Joyce V. Hansen On Writing Successfully For The African-American Children’s and Teen Market

Joyce Hansen

Name: Joyce V. Hansen

Hometown: New York

Based In: New York

Favorite Read: My favorite recent read is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. This book is a masterpiece. She recounts the history of the great migration of African Americans out of the South searching for a better life in the northern and western states. Her book is nonfiction, but reads like a novel. I also recently read The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat and I was so moved by the skillful and poetic way she told her story.

Author Crush: My author crush is Langston Hughes. I wrote a lot of awful poetry when I was in high school, trying to imitate him. Reading his work though, helped me to find my own writer’s voice and influenced me as I tried to tell an African American story.

Ideal Writing Space: I have a tiny sunroom that I enjoy writing in.

First Book-Related Memory: When I think back on my childhood the first book-related memory is my mother reading to me.

Up Next: I hope another book or two.

What did you enjoy reading as a young adult?

When I was a young adult (1960’s), I don’t think there was a young adult market. You went from reading children’s books to adult books. I remember though reading Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk and I think this was a book that came close to being what we consider now a young adult novel. I also read a lot of Daphne Du Maurier and Charles Dickens. But I longed for books about my own people and by the 1960’s the Black Arts movement was beginning to explode and I read everything I could find about African and African American history. I also read James Baldwin and other fiction and nonfiction by African American writers.


A lot has changed in the industry since your first book was published.

Because of the changes in the publishing Continue reading

English-to-German Book Translator Lesley Schuldt On Foreign Literary Translations

Stmbt97Name: Lesley Schuldt

Litjuice Occupation: Translated Dörthe Binkerts She Wore Only White into Weit übers Meer

Based In: Steamboat Springs, CO

Education: BA in German and Political Science with some graduate work in German for International Business

Favorite Read: That’s a tough one because I’ve rarely met a book I didn’t like and I always finish reading what I start.

Were you always taken by the German language? Continue reading

Mridula Koshy On The Writing Community In India + Writing An Adoption Novel

KoshyName: Mridula Koshy

Hometown: New Delhi,

Based In: New Delhi

Education: Occidental College

Briefly: If It Is Sweet is a collection of short fiction that looks at class relations in New Delhi. Not Only the Things That Have Happened is a novel about inter-country adoption set in India and the US.

Author Crush: Eliot Weinberger, Breyten Breytenbach, Paul Zacharia, K Satchidanandan, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Foster Wallace, Alice Munro.

Your Writing Space: Coffee shops in my neighborhood.

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be: If I were neither a writer nor a mother I’d be trade union organizer. In an entirely different life I would be a radio reader with a sideline in dress design.

Up Next: a novel about a young girl, daughter of a poor man, who dreams of riding a bicycle and of healing her broken family. It is set in present-day New Delhi.

When you think of your childhood, and when you think of books, what comes to mind?

My sister and I would take turns, one of us minding the road on the walk home from school while the other read. It was frightening to finish a book because I didn’t know how else to spend my time. A book left unattended for even a moment was fair game. There were many fights: “But I am still reading it. I only put it down because Mummy was calling me” etc. Once while we were reading Omen together, I waited for her in the closet, butcher knife in hand. I hadn’t anticipated how much her hysteria would frighten me. I was precocious and read books far beyond my years but everything I read was read at a younger age by my younger sister. There was and still is no point boasting. When you set out to write Not Only The Things That Have Happened, your novel about adoption, did you set out to speak for adoptees everywhere?

The voices of the members of the adoption triad – birth mother, adoptee and adoptive mother – are not heard equally. The power to tell the story of adoption belongs most clearly with the adoptive parents. The relinquishing parents and the relinquished child have the least voice in the story. I wanted to hear their voices. Annakutty Verghese relinquishes her child under great social pressure. She lives then with an enormous sense of loss. Her child is adopted and grows to adulthood in a loving but complicated Christian family. He too lives with a sense of loss. Not Only the Things That Have Happened is a work of fiction and ultimately gives voice to the story of individuals. I cannot claim to have spoken for everyone everywhere because my characters are uniquely themselves and their story is uniquely their own. However, my novel is a critique of adoption in that it examines power and its operations in the relationships of various characters in the book. In an interview you gave at the time of the publication of the book, you mentioned the extensive you did for the work, the countless reading of adoptee memoirs, adoption articles. As you leafed across all that information, how did you determine what was going to influence you?

I do think there is a dynamic at work in the author’s writing of a story and the story’s writing of itself. I had characters in mind and wrote their story and then at some point became aware they were dictating their story to me. Of course this is not the same thing as having a muse. I am responsible for all the decisions of craft in the novel. And it was craft that was the mediator between me and my characters. I was not the inspired author who hears and responds to a voice by transcribing. No, I did actually have to understand my characters’ desires and then understand the craft of being faithful to their intentions for themselves.

As I researched among adoptee and first mother blogs and read scholarly papers I became increasingly aware, for example, that my character Annakutty Verghese was researching with me. In the novel, she dies within the first couple pages, but the epitaph she leaves on her grave at the end of Part One of her life, her last message to a son she realizes she will never see, is something she, reading over my shoulders, understood was true for her: though she will never see her son, she will live in him. This is an understanding of the biological and spiritual bond I repeatedly encountered in adoptee and first mother blogs.

koshy-photo pic

What’s the writing community like in India?

I write about what I am curious about. Most often there is some basis for my curiosity in the known, and of course a whole lot more basis in the unknown. It would be hard to sit solving the various complex craft challenges of writing if it were not for the motivation of knowing that I am doing this to discover something unknown out there.

To write in literary fiction in English in India, is to simultaneously live in a small town and a large country. The terms ‘literary’ and ‘English’ are the confines of my small town. There are few writers and few readers inhabiting this small town, but like inhabitants of actual small towns, there is an abundance of love and courtesy here because most of us actually live face-to-face. The accountability of small town life makes me glad to live in this small town. When I moved to this small town, a complete unknown, I was welcomed as I imagine small towns welcome strangers, with some curiosity and a whole lot of generosity.

On the other hand, we, the few of us living in this small town, are painfully aware that our actual lives are lived in a large country. Our coziness is likely to be our undoing, and we are guilty of producing a literature that is thin in its inability to grapple with all of what our subject demands from us. Luckily there are many other towns in Indian literature – other languages, shaped by scores of practitioners, into literature fantastic in its scope and ability to tell the stories of this country.

I just wish we had more translators so the good news in these other languages could travel to my small town.

Tell us about the writing process for your other novel If It is Sweet.

My short stories are image-driven. That is, I see something searing in its beauty somewhere in the city of Delhi, and I cannot abide its fleeting nature. I want to be seared again and at my behest. So I set out to write the story that will take me back to the image. My short stories are expressions of ecstasy and I am always aghast when a reader will moan to me that she finds their ending sad. But the reader, who I love has written to me once or twice and complained about things other than the sad endings.

When you got to the editing and revision stage, how did things go?

I had to rewrite my novel once twice, three times. I wish I had rewritten it some more. With short stories rewriting can give way more easily to new stories that are themselves re-writes, that are new efforts to mine the same ground. With the novel there is just the embarrassment of putting out into the world something that at a practical level must be put out into the world but that at an emotional level feels incomplete.

What are some of the publishing trends that you anticipate seeing in literature?

I think a lot of what drives literature is its thematic concerns. At least in my lifetime and perhaps beyond I imagine our thematic concerns will be similar to what characterizes the literature of the past. Still there are interesting wrinkles. For example, are we more or less violent as a species? And is technological advance equivalent to an advance in any other arena of human achievement, for example does it advance compassion? Perhaps. There is as much ambivalence about our own existence now as there ever has been and that alone gives us much to chew on. How we choose to do our chewing – in flash fiction, twitter feeds, through e-books or chap books – is something I don’t spend a lot of time pondering. I am glad I started writing in my mid-thirties. I am not afflicted with the sort of ambition which might drive me to speculate on market trends with the view to cashing in.

How can new writers improve their writing?

There is another sort of ambition that is worthwhile, which is the effort to do justice to one’s thematic concerns. I read Weinberger for example because while he is no trendsetter, he has done much to look at the question of how we can relate the seemingly unrelatable. I love the notion of a world in which what is in opposition is also in collision, that what pulls apart achieves embrace. His experiments with form and craft have taught me a lot. Recently, Booker short-listed writer, Jeet Thayil told me he writes for the writers he admires. New writers might want to read the writers they love lovingly and then sit down to write for them.

What’s the best way to get the word out on a book?

I am not aggressive about searching out ways to promote my book, but that’s only because I am shy. I have never turned down any opportunity to get the word out. Not even when I felt too shy. There’s a chutzpah involved in thinking of myself as worth being published. It would be hypocritical to follow on that with a pretense of crippling shyness. So while I have conquered shyness and would advise others to do the same I have another issue – laziness – that I have yet to wrestle with successfully. Promotion is part of the job even if it isn’t the most interesting.

Author’s Facebook | Author’s Blog | Amazon Page Continue reading

Theresa Shea’s Advice to New Authors + On Social Media’s Effectiveness On Book Promotion

theresa shea-picName: Theresa Shea

Hometown: I was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, lived in a few different states, and moved to Canada in 1977.

Based In: Edmonton, Alberta. Canada

Education: BA, MA. PhD in literature.

Briefly: Poet and essayist. Author of The Unfinished Child (Brindle & Glass, 2013).The Unfinished Child was a finalist in the BookBundlz “Book Pick” Contest (2013), and it’s just been long listed for the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award (2014). It’s also now in its third printing, which is pretty cool considering it didn’t make any of the “big” national prize lists here in Canada.

Favorite Read: I can never answer this question! I have too many favorite books. What I really want from a book is to be emotionally moved. I want to care about the characters, and I want the narrative to be well written.

Pet Peeves: Food left in the sink after it’s been drained. Or, conversely, water left in the kitchen sink. I despise and resent having to put my hand into cold, greasy dishwater.

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…A musician. I started playing the violin when I was 40, and I had a lovely teacher who was from Texas (I was living on the Sunshine Coast, in British Columbia, at the time). I seemed to be picking things up pretty quickly, and after one lesson she said, in her thick drawl, “I think you missed your calling.” How bittersweet!

Author Crush: Hmm… I’ll give you a few crushes: Barbara Kingsolver, Alistair MacLeod, Elizabeth Strout, Gloria Sawai, Alice Munro. And, of course, I still have a crush on my husband, the writer Tim Bowling.

Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book You’d Recommend: I don’t generally read how-to writing books, but I remember my husband had one lying around the house once (I have no idea what it was called), and I picked it up and found a section on “back story.” I realized, Eureka! The Unfinished Child doesn’t have a back story! That was a great (and disappointing) moment, for I realized I had more work to do, but that’s what enabled Margaret and Caroline to come into the book. And Dr. Maclean. So I think reading about writing can be useful; however, one needs to avoid the trap of reading too much. In the end, you just have to sit down and get writing.

When the Canadian writer W.O. Mitchell went to Toronto for a short spell, he said afterwards that he’d never met so many “talker writers” in his whole life. I don’t want to be a “talker writer,” and there are plenty of them out there. Maybe you know some.

I’m well into the first draft of my second novel and am quite excited by how it’s going. I hope to have a draft done by September. That’s my goal. What type of a reader were you growing up: an avid reader, or the sort of reader who only read school textbooks and reading assignments and nothing else?

Books were my first addiction. I was a bookworm from a very young age. I was an extremely shy child, and I honestly don’t know how I would have survived childhood if not for books. Continue reading

Shelia Goss On How Authors Can Be More Prolific And On Expanding Brands

Shelia GossName: Shelia Goss

Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana

Education: Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Ideal Writing Space: I usually write on my desktop. One summer, I did write a book on my iPad.

Briefly: Screenwriter; Author of seventeen novels and counting: The Joneses; Writes the young adult book series The Lip Gloss Chronicles, under the name Sparkle. Ruthless, Delilah, Montana’s Way, My Invisible Husband, Roses are thorns, Violets are true, Paige’s Web, Double Platinum, His Invisible Wife, Hollywood Deception and Savannah’s Curse. Essence Magazine, Dallas Morning News, Black Expressions, bestselling author. African-American Literary Award recipient, 2013.

Favorite Read: The Bible. Too many to name; however I will list a few: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins.

What are your earliest book-related memories?

I started reading at an early age. I was about four years old. Prior to that, I remember my mom reading books to me.

What are some of the things that you’ve learned about book marketing along your publishing journey?

The best form of marketing is word of mouth. When a book resonates with a reader, they will tell someone and it can spread like wild fire. Also, when marketing, you should concentrate on your target audience. Marketing blindly is not advised.

Not only are you an author, but you’re also a screenwriter, and a publishing entrepreneur overall. What advice would you give to authors about expanding their brand?

I encourage it if it’s something they are interested in doing. The best advice I can give is to do research before taking on any endeavor.

As someone who’s also a screenwriter, and an author, which medium do you feel most comfortable in?

I’ve been a published author for ten years so I would say in that medium because I have more experience with success as an author. I’ve only recently had one of my screenplays optioned so ask me in five years after I’ve had several more optioned 🙂

Have any of your novels have its start as a movie in your head?

No, however I visualize the scenes in my head as if they were a movie because if I can visualize it, I can write it. You are also known as Sparkle. If you had to do it all over again, would you have started writing as Shelia Goss, or would you have written as Sparkle from the get-go?

Shelia Goss. Sparkle was a name I came up with for the YA books that are for a different target audience.

I think a lot of authors wish they could just think of a plot in their minds, and have everything miraculously appear on the page. What are your thoughts on getting started, and dealing with writer’s block?

Preparation helps. I suggest doing a character chart on all of your main characters. I don’t use outlines but for those having trouble getting started, I would suggest doing an outline.

I don’t get writer’s block. I might get the “I don’t want to” because “I want to do something else,” but not writer’s block. [Smiles] When I get the “I don’t want to,” depending on whether or not I have a deadline, I will allow myself a day or two off and then I’m back to writing.

How can an author get better at writing?

Write. The more you write, the better your writing will get. Part of that process includes being aware of your writing issues and working on those until it’s no longer an issue.

Do you think book tours and book signings are instrumental in selling books?
It helps with bringing awareness to the author’s books but an author can still be successful without doing either one of those things.

What are your thoughts on critique groups?
I haven’t been in a critique group in over ten years. Critique groups can help when you have a mixture of experienced and non-experience writers.

How can authors be as prolific as you?

Determination, dedication and discipline are the three things you will need in order to be prolific.
Set up your own schedule. Don’t allow other things to get in the way of the schedule and write and sometimes that means writing, even when you don’t feel like it.

Some people feel that self-publishing is evil, that it makes authors out of folks who aren’t quite ready. As a veteran author who’s seen a lot of changes in the industry, what’s your perspective on this?

Self-publishing is a business. Before you start a business, do your research. Everyone is not meant to be a business owner. If one does choose to go on that path, invest in the Self Publishing Manual by Dan Poytner and read it, not skim it. It’s a blueprint that works.

Author’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Author’s Blog Continue reading

Margaret Leroy On Solving Novel Plotting Issues + The Art of Building Strong Female Characters

margaret leroy-picsName: Margaret Leroy

Hometown: London

Based In: London

Education: St Hilda’s College, Oxford

Briefly: Author of The Soldier’s Wife, The Collaborator, Trust, The Drowning Girl.

Author Crush: Ursula le Guin

Your Writing Space: I quite like writing in bed!

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be: a forensic psychologist

Up Next: The English Girl comes out in the UK in August; it’s set in Vienna in 1937/38, before and during Hitler’s annexation of Austria. I’m currently writing a novel set during the London Blitz.

Who was the most avid reader you knew growing up?

Me! There were a few books in my childhood home, but mostly I borrowed books from the library. The Lord of the Rings was my obsession growing up: the English teacher at school introduced me to Tolkein, and I became addicted.

Which of your books have been the most problematic in terms of where you wanted to take the plot and where the plot wanted to take you?

The most problematic was my second novel, Alysson’s Shoes, which is about a psychiatrist who makes an error of judgment with devastating consequences.

Margaret Leroy-The Drowning Girl

How did you resolve it?

I think so often authors struggle with their second novel: you’ve poured so much of yourself into your first novel that for a while you can feel there’s nothing left! To resolve a plot problem, you just have to keep writing. Often a clue to where you can go is there in what you’ve written already – perhaps in a subplot or even some chance remark one of your characters makes.

You’ve expressed your fondness for strong female characters.

I do prefer to write about women: I don’t think I’d feel confident having a male protagonist! The protagonist/ main character has to be strong for the story to work – she can’t be too passive, she has to act on the world, or at least to learn to act on the world in the course of the story. I like to put women into interesting situations – like Guernsey during the Occupation, Vienna in the shadow of war, or the London Blitz – and see what they do!

With you were creating Vivienne de la Mare, and when you put into consideration the choice that she had to make between duty and love, did you weigh in the consequences of her going either way, before deciding where you would take the story?

I always work out the plot before I start writing, so I knew how the story would develop. The Occupation of Guernsey appealed to me so much as a setting because of these difficult choices people had to make. Situations like occupation or civil war are wonderfully rich for writers, because nothing is straightforward, and it’s often not clear what the right course of action is. Moral dilemmas can make for great stories.

When you compare The River House, and your other novel Postcards from Berlin…which drove you the craziest during the editing part of the publishing process?

I always feel that editing is the most difficult part of the writing process, as you’re responding to the suggestions of someone with entirely different life experience from you, and trying to incorporate their ideas into the story. So, it’s always a struggle, but usually the book is far better once you’ve been through the process! As a general rule, I tend to find cutting much harder than writing new material.

margaret leroy

Why do you think that some books build reputations over time, as opposed to garner instant fame? Do you think marketing and publicity play a part?

I think there’s a great mystery about which books readers will take to their hearts, and publishers are almost as much in the dark as anyone else: after all, twelve editors in the UK turned down Harry Potter. But marketing and publicity are certainly hugely important, and it’s wonderful for an author when a publisher decides to really get behind a book.

What would you say to aspiring writers about getting started?

I always advise people to keep notebooks. So many touching, funny or extraordinary things happen to us, and we always think we’ll remember them, but often we don’t. If you keep notes, you have a wonderful resource which you can dip into again and again.

What are your views on self-publishing?

Like most writers today, I’ve certainly considered it! In fact I’m planning to self-publish my two early novels, Trust and Alysson’s Shoes, to make them available to my readers today. But, I suspect that to really reach an audience as a self-published writer, you have to have a very strong online presence, which takes a particular kind of talent and a lot of hard work!

Author’s Website| Amazon Author Page|

Author Photo: Nikki Gibbs Continue reading

How Authors Turn Books Into Screenplays And Vice Versa: An Interview With Graeme Simsion

graemeName: Graeme Simsion

Briefly: Author of The Rosie Project. Former IT consultant. Filmmaker and screenwriter.

Hometown: Melbourne, Australia

How did you get your start in writing and filmmaking?

I read Joe Queenan’s book The Unkindest Cut about his experiences making a low-budget feature film, and decided to emulate him. I adapted an unpublished novel my partner had written, cast friends and family, and shot it on domestic video equipment. Thanks largely to the involvement of a professional cinematographer, it didn’t look as bad as it might have, and a professional producer who saw it commented favorably on the screenplay. A seed was planted… I sold my IT consulting business and enrolled in a screenwriting program at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia.

Which is the more strenuous process, novelizing a screenplay or adapting a novel for the screen?

It depends. Broadly speaking, Continue reading

Curtis Bunn On Writing Fiction That Engages Readers + On Starting The National Book Club Conference

currtis bunnName: Curtis Bunn

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Education: Norfolk State University

Briefly: Author of Baggage Check, A Cold Piece of Work, The Truth is in the Wine; former journalist. Founder of National Book Club Conference.

Favorite Read: The Wake of the Wind by J. California Cooper

Author Crush: It would have to be Ms. Cooper.

Up Next: My next novel releases July 2014, The Old Man In The Club. I’m contracted to write my seventh novel for 2015, Seize The Day. There are other projects in the work, too, so it never stops. And that’s exactly how I like it.

Who was the first person to make you aware that you had some exceptional writing and storytelling talents?

My English teacher at Douglass Jr. High in Southeast Washington, D.C., Mr. Overton, was the first to encourage me to write. He suggested journalism, and I fell in love with the profession and went on to become a sports journalist for more than 25 years at The Washington Times, New York Newsday, New York Daily News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. My career in journalism led me to writing novels. The years of telling stories for my career was critical to my transition to a novelist. I already knew how to tell a story, but I am granted far more latitude with writing books because I can create facts, places, story lines, themes, scenarios…As a journalist I told stories based on facts. To be able to create the facts is almost exhilarating.

You promote the life out of all of your books, from appearances on major networks like NBC to book tours. How can new authors who haven’t yet gotten the platform that you’ve acquired, get media attention?

It is a tough road, no doubt. The first and best way to garner attention and supporters is Continue reading

M.D Waters On Writing The Dystopian Novel + Promotion Methods And Publishing Trends

e48bd019b5707480fb982c9036a223bbName: M.D.Waters

Briefly: Author of Archetype
Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA

Based In: Mechanicsville, MD

Favorite Read: Anything with a steamy, angsty, conflicted romance in it.

Pet Peeves: Self promotion on social media without a single personal thing to say in between, then stalking me to follow.

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…An office admin for two men with seventeen restaurants between them.

Author Crush: Karen Marie Moning


Up Next: The sequel to Archetype, Prototype, on-sale July 2014

When you think back to your teenage years, what book-related memories emerge in your mind?

V.C. Andrews and Stephen King. My dad and stepmom used to get so annoyed with me because, even though I’d read them to tatters, if I had an Andrews book in my hand, the chores were not getting done. And I’ll never forget when my grandmother saw me reading Misery by Stephen King. She swore I was going to hell for reading that “trash.” Continue reading

Book Industry Peeps: Karen Chilton, Audiobook Narrator On How Audiobooks Come To Be

KAREN CHILTON headshot[1]And now beloved Litjuicers, the time has come to have segments about the industry lads and lasses who enhance every litjuicer’s audio reads experience. Today’s guest is Karen Chilton. Karen Chilton is a renowned audibook narrator. I first came across her name on the novelist Hugh Howey’s blog. He could not stop raving about her skills for the audio version of his book Sand!

Name: Karen Chilton

Litjuice Occupation: Audiobook Voice Artist/Book Narrator

Favorite Read: My list of favorite books and favorite authors is quite long—everything by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and James Baldwin—but one of my all-time favorite novels is The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker. It was the first book I ever read that once I finished, I turned to page one and started it all over again because I didn’t want to let it go. As a narrator, I’d have to say I’ve Got A Home in Glory Land by Karolyn Smardz Frost was one of the most challenging and most rewarding works I’ve recorded thus far. Also Trade Wind by M.M. Kaye was a mammoth undertaking—an ancient story in a foreign land with varied characters, dozens of dialects, classical writing. Narrating the book I authored on jazz pianist Hazel Scott wasn’t a bad gig either.

How did you get interested in audio book narration?

I’m a professional actor and writer. Narration is Continue reading