Jill Steeples On for Plotting and Outlining Techniques for Short Stories And Novels + Writer’s Block Tips

jillsteeples_jpg_w300h225Name: Jill Steeples
Author’s Website
Hometown: Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, UK
Based: Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, UK (I haven’t moved very far!)
Briefly: I’ve had over 150 short stories published in magazines around the world. My stories have also appeared in a number of anthologies. My first novel Desperately Seeking Heaven was published this year by Carina UK (a digital imprint from Harlequin).
Favorite Read: The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien.
Pet Peeves: People who don’t return their trolleys to the bays at the supermarket and leave them obstructing the car park. Tut tut..
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…running my own small business. I’d love a crafts and tea shop.
What You Have Lined Up Next: My second novel Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off is due for publication in January 2014. It’s about a girl who, in a moment of madness, reads her best-friend’s diary and what she uncovers changes her life forever.

Did you make a conscious decision to become a writer?

Yes, I was approaching a significant birthday and that galvanized me into signing up for a creative writing course. I’d been thinking about it for years and dabbling in writing, but not getting very far. It was the best decision I made as my tutor suggested I started writing short stories. It’s a great discipline and when I started selling my stories it gave me the confidence to start taking my writing seriously.

How did you get the inspiration for Desperately Seeking Heaven?

I had an image in my mind of two teenagers coming across a car crash scene and a man, a famous celebrity, emerging from the wreckage. It changed quite a bit from that initial idea, but that was the spark that set the story in action.

Did you find yourself struggling when you were writing it?

The first draft came very easily, but Continue reading

Alma Alexander On The Urban Fantasy Genre + Handling Revision Fatigue

alma alexander-photoName: Alma Alexander
Author’s Website , Facebook
Hometown: The place I was born? That was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, as it were…
Currently Based In: Pacific Northwest, USA
Education: MSc (molecular Biology) – but barely used it before turning
to writing as a career…
Briefly: more than 1000 book reviews – on three continents, plus cyberspace – over the last two and a half decades; numerous short stories, appearing in magazines and anthologies such as Dark Faith II: Invocations; over the last fifteen years – twelve of those writing full-time – I have published nine novels and one non-fiction book. Four new novels in the works over the next couple of years. And more to come.
Favorite Read: I don’t have one. I love reading, and I don’t play favorites. Last book I read and enjoyed: Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Book I am currently looking forward to reading: Hild by Nicola Griffith.
Pet Peeves: Willful ignorance. Cruelty. Bureaucracy. People who don’t know the difference between “its” and “it’s” and won’t be bothered to learn.
If You Weren’t In the Book Industry, You’d Be…Dead.
What You Have Lined Up Next: New YA series coming out soon, starting with book #1, Random, in May 2014…

Were you an avid reader as a kid?

Oooo, hell yeah. I blew through my library’s “kids” section long before they stopped considering me as a
kid. My parents got me an adult card, after that. I haven’t stopped reading since I taught myself how, at age 4.

What do you like most about writing fantasy?

Flying in strange skies which Continue reading

Helen C. Johannes On Her Writing Process And Where She Gets Her Ideas

Name: Helen C. Johannes
Authors Website, Blog, Goodreads, Amazon Author Page
Hometown: I grew up an Army brat, but the closest thing I have to a hometown is Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Based In: Central Wisconsin
Education: MST in the Teaching of English.
Briefly: Author of The Prince of Val-Feyridge and Bloodstone. Awards: 2011 EPIC Award for Fantasy Romance, 2011 Launching a Star Award for Fantasy Romance, 14th Annual PRISM Finalist in Fantasy Romance, Wisconsin Writers’ Association Jade Ring winner in Short Fiction.
Favorite Read: Anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rick Riordan, Jennifer Crusie among a long list of others. I read romance, fantasy, young adult, mystery, and historical genres.
Pet Peeves: Cliffhanger books from newbie authors and blatant author intrusion (Hector didn’t know it yet, but he was about to…)
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…An English teacher—my day job.
Author Crush: I’d love to pick Rick Riordan’s brain.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book You’d Recommend: Michael Hague and Chris Vogler’s joint workshop on story structure and the hero’s journey on DVD
Up Next: A sequel to The Prince of Val Feyridge, a novella, a children’s fantasy, and perhaps a sequel to Bloodstone.

Can you think back to the first book-related memory that you have?

My earliest favorite book was a collection of fairy tales for young readers. Besides the well-known tales of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, this one had stories like The Donkey Prince, Snow White and Rose Red, The Tin Soldier, and The Dancing Princesses, to name a few. I’ve always been Continue reading

Brenda Janowitz The Novel Revising Phase + Her Advice to Writers Transitioning From Another Career

brenda janowitz-photoName: Brenda Janowitz
Author’s Website, Twitter, Facebook

Hometown: I grew up in the suburbs of New York City.

Based In: After living in the city for 10 years, I’m back in the suburbs of New York City!

Education: I graduated from Cornell and then went to Hofstra Law School.

Favorite Read: Way too many to name! I love books of all types, across all genres. I’ll read just about anything.

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…Well, before becoming a writer, I was a lawyer, so I guess I’d just go back to that. (Though, I’d really rather not.)

Author Crush: I absolutely adore Elinor Lipman. Her writing never ceases to inspire me. And I’ve had the opportunity to meet her a few times and she is lovely. Just lovely.

Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book You’d Recommend: There are so many great ones out there. When I first began taking my writing seriously, a friend gave me On Writing by Stephen King. I cannot say enough good things about it. I’d highly recommend that one for any writer.

What is the first book-related childhood memory that comes to mind?

So many! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading, when I wasn’t completely obsessed with books. A few that spring to mind: reading The Secret Garden when I was a little girl; being called my teacher’s “bookworm” in second grade because I’d read so many books; getting books as gifts around holiday time and birthdays.

Your office…the living room, your bedroom…Where do you do most of your writing?

I have an office now where I write.

Have you developed a writing process that works for you?

I’ve done everything– Continue reading

Marissa Bell Toffoli On Her Blog + Whether Poetry is A Dying Art

marissa bell tofoliName: Marissa Bell Toffoli

Author’s Website, Writing Blog

Hometown: Danville, California

Based In: Berkeley, California

Education: MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts, BA in English from UC Santa Barbara

Briefly: I’m a writer and editor, and I teach creative writing to young people. When I’m not working
on those pursuits, I love to travel, read, dance, and watch Bollywood movies. My poetry e-chapbook, Under the Jacaranda, was published by TheWriteDeal in 2011.

Favorite Read: I have a hard time choosing one favorite anything. How about a top three? The Sun
Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway, Three Comrades by Erich Maria Remarque, and The Wild Iris by
Louise Glück.

Author Crush: I just read and loved John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, so it would be a amazing to hang out with him sometime. Otherwise, it’s usually the author I’ve just interviewed—I get extra jazzed about their work after I get to know them a little bit! Sometimes writers even show up in my dreams right after an interview.

Pet Peeves: When people don’t appreciate what they have.

Fiction How-To Book You’d Recommend: Just read a lot. Read great books, books you love, books other people loved that you hated—read it all, and then consider how and why it works, or doesn’t work. What makes it a good story? How is it structured? What do you like most about the writing?


If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…Hmm, probably something with a more straightforward career path.

What You Have Lined Up Next: The poems from my chapbook are part of a full-length poetry manuscript that I’m seeking a publisher for, and I’m working on a new collection of poems. More interviews for my blogs, of course.

Who was the most avid reader you knew growing up?

My mom. I come from a family of readers.

What inspired you to publish your poetry chapbook Under the Jacaranda?

I’d been working on the poems for a few years and I thought a chapbook would be a good way to test if the full-length manuscript was headed in the right direction. A number of poems had been published in journals, but I hadn’t had any luck with chapbook contests I had entered. I heard about TheWriteDeal from a friend when the publishing company was just getting started and offering open submissions throughout the year. When they selected Under the Jacaranda for publication, I was excited to work with an editor, to talk about the poems and with someone who believed in them as much as I did.

Do you think that other than in musical form, poetry just might be a dying art?

Certainly not. I need an Continue reading

John Burley On Why Doctor-Authors Write Thrillers and Mysteries + Social Media Marketing

john burleyName: John Burley
Author’s Website, Facebook, Twitter
Home town: Pasadena, Maryland
Education: Doctor of Medicine, Rosalind Franklin University (Chicago Medical School)
Master of Science (medical pathology), University of Maryland, Baltimore
Bachelor of Science (biology/psychology), University of Maryland, College Park
Briefly: Author of The Absence of Mercy (November 19, 2013); winner of National Black Ribbon Award (for The Absence of Mercy).
Favorite read: THE STAND (by Stephen King)
Pet peeves: English Bulldogs who bark to be let out at 6 A.M. (I have one.)
If you weren’t a writer, you’d be…an E.R. physician (Oh, wait. I am one already.)
Author crush: Stephen King
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book You’d Recommend: 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published And 14 Reasons Why It Just Might by Pat Walsh.
Up next: I’m currently completing my second novel, a stand-alone psychological suspense thriller, which should be available next winter.

Can you think back to the first book-related memory you have? What is it?

When I was a child, I was a huge fan of The Hardy Boys mystery series. They were my first experience with the crime/mystery/suspense genres, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

What makes a great psychological thriller, in your humble opinion?

In my humble opinion, it’s all Continue reading

Bella Andre On Using a Pen Name+ Revisions + Whether Romance Novels Are Harmful to Women

bella andreName: Bella Andre
Author’s Website , Facebook Page

Hometown: Northern California

Briefly: Having sold more than 2.5 million books, my New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling novels have appeared on Top 5 lists at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. After signing a groundbreaking 7-figure print-only deal with Harlequin MIRA, my Sullivan series is being released in paperback in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia from June 2013 through May 2014. Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly), my books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine ”Red Hot Reads” twice and have been translated into nine languages, and my Sullivan books are already Top 20 bestsellers in Brazil. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post has called me “One of the top digital writers in America” and I have been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and most recently in Time Magazine. I has given keynote speeches at publishing conferences from Copenhagen to Berlin to San Francisco, including a standing-room-only keynote at Book Expo America.

Favorite Read: Anything by Maeve Binchy and Jennifer Crusie.

Pet Peeves: People who need to be nicer. [Smiles]

If You Weren’t a Writer-Entrepreneur You’d Be…A writer-entrepreur. Really, I love it that much.

What You Have Lined Up Next: It Must Be Your Love (The Sullivans #11) releases this week and I am madly writing Just to Be With You (Ian Sullivan’s book, which will be out Spring 2014).

One of the things that people always wonder about prolific romance novelists like yourself is, among other things, how do you manage to write all these great books in such short time?

My natural writing speed has Continue reading

Ashley Hay On Book Marketing and Getting Publicity For a Novel + The Writing Community in Australia

ashley hay-photoName: Ashley Hay

Author’s Website

Hometown: Austinmer, NSW, Australia

Writing From: Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Education: I studied journalism and creative writing at Charles Sturt University for my undergrad degree, did an Honours year later at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) – and then later again completed a Doctorate of Creative Arts through UTS.

Briefly: I’ve published two novels (The Railwayman’s Wife in 2013 and The Body in the Clouds in 2010). Someone asked me recently if I’d always been interested in infrastructure history; someone else asked me if I’d always been interested in industrial accidents, and I hadn’t realized either was true. But The Railwayman’s Wife is partly about the death of a train guard, and The Body in the Clouds is partly about a man who falls off the Sydney Harbour Bridge during its construction – so perhaps there is a theme emerging …

I’ve also written four non-fiction books – three of which were ended up exploring various collectors and their obsessions with natural history (Gum, 2002; Herbarium, 2004; Museum, 2007) – and one which was about Lord Byron’s brief and dubious marriage (The Secret, 2000). I’ve been writing journalism for more than 20 years, and have had work anthologized in journals and collections including Best Australian Essays, Best Australian Short Stories and Best Australian Science Writing.

Favorite Read: Just one? I’m addicted to the Paris Review interviews with writers – I love the time and the space they dedicate to exploring someone’s imagination and their craft.

Pet Peeves: Reviews that give away a book’s twist or its denouement. I read a review of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader that revealed its end, which dramatically diminished the experience I could have of reading the book itself.

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be… at a loose end. I’ve never had a job that wasn’t to do with words – writing them, commissioning them, editing them. I used to joke about giving it all up to become a train driver, but given the narrative arc of The Railwayman’s Wife (and its roots in an appropriated piece of my own family’s history), that might not be the safest idea.

What You Have Lined Up Next: I’m working on a novel set in Brisbane that spans the 1960s and now, and I’m also very excited to be editing the 2014 Best Australian Science Writing Anthology.

Do you think you were born to be a writer?

When I was little I wanted to be a flight attendant (until I realized I was too short) and a teacher (until I realized I was too shy). I was always interested in writing but I didn’t know how to go about being a writer, so I enrolled for a journalism degree. I thought if I could find work as Continue reading

Katherine Center On Bookclubs, Social Media Participation And How to Beat Writer’s Procrastination

katherine center author photoName: Katherine Center

Author’s Website , Facebook

Hometown: Houston, Texas, USA

Based In: Houston

Education: B.A. in English from Vassar College; M.A. in Fiction from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program


The Bright Side of Disaster
Everyone Is Beautiful
Get Lucky
The Lost Husband

Ellen Clayton Garwood Creative Writing Scholarship
Vassar College Fiction Prize
Dolores Welder Mitchell Fellowship
Finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction

Favorite Read: Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Pet Peeves: Snobbery

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…Maybe a photographer. Or a painter. Or a collage artist. Or a sculptor. Or a maker of artist’s books. Or a clothing maker. Or a graphic designer. Or a quilt-shop owner. Or a sign painter. Or a line-dancing instructor. Or an antiques dealer… There are lots of things I love to do.

Author Crush: Right now, it’s Tessa Dare—a writer of historical romance. Her books are delicious.

Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book You’d Recommend: I love to read how-to books! I loved the book “Hooked.” And Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird is a treasure.

Up Next: St. Martin’s Press will publish my next novel in February of 2015, and then two more after that.

Think for a minute. What’s the earliest book-related memory that comes to mind?

I remember in Kindergarten, learning to read, and thinking, “This is really hard!”

How do you react when you find yourself stuck while writing a book?

I take a nap, or a shower, or a walk. I find that trying to solve a problem will only get you so far. Sometimes you have to stop looking for the answer before you can find it.

Where do you do most of your writing?

On a laptop at my sunny kitchen table. Or curled up on my bed under a soft blanket. Or down at our family’s beach house in Galveston, Texas.

What do you wish you had known before you entered the publishing world?

That the real Continue reading

Kerry Hudson On What To Know About Getting An Agent + Using Twitter + Her Writing Regimen

kerry hudson-author photoName: Kerry Hudson
WebsiteAuthor’s Website, Twitter 
Hometown: Aberdeen
Based In: Beautiful East London
Education: Derived almost entirely via a library card.
Introduce Yourself: Hello, I’m Kerry Hudson maker-up of things for a living. I’m 33 and live in Hackney in London, but travel frequently for research – my most recent trips were across Russia by train, working for the Sultan of Oman in Paris and to South Korea to talk
to bewildered writing students about Kilts and Irn­bru. If you’re interested in labels then: working class, queer, fiction writer, champion toast eater. Author of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma
Favorite Read: Too many. This year Andrew Soloman’s Far from the Tree
Author Crush: Janice Galloway or Jeanette Winterson
Pet Peeves: None…peeves are fairly pointless I think.
Fiction How-­To-­Book You’d RecommendOn Writing by Stephen King is pretty solid.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…a pastry chef. I am a food obsessive.
What You Have Lined Up Next: A one woman show based on my debut novel, my third novel, more travelling and creative writing teaching.

What’s  your most unforgettable book­-related memory?

The safety of my first library, of realizing it was free and warm and I could stay as long as I wanted Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. Now, that’s a title.

Did you consider other titles before deciding on this one?

Lots of titles. I wrote it under the working title The Dole Cheque Kid which I then changed to The Council Estate Cook Book and then changed it again, when it went on submission with publishers, to Echoes of Small Fires. The current title is the one my heart belongs to though – we’ve been on a proper journey together.

Juliet Pickering at the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency is your literary agent. What should authors know about getting an agent?

That it’s not impossible. I think there’s a lot of ‘right person, right time, right book’ luck involved but if you’ve written a good book then you’re in with a decent shot. The biggest advice I can offer is to give yourself the best chance possible by writing the foremost book you can, finding an agent already representing similar work and then following submission guidelines to the letter. 

For your next novel, are there certain things that you are planning on doing differently?

I’ve already written my next novel, Thirst, and it’s out in July 2014. I mostly try not to analyze how I write too much for fear of over­thinking but this novel took notably longer to write (one and a half years compared to the six months it took me to write Tony Hogan…) and is far less semi­autobiographical.

You read your entire novel at one of your book signings! Usually authors will read a passage or two. Was that overwhelming for you?

It was my version of a launch party so I had everyone come read with me: friends, family, my editor, agent and publicist all came and shared the load. I made over 100 cakes the night before and everyone left hoarse and covered in butter cream but I can’t think of a more memorable launch day. 

Your Twitter account is buzzing with tweets. What role has that platform played in your book marketing efforts?

I don’t really think of it as a marketing platform. As much as I tweet about a foreign cover or an event I’m doing I’ll tweet about the toast I’m eating or how mad my hair looks after being drenched in the rain. But it has been hugely helpful, I’ve gotten a lot of work, kept in touch with other authors and industry news through it and made some lovely real life friends too. I think of it like working in a really, really big office but where you won’t be forced to go to a horrific Christmas party once a year. 

kerry hudson

Do you have a special writing regimen? Some authors give themselves a daily quota.

I do 1000 words a day minimum but I’ll often go over that. I’m a real believer in scheduling for getting that book written. I’m lucky to write full­-time but you can just adapt that count to your own existing commitments 500 words, 200 words enough days of those and you have yourself a first draft. When I’m redrafting then typically it’s 10 pages a day. 

What would you say is the most enjoyable thing about being an author?

That people give you their hearts and minds and let you tell them a story is an incredible thing. Also it has completely changed my life. I am so much more curious, so much morepresent because I’m always looking for that tiny telling detail, that moment of joy or anger or comedy that is often the beginning of a story. I feel hugely lucky to be able to do this as my job.  

Are you feeling nervous about how readers will respond to your next book?

Yes! I don’t think you’ll meet many authors who aren’t nervous about how their next book will be received but second novels are especially nerve-wracking because the scrutiny is of an unusual and very specific kind. But you have to step back and let it live it’s own life.Though Thirst is very different to Tony Hogan I think it very much has the same sort ofheart to it…and we’ll see how readers feel about it next July. Continue reading