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, June 28, 2013

Award-winning author Michael Hiebert


Among Michael Hiebert’s accolades is that he won the Surrey International Writer’s Conference Storyteller’s Award twice – in a row. A Canadian family man, Michael isn’t shy about exploring the mysteries that tingle our spines and set our minds adrift wondering about the world and people around us. Much of his work to date has been short stories released in anthologies, such as “Edges: Collected Stories of Mystery” which includes the award-winning “My Lame Summer Journal” and “Not Forgotten” containing the award-winning story “But Not Forgotten.” 

Though Michael, rightfully, should be considered a mystery author, his protagonists are generally young adult (YA), and he in fact wrote the novel “Dolls,” an entertaining, yet somewhat disturbing, story of a young girl who discovers she has the power through dolls to hurt people. But fear not. The story has a happy ending with a lesson about responsibility well learned. 

Now Michael has released an intriguing novel titled “Dream with Little Angels.” Once again the story is told through the eyes of a child, this time being eleven-year-old Abe Teal, the son of Alvin, Alabama, investigator Leah Teal. Where this story stands out is the uniqueness of portraying the events through Abe’s eyes, because the story itself began a dozen years before Abe’s birth. Abe witnesses his mother Leah’s frustrations at not having solved a child’s murder, and how the killings may have started again. Then the nightmare comes home to fully roost when Abe’s sister goes missing. We see, hear, and feel the terror and confusion as Abe doesn’t understand what is happening, but tries his best to hold his family together and provide the support his mother needs while she solves the mystery. “Dream with Little Angels” is quality storytelling sure to keep readers enthralled and waiting for the sequel, “Close to the Broken Hearted,” due out next year.

Q) The obvious question: Why elect to tell many of your stories through the eyes of children,
especially since “Dream with Little Angels” is as much about Leah, the mother, as Abe? 

A) Well, first, I love writing from a child's point of view, so I was immediately drawn to telling the story that way. But that's not the main reason I chose Abe as the central character. The main reason was because he offered the best opportunity to get across the sense of innocence to the reader that I really wanted to achieve. The book is really a coming-of-age story wrapped in a mystery (or maybe it's the other way around), and the only way I could convincingly portray that was to get readers close enough to Abe that they could ignore (at times) what was going on in the other parts of the story. When you think about it, this is a really horrible tale. Little girls are getting raped and murdered. Yet, somehow, in the middle of all this, Abe is able to not only make the reader care about the mundane events in the life of an eleven year old boy, at times he even manages to add a sense of fun. It was a very tough job balancing the horror part of the story with the sweetness of childhood. 

Q) For years, you have been a writer other writers brag about having met, but have remained relatively unknown to the mainstream of readers. “Dream with Little Angels” suddenly has interviewers scrambling for your attention and bookstores waiting to place the novel on their shelves. How have you dealt with this turn of events? 

A) Writers bragged about meeting me? Wow. Who knew? :) It's funny, because my mentor, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, told me eight or nine years ago that I was going to be a successful novelist. "You just have to find the right editor," she said. Or something to that effect. Since then, through the years, I've always kicked myself for not following up with the question, "So, when will that be, anyway?" I'm not sure why everything took as long as it did, but I think it's good that it did. Any success I do have now, I have the maturity to deal with it. I'm not sure I would have been able to deal with these "turn of events" as you put it, back then. 

Q) I have to ask; what in the world inspired “Dolls”? That book is anything but ‘expected.’ 

A) "Dolls" came out of nowhere. I was playing with my daughter one day, doing crafts, and she was making paper dolls. And then my mind just made the next leap: what if that were a paper doll of somebody. Then of course, the next step: and what if we ran over it with her brother's Tonka truck? Doesn't everyone think this way? :) The part of the story where Kite and her class study "Animal Farm" in school was a shout out back to my short story "My Lame Summer Journal by Brandon Harris Grade 7" where he has to study "Of Mice and Men." "Animal Farm" was an obvious choice especially since the slug line I had already been using for "Dolls" was: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely, especially twelve-year-old girls." 

Q) You live in Canada and placed “Dream with Little Angels” in Alabama. Why? And, how much research did you do to make the setting so believable? 

A) When I first started writing the book, I had a friend who lived in Auburn, Alabama, and I knew I'd be making some trips that way, so I'd have ample opportunity to research the territory first hand. I also absolutely loved her voice. The cadence automatically brought with it a sense of innocence and tenderness that I think you also see in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." I also found out, after starting work on the book, that many of my friends in my writing circle used to live in the south--so it turned out I had lots of places to draw on for research. I also used books and the Internet and made a number of calls to the Mobile Police Department down in Alabama who were fantastic with how forthcoming they were with information. 

Q) ‘Dad’ doesn’t’ write “normal” children’s stories. How do your children feel about what you do? 

A) When my children were quite young, I wrote a short story for them for Father's Day. It was called "Fishbone & Fartboy" (this was when I only had two kids), and it was about these things that kept showing up on the doorstep. One was a bag with a bunch of fish carcasses and a little girl. She had fangs and growled at me when her mother pulled her out, and she ate the knobs off all the kitchen cabinets. The other thing that arrived at the door a couple years later was a blue box with a baby boy inside packed in Styrofoam. Once unpacked, he made farting sounds with his arm that were endearing for about seven seconds before you became utterly unable to stand them anymore (my son was going through a "fart" phase. If he could use anything to make the sound of a fart, he would). Anyway, "Fishbone & Fartboy" quickly became their favorite bedtime story. I probably read it to them every night for six months. Eventually, it wound up being published in a U.K. horror magazine of all places. So, I think there are aspects of my writing that my kids enjoy. They'd probably like it better if Dad wasn't always on the computer pounding away on the keyboard and spent more time doing stuff with them, I'm sure. I've been writing so long, though, they don't really know me any other way. 

Q) Any parting thoughts for fans and readers new to your work?
 

A) I would just like to say how much I appreciate their interest in my work and that I hope I can continue to write stories that entertain them. There are a lot of books out there, and it means a lot to me that they're showing interest in mine when they have so many different ones to choose from. I'll try to keep the surprises coming.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net

 

 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fiction Author Elizabeth Bass (aka Liz Ireland)


Elizabeth Bass has been entertaining millions of readers for decades, and, still, readers are just discovering who she is and the fabulous, never-ending wealth of stories she has to offer. The reason for this odd turn of events in which an author can be both well-known and seemingly new isn’t that Elizabeth grew up in Texas but lives in Montreal with her husband and pet menagerie, or that she’s a huge fan of old movies and strong real-life women. It’s that Elizabeth became a fan favorite writing under the names Liz Ireland and Alexandra Bassett. 

Liz Ireland’s Silhouette romance novels (“Man Trap”) were amongst those found in wire racks in bookstores, pharmacies, and discount stores. Her Harlequin romance novels, such as “A Cowboy’s Heart” and “Blissful, Texas” have garnered rave reviews and throngs of fans. But, as I said, Elizabeth has a lot more stories she wants to share with readers and while she’s passionate about writing about passion, another part of her was ready to open the door to other genres. 

In 2011, Elizabeth Bass introduced herself to readers as the author of the literary fiction novel “Miss You Most of All,” a poignant drama of family bonds, dreams, and love without limits. Readers quickly responded to this “new” author’s incredible talent. “Wherever Grace Is Needed” soon followed. 

Now, “The Way Back to Happiness” has been released. And, once again, Elizabeth’s mastery at storytelling shines. In this novel we are introduced to Bev Putterman who is already struggling with an erratic life when her estranged sister dies, leaving Bev to raise a fourteen-year-old niece, Alabama, who never heard a good word about Aunt Bev. While Bev tries to forge a relationship with Alabama, the teen sets out to learn about her father and discard the unwanted aunt in the dust, not understanding that some roads are designed to lead us where we were supposed to be all along. This book is seriously good. Buy it, and then buy a copy or six for your friends.

Q) The obvious question: Why venture into literary fiction?
 

A) Thank you for the nice recommendation! I’m not sure I consider the women’s fiction books I write now as literary fiction, necessarily. I write the stories I want to tell and let the publisher (and readers) decide how to categorize them. However, I do love being able to write a longer book that allows me to delve more into the characters and show how their lives develop over time, which is what my recent books have been.  

Q) The other obvious question: Why the name change? 

A) My Liz Ireland books tend to have more of an emphasis on humor and romance, so when I decided to write longer, more emotionally involved stories, it seemed a good idea to start a new “brand,” as they say in the biz. I didn’t want a person looking for a breezy, light-hearted read to be disappointed when they discover they’d bought a book about a woman dealing with cancer—the subject of “Miss You Most of All,” the first book I wrote as Elizabeth Bass. 

Q) Your interest in writing literary fiction actually began some time ago. “Three Bedrooms in Chelsea,” though romantic comedy or possibly ‘chick lit’, by your own words, has definite parallels to your temporary life in New York City. How often have your real-life experiences inspired stories? 

A) I do draw on little bits of real life now and then, although I can’t say I’ve ever written anything autobiographical. A lot of times a book will begin when I think of something that’s happened to me or someone else and wonder, “What if things had turned out differently?” I do dip into personal experience if I need help with a setting—which is why I usually set books in places I’ve been to or lived—or sometimes just for character detail. For instance, one incident from “The Way Back to Happiness” was based on something very true. During the mid-1980s I met a teacher who was applying to be the first teacher in space, and who was later disappointed not to be chosen. But of course, given what happened to the space shuttle Challenger, it actually turned out to be a fortunate thing for him that he wasn’t picked. 

Q) Liz Ireland fans are not going away, nor should they. Now you’ll be faced with Elizabeth Bass fans. How will you balance the two and ensure fans of each aren’t disappointed? 

A) I think most of my Liz Ireland followers know that I have an alter ego, but I also hope to write more Liz Ireland stories. I especially love historical romances, and I have one halfway finished that I hope will appear in the next year or so. Meanwhile, there are a couple more Elizabeth Bass books coming out from Kensington in 2014—one humorous romance novella and another longer book. 

Q) You earned your stripes before the Internet rocked the publishing world. What adjustments did you have to make to your writing routine to remain competitive in this ‘new’ technology? 

A) The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make, frankly, is getting used to the constant distraction of the internet and social media. Facebook and Twitter can eat up a chunk of the workday if I’m not careful, yet it’s so great to have instant contact with so many writers and readers all the time. Writing is solitary work, and in the old pre-internet days, we authors mostly met and talked at a conference or two, and rarely got to interact with readers. Also, the time the internet saves in doing research still amazes me. I remember spending an afternoons at the library tracking down information when I was writing historicals during the 1990s. Now I can track down the answers to questions in a matter of seconds. 

Q) Any parting comments for fans and those yet to read your stories?
 

A) I’m always ecstatic to get feedback from readers, and I’m so thankful to the people who have actually taken the time to write to me. Honestly, there’s nothing better than hearing from people who’ve read something you have written and liked it. When someone takes the time to contact me, or even just to leave a short review on Goodreads or Amazon, it makes my day.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net

Friday, June 14, 2013

Award-winning Author ReShonda Tate Billingsley


ReShonda Tate Billingsley has over two dozen acclaimed novels to her credit. She’s also reported for
the National Enquirer, been a TV anchor, hosted a literary talk show, and earned the NAACP Image Award. In addition to her numerous other awards, ReShonda was also inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Add to this that she is a much sought after motivational speaker who has appeared on stage, and we begin to see a woman greatly involved with the world around us. And, when she discovered her daughter had made inappropriate posts on Instagram, ReShonda, the mother took immediate action and required her child to acknowledge the mistake on the same social media. Though we’ll be discussing her books, ReShonda’s character and humanity can never be understated. She is truly an inspiration, and I’m honored she agreed to this interview. Oh, yes, I should mention ReShonda makes an appearance in the movie “Let the Church Say Amen,” titled after her book, which is the story that inspired the film. 

ReShonda writes…a lot. Her prolific work has covered nonfiction, adult fiction, teen fiction, and poetry. “My Brother’s Keeper” introduced author ReShonda to the world. The story of a family broken by violence, but refusing to surrender even when life said it should, garnered ReShonda the Golden Pen Award for Best New Author. She quickly spread her wings and many more books followed, including the nonfiction “Help! I’ve Turned into My Mother,” a collection of true stories about women, mothers, and children. 

Though ReShonda continued adult fiction and nonfiction, she also ventured into Young Adult (YA) and Teen fiction. Her latest offering is “Rumor Central,” a tale of a young woman willing to betray her friends for fame, who then discovers that the knife she drove into their backs may well land a steel one in her own spine. The gossip girl has one chance to make amends before the clock stops ticking. 

“Rumor Central” is a wonderful example of the author’s ability to combine thrills with humor and realistic characters. Though designed for teens, “Rumor Central” is an enjoyable read for all ages. And, as it’s the first in a series, be sure to stay tuned for “Rumor Central: You Don’t Know Me Like That” due out this September.

Q) How on earth did you manage to add hours to the twenty-four hour day? You had to in order to do all the activities you’re involved with. 

A) Lol…I don’t sleep. Seriously, I make use of every hour, minute and second. I believe every minute you spend talking about what you don’t have time to do could be spent doing it. I dictate everywhere; driving, cleaning, cooking, etc., which helps me churn out so many books. I’m normally doing more than one thing at a time. I have a daily to-do list (usually a page long) and scratch off as I go. 

Q) You have accomplished so much on so many levels. How would you define your life to this point? 

A) I am busy, yet blessed. I’m thankful that I’ve always had a blessed life. I have a wonderful family that has always been very supportive of me. I’m a writer who loves what I do so much, that I would do it for free. Luckily, I don’t have to. I’m definitely living my life like it is golden. But at the end of the day, I’m just an ordinary girl who strives to do extraordinary things. 

Q) What outlet for your creativity does writing provide that your other careers haven’t?
 

A) As a former journalist and news reporter, I have to report the news accurately. So by day, I stuck to the facts, but at night, I would lose myself in the world of fiction. Many people don’t know this, but I used to work as a reporter for The National Enquirer, but even then, I couldn’t just make stuff up (Yep, you heard me right. Most of the stuff in the Enquirer is true!). When writing fiction, I can be as creative as possible. I’ve always loved writing and making up stories. My mom calls it lying. But my first real memory is fifth grade, when I lied about what I did on my summer vacation. I said I dodged bullets in drivebys, watched elderly ladies get mugged and struggled to stay alive in the ghetto. I actually went to summer camp. 

Q) You go to great length to ensure your teen books are free of profanity and anything you deem inappropriate. Basically, you remind readers that a great story doesn’t have to involve cursing and sex to keep us enthralled. Do you ever get pressured to change that viewpoint? 

A) No, I don’t get pressured to change my viewpoint. Parents are always thanking me for writing stories that they don’t mind their teenagers reading. I decided to write teen books after my nieces visited one summer. I told them to go into my library and find a book to read. They chose books that some adults don’t even need to be reading. That’s when we found out that there wasn’t many books that targeted their age group that they felt weren’t boring. Teenagers want all the drama. I wanted to show that you can have a page-turning, drama-filled story without profanity and sex. 

Q) You write fulltime now. How has that affected your home life? 

A) My husband & children are so supportive. They know when I’m knee deep in writing because I have deadlines to meet. My children help with chores. My oldest prepares a lot of the dinners. I can also depend on my sister to help out as much as possible. Now that we’re both caretakers for our mother, there have been some changes, but it doesn’t matter as long as we have her here with us. The biggest problem I have is getting folks to understand I DON’T sit at home nibbling on Bon-bons and watching the Soaps. I really do have a job. I just happen to do that job from my living room. In my pajamas. 

Q) Any parting thoughts for fans and potential new readers? 

A) My fans and readers have encouraged, supported and uplifted me in ways they’ll never know. I appreciate all the emails, FB posts, the constant messages, tweets, and just encouraging words. Because of them, I keep going. I hope that I can continue to inspire through the written word.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net
 

 

 

Friday, June 7, 2013

NYT Bestselling Author Mary Monroe


Mary Monroe’s life could easily be a bestselling book. The daughter of Alabama sharecroppers, Mary was the first and only member of her family to graduate high school. She never went to college; never attended a writing course. What she did have was a passion for reading, and for storytelling. She taught herself to write at age four, and the stories haven’t stopped. 

Mary’s first novel “The Upper Room,” the tale of a girl raised in a migrant settlement in the Everglades by a healer and rumored murderer, received solid reviews and much acclaim in the U.S. and U.K. Little did Mary know it would be hundreds of rejections and fifteen years before she saw her second novel published. Kensington Books contracted “God Don’t Like Ugly,” a story of friendship and unspeakable, life altering secrets which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and, as has been said before, the rest is history. Mary’s dedication, perseverance, and well-crafted talent had found a home. Since then, Mary’s poignant stories about the dynamics of family, friends, and lovers have received more awards and a growing mountain of accolades. 

Now her novel “Lost Daughters” is being released. “Lost Daughters” returns readers to the character of Maureen Montgomery, introduced in “The Upper Room,” and the life she’s made for herself and her daughter after the death of their family matriarch, Mama Ruby. In the hope of finally living a normal life, Maureen marries a man she doesn’t love to make her family complete. But even as she strives to create a loving, supportive home for her husband and teen daughter, Maureen can’t escape the secrets of her past…or their connection to new betrayals from the family she thought she knew so well…. 

“Lost Daughters” is a brilliant read. The writing is crisp and fresh; the mechanics clean, and the plot
thrilling, if not a touch disturbing. This is a book I absolutely believe readers will enjoy, and leave them reaching for Mary’s other books.

Q) Amidst the masterful tales you write, you acknowledge that there is an edge of autobiography – your own life – infused in each one. That fact leads me to ask, why not write your story? 

A) All of my books are based on something that happened to me or someone I know. I can’t wait to write the “real” story behind the stories depicted in my novels! I am still collecting material from an older relative (whose memory is better than mine) so that I can write an accurate story. I hope to have my autobiography completed within the next year or two. 

Q) I have to ask; where did the character of Mama Ruby come from? Ruby is one of the most interesting and complex characters I’ve read about in quite some time. 

A) Mama Ruby is a composite of some of my deceased female relatives. They were big, beer drinking ladies who lived by their own rules. However, none of the Mama Ruby “models” recognized themselves in this character—but everyone who knew them did! None of these relatives murdered anyone (that I know of…), kidnapped a baby, or committed most of the other crimes that Mama Ruby committed. 

Q) You once said if you could be anyone, it would be Cinderella. In the sense that you have overcome the odds against your success, I think you’ve achieved that dream. What do you think? 

A) It was a very long journey for me. I had to overcome a lot of obstacles before I found success. I don’t take anything for granted and I still have to work very hard to maintain my success. But anyone who works hard enough can succeed--even without a fairy godmother or a Prince Charming. However, I would like to have one of each… 

Q) In addition to the expected book tours that include bookstores, libraries and such, you have also done book readings and signings in prisons. How did that come about? 

A) I was surprised when I began to receive email and letters from people behind bars. One woman, who is doing a life sentence for murder, sent me a letter. She said she was sorry for her crimes but that she was glad to read about people like Mama Ruby and how she committed crimes and didn’t get caught. I get tons of mail from teenagers behind bars because some of them can relate to the young people in my books who made bad choices. Authorities at two different local youth facilities often invite me to come speak to their kids because I am one of their favorite authors. 

Q) You have accomplished so much, still, there has to be a goal you haven’t managed to grab yet. What is it? 

A) I am a movie addict. I watch several hours of TV movies each day and I go to the movie theaters on a regular basis. When I write a story, I always picture certain actors and actresses playing my main characters. There is nothing I want more than to see one of my books made into a TV movie or a movie for the big screen. It’s one of my main goals. 

Q) Any parting comments for fans and readers new to your work?
 

A) I have several new books with all new characters in the works. I encourage my fans and readers to submit their comments, suggestions, and story ideas. Critical comments are welcome too--as long as they are constructive! Some of the material in my current books came from ideas submitted by fans. I would like to thank everyone who read my books.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net