The Next Big Thing

“The Next Big Thing” is a blog chain started by blogger She Writes  to help female authors promote their current work by answering a set of seven questions and then “tagging” other writers, inviting them to do the same.

Judith Starkston tagged me for The Next Big Thing. I first met Judith on Twitter, then I met her in person, since she too lives in the Valley in Arizona. (She holds the distinction of being the very first friend from Twitter I’ve managed to meet live.) We met at a Starbuck’s and the hours flew by as we gabbed about what we love best. Specifically, writing historicals. She is at work on a novel titled Hand Full of Fire, about Briseis, the captive woman Achilles and Agamemnon argue over in the Iliad. You can read more about it *here*.


What is the working title of your book?

Sword of Mordrey. It started out being Warlord, but I soon realized that wasn’t right for it.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve always loved tales of the crusades, and have always had a fascination with certain periods in history – one of those being the medieval period in England and France/Normandy. Most of the writing I’d done up until I began this novel had been short stories, and I had never attempted anything historical, though much of what I read is in that genre. A lot of my stories tended toward novella length tales, and I was always frustrated with trying to keep my stories short – which should have been a clue I could write a novel, but the idea of a novel was intimidating, to me. Especially a historical, with all the research and details involved. But these characters just wouldn’t leave me alone. So, one morning, instead of working on the novella I was writing, I just started writing about this guy – a crusader knight; a baron – who wakes to find himself still alive, but trapped beneath his dead warhorse in the aftermath of a bloody battle. And then I didn’t want to stop. It all grew out of that moment.

What genre does your book fall under?

English Historical Fiction with overtones of Action Adventure and Romance.

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

I would choose Brad Pitt or Russell Crowe to play Lord Jocelyn. But as to all the others? There’s a very large cast, and I don’t follow actors closely enough to know who would best suit the many parts.  Although this book would certainly make a great epic movie in the hands of the right director. I’d love to see what Joe Wright would do with it. His Pride and Prejudice is just so lyrical and beautiful – I could watch it over and over again (and have). Or Mel Gibson; whatever one thinks of his backward religious comments, the man gets it right when it comes to making historical movies; both Braveheart and Apocalypto are amazing. But Ridley Scott would be my first choice for director: Gladiator, Tristan & Isolde, and Kingdom of Heaven are three of my all time favorite historical movies.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I haven’t been able to come up with one. Wish I could. But the novel is over 160,000 words and has several interwoven plot threads and a huge cast of characters. It has a premise, of course, but that would hardly cover as a synopsis – it’s a mystery to me how anyone manages to come up with these one sentence things. I had a terrible time even distilling it down for a reasonable length query.

Will you be self-published or represented by an agency?

Well, only the literary gods know for certain. But it is my intention to seek an agent and have that help. I have watched friends go through all the labor of self-publishing, and I have to say, it looks exhausting and time-consuming. I’d much rather be writing. I already have a day job, thank you very much; and until I win the lottery I must keep at it. That hardly leaves time for anything else. Even when I spend time on social media: blogging, Twitter, Goodreads, FB, I find myself working less and less on what is most important to me, namely fiction writing. So, yeah, I hope to find that special buddy – a man or woman, who gets me and my writing and is willing to be my publishing partner. A good agent is worth every penny they earn. If that doesn’t happen I will self-publish and hire a publicist.

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

It took eight months, getting up every morning and writing for three hours before work. But I did run into a wall in the middle and stop for two months to figure out the problem. That was in July and August. It’s extremely hot here in Arizona those two months, and I don’t like them much. When I hit that wall in the middle I was terrified. I didn’t have anyone to tell me how to get past it, and I was worried I would stop writing this novel—which filled me with horror and sadness, since I love this story. I meditated a lot, and prayed. When the weather cooled off I felt that old inspiration rising and one morning I was just back at it, up at five am and the story continued to spool out like magic. I finished by Thanksgiving, which was nice. Since then I’ve been working on rewrites and edits, polishing the language, etc. I hope to have it done in the next six months and begin querying agents.

Here are the novelists I’ve tagged. They are all wonderful writers and I can’t wait to see their novels published!

Natalia Sylvester  is  a blogger, writer, and as an editor runs her business Inky Clean. She has recently found a publisher for her debut novel Where We Once Belonged.

Melissa Crytzer-Fry   is a blogger and free-lance writer who has been writing a novel in the women’s fiction genre. I very much look forward to hearing more about it, and reading it someday soon.

Diana Douglas is a fellow member of the Arizona Novel Writers Workshop, and has recently self published two of her novels to Amazon. She writes about that experience and what she has learned on her blog. She has two more novels in the works.

Jolina Petersheim has recently found representation and is preparing to release the novel she’s been working on. Her blog posts are both funny and lyrical, so I’m looking forward to her novel.

Char Bishop is another of my workshop pals. She has recently sent her novel One Shadow on the Path off to be read by betas. It’s about her two month solo journey through Alaska at age 55.

Message for the tagged authors and interested others:
Rules of the Next Big Thing
***Use this format for your post
***Answer the questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
Seven Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Faulkner Society, Novel-in-Progress

This past week Twitter buddy, Melissa Crytzer Fry, became a semi-finalist in the Novel-in-Progress portion of the Falkner Awards! Entering these kinds of contests, and getting this kind of recognition can be a wonderful coup for one’s query, not to mention enormously validating. I wanted to hear more about Melissa’s experience. What follows is our conversation:

How did you hear about the Faulkner contest? How many chapters/pages did you submit?

My good friend and author Jessica McCann (who won the same semi-finalist nod in 2005 for her now-published novel All Different Kinds of Free) tipped me off to this contest. The Novel-in-Progress portion of the contest required the submission of a highly polished outline and the first 50 pages (the competition also includes categories for completed novels, novellas, essays, poetry and short stories).

How did you find out your submission was a semi-finalist, and how did hearing it make you feel?

Funny story … I learned of the semi-finalist recognition completely by accident. I knew the organization was posting results “sometime in early to mid-September” and had checked a week before, but had seen no results. And since I hadn’t gotten any “you’re a winner” e-mails, I naturally assumed I didn’t place and stopped looking. But on a whim, I hopped by the website at the beginning of the week and took a sharp intake of breath when I saw my name as the first listing under “Novel-in-Progress.” The cats were the only ones home, so I shared my enthusiasm by dancing around with them (seriously); they were less than thrilled. How did it make me feel? Hopeful. Excited. (Even if I wasn’t a finalist or the official “winner.”) I think this kind of recognition goes a long way in validating that the dream is worth pursuing, that every small step could lead to the ultimate publication goal, and that someone liked something that I wrote.

What is the working title and genre of your novel?

My novel, Bedside, would be best defined as book club fiction or up-market women’s fiction. At least that’s what I hear agents calling fiction that has both literary qualities and commercial appeal. Some call it mainstream, some contemporary, some literary women’s fiction but it’s essentially a character-driven novel that explores the complexity of human relationships and the decisions people make – both male and female – when faced with beyond-fathomable circumstances.

How did this story grab you?

The kernel of this story started with a single “what if” question, followed by a series of additional, seemingly unrelated, what ifs that percolated in my mind for a good three years. One day it just seemed that all of the puzzle pieces fit together into a single, cohesive story that drew upon my own personal areas of interest and places/settings that I love: the ranching lifestyle of the southwest, medicine, gardening, juvenile correctional institutions, the simplicity of rural life in Pennsylvania and – yes – even funeral home management. All of those interests (and subsequent research) came together in a way that has forced me to look much more critically at the things around me in my personal life. I have an enhanced appreciation and awe for the life and death of every moment, the beauty and cruelty of nature, the profound influence people have upon one another – all things that are helping me write this story with greater authenticity.

What is your fiction writing work schedule, ritual or practice?

I wish I had something clever to say here, but the reality is that I struggle with managing my freelance and fiction writing. After a full day of writing corporate and nonprofit marketing materials, web sites, data sheets, articles, etc. for my day job, it’s often difficult to switch gears. What I have found to be extremely helpful is having separate writing spaces for the different kinds of writing I do. Our travel trailer has been converted into my “writing studio on wheels” (and my husband’s shared ham radio shack). It represents my fiction writing space – sans distractions. My rules include: NO Internet access, no phones. Conversely, my house desk is my freelance writing space. I’m also finding that starting my day with fiction is the most productive use of my time. It’s creatively enlightening and also sends a subliminal reminder to me that I am making my fiction writing the top priority. I don’t always succeed here, but this is the ultimate goal.

What writers have influenced you most? What books?

I have always enjoyed Shakespeare for the sheer beauty of the language and enjoy the classics as much as any other novelist hopeful, but I have to confess: debut novelists (and those more recently minted authors) are my inspiration and influence. I can rattle off a number of recent books that have profoundly impacted me and taught me so much more about the mechanics and emotion behind beautiful writing: Emma Donoghue’s Room, Rachel Simon’s The Story of Beautiful Girl, C.E. Morgan’s All the Living, David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You, Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Randy Susan Meyers’s The Murderer’s Daughters, Teri Coyne’s the Last Bridge, Therese Walsh’s The Last Will of Moira Leahy… I could go on and on (and have 31 books in my to-be-read stack to prove it; they’re just waiting to be added to this list).

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I can only dream that my business cards will read novelist instead of full-time professional writer.

Melissa is an award-winning, full-time freelance writer and journalist living out her writing dream in southern Arizona, among wildlife ranging from javelina, bobcats and quail to mountain lions, coyotes and Gila Monsters. She is the author of the What I Saw nature/writing/creativity blog and owner of AZCommProCommunications. Melissa is a writer/enthusiast of literary women’s fiction. You can also follow her on Twitter (@CrytzerFry).

Queen Defiant Review and Interview with Author Anne O’Brien

Anne O’Brien’s historical novel Queen Defiant whisks the reader into the world of one of history’s most fascinating and influential women. Married off at just 16 to Louis, monk-king of France, Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, must endure a cold and lonely existence in the primitive citadel on the Ile de la Cite. As queen of France life should be wonderful. But it’s not. Vibrant, educated, and used to the lush culture of Aquitaine, Eleanor cannot resign herself to the harsh, colorless life of Paris in the 12th century. Her husband would rather spend his days, and nights, on his knees before the altar of Notre Dame, and the clergy who surround him dislike the new queen.

Eleanor does battle for control of her destiny with zealot Bishops and a Pope, she follows her husband on a crusade that ends in ignominy,  and fights off the wily machinations of a malicious eunuch, Thierry Galeran, who plots to keep her isolated and powerless. Eleanor perseveres through fifteen years of marriage with a man who rarely touches her, and then only out of duty and a desire for an heir for France.

Eleanor’s search for love and a man worthy of her leads her into two reckless love affairs. There she finds physical fulfillment, but no rescue from her predicament.

Eleanor’s quest for personal freedom eventually allies her with a man eleven years younger than herself: Henry Plantagenet, the nineteen year old Duke of Normandy and future King of England. Leaving behind her two little daughters by Louis, Eleanor obtains her longed-for annulment and flees Paris.

While her life with the remarkable and passionate Henry offers an end to her longing for a husband who desires her, we are left knowing this union will have its own challenges.

Ms. O’Brien’s prose is smooth and uncomplicated. Her characters’ speech is not overburdened with archaic expressions, yet still evokes the time period. She has obviously done a good deal of research and it makes this story pleasurable to someone like myself, who loves all things medieval.

I very much enjoyed reading this novel, and recommend it.

Below is my interview with the author.

Author Anne O'Brien

How long have you been writing historical fiction and how did you decide upon that genre?

I started writing seriously eight years ago.  I had tried my hand at short stories but decided that I should go for a full length novel.  I wrote historical romances for Harlequin Mills and Boon – ten in all, ranging through medieval, to English Civil War and Restoration, and Regency – but my ambition was to explore the personalities who had lived and shaped our history.  And so when I came across Anne Neville, wife of Richard III, I realized that I knew very little about her and decided to investigate.  This became her story in The Virgin Widow

And why history?  I cannot recall a time when I did not enjoy history, either reading it or visiting historic sites.  My academic qualifications are in history and I taught history in my previous professional life.  It seemed an obvious choice to me because the past can be so vivid with such marvelous characters and events to feed the imagination.  I have never regretted it.

Do you do your own historical research?

Yes, most definitely.  It is part of the enjoyment of the whole process, discovering the hidden corners of a character’s life as well as the general sweep of the time in which she lived.  I enjoy how new discoveries open up different possibilities in the plot, sometimes taking me in a direction I had not at first seen.  And when all the pieces fit together, it can be incredibly satisfying.

I use the internet – and increasingly so as more articles and documents are available, but I enjoy books far more.  I am a curling-up-with-a-book type.  I live near Hay on Wye, the book town on the Welsh border.  It is a splendid place for browsing and picking up books that add something extra or give a different slant on what I am writing.  The problem of course of doing my own research is that when I lose a reference, or can’t remember where I noted down a particularly vital event, I have to find it myself.  It can be very time consuming and infuriating – and I have only myself to blame for being careless in the first place!

How did you meet your agent?

I met my agent through the pages of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.  When I had completed The Virgin Widow I followed that pattern of many aspiring authors and sent out the first three chapters to agents who might be interested in the historical genre.  It was a lengthy and nerve-racking experience and I, like many others, had to be prepared to accept rejection.  It is all character very forming!  And such a very long process.  But eventually, success.  My agent Jane Judd liked my work and asked to see the whole novel – and the rest is history!  She has been an invaluable friend and counselor ever since.

What made you want to write about Eleanor?

I discovered Eleanor, many years ago when I first came across The Passionate Brood by Margaret Campbell Barnes.  It is a splendid novel of the Plantagenet family, focusing particularly on Richard the Lionheart and the mythical character of Robin Hood, but Eleanor made a striking appearance in it.  I loved the book, and this Plantagenet family had me enthralled for weeks.  I was delighted when it was reissued recently.  I read it again and discovered that it had the same charm as I had remembered.

And then I crossed Eleanor’s path again in the classic film Lion in Winter (1968), with Katherine Hepburn playing a magnificently aging Eleanor opposite an idiosyncratic Peter O’Toole as Henry.  They portray a stormy, volatile couple, unable to live together in peace in the final years of their marriage.  When I think of Eleanor as she was in later life, I still see and hear Katharine in that role.  The costume was excellent, and the atmosphere of those turbulent times in the twelfth century was very powerful.  I was hooked.

The idea for a novel about Eleanor did not come until two years ago – 2009 – when Eleanor’s early adventures were so compelling that I felt I must write about them.

What did you find out about Eleanor that was unexpected?

I think it was the scale of the opposition to Eleanor that surprised me. The Frankish court had always made derogatory comments about the Aquitainians, finding them louche and ‘better feeders than fighters’ but Eleanor’s frivolous nature and appearance, and her dabbling in politics, earned her condemnation on a far more personal level from Louis’ minister Abbot Suger and from the church in the form of the saintly Bernard of Clairvaux.  On crusade, her reputation was irreparably ruined when blame for the French losses was placed at her door.  The vicious rumors about her conduct and private life were many and long lasting. 

It struck me that Eleanor must have had remarkable spirit and self-belief not to be affected by this chorus of antagonism.  And yet from all we can discover she held her head high and overcame it all.  For a woman living in the twelfth century, even a woman of noble birth, she was truly impressive.

What book of yours is your favorite?

A difficult one!  I have a very soft spot for Anne Neville because she was the first character I researched and wrote about in depth.  I think she will always remain very close to my heart.  But Eleanor is the one who spoke most loudly to me when I was writing Queen Defiant.  Her character was well formed from the very beginning, and I felt that she drove my writing through to the end.  I think she is my favorite character simply because she is so full of vitality, and perhaps will always be.  Perhaps until my next heroine comes along …

What are you working on now?

My next novel for release in 2012 is already complete and with my editors at NAL.  It is The King’s Concubine.  The ‘heroine’ is Alice Perrers, the notorious mistress of King Edward III, of whom we know very few actual facts, only what was said about her in her lifetime.  I felt an urge to write about her because she has such a bad press from her contemporaries and I thought that no one could be quite as thoroughly bad as she was painted.  Her critics, of course, were all men who resented her pre-eminence, so that encouraged me even more.  I thought I should give Alice the opportunity to speak out and put her own side to the story.  Not that she was whiter than snow.  Alice proved to be a heroine not in the usual mode.  I found it a challenging experience, but a fascinating one.

I am now taking my first steps into the life of Katherine de Valois, the wife of King Henry V.  She is very different from my previous heroines, experiencing a life of both tragedy and happiness.  I am enjoying discovering about her, and I do not think that she was as lacking in spirit or intelligence as she has sometimes been portrayed.  Early days yet.

What are you reading now?

I am reading an early copy, for endorsement, of the debut historical novel The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot which will be released by NAL next year.  I knew very little about the two sisters, Eleanor and Marguerite of Provence, who became Queens of England and France.   I am finding it most enjoyable as it opens a window into life and politics in the two courts in the 13th century.  It is certainly a novel to look out for.

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.

Oh dear!  Is this baring my soul? 

I am something of a control freak when it comes to writing.  I like lists which I can check off as I have completed tasks I have set myself.  I have to get up early, when all is calm and quiet, and deal with admin and emails, and social media.  Then I can concentrate and enjoy getting down to writing.  If something interrupts my early morning planning, I am not happy!  I enjoy holidays of course when I am not writing and can relax – without any lists at all! – but otherwise I am a lost cause.  I accept that I have to be organized – and it works for me.

This ‘control freakiness’ is not something I usually admit to – and now all your readers know!

If you would like to purchase Queen Defiant simply click on the photo of the cover in the sidebar.

If you’d like to become a fan of Anne O’Brien she can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

Bridges: A Book Review and Author Interview

Bridges by dk LeVick

Filled with charm and the nostalgia of bygone days, dk’s LeVick’s tale of five boys and their daylong hero’s journey is reminiscent of Steven King’s Stand by Me.

It’s 1962. Five teenagers, bored with small town life in Niagara, make a fateful decision that will end in tragedy. Kevin and his friends Chuck, Wayne, Lennie and Billy, embark on a forbidden adventure. Chuck, the rebel of the group instigates it. Billy, the innocent, gets badgered into it, along with reluctant Kevin. Lennie, a black kid surviving in a racist era, tags along too.

Interspersed with the boys’ day, which gets steadily more harrowing as the book progresses, dk gives us four other tales from Niagara’s long and colorful history.

He begins in 1831 with The Hermit’s Tale: the story of a music prodigy fleeing crowds of adoring fans in Europe to live alone on an island and seek inspiration from the river.

Henry’s Story, set in 1848, touches on the origin of the fall’s reputation as a favorite honeymoon spot and recounts one of the worst disasters in Niagara’s fascinating history.

Lizzie’s Story in 1859 is the moving tale of a young slave’s escape to freedom via the underground railroad. She and her parents are aided by none other than abolitionist Harriet Tubman, whom they know only as Mother.

And lastly, The Drummer Boy’s Tale recounts the struggles between the Iroquois and the English during the early days of England’s domination of North America. A sixteen year old English boy, unwillingly conscripted into the king’s army, is saved from death by an Iroquois boy.

One my favorite threads in this story followed a peacock feather. This talisman makes its long way from Africa to the slave quarters of a plantation in the South. Given as a gift of thanks to a white abolitionist, it becomes the cherished family heirloom of the main character’s father, a racist who has forgotten his family’s proud past.

Please take a moment and vote for my review here.  To vote: follow the link, scroll down, check Cynthia Robertson, writer and click the vote button. Thank you so very much for your support! 

While you are there you can enter to win a FREE copy of this wonderful book. The winner will be announced June 29th, so cast your vote and enter to win!

Author Interview:

Have you ever hiked the gorge you describe so vividly in the novel?

Yes, but not in winter, I’m not crazy like my boys were.

 How long did it take you to write Bridges?

Between 2 and 38 years. In September 2008, I had cause to go through some old papers and I came across a short story I had written 36 years earlier. It was 12 typewritten, yellowed pages and was about an old picture of the ice bridge of Niagara Falls I had seen then. Reading it on the floor I grabbed a pencil and immediately started rewriting it. One year to the month and 350 pages later “Bridges” was written. One year and 22 rewrites after that, “Bridges – a Tale of Niagara” was done. So, I guess you could say it took somewhere between 2 and 38 years (although I’m still making edits).

Did you have any help from a writers group?

No. Tried to hook up with a couple of them but it didn’t work. Seems they don’t follow through and work at it and things don’t work without work.

 Are the stories within the story true?

Each one is based on real historical events but is fiction built around them. There was a ‘hermit of Niagara’, but the clarinet and reason for isolation was fiction. The water did stop in 1848, but Henry and Sam came from space. There was an underground railroad and Pontiac’s war, but the characters portrayed weren’t there.

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

For that particular story – from the picture itself. It’s one I seen in an antique shop once and it started me thinking about it. At the same time I was writing about the 60’s which was the most ‘changing’ decade in our history and the two came together.

Are you traditionally published or self-published?

Well I’m not traditional for certain. Am I self-published? I’m not sure. Langdon Press is a support house but it’s all been on me so I guess I am.

 Why did you choose to publish the way you did?

After being encouraged at the writer’s conference, I went out all pumped up and excited ready to meet the writing world. It wasn’t ready to meet me. I had been given two leads at the workshop to pursue, both being for small presses. I ignored them and sent out 49 query letters to agents. 49 rejections later I went back and revisited those small press leads I’d been given and I immediately received a positive response from one and sent in my manuscript. They seemed very interested but then I didn’t hear anything for weeks from them. Following up, I found out they had gone bankrupt. Back to square one, but I now focused on the small presses. Next one showed an interest and took the project on.

Tell us something about yourself most people don’t know.

I grew up in Buffalo – Niagara Falls but never saw Niagara Falls until I was 16.

Here are some links if you’d like to learn more about dk LeVick and his novel:

Bridges website 

Facebook page

Goodreads link



Broken Ones: A Review & Interview with Author Sophia Martin

The author at her home in Mount Shasta


It was a rainy Saturday morning. I’d planned on spending it writing. But that was before I made the decision to jump onto Smashwords and quickly download the copy of Broken Ones Sophia Martin gave me for review. I thought I’d just open it and take a peek—you know, just see what kind of writer she is and what I was in for.

By page 4 I’d forgotten all about my plans to write (thanks a lot, Sophia). The first person narrator’s voice is natural and tough. Louise tells us she’s thought of killing her brother-in-law, Everett, an ex-cop who likes to pound on her little sister, Marie—who Louise once again comes home to find sleeping on her couch, surrounded by Marie’s three little ones.

Everett comes looking for Marie and his kids the next morning, doesn’t find them, and beats Louise. Louise wakes the next day to Marie sitting beside her hospital bed, learns Everett is up to something illegal and has threatened to kill Marie if she leaves, for fear of her telling what she knows. Louise makes the decision she must get them all away from Everett.

Followed by an Amber Alert, they make their escape: Louise, Marie, Marie’s three children, and  a neighbor’s neglected pit bull Louise has been dying to rescue, all stuffed into Marie’s mini-van. Louise pulls strings and obtains fake ID’s, and a beat-up old station wagon that can’t be traced by Everett and his cop buddies.

What follows is a fear-drenched run for the mountain town of Mount Shasta, Louise struggling to deal with her spiritually broken sister, while leaving a false trail of breadcrumbs in a gambit to throw Everett off their track.

I don’t want to give away the plot. A haunted (or is it?) cabin, and a town full of interesting people—some willing to help, others not—make this a satisfying read. If I have one disappointment with Broken Ones, it’s only that the reader never really finds out just what Everett’s hinted at nefarious dealings are. But all in all, it was a lively read, and well worth the price of downloading it. 

What follows is my interview with Sophia.

What led you to write about domestic violence?

I was a counselor on a rape and domestic violence hotline for a year, and the people I spoke to stayed with me after that. I went into the job with some of the typical ideas—that if a man hit me, I’d just be out of there, that there must be something wrong with women who wind up in that kind of relationship. Working the hotline opened my eyes and gave me empathy for survivors of domestic violence. I wanted to write about it because of that.

Why do you think ghosts turn up so often in your writing?

Good question! It’s a combination of things. I was always afraid of the dark as a child; I believed that ghosts would get me once the lights were off. That lasted well into my early teens. And then at some point I lost all faith in ghosts (and everything else) and the idea of there being nothing after death was much more terrifying. Now I am back to believing in them, after years of spiritual searching, but I’m not frightened of them anymore. I think that journey has been such a big part of me; it just seeps into the writing in many ways.

You are a teacher – how does that effect your writing schedule?

Oh, it’s a bear. Teaching can be good and bad, and when it is good, it is a huge sap on my creative energy. When it is bad it just saps all of my energy. So it can really be an obstacle. But it also gives me a window into many lives, which can inspire me.

Why did you choose to self publish your work as e-books?

I got really excited at the possibilities epublishing presents. I like the freedom to write whatever I want, without having to consider whether it will please agents and publishers. I have no beef with agents and publishers, but they have their rules and I don’t want to be constrained by them. It’s a lot of work to self-publish, but I find that many people are willing to help, and with their help I’ve been getting it done!

What has the e-book experience been like for you?

Mostly positive. It’s exciting to know that I already have readers enjoying my books. I’ve gotten encouraging feedback. It’s work, though. I’ve had to reformat two of my eBooks and figuring out the right way to do that took a while. And marketing is not easy; I’m trying to find the best way to do it. But people like you make that hill a bit easier to climb!

What are you working on now?

I have a series about a psychic—the first book is out, entitled The River and the Roses. I finished the first draft of the second book last month and have been letting it sit for a while before I get into my first cycle of revisions. I’ve been batting around some ideas for other stories as well as the third book in the series. But at the moment, I’m not doing a lot of writing. I plan to treat May like NaNoWriMo, though, and aim to write 50,000 words of the third novel then.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love Jacqueline Carey, who wrote the Kushiel books (very, very different from mine). Another favorite is Qiu Xiaolong—he’s a Chinese author of detective novels set in Shanghai. I also love YA fantasy, and one great author is Libba Bray. Oh, and have you heard of the Kiki Strike novels? Great girl adventures! Those are by Kirsten Miller. I could go on.

Tell us something about yourself that nobody knows.

I worked at a sandwich shop a few years ago. The mayo and the horseradish squirt bottles looked very much the same. So for a while, when people asked for mayo, I’d give them horseradish instead. It was an honest mistake—but when I figured out what I’d been doing, I never told! It was too late to fix the sandwiches. Why tell? Right? Oh boy. Still feel bad about that.

And so she should. But shady sandwich making activities aside: Sophia is a sweet writer. Check her out here.