Authors' Chat

Non-Fiction and The Brothers Path

Martha Kennedy Author of indieBRAG Medallion Honorees, Martin of Gfenn and Savior It’s estimated that as many as 20,000 Swiss emigrated to America before 1820, bringing not only their hard-working, flesh-and blood-selves, but religious and political philosophies that influenced what this nation became. I knew nothing about any of this until, at the suggestion of a Swiss reader of Martin of Gfenn, I began researching my own family tree. There I met the Schneebelis. At the time, I was in the midst of writing Savior, the story of a 13th century Swiss family, very minor nobility, living in a castle-fort near Affoltern am Albis in the Canton of Zürich. I based the setting of my story on a hillside and castle ruin I’d seen on a hike with a friend. I was dumbfounded when, in the midst of “finding my roots,” I found that my own ancestors had lived on that very hillside and in that very castle-fort. Even more creepy, the people in my family had the same names I’d given the characters in my story. OK, it’s true that there were not many names used in those places in the 13th century (boys were usually Rudolf, Hugo, Conrad,…

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The Life—and Art—of Writing: Justine Avery Interviews Film Director Devon Avery

I eagerly snatched up the opportunity (excuse?) to interview my husband about his view of and feelings toward my writing career.  Don't we all wonder what those close to us really think about our uncanny attraction to language, our mysterious-seeming mood swings stemming from that writing we go off to do all alone, how we eye everything as if it's a potential story or character or bit of dialogue, or what they think it means to "be a writer?" Counting on brutal honesty and hoping for extra encouragement and insight from the perspective of a fellow creative working in a different medium, I proceeded to prod my film director and voracious reader husband, Devon Avery, for what it's really like to be in a relationship with a writer—witnessing the ups and downs of a writing career firsthand—for any advice he has to share for the creative process and its challenges, and his view of the role we writers serve for all of humanity.  (As his wife, I get to ask heavily loaded questions!) When we first met, I was a "writer" who didn't write.  I said I was a writer—I'd had a few stories and articles published in the past—but…

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Picnic With My Dreamboat by Anna Belfrage

The barley dips and bows in the wind, ripe and golden it extends every which way. Man-high, the ears brush my cheek, and as I balance along the narrow pathway that divides one field from the next, I suspect I’m almost invisible. Not so Matthew Graham. My favourite 17th century man, my very own personal dream-boat, comes walking through the barley, careful measured steps so as not to damage his crops. I stop to properly absorb the pleasure of seeing him move, all the way from how his worn shirt strains over his broad shoulders, to how lightly he plants his feet, long legs striding effortlessly over the uneven ground. Now and then he pauses, crumbling an ear or two between his fingers. To judge from his smile, the crop looks good – as does he. “A picnic?” He tilts his head to the side, using his hat to fan some much needed air his way. I point at the basket. “Weighs a ton.” “Ah.” He points at a distant grove. “Over there?” Seeing as he’s a gentleman, he offers to carry the basket. “Have you ever had a picnic before?” I ask him as we spread out the tartan…

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Inspiration’s Mysterious Power

Martha Kennedy Author of BRAG Medallion Honorees, Martin of Gfenn and Savior Ancient Greek poets didn’t believe that they, themselves, came up with their stories. They believed that they, as poets, were simply an instrument of the Muses, well-disposed goddesses who quickened the poets’ minds with inspiration. My high school art teacher didn’t believe in inspiration. He believed in hard work. “If you wait for inspiration to hit, you’ll wait forever. Just paint.” I’ve written a lot in my life without being inspired, sort of the equivalent of my high school art teacher’s “Just paint.” I wrote because I am a writer, and a writer is an observer. I’ve always seen the world, the people around me, and my life as interesting, so I transcribed it. Even my mom said, ‘You’re a good writer. You just don’t have anything to write about.” Then… In 1997, during a particularly interesting point in my life, I went to Switzerland. My friends took me to see a little 13th century church in a small village north of Zürich, the chapel of the Knights of St. Lazarus in the village of Gfenn. Lepers had lived there; not just lepers, but leper knights. The moment…

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And then, there is the Research…

Imagine we have no computers, no Internet access, no search engines. Yes, imagine it was like the good old days. And just imagine how much paper we would be wasting using the old method - remember them? Typewriters! Painstakingly typing word after word using our well-practiced, two finger method. And sheet after sheet of perfectly good paper ending up in the writer’s waste bin. Would the writing revolution ever have happened? Writing is no longer for the privileged few. Yes, even I have taken pen to paper, well, metaphorically speaking. A new found freedom being taken up by an army of hopefuls. Some with astonishing results. The new era - indie publishing. Literally, hundreds of thousands of new novels are published each year. Even this little fact I had looked up on the internet. And we found a new way helping to protect our cherished rain forest - the e-book. After a slow beginning, (Amazon’s first Kindle appeared in 2007), there has been an explosion of e-books. But was it a ´Chicken or Egg´ situation? Did the e-book appear before the e-reader, surely not? I discovered that the Rocket e-book and Soft-book Reader was launched in 1998. There you have…

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Sometimes It Is OK To BRAG By Helen Hollick

Well, it is if you are an author and you have been awarded a coveted Indie BRAG medallion, which is an approval mark of a darn good read. I have the honour of being ‘in’ on Indie BRAG from its earliest conception by CEO Geri Clouston, who ran the idea past me in those early days when it was no more than an embryonic idea. Why me? For several years I was UK Editor, and now I am Managing Editor, of the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, so naturally I had an interest in sorting the good indie novels from the not-so-good. (Sad to say too many of them are the latter.) The good ones, unfortunately, are still often lumped with the ‘oh it’s indie, it can’t be worth reading’ nonsense that a few people in the literary world persist in trundling out. Indie BRAG (and HNS Indie) is determined to prove these nay-sayers wrong by showing just how fantastic some indie fiction can be. From little acorns big oak trees grow – and Indie BRAG is fast growing a respected image for shouting out about Good Reads. Maybe word needs spreading a bit more here in the UK, but…

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The Pitfalls of Capturing the Seasons in the Age of Diversity

Diversity has everyone wrapped up in knots these days, whether it’s the people fighting to find representation, or the privileged trying to find ways to make sure their stories are inclusive. If you aren’t on the diversity train, I would argue that you should be for a number of reasons, but that’s another post for another day. Long story short: understanding and incorporating diversity into your works makes you a better writer, and a better person. Now, I am not an authority on the subject of diversity, I’m in the trenches right along with everyone else trying to figure out how to navigate this space so my stories can be accessible to everyone. Along the way, I’ve noticed a lot of people struggling to get a foothold on where to start, or tripping over assumptions that slip into their writing and undo all of their hard work. Because at the end of the day, for those of us who fall into the “privileged” category, or the “Euro-centric” category, or whatever you want to call it, it all comes down to checking assumptions. Our lives are rife with assumptions, be it the way we understand polite conversation, food, technology, the list…

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Alison Ripley Cubitt-Recreating a Day of Reading From My Childhood

It's a weekend morning in late autumn or winter, on one of those days when Tawhiri (the Maori god of weather) was angry. I could tell he was angry, by the steady drumming of raindrops as they thudded down on the tin roof. In a month's time, I'll be nine years old. We're living in a rented house at the beach in South Island New Zealand, in a new country, now our family's home. And it's as idyllic as it sounds. Except when it's raining, you can't play in the sand. I snuggle under the blankets - in no hurry to get up. What I don't realise then is that the luxury of lying in bed on a rainy weekend day will be short-lived. Because when I turn nine, I will finally get the pony I've always wanted. But he comes with conditions. With ownership comes responsibility. And that includes getting out of bed on a wet morning to look after him. But all of this is in the future. Today it's about the novel I'm reading, which is Heidi by Johanna Spyri. The story of the little orphan girl sent away by her aunt to live in the Swiss…

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Inge H. Borg – My Summer Reading List

It seems to be hotter than usual for this time of year in the American South; just perfect to engage in a writer’s oft ignored other necessary activity. No, not editing, rewriting, or peddling my own titles on social media. If anything, I should be checking out those supposedly helpful titles on how better to promote one’s own books, or submit them to sites proclaiming to reach masses and masses of book-buyers—for a fee, of course. But...I am not. Instead, I am allowing myself some “time out,” and to wallow in the guilty pleasure I engaged in since I learned the alphabet: Reading. A couple of months ago, I drew up a plan for the summer. A few books, I already finished but want to share with you; while I am in the middle of a couple more, with others still on my Want-to-Read list. Just Finished (My Reviews are posted on Amazon. You can also find some on my blog Aurelia * (Book IV of the Roma Nova series) - Alison Morton (Interesting premise) The Sublest Soul * - Virginia Cox (Deliciously Machiavellian subtleties) Sirocco: A French Girl comes of Age in War-Torn Algeria - Daniella A. Dahl (A…

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The art of description – better too little than too much!

By Anna Belfrage  Whenever summer comes around, chances are I’ll be slouching in the shade reading a Lee Child novel. There is something very comforting about reading his books. Jack Reacher always survives, is always on the side of good, and the pace is fast and gripping. It is also a relief to read something outside my own genre, as the reading experience becomes more relaxed when I don’t go “Ooooo, that was an elegant insertion of historical detail” or “OMG: I wish I had written that!” or “That can’t be right, can it? A match in the 18th century?” (turns out it was – sort of). So I read Lee Child to relax – except I don’t, because Mr Child is an expert at succinct descriptions, a few word sufficing to paint a person, a location, a situation, and I read and reread, because seriously, to describe your characters is an art. As a writer, I have a very clear picture of what my protagonists look like – but the moment I turn them over to the public in a published book, I’m also inviting the readers to form their own images, and to do so I must describe…

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