DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Author Brigid Kemmerer

Brigid Kemmerer is making her debut on the Young Adult (YA) book scene with a four-part paranormal series entitled The Elemental Series. The first novel “Storm” revolves around sixteen-year-old Chris, one of four brothers each gifted, or cursed depending on whose perspective we’re viewing, with subtle power of an element. Chris’s power is over water. 

That subtleness is what gives these stories a unique edge. The brothers cannot beckon the forces of nature to right the world’s wrongs or bring a city to its knees. Each young man must deal with all of the good and bad of life while coming to terms with their not-so-normal abilities. They aren’t wealthy and in fact run their parents’ landscaping business. What they do have is a bond of brotherhood and everyday yearnings to find happiness. They also have some not so average enemies, and in Chris’s case, a challenger for the teenaged Becca who becomes embroiled in Chris’s life and troubles. Becca, too, comes with her own suitcase of problems she has yet to overcome. 

Brigid is married with three sons, works outside of the home, and has managed to put together this intense, yet charming, story of high school, coming of age, finding love, and dealing with all of the inner and outer issues youth must contend with on a daily basis. 

“Storm” isn’t atypical YA reading. Not at all. By centering a different brother in each novel, Brigid has assured readers of new characters, storylines, and well-conceived plots in this series. “Spark,” the tale of the brother with the gift of fire, is set for release this August.

Q) You once stated the greatest difficulty in writing these stories was to write from the perspective of a teenaged boy. How did you overcome that obstacle?

A) The funny thing is, I just had to stop overthinking it. I spent so much time trying to figure out what teenage guys would worry about, or how they’d feel about girls, or how they would relate to each other. I kept throwing hypothetical questions at my husband about how boys’ minds work. Finally, he said, “Hon, stop worrying about all guys, and worry about this guy. He’s your character. Just write him.” So I did. And it worked.

Q) Which leads us to this question. Why four brothers and not sisters?

A) I could give you the teacher’s pet answer and say that I’m fascinated by family dynamics overall, but am somewhat mystified about the complexities of how brothers interrelate, but I can see your eyes glazing over already. Instead, I’ll give you the honest answer: I first wrote about these four brothers when I was in high school. When I was sixteen, the idea of meeting four hot, supernatural brothers and getting caught up in their lives was … well … awesome. When I decided to rewrite the story featuring the same four brothers, I still remembered the magic the characters had for me then.

Q) You keep the characters grounded with topical issues such as bullying and harassment. What caught my eye was cheating in school (“Spark”). Why include something that is so wrong, yet occurs so frequently that some people have come to erroneously accept it as expected behavior? And, how did you avoid making the subject ‘preachy’?

A) Teenagers make mistakes. All of them. Including me. I could never preach to anyone, because it’s just not my style. When I set out to write The Elemental Series, I wanted these characters to have supernatural problems, but real life problems, too. Sometimes my characters get away with cheating or bullying or assault or whatever. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, they have to deal with the fallout from that in addition to the elemental powers they have to control.

Q) You obviously have a preference for paranormal and urban fantasy. What is it about these genres that attracted you?

A) When I was a little girl, I always liked to imagine that there was something … more out there, just waiting to be discovered. Who am I kidding? I like to imagine that now. I’m so glad that urban fantasy has really gotten a lift over the past few years, because it was my favorite genre to read as a child, and there was so little of it. What’s better than slapping something supernatural in the middle of real world belief systems and methodologies?

Q) You will soon begin the book signing tours and required marketing personal appearances for your novels. These absences can wear on a family. What steps have you taken to ensure your family stays intact?

A) I read this question out loud to my husband and he laughed. Seriously, we have a great marriage. He’s my best friend, and we’re a great support system for each other. He came up with a plan for “study dates,” where we make a pot of coffee at night after the kids are in bed, and I can work on the book stuff while he works on finishing his degree. We work together and bounce ideas of each other. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done to strengthen our relationship.

Q) Any parting thoughts for the readers soon to be introduced to your work? 

A) I hope they love Becca and the Merrick brothers as much as I do! I love hearing from readers. Please don’t hesitate to follow me on Twitter @BrigidKemmerer.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net

Friday, April 20, 2012

Author Eve Marie Mont


Philadelphia’s Eve Marie Mont teaches high school English and Creative Writing. Though happily married, Eve has a timeless crush on Edward Rochester of Jane Eyre fame. 

So, how does a person visit a fictional flame who non-existed in the 19th century? If you’re a skilled storyteller such as Eve, you create the contemporary teenage character Emma Townsend and have her fall into a leather bound copy of “Jane Eyre” and then into Jane herself. Stop right here. While this time jumping, body leaping scenario is indeed a part of Eve’s novel “A Breath of Eyre,” this is neither the meat of the plot nor even the surface of the depths contained with this story. 

The heroine Emma is a teen trying to come to terms with all the darkness and defeatism life can throw at her. Emma is shy and insecure, but possesses a strength she has yet to fully understand. Her gift at book travel connects Emma to the strengths and passions Jane Eyre possessed. “A Breath of Eyre” is exactly what the title suggests; a breath of Eyre, not a recast of the characters and original Charlotte Bronte tale. 

Emma, thanks to Eve’s skillful hand, comes across as a memorable friend we all have or had at some point in our lives. She draws us into her world to the point where the reader genuinely cares about what is happening to the young heroine as she struggles to understand and overcome her present while negotiating a fictional past. Eve Marie Mont did not create an easily traversed writer’s path with this story. She did however weave two worlds into one in a manner which will leave readers satisfied and looking forward to Emma’s next adventures. 

And yes, there is more of Emma’s story to be told. “A Breath of Eyre” is the first offering in a trilogy. Adventures involving “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Phantom of the Opera” are soon to follow. Designed as a young adult (YA) story, “A breath of Eyre” contains modern dilemmas teens face and methods for overcoming those problems. This book could easily become an open line of communication between adults and their teenagers. Yes, it’s that good.

Q) Be honest. Did your interest in Rochester partially inspire this story? 

A) Well, maybe just a little… Seriously, I know of few Jane Eyre fans who didn’t have a crush on Rochester at some point in their lives. Sure, some women get over their attraction to a brooding, romantic hero, but for me, Rochester still has tremendous appeal, which I think translates well into young adult literature. Girls will always be drawn to the mysterious bad boy who hides a vulnerable side. My protagonist has several stand-ins for Rochester in her real life—one of them, her English teacher—but it isn’t until she actually meets Rochester in the flesh that that she begins to give up her desire for an unattainable hero and open her eyes to the real love that may be standing right in front of her. 

Q) Obviously, you have an affinity for time periods without cell phones or gas powered machinery. What first pulled your imagination into life more than a century ago? 

A) Believe it or not, I still don’t have a cell phone I use regularly. I’m tied to my laptop enough as it is; I don’t need or want another gadget to isolate me further in my personal bubble. Obviously we live in a global, technologically advanced society, and I don’t mean to stick my head in the sand. But every year, I see people becoming more detached, less empathetic, and we see the ramifications of this in our levels of stress and unhappiness. I’ve always been drawn to stories in which human connection is valued above all, like those of Jane Austen, E.M. Forster, and of course, the Bront√ęs. I think the pendulum has swung almost as far as it can go before we see a backlash against technology. Personally, I’m hoping for a back-to-nature movement to rival that of the romantic era! 

Q) In “A Breath of Eyre,” you actually take the reader to the brink of changing the ending to “Jane Eyre.” Gutsy, considering the thousands of devoted Jane Eyre fans. What made you decide to trespass on what to some is hallowed ground? 

A) Honestly, this did scare me a bit, but that scene you’re speaking of is so vital to Emma’s growth that I knew it was right for her story. And I made it very clear that while Jane still gets her happy ending, Emma has to tear herself out of Jane’s story in order to find her own.  

Q) The loss of your mother-in-law to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) partially inspired “Free to a Good Home” in that her passing challenged you to ponder the heartbreak if you lost your husband. Emotion is powerful inspiration. What emotional well did you draw from for “A Breath of Eyre”? 

A) I’ve heard from some readers of A Breath of Eyre that they were surprised by how serious the story gets at times—they were expecting a more light-hearted romp through Victorian England and a little forbidden romance with Rochester. And believe me, I love those escapist stories, too, but I guess I use my fiction to explore my fears and to try and make sense of the world and my place in it as Emma does. Jane Eyre treads on a lot of thorny issues like identity, abandonment, class, gender, morality, autonomy. I wanted to echo some of those themes in a modern context. For this book in particular, I drew on my own sense of loneliness and insecurity as an adolescent—a time in which I knew deep down I had something important to say but hadn’t yet gained the confidence to think anyone would listen. 

Q) Teaching and writing can’t leave much time for yourself. How do you and your husband stay connected? 

A) My release month nearly brought me to the brink of insanity in terms of pressure and stress, but thankfully it was followed by spring break! While I have revisions for Book 2 and a first draft of Book 3 on the horizon, it’s important to take some time for myself—both to fill the creative well and to reconnect with family and friends. Friday nights are almost sacred to my husband and me—we try to keep the TV off, go out to dinner, and reconnect after the busy week. And the return of baseball season means another bonding ritual for us—watching the Phillies! 

Q) Any parting thoughts for readers yet to pick up one of your books? 

A) I guess I’d just say, try not to go into my book with any preconceived notions of what kind of story it’s going to be. While the cover may suggest historical romance, what’s inside the pages is a strange hybrid of sorts—contemporary, retelling, paranormal—but my hope is that you’ll allow yourself to get lost in the story just as Emma does.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net

Friday, April 13, 2012

Author, Illustrator Nan Rossiter

Artist Nan Rossiter, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, created art for internationally recognized companies such as Viking, MasterCard, and UPS. Eventually, she opted to pursue her love of writing and combined that passion with her art to become an author-illustrator. She quickly gained national attention with “Rugby & Rosie,” an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists and winner of Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award, “The Way Home,” one of Smithsonian Magazine’s Notable Books for Children, and “Sugar on Snow.

Not yet content, this housewife and mother of two sons made the decision to spread her literary wings and penned the heralded fiction novel “The Gin and Chowder Club.” Don’t let the title fool you. The story is a deeply moving tale of family, surrendering to temptation, and the emotional canyons and bridges only a family can create.

Nan’s second novel is “Words Get in the Way,” the story of Callie, the single mother of an autistic child, and her return to the small New Hampshire community she was raised in. The tribulations Callie once left behind in New Hampshire remain, and she has to face her past as well as build a future for her son who refuses to speak.

“Words Get in the Way” is a story of humble, everyday people caught up in decisions with lingering effects and the curveball changes life throws at us. This is also a romantic story of hope, love, and how answers can be found where we least expect them. Uplifting and yet at times dramatic, “Words” is a journey through life and all its sadness and laughter. And, I have to admit, the author kept me guessing to the final pages whether the love interests would come together or not.

Refusing to turn her back on her love of illustration and children’s books, Nan’s new children's book, The Fo'c'sle, Henry Beston's "Outermost House", will be published in May, 2012.

Q) With your children’s books receiving such high praise and popularity, why write adult fiction as well?

A) Before I dreamed of being a writer, I was an illustrator. I worked in the freelance field for several years before I decided to try to write a children’s book. Between 1997 and 2002, I was blessed to have three children’s books published, but after sales of my third book were disappointing, I had trouble selling another story and, to make matters worse, one by one, all of my books went out of print. I struggled for several years and received countless rejections after that but I’m a firm believer in perseverance, patience and prayer and I refused to give up! 

In 2005 I jumped in with both feet and started writing the novel that had been in my head for several years. Around the same time, a small publisher in Boston expressed interest in reprinting one of my children’s books in paperback. My relationship with that publisher blossomed and I approached him with an idea for a new children’s book. Soon, I was painting illustrations for a new children’s books and writing a novel at the same time. In the end, I endured nine long years without publishing any books…but now my cup overflows!

 Q) I have to ask this question. Why did you decide to create an autistic character, and where, or who, did the inspiration come from?

A) Autism has become much better understood in recent years and it seems to be in the news all the time, but that hasn’t always been the case. I was inspired to create a character with autism because I wanted to help raise awareness and I also wanted to understand autism better myself. Oftentimes, we see kids misbehaving in a store and we immediately think it’s a parenting/discipline issue but maybe there’s something else going on – maybe we’re too quick to judge. Parents of kids with autism struggle on so many levels and perception is one of them. I wanted not only to help raise awareness but also to reach out to those overwhelmed parents and write a story that’s uplifting.

Q) What I find encouraging and important is the fact mothers of autistic children have been praising not just your attention to the child, but your capture of the true emotional rollercoaster, struggles, and joys that befall and hearten parents of autistic children. How did you come to so accurately portray Callie?

A) I’m thrilled by the positive feedback the book has received from moms who struggle with kids that have autism. When I was writing, it was very important to me to be as accurate as possible; I think I was able to portray Callie’s feelings accurately simply from being a mom and knowing how a mom feels. Every parent hopes their child will be happy, successful, and accepted - and if anything threatens those hopes and dreams, a parent’s heart breaks for their child.

Q) “The Gin and Chowder Club” has sequel written all over it. Can we look forward to a sequel or series?

A) There are no immediate plans for a full length sequel to The Gin & Chowder Club (although there is already a short sequel in the Fern Michaels Christmas anthology, Making Spirits Bright, 2011). My contribution, Christmas on Cape Cod, focuses on several of the characters from G&C and tells about Asa’s first Christmas being a dad. Readers who are familiar with these characters will also discover that they make cameos in Words Get in the Way - and that the cabin in Words is the cabin Asa built at the end of Gin & Chowder!

Q)  Two very different novels revolving around family. What’s next?

A) Currently, I’m writing another novel that revolves around family! It’s about three sisters whose mom – stricken with Alzheimer’s – has passed away. The sisters return home to New Hampshire to begin the sad task of planning her service and the overwhelming business of sifting through her cherished belongings - trying to decide what can be discarded and what should be saved. In the process, they discover a surprising secret that their mom kept for many years.
In addition, my aforementioned new children’s book, The Fo’c’sle, will be available this June!

Q) Any parting comments for those who have yet to read your books?

A) As I wrote on the acknowledgement page for Words Get in the Way, when I first began writing my novel - and praying that it would be published - I promised God I would always try to write uplifting stories that make a difference. I’ve been blessed with that wonderful opportunity and that’s just what I hope to do. I also hope readers will find their way to my books (through interviews like this one!) and come away with a positive message and a good feeling.
  DA Kentner is an author and journalist. http://www.kevad.net/

Friday, April 6, 2012

Author and Photographer T. Greenwood

T. Greenwood has authored seven novels to date. Her work in literature has taken her into the classroom where she has taught creative writing to students at the University of California San Diego, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland and for San Diego Writers, Ink. A Vermont native now residing in San Diego with her husband and daughters, Greenwood still returns to Vermont each summer. She is also an avid and aspiring fine arts photographer whose passion for understanding and capturing the elegance of light and dark has melded to her writing.

“Grace” is Greenwood’s latest release and a classic example of how two arts – photography and literature – can come together to create a poignant and creatively detailed journey inside a contemporary family on the brink of self-destruction. Within this dramatic novel, Greenwood infuses what on the surface may seem to be a cacophony of issues; such as hoarding, bullying, shoplifting, parental bias, and loss of control. Yet, Greenwood masterfully intertwines the individuality of the characters, their personal crises, and the mental life preserver each finds to stay afloat as their world plunges into murky depths.

“Grace” is at times a dark tale of a family on the abyss of desperation. But this is where Greenwood’s artistic eye captures the light and manipulates her prose to unveil that even in the shadows live beauty, hope, understanding, and triumphantly…love.
On a personal note, I think “Grace” is an amazingly written tale.
http://www.tgreenwood.com/

Q) One question that seems to arise in some readers’ minds regarding stories like “Grace” is how much of the author’s personal life was infused into the work. So, how much of T. Greenwood’s life is in this story?

A) This novel, like all of my novels, arises from an inherent curiosity about the world rather than a need to articulate my own personal experience. The spark of a novel for me is always some sort of question, and I write the novel to find the answer to this question. In the case of “Grace,” the question was, What would bring a man to the point where he would be aiming a gun at the back of his own child’s head? Obviously, the opening scene of “Grace” is not one that I have ever experienced firsthand. However, my own life does inform everything I write. I am a parent, and so much of this story is about motherhood (and fatherhood). The empathy I feel for each of my characters comes as a direct result of my ability to relate (in even the smallest ways) to each and every one of them. Lastly, the setting (while fictional) is based on the area in Vermont where I grew up. I have returned to this setting again and again in my novels.

Q) Hoarding, bullying, shoplifting for attention or to counter insurmountable anguish, and the character Trevor’s use of photography as a cry for help are a myriad of issues. Why did you incorporate so many topical problems into “Grace”?

A) This was not a conscious decision. These issues grew from the characters all having a shared need to possess something. Elsbeth shoplifts because she feels deprived of things; stealing trinkets relieves her (if only momentarily) of this sense. Pop hoards things because he is really trying to hold on to his past. Kurt too is trying desperately to hold onto his life (his house, his wife, etc…). Crystal has lost something she can never, ever get back. And for Trevor, photography allows him to capture the fleeting beauty he is able to find in his dark world.

Q) While I see “Grace” as a watershed for your passions, how do you view your melding of these two arts into your story?

A) I have always wanted to incorporate photography into a novel. And I truly believe that art has the power to save people. Art, for Trevor, validates his perception of the world. It gives him a lens through which to understand it as well. I care deeply about my own photography, and I wanted to be able to give this gift to one of my characters. Trevor was the perfect (and most deserving) recipient.

Q) You once referred to “Grace” as an “ensemble novel.” What did you mean by that?

A) “Grace” does not belong to one character. It is really the story of four people: Kurt, Elsbeth, Trevor, and Crystal. But it is also the story of a family.

Q) You have a preference for using small towns as the backdrop for your stories. In fact, Two Rivers, where this story takes place, is a return to the town where the novel “Two Rivers” took place. Why smaller, rural communities?

A) I grew up in a very small town in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I find small towns to be fertile ground for fiction. There’s a sense of connectedness in a small town that doesn’t seem to exist in larger cities. There is also less transience. People stay in small towns. This has allowed me to create a credible fictional world for my characters. I have now set five of my novels in Vermont. And many characters make repeated appearances in these books.

Q) Any parting thoughts for your fans and those yet to discover your books?

A) I think that my novels offer a glimpse into a place that not many people know well. And the characters who live there are as real to me sometimes as my own family and friends. I am eager to share their stories with anyone willing to listen to them. And that is why I continue to write.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. http://www.kevad.net/