexual and gay representation as well. I’m also using it as a platform to discuss some of the more sexist and phobic attitudes of the time. I’m a big fan of old game shows, but sometimes I cringe at the way they refer to women, people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community. So it’s a bit of a satire of that as well. Expect some uncomfortable but hopefully enlightening moments!
Sherri: I grew up watching the 70s and 80s television shows so I’m more aware of what you are talking about but how about younger readers, do you think they will be interested in this series? Who is your target audience? I have to ask myself this question often. When I wrote my Leeward Files series, I was hoping to attract a younger audience, but I’ve come to realize most of my readers are 40 and above even though my characters are mid to late twenties.
K.B.: That’s a great question! It’s interesting to find out who actually reads your work once it’s out in the world. Finding a target audience can be tricky! As a millennial, it feels like I’m straddling generations in some ways. I have close relationships with friends and family who run the generational gamut. I want my work to reflect that. Game the Show may be set in the early 80s, but I think its subject matter will be relatable from contemporary perspectives, especially considering its modern take on problematic social issues. I love historical fiction and seeing behind the curtain, so to speak, so I wanted to incorporate some of that into this project. My hope is that it’ll resonate with early to mid-millennials in America who grew up in a much different political landscape than today, but I want people of all ages and cultures to feel included as well. We’ll see how it goes! I look at writing as an experiment. I love to try new things and see what lands.
Sherri: Do you have any plans for an Autumn Springs sequel or are you writing something different?
K.B.: Yes! I’m currently working on the second book in An Autumn Springs Anthology. I’m calling it Mystery in Autumn Springs. It’s about a young empath and amateur sleuth from up north who has ghostly adventures with her girlfriend during a family reunion in Autumn Springs. I’m also working on a book of southern gothic poetry that I’m really looking forward to sharing more details about soon!
Sherri: Did you say you recently visited New Orleans? I was born not far from there. I went back there after my oldest son was born. We lived about a half an hour from New Orleans. There’s something about New Orleans that you don’t find anywhere else. I bet you found a lot of inspiration for your gothic poetry.
K.B.: Yes, we just visited New Orleans a couple of weeks ago for the first time! That’s interesting you lived near there! You’re so right. It really is a different world there. I definitely feel inspired, so much so that I spent some time there writing in our hotel room. I couldn’t help myself. It’s such a historically rich and vibrant place. Even with all the trials the community has faced, they still thrive. It’s encouraging. We stayed at the edge of the French Quarter near Armstrong Park and the Treme, so we got a good mix of touristy things and local culture. I can’t wait to go back. We’re thinking about visiting again for Jazz Fest this fall. And, yes, I’m absolutely using the experience for my poetry! The architecture alone was the perfect inspiration for gothic romance and drama. I loved it.
Sherri: I hear you like to cook, are you a fancy chef or do you prepare family recipes. I raised six sons and worked in fast food, so, most of my cooking has always been get it out quick. With my sons grown and gone, I like to experiment. I’m an avid Food Network watcher but my husband is more of a meat and potatoes guy, but he’s reforming. Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?
K.B.: That’s great! I think it’s fun to experiment and to try new things in the kitchen. I love to cook. I learned how to cook for my family when I was a teenager. My parents didn’t really care for cooking, so I took it on myself to save us from frozen meals and canned chili. I have to admit, I’m mostly a comfort cook. Fried chicken, pork chops, mashed potatoes, tacos, stir fry, breakfast sandwiches, cinnamon rolls. But my partner and I try new recipes fairly often. We recently made a tres leches cake that was delicious! One of our favorite meals to make is pizza from scratch. I roll a mean thin crust. I’ve made a lot of breads since the start of the pandemic, like most bored home cooks. Here’s a recipe for a citrus bread I made when I ran out of ingredients for banana bread!
Glazed Citrus Bread
For the batter:
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp water, more if needed
Pre-heat oven to 350. Prepare a standard loaf pan with butter and flour.
In a large mixing bowl, combine orange juice, lemon juice, buttermilk and melted butter.
In the same bowl, mix in baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, beaten egg and vanilla.
Mix in flour until all ingredients are combined. Do not over mix; the batter should be light so the bread stays soft snd fluffy.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven. Pour on glaze, making sure to cover all of the bread. Glaze should melt evenly and cover the sides of the bread as it cools snd separates from the pan. Cool for at least an hour. Enjoy!
Sherri: Do any of your hobbies, life experiences or acquaintances show up in your stories?
K.B.: Absolutely! While I’m not as much of a green thumb as Damian in Autumn Springs, I love gardens and being in nature. I grew up visiting a lot of watering holes and going on long drives through the Ozarks, so I love to use those scenic experiences in my writing. Hot Springs and Eureka Springs, Arkansas are two big influences in my work. I wanted to pay homage to their natural beauty. Also, I’m a TV buff. Game shows, sitcoms, live events—there’s always been something really fascinating about the way television operates to me. I figured I should put that to use in my writing, so that was sort of the genesis for Game the Show. In terms of people, I feel like most of my characters are composites of a lot of different people I’ve met. While I don’t want to use any one person as direct inspiration for a character, of course, I will pick certain aspects to infuse in my work. Really, I feel like every character I write has a little bit of myself included, too.
Sherri: If you liked this interview with K.B. Davenport, follow him on social media and check out his book Magic in Autumn Springs.
An independent Southern American writer and designer, K.B. Davenport loves reading and reviewing books by other indie authors. He writes cozy supernatural tales and dramatic stories with LGBTQIA+ themes. K.B. also designs book covers and promotional graphics. He lives with his handsome partner, loves to travel and really wants a pet.
A picturesque small town. A budding romance. A mysterious grimoire.
Welcome to Autumn Springs, a woodsy southern hamlet full of charming folks and scenic beauty. Meet Damian Baxter, a self-professed homebody who works diligently as a librarian at Autumn Springs College. He spends his evenings in his cozy Victorian home on Starry Night Way reading and curling up with his cat, Marble.
After he unlocks his grandmother’s grimoire, Damian begins a magical journey he never could have imagined. With his trusty feline friend by his side, he trains for an incoming threat from a reclusive neighbor and the most powerful dark witch in town, Elias Robicheaux.
Will Damian be able to protect his uprooted life while managing his busy job and a new romance with Bartley O’Dowd, a handsome Irish transplant with a secret of his own? Come along for a moonlit hayride and discover the mystery and magic in Autumn Springs.
The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare, Narrated by Mary Jane Wells (Audible)
Duke series, but this girl, Lady Penelope Campion meets Mr. Gabriel Duke, known
as the Duke of Ruin.
Duke is known for being ruthless in his business dealings with the ton. He cares
for nothing but what will make him a penny. Having grown up with nothing, Gabriel
has no time for sentiment and little patience for his lovely neighbor’s unique
menagerie. He is concerned only with how it will affect the cost of the house
he is renovating.
nothing for wealth or progress, fashion or even society. She is loyal to her friends
both two-legged and four, furry, feathered or simply hairy. She has never been
interested in a man and is surprised by her reaction to Gabriel. She falls into
lust with him when she comes upon him right after his bath, having invaded his
room when trying to rescue her foul-mouthed fowl.
delights readers with humor, sexy characters and plot twists.
fears she will be sent away from London and the home she has carved for herself,
she joins forces with her neighbor to rehome her animals and attempts to rejoin
is the least likely hero, but he really sees Penny and he is honest with her. Their
romance is a bit of surprise to everyone but the reader, we could see they
belong together. A lovely story of misfits and finding your perfect fit. It is
one of the reasons I love romance, everyone deserves their happy ever after.
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss