Welcome Natalie, it is so good to have you at my virtual café.
Natalie: Thank you Sherri, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Sherri: Natalie and I met through our Twitter group Shameless Self-Promo. I am so glad I got involved with this group. I have met some wonderful people.
Natalie: It has been a very supportive community, and I’m glad I found it.
Sherri: You are an author, poet, and priestess. Do these three connect?
Natalie: In my mind they do. I am a sea priestess by training and with that came a dedication to verse and poetry. But because of my novels, I’ve had to put the poetry on the back burner. I have been able to work some poems into my stories, generally by weaving into the tale by way of a spell, all my stories have magic in them some how.
Sherri: When did you first discover your love of writing?
Natalie: I first started writing poetry in high school, the stories were a bit later. Even though I enjoyed writing stories, I could never finish them A poem was quick (for me anyway), and it was done. I found I liked that, the immediate release from getting that which was in my head, out. When I got into college, the first time around, I started having recurring dreams, very specific, very repetitive dreams. I was forced to start writing them down. Most of the ones from that period (2005-2008) are lost, but a couple from my time in university (2008-2015) survived and I am working on finishing them. That in and of itself is exhilarating. Coming back to a project, realizing what I was trying to convey, and then having the voices return to get me to finish the project.
Sherri: When did you first become a published author?
Natalie: My first book, Love and Pain in Zion, was published on December 13, 2019 on Amazon.
Sherri: Are you indie published or traditionally published? What obstacles did you face when you first began your career as a published author?
Natalie: I’m independently published, through Amazon KDP. My main obstacle is marketing, honestly, I’m not very good at putting myself out there. Just publishing has been a nerve-wracking experience for me. But I’m trying, and I’m getting a few sales here and there. Having a couple more books up certainly helps.
Sherri: What are some of the things you’ve learned along the journey that you wish to tell others who are hoping to become published?
Natalie: Don’t stop. Don’t think you can’t do it. Because you can. Keep pushing forward, because the only person who is truly stopping you from doing what you want, is you.
Sherri: How do you juggle real life with your writing, publishing, and promoting?
Natalie: I haven’t, really. I wrote while I was in class, or working. Not so much that it distracted me from finishing my work or school work, but I wrote whenever I could. And now, with three books up on Amazon, I’m really working on the promotion and marketing aspects. I’ve been a little lucky. My job contract ended while we are in quarantine/lockdown, so I’ve been able to devote more time to my writing and promotion. But it has still affected my family life, I haven’t been as engaged in helping my stepson with his schoolwork, and it’s straining our relationship.
Sherri: Do you have any writing/business tips or tricks that have helped you that you’d be willing to share?
Natalie: Keep a book or a journal with you to scribble down ideas, because I’ve been out someplace and had an amazing idea for how to connect two plot points, and nothing to scribble on. And yes, I know that all phones have a notepad, I never seem to remember that. Then I lose the connection and must struggle later to recall it. Also, no idea is too silly. It may not fit with one story, but it may start off a separate one.
Sherri: Share with us one of your favorite moments as a writer/author.
Natalie: When my first book was officially published, I cried a little. Also, when I received the first author copy of “Love and Pain in Zion!”
My second favourite memory, was when my friend told me that he bought the eBook of Apotheosis, but then stopped reading it when he found out there was a paperback, and ordered the paperback. He put reading it on hold until the physical book came in.
Sherri: If you could turn back time, what would you do differently?
Natalie: I’d focus on finishing my stories earlier, get them published sooner, and focus more heavily on promotion and marketing. I think that if I had devoted more active time to my writing, I’d have more finished, and may be a little more along than I am.
Sherri: What do you have in the works now?
Natalie: The next one to finish, hopefully, is The Domed City (working title), is currently up on Wattpad, along with my other works in progress. I don’t see the end to it though, but I am enjoying the ride that Jillian is taking me on. Also, I would very much like to work on my poetry some more.
If you enjoyed our chat, follow Natalie on social media and check out her books. Her links are below:
Welcome to Creekside Café Cendrine Marrouat. I have to comment here that your poetry journal, Auroras and Blossoms feels a little kismet as I’m from Aurora, North Carolina. Life is strange and so are most people I know, but welcome to my virtual café.
Cendrine: We were probably meant to meet. 😉
I would say that life is very interesting.
Thank you for having me! I appreciate the opportunity.
Sherri: I guess you know all about strange, from reading your promo on your book “Bad. Pitches. Period. 30 Flavors of Spammy Emails” I had to chuckle at just the name.
Cendrine: The first part of the title comes from the name of an old blog that I created years ago to highlight the spam I received. I mostly featured terrible pitches from self-proclaimed marketing gurus. The few people who read it found the concept hilarious.
Sherri: I cringed wondering if one of my bad pitches might have shown up in your book, but I think I’m good, maybe. We’ll talk later.
Tell me, how does a serious poet and photographer end up writing a comedy book about spammy emails?
Cendrine: I don’t show names, so you wouldn’t know. ah ah ah
I am a very private person. I do not share much of life on social media. But my friends know that I love a good laugh. Actually, I laugh every day.
So, why a humor book about spammy emails? Because I could. When I used to be a social media coach in the 2010s, thousands of emails landed in my inbox every week. Most of them were terrible pitches from different people.
At first, I felt really annoyed and had a few heated discussions with the culprits, who almost never realized the errors of their ways. Then, I chose to look at spam as entertainment. My focus shifted and I ended up saving it in a specific folder. Every evening, I ended my day smiling (and sometimes laughing) thanks to spam!
Sherri: As I was reading your promo on your blog, I was struck but the fact that an author of more than twenty books would have doubts about writing. Could you tell us about your doubts and how you pushed through to create this book?
Cendrine: I have never doubted my writing abilities. In the case of Bad. Pitches. Period. 30 Flavors of Spammy Emails, the problem was that I had never delved into comedy before. I had no clue how my sense of humor would be received by readers.
But then, I remembered that I had had a first time with poetry, photography, social media, and theatre too. So, self-doubt didn’t last long.
Sherri: You also talk about the cover on your blog, I believe you call it “cheesy.” I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or not, but I like it. It catches the eye and makes me want to pick it up and see what it is about.
Cendrine: Thank you! And please, don’t be embarrassed. I called the cover “cheesy” and designed it that way on purpose. Spam is cheesy in itself. Look at the font some spammers use!
In my mind, spam is the same thing as the badly designed websites of the 1990s-early 2000s…
Sherri: According to your biography, you are a French-born Canadian photographer, poet, author, and the co-founder of FPoint Collective and Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal, tell us first about where you are from and then more about your other works.
Cendrine: I was born and raised in Toulouse, France, and moved to Canada in 2003.
In 17 years, I have worked in many fields: translation, language instruction, social media coaching and training, content creation and curation, photography, poetry, theatre, art reviews, blogging, and journalism. I am the author of 25 books in different genres.
I am the creator of the Sixku (poetry form) and the Reminigram (photography genre). As a photographer, I specialize in nature, closeup, and black-and-white images. I also teach French to adults and occasionally advise clients on social media strategy.
I am always very busy, but in a good way. I have achieved a lot in almost two decades, which often prompts people to think that I am older than I actually am. lol
Sherri: What or who do you think has been the greatest influence on your work?
Cendrine: Life and Kahlil Gibran. I love sharing the lessons I have learnt.
Sherri: Looking through your list of titles I’m in awe of the work you have created. The time and effort it must have taken to do all of the research and data gathering is staggering. Which book was the most difficult to write? Do you have a favorite book?
Cendrine: Thank you for the compliment!
Actually, the only major research I did was for my play titled In the Silence of Words. As a former English major, I studied theatre (and Shakespeare). But, as far as writing a play was concerned, I was a complete newbie. So, I spent several months educating myself. I read guides and researched names.
I also wanted to make my story as realistic as possible. As such, I studied the importance of movement.
No book has been really challenging. Unlike many authors, I don’t pressure myself into reaching a specific number of words. I don’t have deadlines. I just write at least ten minutes every day.
After 25 books, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite. For the sake of this interview, let’s just say that Bad. Pitches. Period. 30 Flavors of Spammy Emails is the one for now.
Sherri: Cendrine, it has been delightful to have you here at my Creekside Café, I hope one day we can meet in person. Thank you for stopping by and thanks to our readers for dropping in and having a drink with us. If you enjoyed our interview, check out Cendrine’s books and social media links below.
Until next time, y’all have a great day.
Cendrine: Thank you again very much, Sherri! I hope we meet in person someday too!
Reese and I met when she was
president of the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, her open, engaging smile
and outgoing personality made her an excellent and inclusive president,
welcoming all who attended. I am so excited to welcome Reese Ryan to Creekside
Reese: Thank you for this opportunity.
Sherri: I’ve been wanting to ask you back to the
area since the workshop you gave the Pamlico Writers’ Group. It’s too bad this
is only a virtual café. Shall we have a bourbon drink in honor of your Bourbon
Reese:I’ll just order a Caramel Macchiato hot–even in the height of
Sherri: I drink hot coffee any time of the year so I’m
right there with you.
You’re not native to
North Carolina, are you?
originally from Cleveland, Ohio, where I spent the majority of my life. I’ve
been living in Central North Carolina for the past ten years.
Sherri: What do you think about Eastern North Carolina? My virtual café
exists in my dreams on the banks of the Pamlico River.
Reese: I’ve had a chance to spend time in New Bern, Duck,
Jacksonville, and Little Washington. We adored our trips to each of these
little towns. We can’t wait to return for our next Eastern North Carolina
Sherri: If you get down my way, give me a holler and
I’ll show you around. I believe I owe you a dinner.
Do you write full time
now, or do you hold down another job as well as write? When did you start
writing full time?
Reese: I have been writing full-time for at least the past two
years. Before that, my day job was writing marketing copy for small businesses.
Sherri: I work at our local ABC store, for those of
you not from North Carolina that’s a liquor store owned by the county and
regulated by the state. People are always asking if my job ever influences my
writing. Has your career influenced your writing?
Reese: I spent several years working in the non-profit sector. This
manifests itself in my writing because many of my characters either work in the
non-profit sector or they are passionate about philanthropic endeavors. My time
as a copywriter is likely the reason so many of my heroines work in PR or marketing.
Sherri: How long have you been a writer/published
author? First discovered your love of writing?
Reese: I first discovered my love of writing when I was in middle
school. I started writing stories and submitted my first short story to a
magazine when I was about seventeen. I stopped writing altogether until I was
in my mid-thirties. I’ve been a published author for six years. My first book
was published in July 2013.
Sherri: Well, you know I’m a huge fan but tell
our readers what genre of books your write.
Reese: I write steamy contemporary romance with a diverse cast of
Sherri: It’s your awesome characters that keep me
coming back for more. I just love the way you people your stories. Everyone
feels real. Your characters are multidimensional, generational and cultural. In
your recent Cattleman Club Book, “His Until Midnight,” you have an older couple
in the background with a bit of history. They are so well written I want to
know their story. I want them to have their HEA.
Do you plan to write
any other genres in the future?
Reese: I have plans for future romantic thriller and historical
Sherri: Historical romance is my first love, I love Beverly
Jenkins’ Old West Series. I’ve started reading her Women Who Dare series and I
want to read more about the LeVeq family.
Amanda Quick aka Jayne
Ann Krentz is the author who inspired me to move to contemporary books both
reading and writing.
I’d be happy to be a
Beta reader if you need one.
Tell us, what is your
latest writing or publishing project?
Reese: I just signed a three-book deal with Grand Central Forever
to write a diverse, small-town series set in the Outer Banks. Starting
Over, the first book in my new Holly Grove Island series, is scheduled for
a November 2020 release.
Sherri: Oh wow, you know I loved your Pleasure Cove
series. Will this have more of a small-town feel?
Reese: Yes. My Pleasure Cove and Bourbon Brothers
series are contemporary romance series that happen to be set in small towns.
But the Holly Grove Island series will be a bona fide small-town series.
Sherri: What are some of the things you love about
Reese: I love writing strong entrepreneurial or
career-minded women and heroes that while strong, also display some type of
Sherri: And you do it so well.
What do you barely
tolerate about writing?
Reese: For me, the hardest thing is always getting through that
first rough draft. Revisions, I love. For me, that’s where the real magic of
storytelling happens. I can fix anything, but a blank page just taunts me.
Sherri: I’m a bit of a foodie. With six sons and
my herd of grandchildren food plays a big part in everything we do. I often
post recipes on my website. Do you have a favorite food/recipe?
Reese: It should come as a surprise to no one who has read my books
that I enjoy food. LOL. My characters like to eat and often cook together or
for one another. My favorite comfort food is chicken and dumplings. My favorite
dessert is peach cobbler, which I make for most family functions.
Peach Cobbler Recipe
1 pkg of Pillsbury or other refrigerated pie crust (taste matters, so get a
2 bags of frozen peach
slices (about three pounds)
¼ cup lemon juice
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup butter
2 cups white sugar
(modify this to your taste)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon butter,
Preheat over to 350
degrees. Roll out one sheet of dough thin enough to cover the bottom and
partial sides of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake until golden brown, approximately
While the bottom of the
crust is baking, combine the frozen peaches (fresh or canned can also work),
lemon juice, and orange juice in a large sauce pan. Add the ½ cup of butter and
heat until the butter melts. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the 2 cups of
sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Mix dry ingredients well, then add it
to the peach mixture. Remove the peach mixture from heat and pour it into the
baking dish on top of the pie crust.
Take the second pie
crust sheet, roll it out a little thicker than you rolled the bottom crust. Cut
strips approximately ½ inch wide. Use strips to create a lattice crust over the
Sprinkle the lattice
crust with the tablespoon of sugar, then drizzle the tablespoon of melted
butter over it.
Bake cobbler in 350
degree, preheated over for 35 to 40 minutes. The top crust should be a nice,
Sherri: I know how difficult being a full-time writer
can be so in all your free time, do you have any hobbies or interests and do
any of these show up in your writing?
Reese: I’m forever looking for a new outlet for my creativity. I
have tons of knitting and jewelry making supplies, though I do very little of
either. LOL. My fascination with jewelry making (my mother and I can watch
YouTube videos on the topic for hours) showed up in Book #3 of my Bourbon
Brothers series. The heroine owns a handmade jewelry and consignment shop.
Sherri: I think the Bourbon Brothers series is
my favorite but then I do enjoy a good bourbon.
What are your writing
strengths and weaknesses? As one of your readers, you make it all look so easy
but as a writer-friend, I know we all have our struggles. What comes easy for
you and what do you have to work harder to get?
Reese: The thing that seems to come easiest is the dialogue between
the characters. Sometimes it almost feels as if I’m just typing out what the
characters are already saying to me. I struggle with poetic descriptions.
Mainly because as a reader, that’s not what I want to wade through. I just want
to know what happens next.
Sherri: I think you hit it on the head, writing the
way we want to read is important. If we don’t want to wade through beautifully
crafted, poetic descriptions, other readers probably won’t either. A writer
friend told me you cannot be an effective writer if you are not an avid reader.
Who are your favorite
Reese: Though I watch mostly murder mysteries at home. (The Murdoch
Mysteries is my current obsession, and I eagerly await the Miss Fisher’s Murder
Mysteries movie.) However, I primarily read contemporary romance. There are too
many incredible authors out there for me to pick one or two as my faves. But
some of the authors I enjoy reading include: Elle Wright, Sheryl Lister, Karen
Booth, Jules Bennett, Delaney Diamond, Naima Simone, Michelle Styles, Beverly
Jenkins, Rochelle Alers, Kathy Douglass, Cheris Hodges and many, many more.
Sherri: You turned me onto several wonderful writers:
Nana Malone, Delaney Diamond and Karen Booth, I can’t wait to check out some of
these other authors.
Thank you so much for
joining us at Creekside Café, Reese, you truly are one of my favorite people
and I can’t wait to read Off Limit Lovers, your newest in
the Texas Cattleman Club series.
Reese Ryan writes
sexy, emotional romance with captivating family drama, surprising secrets, and
a posse of complex characters. Past president of the Heart of Carolina Romance
Writers, a panelist at the 2017 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and recipient
of the 2018 Donna Hill Breakout Author Award, Reese is an advocate for the
romance genre and diversity in fiction.
A Midwesterner with
deep Southern roots, Reese currently resides in semi-small-town North Carolina
where she’s an avid reader, a music junkie, and a self-declared connoisseur of
Hello Lila Mina, it is so nice to have you here at my Creekside
Lila: Its lovely to be here! I
wish we could meet for real in a place like this.
Sherri: Oh, me too, if I ever win
the lottery! Until then, I love meeting writers and readers here in my virtual
I love your name, Lila Mina. Where does it come from? Do you know
what it means?
Lila: Thank you! I love the first name ‘Lila’, it reminds me
of lily flowers. In Swedish, it means ‘purple’, and it’s a perfect match
because it’s my favorite color. My logo is actually a purple lily. Mina is also
a reference to Swedish, it means ‘mine’. Yes, I’ve got Swedish roots!
Sherri: Tell me a little about yourself,
where are you from. Where do you call home?
Lila: I am from a
French-speaking country in Europe, and live now in the south-western island of
Kyushu, in Japan, where I moved with my family ten years ago.
Sherri: How interesting, then I’m
sure you are a coffee and wine drinker, or do you go in for more Asian tastes?
Lila: Italian espresso, Japanese green tea and red wine, in no particular order of preference.
Sherri: One of my daughters-in-law
is Asian, she is Cambodian. She has exposed me to so many other cultures from
food and drink to customs and beliefs. I love herbal teas especially ginger tea
and chai, but coffee, and especially espresso will always be a favorite.
beats espresso, that’s for sure. So nice to hear you’ve got ties with Asia, too!
Sherri: Do you speak Japanese or
any other languages? I would love to learn other languages. I took high school
French and learned Spanish while working in the crab house. I’ve picked up a
few words of other languages from reading, movies and friends.
not English, is my mother tongue. I’ve got various levels of fluency in other
languages. I grew up reading books in French, English and German, I love
Japanese literature… but I read translations! I’m not fluent enough in Japanese
to read whole books, I’m afraid.
Do you travel much. I’ve only been to the United States and Mexico.
Have you ever been to North
Carolina, or the East Coast?
Lila: No, never to North
Carolina, unfortunately, but when I was a teenager, my parents took me and my
brother to a couple of trips to the US, and we visited New York and Miami.
Because our plane got grounded due to terrible weather in New York, we received
free roundtrip tickets as compensation. This gave us the incredible chance to
travel all the way from Europe to Hawaii!
Sherri: That was quite a
compensation. I’m working on a historical novella that takes place during World
War Two, the bombing of Pearl Harbor is what finally launched us into the war.
I would love to visit Hawaii.
The novella will be my first published historical. Historicals are
my first love but I started writing contemporary romance and then drifted into
What genre do you
Lila: Of the very sexy kind! I
don’t write erotica per se (hmm well, ok, now and then I might indulge in a
short PWP), but I believe in sex positivity and how intimate scenes help build
characters and plot even in a thriller or horror story. I love pushing my characters’
limits, and it includes sending them on a path of self-discovery through mutual
exploration. My Temper trilogy is a dark LGBTQ and interracial
paranormal romance. I love blending genres and don’t believe much in
Sherri: My own novels have been
difficult to categorize. They don’t fit the traditional romance format yet
there is a strong romantic element. Mine, fall somewhere between women’s
fiction, suspense and fiction. I don’t know. It’s frustrating. It must be even
more so for you, with English not your native language.
Lila: Japanese literature and reading
books in French, English and German, all of this influenced my style and the
way I tell my stories. I have also a strong dislike for the way the ‘market’ is
supposed to dictate what people need to write and read. Writing is art and
creation, and shouldn’t be reduced to a commodity. So categories and rules
should be broken now and then. This is why I’m so glad self-publishing exists
On top of that, for the past five years or so, I’ve decided to
write stories featuring only women my age and older, so in their late thirties
and forties. Like the hit comedy ‘Grace and Frankie’ reminds us, women don’t
turn into stone after they hit 35, so it’s important for me to show that we are
still very much passionate – maybe even more than when we were younger, because
we are more in tune with ourselves. But of course, this makes my stories harder
Sherri: There are people who need
your stories told your way, don’t let the dictates of the marketing derail your
goals. This is also what I tell myself.
I am reading more older-characters, characters of mixed race or of
different races. I have discovered that a good story is a good story no matter
if the characters are different than me, maybe better because they are
different. It is one of the reasons I make my own characters biracial and with
challenges different than my own. I like to explore those differences and
similarities. My world, even in my tiny part of it, is filled with a variety of
people in a rainbow of colors, religions and sexual preferences, so too should
Has your career influenced your stories?
Lila: I’ve got an extensive
background in law (I’ve got a PhD in international law and passed the bar exam in
my home country). This had a very bad impact on my creative writing. In fact,
although I used to write hundreds of pages every year in my teens, my creative
well dried up during my law years and ‘sterilized’ my thoughts. I became an
entrepreneur when we moved to Japan and finally, my mojo came back. I still use
what I learned in my stories, though, either for my plots or characters.
Sherri: Do you write full time now, or hold down another job as well as write?
Lila: I’ve got two business on
top of writing, so no, unfortunately it’s not my full-time job!
Sherri: How long have you been writing?
Lila: Since I was ten, I think.
Along with reading, it’s been my major emotional outlet all my life – that’s
why I became nearly depressed when I couldn’t find the time or inspiration any
more during my twenties and early thirties.
Sherri: People who are not
creative do not understand what it is like to not be able to create. Like you,
I started writing at around ten years old. Different tragedies in life have
staunched my creative flow, losing our home to a fire is another reason I write
a darker, contemporary suspense. I believe it is my way of working through the
Lila: Oh wow, yes, I can entirely relate to that. We were in Tokyo in
2011 when the huge earthquake struck the northern region of Japan. In a blink,
our lives changed and we had to start again everything, in another city.
Writing clearly helped process my emotions and fears.
Sherri: What new project do you
have going on?
Lila: This year, I published my
Temper saga (three books, about 240k total), and I am currently working
on the sequel, called Vindicta. Temper introduces my three heroes: Lana,
37, an Italian businesswoman, Honda, 57, her martial arts instructor and Yuki,
42, Honda’s wife. It’s set in Japan.
When Lana accepts the Hondas’ red-hot proposal in Tokyo, she
stumbles into a dark rabbit hole. The Veil of Reality crumbles under her eyes.
To her horror, she realizes she is the solution to Honda’s spiraling madness,
but the enemy within has awaken and is slowly burning her alive, too. Vindicta
takes place in Italy a few years later, where Lana and her family go back to
find answers (and much more) after the tragic events of Temper.
I also plan to release a novella (40k), Platinum Nights, in
early 2020. It’s a contemporary and interracial romance set between LA and
Japan. I’ve got a few other novella-length stories (some contemporary, some
paranormal) that I want to flesh out.
Sherri: You sound busy. I like to
juggle multiple projects but sometimes it can also be overwhelming.
What do you love about
Lila: Seeing my characters come
to life, listening to them whisper their story in my ear, rousing powerful
emotions in my readers, introducing people to other places and cultures.
Exploring my own fears and aspirations, too!
Sherri: I can relate about
exploring my own fears and issues, I think writing and reading are forms of
therapy. My friend and the former leader of the Pamlico Writers’ Group once
said all artists, including writers, are broken. It is through that broken part
that we view the world and give it light.
What is your least favorite
thing about writing?
Lila: The long days where
nothing works, the hours spent staring at a blank page when everything seemed
so clear under the shower. Editing and formatting kill me! Maybe one day I’ll
be able to hire someone for doing all of the dirty work, ahahaha.
Sherri: With all that you have
going on do you have any hobbies or interests besides writing? Do these show up
in your writing?
Lila: Martial arts, in
particular aikido, are the way I release my tension and stress. And yes, most
of my characters (men and women) practice one!
Sherri: What do you feel are your
writing strengths and weaknesses? What comes easily for you, and what do you
have to work harder to get?
Lila: My readers enjoy my
descriptive and immersive style, the way I make them experience so many
feelings, how I spirit them away to Japan and lead them to more tolerance and
open-mindedness. They also praise the quality of the steamy scenes I write, how
mutual respect and consent are always keys, even in some very scorching and
disturbing moments, and this is important to me. Bestsellers like 50 Shades of
Grey have done a lot of damage with readers, beyond the world of BDSM, and it’s
crucial that romance stops glorifying abuse, in my opinion.
My weakness is that as a non-native English speaker, aside from
language mistakes now and then, I cannot pass for an American writer, either in
style or the way my characters act. This is off-putting to some. I’m also a
pantser, not an outliner, so sometimes I get stuck – chapters 1, 13 and 22 are
done, and I wonder how to connect all of this!
Sherri: I’m southern so there are
those who would swear English is not my native language either, it’s the
accent. It does make looking up words difficult and using proper language more
time consuming, but I believe who we are and where we are from can also be an
asset to our writing. It gives a unique voice.
I sympathize with being a pantser, I don’t outline either. I have
learned to make note of things I want to go into the story. My first draft is
rather lean and I go back and fill in, flesh out and tie everything together
during the rewrite.
Well, it seems our time is running out. I have enjoyed visiting
with you today. I hope someday we can meet in person.
If you have enjoyed my chat with Lila Mina, please check out her
links below. Visit her social media and follow the links to her books. I know I
Have a great day. Y’all come back to Creekside Café and set a
spell, we’ll talk about books, life and the sexy new waiter. Shh, don’t tell my
Lila Mina’s bio:
Readers will find behind the pen name Lila Mina
a European woman in her early forties who has been living in Japan for a decade
with her husband and son. After nearly twenty years of using her writing skills
for drafting legal briefs and business reports, she went back to her first
love: fiction. These days, when she is not running behind deadlines or wrapping
tea for overseas customers, you can find her practicing aikido, writing or
editing her manuscripts while sipping delicious green tea.
Inspired by the rich and complex Japanese culture and folklore,
her stories feature strong and mature female protagonists facing their inner
demons or ruthless enemies, and who are never shy to embrace their desires.
trilogy is her first major published work of fiction. Made of Deference,
Dread and Deliverance, Temper is a dark and interracial LGBTQ
paranormal romance featuring a seasoned trio of heroes: two bisexual ladies (37
and 42) and their pan partner (57).
Welcome back to Creekside Café. There’s been a lot going on
lately. Our town hosts an annual Fossil Festival and I was one of the old
fossils hanging around. Just kidding, I hope, but my writers’ group, Pamlico
Writers had a booth at the festival, and we had a float in the parade. It was a
lot of fun but a lot of work.
Today I have the pleasure of visiting with my friend and fellow
romance author, Davida Ann Samenski. Davida, or Dee as we call her, and I met
online first with Book in a Week. I host a monthly writing challenge with the
Heart of Carolina Romance Writers that allows me to get to know many of my HCRW
mates. Dee was always winning the monthly challenge or a close runner up.
Dee: Thanks for the invitation but we finally did meet face to face
at the Virginia Kantra seminar.
Sherri: Oh yes, you startled me, and I was so embarrassed I didn’t
recognize you. I go to so few of the Heart of Carolina meetings, if it wasn’t
for Book in a Week, I’d truly feel left out. How many books do you have out
I know how you feel. I hardly ever make it to a meeting, although I make it a
point of attending the fall seminars the chapter holds. I currently have one
book out, one in its final edit-mode and one just sold to Soul Mate. My plate
is quite full.
Sherri: That’s fabulous, Dee. How did you get started writing?
Dee: I’ve read a few novels that I thought weren’t worth the wasted
paper. I thought I could do it better and tried. I found out it’s not as easy
as I thought. I started writing in 1992, trying to kill the time at work while
answering the phones at the Marriott Hotel in Raleigh.
Sherri: I remember when you started doing Book in a Week you were on
the graveyard shift, but you’re a fulltime author now.
Dee: I try to be. I’m published with Soulmate Publishing.
Sherri: Congratulations, it’s not easy to find a publisher willing to
take a chance on a new writer.
Dee: I started
writing my stories and joined RWA and HCRW, to help me fine tune my craft. I
submitted to Harlequin Historicals a few times but was rejected. I hung my head
and dragged my feet for a long time, then tried again, only to be rejected
again. I don’t handle rejection well, but I do eventually drag myself out the
dark place I like to hide in and try again. Finally, I pitched to an editor at
the National Conference two years ago and she decided to take a chance on me.
She’s bought three of my stories so far. I hope she never comes to regret it.
Sherri: But you love writing, even though sometimes it’s difficult?
Dee: It’s not as easy as I thought. Some stories play out in my
head like movies, some are harder to interpret, but yes, I love being a writer.
Sherri: What is it you love about writing?
Dee: Making up stories and
bringing them to happy conclusions, unlike real life.
Sherri: Yes, in romance at least, we can get our happy ending. Is that
why you love romance?
Dee: I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. I could watch a tv show
(soap opera) and see romances blooming long before the characters ever realized
Sherri: What is the most difficult thing about being a writer?
Dee: Rewrites, edits and
Sherri: Oh yes, I am the
coma-splice queen. My friend and editor even wrote me out a cheat sheet to help
me. I’m using Pro Writer to help me combat some of my grammar problems but it’s
still an on-going battle.
Would like something to drink? A coffee or something cold? I can
wave over the new waiter I hired, he reminds me of a character from my novels.
(Hey, it’s a virtual café, no sexual harassment, just a book boyfriend
Dee: I had a Jethro Bodine
cup of coffee this morning, I usually switch to water but what the hey, I might
as well have a glass of Southern Mother’s Milk, you know, Sweet Tea.
Sherri: I hate to admit this, I
may have to turn in my Southern Lady card, but I do not like tea, sweet or
otherwise. I will drink herbal teas both cold and hot, but I’ll only drink
sweet tea under duress. (To the handsome waiter) I’ll take a large glass of
lemonade and if you want to throw in a shot of Evan Williams Peach, that would
be fine too.
Dee, were you born and bred in the south?
Dee: I was born and raised
in Baltimore, Maryland but currently live in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
Sherri: Have you ever been to
the eastern part of the state where I live?
Dee: We’re about an hour and
a half from the beach.
Sherri: Atlantic Beach? I’m about
an hour away. Creekside Café, if it really existed would be on the banks of the
Pamlico River near my home. We’re on the Innerbanks of North Carolina. We’re
not far from the ocean by water but quite a ways by land. I love the beach but prefer
the sound side where the waves aren’t as vicious.
Dee: I love going to the beach, in the
fall, when its not so hot and its not so busy and the sharks have moved on to
other climes. I love walking on the beach and collecting shells and wading in
the surf, but never more than ankle deep. Although, my granddaughter has a bad
habit of joining me in the sand and somehow getting completely drenched.
Sherri: There is so much about being a
published author that other people don’t know about. Today’s author, whether indie
or traditionally published is responsible for much of their own publicity and
marketing. We have to edit and rewrite our work, often several times in order
to please Beta readers, agents or publishers. Many of us design our own covers,
websites and social media, develop our own Brand, as well as go out and do book
signings and talks to help promote our books. Do you have any insights on
promoting your books? What have you done so far?
I’d like to say I’m a master at marketing, but I’m pretty much a novice. I have
no idea how to market my books and when I’ve asked for help, I get vague
answers. I do have a website, but it’s boring and I haven’t kept up with it.
And the website builder charges an arm and a leg to maintain it, so nothing’s
been done. As for book signings, I did have one scheduled, but life got in the
way and the responsibility of helping my elderly parents fell on my shoulders,
so it was pushed to the back burner.
Sherri: What do you feel is your greatest
strength as a writer, and what is your biggest weakness?
Some folks say I have strong dialogue and write
compelling stories. My weaknesses are head hopping and research.
Sherri: I love research but
that’s a sure-fire way of losing me down a rabbit hole. My husband does a lot of
my research for me. He likes to look up weird things on the internet. Head
hopping or leaping from one person’s point of view to another is difficult not
to do, especially in romance. I mean, letting the reader know what each
character is thinking in that moment is often critical to the story. If you’re
a Nora Roberts fan, you know she does this, and it works.
Who are your favorite authors? What do you like to read?
Dee: I love historicals and contemporaries. I’ll read just about
anything as long as it’s a romance. My all-time favorite authors are Jude
Deveraux and Kathleen Woodiwiss. Their stories are the ones that first
introduced me to romance. Of course, I’ve picked up a few authors along the
years I’ve been doing this: Sabrina Jeffries, Virginia Kantra, Sylvia Day to
name a few.
Sherri: My first romance novel was Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Shana. I think I was fourteen. It
started my love for historicals and for years I didn’t read anything else.
Jayne Ann Krentz, who also writes as Amanda Quick, and my librarian, Robina
Norman introduced me to other subgenres of romance. JAK and our own, Virginia
Kantra are the ones who inspired me to write contemporary romance. Reese Ryan
helped broaden my view of the world and made it important for me to add diverse
characters to my stories. I never expected to write romantic suspense but now I
can’t stop the ideas from coming. I still want to write historical romance as
well but for now, I’m busy with my contemporaries. What about you? What
subgenre do you write and what do you hope to write in the future?
current book, An Accidental Love Affair is a contemporary. And the story, soon
to be published, His Misplaced Countess, is a historical. I write both, but my
favorites are historicals. I am working on a contemporary that deals with
childhood cancer, a little of blending reality with fantasy.
Sherri: Do you have any other
hobbies or interest? Do these show up in your stories.
Dee: I like to visit
historical places, North Carolina is full of interesting places to see and
Sherri: Are you one of those well-organized
people? Do you have a certain time to write, check emails or visit on Facebook?
Dee: I usually try to make
myself work on a chapter a day, but sometimes the lure of Facebook slots is too
Sherri: Our time is running
out, is there anything you’d like for us to know before we say goodbye?
always hoping for a good review. Come visit me at my website and say hi.
Sherri: Davida’s links are listed below, check out her books and her website and remember, if you love an author, leave a review.
Today I have the great
honor of welcoming Andie Wood, the founder of The New Romance Café Facebook
Group and the heart behind the spring and summer anthologies, “Love in Bloom”
and “Hot Summer Nights.” Welcome to North Carolina and Creekside Café.
Andie: I’ve never been to the States. I have many friends there and
would love to visit one day soon.
Sherri: It means so much to have you here today. I am so honored to be
included in the “Love in Bloom” spring anthology. Is this the first time you’ve
coordinated an anthology?
Andie: When I started the group (The New Romance Café), I wanted to
help empower and provide a platform for aspiring and unpublished writers, as
well as connecting them with their readership. More established authors joined
as well, and I felt this led to a greater sense of community and purpose. Since
it is a romance focused group, it felt natural that the output should be a
romance collection or anthology. This also led to the idea that the profits of
this should all go to charity.
I’m very excited that The Romance
Café will be launching its first anthology of short stories created by author
members. I see the anthology as the first step in generating as much exposure
for them as possible, all towards a great cause: breast cancer research and
care. Several members’ lives have been affected by cancer one way or
another. Many are survivors themselves. We’re honoring all those whose lives
have been touched by cancer.
Sherri: That is one of the things that attracted me to the anthology. Eastern
North Carolina has one of the largest groups of death by cancer in the United States.
Where are you from?
Andie: I’m originally from Romania but I’ve lived all over the place. I
lived in the UK (United Kingdom) for 11 years, had a stint in Spain and
Gibraltar, and for the past 2 years I’ve been in the other side of the world,
in New Zealand.
Sherri: I’m so jealous. I’ve never been anywhere except the US and
Mexico. I traveled some before David and I married, but haven’t had much chance
to travel since. Are you married? Do you have children?
Andie: I’m married, I have a 3-year old
son and I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant, expecting a baby girl in April.
Sherri: That’s exciting. I had all boys, six of them but I’ve been
lucky to have great daughters-in-law and some awesome granddaughters.
You are so active in The
New Romance Café, do you work full-time?
day, I roam the virtual streets of digital marketing. By night, I’m a voracious
love to read but have less chance to do so now with trying to publish and at
the moment I’m eye-ball deep in conference preparations. Who are your favorite authors,
what genres do you like to read?
Andie: I love romance and gentle crime. In terms of authors, I
have to mention Alexander McCall Smith, Sarah MacLean, Nora Roberts, Tessa
Dare, and Jayne Ann Krentz and her alter egos. It’s a long list.
Sherri: I’m not familiar
with Alexander McCall Smith, but the others you mentioned are some of my favorites.
I’ll suggest Sabrina Jeffries, she writes Regency Romance.
Besides reading, what are your other passions?
Andie: I love reading, of course. My other big love is Pokemon. If you
watch any of my Facebook Live sessions, you’ll notice I have an impressive
collection of Pokemon mugs.
Sherri: I’m a big fan
of Minions. They crack me up. I’ve even made a minion of me.
One of my passions is cooking though I have very
little time to do it with work and writing. Do you like to cook?
Andie: In terms of my cooking, I have a mantra: if it’s not
ready in 45 mins max, I’m not making it.
Sherri: I watch a lot
of cooking shows but mostly dream about cooking. Do you have a favorite recipe
or a favorite food?
Andie: I’m a big pizza fan, ideally with a thin crust. I
remember the first time I saw a pizza, it was being eaten by the Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles! I must have been quite young and it’s left an impression on me.
Pizza is one of my favorite things to eat, I’m not good at making it. My first
memory of pizza was when we lived in Hampton, Virginia we’d pick up pizza from
the Giant Open-Air Market and carry it home. The aroma of pepperoni and bell peppers,
spicy sauce and yeast still wafts around in my brain like a ghost. I couldn’t
have been more than seven or eight.
The bad thing about pizza, for me
anyway, is the calories. I need to start dieting and exercising? My youngest son
and his wife are big on going to the gym and running. If I’m running, don’t ask
questions just keep going. Are you an athlete or into fitness?
afraid the most taxing exercise I do is yoga.
Sherri: You talked about
having friends all over the world. Do you keep in touch with them? It must be
difficult with the different time zones.
try to make myself as available as possible to my friends, particularly as
distance and different time zones make it difficult to have set times.
You are the founder and host of several online
writing and reading groups, tell us about them.
though romance is THE most sold book genre, it has a stigma attached to it, as
well as to those who read it. I created The Romance Café in mid 2018 because I
felt that romance readers and aspiring writers were lacking safe,
non-judgemental places online where they could discuss their favourite books
and authors. Join us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/292243634861501.
Sherri: Thank you Andie for joining me at Creekside Café, I’ve enjoyed our chat. Don’t forget our spring anthology, Love in Bloom goes on sale March 8th, you can preorder your copy. I ordered mine from Amazon US. The proceeds will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation #BCRF, a US based company that works globally. For more information about the charity, go to their website https://www.bcrf.org/
Welcome to Creekside Café, Anna
Volkin. I understand you are a coffee fan like I am.
Anna: Hello, Sherri! Thank you for
inviting me to this lovely talk. I’m thrilled to pieces to be here, in the
Creekside Cafe with you, although it’s only a virtual meeting. Yes, coffee is
my poison of choice. Espresso lungo. Black.No
sugar. I can drink it at any time of day. Does that make me an addict?
Sherri: If it does, I’m right there
with you, though I prefer a little cream in my coffee. I used low fat milk because
of the calories but, oh, sweet delicious cream.
Anna and I met through The New
Romance Café Facebook Group. We will be published in the spring
anthology, Love in Bloom. This will be your first published story?
You are new to writing, is that true?
Anna: Yes, writing is a new endeavor
for me. Actually, I’ve never thought of myself as a writer or being able to
write fiction until less than a year ago. It’s all new and shiny. Of course,
there had been some attempts in my teenage years, but I blame those on my
experimental phase rather than on a serious pursuit of writing. So I’d be safe
to say I’ve been writing for less than a year – I’m not taking academic papers
and specialty articles into account.
That didn’t stop me from already
having outlined a 7 book contemporary romance series – I know, I know, I’m not
sure if saying this out loud is shameless bragging or terrifying stupidity. As
well as this, I’ve plotted three more short stories (they would make a nice
series with the one I’m about to publish) and I’m contemplating a PNR
Sherri: You mention academic papers
and specialty articles; you have a profession that requires you to do other
Anna: Yes, I am an MD, a medical
doctor. I’m lucky enough to have my private practice, so it’s up to me to
manage my work and writing schedules.
Sherri: Anna, tell us where are you
Anna: I’m Romanian, currently living
in the capital city once known as Little Paris – Bucharest. I like to say that
I was born on the “wrong” side of the Iron Curtain.
Sherri: What do you mean by the
Anna: Because I am a citizen of the
world – this is how I see myself, without denying or minimizing my roots and
heritage. Nevertheless, the selective isolation and censorship my country was
subjected to until the ’90s has definitely shaped our view of the world in
a different manner. I am lucky, though: I had the tremendous chance to be exposed
to both lifestyles and schools of thought (Eastern and Western) and gather deep
cultural influences from both of them. Also, the upside of the aforementioned
isolation was that our main entertainment as children born in the early
eighties was reading – that was what you could do without television and video
games, and I’m thankful for it. It has broadened my horizons in multiple
directions and helped develop a strong sense of critical thinking.
Sherri: Do you have a favorite
author or genre?
Anna: Until a few years ago, I
tended to read indiscriminately. Having done my part with “heavy”
literature, lately, I turned to “lighter” genres, as reading is a
form of escapism as far as I am concerned. I’m most fond of fantasy, dystopian
and paranormal. If there is also a romantic thread, that’s for the better. I’ve
also caught up on my romance reading and I really enjoy it. I can’t name a
favorite author – I’d feel like it would be unfair to all the stories I’ve
loved. Actually, my reading is mostly about the stories than about the
authors, and I’m really bad at remembering names and titles.
Sherri: I’ve never been to Romania,
I bet it’s lovely. Have you ever been to eastern North Carolina or the
east coast United States?
Anna: No, I haven’t got the chance.
It’s not on the other side of the world for me, but it’s pretty close.
Sherri: As a new writer, what is it
that you enjoy about writing?
Anna: I love the freedom of it. When
writing, you can explore different facets of your personality, different voices
of the same persona. You can be both a horrendous villain and a
fantastic hero. You can introspect. You can fantasize. You can push your
limits. You can test hypotheses. You can empathize.
Sherri: I find I can do some of
these same things when I read. Do you think reading helps you be a better writer?
Anna: Reading has the unbelievable
power of shaping an individual. You become educated, cultured, and imaginative
through reading. It’s one of the most powerful workouts for your brain – if you
think of it as a metaphorical muscle. It forces you to covert the words you
read into images and emotions, thus creating a very personal and intimate
experience with that particular piece. I don’t believe in writers who don’t
read habitually. As writing itself involves a lot of resources and skills that
have to be so well practiced to the point they turn into reflexes. As a
non-native English speaker, I find this particularly challenging, but, oh, my,
I’m a sucker for a good challenge. Vocabulary, idioms, phrasing, world
building, characters, relatability, and technicalities of the craft – you’re
not born knowing those things. You learn them, even if sometimes you’re not
consciously aware of it.
Sherri: Have you discovered anything
you don’t like about writing?
Anna: Oh, there’s no such thing. But
it sometimes feels overwhelming. I tend to dive headfirst in things, and now,
writing seems the simplest part of an author’s work. But I’m learning every
day. That’s what I’m best at, after all.
Sherri: I believe that no matter
where we are in our careers, there’s still something new to learn. I write at
odd times throughout the day, taking a few minutes before work, during lunch
and late in the evenings. Have you discovered your best time to write?
Anna: I noticed that my most
productive time is in the late afternoon. Unfortunately, I need complete
silence and isolation to be able to write, and that is pretty rare.
Sherri: What do you feel your
writing strengths and weaknesses are?
Anna: I honestly have no idea.
First, because I am my worst and most pretentious judge. Second, because my
perception of my own writing is definitely different from the others’. One
thing I believe in, though, is that people – and extrapolating, in this case,
authors – have certain attributes. On one hand, it depends on themselves
whether they turn those into strengths or weaknesses. On the other hand, it
depends on the others whether those attributes are perceived as qualities or
Sherri: Do you have any other
hobbies or interests? Do these show up in your stories?
Anna: Oh, this is another topic I
could go on forever. I think my main interest is to know things. The more diverse,
the better. I also have a very creative side, so naturally, architecture,
design, graphic design, advertising and generally, visual arts are things I
enjoy and topics I follow.
I’m also a DIY-er. I love the
feeling of doing things with your hands, though I tend to do more
“masculine” projects. I own a serious collection of power tools, so
you’d rather find me restoring a piece of furniture than knitting, but I don’t
do it as much as I’d like because of the lack of space. I’m the nail beater,
light bulb changer, screw screwer and so on in our home.
I love dogs. We have two at the
moment and dog shows and breeding is another one of my interests. It’s not a
hobby per se, but maybe when I’m old and grumpier I’ll have my own
I’m sure the things I love and know
are showing in my writing – it’s the first rule for a newbie – write about what
you know and love. But, as you are well aware, stories are not a 1 to 1
reflection of the reality. They, for sure, need to be plausible and relatable,
but the beauty of writing is that you can take pieces and snippets from
reality, add some wild imagination, bits of what ifs, stir them well, then mix
and match. I like to think about it as a mosaic: little, identifiable, known
elements, put together to create something new every time.
Sherri: You have really leaped into
writing with your pen at the ready. I’m excited to see all your plans. The New
Romance Café has really opened doors for both of us.
Anna: The New Romance Cafe was one
of the best things that happened to me in 2018. I met a lot of great people
there – readers and writers alike. I’ve made a bunch of great friends –
Liana, Suki, Thyra, and Miranda; together we’ve created The Grumpy Sisterhood:
Romance with a Side of Grump, our joint authors’ group, where we hope to gather
people with similar interests in romance books. And, of course, this is where I
met you, and, yay! we’ll both be featured in the spring anthology coming out on
Sherri: I can’t wait to read the
anthology. I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s stories. Is your family excited
about your being published?
Anna: I honestly think they don’t
know what to make of it. *laughs* My husband is and has always been very
supportive about whatever I wanted to do. We share a love for books and reading
so my writing doesn’t look so far-fetched to him. I must confess, though, that
he hasn’t sampled it yet. But he’s my to go partner for writing prompts and
character development exercises.
My daughter is still young and all
she sees is my umbilical attachment to my laptop; I’m not sure she actually
knows what I’m doing.
The dogs seem to be my biggest fans
so far. They look at me in awe whenever they take a break from their favorite
activity, sleeping. I’m not sure if the adoring look is because of my sparkling
personality and writing or because they just need to be fed.
Sherri: I believe Love in
Bloom is only the beginning. I would love to do another interview with
you in a few years after you have published a couple of books.
Anna: Cheers to a great start! I
certainly hope I’ll get the stories on paper soon and for sure, I’d love to
keep in touch and chat about books: Mine, yours, other authors’.
Sherri: I hate to say goodbye but
it’s getting late and even though it’s only a virtual chat, real life creeps in
and work calls. It’s been so nice to have you at the Creekside Café and I hope
someday, we can meet for real.
Anna: Thank you for this lovely
meeting. The romance community rocks!
Don’t forget to check out our ebook, Love in Bloom. All proceeds will go to breast cancer research.
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss