Interview with Ha-Le Thai, Author of WARATAH: From the Ashes of the Vietnam War, Grew a Spirit that would not be Stopped

  • Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

I was raised in Vietnam and left my country in 1988 at the age of 24. I am living in Sydney now!

  • At what age did you realize your fascination with books?

I have been fascinated with books since before I attended school, even before I knew how to read. I loved words which were so mysterious to me at the age of three when my father took four of us, my three brothers and myself in his motorbike around the town.  I normally asked my older brother to read every word on the street signs and stores signs for me, and I also asked him to read all the books that he had from his school to me, mainly historical and science books.

  • What genre are your books?

The genre for my books are self-help skills and real-life stories

  • What draws you to this genre?

I am very fascinated by people’s lives in either fiction or nonfiction books. When I was young,  I already loved the novels of Victor Hugo, Jane Austen, and some famous  Chinese writers. I also liked the incredible real-life stories of such as Thomas Edison, Issac Newton, Galileo Galilel, Mary Currie… All these people showed how powerful a human being was and they confirmed to the world that impossibilities could be changed to the possibilities. They were the people with their innovations, new ideas and dared to be different for changing the world. 

  • Is there a genre you want to write but have not yet done so?

Children’s books both in different contexts and of various content.

Let the reader get to know a little bit more about you. The more they become familiar the book and you, the better the chance they will buy your book.

  • Thinking back, when did you begin to write?

The first time that my writing was read aloud was when I was a child, in year three. This was when I first realised that I writing was a connection to other people, a way to evoke emotions, to move them and put into their heads the things already in my head. The story was about a cat. It was a simple story, but I’d worked hard on it, using all of my descriptive abilities to evoke the image of a cat in the minds of my classmates. My cheeks were flushed and hot as my teacher read from my paper, but despite my reddened face, I was happy. I was even more so when my teacher finished and all the rest of the children clapped their hands for me. My heart was bursting with pride at what I’d done. My imagination was set on fire, and from that moment on, all my little mind wanted to do was write.

When I was young, I often wanted to write about my world, the sadness and worry that engulfed me, the small joys and triumphs in the life of young Ha-Le, but the struggles of making it from day to day didn’t leave me much time to pursue this craft. I said to myself, ‘I will write my story when I grow up. I’ll write all about it, for the world to read.’ I saved up everything that I wanted to write about, storing in my little heart all of the things that I wanted so desperately to say. I carried these memories in my body for so many years, for so many decades. And when I grew up, I had written different things, and have spoken different topics from my writing   and people loved what I shared both in English and Vietnamese. Put all together, what I have achieved which giving courage and motivation to write WARATH and I am sharing it to the world now.


  • How did you choose this title for your book?

The reason that I chose this title of the book was so cohincident! I found my great passion for  WARATAH flower when I visited the Blue Mountain for the first time. This was in 1991, after we’d been living in Australia for a few months. The vibrant red colour caught my eye and drew me closer. It was like a gorgeous drop of blood seeping vividly into the surrounding landscape. I did not yet know the flower’s name, but I loved the way it looked. I felt captured by its beauty.

Twenty years later, I bought myself one of these giant red flowers. I kept it fresh for a very long time, enjoying its great splendour. I fell in love with WARATAH more and more, but still I did not know the flower’s name.

After I was diagnosed with cancer for the third time, this time, Lymphoma, I went to a Psychosomatic training. It was a part of my efforts to heal myself through knowledge and self-growth. One morning, my Master, Linda Thackray held a card reading. I was given a card that read, ‘ WARATAH – Become the true you. Show the world who you really are and what you were born to do. It’s time to focus on your true passions purposes to become Your Authentic Self. Share your gift and talents with the world and blessings will come your way.’ I felt like the message was for me!  From that moment, I knew the name of my favourite bush flower- WARATAH. And it has become my attribute, the token of my fiery emotions.  WARATAH represented my character and everything I’d gone through.

The more that I researched about WARATAH, the more that I found myself in awe of it. WARATAH is nearly impossible to kill. Not even bushfires can destroy WARATAH. When a bushfire occurs, the flower may burn up, but then from the ashes of destruction, a new WARATAH bud will bloom, growing from the same seeds. The bud is new, but the plant is the same. Flames can not extinguish this large red flower. No matter what engulfs WARATAH , it will continue to grow, changed but undying.

I was the same as WARATAH. Nothing could defeat me. The fighting and abuse in my childhood could not defeat me. The Vietnam War and rise of communism could not defeat me. A terrifying voyage across stormy seas could not defeat me. Life as a refugee could not defeat me. Cancer, three separate times, could not defeat me. No matter the figurative fires that ravaged my life, I would always grow new petals. I would always regrow and bloom.

WARATAH is like a phoenix. Each destruction is a rebirth. Through WARATAH , we can see how loss can be gainful. We can see how entropy becomes creation. “I love WARATAH, and I hope to always have the spirit of WARATAH flowing through me.”

I kept on trying to find the perfect name for my memoir, the perfect title that captured the essence of my story. I wanted a title that told others I was survivor. I kept on choosing different names related to survival, but I was never happy with any of them.

One day, in the middle of my meditation, I pictured myself as a warrior, standing tall, and looking back through all the battles I’d fought through. I had been thinking of the title, ” A Vietnamese Warrior,” but the name didn’t give my heart a punch. I played with the title in my mind, picking it apart one word at a time. I landed on the last word.

 “Warrior! Warrior! Warrior!”

I chanted and chanted this. That is the punch that I’d been waiting for struck me in the heart. I cried out with excitement,  “WARATAH!”

I gave birth to my memoir’s name, after keeping WARATAH in my heart for such a long time.

  • How much of your book is based on real incidents/people in your life?

My book is 100% based on real incidents in my life.

  • Do you work with an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Yes! I did get some personal coaching and training for outlining and plotting techniques. I paid a big amount of money for it since I wanted to publish the best memoir book possible the readers.

  • Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
  • Yes! There were some hard parts to put down on the paper.  I have  to say about LOVE: my relatioship with my parents,  ACTION: how I react to my son in law, my daughter, and RACY: to put down on paper real life experiences of my mother and father, my husbands , my daughter and son in-law!
  • If you could choose, who would you have selected to be your writing mentor?
    I didn’t know anyone who could do the mentoring for my writing. If I knew, I’d have chosen the mentor who had achieved an excellent mentoring award for memoir writing in the world.
  • What is the best advice you have ever heard and used?

I was advised to turn to a very good memoir writing mentor and choose the best people for my writing team despite the cost in order to produce the best memoir possible.

  • What is the hardest thing you have found about writing?

English is my second language and I taught myself English from scratch.  So it took me more than ten times to complete my first draft, huge amount of time and energy to convey the meanings I intended to convey effectively since I am not a native speaker of English. Proof reading, checking plus editing took a long time for the manuscript to turn around to me.

  • What is the easiest thing you have found about writing?
  • This is my life story and I found it so easy to write each of the periods that has been imprinted in my mind and my heart. I just put down on paper the true incidents and emotional experiences that I went through.
  • What are your writing habits? Do you have any writer rituals? Where do you write?
    Yes! I have a writing habit. I started my writing at 4 am every day and it went on for a long a day if my energy allowed me to do so. I loved writing in bed with a soft and warm blanket in winter and autumn or writing in my garden under the sun with the light breezes during spring, summer and autumn.

  • Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
    I had two editors: Cate Hogan and Jennifer Higgins. I chose them after trying different editors which cost me quite a lot of money. They both focussed on memoir works and had a strong background with memoir editing. Cate is at the top of rating scale as structural editor while Jennifer got a Master degree in English Literature and was one of the best persons in memoir editing as well. She has her own blog, and I liked her style of writing and got her in.
  • How do your books get published?
    I self-published my book.

  • Tell us a little about your latest book in one sentence. Follow-up with – Briefly, what led up to this book?  What were you writing (and getting published, if applicable) before breaking out with this book?

I have written a few books on Parenting and self-help/life skills but they haven’t been published yet.

WARATAH is the first book that I chose to be out first since in this book, I had poured out my heart for sharing with the world my life journey! I have  witnessed so many of my clients, friends and people around me who wasted their lives in many ways and actions as well as their lifestyle could influence future generations to go into the same inescapable cycles. Those people and the happenings around them had made me think and driven me with great passion to try to finish and share my books with all people hoping that these books will help them to transform their lives for happiness, success and prosperity.

  • Ask about specific passages or lines. Or you can ask about character development – why the character made the choices they did – what moral issues were they struggling with? It shows you read the book and deepens the discussion.

I had my mother in the memoir book. My mother made choices within limited choices that she had. She struggled after her betrayal to my father for another man, which resulted in their broken relationship throughout my childhood. My life turned sour ever since.

  • After finishing your book, is there anything you wish you had written differently?

It’s my life story and I had tried my best for it. I just want it natural, true, bold and beautiful as it is without wishing to rewrite it differently.

  • Did you promoting/marketing your book on your own or prefer to work with agents/professional of publishing and marketing? (Here authors can pay you back with a little of promo ad, you can also add this question – Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?)

I prefer to work with agents/professionals of publishing and marketing. I did try some marketing methods from the advertising companies but didn’t know how far it will be going! I had paid for ads but I feel like I’ve wasted my time and money for unprofessional services!

  • What are you working on now?

I am preparing my speeches for WARATAH and I am going to have inspirational talks around Australia and some other countries to inspired and encourage people to have their excellent and best lives possible.
I am also working on my parenting book, HABITS TO BENEFITS, which will be released shortly.  My hope with this book is to contribute to teaching parents how to cultivate a good future for their children. As an Early Childhood Teacher, I will help parents to understand clearly why their children are doing what they are doing. The book is written within a sound theoretical framework of child psychology and sociology.

  • What you are reading now? 

I am reading my WARATAH, THE JOURNEY by Brandon Bays, and VYGOTSKY FOR EDUCATORS by Yuriy V. Karpov

  • Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read? Who inspires you in your writings? Which author or book has been the greatest influence to you?  What was your favorite book growing up?

My favourite authors are Victor Hugo, Wane Dyer, Bruce Litton, Jane  Austen, and Nicholas Sparks… My favourite genre is real life stories. I also inspired myself for writing. Wane Dyer was the most significant influence on me in many ways when I was growing up. My favourite book of Dyer was THE SHIFT!

Feel free to elaborate here.

  • Which famous writer, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

 I want to meet Oprah  Winfrey. I want to meet her for showing my respect to her with what she has contributed to the world.  I want to hug my idol who has the courage to overcome all life challenges and is now getting to the top of success. I also want her to interview me for my book and promote it for me. I believe that she would love to read WARATAH and introduce it to many readers!

  • What advice would you give to your younger self?

My advice to my younger self is to have SELF-LOVE, enjoy the life to the fullest and focus on myself first in all situations. I need to be SELF-ISH before  SELFLESS.

  • What advice would you offer to aspiring writers?

Have a good focus and self-discipline on your writing when you have something to share to the world and commit to making it to the end and never quit!! Your story is unique and the world will need it!

  • If your book was chosen by Hollywood, which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book? Or, if you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would select to play your characters? 

If my book gets chosen by Hollywood, I would like to have Nicole  Kidman,  Mel Gibson Bradley Cooper, Jackie  Chan, Nichole Bloom, Kelly H as my actors/actresses.

  • If there was an opportunity for a movie about your life, which actor should play you?
  • Kelly Hu may play me. But to be honest, when I thought of this I was unable to find a really suitable one who could play my role. I guess i am the best one who would play me ;))

Contacts of the author:



Blog: inside the website
Facebook: Ha-Le Thai
Twitter: Ha-Le Thai
Lnkedin: Ha-Le Thai
Amazon Author Page:
Smashwords: Ha-Le Thai
Book Links:

Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.)






Baker & Taylor -Accepted

Bibliotheca – Accepted

Tolino – Accepted


Google Play:



Lulu ebook:

Lulu Print:

































Book Depository:






There are still many more that are yet to be reached 😉 like Waterstones, Wrap Distribution, The nile, James

Bennett, Peterpal,, etc..

Interview with Author, Nicholas Sansbury Smith

The following is an interview done with Nicholas Sansbury Smith, author of the Extinction Series, Hell Divers Series, Trackers Series and ORBS.

Smith is an excellent author, one I have followed for a while starting with the Extinction Series.  I cannot speak highly enough of Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s creativity and his genuine ability to mesmerize the reader/listener while effectively inducing horror with each word.  What makes his series so captivating and horrifying is the realness of an EMP attack and the likely consequences – he blends and molds his stories so expertly that one cannot distinguish between reality or fiction!  Check out his books on Amazon and!


What were your goals and intentions in this series of books, and how well do you feel you achieved them?  

I always say that I write Post-Apocalyptic fiction for 2 reasons. 1. Entertainment. 2. As a warning that if we’re not careful we could lose everything. I think my stories do a little bit of both.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

Survival and action. My characters are always facing challenges that we would face in a post-apocalyptic event. Action is a significant part of my stories because these challenges would require characters to fight for survival.

What was the hardest part of writing these books?

Coming up with unique angles. There is so much PA fiction out there right now it’s difficult to find something new and even harder to determine whether readers would enjoy the new angle.

What did you enjoy most about writing these books?

The fact people are reading them. I still wake up almost every day thinking I’m living in a dream. I never thought people would enjoy my books and I’m very grateful to my readers for giving my work a chance.

How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your books?

I worked for Homeland Security and Emergency Management when I wrote my first post-apocalyptic novel, a genre I’ve always loved. My background in disaster management and mitigation really helped me write with experience. I think that has given me an advantage in this genre.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing. Even when I was a little kid I was coming up with these crazy stories in my mind and putting them on paper through words or art. My mom said I was born with an active imagination. Writing provides an outlet to get those ideas out of my mind and to share them with the reader.

How long have you been writing?

Professionally, for six years, but I’ve been writing since I started reading.

What inspires you?

I just love sharing my stories with readers. That’s the biggest inspiration, coming up with new ideas excites me more than anything, and anticipating what readers will think of my stories is great motivation.

What do you like to read in your free time?

I read what I write—post-apocalyptic fiction, but I also enjoy historical fiction like Killing Rommel by Steven Pressfield, or his Tides of War, and Gates of Fire.

What projects are you working on at the present?

A secret project, more Hell Divers, and an Extinction Cycle spin-off. Might be doing a Trackers spin-off soon too, and I have two new series coming out in 2019-2020.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I always dreamed of making a career of this but I didn’t think it was possible until I found Kindle Direct Publishing. That’s when I got serious about writing and turning this into a full-time gig. Since 2013 I’ve published over 20 books and have a small press.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your books, but nobody has?

Good question—I’m not sure. I’ll leave that to the reader to figure out. : )

The four series you have now for readers/listeners do you plan to stay with this genre or are you looking into another genre?

I’m definitely sticking with post-apocalyptic fiction for now.

Do you have a pseudonym?

Nope. Nicholas Sansbury Smith is my legal name and I used my middle name to help stand out a bit since there are so many Nick Smith’s out there.



Interview with Melanie Rose Huff, Author of Phantasmagoria

Author Name:  Melanie Rose Huff

Names of Book(s): A Phantasmagoria


What was your first thought once you were told you were a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree? It wasn’t really a thought so much as a suffusion of glee. My first novel, Ashford, was a BRAG honoree as well, so I was familiar with them and what they do, and I was very…well, honored. I love that they’ve set the standard for quality that they have with indie books. Especially when the market is as flooded as it is, I think it’s very helpful for readers to be able to see that a book is a BRAG honoree and know that it’s gone through a rigorous evaluation process to earn that title.


What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?  This book actually started by mistake, because I was working on another novel, but I was a recent widow with a baby. I really struggled with finding time to write without distraction. It felt like I’d barely get started, and my son would wake up, or need a fresh diaper…and of course I was also dealing (and still am…it never really stops, it just changes) with the grief of losing my husband, and trying to heal. So the short pieces, the flash fiction, the micro-essays…I started writing them as a sort of catharsis, as a way to heal, but also because here was something I could finish. I mean, I took a lot of time going back to edit them, get the wording tighter, and all that – but the idea, the heart of the thing, could be captured during a nap. And then I just started really enjoying the process, and how writing really short pieces forces you to cut out everything unnecessary. The title happened because they were all really taking on the texture of dreams. The dictionary definition of phantasmagoria is “a series of brief, dreamlike images,” and I really wanted to capture the nature of dreams, how everything makes sense within the context of the dream, but when you wake up it makes no sense at all, or how there’s such a sense of urgency…because you can’t find the cheesecloth, or how a dream can bring such a powerful sense of someone’s presence that you’re still struggling to hold on to it after you wake up.


What did you enjoy most about writing this book? It was a really fun challenge to strip down everything to the bare bones. A few times I thought, “Oh, I’ll make this one a little longer.” But then it just wasn’t working. Inevitably, once I cut it down, it just had more impact, more power.   They always tell you in writers’ workshops to cut out the excess, make the writing sharper…this was like that on steroids. There are a few fairy tale retellings in the book, and those were especially fun. I loved fairy tales as a child, but even then some of the decisions made by the characters really bothered me. So here they choose differently. Also, working with Traci, the illustrator, was a constant joy. She’s such a brilliant artist, and just a lovely person to work with. I would send her several pieces at a time, and then wait in suspense to see what she would come up with. I very seldom gave her any sort of guideline about what I thought a particular image should be…it was just so fun to see her unique take on the text of what I had sent her. Sometimes it was like she’d read my mind, and other times I would look at it and think, “Wow, I never thought of it that way, but it’s perfect.” And now all the pieces feel inseparable from her illustrations.


Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from? I blame Shakespeare, really, and my aunt. When my sister and I were quite young, our aunt gave us a beautiful edition of Midsummer Night’s Dream, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham. In the beginning I was definitely more enthralled by the illustrations than anything else, but that eventually led to wanting to know more about the story. Working my way through the actual text was tricky at eight years old, but eventually I got my hands on a copy of Lamb’s Tales From Shakespeare, and started reading through those and following up with the plays themselves once I already had a grasp of the basic story. I also started writing some highly theatrical stories of my own. And of course Shakespeare led to other authors. My aunt (the same one) is a Professor of English Literature, and she fed my addiction from the beginning. She always had book recommendations for me, and was curious about what I’d been reading, and in spite of being infinitely more well-read than I was she never talked down to me. Once, as a teenager, I ended up in the hospital with a dangerously low white blood cell count, which meant visitors had to be very careful, and couldn’t bring me flowers. My aunt and uncle brought me a book bouquet.


What inspires you?  I’m very inspired by the beauty of the natural world, and I’m fortunate enough to live an absolutely gorgeous place. I pretty much step out of my door into paradise. I’ve found that movement releases my creativity, and I get inspired when I’m out walking or working in my garden, so I have to have pen and paper handy at all times. I’m also a dancer, and I get some of my best ideas driving home after rehearsals and end up pulling off on the side of the road to jot things down. The actual act of writing is such a stationary thing, and I feel like that combination helps balance me…the physicality of dance, of losing myself in the movement and the music, informs my writing, and the quiet introspection of the writing process makes me a better dancer.


What do you like to read in your free time? A charitable person might call my library eclectic. I always find myself returning to the classics, but I have a growing number of contemporary authors whose work I collect, and I love fantasy. My fiction bookshelf is arranged alphabetically, so Lloyd Alexander’s myth-inspired fantasies are sandwiched between Louisa M. Alcott and Jane Austen, John Campbell’s fabulous historical fiction is keeping company with the Brontes and Capote, Wilkie Collins and Suzanne Collins are having a good laugh about sharing a last name, Intisar Khanani’s Sunbolt Chronicles are wedged in by Kipling, and on the bottom shelf Heidi thinks Dracula should keep his hands to himself and they’re both jealous of Tolkien for taking so much shelf space. In the non-fiction realm, I love history, biography, and memoir especially. My first two novels were WWII-era historical fiction, so that era is especially well-represented.


What do your plans for future projects include? Every time I finish a project and start looking for the next thing, I end up starting several projects at once, and then there’s a bit of a race to see which one comes out ahead. At this point, I have the beginnings of two novels, as well as a memoir of sorts. It’s a bit too early to give details, but I’m rather fond of all three of them and curious to see which one takes the lead.



Interview of Elaine Russell, author of Across the Mekong River

An author of several books, three with Indie Brag Medallions.  An author for over 20 years, Ms. Russell draws from her travels weaving both culture and fiction together.  

1. What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

After learning about the harsh plight of the Hmong refugees who fled Laos after the Vietnam War and the difficulties they endured in adapting to life in the U.S., I wanted to tell their story. So few Americans know about the history of Laos and its role in the Vietnam War. Many don’t understand why so many Southeast Asians resettled in America. There are many excellent non-fiction books on the Hmong in America, but I hoped a fictional story might reach a wider audience. I wanted to write a story that would inspire more compassion and understanding for the challenges the Hmong and other Vietnam War refugees have endured. I felt the story was best told through the different voices of the older parents and their young daughter, as each faced unique experiences, which invoked very different emotional reactions. There is also a broader, universal truth in the story that extends to all refugees and immigrants coming to our great country. I hope I have achieved my goals. It is rewarding to hear from readers who say they never knew about this episode in history and now feel great empathy for what these refugees have endured.

2. What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I find myself writing most of my stories in first person narrative. It helps me to truly put myself in the position of my characters so I can understand their emotions, motivations, and hopes. I need to feel very close to their hearts and minds. I hope the readers will as well.

3. What was the hardest part of writing this book?

It took me a very long time to complete this novel, almost ten years on and off. I had to keep pushing myself to dig deeper and fill in the missing pieces until the book was truly ready to publish. I spent over six month working with an excellent editor to finalize the story, which was great but exhausting.

4. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I loved doing the research, which involved reading many resources and meeting dozens of wonderful Hmong, Mien, and Lao-Americans. I am so grateful to the people who shared their families’ experiences with me, which were often quite heartbreaking. They wanted so much for their stories to be told, and I was honored to do this. While my book is fiction, it is based on the true events of many different people.

5. How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?

I became interested in Hmong refugees when a number of Hmong children attended my young son’s elementary school in Sacramento years ago. About the same time, the Sacramento Bee published a series of articles on their resettlement in Sacramento. This was followed by my book group reading Ann Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a nonfiction book on Hmong beliefs in conflict with the Western medical system. And as if by serendipity, a young Hmong woman came to work in my husband’s office. She shared her story with me and introduced me to many of her friends. I traveled to Laos a few years later and became interested in the problem of unexploded cluster bombs left in the ground from U.S. bombing during the war. The bombs are still killing and maiming people all these years later. I volunteered with the U.S.-based nonprofit Legacies of War, which works to get more funding for bomb clearance. Through this work I met many Hmong and Lao refugees.

Tens of thousands of Hmong, Mein, and Lao, one third of the population of Laos, were forced to flee the country after it fell to a communist government following the end of the Vietnam War. Many ended up resettling in the U.S. after years in Thai refugee camps in dreadful conditions. Although I was a young woman during the Vietnam War, I knew virtually nothing about what had happened in Laos. I wrote several academic articles on this history and the wars aftermath during my work with Legacies of War.

6. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

I feel this story chose me rather than the other way around. I was a history major in college and have always had a keen interest in the way the past shapes our current world. I would call Across the Mekong River historical fiction (although some of the story takes place in more recent times). I am currently writing an adult novel that is also historical fiction set in 1901, but with a much lighter story. I also have written a children’s middle grade, mystery series, a young adult novel, and a middle grade nonfiction picture book on Thailand. I follow my heart in my writing what interests me, rather than selecting a particular genre. I love incorporating the history and culture of other countries in my stories.

7. Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I always loved reading from a young age. My mother took my sister and me to the library every week to pick out books. At about ten years old, I decided I wanted to be a writer (that is when I first read Little Women and wanted to be Jo). I would write funny short stories about my dog and my family. Perhaps it came from being a very shy child and spending a lot of time alone.

8. How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing full time for over 20 years, ever since I was able to ease out of my day job (environmental and energy analyst) a few years after I had my son. In earlier years I wrote boring reports for work and dabbled in writing fiction.

9. What inspires you?

I take inspiration from nature, being in a quiet relaxing place where I can think and create. My husband and I are very fortunate to own a condo in Kauai, where we spend part of the year. It is my writer’s retreat. I do my best writing there without interruptions. The beauty of the ocean and landscape and the warm air sets my mind free.

10. What do you like to read in your free time?

I read mainly fiction – contemporary, literary, historical, and occasionally mysteries. Some recent favorites: All the Light We Cannot See, A Gentleman in Moscow, Girl Waits with Gun, and News of the World. Novels must be well written or I can’t get through them, not even with a clever plot. I also enjoy nonfiction at times. I read Up From Slavery and All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay this past fall.

11. What projects are you working on at the present?

I am currently writing a historical novel set in 1901 Denver, Colorado, with the women’s suffrage movement as the backdrop. It is based in part on my great-grandmother who was one of the early women doctors in Denver. I loved doing the research and learning about the events of the era, and how people behaved and dressed, their interests, etc. In the course of my research in Denver, I got to hold and read an original letter from Susan B. Anthony!

I am in the final editing stages and hope to have the book out in the next year or so.

12. What do your plans for future projects include?

For the last year I’ve been studying French to fulfill a lifelong desire to speak the language. The speaking part is still difficult for me, but I’m able to read and write a lot better. I want to write a novel set in French Colonial Laos. In order to research this period of time, I will need to read a number of books written in French. I love a challenge!

13. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I wanted to write from the time I was young. English and writing were always my best subjects in school and writing clearly was one of my strengths in various jobs for my earlier career. I didn’t have the time, money, or dedication to really start writing until later in life. Now I wish I had been able to write earlier as I’m truly passionate about it.

14. How do you find or make time to write?

Finding time to write is always a challenge. At home I have to balance activities promoting my books and writing versus spending time with family and friends, studying French, and volunteering with several non-profit groups. Escaping to Kauai is the best guarantee that I’ll settle down and really work consistently.

15. What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?

I’m not sure I have an answer for this one…

16. What book would you like to write but haven’t or can’t yet?
I have so many ideas for books, but I’m not sure how I’ll get to them all. I take it one book at a time. I have one novel in particular I’d like to write that is inspired by my husband’s family history, but I’m hesitant to write it while all the relatives are still around. We’ll see…


Click here to visit Ms. Russell’s author page.

Interview with Laurel Bragstad, Author of “In the Comfort of Shadows”

A B.R.A.G. Medallion winner for her book, In the Comfort of Shadows, Ms. Laurel Bragstad shared some of her goals, history, and writing secrets.  A writer of contemporary and historical romance.


What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?  

One of my intentions was to write a book that would interest women readers who are between 50-75 years old and present ideas related to dealing with haunting memories. My main goals were to deal with real-life issues of loss and regret, to honor my parents’ memories, and to honor my dad’s long-forgotten cousin by including some of his WW2 diaries. I feel like I achieved these very well.


What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I try to create realistic dialog and logical situations between characters. People have also told me that my book was a “quick read” – not because the writing was simple, but because they became involved with the characters.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

I used excerpts from the WW2 diaries of my dad’s cousin. I met my dad’s cousin and acquired the diaries after he died. However, the diary entries were in small pocket notebooks; entries were not in chronological order, and some of the writing had faded over the years. So, first I had to use a magnifying glass to read the diaries as I typed them all out and put them in order. Next, I checked the dates and facts that were recorded in the diary pages just to be sure things like dates of certain battles and names of places were accurate for the entries I used verbatim. Since the author of the diaries is also one of the main characters (Emmett) and a family member, I also wanted to be sure I stayed true to his voice and memory.


What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I liked overlapping the stories of two main characters, Ann and Emmett, together. The characters are in the same family but a generation apart, yet connected by different threads of the same sad memories. I enjoyed developing their relationship, tying ends together, and bridging the generational gap.


How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?

My main character, Ann, is adopted. I am not adopted but my mother died when I was four and a half. I always felt a sense of loss—even though my dad remarried a wonderful, loving woman. My dad refused my questions about my biological mother and that saddened me over the years. Years later, as my father struggled against the cancer that would eventually take his life, I fantasized about someone who could and would answer all my questions. And when I met my dad’s elderly cousin, the “black sheep of the family,” he seemed to be the perfect choice for a character who knew the family secrets that Ann wanted to exploit.


Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

This was my first book. Since I spend way too much time writing or revising curriculum (instructions, exams, nonfiction text-type stuff) for my college courses – writing fiction is a wonderful and welcome change of pace.


Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

Two things: First, whenever I had a question about anything as a child, my dad always said, “Look it up and you won’t forget” instead of answering my question. Second, I like a good mystery – that’s probably related to the first item here regarding asking questions and finding answers. Like storytelling, I see life in general as an ongoing journey for answers, something like problem solving mixed together with wishin’ and hopin’.


How long have you been writing?

I suppose I started in my twenties even though I was only writing bits and pieces just for me. My book took ten years to finish because of life interruptions of one sort or another. That’s an example of how I don’t write constantly.
What inspires you?  

I always find inspiration in my garden, where I constantly marvel at how each plant has its own personality. Some only bloom in shade, but does that mean they have dark personalities? Some only thrive in full sun or with lots of attention, but does that mean they are needy? Some flowers are stunning, too beautiful for words. Other plants actually stink, have sharp thorns, or cause allergic reactions if touched. Some provide sustenance for birds, bees, and other critters that scatter their seeds or pollen and insure the plant’s next generation. Some flowers last a long time after being cut and put in a vase while others seem to wilt at the sight of scissors. I can go on about these garden characters. But you probably get the idea.


What do you like to read in your free time?
Historical fiction, science-based nonfiction, stories with believable characters in logical but complicated situations.


What projects are you working on at the present?
I started a second novel, but I think I’ve written myself in to a corner with it. I need to work one character into and out of a situation… somehow.


What do your plans for future projects include?

Make more time for my own writing!


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Not sure I can put a date on that. Seems to me the thought of writing was always there.


How do you find or make time to write?

This is always a problem for me. I teach a college course, I also have an online college course, I have two grandsons I love to spend time with, a garden in summer, and usually some kind of craft project going during the winter. But I try to snatch writing time here and there.


What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?

Did you make the characters in your book older because you didn’t want to write about sex?

I suppose younger readers don’t want to think about how sex works between “older people,” and older people want to keep those secrets to themselves. So in that regard, I’m glad no one has asked.


What book would you like to write but haven’t or can’t yet?

To Kill a Mockingbird.  J  A forever relevant story with timeless social impact.


Click here to purchase her book, In the Comfort of Shadows.



Interview with Barbara Underwood, Author of the Rhuna Series

Interview with Barbara Underwood


What were your goals and intentions in this series of books, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
My goal was to present information and theories about “Ancient Mysteries” such as Atlantis and the building of pyramids and other megaliths all over the world in an enjoyable fictional setting.  It was also my intention to include social issues that have shaped mankind’s past and continue to confront people in our day.

So far, at the completion of the fourth book in the series, I am pleasantly surprised to see how well the series is developing and that it encompasses many subjects that I wanted to share with my readers.

What are some of the references that you used while researching these books?

My interest in ancient mysteries began after reading Thor Heyerdahl’s books about his discoveries of megaliths on Pacific islands, and how they appear to be connected to megaliths in the Americas and other continents.  From then on, I read countless books on the subject, tending more and more into the New Age and esoteric/occult area, where fascinating theories began to spark my imagination.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

The easy-to-read style and viewpoint from the main character, Rhuna, even though it is written in the third person.  Readers see the world through her eyes, and relate to her because she her thoughts and feelings are clearly expressed.

What was the hardest part of writing these books?

Keeping track of each character, especially as the series developed and more characters were added.  Intertwining each character’s goals or actions with the main plot and subplots is also challenging.

What did you enjoy most about writing these books?

Letting the characters develop themselves, once personality and their circumstances were established.

How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your books?
As mentioned above, reading Thor Heyerdahl’s books sparked my interest in the subject of ancient civilizations and how many things are still unexplained by conventional history and science.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

Perhaps from my father, who could express himself better with the written word than speaking face to face.  He also read books to me as a child, but other than that, I can’t think of any particular thing or person that inspired me to write.  It was something I just enjoyed doing since early school days.
How long have you been writing?

Since early school days.  Writing something for a school project in 5th or 6th grade wasn’t enough, so I began to write about things in my spare time.  Later, I began writing letters to penpals all over the world, and as an adult I became involved in various things which allowed me to write newsletters or reviews, while still writing accounts of my travels or other experiences to share with penpals.

What inspires you?

The mysteries of ancient civilizations and the concepts found in New Age and esoteric works:  it makes me want to write about the fabulous wonders of the world in which we live.

What do you like to read in your free time?

Currently, I enjoy reading the two series by Charles Todd, namely Inspector Rutledge and Bess Crawford mysteries set in the WW! period; The Pendergast series by Preston and Charles, the gaslight mysteries by Victoria Thompson, all books by Sarah Rayne, and the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C. Beaton.

What projects are you working on at the present?
I’ve just finished the fourth book in the Rhuna series, and I’m preparing ideas for the fifth book, as well as one or two short stories, also featuring Rhuna.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

It crossed my mind several times during school days, but I took serious steps towards it in my mid-twenties when I began a correspondence course in professional writing.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your books, but nobody has?

How much of myself and my own life experiences do I put into my stories.  The answer is quite a lot!


Rhuna website:

Amazon Author Page:





Goodreads Author Page


Barbara’s Blog



Interview with Paula Houseman, Author of Odyssey in a Teacup and Apoca[hot]lips


I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the two Paula Houseman books, Odyssey in a Teacup and Apoca[hot]lips.  She graciously consented to answering my interview questions.  Learn more about this insightful and delightful woman who captivates by being herself.


  1. What were your goals and intentions in this series of books, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

I had something to say. I have a viewpoint that’s outside of mainstream thinking—a mode of being that’s helped me through difficulties. And I wanted to get it out there. Initially, I intended to just blog about it, believing it had nothing to do with the book I was writing, which was a collection of unrelated, humorous short stories. But it had everything to do with it!

It’s a way of life and humor is very much a part of that. And once I let the idea weave its way through the stories, they all started to come together to form chapters of a novel, Odyssey in a Teacup. I carried the theme into the next book, Apoca[hot]lips, and it’s continuing in Book 3.

I feel I’ve achieved my objective because couching ideas in humor is a non-aggressive way of getting a message across. Whether or not the reader responds to it consciously, at the very least, it will have planted a seed.

  1. What are some of the references that you used while researching these books?

I googled a lot! Still, when it came to important facts like laws and rules and procedures and timelines, I didn’t want to misrepresent the truth. So I called the relevant organisations and asked the necessary questions.

But probably my greatest research came from my favorite book, Woman Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. And that wasn’t about researching the book’s content, but allowing it to help me explore the contents of my own depths.

  1. What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I’ve been told my writing is very real. It’s bawdy, for sure! But the colorful words and double entendres aren’t there for shock value. They’re not forced. It’s earthy humor—a sacred one.

Writers and readers connect at the most fundamental level of humanness, beyond all the social categories that can divide us. And that’s where I write from.

  1. What did you enjoy most about writing these books?

I’m not a plotter; I’m a pantser—I fly by the seat of my pants. So I didn’t feel bound by a specific plan. I let the characters and the story lead me. And that made the experience mysterious and much more interesting. I just never knew where I was going to be taken, or end up. So, I was the reader as much as I was the writer.

And writing is the one place I can always be all of me. I love that it moves me. If I’m laughing or crying or raging as I write, I know I’m on the right track. If my writing isn’t stirring my passions, I can’t expect it to stir the reader’s.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing these books?

I didn’t find writing the books hard. And that might be because I’m not attached to any writing formula that’s at the risk of not working. I know the creative process is messy, but I trust it. Even being taken into some dark places isn’t what I’d call hard. Challenging, maybe. It’s probably akin to wading through raw sewage at times, but I’ve been there so often, I know that under it all, there’s that warming and inspiring sacred obscenity … the ‘holy shit’!

I guess the part that I did find hard came after I’d finished the books—checking through the editor’s comments, and then scanning the manuscripts after they’d been formatted for ebook and for paperback to see if it everything was correct. Both are laborious and require a lot of focus. And then, there’s the necessity of promoting the books, when I’d rather just be writing.

  1. Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

As a baby boomer, I grew up at a time when the catchphrase ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ still held sway. ‘Children’ really just meant girls. Women. But I was pretty feisty, and I was in trouble a lot because I’d laugh at inappropriate times and I had an up-yours attitude!

I had plenty to say and I wanted it to be heard. It just wasn’t what my family wanted to hear. Being hamstrung made for a difficult childhood and adolescence. Reading allowed me to escape into the alternative realities books offered. Writing has allowed me to create alternative realities. More than that, though, it’s allowed me to be heard as an individual, and as a woman.

  1. How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your books?

It was about twelve years ago. I’d read Estés from time to time and I found her views uplifting. She shows us that folk tales contain fragments of what you find in the uncut, no-holds-barred ancient myths. And that we don’t just read or tell stories, we live them.

It raised questions for me, not least, if there are only remnants of the original stories in our current ones, then what’s missing from my whole story and my life?

Reading Estés’s book reminded me that it was the wild aspect of me that had gone underground—the ‘Wild Woman archetype’, she calls it. So it answered my question … but only to a point.

And then, as providence would have it, I was drawn to a sociology course at university that also promoted the archetypal approach. The main text was Care of the Soul, by archetypal psychologist Thomas Moore. In it, he exposes what he calls the ‘salvational fantasy’: Our desire to be saved from our shadow side, which makes us turn to magic bullet solutions—whether that’s a person, vitamin, exercise or diet regimen, or therapeutic modality.

At first, I hated what Moore had to say because I realized I was hostage to this fantasy. I wanted my wild woman back, but I also wanted to be rescued from the darkness where she resides! Like most people, I’d understood the idea of bettering myself meant heroically wiping out ‘undesirable’ aspects—negative thoughts and feelings and impulses. But these things are innate; you can’t erase them. And it’s unhealthy to deny them a place in our psyches and lives.

When I started to embrace this archetypal model that holds a place for everything, life became easier. I got that ‘rising above’ stuff isn’t a sign of bravery; diving into it is. Discovering that my story was much more comprehensive than a fairytale-like framework helped me become accepting of all of it. And once I did that, the aspects I’d been ashamed of didn’t have to clamor for attention as much.

  1. How long have you been writing?

It began with journal writing twenty-five years ago. Both my parents had died within seventeen months of each other, and apart from the grief, I was left with an avalanche of feelings over having had aspects of me tamped down. I needed to find a safe space to let loose without fear of being judged or shamed. Writing gave me that. And the audience of one grew to include others when I started university. I still had a lot to say, and it was very well-received. It evolved from there: submitting the odd poem to the university’s student publication; joining an online writing community; and then writing my books.

  1. What inspires you?

With my first book, I didn’t have to look past my own childhood and adolescence for inspiration. But the more I unearth the innate comedy in the tragedy, the more I understand just how absurd life is. And it’s that ridiculousness that inspires me!

  1. What do you like to read in your free time?

Mystery | thriller | suspense novels. I love whoddunits, particularly, Sandra Brown’s books. She combines mystery with romance and sex.

  1. What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m writing Book 3 in the series. But I also have to commit time and energy to promoting the other books, and to blogging (which I don’t do often enough).

  1. What makes your books stand out from the crowd?

Without having read the many thousands of books in my genre, it looks like a difficult question to answer. But I think it’s actually quite simple. When I write, I’m being uniquely me; I’m expressing my essence through that particular medium. It doesn’t make me better or worse than any other writer. Just different. In the words of Dr Seuss, ‘There is no one alive who is Youer than You.’ So, because no one can be Me-er than Me, that’s what sets my books apart from the rest!

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

A couple of years after I started university, I realized what I most loved about the whole experience was essay writing. And I was fortunate in that I had very encouraging tutors & lecturers who applauded my unconventional take on things. It inspired me to become more daring in my essays. But then in my final honors year, I came up against a brick wall. I had to deal with traditionalists, who were scathing in their criticism of my thesis—both my approach and my ideas. In the end, I tried to take on the establishment, but even those who commended my paper and supported me were made to back down. It was disheartening. But it was a turning point. From then on, I decided no one was going to shut me up again! I finished my first book a couple of years later, and I also started blogging.

  1. What question do you wish that someone would ask about your books, but nobody has?

There’s no one question that comes to mind. But I’d like to think my books raise questions in the readers about themselves—ones they might not have considered. Like what I asked myself all those years ago: What’s missing from my whole story and my life?



Author Website:

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Author Interview with Tahlia Newland, The Locksmith’s Secret

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Charla has chosen to interview Tahlia Newland who is the author of, The Locksmith’s Secret, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Locksmith’s Secret, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.




I had the immense pleasure of contacting author, Tahlia Newland, for an interview concerning her book The Locksmith’s Secret. Ms. Newland is based in Australia. – Charla
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
The Locksmith’s Secret was planned as a sequel to Worlds Within Worlds. I wanted to finish the romance that I began in the first book and also to explore more of the same concepts—that of a person being made up of several strands of experience including past lives, imagination, dreams and spiritual experiences. I think I achieved this pretty well.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?
I’ve been told that my writing makes people feel as if they’re in the scene with the characters, but other than that, I guess it’s the metaphysical aspects of all my work. There is always some spiritual or mental level to my stories.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Getting the different strands to weave together so it feels like one story.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I love the ephemeral city—a vacant transparent city floating in space and existing only by the grace of the lines of light that draw it like a sketch. Ella spends most of her time there trying to get to the locksmith who is the only other soul in the whole city, and he’s several floors up in a building with no doors. The story thread, particularly the end, is a symbol of what is actually happening in her real life.

How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
There’s a strong emancipation theme in the book, and that’s just something that I’ve always been concerned about, and the idea of a person having many strands to their existence is also a subject that has fascinated me for years. So I guess these interests just came out in the book.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
My books are all fantasy or magical realism with a touch of romance. I like these genres because they have lots of scope for powerful metaphysics.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
I’ve been an avid reader since I was a young child. I saw books as a doorway to worlds that I would never see any other way. Now I can share the worlds of my imagination with others.

How long have you been writing?
Since 2007. My first publication was in 2010.

What inspires you?
Ideas and mental images.

What do you like to read in your free time?
Fantasy and sci-fi and sometimes really good lit fiction or a cozy mystery.

What projects are you working on at the present?
My energy at the moment is going into a pod and video cast called Happiness Hints, which is on You Tube, Podbean, Stitcher and iTunes. I put out a show every week, so it’s taking all my writing time for the moment. If it doesn’t take off after a few months, I’ll go back to writing.

What do your plans for future projects include?
I have a steampunk book ¾ done (The Rise of the Aether Mages) and an adult fantasy romance in the works.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I never wanted to be a writer, it just happened when I got inspired for The Diamond Peak Series. Inspiration drove me to learn what I needed to learn in order to write well.

How do you find or make time to write?
I’m under-employed so I have plenty of time. When I’m in the midst of a project I get up early and write before the day gets going.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Is mind really that powerful? The answer is ‘yes.’

What book would you like to write but haven’t or can’t yet?
I would like to finish Captive, which is the fantasy romance I mentioned above, but it’s a tricky one because the protagonist is taken for a ‘personal’ slave, so it’s a subject matter that needs to be handled carefully. The theme of the book is that real freedom comes from mental freedom. I’ve written two drafts, but haven’t felt ready to finish it yet. It needs a time when I can really focus on it.


Stop by Tahlia’s website to keep up on her writings:


Author Interview with Michelle Eastman, The Legend of Dust Bunnies, A Fairy’s Tail


A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Charla has chosen to interview Michelle Eastman who is the author of, The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tail, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Legend of Dust Bunnies, A Fairy’s Tail, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


To know more, visit Michelle’s social media/websites at:

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
The goal for publishing my first book, The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tail, was to create a picture book for my son. Initially, I had no intention of publishing it for others to read. I just wanted him to have something special from me. Thankfully, the story became much bigger than that, and I am delighted with the way things turned out. Collaborating with illustrator Kevin Richter was a wonderful experience, and that experience led to book number two, Dust Fairy Tales: Absolutely Aggie.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?
What most characterizes my writing is rewriting. I always begin with a legal pad and pen, and a messy, disjointed series of drafts. I cross things out, switch things around, and highlight pieces I like. When I feel I have most of the story fleshed out, I type the first draft on my PC. Then, it begins again. I write and rewrite over and over until I think it is ready to for others to critique.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? 
Oddly enough, the hardest part of writing both of my books was creating the synopsis for the back of the book. I find it very difficult to sum up the entire story in two to three sentences.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
One of the things I enjoyed most about writing both books was creating the dedication page. It means a lot to me to be able to acknowledge the people I love who encourage my writing journey. Being able to acknowledge my son in both books was fantastic.

How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
The idea for magical dust bunnies came to me in college when we were asked to write our own picture books for a children’s literature class. The two books I’ve subsequently written borrow from the original idea, but there is very little of that original story in either book.
The theme both of my books touches on is the desire kids feel to fit in or belong. Both books explore the struggle kids can experience with peer relations, as well as the joy that comes with embracing your own individuality.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
Picture books are a passion of mine. I love to read old favorites and discover new titles. I consider it an honor to be a picture book author.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
I have written and pursued creative arts throughout my life. Picture books have always held a special place in my heart. As a mom, reading to my son every night is a special tradition we still share (even though he’s now eleven).

How long have you been writing?
I have enjoyed writing since early elementary school, but I did not pursue publishing my writing until 2013. After researching agents and publishers, and submitting a few queries, I decided to explore independent publishing. For me, indie publishing turned out to be a great fit. Throughout my journey, I’ve connected with many indie and traditionally published authors, and I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge about the publishing business. At some point, I may pursue traditional publishing, but for now, I am happy with the flexibility and creative control I enjoy as an indie.

What inspires you? 
Reading all of the wonderful contemporary picture books as well as discovering, and rediscovering, old classics inspires me. As a mom, educator, and author, I am also inspired to have an impact in my community. When I learned that nearly 2/3 of children living in poverty do not own books, I decided to make a difference. I created the literacy initiative, Picture Book Pass it On, to get books to children of incarcerated parents. Since 2014, we’ve collected more than 800 books for kids in need. You can learn more about it at

What do you like to read in your free time?
With an active eleven year-old, I don’t have a lot of free time. In my spare moments, I like to read short stories and historical fiction. I love accessing titles from my public library via Overdrive. It really comes in handy while waiting in the stands during long swim team practices.

What projects are you working on at the present?
I am working on an idea for a new picture book series, as well as a Dust Fairy Christmas Tale.

What do your plans for future projects include?
In the future, I see myself writing juvenile historical fiction. It’s a genre I loved reading as a child, and I am excited about all of the possibilities.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have written stories and poems since childhood. Becoming an author has been a life-long dream. I feel fortunate to have made that dream into a reality.

How do you find or make time to write?
I am not as disciplined as I should be. I tend to be more of a binge writer. Once an idea is in my head, I write incessantly until it is complete. Once I am committed to publishing a story, I do not work on other ideas. I may jot other ideas down for later, but I am not good at multi-tasking writing projects.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Well, kids ask some pretty intriguing questions. They may have covered most of them. One of the aspects of being a published author I like best is traveling to schools and libraries and speaking with children. I always wish that Kevin, the illustrator of my books, could be with me to answer questions. His art work is amazing, and kids are always interested in his process. Unfortunately, Kevin is in the UK, and I am in Iowa. So, the logistics don’t lend themselves well to joint author visits.