Author Interview with Janice Spina

One of the truly nice things about publishing The Eye-Dancers and maintaining this blog has been the opportunity to meet so many great people around the world.  One such person I’ve had the privilege to communicate with and get to know is Janice Spina.  Janice is a book reviewer, author, and cofounder of a fantastic new website called PIA (Published Indie Authors).  I highly encourage you to check the site out, as well as her blog, jemsbooks.

I had the opportunity to interview Janice recently about her new children’s book, Louey the Lazy Elephant,  her approach to writing, and more.  So, without further delay, I hope you enjoy the interview!

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Thank you, Mike, for having me on your blog.  I am very excited to be here and to answer your questions and share my book and my goals with you and your readers.

 

1.  You have a new children’s book that you have recently published–Louey the Lazy Elephant.  Please tell us a little bit about this!

louey

Louey is a cute little elephant who is a lazy fellow.  One day he oversleeps and finds that he is all alone because the herd has moved on without him.  He is sad and very lonely and determined to find his family and friends.  But I won’t tell you what happens–it would ruin the mystery.  I guess you and your readers will just have to pick up a copy and take little Louey home with you.  You would make Louey very happy!

 

2.  What motivated you to write Louey?  Was there something specific, or was it something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?

I come up with poetry in my head all the time and really there is no rhyme (sorry for the pun) or reason for some of it.  The story just swam around in my head and I had to write it down.

I used to visit the zoo with my parents as a young child and I was always amazed at the care the elephants gave to their young that mirrored how humans care for their children.  Besides, I have always loved elephants and thought that this animal would be a likeable fellow for children to read about.  My husband and I have many, many elephant knickknacks all over our house.  Did you know that the trunk up on an elephant means good luck?

 

3.  Did the process of publishing a children’s book go the way you thought it would?  Were some aspects easier than you envisioned?  More difficult?

It has been a rough road getting published since I have done it myself by self-publishing.  I have learned a lot about publishing and downloading my material, illustrations, bleed, and templates, to say the least.  My husband is my illustrator, and he and I worked together to get the material ready for download.  It didn’t help much that we knew nothing at all about doing this and even had to learn how to use Photo Shop to enhance the illustrations.

The hardest part of this process was the downloading and assuring that we had the right size for the illustrations and that they were within the trim so nothing would be cut off.  We downloaded many times.  I am embarrassed to say how many!  The book cover was very difficult to do, too.  But the next time it should be a lot easier since we are both more educated in the process.  We both have a lot more gray hairs now, though!

The easiest part was . . . I haven’t found that yet, but maybe just reading the finished product.  I felt relief and accomplishment after completing the book.

 

4.  I saw on your website that you are working on another children’s book–Ricky the Rambunctious Raccoon.  Can you tell us a bit about that book, and how it relates to Louey?

ricky

 

Ricky is a fine little fellow, cute as can be.  My husband has made him just adorable.  Kids are going to love him!  I do!

Ricky gets into all kinds of trouble when he goes out to forage one night.  He is a friendly sort of raccoon and curious at the same time.  I think children will enjoy reading about his crazy adventures.  This book is also in rhyme.  I try to do all my books for children in rhyme.

Ricky is not in any way connected to Louey except maybe they could be friends if they knew each other.  I will let you know when Ricky is available and has met Louey and if they like each other.

 

5.  What are some of your favorite children’s books?  Did you have any particular favorites when you were a child?

I am really dating myself when I say this.  I loved the Mouseketeers and Annette Funicello.  I read everything I could get my hands on about her and Cubby.  I loved fairy tales, especially “Hansel and Gretel,” which scared me out of my mind but made me appreciate my parents even more because of their love and caring ways.  I always felt safe, not like the fairy tale.  LOL!  I read Nancy Drew and even The Hardy Boys later on.

I had a complete set of books about space exploration and the astronauts during the 1960s during the Kennedy era.  I even made two scrapbooks many years later about the assassination of the Kennedy brothers.  Their deaths had affected me so profoundly that I was inspired to make the scrapbooks as mementos of their legacies.

 

6.  Have you always known you wanted to be a writer, ever since a very young age?  Or is it something that evolved, slowly, over time?

I have always loved writing poetry.  The singsong sound of the rhyming is a panacea for my soul.  Did I just say that?  I don’t usually speak like that.  I have no idea where that came from!

Well, I do love rhyming, and that is how I started writing.  I wrote poems in the form of greeting cards for my mother.  She just loved them!  Having her praise made me feel good about myself, so I wrote more.  I was a very shy little girl, and writing was one way I could express myself.  Today I have a large collection of poems but only the new ones . . . since the old ones I wrote my mom got thrown away in moving from place to place.

I also wrote for my high school newspaper in the form of silly poems.  I then graduated to children’s stories in my twenties and then novels in my fifties.  There was a large span of time when I did not write anything.  I was too busy raising a family and working.  I got inspired when I was in my fifties after reading an emotionally inspiring book, The Secret.  This book got my creative juices flowing big-time!  I couldn’t stop writing poetry, and shortly thereafter submitted a sports poem to The Lawrence Eagle Tribune newspaper and got chosen as the first Boston Red Sox Fan of the Day.  I made the front page, much to my surprise!  The article included an interview with me, #1 Red Sox Fan, and my poem was published there.  It was a very exciting day!  It got the bug in me to write more and to get back to my novels and children’s books.

Now I am retired and have more time, but it is filled to bursting with all kinds of social media, marketing my book, blogging, editing others’ work, and finally writing my books.  Whew!  I am tired just writing about everything I do.

 

7.  I read on your website that you are in the process of writing four (!) novels.  That is remarkable.  How do you juggle all those writing projects at once?

Like I mentioned above, I wrote over many years in spurts.  At one point I wrote two novels simultaneously–a murder mystery and a YA fantasy.  I am still editing both of them endlessly.  The murder mystery is almost ready for publishing.  I just need to tweak it a little more.

One romance/mystery/spiritual novel is still in the outline stage, but I plan to work on that one after I finish the other two.  The fourth one is a historical novel, which may never see the light of day.  It was just one I wrote in memory of my grandmother who lived to be 100.  It is too close to the memory of Avoa (“grandmother” in Portuguese) to share it with anyone.  I may change my mind one day.

I need to complete one project before going to another, and that is why I have so many projects out there that aren’t complete.  Since there are so many stories and ideas in my head, I feel the need to write them down before I forget them.  I am a very organized person who likes to finish my projects, but I spend a lot of time now helping other new authors and marketing my children’s book.  I am getting better at filtering the social media and will devote more of my time to my novels.  I promise to get one out before the end of the year.

I am also involved in a new site, PIA, Published Indie Authors.  I cofounded this site with a very talented author, Paul G. Day.  It has been very exciting taking on this new venture.  Here is the link if anyone wants to peruse the site.  They will not be disappointed.  It is a wonderfully supportive, educational, and worthwhile site for all indie authors.

 

8.  If you could give just one piece of advice to a new, aspiring writer, what would it be?

Do your research about social media and how to market your work.  I took the advice of an illustrator friend of mine when she told me to get myself out there on social media links right away, before publishing my material.  I did just that over eight months ago and I got into FB, TW, LI, Pinterest, and Google+ and set up my own blog and website.  I am not saying any of this is going to be easy, but it is necessary to get started.  I am still doing it all trial and error, with many errors but having the time of my life.

Also, you must visit other blogs and websites and leave messages about their blogs and thank them for connecting with yours.  The more you do this, the more followers and readers you will attain.  It is also a wonderful feeling to connect with so many people all over the world that you wouldn’t meet otherwise.  But most of all, have fun and keep writing and editing your work until you have created the best book, novel, or illustration, etc. before publishing.

 

9.  Where can readers find and purchase Louey online? 

Louey is available as a printed book on Create Space and Amazon, as well as an e-book on Amazon.

https://www.createspace.com/4324983

http://www.amazon.com/Louey-Lazy-Elephant-Janice-Spina/dp/0615836534

 

If you would like to contact me about writing, editing, or just want to talk and share, you can reach me through my links:

Blog:  http://jemsbooks.wordpress.com/

Website: http://www.jemsbooks.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/janice.spina.9

TW:  https://twitter.com/janice_spina

LI:  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/janice-spina/59/321/a01

PI:  http://www.pinterest.com/janicespina/

Google+:  https://plus.google.com/102370955158139843400/posts

 

Thank you so much, Mike, for this interview.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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Thank you, Janice, for a great interview!

And thank you to everyone for reading!

–Mike

Author Interview with Luciana Cavallaro

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to be interviewed by Luciana Cavallaro on her great website, Eternal Atlantis.  And now, as I write this in my little corner of Vermont, as the summer season shows its first, subtle hints of ripening into a New England autumn, it is my pleasure to return the favor.

I have been a fan of Luciana’s website for quite some time, and really enjoy her work.  I’m sure you will, too.  She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions recently . . .

1. On your fantastic website, you mention that you love both Greece and Italy.  What is it, specifically, that you enjoy so much about these two countries and cultures?

As a teenager I was drawn to Greece, the history and the magnificent historical sites.  There’s a mystical quality to the country which fascinated me and still does.  I’ve been to Greece twice and each time was a memorable trip.  Being of Italian origin, Italy was always on the cards to visit but my appreciation of the country really hit home when my sister and I went there on a Contiki tour.  I must admit it was an odd feeling, as if I was going home.  Both of us felt it the maternal pull, even though we were born in Australia.  The history of Italy and what the Romans achieved, the good and the bad, is still remarkable.

2.  Who are some of your favorite authors?  Were there any authors who inspired you when you were growing up and/or who were driving forces in your development as a writer?

I have many favourite authors across a variety of genres, though stand outs would be David Gemmell, who sadly passed away, Michael Connelly, Massimo Valerio Manfredi, Robert Harris, and PD Martin.  I was in awe of authors who created amazing stories and could take you on a journey where for a while you are immersed in the plight or danger of the character.  Writing stories was something I didn’t consider especially growing up.  English was not my strongest subject at school but I loved to read.  It wasn’t until I read Herodotus’s The Histories while studying at university and then Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey that I was inspired to write.

3. Many of your stories center around ancient history and myth.  Do you have a particular favorite Greek God and/or Goddess?

Not really,  I find them all equally mesmerising.  Each has flaws as well as positive traits which is a great way to explain the nature of human behaviour.

4. When you write about famous characters, such as Helen of Troy, you are of course somewhat restricted by historical and literary precedent.  There is an established story in place for such a character.  How do you therefore walk the line of staying true to the classical literature and yet, simultaneously, inject a fresh, new, and perhaps unexpected or even controversial point of view?

Reading various sources and watching documentaries helped create a profile of Helen and of the other characters in the short stories series.  I wanted to tell their version of events but still keep some of the characteristics of their personalities as well as keeping true to the myth or story.  The most challenging aspect about the stories I have written is how well known they are and how readers will react to my translation of them.  I do hope I have, to use your words, “injected a fresh” perspective of mythology with my stories.

5. The stories you write clearly entail a lot of research and study into the subject matter.  Do you enjoy that part of the process?  Or is it something you like to get done and out of the way?

I love the research and learning new intriguing information, it is what drives me to write the stories.  I read Euripides’ play on Phaedra and followed it up with research.  There is not a lot of information about her but there is plenty on her father King Minos, her sister Ariadne, Theseus, and of course the Minotaur.  She was a little-known character amidst these huge players and yet she had a story to tell.  Most of the nonfiction books I read tend to generate ideas for me and then I go and explore.

6. Do you have any new works in progress that you can tell us about?

I am currently reworking my epic novel, The Legacy, a huge task as I am deconstructing each chapter.  Had hopes of getting it published early next year but may take longer, depends on how much I can get done between now and the end of the year.  I am also working on a print version of the short stories titled Accursed Women, and aiming to have it out late this year.

7. Where can readers discover more about you and your work?

People can visit my blog Eternal Atlantis: http://luccav.com/

Come say hello on my Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/YSfKap

Follow me on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ClucianaLuciana

I have a Google+ page, too, and if you really want to keep up to date with the latest news on book releases, launches, competitions,  I have an e-Bulletin: http://eepurl.com/upMxL. I am on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/Zc48zg, and have a Smashwords page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Moirai, Amazon Author page: http://bit.ly/V9ATb1, and am on Kobo: http://bit.ly/16l3OiC.

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luciana

Luciana Cavallaro grew up in a small country town in Western Australia and moved to Perth to study teaching at university.  After some years teaching teenagers, she decided it was time take some of her own advice and follow her dream.

curseoftroy

 

boxedcurse

 

Luciana has travelled extensively and since her first trip to Europe revisited her favourite destinations — Greece and Italy — the inspiration for her stories.  “Mythology and Ancient History has always been my passion and I want to share these wonderful legends.”

aphcurse

 

goddesscurse

 

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Thanks so much to Luciana for doing this interview, and thank you to everyone for reading!

–Mike

The Next Big Thing

One of the really nice things about starting The Eye-Dancers blog has been the interaction I’ve had with fellow bloggers.  As a part of that, I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in The Next Big Thing.  Many thanks to Maddie Cochere for her invitation.  Please take a look at Maddie’s website–she is doing great things!

The Next Big Thing is a lot of fun and it offers writers a chance to pass the baton, as it were, from week to week.  It’s a wonderful opportunity, and again, I am thrilled to be a part of it.  There are a series of questions to be answered–the same for everyone who takes part in The Next Big Thing.

1. What is the working title of your book?

The Eye-Dancers

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

On the surface, this is a simple question, but really, “where did you get your idea” questions are never altogether straightforward–at least not for me!  I am of the belief that writers don’t “get” ideas so much as ideas come to them.  This particular idea came to me first a long time ago–when I was a teenager (longer ago than I care to admit)!  I had a dream.  In the dream, I was looking out through the front window, into the street.  And there, beneath the street light, was a little girl, seven, maybe eight years old.  She was partially transparent–like a ghost, a spirit, not of this earth.  She had the bluest eyes I had ever seen, and she gestured for me to come outside with her.  (To anyone who has read Chapter One of The Eye-Dancers, this scene will be strikingly familiar!)  I woke up from that dream, and for years couldn’t figure out what to do with it.  The image of the “ghost girl” remained locked away, in an “ideas-vault,” and I wondered if it would ever be opened.  Then, just a few years ago, I had the same dream!  But this time, upon waking up, the basic idea of The Eye-Dancers took shape.  That’s how ideas so often happen. They come to you, unasked for, unplanned.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

 I would call it young adult sci-fi/fantasy–though it is not hard-core sci-fi, nor is it high fantasy.  It’s a young adult story with sci-fi and fantasy elements, and, it’s my hope, an imaginative plot that will take readers on a wild ride.


4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Is it okay to skip a question?  I have such clear, distinct images of the characters in The Eye-Dancers, I honestly cannot think of any actors to play the parts.  Of course, if the day ever came when a decision on such matters had to be made, I’d consider that a wonderful “problem” to have!

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

A one-sentence synopsis is very hard to come up with!  But if I had to, it would go something like this . . .

Four seventh-graders are transported to a strange world, and the only one who can help them find their way back home is the mysterious little girl with the swirling, hypnotic blue eyes.

6. What is the longer synopsis of your book?

 I will go ahead and use the blurb I have up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble . . .

Seventh-grader Mitchell Brant and three of his classmates inexplicably wake up at the back edge of a softball field to the sounds of a game, the cheering of the crowd. None of them remembers coming here. And as they soon learn, “here” is like no place they’ve ever seen. Cars resemble antiques from the 1950s. There are no cell phones, no PCs. Even the spelling of words is slightly off.

A compulsive liar, constantly telling fantastic stories to garner attention and approval, Mitchell can only wish this were just one more of his tall tales. But it isn’t. It’s all too real. Together, as they confront unexpected and life-threatening dangers, Mitchell and his friends must overcome their bickering and insecurities to learn what happened, where they are, and how to get back home.

The answers can be found only in the mysterious little girl with the blue, hypnotic eyes. The one they had each dreamed of three nights in a row before arriving here. She is their only hope. And, as they eventually discover, they are her only hope.

And time is running out.

7. Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

 It is an indie e-book (self-published).

8. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

 The first draft took about two and a half years. 

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

 Another question that, on the surface, seems simple, but which is really quite complex.  First and foremost, my experiences growing up in Rochester, New York, the friends I shared, the adventures we had, the ideas and speculations we discussed–just kids having fun and wondering.  Imagining.  Those experiences are still very much alive in me, and they were the primary motivating factor when I wrote The Eye-Dancers

But also, I have always been the kind of person to ask, “What is the meaning of it all?  What, in its essence, is the ‘reality’ we all speak of?  Are things perhaps not quite what they seem?  Are they more layered?  Are there other realities, other truths, which we know no part of?”  The Eye-Dancers is a composite of all those questions and (hopefully) more.  It is the story of young friendship, overcoming obstacles, learning to believe in yourself, and keeping the faith.

In the end, it’s the characters in The Eye-Dancers who kept me dialed in, who kept me focused even on the days when the writing was hard and the creative process an uphill climb.  In a nutshell, the book was inspired by the child in all of us, the part of us that wonders why things are as they are, and that is eager to discover new and exciting frontiers.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think (hope!) that there are various elements to The Eye-Dancers, enough disparate qualities to attract readers from across the spectrum.  If you enjoy character-driven fiction, I hope you give The Eye-Dancers a look, because it is the characters–their problems, their overcoming of adversity, their self-discovery and need to confront their own insecurities–who lie at the heart of the story.  If you enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, there are “ghost girls” and dreams and parallel universes, quantum physics and world-building and possibilities of time travel.  If you like mainstream fiction, there are many subplots and character-driven moments that, with hope, will cause you to care about and root for the boys in their quest to get back home.

And, it’s my earnest hope . . . if you simply like an interesting, imaginative story, then you will you enjoy The Eye-Dancers.

Once again, I am very grateful for this wonderful opportunity to participate in The Next Big Thing.  It was a lot of fun answering these questions.  And it’s also a privilege to pass the baton on to two other remarkable authors.

Jennifer Paetsch at her site, JenniferPaetsch.com, and Sheri Bessi at her site, The Other Side of Ugly, will answer these same questions next week!  Please join them for the next installment of The Next Big Thing . . .

–Mike

 

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